This interview was originally published on Terra Relicta Dark Music Webmagazine back in August of 2016. Tomaz has been kind enough to allow me to re-publish this interview on This Is Darkness.
In August of 2016 I conducted an interview with the dark ambient artist Randal Collier-Ford. He was fresh off the release of Locus Arcadia, a collaboration between himself and three other Cryo Chamber artists. Not too long before that he released his second album through Cryo Chamber, Remnants. He talked about some of the behind-the-scenes of the Locus Arcadia as well as his plans for the future, among other things. Here you can get to know a bit about the man behind the music. Enjoy!
Michael: You have just recently released a collaborative compilation with Flowers For Bodysnatchers, Council Of Nine and God Body Disconnect, entitled Locus Arcadia. Congratulations on the great feedback the album has been receiving. I can’t really say I know of any other albums which fit within this frame-work of four separate musicians telling a tale through an album. What led the four of you to decide to take this direction with the album?
Randal: It was a bit of a spur of the moment thing, after releasing Remnants. I read a couple of reviews from different media sites stating my obvious turn to a more “spacey” feeling with the music, and yes, I do admit it, releasing that I had an itch to do a more literal album concept based in a sci-fi theme. But when I thought of moving forward with it, I also knew that I wanted to finally work with other individuals on the album, people who at one point or another, have stated they would like to collaborate on a track or two, maybe even an album. So I reached out to the others with this idea, since we’ve all said to each other that it had to happen eventually, that I wanted to work with them on something different. And immediately, I had responses from all of them just stating “yes”. And they all seemed enthusiastic about it, which made me very happy.
Michael: This particular direction taken on Locus Arcadia seems very similar, in its style at least, to the Sabled Sun 21xx series. There is the same focus on a protagonist, and we (the listeners) are placed directly inside his mind, hearing and feeling everything just as he does. Obviously, we have a totally different story and each of your tracks hold the distinct characteristics of each artist, but was the idea of creating a sort of stylistic connection to 21xx done consciously?
Randal: As far as style goes, not exactly. We all wanted to bring in our distinct styles of music to the album, to give each “chapter” a musical theme, but we did want each experience to be very personal. So the similarities are there, but it was not intentional to make them. I suppose great minds think alike?
Michael: Was there a strong line of communication between everyone involved as you constructed your tracks for Locus Arcadia, or did you each take a base concept and come up with your own track privately?
Randal: Oh yes, we spoke nearly every day during the initial phases and leading up to post edits. Most of the communications consisted of jokes, though. And most of those jokes were my terrible dad jokes. I was booed quite often. Haha…
Michael: Bruce from God Body Disconnect came up with an awesome prologue text, which accompanies Locus Arcadia. This really gives the listener a lot to think about and brings us even further into the story. There is really nothing to give us a sense of when in history this happens. Do you consider it to be a “long time ago in a galaxy far far away” type concept, or is Locus Arcadia a near future, near Earth, scenario?
Randal: The story takes place in the future, but we would rather not discuss how far into the future it is. As far as it’s location, we’re not telling either. Not yet, at least. There’s been some talks behind the scenes lately, and some of these questions will be answered in a hint in the near(ish) future. But I’d rather not spoil anything.(Editor’s Note: That “neari(ish) future” secret would turn out to be revealed on the 4th Sabled Sun album 2148. The 6th track on the album, “Project Locus Arcadia” makes a concrete connection between Collier-Ford’s collaborative album and the 21xx Series by Sabled Sun.)
Michael: In my opinion much of “Into The Maw Where All Men Die” seems to take place in the mind of the protagonist, yet there are certainly bits of the real world coming through. Did you construct the track to move in real-time or to focus more on the emotional state of the protagonist?
Randal: Good ear! It’s a mix of both, actually. The music is definitely meant to give a sense of what’s going on in the mind of our protagonist while he moves through the first sections of the station in real-time. Some of the sounds used we’re meant to be a middle ground of field recordings turned into musical notes, to give a continuous feeling blending our character’s mind, emotions, and environment into one thing.
Michael: You seem to have quite a wide range of interests, which of these would you say are the most important to you, as a dark ambient musician and how do you see them affecting your musical output?
Randal: Too many to count, really. Growing up listening to electronic dance music, spending my later teenage and adult life listening to black metal, with jazz and classical music infused through out all of this, covers the musical side of things. As for other media, I think it goes without saying for anyone who has seen me on social media, I’m very interested in cyberpunk, space themes, futurism, and a slew of other nerdy things. Haha. But before this past year, I was just known for my interest in the occult. Which was also what I mostly focused on in my music, and to a degree, still do. Picking just one would be impossible for me, because I try to find a way to use as much of my influences as possible.
