(Tao Music)


Australian guitarist Bruce Stringer is breaking down walls for the art of sonically electrifying electric guitar music. The 2015 release of Onethe name One illustrated with an "Omega" symbol is on the CD packagingis filled with a range of guitar instrumental tracks that are boldly dynamic and highly explosive. Commenting, in the following interview, on listeners and critics attempting to describe the sound of his new CD, Bruce tells "I’m not keen on labels, in general, because it tends to polarize the audience before they’ve heard a single note. I’m not sure if the album is progressive rock, or not. My definition of progressive is probably closer to an ideal rather than a sound, which might go against other people’s definitions of the term. I’ll leave that up to the listeners to decide." Dynamic, melodic and electrifying are just some of the adjectives that come to mind to describe Bruce Stringer’s guitar-centric vision. The CD packaging of One is also very intriguing and clearly, with Bruce performing most of the instrumentation, his craft is even more clearly highlightedthis in addition to his creative production and engineering work too. In the know music fans will note that Bruce also works with Elaine Wang Yi-Ling in the Chinese-Western duo called Space Of Snow. Even though Bruce is one of the rising guitarists currently recording in the instrumental rock fusion realm, he is also greatly influenced by the orchestral synthesized soundtrack music of giants like Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre and you can literally feel that sense of wide-screen dynamics throughout this CD. Guitar fans looking for the next big thing in the world of rock instrumental music, pick up and give a listen to Bruce Stringer’s One. presents an interview with


: Can you tell us where you’re from originally and where you live now and what you like best about it?

Bruce Stringer: I was born outside Adelaide, in South Australia, and have traveled quite a bit to places like Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Korea and Japan. Although I spent about 5 years living in Nottingham, England, I am, once again, based in my home town. It’s an interesting place and the people are good however, like most travelers, the more time I spend outside Australia the harder it becomes to relate to those homegrown eccentricities I once grew up with. Life is pretty normal… I don’t indulge in any Rock ‘n Roll extravagances.

mwe3: I was going to ask where you’ve been hiding, so to speak, and what took so long to get an album this good from you? Prog-rock and instrumental prog fans are going to love the
One CD. You would file this under the “progressive rock” banner right? You call the album ½ne as in the number one right? How did you choose the “omega” symbol to use in the album art?

Bruce Stringer: Ah… I’ve been doing this type of thing for decades but there hadn’t been any interest until recently. Actually, “Gemini”, “Mount Etna Erupts”, “Dreaming of Machines” and “World of Tomorrow” are very, very old tracks which have been sitting around for decades.

I’m not keen on labels, in general, because it tends to polarize the audience before they’ve heard a single note. I’m not sure if the album is Progressive Rock, or not. My definition of progressive is probably closer to an ideal rather than a sound, which might go against other people’s definitions of the term. I’ll leave that up to the listeners to decide.

Regarding the
One concept, I’m a big fan of Taiwanese vocalist Faith Yang Nai-Wen and her first album in 1997 was titled, simply, “One”. My idea was pay homage but turn the idea around, making it the last album first i.e. denoted by the Greek Omega character. It’s a simple linguistic crossover but it’s not really important if people don’t pick up on it.

The intention was to carry the concept forward with the second album being named after the opening track, “Resistance”, which refers to the Omega concept in the electrical (Ohm) sense however there are other titles I’ll be choosing from which fit the album better.

mwe3: How about some background on the making of the
One CD, for example where and when the music was written and recorded? Can you tell us about your work in the band “Space Of Snow” and working with Elaine Wang Yi-Ling? Seems like a lot of the Chinese feel has been imparted in the artwork of the One album.

Bruce Stringer: The idea for
One was as follow-up to the Space Of Snow material. In that, Elaine and I had a pop-rock vibe happening so we wanted to show what we could do that wasn’t simply “verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorus (etc)”. Elaine and her husband, who co-wrote most of the Space Of Snow lyrics, decided to take some time out from music so we decided to hold off until the time was right. In the meantime, I dug through some old demos and decided to go ahead and re-record those and do a solo album in anticipation of a new Space Of Snow album.

