Text: Alec Coiro
From what I understand talking with Brendan Gregoriy, the plasticine techno stylings of Merrin Karras are the result of a combination of craft, a deep immersion in the genre, and an intimate familiarity with the instruments involved.
If you emerge from the ambient reverie that “Apex” induces, what will strike you is Gregoriy’s ability to conjure the synthesizer into life. He was also able to bubble forth the pulsing ambient rhythms on the album without the use of drums or samples.
For those who are curious about how Gregoriy makes music or about the process of creating electronic music in general, he let us all the way in on the details of his process when we talked. He also tells us about his who inspires him in the realm of ambient and why this temporary shift away from Chymera.
How do you see your Merrin Karras work complimenting your work as Chymera?
They are two sides of the same coin. But stylistically different enough that I felt the need to create a new alias for this music. Both share a focus on melodies, but Merrin Karras allows me to get deeper and explore different facets that I sometimes am not able to with Chymera.
Can you tell us about the equipment used to make “Apex”?
I have a small hardware and software based studio. Mainly budget analog synths with one or two virtual analog synths as well. On the software side I use ableton as my daw, and a small selection of soft synths, mainly clones of vintage analog synths. I like very simple, hands on control when making music. I need to have quick results, rather than complex editing or endless menu scrolling.
Did you alter your setup when shifting from Chymera to Merrin Karras?
Not really. I’ve been using pretty much the same setup for the last few years. The one new addition during the recording of the album was a Moog Minitaur which you can hear in full force on tracks like Catharsis and Elevate. The only difference was my approach to making the music. The ground rules that I set were – no drums or percussion, no samples and only analog or analog modeled synthesis.
What do you think is the ideal context for listening to ambient music?
There are two times I love listening to ambient. The first, and probably most cliched, is when traveling. It was no coincidence that Brian Eno named his album Music for Airports. There’s something otherworldly and semi-futuristic about air travel. I’ve always loved flying – as a young boy aged 4 I started flying on my own to visit my father who lived in a different country. Airports, when they are good airports, are some of my favorite places. I also love train journeys. Trains cross through some of the most beautiful countryside. I love listening to ambient and staring at multicolored fields or endless rolling hills as I speed through.
The second time is about an hour before I go to sleep. Something about my tired brain which calms me and opens me up to fully immerse myself in it before drifting off, literally and figuratively
I really love the analog sound on the album; were you listening to any particular classics of the genre as you were composing “Apex”?
I was just starting my exploration of ambient but mainly entering it from a modern perspective, people like Steve Moore and his Vco label, Oneohtrix Point Never and then some of the old guard like Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream.
I just synthesized and distilled those influences into my own vision of the genre. I’m still slowly exploring. Recent favorites include Steve Roach – Structures From Silence, Biosphere – Substrata and Michael Stearns – Planetary Unfolding.