August 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
1). It’s the end of the trilogy, but Echo Us has 4 albums.
In 2012-2013 two albums were created as a follow-up to Tomorrow Will Tell The Story, the first was A Priori, and the second is an as-yet future album that combines unreleased material from the sessions that grew Tomorrow Will Tell The Story, as well as new compositions. The first Echo Us album (2005) was not considered as part of the trilogy concept.
2). The only compositional consideration was ‘flow’.
A Priori presented itself as a stream-of-consciousness, and primarily as an instrumental album. The lyrics incorporated into the album were not an afterthought, but were written differently than Tomorrow Will Tell The Story. There is more repetition of lyrical themes as well as focused counterpoint than on previous albums- melodies themselves were re-used and inverted more than ever- appearing across the entire instrumental / orchestral spectrum of all tracks.
3). Its composition was almost aborted after the first 2 minutes of exordium were written, and picked up 3 months later.
At first it seemed like a project conceived of for a later date, and it also begged for resorting to instrumental bravado, which previous albums avoided.
Oboist Christina Fitzgerald, Flautist Chris Smith, and others again joined up for the recording sessions for A Priori. The album was not recorded to a ‘click’ track, and was very much performed ‘live’ in the studio much more than previous albums.
5). It was written on a number of borrowed acoustic instruments – harmonium, acoustic/ele guitar, glockenspiel, fog horn etc.
There were more real acoustic instruments played all over A Priori, as opposed to just the Celtic harp, strings and drums of previous albums. A Priori hardly has anything resembling a drum kit, which was intentional.
6). It was mixed ‘outside the box’ and inside the box at the same time (for gear junkheads).
Various plug-ins, softsynths/samplers were used within Logic Pro, and then outputted to a DA7 (Ramsa) desk for mixing in outboard synthesizers and reverbs, bass guitar compression and more. This approach has defined the sound of Echo Us’ latest releases, going against the trends of software and plug-in heavy synthesizer productions.
‘Nightlight’ modulates in and around 5 different key centers, and was very difficult to compose, as well as perform live because of the harp pedaling required.
8). Upon its completion, its author was kicked out of his studio by decree of the Portland Fire Department.
This is true- All tenants were asked to leave the multi-office space where Ethan had his studio from 2005-2007, as well as 2009-2013. The landlord was asked to renovate to current codes after 15 years of having business space in the building. Since the building was a converted Victorian house on the wrong block, it was ordered by the city to be turned back into solely residential space. Echo Us vacated in July of 2013 and hasn’t had a proper studio space since.
Actually, Tomorrow Will Tell The Story was written partially in response, or at least in sway with the idea in the new-age movement that the year 2012 would bring a change in consciousness around the globe. It’s still hard to say whether anything actually happened, but A Priori lives on with its own intent, and could be interpreted in a multitude of ways.
Many of the synth washes and pads come from two very warm, but digital synthesizers- the Korg Wavestation (ex) and Roland JD990. The amount of acoustic instruments used in the recording probably contribute to its warm character, but more than anything, what gives the album its ‘feel’ is the very free-flowing way it was put together and performed in the studio.
August 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
With Brian, Nick, Matt and I as Greyhaven in summer of 2000, something occurred to me on a musical level, but the energy behind the ‘occurrence’ hadn’t had its time and chance to fully develop. Up until that time, all my work with Greyhaven had started with harmony- chordal ideas, sound-creation and atmospheres. The ‘song’ material, in my eyes was an afterthought almost- the vocals had to fit the music, instead of being written first. That’s not to say the melodies weren’t ever memorable- quite the opposite, they just did not have the kind of pop-panache that I had desired- the kind of direct approach that immediately make’s emotional light bulbs go off in one’s mind.
To write a simple melody, with an effective, direct message (even with a bit of a pastoral or nebulous quality) one has to be comfortable in one’s own skin, while at the same time experiencing deep emotions and transmitting them. For us at the time, it was also all about finding ‘success’ as writers, and as a group. We attended music conferences, considered moving New York, did demos and pitched to A/R at large labels like Sony, as well as music publishers. It was a strange thing to do for me- entering the ‘pop music’ world was a completely new thing.
