Circle Sky

Circle Sky – Interview with MinimalMag

This summer sees the release of the debut album from Circle Sky.

A new name to many but an act that is formed from two producers with a lot of experience.

Richard Norris and Martin Dubka took time out to chat to us about the upcoming LP, their musical influences and the peculiar year we’ve all been living through.

Circle Sky - Interview with MinimalMag

Richard, Martin, welcome to Minimal Mag. Can you start by telling us a little about your life in lockdown? How have you managed over the last year and what have you done to stay sane?

R: I feel a bit guilty about it, as being a bit of an introvert the lockdown wasn’t too bad for me. 

I got to spend more time with my family and did a lot of work in the studio, which is at home. It turned out to be a very productive year creatively. 

And I got to release a lot of Music For Healing ambient music that other people said helped them cope, which was a big plus. 

M: I’ve worked from home the past few years so, in many ways, very little actually changed for me.  

I’ve been very lucky in that regard.  

As for staying sane, I think the best thing anyone can do is just keep working on projects that mean something to you.  

Focussing on things you love will always make you feel better about the other stuff.

You are releasing an album as Circle Sky this summer, how did you first get together and what is the inspiration for this new project?

R: We got together when Martin came to play at an electronic night I was running at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch. 

He brought his portable modular set up, and proceeded to play an amazing improvised set. 

We liked the idea of us getting together and putting that energy and technique into more song based forms, so Circle Sky was born.

M: I think at the time, we were quite inspired by our environment too (Star Wars Secret Cinema and the Moog Soundlab).  

And obviously those classic, improvised, sequencer-driven records like E2-E4.

Richard, you have a long and I would imagine storied career. What can you tell us about some of your early experience in dance music and your history working with greats like Dave Ball and Erol Alkan?

R: It’s been a long and wonky road. 

I’ve been involved with making records since I was a teenager, which is some time ago. 

Each project is different, and you learn something new every time. 

There’s many stories, but don’t get me started, we’ll be here all night! 

But yes it was great to work with Erol and to have a continuing working relationship with Dave. 

We are currently working on a new Grid record, which is going very well.

Martin, you’ve been a solo artist and producer for the last decade, can you tell us some of your personal highlights?

M: I always tend to focus on the last thing I did which, in this case, was production on Lou Hayter’s new album.  

I’m really pleased with how that turned out.  

But thinking back, I did an album with an artist called Tyson that never really got the exposure I thought it deserved.  

That’s the record other producers often mention to me but I don’t think a lot of regular music listeners got to hear it.  

I don’t think it’s even on Spotify for some reason.  Lots of synths, great singer, catchy songs.  

It was all played live too, no midi.  Definitely worth a listen if you can find it on Youtube or Discogs or whateverB

Circle Sky - PREMIERE - Holding On

The album, ‘Dream Colour’ is great, it has a real warmth to it and some great vocal contributions. Did you have featured vocalists on the LP? And what was the process of recording this record? Was it done pre-pandemic?

R: It was recorded and mixed pre-pandemic, yes. The process is a mix of mystery and technology. 

All is not as it seems. 

The vocalists aren’t featured guest vocalists, exactly… they come from closer to home. 

It’s amazing what you can do with technology these days 🙂

M: No organic sounds on this record.

When you’re not recording, or performing, what give your the most pleasure in life? Do you have hobbies, pursuits, obsessions?

R: Reading. Current favourites include David Keenan – Monument Maker, John Higgs – William Blake vs The World, and Leone Ross – This One Sky Day.

M: I’ve been playing a lot of Super Nintendo and watching old anime recently.  

But I think a big part of that is for the soundtracks!

If you each had to pick one album that has had a profound influence on you and/or your music, what would it be and please tell us a little of why?

R: David Bryne and Brian Eno – My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. 

The use of studio as instrument, the use of found voices and sound, the extension of various art school and John Cage based ideas was very alluring to me as a kid. 

And it’s damn funky!

M: Solid State Survivor – Yellow Magic Orchestra.  

It combines so many things that I love – big melodies, that sort of chiptune-ish element, the part sequenced part live thing, that futuristic spacey feel, vocoder, nice rich harmony, amazing synth sounds, all those old sound effects, even the artwork and the way they look and set up on stage.  

That was the first album of theirs I heard when I was younger so that feeling tends to stick with you.

What are your hopes for the year ahead and do you have any plans you’d like to share with us?

R: I’m currently in a mind-bogglingly complex house and studio move, which has been going on for about six months. 

After that I would like a nice lie-down. Then it’s back to the studio! 

M: It feels kind of unwise to make proper plans right now.  

I’ll just say “more music”.  

I’m happy with that.

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