RUSSELL SUERETH
Spiritual Haven
(Haven Tone Records)

 

Fans of instrumental New Age and healing meditation music will completely enjoy the 2015 CD release of Spiritual Haven by composer / multi-instrumentalist Russell Suereth. Created, mixed and produced by Russell, the Spiritual Haven album really takes the listener out there with its mix of unusual World Beat rhythms and other intriging sounding instruments such as oboe and other relaxing instruments with further musical flavorings from modern sounding synth beats, guitars, zither and much more. Commenting on the meaning of the album title, Suereth explains, ‘I believe people all over the world need spiritual havens. I believe music can help people connect to their own spirituality, which, in turn can contribute to a healthier lifestyle and a fuller sense of well being.' In the following interview Suereth further explains his sonic mission by adding, 'When I created this music, I set out to create New Age songs that have a certain feel to them. To me, that feel is imagery of ancient places combined with modern relaxing tones. I also like to have a fair amount of rhythm and percussion.' On Russell Suereth’s Spiritual Haven, modern technology meets traditional ancient instrumentation and the results are timeless music magic. www.RussellSuereth.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
RUSSELL SUERETH


mwe3
: Can you tell us where you’re from and where you live now? What do you like best about it?

Russell Suereth: I’m originally from Massachusetts. That’s where I met my wife, Beth, while we were attending Boston University. I live in northern New Jersey now, which is where she’s from. I hope to move back and maybe live in the Cape Cod area. I really like it there — great water, great towns, and great fried clams. We like traveling to Ireland, especially along the west coast and on the Aran Islands. It’s somewhat off the beaten path, but it’s another world on the islands there.

mwe3: What were your early musical studies like and what instruments were you most interested in early on? Did you study harmony and theory or are you self-taught?

Russell Suereth: Well, I started playing the guitar when I was 11 years old and took lessons for a few years. I’ve been playing on and off throughout most of my life but became really focused on it about ten years ago. And by that I mean practicing several hours a day. A little after that I also started playing around with audio workstations and using keyboards to create and edit music. When I started taking piano lessons everything came together for me, because the structure of the music became very apparent on the keyboard. I love to create things and creating music was the next natural step. It wasn’t a step I thought about, it just happened.

mwe3: What era of music did you grow up in and how did that influence your composing and approach and how about your early musical heroes and influences? While you were growing up, were you into rock and roll and progressive rock or were you into the experimental classical and jazz sounds? Was there a turning point in your musical career where you started to devote yourself to spiritual and healing New Age music?

Russell Suereth: I basically grew up in the 70’s. I was a big guitar fan back then, and for me that meant Duane Allman and Carlos Santana. When I look back it seems that my favorite songs from those two had quite a spiritual feel to them. I really liked Duane’s song “Dream”, from the first album, The Allman Brothers Band. It contained wonderful tones and had a down-to-earth but soaring quality. I was also into the collaboration between Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin. The high point of that combo to me was Carlos’ work on the song “Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord” from the Love Devotion Surrender album. His technical work and phrase choices really told an engaging spiritual story.

I got very interested in New Age music in the 1980’s. I listened to a lot of David Arkenstone, David Lanz, and Patrick O’Hearn, and I still love those tracks today. But I also listen to classical music. I really love the 20th century American classical composers Aaron Copland and Philip Glass. I have a portrait of Aaron Copland above my desk in my studio.

mwe3: What made you want to expand outwards from guitar into the keyboards and what other instruments are you playing on Spiritual Haven? Do you still practice keyboards and guitar or do you spend most of your time writing and recording?

Russell Suereth: I spent a lot of time on keyboards in the Spiritual Haven album, which is nice because I like the keyboard a lot. But I’ve hardly played the guitar in the last year, and I really miss it. The guitar is such a physical instrument. You really have to work that thing with both hands, and it becomes a physical activity that I don’t get as much with the keyboards. The hard strings also accentuate the physicalness about the guitar, and because of that it feels that I’m closer to the instrument. I hope to play more soon. Now, after I’ve said that, it’s extremely hard to get away from composing and the universe of sounds that the keyboard provides. It’s an absolute dream for creating, and I love to create.

mwe3: Would you describe your brand of instrumental music as New Age or a more modern blend of electronic gothic chamber music? What did you set out to achieve musically with the Spiritual Haven CD and how would you compare it with your early album releases? How has your music, both compositionally and recording-wise evolved over time?