Michael: I know you have worked on some previous albums under different monickers, one of which, The Temple Of Algolagnia/Funeral Mantra split, was recently re-released in cassette format. Were there any other previous projects that you would like to mention?
Randal: Hmm, I do have a list. Mors Universa, The Temple Of Algolagnia, Black Sun, Singularity (O), Grey Light Shade, as well as some time in production with The Seven=Crowned.
Michael: Which of these projects were the most important to you, as a growing musician?
Randal: I would have to say that The Temple Of Algolagnia would have been, because it was my first step into making dark ambient/drone music. And with the great reception it got, it kept me motivated to show the music to the world in my first years and try to grow in production methods.
Michael: Will any of these see a possible future release, or are you solely focused on Randall Collier-Ford albums?
Randal: Currently, I am focused on my named work, as it has taken up all my studio time. But I do have a desire to see Black Sun and The Temple Of Algolagnia release a new record, when time and inspiration permits.
Michael: You have a playlist on Soundcloud, Random Piano Debauchery, do you have plans on incorporating this material into an album one day, or is this just a lighter musical outlet for you, through Soundcloud?
Randal: I do have some hopes for it, and I had a plan to move one or two tracks into Remnants or the new one, but when I created that public playlist, I thought I’d just wait for responses from others to see if they would enjoy hearing such a thing in a more dark ambient album. But it’s starting taking its own turn into a general outlet for that style of music and other demos.
(Editors note: That playlist would become the basis for his recent release on Kalpamantra Net-label, Piano Movements.)
Michael: You are one of the few dark ambient artists that I know of performing live shows in North America. As I live on the opposite coast, I’ve yet to personally attend one. How is it for you playing this type music in U.S. and Canada? Are the crowds who have never heard it before generally receptive to the style?
Randal: It’s been phenomenal, and the people in the crowd have been very receptive, giving me kind words I’d never expect. When people tell me that my music takes them to a whole new world, or that I am painting a picture for them, or that they are given such shocking, unnerving feelings that lifted their spirits (yes, I’ve heard that one before), it makes me feel like a million bucks. Like I’m doing exactly what I set out to do. I had one woman approach me once after one of my shows to buy a CD with her boyfriend, and she wanted to hand me a vertebrae she had found in her area of Oregon, and this was a big deal to me because this was during a time when I would hand out bones to the crowd during my sets. But when she gave it to me, I felt like I couldn’t take it. Not without giving something back that I felt was as valuable as what she was giving me. So I gave her a mostly intact deer spine that I used for my stage set up, and she then cried saying she couldn’t take it. This, in turn, made me cry a bit, because I thought it was so sweet and both of them were so kind and receptive to my work, so I gave her a hug and urged her to take it, because I cherish her act of giving me a gift like this. I also remember a child once, who was at an all-ages metal show that I opened for in this tiny coffee shop that was packed front to back, and outside, with people here to see the bands perform. During my opening set, the child was running in and out of the front door, which was to my left, and she was always staring at me. I thought it was adorable that she was so playful and happy. People would come up to the stage and take a bone, sit down and listen, chat among each other, and so on. And after my set, the mother of the child came to me with the child and told the child to take one of the bones as well. She giggled and ran between her mom’s legs to hide, so I handed the mother a large rib bone for the child. The child smiled and the mother told her to say thank you, and she did, which was the cutest thing I had ever seen. Moments like these, the interactions with people after my sets and during, seeing people on the floor meditating, even on their knees (that one was weird to see), make what I do feel all the more worth it. To truly give with my music, a feeling that can last years for individuals, to inspire and mold minds to reach for something new or something strange. To not follow the flock and find wonder on their own terms. To me, that’s the greatest feeling in the world to hear someone say that I’ve done that for them. And that feeling never gets old for me, just makes me want to keep trying harder and harder to move forward.
Michael: I was lucky enough to catch Northaunt, Svartsinn, Visions, and others last summer in Philadelphia for the APEX Fest by ANNIHILVS there was a lot of incense in the air and the crowd, especially the ones who had been to this type thing before, just sat down in the middle of the floor, which I thought was awesome. What type of things do you like to do at your shows, if you’d like to speak a bit about your set-up and anything else you incorporate into your sets?
