An Interview with Stray Theories

Tell is who you are in 140 characters, twitter style?

Micah.  A Musician/Composer. I release most of my music under the name ‘Stray Theories’.

Which part of world are you from and what inspires you about it?

I am from Sydney, Australia, but now I live in the South Island of New Zealand, two very different places

Where I live in New Zealand is quiet, but incredibly beautiful & scenic, always inspiring.  Sydney is busy and buzzing with all sorts of life & culture, both places inspire me.

What makes Micah tick?

Music & any form of art/creativity..  new experiences & places, improvisation, live music, family.. they all inspire me and keep me motivated ..

Describe yourself as an producer artist what is your style?

I love to create deep, atmospheric, melodic sounds – especially densely layered soundscapes..
Over time my style/approach has changed alot. My first love has always been more  minimal ambient styles of music and in the last few years I have gone back to that. I also love darker experimental music.

Did you have any musical training and what instruments do you play?

I have been writing & playing music since I was quite young, I mainly play by ear.. During high school I started to experiment with recording, music production, synths etc and taught myself mostly.

I have some musical training though & more recently I have studied music composition for film, production & sound design to hopefully broaden my skills & improve techniques etc.

Overall most of my music education has really come from learning & collaborating with other musicians & producers, alot of experimentation & jamming.

I play mainly play piano, guitar and also various woodwind instruments (but I usually can’t resist attempting to play any musical object nearby..)

What things bring you joy about the current music scene?

There is so much amazing music being released and there are so many really wonderful communities of artists, composers,bands.. all working hard on releasing their own music, but helping each other out at the same time, from all corners of the world – it is an incredible thing!

I also love how there is a move towards beautiful handmade limited edition physical releases .. from cassettes to lathe cut vinyl and all sorts of obscure formats and creative ways of releasing music.

What things make you unhappy about the current music scene?

So much good music, it can be hard for some artists to get the exposure they need..and they get lost in the crowd.  Labels & promoters that take advantage of artists, frustrating to see that happen (although thankfully it doesn’t seem to happen too often).

How and where do you find new music?

Mainly Soundcloud & Bandcamp now. I am addicted to both and always stumbling across alot of amazing music from new artists & labels.

How and where do you find inspiration?

There is no one particular source, sometimes it can be past memories & experiences, sometimes a mood or a feeling or places I have travelled & people I have met.  Often I just sit down in the studio and start playing, not with anything in mind and see where it takes me.

Tell us about your latest Album; Those who Remain

For this album I changed how I worked a little bit. Most of the songs started with improvised piano or guitar recordings. Often I will experiment with layers, building an ambient drone/soundscape and so it evolves…

I tend to keep adding layers and experimenting with effects & the overall balance until a song feels right.
Finishing a track sometimes is a matter of getting the mix right and blending the elements until it has the feel & energy I was hoping for.  Sometimes it is taking the initial recordings and stripping it back to a more sparse/minimal arrangement.

Occasionally I come back to a song that I had given up on long ago and try something new and it will instantly feel right and be complete very quickly…This happened for several tracks on the last two albums.

Actually one of the key ingredients for completing songs over the last few years has been the support & advice of my Wife, it helps alot to have a second opinion of someone you trust..especially after listening to a song 1000’s of times.. We have collaborated often (her vocals appear on quite a few tracks on previous releases). She is very insightful musically & we sometimes sit down together in the last stages of a track and work on fine details on the arrangement & mix.

The overall theme I had in mind for this album is about Life and Death – in a both a literal & a more metaphoric way..new beginnings and shadows from the past..  I feel it is almost a story about those who are left behind and finding hope in dark places.

To be honest I am not sure I know the full story for each song. I think in time I might come to understand their meanings a little more. I often feel this way, sometimes it will be years later and I will understand the context of the song. I feel the emotional connection to each track, but find it difficult to put it into words as they are all coming from very raw/base emotions..I guess that its kind of part of the process of how I create them as well.

From a very young age I have always created music for myself to be able to move through & deal with things in my own life, this album was a huge process of renewal & rediscovery for me and in many  ways it is a documentation of my journey over the last few years and part of a transition from possibly a darker place into a brighter one.

What’s is in your studio? Logic, Pro Tools,  What hardware etc.

My studio is pretty minimal now and has gone through alot of changes over the last few years. At times I have a lot more hardware synths & some rack effects etc, but now I like to change things pretty frequently to keep me inspired.

Software wise, now I mainly use a combination of Ableton Live 9 + various of VST’s  & Propellerhead Reason 7 . I have been using Reason since version 1.0 and am somewhat addicted to it.

Hardware, now I don’t have so much, a few keyboards/synths, various effect’s pedals, a guitar & other small instruments and noisemaking machines.

Any other exciting projects you’re involved in currently?

I am currently involved in two projects i am very excited about –  ‘Gang Violins’  &  ‘sink \ sink’.
I have been very fortunate to be able to work with some incredible musicians in both of these projects/bands and in the near future there will definitely be some more recording /EP releases & possibly some live show’s planned. I am also working on soundtracks for several short film’s.

What composers, producers or DJs are you listening to at the moment?

Nils Frham, Rhian Sheehan, Ólafur Arnalds, Trentemøller, Stumbleine, Koda, Keith Kenneth (Helios) ,Moshimoss, Need A Name, Exist Strategy, The American Dollar, Hammock.

Give us your current top 8 tracks?

Rhian Sheehan – Somnus
Lowercase Noises – Passage
Hammock – Ten Thousand Years Won’t Save Your Life
Stumbleine – Dawn
Brambles – Such Owls As You
Moshimoss – Slow Days It Was Super
Ólafur Arnalds – Near Light
Nils Frahm – Says

What do you think you’ll be getting upto in the year 2020?

I am not sure.. but I know I will be still making music! I would like to create a live show to tour with for Stray Theories, I have some ideas..so hopefully by 2020 I will have travelled with my music and met up with all of the artists from around the world that I have had a chance to collaborate with over the years.

Any words of inspiration for the people out there?

Surround yourself with good people that are moving the same direction…It makes such a big difference to your life.

Find out more and buy Stray Theories music at;
http://straytheories.bandcamp.com
http://facebook.com/straytheories

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