An Interview with Simon Heath of Cryo Chamber
The Swedish-turned-Oregonian mastermind behind the dark ambient label answers our questions about artist collaborations, field recording and album artwork.
I stumbled upon Cryo Chamber a year ago while looking for new ambient sounds, and was immediately taken with the rich, expansive atmospheres created by its artists: haunting dreamscapes of mist-shrouded worlds, crumbling ruins of lost civilizations and droning paeans to vast, unknown gods of the abyss. Listening from one album to the next, it can feel as though these auditory odes to the bleak and mysterious are interconnected; each artist retains a unique voice while somehow feeling as though they occupy the same mind.
This is where the talents of Simon Heath step in. As the label owner, mastering engineer, visual artist and dark/ambient artist himself, Simon perfectly understands the needs of the genre and assumes a high level of responsibility for his artist roster that results in some of the best art-through-sound available today. I reached out to him to ask about the details of what he does on a daily basis. Here’s what he had to say.
How did Cryo Chamber get started?
It’s something that has always been on the back of my mind, but it got started when I moved from Sweden to the US. With a new studio in place, a new album in production and the slow death of the former label I was on, CMI, it was time.
You not only master albums for Cryo Chamber’s artists, but create the album artwork as well. Is this to maintain a consistent quality?
That plays a big factor, but also the fact that I work very closely with our artists on conceptualization means I can reflect that in the artwork when I personally work on it side by side with mastering the release.
For those of us who aren’t familiar with music production and bit rates, please tell us why you put an emphasis on having 24 bit quality.
It’s more of a counter towards the trend of compressed formats with inferior quality, like MP3. With 24 bit we are already at a higher bit rate than CDs and while some might argue that it’s not too much of a noticeable difference, the hard drive space for 24 bit files isn’t really any issue compared to MP3s today (2015 at the time of this writing) since our hard drives are so big. It makes little sense to audiophiles compressing music to save a few gigabytes of space when our hard drives take terabytes; we just offer both options.
How do you balance the day-to-day operations of the label with your own creative output in Atrium Carceri?
I set aside time to work on AC in my “free” time; I work full time with the label under normal circumstances.
What inspires you musically? What about in terms of your artwork?
Right now, I am getting inspired a lot by all the artists on the label after having just worked with them all on the Azathoth album out soon. As for artwork that’s a tough one, there are too many artists and painters to mention, I like art in all its styles. From oil on canvas to the purely glitchy and digital.
How do you find and procure new artists?
They find us.
How are collaborations between artists (like 2014’s Cthulhu) organized?
That takes a very long answer, but basically we have a private label only channel where we meet and discuss and brainstorm at the start of a project, we then proceed to link our studios to audio dropzones where we can bounce and export/import layers to/from and we go back and forth until we find a direction we like, we then repeat by discussing, editing, working with each others material until it’s finished. It’s a very draining and long process, but enlightening for all of us and a great learning experience, not to mention the honor of working side by side with the scene’s finest artists.
How did you get involved with creating the soundtrack for the “narrative philosophical” game The Old City?
They reached out as fans of Atrium Carceri, and after hearing their pitch and reading the narrative notes I jumped right in.
I saw via Twitter that you were recently in the woods of Oregon doing some field recording. What are some of the challenges and/or benefits of that?
The biggest challenge, apart from the purely technical, is to find a location so far away from civilization that you can’t hear the highways, or hear the rumble of tractors in the distance, or airplanes. If you do find a secluded spot, sometimes there will be a pesky bird making noises I do not want to sample. The benefits are the enchanting experience of realizing your previous conceptualization of sound sources, being at exciting locations and the payoff of getting back in the studio and polishing it all up.
Any plans for the future?
Azathoth, a collaboration of over 20 artists is being released in a few months. Onyx, my collaboration with Kammarheit and Apocryphos is out soon, and Q4 calls for the 6th Sabled Sun Signals album along with a three CD release IV-V-VI.
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