Space Of Snow was a pop-rock duo / band, a Chinese-Anglo version of Roxette. We recorded one album released in 2010 before being nominated for a writer’s award then disappearing into the sunset. Elaine is an award-winning vocalist in her own right and has a very similar vocal style to Chinese singing legend, Faye Wong. Working with Elaine is always an enlightening experience because she is highly self-disciplined and her performances are always sublime.

Due to illness, I‘d been housebound so the recordings were made at home and then checked on the system at John Reynolds Studios, Adelaide by Luke Vickery and, later by Wayne Sunderland at Suture Mastering Studios. Both of them are studio professionals who brought a lot to the final production of

The album was intended for the Asian territories but, as it turned out, won’t be released there until 2016 so, in the meantime, we have the opportunity to test the material in the North American market.

mwe3: Were you greatly influenced by Chinese music and art? I think we’re all greatly influenced by Chinese food but the music, culture and art seems like it’s been overlooked by a lot of westerners.

Bruce Stringer: During my school years I became interested in Chinese Gung-Fu (Kung Fu) and then discovered the benefits and importance of Chinese medicine. From there, it was only a matter of time before the culture, art and history of the Middle Kingdom lured me in. The whole Asian region is filled with highly skilled people in all walks of life, whether medicine, martial arts, engineering, or any other field.

The people are friendly, intelligent, honest and hard working so it’s surprising the amount of hostility some western nations have towards the Chinese who have so much to offer the world. And, if you like Japanese culture, you’ll find that many of those elements stem from the Chinese territories.

mwe3: The lead off track on
One is called “Hieronymus Bosch”. Is that named after the artist Bosch? What do you find exciting about his art and how did you take that feel into the track? Favorite Bosch painting?

Bruce Stringer: Yes, it was named after the artist. Many of his pieces are dark – a quality which I really relate to and, apart from some of the overtly religious messages in his art, he manages to hit the same buttons which sci-fi / horror writer H. P. Lovecraft does for me.

The relationship to the song’s title is primarily the use of the classical style guitar theme and the “whole-tone scale” sections which can sound unresolved and, therefore, a little bit unsettling. I’m not a classical music scholar but the song felt it had a bit of a Renaissance / post-Dark Ages-era quality to me.

An old Bosch favorite of mine is the “Hell” panel of the “The Garden of Delights” triptych… which was introduced to me via Deep Purple’s self-titled album. But please don’t take that to mean anything beyond a superficial interest in Bosch’s artistic abilities!

mwe3: What about the guitars and other you feature on the
One album. You mentioned you record with Yamaha guitars. Do you have an endorsement with Yamaha and how soon before there’s a Bruce Stringer model guitar? Your guitars are so superbly recorded on the CD. How about acoustics and if you can mention some of your favorite keyboards on the CD?

Bruce Stringer: Like most guitar players, after years of buying “name” brand instruments and wondering what the fuss was all about, I discovered Yamaha’s SG range of guitars. My main guitar is an original SG-800 model and I have a number of different Sgs, including a one-of-a-kind transitional / prototype model from 1974. Most of the songs feature the SG-800 but you will hear the SG-60T on “Talk Talk” and “Gemini”, and an SG-200 on “Hieronymus Bosch”.

I do not have any relationship at all to Yamaha so people should not read my preferences as any kind of advertisement. However, my preference for their gear is as much based on the sonic consistency between instruments as based on their build quality and reliability. If you work with other Yamaha instruments of similar age you will find they are sonically compatible and really work well together in a mix which, sort of, goes against the common notion of super, high quality, high output instruments competing with each other in the mix.

If you are looking to purchase a new instrument or other gear, always do the research and find what best suits you and your circumstances. Getting all your research from blogs can be a bit dubious because of the amount of people hired by companies to promote their products but do not disclose their paid arrangements. Companies who produce good quality, reliable products do not need to do this.

The EQ (equalization) of the album was aimed at removing the harsh frequencies so it’s listenable and not a form of punishment for the listener. Since suffering severe damage to my right inner ear I call on Wayne from Suture Mastering Studios who gives me a lot of help with that.