Randal: I used to hand out bones to the crowd, or have them come up and collect them on their own time and terms. I would create an altar before my set, bones bathed in my own blood, in ashes, and burn candles with them, as well as incense from time to time. My set up started this way because my sets would start with an opening sermon where I could interact with others to take something to latch onto, something physical, to pour all their emotions and memories into during this, to pray to their Gods during the sermon, then the show would begin when the crowd felt invested. This sort of thing has stopped lately, as it has been troublesome lugging a suitcase of bones by myself for long distances, but after gaining a merch hand/stage hand, this has been put back into motion with creating a stage altar again. We’ll see if handing out bones becomes a thing again though…
Michael: Who has been your favorite act to perform with so far?
Randal: Haha, too hard to choose. I’ve played with acts I never thought I would perform with, from classically trained musicians to heavy hitting metal bands. Too many of these bands and acts are considered as friends to me, so I couldn’t say which one was better. It’s just a joy to share the stage with friends.
Michael: What can we expect next from Randal Collier-Ford?
Randal: A deep dive, down into something… unnatural. There is a solid plan for the next studio album that will tie together both, The Architects and Remnants, to form a trilogy. Musically, it will take a different direction, but the theme will not only be personal to my life experiences, but personal in the aspect of the “protagonist” that will be created. But info on this album and how it ties together will come at a later date, so no spoilers quite yet.
(Editor’s note: As we have yet to see this release, there’s a good chance that we can be expecting it in the near future.)
Michael: What has the experience been like working with Cryo Chamber?
Randal: Strong, connected, filled with like minds and more jokes than I care to count. Haha. The label is more than just a label, we are our own community, we trade between each other, talk, share ideas, make new ideas, bring our experiences, and form new ones. It’s like our own family with Simon Heath (Atrium Carceri, Sabled Sun,…) overlooking all of it (and always smiling about what he sees). It feels like home, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. We’re always taken care of.
Michael: Are you in communication with many of the other artists on the label?
Randal: Most of them, yes. Some, more than others, but not everyone on the label is on social media that often. Due to location or personal reasons. But we always find reasons to chat with each other, or ask each other if we’d like to work together or give input to each other in our private online groups.
Michael: And how has it been working with Simon Heath?
Randal: A dream come true. Not just because I can get feedback from him and generally just talk about everyday life, but actually spending time with him in the studio, or grabbing lunch to swap stories, it’s almost surreal. He’s been my main influence with creating music, and to have a chance to see the magic behind the scenes, to hear his advice, to have hands on sessions with production. I’m happy like a little kid and I take in every bit of knowledge I can.
Michael: What is it like working on a Randal Collier-Ford album? Do you have any recurring rituals for your studio space?
Randal: Usually I start off with a bottle of sake, or a nice stout, then curl into a ball and begin to cry. After about 2 hours of this, I’ll start messing with new sounds until I’ve destroyed them enough to see what new and interesting ways I might be able to use them. Then I cry again when I can’t think of anything to do with them, and suddenly an idea would hit me and I will sit behind my computer for roughly 14 hours until the track is completed. Then repeat the process until I have a coherent album. Sad thing is, this is mostly true. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which parts are true and which are not.
Michael: I feel like there are a lot of differences between The Architects and Remnants, can we expect to see another stylistic change for the next album, or are you leaning more toward something similar to one of these?
Randal: Oh yes, as stated before, there will be a dramatic shift in musical styles/genres for the third album. But I’ll leave this as a surprise for a later date.
Michael: If you had to choose one artist as the greatest inspiration for your music, or for you becoming a musician, who would it be?
Randal: As stated before, Simon Health. And I’ll leave it at that, to not sound too much like a fan boy. Haha
Michael: Thanks so much for your time, its been great having the opportunity to speak with you and find out more about the man behind the music. I’ll leave the last words to you!
Randal: I’ve said this before in a past interview, and I’ll say it again now: Never stop pushing forward with your passions and dreams. Even if you think you’ve accomplished them or feel comfortable where you are, keep pushing forward and growing beyond your limits and your own expectations. Never give up, even when you think you’re never going to achieve them, or if you think you can’t compare to others, find what makes it special for you. Put your signature in your work, try something new, push the envelope, and dedicate yourself to what you want to put into it and get out of it. In time, you will gain it. Don’t let anyone tell you that what you do isn’t worth it, or try to compare you to others, don’t ever try to carry the fire set by those who have come before you. Be a new fire, and burn brighter than you ever have before. And watch yourself outshine the sheep and parrots who fill the world around, all on your own terms that you set for yourself. Or, you know, what ever feels right for you. That works too.
Randal Collier-Ford links: Facebook, Bandcamp