“We had the inbreath with early chillout and then we had the outbreath with dance and external expression and we may sometime see a return to the inward dance or something new. Future music will be fractal, never repeating and spiral like as we progress from the 4 square walls of the 19th century into the number 5 and new world” – Ishq
Ishq is Matt Hillier and Jacqueline Kersley. They have been working in ambient and electronica music since the mid 90’s and release music also under various other names including Elve and Ishvara and on their own record label “Virtual”. Their music is often deep, otherworldy, magical and unique.
We recently caught up with Matt to found out a little more about one of the UK’s leading pioneers of ambient music within the last 10 years…
Where are you currently based Matt?
I am based in St Ives or just on the outskirts in cornwall far west.
What was your musical influences growing up?
Everything really , i started early on beatles and pink floyd and stuff as my grandad was into a lot of 60’s and 70’s alternative music and quite out there musically for his age.I then got into late punk and early mod and ska stuff at school and when i left school i got into psychedelic music from 60’s to 70’s and then the rave and early new ambient scene. My influences are pretty broad but really all come back down to good music. Any genre has its gems and i tend to get into these .
Can you remember when you started creating music?
I think about 1990 with a reel to reel and an old Korg poly 800 a.I was doing very odd tape collages of sound and strange tripped out stuff and jamming with mates in all night acid sessions and i progressed from there. I really got serious and started creating music with an atari and midi after meeting jake step henson from Optic eye who sold me a kawai k1 and introduced me to midi and showed me what you could do.
When was the first gig you played at?
That was a very funny affair in godalming surrey in the centre of town on the football field ( about 500m from the council offices. Some local hippies had managed to convince the local council to let them to a charity event on Saturday night of some local bands ( 2 in the end ) and me and dave from Liquid laugh played a full on acid techno set i guess which really freaked out the council as they had been expecting ‘local ‘ band music – blues and stuff . . .it was very funny and crazy, All live midi from drum machines and a 303 and some stuff and quite frankly a total noise. It caused outrage with the locals and suffice to say they didn’t ask us back.
What equipment do you use when playing live?
These days for Ishq its just a laptop and some tweaking and maybe a synth and fx, The Ishq music is very hard to remix live without sounding somehow wrong ( unlike more cyclic loop / dance music where you can just remix it and it always works )and so i never attempted to play live. I don’t really have a huge erge to attempt a live Ishq project as its just a logistic nightmare and also the music or a lot I do as Ishq is not so suited to the live arena where the beat and bass rules.
Describe how you feel when you play live to an audience..
Well to be honest I never really buzzed off the live experience unless I was doing more upbeat music and causing a reaction which then made me react. Then I loved it, its total connection then between you and the audience and the whole party happens.
The reaction to most Ishq sets is people either fall asleep or get deep and introspective along with the usual person who comes up and says – can you play more beats 🙂 The music as Ishq really isn’t written for live situations or for that arena and dynamic between performer and audience and I never felt it quite worked. I played san francisco planetarium and it was dark and moody and people were into going inward and it worked but these days chillout music at festivals or what i tend to think as ambient isn’t so popular and the feeling it leaves me with is often one of ‘ why am i here ‘ . Its so hard to get feedback from an audience when they are being taken deep and inward. With chilled sets its hard to describe but I tend to feel i am more working with the space of the place and fitting into the surroundings and more part of the audience and creating ‘space ‘.
Musical bio from 1st production up until most recent?
Octave doctor – genetic interface ep ( kinetix)
Indigo egg vs alien mutation ep ( kinetix)
Indigo egg vs alien mutation album microcosm macrocosm ( kinetix)
Forces of technology ep ( ambient space acid)
Symbiosis -Bass meditation ep ( kinetix)
Crytal moon album ( kinetix)
Ishq – Orchid ( Interchill / Dakini)
Ishvara – Magik square of the sun ( virtual)
Elve – Infinite garden ( virtual)
Colourform – Visions of Surya ( virtual)
and a few tracks on compilations !
What kind of studio equipment do you use (hardware/software)?
Software is Cubase sx / ableton / reaktor / Max msp / Pluggo / Hipno etc / Uad / and various
other plugins and stuff.I tend to use more hardware synths for sounds and samples via an akai sampler
for a lot of stuff .Some korg / roland synths and stuff. Nothing spectacular and not a huge budget studio but i rely on hardware to a degree as i grew up with that and cant fully adjust to in the box production.