Russell Suereth: Categories can be so subjective sometimes. It’s really hard for me to tell what other people are thinking about a specific genre. When I created this music, I set out to create New Age songs that have a certain feel to them. To me, that feel is imagery of ancient places combined with modern relaxing tones. I also like to have a fair amount of rhythm and percussion.

I feel that there’s a rhythm or beat in all of us today and also in our ancestors from long ago. And I really feel that there’s a connection in that ancient rhythm to modern rhythms we can create today. So I agree that I do have a modern blend in my music. If you know someone who likes to call that electronic gothic chamber music, then that’s fine with me.

mwe3: How was the Spiritual Haven album created? It sounds very organic, yet very structured. In a way I was thinking to compare it to Tubular Bells with its multilayered approach but there’s a progressive element in there too. Were certain instruments recorded first?

Russell Suereth: I wanted to create an album that contained ethnic instruments and sounds because I wanted my listeners to feel that they were in a different place, and maybe in a different time too. On this album, I created a few basic melodies for each song. Then based on the mood of that melody I would choose a sound that I wanted. Maybe a woodwind sound, or some type of percussion. I always try to make a contrast with the instruments to differentiate them, but also to help them tell a story that’s different from the other instruments.

Each instrument has something to say, and it’s reasonable to give them that space so they can tell their part of the story. Notice that I used the phrase, “part of the story”. It’s my responsibility to manage all the instruments in the story, and, accordingly, I have to hold back some of the instruments that would prefer to tell the entire thing themselves. Yes, structure is very important for me in the music I create. Otherwise I think it falls apart, and doesn’t tell its story. You know how if you write a novel there’s essentially a beginning, a middle, and an end? But within those three book parts there are smaller parts that, if created properly, help keep the reader interested in the story. Music is very similar from a story standpoint for me. Something has to be happening, and in the end I try to have my listeners wind up in a different place from where they started.

mwe3: How did you work with Keith Hannaleck on the making of Spiritual Haven and what role did having the mastering done at Imaginary Road have on the final sound of the CD?

Russell Suereth: It was great working with Keith. He’s the one who actually steered me in the direction of creating New Age music. My music had been geared more toward Adult Alternative. He really saw aspects of New Age in my music, which makes sense, since I’ve been a big fan for years. When I started on this album, Spiritual Haven, I asked him if he would help with the preproduction work, which in this situation was listening to very rough drafts of tracks to see if I was in the ball park. I remember that one of the first drafts I had sent him was right after I got stung by a bee. I had taken a lot of antihistamine because I was really starting to swell up. I was so out of it. I listened to those rough drafts and of course they sounded fine to me at that point, so I sent them to him. I still feel bad about that today, but I haven’t told him about the bee sting yet. Maybe someday. Hi Keith!

I had Tom Eaton do the mastering for Imaginary Road Studios, which is Will Ackerman’s studio. Tom does great work, and I really think his expertise helps make this album shine.

mwe3: The music on Spiritual Haven is very soundtrack influenced. Just like the video for “A Magic Flight”. How do you feel the video element impacts your music? Also what are some of your favorite soundtrack albums and movies, documentaries? Would you be open to writing and recording music for soundtracks in the future?

Russell Suereth: I’m a very visual person, so when I create music there’s often imagery in my head associated with that. I specifically added some elements into the track “A Magic Flight” to give an impression of flight. Those sounds are modern percussive sounds, but they give the imagery a feel of ancient technology. I think that soundtracks have some of the most creative music out there. Maybe it’s because of the imagery they convey, or maybe it’s because the music doesn’t have to fit a specific genre. I’d love to do soundtracks. I think it would be a lot of fun to create the musical imagery behind the visuals you see on the screen.

mwe3: What other directions are you planning to take your music in next? What is the next frontier for you musically?

Russell Suereth: I really need to sit back and see how I feel about the music inside Spiritual Haven. I’m too close to it right now. I want to see how I feel about the instrumentation, the rhythms, the pacing, and the story in the album. Maybe then I’ll have a better view of that next creation.

Thanks to Russell Suereth @ www.RussellSuereth.com








 

 
   
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