INTERVIEW: Secret Friend

Hi Steven, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Same same, as they say here in Thailand.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Diving In A Sea of Light”?

This song is about free diving, but it’s really a metaphor for a DMT trip. The continually changing arrangement tries to convey the racing thoughts and mindset of a DMT experience, as well as the length of the song, at just over seven minutes, which is about the same length of a DMT experience.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Two events, actually. A couple years ago I visited Peru and drank Ayahuasca. I set aside several more weeks after that to backpack around South America and write, and this is one of the songs that came up. Also, about 25 years ago, I was in Bali and witnessed bioluminescent algae for the first time.

Why do an animated video instead of a live action clip?

I had worked with animator, Micah Buzan, previously on another track on the album called “Do You?” I liked his interpretation so much that I unconditionally trusted him to do this track too, I knew his ‘hand made’ animation style would be perfect for portraying a psychedelic underwater world.

How was the film experience?

Micah and I initially discussed just the basic story line and how the animation should be dramatically changing styles along with the music. I also introduced Micah to the works of some animators I admire, such as Norman McLaren. Then I just left him to it. I didn’t see the film until it was completely finished. It took him 11 months.

The single comes off your new album Sleeper – what’s the story behind the title?

On the album cover×1476.jpg you see a sleeping fox surrounded by objects and things he is dreaming about, most of which happen to be related to the album’s songs in one way or another. But of course he may not be sleeping, he may instead be high – which is actually how I recommend listening to the album. Or asleep. Either way.

How was the recording and writing process?

Most of the songs were written during my South America trek. Only one song was actually written in the studio while recording the album.

Initially I intended to record this album with a full band, as I have done previously, however as I began to demo the songs I kept wanting to do more with the arrangements, specifically more of an electronica style, so I went down that road and ultimately played everything myself, apart from an occasional guitar or trumpet solo, and vocals.

For the vocals I called on friends I’d worked with before, like Kelly Jones, Willie Wisely, Linus of Hollywood, Bradley Dean Whyte, and also some people I’ve never met but whose work I admire, like Steve Eggers and Wyatt Funderburk.

What role does the 80s plays in your music?

I grew up in the late-70’s and 80’s listening to a lot of AM pop radio. I was also in a couple bands in Seattle and London during the 80s. I even wore some ridiculous looking colourful 80’s jumpers.

I used to create sample sound disks for a couple of the early keyboard samplers and I would take them round to Rod Argent’s keyboard shop in London where lots of producers and artists would hang out. Suddenly my sounds were all over the Top 40 and TV shows. So “80’s” is not retro to me, it’s a part of who I am.

How much did Dreams get to inspire the songs and lyrics on this album?

Actually, dreams were not really part of the process, I am not one of those people who gets songs or lyrics in their dreams. It really was just me sitting down and focusing and writing the songs. I firmly believe my Ayahuasca experience unlocked something in terms of my creative approach, but I would also hasten to add that no drugs were consumed during the writing or recording of the album.

Any plans to hit the road?

Nope, I’m a one-man band at this point. I’ve played live in the past, but I don’t get the buzz that a lot of musicians get from playing live – it’s too nerve wracking for me.

What else is happening next in Secret Friend’s world?

I’m recording my next album right now, I’m working again with a lot of studio musicians and some new vocalists. All the songs are based on simple lyrical or musical motifs. The album won’t be released on CD or MP3s, it will only be released as an app, which I’m also developing. This allows me to customize a unique experience for every listener – there will be millions of distinct variations of the album. That should appear next year.

Prior to that, I’m looking at doing more remixes, perhaps a single or two, and co-writing and co-producing an EP with another artist.

Nearly forgot – I’ll also be finishing off the video project for Sleeper. I’m producing a video for every track on the album, 8 out of 10 are completed as of now. You can find all the videos on my YouTube channel.


About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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