Fall of 2000 Matt and I auditioned two or three drummers, finally settling on Matt’s friend Michael Vandyne. Mike was, although personally distant from me, incredible even then at what he did- He was primarily a metal drummer, but had great rock and pop feel. For some out there may know later on he formed ‘Arsis’ with another friend of his, James Malone, who I vaguely knew from school. After this came Kai Kurasawa on Warr Guitar and bass, and then our lineup was basically complete. The idea from the beginning was to take Matt off lead vocals and have him just focus on keys and backing vocals. If we would’ve gotten a superb frontman I am still convinced this early incarnation of Echo Us would’ve climbed fairly high under better circumstances. The music fit well into the electronica scene at the time, although less aggressive than popular acts like Gravity Kills for example. I still had a great amount of influence on the arrangements however, even if I didn’t pen the song (Matt and I wrote 50/50, but often I elaborated his arrangements, particularly writing bridges). There was a slightly ‘progressive’ element to the group, but it was night and day from what I did before.
Things changed as we started gigging- slowly but steadily. In May we all moved in together, save for Kai, and this was one of those typical stories of band cohabitating, up to a certain point. It was the bottom floor and basement of a townhouse in Southie. It was cheap for Boston, and that was the excuse really, so I went along with it. I liked the place, but grew to hate the neighborhood. In addition, I’d felt roped into the situation, because we were out of time with the realtors. The phones kept cutting out and there was a power outage. We had like 3-5 days to settle on something. The trouble was, I’d just basically broke things off with a girlfriend, an on and off again relationship of a couple of years. And she lived right down the street a mile or so from this new place in Southie. Things were fine for awhile, we basically remained friendly, she drove me home at times to avoid the subway, and all in all things were okay for quite a few months. But it was very very strange on another level. Boston’s a big place- I remember being in the realtor’s jeep driving around and Mike saying “yep, think we gotta do this one” and I obliged, while still thinking fuck it’s not a good idea.
The band was starting to do well, having open rehearsals and an early gig at Boston’s best music-dive-bar. We brought in maybe 40-50 people that first show. We were second amongst 3 other bands and as soon as we were on stage, there were lots of heads, and as soon as we were done the place cleared out, which made us feel pretty okay. The next show, I believe was at a place called the Linwood. It was right around the corner from where I’d lived just before moving to Southie- It was on Peterborough Street, or close to there. The power went out, right inside the first song. It was a black out due to summer weather I suppose. Blackouts were a common theme with the 2000-2001 Echo Us. Another band, Freezepop, the headliner never even showed. This was the night that I felt a change. Matt was having difficulty holding it together, because we had put a lot into this second show. I took the reigns and talked to the crowd. Went for a walk and loaded up. Not a big deal, but the entire evening permeated an ‘eerie’ feeling. We were about to play an amazing set as well, I could feel it. And then….nothing.
As things progressed on into fall, we started curating shows at more dance-music friendly clubs down in Boston’s city center, as well as the Cambridge goth club Manray (which never happened because in those days Manray would not book bands- we bothered them incessantly though, ironically a few years later they started hosting live music). This goth and snazzy dance club route looked like a great move, but the first show was a disaster- very poor sound planning and setup at a place called An Tain. I think we played half a set there. It was really an Irish bar suggested by a girl helping us with some managerial duties. Someone told us it was hip I guess, and we believed them. There were a number of other shows being scheduled- One at Berklee in November and a few others we were looking at.
In mid summer I’d also went to my friend’s place in Connecticut again and did a massive load of psychedelics. Something had changed too since the beginning of 2001- I was tripping alone on occasion. Before I was too terrified to try it without a partner, but often, maybe once every month and a half when I had time, I’d do it whether I was with my tripping partner or alone. Also, over Christmas of 2000, while spending time with family in Eugene I was doing a lot of this, but at lower levels. I was already convinced at one point lying in bed that I was completely insane, and was seeing another entity within myself. I took a breather upon returning to Boston in January. I saw the girl I’d known so well, haphazardly on the street. It had just snowed, ironically, as it was as if she’d changed a great deal over the break. My focus was on school and the band though, so I put it aside, but that meeting on the street was a foreshadowing to me of the energy that came to permeate all of 2001, and carry on into 2002 and longer. It was the same energy that brought us all 9/11, and everything that year. Some will call me crazy to state as such, but it’s just something I knew, and still know, after all these years. Some in the conspiracy world call it mind control, some consider it a psychic awakening and reckoning. Whatever it is, it’s regarding forces human beings can only understand on an intuitive and non-linguistic level.