Other brands I use include Systech (Systems and Technology in Music, Inc, Kalamazoo), Pearl / Vorg (Japan & Taiwan) and Korg (Japan). Mike Aceto, a Kenosha-based electronics guru, also builds custom gear for me.

The synthesizers you can hear on the album include: Yamaha’s CS-30L, CS-10, SY-2, SK-20, V-50 and a very rare SS-30, a Chinese CME UF-50 with Plugiator ASX, a Korg M-50, Moog MiniTaur bass synth and the Evolution EVS-1. You will also hear dual Korg X-911 guitar synthesizers on “Hieronymus Bosch”, the solo on album version of “Mount Etna Erupts” and the bass on “Who Will Protect the Innocent”. The solo on the alternate, video version of “Mount Etna Erupts” features a Roland GR-300 guitar synthesizer which, unfortunately, proved to be unsuitable.

From memory, there isn’t any acoustic playing on the album although the end of “Mathematics” was originally recorded with a Nashville 12-string guitar and subsequently re-dubbed with the 12-string neck of an old, Matsumoku double neck guitar from the 1970s. I have a lot of acoustic material written and, someday, will release an album of it if there is interest.

mwe3: Can you tell us how you recorded the guitars to get such a clean and varied sound on the
One album and who else worked with you, including any other musicians who worked with you on the CD and what about the drumming sound? Also hearing the album sounds like you’re very much into vintage and modern synth keyboard sounds too, correct?

Bruce Stringer: Most of the guitar parts were recorded through a very inexpensive Chinese JOYO British Sound pedal via a noise gate, directly into the desk. No studio trickery, no massive amount of outboard gear between the guitar and the desk. The guitar signal on “Carnation” went through the DigiTech RP-100, with delay added afterwards, but most of the other tracks were pretty straight with a little delay or effects like phaser / flanger added afterwards. Luke and Wayne (see above) helped me get the instruments sounding natural but it couldn’t have been possible without using the original, factory-issue guitar pick-ups on those guitars mentioned.

A lot of rules were broken because I wanted an “under-produced”, live feel to the sound and I was the only musician on the recordings so I can’t blame anybody else for the mistakes!

Drums were created in one of two ways: (i) recording the performance from a Yamaha DTX-IIs electronic drum kit to MIDI or (ii) writing “from scratch” on an Atari 1040ST, and feeding the MIDI information through a Yamaha DTX-3 drum module.

Vintage, analogue synthesizers were used for bass notes, LFO (low-frequency oscillator) sections – like the middle of “World Of Tomorrow” and the basis for “OMNI” - ensemble string sounds and many of the melodies and themes. The Moog MiniTaur was used for bass on some songs when the Yamaha CS-3L was busy doing other things. A Korg M-50 was used to add digital touches to the strings to give the tracks a modern edge.

The black sheep of the synthesizer family is the British Evolution EVS-1 digital rack-mountable synthesizer, which uses a whole number of modulation processes to create the most analogue-sounding digital synthesizer of the 1990s - matched only by some of the Akai synths. Besides the Yamaha CS-30L, the Evolution EVS-1 is the most used keyboard instrument and is a favorite tool for writing.

mwe3: Track 2 “Carnation” is interesting in that you get some great “Leslie” like effects on the guitar sound. How did you get that sound? Also why did you call that track “Carnation”?

Bruce Stringer: The rotary speaker “Leslie” effect is a dial-up effect on a DigiTech RP-1000 effects unit. I don’t normally use digital effects – my preference is for older, analogue effects – but the DigiTech allowed for the type of sonic manipulation, which is unaffordable or scarcely available in the analogue realm.

Recently, I picked up a very rare Systech 7012 Voltage Controlled Flanger rack which will probably be used live for “Carnation” instead of the DigiTech because it can also serve as a really good pre-amp.

