guitar composer Jon Durant continues to amaze the music world
with his 2019 solo CD called Alternate Landscapes.
The perfect follow-up to Jons 2017 Parting Is album,
the four-track Alternate Landscapes album features several
cuts that clock in over 15 and 20 minutes with track 2, Aragon
being the shortest, at nearly 7 minutes. As Jon has said, Alternate
Landscapes heavily accentuates his Cloud Guitar
technique and as a result, his usual lead guitar sound has been further
sublimated into the mix, replaced by ethereal, atmospheric Cloud
Guitar patterns for which Jon is very well-known. Speaking about
the differences between his current solo albums, Jon tells mwe3.com,
"The two records are really very different from each other
as I hope all of my records areI really dont want to repeat
myself. If Parting Is was a representation of how I play on a daily
basis, Alternate Landscapes is a representation of how far I can stretch
the sonic possibilities of the guitar. I very consciously used a totally
different palate of sounds for Alternate Landscapes and included some
elements that Id previously used in other contexts but now have
running sort of front and center. In particular, the use of synth
sequences that I play on the guitar synth. Id done similar things
on the first couple tracks on Burnt Beliefs Emergent and also
on a track on the upcoming Edwin-Durant-Kovtun record." Compared
to Jons work as a member of the adventurous instrumental fusion
band Burnt Belief, Alternate Landscapes is yet another compelling
Jon Durant solo album filled with impressionistic soundscapes that
will surely appeal to listeners that favor ambient-flavored instrumental
guitar-centric music. www.jondurant.rocks
mwe3.com presents a new interview with
Are you spending more time on the West or East Coast these days? You
recorded Alternate Landscapes in your Oregon studio? I imagine
its much more laid back than the high pressure of the East Coast.
Is recording in Oregon more to your liking after living so long on
the East Coast?
Jon Durant: Im spending more time on the west coast these
days, but my wife still has a full time job that keeps her from being
able to be out there as much. For some reason, I find that the space
I inhabit in Portland has definitely had a great impact on my creativity.
Its certainly a more laid-back vibe out there, and a great food
scene too! Most of the Burnt Belief records were written in Portland,
as well as Parting Is. Its a small space, and I cant
have amplifiers cranked so I did a lot of the final guitars for those
records back East, but with Alternate Landscapes that wasnt
a concern so I was able to do the whole thing in Portland.
mwe3: Can you go further on the explanation of your Cloud guitar
sound that you detail on the Alternate Landscapes CD? You xplored
the art of solo guitar on last years Parting Is album
so is Alternate Landscapes a continuation of your current sound
or is it something different yet again?
Durant: The two records are really very different from each other.
As I hope all of my records areI really dont want to repeat
myself. If Parting Is was a representation of how I play on
a daily basis, Alternate Landscapes is a representation of
how far I can stretch the sonic possibilities of the guitar. I very
consciously used a totally different palate of sounds for Alternate
Landscapes, and included some elements that Id previously
used in other contexts but now have running sort of front and center.
In particular, the use of synth sequences that I play on the guitar
synth. Id done similar things on the first couple tracks on
Burnt Beliefs Emergent, and also on a track on the upcoming
Edwin-Durant-Kovtun record. But there, the synths are background elements,
whereas on Alternate Landscapes they are right up front, the
way Tangerine Dream used them. The track "Dinkelsbühl"
features the synths, the fretless and some other guitar textures as
well. And... I used a fun technique that Id seen David Torn
do years ago. There are sounds that I recorded on my iPhone from a
train stationtrains, voices, etcthat I played on speaker
over the active pickup on the guitar, and processed through my guitar
mwe3: Are certain instruments easier to record with while making
an album? You have a different lineup of guitars on each of the four
tracks on the Alternate Landscapes CD. For example is the guitar
synth on the 16 minute track Systravatn an easier instrument
to track than, say the E-bow guitar sound on the 20 minute track Ciel
du Cheval? The E-bow sound brought me back to the mid-1980s
again! When did you first discover the guitar synth and when the E-bow?
Jon Durant: Well, each instrument provides its own unique challenges
and rewards when tracking. The guitar synth is always tricky as its
often very unforgiving. But thanks to MIDI, its easy to fix
little issues that arise from glitches in tracking. Im using
a couple really nice Arturia plugin synths, the Mini Moog and Modular.
My first guitar synth was back in 1982, when I got the Roland GR300/303the
one Fripp, Summers and Metheny were playing. The E-Bow is something
I got into back in the early 1990s when I was doing a lot of clinics
for Lexicon. Its been a big part of my playing since. And in
the last few years, Ive been playing a lot of fretless guitar,
which has a whole different set of challenges but I absolutely love
the phrasing possibilities of it.
On Alternate Landscapes did you try to get a more vintage sound
and does your computer programs allow you to model your sound on some
vintage instrument? Its like pulling vintage elements like guitar
synths and E-bow from the past four or five decades and bringing them
back via 21st century technology. Virtual reality is here to stay
I think. Theres no going back anymore.
Durant: With the guitar, almost nothing gets done in the computer.
All the sounds and textures are generated by my guitar and some processorsdelay,
reverb, etcthat all go to the tracks live. I do
very little processing after. As for the synths, theyre definitely
classics that are being reborn in the digital age. And I can play
them on my guitar, which you couldnt do back in the day!
mwe3: Are you still playing the Koll guitars as you did on
last years Parting Is album? What other developments
in the guitar world youre excited about? Is the traditional
guitar sound losing its shape as new technology unfolds for musicians
in general? You and artists such as Kevin Kastning are truly changing
the landscape of the traditional guitar as we knew it.