In the real, I let someone run a great deal of my life for 2 years- I let this person influence me so much. I was told all kinds of things, and felt I was being coerced on many levels- to feel ‘up’ and ‘down’ back to back. Bipolar. Crazy-making. Essentially mind games, with coded messages and sayings that I’d respond to automatically, without any thought or foresight. Her and I were very much kids together, in a love-hate relationship. It’s the same way bad parenting works, except it’s young adult to young adult. My head was very messed around when it came to the emotional side of things. I was told my former bandmates “were not like me” and a hundred other cryptic messages and sayings- about sex, about other ‘people’, about [her] childhood abuse, and many things probably not fit for public consumption. In the present, I was told who was fucking whom, and received the most blunt reply yet “You pissed? Good!”. On one hand, I felt sad for her, and on the other hand, I inherited a wasp’s nest of energy. And that’s a potent combination. I was young, very naive, and fell in love, and at that time was okay with being verbally abused and strung around, and likewise returned favor. There was a sincere, soul-matey kind of feeling to our relations early on, but what 2001 triggered in me, along with drug use and the winding, ‘circumstantial’ circumstances that pursued, was something I’d never imagined (in case it’s not obvious…story continues!).
August 9, 2014 § Leave a comment
The one thing I can say about my late teen years is that during this period music immediately put landscapes into my mind. I could drift off into meditative, ‘psychic’ hallucinatory states just due to music alone (in high school I hadn’t discovered psychedelic drugs yet). But the one thing I took home from all of this, is that music MUST implant images within the mind. It is my feeling, and this is not just me getting older, it is my feeling that we are loosing that ability as a culture and masse-mind. We are loosing it, due to so many forces. When the internet was in its infancy still…94-95 I was looking up all kinds of information on my favorite groups at the time, especially Rush. I think I read the entire Rush homepage a few times. Being an early-adopter makes the world look ubsurdly strange these days, where we are all online, some of us obsessively so. We are so drawn to video that we’ve been desensitized to audio, and I believe it’s very dangerous. I am not the type that looks to return to a previous time or reject technological progress, but I recognize when were doing the wrong things with it. We should all be making use of audio and music as wholesomely as we did in the 1990′s and earlier. Our present path, to me began sometime after the new millennium. I can’t and won’t get into my theories why here, it’s just a feeling I’ve had because of world events, as well as events in my own life.
1998 till early 2001 all went fairly smoothly for me. There was a lot of energy to burn, a lot of fun times, and good success happening for the band, mostly in Germany. We were the pick of the month in Empire Magazine, scored very high reviews in Rock Hard and Heavy Odor Was? two of the biggest rock magazines in Germany, and I did a number of interviews by phone. We played a festival and with the beginnings of Echo Us in 2000 I got to gig a lot more. A number of people (I can’t remember who) had criticized the label Greyhaven signed to (Angular Records) as being too small, but we still had very good press, so we saw the label, as small as they were as doing their job. Angular had a number of bands besides us go onto much success, although only now can I see this in hindsight. We got paid, not much, because moving 1000 units or thereabouts of a debut album doesn’t really pay then or now, but 1k is good for a debut (absolutely excellent now a days). We were gaining fans, a lot of feedback and critical success. I also incidentally found myself in conflict with a number of detractors, most of them online, and a few I met in person. I viewed those disagreements as part of the process of hollowing out my own niche. I had very strong opinions, and still do, but at that age I had little tact when I spoke my mind. Neither did the people I was sparring with. In general though, I got along with most, whether in school or outside it with the band and was very happy for the first time in my life.
Greyhaven’s performance at the Powermad Festival in Summer of 2000, and my first real rendevous with a long-term on and off again girlfriend of 2 years were the highlights of the period, although I had slowly started to slip into some amount of habituos formations and went on a number of serious psychedelic bender’s with a then-friend of mine. We would go to Connecticut, his family was a from a very well-to-do area there. Once we even tripped two days in a row, with other things on top of it, and at the same time I am writing email interviews on the computer for the release that long weekend. The trips themselves were mostly good, except at one point I smoked weed and nearly broke my brain. I’d felt- like I lifted off into a completely different dimension. In those days my dealings with psychedelics were infrequent, a few times per year, and since there was not a big writing cycle going on with the band, it wasn’t having much effect on my creative output, good or bad. It was just this new thing, and I’d gotten used to it quickly, mostly because it took me back to those out of body experiences I’d had as a child. Psychedelics, initially helped me reconnect with myself. I flew from my friend’s home in Connecticut, back to the boy hood house I’d been born into in Salem, Oregon. We called it the “step house”.
When I returned to Boston the festival was coming up soon, and we had to get ready. There was already a sense in the band that two camps had developed. Just back in March or April, I had requested that Mathew Cahoon become our live keyboardist, and it proved to be an interesting gig for Matt, so it seemed. It also was the beginning of an interesting relationship in which I both grew as a songwriter, and began to crash at being myself, being human.