Regarding the name, “Carnation”, I will refer you to Ron Howard’s comment in season 4 of “Arrested Development” - about producing a movie based on a single picture… The fire imagery was something which had hung around in my mind while recording and that evolved into the image of an ever-burning flower. When it was decided to film the music videos, the idea was to produce a computer generated flower on fire as a loop - a piece of film repeating endlessly. There wasn’t enough time to organize that so we went with some stock footage of fire which worked out fine. The end result, sans the burning flower, is that the listener can now take his or her own meaning from the title.

mwe3: How about the cover art of the
One CD? Seems kind of unsettling, in a good way. Who designed the cover and what is it a picture of?

Bruce Stringer: The pictures you see on the cover and in the booklet are of the Futuro House village in Wanli which is on the north coast of Taiwan. The Futuro House was designed and developed as low-cost, portable, prefabricated housing in Finland by architect Matti Suuronen back in the 1970s. Not unlike Le Courbusier with his apartment block designs, time proved the idea unsuccessful and many have fallen into disrepair or have been demolished which is very sad but is also an opportunity to take advantage of the imagery of a retro-futurist, degrading future.

At the time, the photographer we’d booked broke his arm and was unavailable for the shoot so my friends and I went to the village and took some low-res 4.1 megapixel shots to act as blueprints for when the photographer was available.

The layout and design was handled by Georgina Collis at Inspiration Please and, in the end, we decided to use the low-res images because they fitted the mood of the subject matter. Although I had the idea for the cover artwork about a year earlier, when I learned the UFO Houses at Sanzhih had been demolished. I wanted the CD case design to be in the Asian DVD-sized format. We had to reformat the images to suit the conventional DigiPak shape thus cropping the front cover image and obscuring the Futuro House...

mwe3: Track 3 “OMNI” is intriguing sounding too. Why do you call it “OMNI” - in all caps? You call the track a kind of “synth pop” sound and there is a bit of that kind of synthesized effect in the bubbling synth sounds and close out vocoder sounds. What synths did you use on this track?

Bruce Stringer: “OMNI” was named after the groundbreaking science fiction and technology magazine published 1978 – 1995. It was the oddest track on the album and was very nearly dropped. I think the synth-pop element could have been pushed further but would have been far less suited to the album…

The main synth line was created by the LFO (low-frequency oscillator) on a Yamaha CS-10. It was recorded live and the drums were added note-by-note to match the LFO which is very difficult to sync to a MIDI / digital system. In fact, it is a very simple song to play live but took two months to get right in the studio!

The digital string sounds were the Korg M-50 and the Vocoder sections were performed through a Korg MS-2000R.

mwe3: You’ve cited artists like Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre as symphonic rock influences and you have mentioned other guitarists like Peter Green and Snowy White as influences but what other guitarists have inspired you? Your album nearly defies category as it’s so diverse sounding and cinematic edges keep it from even being categorized as a guitar album at times…

Bruce Stringer: As far as the sound of the
One album, the intention was something along the lines of Vangelis or Jarre with rock drumming. One guy who has turned this into an art form is movie director John Carpenter who was a huge influence on the album. The guitar was always going to be blues-influenced but using modes and scales defined by the song composition, not the other way around.

Other guitar players who’ve inspired include great unsung masters like Huw Lloyd-Langton (Hawkwind), Bill Nelson (Bebop Deluxe), Geordie (Killing Joke), Trevor Rabin, Ritchie Blackmore, Tommy Bolin, Jimmy Page during his “Lucifer Rising” / “Death Wish II” period and Alex Lifeson (Rush) but also some of the blues greats like JB Lenoir, Muddy Waters and B.B. King who’s been a huge influence on me.

Looking at modern composers in the orchestral field I’d need to tip the hat to John Barry, Lalo Schifrin and Henry Mancini because their arranging skills and harmonic vocabulary have been hugely influential.

mwe3: Track 4 “Mathematics” has an interesting title. How did you choose that title and how does it apply to that track?

Bruce Stringer: “Mathematics” was written over the course of about 2 years a long, long time ago by piecing together some very odd time signatures. The order of the combined time signatures is an allegory for an ancient Chinese mathematical model we know as Pythagoras’ Theorem, which is itself abbreviated from a larger model, probably predating Pythagoras by centuries.

