With his new album of ‘professional ambient music’ recently self-released via Bandcamp, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to have a good chat with Danny Wolfers. Attack editor Greg Scarth quizzed him on his fantasy synthesisers, space weed from alien planets and why he currently has a complete ninja outfit for sale.
Attack: You’ve described your new Occult Orientated Crime album as ‘professional ambient’ (“not just some jumbled up random chiliwave overcompressed 80s retro soggy biscuit jerkoff”). How do you define professional ambient? And what’s so bad about amateur ambient?
Danny Wolfers: Ah well, you know how it goes, sparking some attention with a write-up like that because by all means the stuff I make is amateur ambient. But maybe amateur ambient is professional ambient in the end! I guess it was just a rant against whatever… You’ve heard those chillwave producers, they just sample some Miami Vice soundtrack or Pat Benatar loop, put like 100,000 compressors over it and say they made it. And then they have a name of someone famous but they change the first letter… how wack is that? So George Michael would be Meorge Gichael and Def Leppard would be Lef Deppard.
It’s like these kids are retarded, they have no fucking imagination. It’s probably because they grew up in the 90s playing PlayStation and Nintendo console video games and didn’t learn to program in BASIC on real computers and stuff. Or their brain is gone because they have to use fake LSD or bad drugs. I dunno what’s going on – I could rant about this all day but I shouldn’t!
Kids have no fucking imagination. It's probably because they grew up in the 90s playing PlayStation and Nintendo console video games and didn't learn to program in BASIC on real computers
What were the influences on this album? You’ve mentioned The Orb and Aphex Twin a lot in the past, but what about more recent ambient music?
There’s a lot of good stuff coming out lately. I really love that Huerco S 19-minute ambient track on Opal Tapes. I don’t think it has a name. It’s spot on – exactly how it should be. Warm, woolly, trippy.
A track which I am obsessed about is Leon Vynehall’s ‘Christ Air’ – that’s like modern deep soul ambient… pure beauty, floating in vaporous space and sensual, one of those tracks you get a bit jealous of ’cause you didn’t make it yourself!
Furthermore, not so new as an artist, but I became obsessed with Morton Feldman. He’s an American composer, probably one of the greatest composers that has ever lived, but not many people know of him. In his later career, before he died in 1986, he had like a surge of incredible genius – it’s like music from another world: so different, fresh. Check out ‘Triadic Memories’ and ‘Coptic Light’ – it’s like Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works II on DMT.
There is also this guy from Houston, Texas called JD Emmanuel, who calls his music ‘time-travelling music’ – it’s like hardcore new-age heavy trip music… think Terry Riley’s A Rainbow In Curved Air but then more warmer and woolly.
And how about non-musical influences?
Everything is a non-musical influence: your total self, your surroundings, people, nature, how you feel, the weather, the ions in the air, etc. Sometimes you need to search or explore into dark feelings, maybe where stuff gets on the brink of getting really scary, to squeeze out certain melodies from your brain.
You describe the album as “100% psychedelic drug music with perfectly finetuned selected frequencies to alter your state of mind and take you to complete loss of subjective self-identity”. What were the best drugs you took while making it and what are the best drugs to take before listening to it?
Space weed from an alien planet. You don’t need any drugs to listen to it because the music can do it by itself, but you can of course enhance the experience with certain substances. But what took place at production might be grotesquely execrated in one’s imagination to spark attention and create an ‘arcane’ atmosphere around this album.
Sometimes you need to search or explore into dark feelings, maybe where stuff gets on the brink of getting really scary, to squeeze out certain melodies from your brain.
Can you speak a little about putting together the sound palette for the album? What were the key instruments, effects and computers this time around?
The key instruments are all over the place – a lot of stuff was used, but not together. Most of the tracks individually are made on just one, two or a maximum of three synthesisers together. Like one track is just the Dave Smith Poly Evolver or Novation Nova. But I particularly used one effect a lot to create this hazy, multi-dimensional wobbling environment and that was the Moog MF-104 analogue delay.
How much does the choice of equipment affect the end result? Would your tracks be completely different if you’d chosen to switch on a different couple of synthesisers on a particular day?
Yes, the synths are the colour palette, the tools of sorcery. Each one has a unique sound or ‘colour’ as I call it. A track like ‘Neolythic Computer’ would not sound the same if I hadn’t used the Novation Nova, for example. I really try to find the character of a synthesiser, its power, its unique features in sound and take that forward and exploit it. Like a type of paint or art medium.