I will do some specifics for the studio gear trainspotters but i found people can to easily think they need a gadget to sound ‘ like ‘ this or that and in reality a pc and some freeware can work a miracle these days.
Do you have a process that you like to stick to when working on new material in the studio?
For Virtual its open ended and i am trying to work in many ways and so change the process ,software , techniques from project to project, sometimes its 9/10 hardware and midi sometimes 1% hardware, sometimes cubase and sometimes ableton etc, and sometimes no midi etc. With Ishq i do tend to have a more laid out way of working and method and approach.
Tell us about the musical movement going on within the ambient/chill out scene/How do you see it progressing?
I’m not so sure , ambient kind of faded or beatless chilled music faded as downtempo became popular and splintered into many sub genres like microsound ( contemporary ambient ) and psy chill etc . Some days i relate more to idm and microsound scenes as the new ambient progression as they retain some of the original spirit of inventiveness of ambient music.
It feels like we progressed more and more into beats and bass music, you hear people playing breaks in chillout rooms and its all merged now. Pure beatless music has kind of faded and now is a very small arena. The beat kind if wiped it out and people need to groove and get kinetic. I think movement – slower movement and slow motion beats are next . . .
tai chi dancing. Dance music with a stillness like pure ambient music , delicate and minimal and about people dancing in ways that make time and space shift around them and become slower – slowmotion beat music which moves the dancer inwards and allows people who don’t want to dance to chill and dance in their heads. The progression is always either like the inbreath/outbreath. We had the inbreath with early chillout and then we had the outbreath with dance and external expression and we may sometime see a return to the inward dance or something new. Future music will be fractal, never repeating and spiral like as we progress from the 4 square walls of the 19th century into the number 5 and new world.( don’t hold your breath though !)
How does visual art fit in to what you do and why?
It’s a big part of what i do as my buzz was always the innerspace of music and going inward, into my imagination and the inner landscape that’s there. I see ambient music as a landscape painting and everything i do has a visual world.
For me music is painting and paintings and visual art just trigger me on a musical level. Most music i do is based in images. My whole focus is on music that creates imagery somedays, and i write visual music really which paints an image of what terence mckenna called the invisible landscape, the innerworlds and planes. I guess i always wanted to be a landscape painter painting the invisible world…….that’s what i try and do somedays. Otherdays i just write tracks, i don’t always have that focus but i think the muse comes from that space for me.
What genre does your music fit into?
I think the Ishq stuff skirts/covers everything from typical early ambient to downtempo and has a hint of the dreaded newage genre in that some of its sweet and dare i say ‘ nice ‘. The Virtual stuff i think is more idm like at times or like the more psychedelic ambient and downtempo stuff of the early 90’s. Its ambient / idm / electronica / newage microsound !
What is the best way to listen to the soundtracks?
Relaxed and horizontal with headphones…….letting go and losing yourself but driving or sleeping
or wide awake. I do write music really which to fully get needs a fully immersed heart and mind.
What can we expect to see in the future…Upcoming releases/gigs/events???
Loads on virtual, were ramping things up there. The next major plan is to get the ishq album done which has now been on the go for 7 years i think, and which needs to be released. Were broadening Virtual to do a deeper series called Virtual Space and also have another series which will do my more experimental sound works ( minimal sound scuplture – sounds ) a bit arty but its more contemporary sound design / music.
My partner jacqui is also working on a project with me which is more upbeat idm meets ishq.
Finally Matt….Why is music important to you…………… 🙂
I think in an age where were all being trapped more and more in another peoples ideas of what’s ‘safe’ music offers a way to escape this and be free as spirits to express. Music is the best way for spirit and for us to remain free in some sense and systems and governments and establishment don’t like this idea. Music is important for me as i can share freedom, love and light and tap into this and at the same time escape being trapped in government sponsored maya and illusion.
Music lets us fly and share in ways the system doesn’t. Music’s important as it reminds me just how free we really are. Its the best drug, healer, hope creator and liberator and reminds us what’s real
and eternal – in an age when so much is trying to mislead us into a state of sleepwalking. Music is our wings and sets us free.
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