I was extremely fortunate to be rewarded the opportunity to interview Roger Goula who has just released a colorful journey of space meets post-classical music entitled OVERVIEW EFFECT. It has become one of my favorite releases in 2016 (which is reserved for very, very few releases). You can read the review of Overview Effect HERE. Special thanks goes to Katie (!) for giving me the unique experience to pick Roger's mind for such insightful and thorough ponderings.
ROGER: I guess it’s been a combination of elements that made it happen. On one hand having met Bob McDade and he mentioned he was thinking of putting a new contemporary-classical label and that he would very much like me to write the first album they put out. At the time I just had finished a commission by the Experimental Funktion string quartet and the CCCB in Barcelona of a 30 min string quartet that was presented along side Steve Reich’s ‘Diffferent Trains’. My piece was inspired by the sound that NASA record with the Voyager mission of the vibrations of the planets. I’ve worked a lot on that piece and that triggered me lots of potential ideas for next pieces. Bob asking me to write an album, which was perfect timing. Some how this is a project I always had in mind. The ideas behind it are thoughts that follow me always. In a way I’ve always been writing this album in my previous pieces. As someone says: this album is very much you. All my knowledge is in it, but in a very intuitive way. Also finding love helped me very much.
TONEPOET: Upon taking in Overview Effect, one can't help but be taken in by the beautiful arrangements, as well as the flawless amalgamation of orchestral instruments, guitar (which I love), and samples. Not any one thing over-dominates the music, and nothing is is lost within a song. What are you preferred means of composing in the initial phases of development?
ROGER: When writing for this project I had conscious idea that acoustic instruments should coexist equally with electronics. I didn’t want to write a piece where electronics acts as a ‘basso continuo’ and then add strings on top but another counterpoint element inside the composition. I am classically trained and studied contemporary music with Michael Finnissy. One of the most important things I learnt from him was the idea of structure and how the musical material influences the structure of the overall piece (well, Bach also teaches that with his fugues). Generally, it all starts with me trying things in the studio. Maybe playing with a synth that creates a noise in a unique way that inspires me to follow it. On this album most of the rhythmic string arrangements come from, or are inspired by, the drum machines, pulses or arpeggiators sounds (normally produced by ‘mistakes’). It’s a convention of intuition and trial and error. Also there’s generally a blurred image of some kind behind it.
TONEPOET: Overview Effect has a very soundtrack-like feel to it in that it constantly develops as opposed to becoming transparent by way of stagnation. This provides the listener with a journey, and creating this emotional connection with them draws them into the intended scene or idea. It's no mystery that you have applicable experience with composing music for soundtracks. How did you get into this field and do you believe that this sort of work influences how you compose (regardless whether you are writing for a film or not)?
ROGER: That’s an interesting question and it’s something I’ve been trying to understand lately. I am not sure if became a film composer because I write this kind of music, or I write this kind of music because I also write film music. Since I started writing music everyone said I have a very cinematic style. I guess I consider myself, at the end of the day, a story teller. I think that technically this happens for the reasons I explain above: I let my musical material develop and extinguish by itself. Some material allows you more, other material less, and it’s that material that generates it’s own structure. I learn not to force the music to go one way. It doesn’t work for me. So the trick is to find material that you know will allow you to say what you want to say. That’s why it creates this feel of a journey. Because it’s an actual journey.
TONEPOET: Tell us about your musical upbringing, as well as any musically directional shifts that contributed in any way to the musician that you are now.
ROGER: I guess it’s a generational thing, but I’ve always been interested in many kinds of music. The first piece I remember is the Vivaldi’s Four seasons. I must have been 4 or 5 and I remember it very vividly. Also Peter and The Wolf by Prokofiev. I loved the Duck so I wanted to play the oboe. Because of that my dad bought me the Bach Oboe Concertos on vinyl and that was another revelation. The oboe is not the most child-friendly instrument so I started with the piano. It wasn’t long after that I discovered rock, and jazz so I learnt the guitar. Although there’s been periods when I was concentrated on one thing only, It’s always been extremely eclectic.
TONEPOET: Are there any composers, artists, or musicians (living or deceased) that you would like to or have plans to collaborate with? If so, in what capacity?
ROGER: I have to say that making this album has been a dream. Collaborating with musicians like Thom Gold, Stephen Upshaw, Peter Gregson, Lucy Railton, Claudio Girard - it’s been a dream. There are specific musicians I would love to collaborate with like The Kronos quartet and Hillary Hahn. I would love to write for a Xavier Dolan drama, or a Denis Villeneuve film. I would love to write music for the choreographer Wayne McGregor (I would have loved to do it for Pina Bausch). I would love to do arrangements for other artists, like Bjork for example. I am very open to anything as a composer. I love collaboration with other people. I like that about film music.
TONEPOET: Are there any artists that inspire you musically at the moment, or any that are left field for you but whose music you enjoy nonetheless?
ROGER: I like lots of different composers/musicians. Here’s some I’ve been listening to recently: Hildegard Von Bingen, Gesualdo, Vivaldi, Rameau, Autecre, John Cage, Hauschka, Bjork, Radiohead, Steve Reich, Glass, John Adams, John Coltrane, John Zorn, Arvo Part, Gorecky, Penderecky, Aphex Twin, Willian Basinski, David Land, Murcof….
TONEPOET: Besides creating incredible music, what do you do in your free time outside of music, such as hobbies or the like? Do you feel that any of this indirectly contributed to your own artistry?
ROGER: I love going for walks with my dog. It’s the first thing I do everyday in the morning. I recently started Tai-Chi and I love it. I love all this meditative stuff. I did yoga for quite a while. Walking is a great form of meditation. I also love reading about scientific discoveries, especially about the universe. This has always interested me. I don’t have a telescope (and London is too light polluted) but I used to spend hours in my parent’s house near Barcelona, looking at the stars with my grandad’s telescope.
TONEPOET: Even though you just put out Overview Effect, I will speak for many people that we are ready for even more deep and influential music on this scale (!). Do you have any projects in the works, and if so, can you shed light on these ventures?
ROGER: I am still quite overwhelmed by the reception of this album. But there will be more for sure. I am quietly starting to think about next one. I‘m also quite busy with my film work at the moment.
TONEPOET: Well, thank you, Roger, for your time, as well as delivering such an achingly beautiful masterpiece. You've managed to retain the integrity of space music while deepening the meaning of it all via your post-classical compositional magic. It appears you've picked up a heavy touch from pioneers in this genre with extreme ease and you're forging forward on a path that is illuminated by a blazing light. We look forward to hearing many, many more well-woven tapestries in the future. Peace.
ROGER: Thank you so much!