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Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, guitarist/composer Jamie Bonk has graciously agreed to become a contributing editor to NewAgeReporter.com. Jamie will be conducting a series of interviews entitled Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series. We look forward to his contributions for they are both insightful and offer a unique artist-to-artist perspective over the typical interview. We hope you enjoy them.
Other Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series:
A Conversation with Justin Elswick of Sleepthief, Oct. 2006
A Conversation with Ryan Farish, Sep. 2006
A Conversation With Chris Field, Jul. 2006
<<-later interviews | earlier interviews->>   <<- all interviews ->>
Jamie Bonk
A Conversation With Chris Field
July 2006
As far as debut albums are concerned, composer/producer/multi- instrumentalist Chris Field’s Sub-Conscious is an outstanding record: great compositions and arrangements, first-rate performances and most importantly a defined point of view. Can you tell I like it?

While I wasn't aware of Chris prior to hearing Sub-Conscious, I most certainly had heard his music before. And I bet you have too. Chris has composed trailer music for an incredible number of films. Here are just a few: The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean 2, Kinsey, Hotel Rwanda, Terminator 3, Austin Powers 3, XXX and Harry Potter. Check out Chris' website for his complete credit list. It's truly amazing.

Chris is joined on Sub-Conscious by a stellar cast of musicians including: drummers Jono Brown, Randy Drake and Mark Griskey, percussionist Kevin Ricard, bassists Tom Lilly and Stan Sargent, keyboardists John Rosenberg and Rob Arbittier, electronic programmer Lupo Groinig and pedal steel guitarist Rick Schmidt. The album was orchestrated by Jeff Marsh and conducted by both Jeff and Joseph Kranko. Simon James was the concertmaster and solo violinist. The beautiful orchestral and choral textures were provided by the Northwest Sinfonia, Northwest Sinfonia and Chorus and the Northwest Boy Choir. And last, but not least, Robert Puff was the copyist.

Sub-Conscious packs an amazing aural wallop. Crank up the stereo and you definitely won't be disappointed. Helping Chris to record his album were recording engineers Steve Smith, Reed Ruddy, Rob Arbittier and Gary Adante. Chris mixed all of the pieces on Sub-Conscious except for "Blue" and "DNA", which were mixed by Gary Andante, and "Sub-Conscious", which was mixed by Steve Sykes. Mastering engineer Brian Gardner put the final touches on Sub-Conscious.

If you’d like to learn more about Chris and his music, please visit ChrisFieldMusic.com.

Chris Field
"Sub-Conscious is the beginning of a path as a solo artist." - Chris Field
Jamie: It's clear from looking at your list of film credits that you have been phenomenally successful writing music for theatrical trailers. What lead to the decision to record your first album, Sub-Conscious?
Chris: The album is different from the music I do for movie trailers. I wanted to create a CD that was good for listening in a more personal way. The film trailers are designed to create intensity in a short amount of time to get the viewer excited about the movie. Sub-Conscious is a smoother journey that lasts longer and can be more personal. It does have cinematic sounds but flows with a calmer uplifting feeling. I also want to make myself known to the world and have my music available. I have a lot of music all over the place but the music is not available to the public. Sub-Conscious is the beginning of a path as a solo artist. It's another outlet for me to create music and is different from the other music I make.
Jamie: A tune like "Blue" at 14:07 is pretty much the antithesis of music for trailers! In fact, with five of the eight pieces on Sub-Conscious being over five minutes in length, I'd certainly agree you're coming from a very different place than your movie trailer music.

Do the cinematic sounds/textures that you use reflect a visual component in your composing? Are you, for instance, picturing an image or story in your mind's eye when you are writing?
Chris: It depends on the moment. Music is an escape for me and when it's first coming out, it happens quickly. A song like "Blue" is a journey through a moment I had after a friend died and my wife was out of town. I wanted to feel better, so I played some sounds I liked that were soothing to me. It starts out with a kind of 1940s feel in the strings and goes through several different sections and resolves on a positive hopeful ending. That's how I felt. Within fifteen minutes, I felt better, and I think life is like that. This album was more personal. There are little stories I have for several of the songs but I know that other people might envision or feel something different. That's what's great about art -- it can affect us all differently.

In "Blue", I had a pedal steel guitar mixed with strings and a Fender Rhodes type keyboard sound. The pedal steel sound brings an earthy feeling and texture that for me feels safe and familiar. My friend was also a guitar buddy so maybe there's a little theme there to. Its hard to say because it not really a story but more of a comment on a moment. I think a lot of music is more suggestive than actually telling a story.
"That's what's great about art -- it can affect us all differently."