July 29, 2014 § Leave a comment
I wanted to actually speak up about this, and hopefully in as nice a tone as possible, even though the subject frustrates me slightly.
Over the years many journalists, reviewers, even random posters on web boards I’ve been directed to, bloggers, you name it- especially those from outside predominantly English-speaking country’s mistake the name “Echo Us” to be, or mean: “Echo U.S.” – Another common misspelling is “Echos US”. Essentially, this spells out “Echo United States”. bah! (see my further extrapolation about miscommunications below).
I hope I can clear up that “Us” simply means “We” in the case of Echo Us (and without getting into grammar-nazi clarifications here, it’s like saying in a sentence “Arthur will echo us in his findings and research”. Echo Us, in the context of the music created under its banner, refers to a ‘metaphysical circle of consciousness’, and can really become whatever the listener wants it to be, or sees within it.
I came up with the name in 1999. I was not trying to differentiate the name from any other groups calling themselves “Echo” from other countries (of which there are probably many). Echo Us is the only “Echo Us” operating in a musical context. Also, I never meant to call this project ‘Echo’. It is called Echo Us.
This will sound even more ridiculous, but I also don’t want anyone to get the idea that the name has ANY political connotation at all. The language barrier, however presents a situation where this can, and I believe HAS happened on occasion. The last thing I’d ever want is anyone thinking this name is some kind of a political statement by me or anyone associated with the project. Believe me, I won’t burden the blog or anywhere else on the web with my political leanings, but they definitely are not in support of anything my country stands for these days.
Thought this needed to be said after 10+ years- email infoATechous.net if you’ve got further thoughts for me to consider on why this misunderstanding persists- Would love to hear it!
July 24, 2014 § Leave a comment
Soon for elaboration!
To hear sound samples from the new album… II:XII, A Priori Memoriae Trailer…
July 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
In late 1996 I was perhaps a loner. I spent my time practicing and writing after school, doing 4 track demos into the night and discovering a new place in life- music, finally, where I felt most comfortable- it became the only place I felt comfortable. Since age 7 I’d studied piano, but I hadn’t developed a strong connection to music then. All of a sudden at 12 and 13 music became a way to black-out the world. My early teen years were a muddled haze of psychotropic drugs, psychotherapy, and misbehavior of many kinds. Oddly enough, the father of one of the members of Floater, a band quite popular regionally, was my initial counselor. I don’t know how that happened, it’s just funny. Music was an escape from many of the forces and people that had attached themselves to me during those years. I became mute, often resorting to trance-like states that I did not even know were actually happening to me at the time. The former was a common story in some ways- being bullied, arrested for petty theft with friends, smoking dope, you name it. However, I always attracted these crazy personalities seemed to follow me into adult life. One friend in my early teen years had a goal to blow up a car. Thankfully that never happened. That same friend, who I had to remove myself from amongst others, ended up nearly dead years later from walking into the line of fire of a semi-truck. That was just one example. Back then these were adolescent highjinks that hardly ever came to be, but kids now a days? I don’t even want to think about it. Mess around with this stuff and I’m sure the penalties are much worse.
My early childhood appeared on the surface as normal, but I still have questions all these years later. I do remember I developed a keen ability to dissociate and go out of body, usually in response to fear, but not always. Usually the ability to dissociate lessens with age, but for me it seemed to never completely go away. I’ve still used these states to write music in later years, finding them helpful but completely random. It took psychedelic drugs later on to actually become ‘okay’ and ‘aware’ with these experiences. Kids use dissociation to avoid and deal with trauma, and when that continues into the teen years and beyond it’s not so normal, but it was, and in many ways still is my way of dealing with the world. As a kid I always wanted to be ‘normal’. I was obsessed with fitting in, but I knew I did not. To this day I am not comfortable in groups, but I’ve learned to just be okay with it, and when socializing I use mental ‘talk’ and thought techniques in order to deal with being around people and be comfortable. I am finally getting to the point where I don’t have to use these techniques as much.
As time went on, life became a constant battle to get along- not to fit in, but just to cope with daily existence. Music was the way out, and I found I was better expressing myself through it, although I was also terrified of the act of expressing those emotions. They were so ‘vital’, however- I really didn’t need anyone to hear what I’d made or practiced right away, and it was often terrifying to share, until I met a few musicians of a similar musical mindset. This was Eugene, Oregon in 1996. A blues town, and a place where I was a complete misfit musically and otherwise.