Jon Durant: Saul Koll built my fretless and electric 12 string
guitars, and I play them all the time. Hes currently working
on a double neck for me, with a fretless, with sustainiac, and a fretted
6 string with MIDI that will be a perfect guitar for me to do pretty
much everything I do. To be honest, Ive never had much interest
in traditional guitar sound. The players who interested me, from day
1 were the ones who made the guitar sound very different. And yes,
Kevin Kastning is very cool, and taking the guitar in very different
direction from me.
mwe3: VST (virtual sound technology) and other computerized
genres is an area in which you said might lose your original voice
as an artist. How do you stay creatively focused on your unique sound,
both as a recording artist and as a composer, especially in the age
of the computer and the internet?
Jon Durant: The secret to any technology, digital or otherwise,
is to find a way to manipulate it in such a way that you make your
own sound come through. If youre just pulling up a preset and
not tweaking it significantly, youre not going to find anything
new and unique. Now, a lot of people are only interested in sounding
like something that theyve already heard, but thats what
makes me a bit unique... and not commercial!
Tell us about your upcoming European journey and your planned recording
with Inna Kovtun. When and how did you meet Inna and what can you
tell us about the album? Is it progressive rock influenced by Ukrainian
folk music? Maybe a first! So you and Colin Edwin are producing the
album and any ideas when it will be out on CD?
Jon Durant: The album with Inna and Colin will be out later
in 2019. Its all finished, just mastered it and its going
to duplication very soon. Im really excited about the album,
it has some of my most experimental guitar alongside some of my most
conventional guitar, including strummed chords on acoustic guitar!
Its definitely a unique blend of progressive rock and ambient
textures and most of the material began with Inna singing a traditional
Ukrainian folk song which we then wrote music around. And then, Inna
would redo her vocals, frequently changing melodies and adding gorgeous
harmonies. And, we also have several tracks with the fantastic Italian
drummer Roberto Gualdi. The closest parallel I can think of musically
might be the Cocteau Twins.
The project first got started a few years back when Colin had gone
to Ukraine to play with his Ex-Wise Heads project. The promoter connected
him with the group Astarta,
Inna was one of the singers, and asked if hed be interested
in collaborating with them. When he began building the tracks, he
sent one to me seeking my thoughts. I offered to add some guitar,
which turned into me playing on pretty much the whole Astarta / Edwin
CD. In 2013 we played a festival in Kiev, and then another in London.
But shortly after the London gig, everything blew up politically in
Ukraine and we thought that would be the end of things.
But in 2017 Colin contacted me, telling me that Inna had sent some
new material. This time I was much more involved in the writing of
the pieces, and had a much greater role in the whole production. By
this time, Inna had started to learn English, so it became much easier
to communicate. We mixed the album in November 2018 in London at Grand
Tell us about going to Estonia to record and perform with Robert Jürjendal.
What type of music will that recording entail? How did you meet Robert
and whats your opinion on Estonia and also Ukraine and have
you been there before?
Jon Durant: Im really excited about heading to Estoniaits
supposed to be very beautiful. As for the music, its experimental
ambient guitar music. With the phenomenal trumpet of Alexi Saks as
well. Robert and Alexi have a group called Uma,
who have done some wonderful records over the years. They were also
part of Slow Electric with Tim Bowness and Pete Chilvers.
Robert and I have known about each other for a long time, but
we began to get to know each other when he did a record with Colin
a couple years ago and I was asked to do the cover layout. He suggested
that we should try working together, and we started sending files
back and forth. And while we like what weve got, we realized
that we really want to do this together, live, so that we can fully
interact as improvisers. Also, Inna Kovtun is joining us, so well
get some very interesting vocal timbres as well. Shell mostly
be improvising, which she did to great effect with the English band
Darkroom when we were in London.
mwe3: How about working with Stephan Thelen of the Swiss band
Sonar on his solo album Fractal Guitar and how did that develop?
You recorded your part in Oregon? I know Stephan had a whole range
of great guitarists on the album including David Torn, Barry Cleveland
Jon Durant: Stephan and I have been talking for a while now,
trying to find a way for Sonar and Burnt Belief to maybe get a small
European tour together. Alas, that never materialized, but when they
played a gig in Kingston N.Y. with David Torn, I went and finally
got to meet him in person. Shortly after that, he mentioned that he
was working on this solo album and asked if Id be interested
in contributing. I was thrilled that after all these years, this was
the first time Torn and I had played on the same recordand were
on the same track! I did my part in Portland, and when I did it, the
piece was much shorter. After I sent my parts, Stephan and Marcus
Reuter expanded the structure to make room for Torn and Marcus to
do their thing. So my clouds got looped, moved, manipulated as they
a really cool piece in the end.
How easy is it in your world to record an album with 5 musicians recording
in 5 different studios? 25 years later I'm still amazed that technology
is the future of man's evolution. Also, can you fill us in on your
next musical moves.
Jon Durant: It is a remarkable thing that we can do this remote
recording process and have it work well. Still, nothing beats being
together in the studio, working together as a cohesive whole. Im
just finishing the production of my brother Kingsleys new record,
and we tracked the whole thing live in the studio as a band. Steve
Hunt (Allan Holdsworth) on keys, Baron Browne (Jean Luc Ponty, Vital
Information) on bass and Vinny Sabatino (Burnt Belief) on drums. There
is an amazing vibe on the record that could never have happened if
wed done it remotely.
The Edwin-Durant-Kovtun record was tracked remotely, but the process
of mixing it together made a huge difference. Its also why Robert
and I decided we really wanted to work together in a live context.
In some ways, technology is a great enabler but music requires more
than just the tech. The human element is required. Its funny...
for a musician known for using technology extensively within his music,
I have very little interest in the technology itself. Its only
a vehicle for me to put forth the sounds Im hearing in my head.