- Chris Field
Jamie: I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. You say that Sub-Conscious is "more personal" and that there are different stories for several of the songs. Is there an overall theme or philosophy to the record?
Chris: Yes. It's about what's going on behind our thoughts, our sub-conscious. I like to sleep with music very low and once in a while I find my mind halfway between awake and asleep. I feel and perceive things much differently then and can get a much stronger perception of my spirit. Maybe its something like meditation, I don't know. I tried to capture that in this music. Also, because its not created for film or picture, I had to draw from my own experience. I wanted a smooth arc in the music so that it wouldn't be startling for the listener. It builds smoothly to the peaks. This is something I noticed when falling asleep to music. If there are too many abrupt dynamics, it can be jolting. At the same time, I wanted to keep it exciting when listening at louder volumes. I think this is what, to me, makes new age music unique. It has a smooth flow. There are lots of influences on this album: classical, rock, jazz and cinema, etc., but I applied the new age feeling to it.
Jamie: You not only have many different influences on the record, but your sonic palette is incredible -- you use everything from synths to live orchestra. Now I would imagine you have access to some fantastic samples/softsynths and could have recorded Sub-Conscious all on your own, but you choose to integrate live musicians. What do you feel the live musicians added to Sub-Conscious?
Chris: Live musicians add an expression that is hard to recreate with samplers. I also like the sound of a real hall; the way the sound naturally blends in the room is still very unique. I can also hear more depth in the room than with samples. The imperfections that happen with a live group can also add character to the music. On the other hand, I like using synths and samples and blending them with live performances. They compliment each other well. "Live musicians add an expression that is hard to recreate with samplers."

- Chris Field
Jamie: I think you're absolutely right about that. A real standout on Sub-Conscious is the string and choral writing -- completely top notch! Could you describe how you worked with orchestrator, Jeff Marsh?
Chris: I use Logic Audio for writing music. The music is recorded in Logic using MIDI. I get all the notes and as much expression in my mock-ups as I can. Then I send the Logic file, as well as an MP3, of my mix to the orchestrator. It helps to send the MP3's so that the orchestrator is hearing what you are hearing in your studio. The MIDI file contains all the note information, which the orchestrator can transfer to Finale, which is a notation program for printed music. The orchestration process changes based upon what the composer needs. For instance, the composer might want exactly what was written to go on the page. Or, the composer might want some parts added. Also, the orchestrator makes decisions on voicings, balance between the sections, and playability. I have worked with Jeff Marsh a lot over the years and we communicate well. An orchestrator makes the process easier.
Jamie: This might be a good time to talk a bit about your studio... You said you're running Logic (my program of choice!), so I'm guessing your studio is computer-based. What role does the computer play in your studio and in your music in general?
Chris: The computer is major part of what I do. It is the master control. I use Logic for writing and MIDI. If I have files from outside sessions -- for example, live orchestra, choir or drums -- they are recorded using Pro Tools. Then I bring the files home, edit them in Pro Tools, and make stem mixes. I bring the stems back into Logic and then I create new parts using synths and sound design. I also have four PCs for Gigastudio and other programs.

In fact, I just finished building a studio in my house. I have a main room for mixing, a recording room, and a machine room. The mixing room does not have a lot of gear in it. All the machines are in separate room. I wanted the studio to be open and organic. It was designed by Grant Headley, who specializes in building studios. I love being in there. I was a guitar player for years, playing in the L.A. area. About 8 years ago, I got my first computer, and started learning how to compose and produce music. It is great being able to experiment and try things. There are many aspects to what I've been learning. Composition, recording and mixing each take a while to understand. I was told as a kid by a teacher that there is never an end to learning music. It's true. I just keep on trying and discovering new ways to do things.
"I just keep on trying and discovering new ways to do things."

- Chris Field
Jamie: Sounds like you have an amazing studio! And I think you're exactly right about trying to keep on learning. So, what did you learn from making Sub-Conscious?
Chris: I think because it was my first album there was a lot of things I needed to figure out. There is all the logistics, production, packaging and promotion as well as defining a direction for the music. I did my best for that time and documented some music the best I could. Next time there will be new hurdles but I think there are a lot of things that will be easier. I think having a studio at home will make the process easier.
Jamie: Personally, I love recording at home -- don't think I could ever go back to working in a studio. Of course, the challenge with a home studio is not always working -- for me, the days never seem to end...

The business side of releasing a record can often consume as much energy as the artistic side does. As you point out, there are quite a few things that demand attention and simply have to be done if an artist wants an audience for his or her music. Today there are more ways than ever to reach an audience, one of which is the Internet. What role has the Internet played in the marketing and distribution of Sub-Conscious?
Chris: The Internet has endless possibilities. I am learning about new things all the time. I have my music currently available on iTunes Music Store, CD Baby, as well as Amazon. Sub-Conscious will also be available nationally in Borders beginning August 2006. There also is digital streaming, which is different, because the consumer does not download the file, but listens to it through the Internet, in a way similar to traditional radio. There are a lot of good ways to reach people through interviews online, websites etc. My wife, Katie O'Brien Field, really is the person getting things done on that end and we are trying different things. I think you just have to experiment and have fun with it and see where it takes you. "The Internet has endless possibilities."

- Chris Field
Jamie: So what's up next for you? Any new recordings? Live gigs?
Chris: Well, right now I am finishing up a bunch of music for movie trailers. After that is done, I will start my next album. I am looking forward to it.
Jamie: Thanks for doing this artist-to-artist conversation -- it's been great getting to know you! Best of luck in the future and please stay in touch!
 
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