I happened into some bandmates totally by accident, and then realized we all went to the same school- it was a large high school in Eugene of almost 2000. Nate Howard had read my ad in a music store seeking out musicians interested in some offbeat styles- from metal to electronic, to prog rock to movie scores and everything in and around those idioms. One of the things that was striking about this early encounter, was that everything felt like I was on “auto pilot”. There wasn’t really some great plan, it all just happened, even if we were not quite good enough yet to play everything we wrote really well, there was some kind of glue that kept the whole thing going. This was also a time in the 90’s when music felt much different than it does now- in a cultural sense, music itself was much ‘bigger’ and very vital. There wasn’t this sense there is now of music being ubiquitous- there seemed to be a small ‘cult’ of musicians at the high schools I had attended…all of them relative ‘outcasts’, but myself and Nate even more so. I think that was why we connected. I still remember Nate telling me a number of personal stories. Although I don’t remember the stories themselves, I understood better what was going on with the energy behind what we were doing. Brian (Greyhaven’s vocalist) wrote at one point that he had trouble singing some of the lyrical matter in that debut album. I won’t go into which songs or who’s lyrics, but I knew what he was talking about at the time. It had nothing to do with blowing up cars or walking in front of semi trucks. It was a much more deep-seeded issue, one part broken families, and another part abusive relationships.
These early years of really branching out after many nights of practice, were much more important than any of the education I received after. I did take guitar lessons earlier on, but the real learning seemed to come from listening, and with a few books. I got good enough to start picking out parts and solos from albums by ear a bit before Greyhaven started. Earlier on I’d had a 4 track studio set up, but later once writing with Greyhaven I commonly just kept the parts in my head and then showed the guys at rehearsal. I never forgot the important parts. Later on I did get a handheld recorder, which helped immensely with the composition, particularly with the track Shards of Sky. I played the middle section of that to Nick in the car and he was kind of like “we’re going to play that?”. It was difficult, but we did. Nick, I believe was 17, I had just turned 18.
Everything felt like following a natural path, and even when speed bumps came- such as moving to the east coast, and later Nate departing, it always seemed very much meant to be, how it was. The natural progression from writing a ‘demo’, then completing the album, signing it to a label, and then playing a number of shows within all of this timespan.
Once attending Berklee in Boston, I realized quickly how little what I did with Greyhaven had anything to do with the kind of methodologies I was learning in school. I quickly learned to black-out all the data from class. It was easy to do because there was so much…DATA. I still got A’s and B’s for the most part, but I didn’t get involved in the kinds of thinking a lot of my classmates did. I got kicked out of my conducting final. Things like, ‘how will this effect my creativity’ kind of thinking hardly occurred to me, I think because I’d discovered my creativity so strongly from the age of 13-17, it didn’t worry me very much. But I heard a lot of that. The school was a very competitive environment, but I felt I got along with people well for the first 2-3 years. I wasn’t concerned with becoming a flashy player. I was interested in learning as much as I could about sound design and production methods, and those areas were intimidating at first. But they still, ironically almost, had very little to do with my own music at the time. It was as if the music came from a separate place. And that’s kinda when I started to realize again that I was not ‘fitting in’, or like everyone else. I still had friends- more friends in college than I had before or since then, and I still think those were great times. I also had a number of teachers tell me directly that what I was doing had no relevance to them, the prevailing music culture or the college, or even my career. I viewed that at first as an insult, but then I started to think of it as very telling. If they were that perturbed to be that direct, in person and in writing, and be quite harsh about it a couple of times, then perhaps I was doing the right thing, and would make further discoveries. I was right, at least my creative path proves to me all these years later that I chose the right path. Because the apex of my work in recent years is the music I imagined in my mind, and much more. It wasn’t until arriving in Portland in fall of 2003 that my real musical self began to extend out to the kind of areas I’d always wanted to go, but never could quite put my fingers on until then.
July 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
There is one quick alteration to everything, in fact Sep 19th will be the exact day in Europe instead of the 12th, on the positive side, the UK only has to wait 3 more days from the original date! (the 15th!).
The full press release is here: http://progrockshow.blogspot.com/2014/07/echo-us-set-to-release-4th-full-length.html
I am developing a live set right now. Actually it’s pretty much done, parts are written / lead sheet-ed for bass, and all the electronics are prepared. If anyone knows a drummer that enjoys playing to electronics I’d love to find someone more permanent (we have a few interested drummers, but none are probably long-termers for the project).