Randal Collier-Ford is perhaps one of the most talented artists working in the music industry today, to say nothing of the dark ambient scene. He masterfully crafts hauntingly beautiful landscapes where reality and the surreal collide. Here’s a review of his recent work, The Architects, from 2015 and his latest collaborative work, Locus Arcadia. I caught up with him to talk about what inspires him to create his lush, dark melodies.
Resounding Footsteps: What got you into dark ambient music?
Randal Collier-Ford: This is a subject I’ve spoken of before, but never fully delved into. I’ve been aware of Dark Ambient music and Drone music since I was in high school, but never gave it too much thought outside of “Oh, hey, this is like I’m listening to a movie”. And after high school, I joined the military and went into active service. Afterwards, I came home with some emotional and mental issues that I struggled with for a few years. But during that time, I used to listen to Dark Ambient and Drone music at night to sleep, or simply just relax during stressful moments. Honestly, I think this music saved my mental state, quite possibly my life in one way or another. I can’t be sure. But, during that time, I was starting to lose that “effect” with the music, as I only had a handful of albums and ripped CDs someone gave me. And after so long, you just begin to expect what’s going to happen in the music, so I lost my connection to it. And I didn’t like that. Haha. So, I told myself to figure out some sort of way to make the music myself. Something I can connect with, something made just for me. And I did just that, I made the first [then] Algolagnia EP. Three tracks, roughly 15 minutes long each. And my girlfriend at the time gave me much support, telling me that I should share it with others who have stated that they enjoy dark music of this nature. And to my great surprise, my friends and their friends took after it, expressing what they liked about each track. And this motivated me to continue, creating all the side projects over the years, then finally creating music under my name.
RF: What sort of music do you listen to outside of dark ambient, if any at all?
RCF: Oh, you’re putting me in a bad spot here, because I don’t like to lie. Many already know that I grew up in my teenage years and my young adult years listening to Black Metal (and still do, from time to time). But, these days, I listen to electronic dance music and contemporary electronic music. I did grow up listening to House music as a preteen/teenager, and it was only a matter of time until I returned to it again. I’ll listen to classical, smooth jazz, and other ambient forms of music.
RF: What inspires you to write the music that you do?
RCF: Hmm, a tough question to answer. I’d have to say something larger than myself, larger than any individual, group, species, or even ideal. The music does speak for itself, and I don’t think now is an opportune time to give the truest answer to this. Those who have been able to track the visions of my past works, and the story of The Architects and Remnants (and the soon to be, third album) have seen hints of my sources, my motivations, and my intentions. And once it’s all tied together, perhaps then I should confirm anything and everything about my work.
RF: Who and what do you think your influences are?
RCF: Musically speaking, Akira Yamaoka and Simon Heath have been my two greatest inspirations. Their individual, yet different sense of how to create a cinematic album has really driven me to do more, and push my understanding.
RF: Philosophically, what drives you to create your music?
RCF: To show something beyond our understanding, and give the listener a chance to find a way to hear the whispers that I hear.
RF: When someone listens to an album or a song that you wrote, what do you want the listener to feel? Think?
RFC: To put it simply, I want them to feel what I feel when I make the track. But I can’t say what that is specifically, because each track is different. They are their own beasts, though tied together in each album. Many times, when I make a track that sounds large in scope, I want them to feel how large it truly is. Not simply hear how large it is. I know this can only be done with careful attention to what I am making and what I am making it with, and I always hope that my work is received as I had hoped.
RF: Outside of dark ambient, what are some of your favorite genres of music? Do you think you will ever contribute to that genre(s)?
RCF: Currently, I am “contributing” to electronic dance music, as well as some more obscure genres. Or at least, I’m being very experimental with these genres. But that’s as much as I have done with any of the genres I listed before.
RF: What is your thought process when writing, recording?
RCF: Step 1: sit in front of my laptop, step 2: become overwhelm, step 3: drink, step 4: have a break down and cry, step 5: open up FL Studios, step 6: load up any presents or recordings.
RF: Tell me about the recording of “Locus Arcadia.” How was it different from your normal process? How was it the same?
RCF: Locus Arcadia was a mix of old and new when it came to production, many would pick up on my standard drone styles and mechanical sounds, but I decided to throw in musical sounds that resemble the synths from old sci-fi films from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I wanted this to be the contrast of sound for what I brought to the table, something old, something new, and finding a way to bridge them together.
RF: Any collaborations in the future? Who do you think would be most interesting to work with, either because their work is similar to yours or vastly different?
RCF: A non-Ambient band has asked me to collaborate with them in the future, and I have accepted. But we have not made any official announcement yet. And a second band has asked me to do a second collaboration with them, but there is no news on this to give yet.
RF: Which subgenre of dark ambient would you say your music falls into the must?
RCF: Avant-garde? Experimental? Honestly, I couldn’t say.
RF: When you decide to stop making music (gods forbid), what do you want your legacy to be?
RCF: My legacy is the ideals I whisper of, for others to decipher beyond what is on the surface, and to look at what is refected on the core of my work.
RF: Is there something in your music that you hope to achieve yet haven’t been able to yet?
RCF: A few things, namely quality. Haha
RF: What does 2017 look like for you? What are some of the things you hope to accomplish?
RCF: Oh, another tough one. No real plans have been made other than some appearances and requests for appearances, but that’s it. I’ve decided to keep everything in the air while I work out my personal goals starting next year.
RF: Outside of music, what sort of things do you create?
RF: What does a Randal Collier-Ford show would be like?
RCF: I have been performing now for about 2 years, and my shows used to include incense and bones. I would scatter these bones around an altar that I would build on site, and before the altar I would scatter them as well. I’d ask the crowd to come and take one bone, no matter its size or shape, but only one to call their own. This is their connection to the altar, the altar where the music will be heard, the hymn would be spoken. And the crowd will have a direct connection to this, it will be personal, not manufactured, they will take what they wish from the show.