System 7 has been exploring new sounds since 1990. How would you describe your musical journey?
The original impetus for System 7 came in 1988/89 when we found ourselves immersed in the Acid House cultural explosion in the UK. Right from the start, we were picking up on the psychedelic aspects of this musical movement, and we thought it would be really cool to use some of the distinctive synth and guitar sounds we had developed previously with our psychedelic rock band Gong in a dance music context. Pretty soon after that we found ourselves working with Alex Paterson in the formative period of The Orb and we became initially well known, as System 7, in the Ambient House context. We were now active in a very wide open and energized creative field, and we started to hook up with some amazing collaborators and started developing new skills. It’s been a fantastic journey since then. Two other big developments were starting to play live as System 7 in 1990, and a few years later splitting into two parallel sister projects. These are System 7 for more dancefloor oriented techno and trance, and Mirror System wish focuses on our ambient, chillout and downtempo side.
What is your personal process of music production?
We work together, sometimes also with collaborators. A track can start with a groove, or with a sound, or a sample, a concept. Or it can start with something we just hear in our heads and try to reproduce in the physical world. We then build the final track working both separately and together, until we reach the mixing stage where I do most of the work. I am pretty good at finishing things, and I also get involved in the final mastering process. We like to try out early versions of tracks out at live shows or in DJ sets as well – this can really help.
What are the main features of System 7 and Mirror System music?
Well we’d like to think that we augment our distinctive System 7 and Mirror System sounds with killer grooves and great production! That’s what we strive for. The distinctive aspects of our sound are our way of blending grooves with our floating dreamlike textures, which give a kind of spiritual depth. We’ve been doing this for a long time, so we have our techniques pretty well sorted, for Mirror System at slower tempos and System 7 at faster tempos.
What inspires you the most in creating your music?
We’re always looking for ideas that are fresh and new. We’re not into remaking the same old stuff, although we sometimes make completely new sounding versions of older tracks. We need to feel an excitement about what we are doing and to feel that we are still learning. Indeed, if we’re not still learning and improving it would remove a lot of the motivation. But inspiration ultimately comes from within. Often the best musical ideas just come to you and invite you to bring them into manifestation. In some ways we are channels.
How did the process of creating music change you, if it did?
I have been making music professionally for a long time now, and it’s the only job I’ve ever done. So I can’t really imagine what my life would be like if I wasn’t making music – it’s in my DNA.
An art piece, a book, a movie that you would like to suggest us.
“Far Journeys” by Robert A. Monroe. A book that is hard to describe, and is pretty mind-blowing. We named a track after it on the Mirror System “N-Port” album.
One peculiar story you heard during your travels:
We’ve been fortunate to play many times in Japan, where we’ve had many interesting experiences. One of the best ever events we played at was the World Festival of Sacred Music, at a famous temple in Miyajima island, near Hiroshima. The festival was overseen by a Tibetan Lama, a representative of the Dalai Lama, and the stage was by the sea with a floating dancefloor, looking out towards the famous Miyajima torii gate. There were many different groups of musicians from all around the world, with System 7 the only electronic artists. Our set went down a storm, as most of the audience were into dance music, but we were unsure how well we had been accepted by the other festival participants as they were mostly with a more live-playing musician approach. At the closing ceremony, which included a magical performance by Tibetan monks, the Lama made a speech, and to our astonishment he said “And I’d like to particularly thank System 7 who made that wonderful electronic sound. I was in the audience with the abbot of Miyajima Shrine and we felt a great joy in the crowd, and the abbot and I agreed that there was a pleasing element in their sound similar to our mantras.” This was the best compliment we have ever had!
We will have the opportunity to enjoy your music at Shankra Festival Sri Lanka 2022. What are you most looking forward to?
We’ve been to many places in Asia but never to Sri Lanka, and we are really looking forward to discovering this country.
A special message to the Shankra Family!
Keep safe and keep well, and remember we all have to look after each other in these difficult times.