But don’t read too much into it because, as a piece of music, if it isn’t aesthetically pleasing then it’s not doing its job. In Australia and the UK the term used is “Mathematics” so apologies to those who use the term “Mathematic”!

mwe3: Track 5, “Talk Talk” is kind of humorous. Sounds like a dig at the TV generation with all kinds of vintage sound clips and voice effects. Is “Talk Talk” a kind of electro-pop satire.

Bruce Stringer: “Talk Talk” came out of an experimentation whereby short clips of spoken word sounds were randomly placed to see if any meaning could be generated. The music was created around a melody I was playing on a Yamaha SY-2 monophonic preset synth and, luckily, it all came together quite quickly and painlessly. If there is any satire it is not intentional – most of the sound bytes combinations were completely random and then reformatted to fit the song.

mwe3: What about other musical influences you have? You mentioned Be-Bop Deluxe and the guitar synth sounds from the 1970s. How about other guitar influences and what about other influences along the lines of guitar heroes like Steve Vai and classical composers you admire?

Bruce Stringer: When I was younger the Yardbirds guitarists – Beck, Page and Clapton – really appealed to me, as did Peter Green and even John McLaughlin of Mahavishnu Orchestra but the guys who really speak to me now are players like Snowy White, Huw Lloyd-Langton and Bill Nelson. My foundation is blues so B.B. King was an important influence on me from day one.

As you can imagine, I do get a lot of grief for not being a guitar player’s guitarist because I listen to bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Sundays, Cocteau Twins, Lush, Killing Joke, etc, more than I listen to the “technicians”. Obviously, I’m not disrespecting the Vai's and Satriani's of this world – they are immensely important to the continuing development of the guitar as an instrument – but sometimes I get the urge to put music on which appeals to me on a different level.

I’m seriously interested in songwriters like Suzanne Vega and Sandee Chan but I do also like to put on the odd Rush, YES, Captain Beyond, Jean-Luc Ponty, Jan Hammer or Mahavishnu Orchestra LP to get motivated.

Classical music is not one of my strong points, unfortunately. I like many composers but really only have a superficial knowledge of some of those great composers.

mwe3: Track 6 is “Mount Etna Erupts”. You say that was written about your watching a documentary on the actual eruption. How did you combine the guitars and keyboards to get such a unique sound? Are there guitars on that track too? The keyboards sounds are quite original too.

Bruce Stringer: The earliest 4-track recording of “Mount Etna Erupts” was scored to match up with the 1971 footage of the eruption. Two VHS video recorders were linked up to the 4-track and I managed to synchronize the audio and video together. This was before home computers!

The synthesizer chord sounds were created by plugging a Yamaha SK-20 into an old Ibanez “Wau” (wah) pedal.

There were originally a number of themes played on guitar but these were dropped for a more minimal sound so the only guitar tracks on the final versions are of the guitar synthesizer solos.

mwe3: “Dreaming Of Machines”, track 7 is one of the highlights of the
One album in that it has a more traditional sound. Kind of a more bluesy track. Even with a more “traditional” approach, I am glad to see and hear you keeping the melody front and center throughout, not only on this track, but the entire album has a keen focus on melodic driven content.

Bruce Stringer: By removing the traditional song structure the tracks need a strong melodic or harmonic foundation to work otherwise it can be pointless for the listener. For me, variety is also very important. For example, “Who Will Protect…” is an example of using a recurring theme over a rock foundation to create a mood whereas “Dreaming…” has a slow melody over a repetitive backing which is, in a way, a complete reversal in terms of arrangement. In contrast, the basis for “Gemini” is pretty sparse and the melodies occur after a long introduction whereas “OMNI” really pushes the melody from the first bass drum beat, recurring throughout.

“Dreaming Of Machines” didn’t quite go to plan but the idea contrasts most other songs on the album… hopefully keeping it balanced.

mwe3: Track 8, “Gemini” is one of the longest tracks on the
One CD. It’s much more of a guitar-centric track. How does that fit into the CD and why do you call it “Gemini”? Is that the kind of jam-based track on One after the more melodic based tracks? The keyboards and guitars are really interlocking on this track.

Bruce Stringer: The original title of “Gemini” was “Vital Information” but was changed once I started working on ideas for the video clip, which includes some NASA Gemini Mission shots mixed with footage from the studio.

The track has a long buildup to the dual guitar melodies but the climax is in the octave-shifted guitar solo. It was difficult to keep the piece any shorter because the mood ended up being lost when edited and, although it might sound like a loose arrangement it is one of the more precise, tighter tracks on the album, compared to “Carnation” or “World of Tomorrow”.

mwe3: Track 9, “World Of Tomorrow” gets back to the more melodic aspects of things. In fact there’s also some quite original ideas on this track too. The ending is very unique with those foghorn like effects coupled with the synth patterns and then after the fake ending the song starts rocking again.

Bruce Stringer: “World Of Tomorrow” was originally going to be the last song on the album and was much shorter. The middle section was a separate experimental piece which was reworked to fit as a bridge between the main song and a reprise. The “foghorn” sound you mention was created by accident on the Yamaha CS-30L by my synth-tech, Mehdi El-Aquil -the creative force behind electro-pop duo, Zeequil, during servicing so he deserves full credit for that!

The guitar sound during the solo at the end was created by running the signal into a Systech Envelope Follower pedal and then into an Ibanez / Maxon AD-100 analog delay. It took a few takes to get right because the delay would self-oscillate and get out of control. I do like the sound but it was difficult to work with at the time.

mwe3: Track 10, “Who Will Protect The Innocent” sounds like a great way to end the
One CD. It’s a cinematic sounding track. Is “Who Will Protect The Innocent” somehow connected to the first track?

Bruce Stringer: The only link between the first and last track is the drone chord which is held throughout “Who Will Protect…” and ends the album. If you listen to the very start of the CD you will hear the same chord but in reverse. In a way, it creates a full circle.

mwe3: What is “retro-futurism” and how does that term best apply to the One CD? The CD really sounds like you’re taking the best of where we’ve been so far while opening up a new front on 21st century guitar music. I would say this album is very 21st century right?

Bruce Stringer: Not sure who invented the term “Retro-Futurism” but the general meaning is a view of the future from a retrospective perspective. A good example would be the view of the future - let’s say that far off year of 2020 – as seen in 1950s and 1960s science fiction movies. Check out the Bebop Deluxe albums Modern Music, Live! In the Air Age and Air Age Anthology to see how they utilized the concept.

It is more of a descriptive term than a label and shouldn’t be confused with things like Steam Punk. It is not a fashion or an artistic movement although fashion and art can play a role in it. You will find some of the ideas are – even today – forward thinking.

The problem with retro-futurism is that modern technology, by contrast, can be disappointing. If you are impressed with the current mobile / cell phone technology then you probably haven’t discovered some of the other interesting technologies which were promised but never really arrived like the Avro Car, the electric car, Buckminster Fuller’s floating city, jet-packs, bases on the moon, holographic technology, genuine Artificial Intelligence, Arco Santi… robots!

mwe3: So what are your plans for
One now and for the immediate future? What are you hoping people will come away with after listening to your album and where do you see yourself going into the future, while discussing current and future plans for you and your music?

Bruce Stringer: Although I hope there’s a market for the album it was never the intention for me to be in the limelight but to produce something I would actually listen to myself – if other people enjoy it then that’s a bonus.

In the future I’ll be continuing the solo work, complete the as-yet-unfinished new Space Of Snow album – which is leaning towards an indie / “shoegazer” sound – and release some of the tracks I’ve recorded for independent film. The second album is almost complete and I’d like to preview some of that material live with tracks from
One but organizing shows will be a feat unto itself, especially with regards the audio-video synchronization.

I have some old recordings featuring Huw Lloyd-Langton and Snowy White which should be available soon, a selection of experimental pieces and an album I’ve been producing for another Chinese vocalist, Niki Jiang Yu. Ideally, I’d like to work with some of my favorite singers, namely Faith Yang, Nai Wen and Faye Wong but I’m grounded enough to realize it probably won’t happen any time soon. Besides, there’s enough on my plate to keep me busy… for now.


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