Rhys Fulber has been involved in quite a variety of musical projects over the years, ranging from being a member of Front Line Assembly/Delerium (and the various off-shoots) to producing Fear Factory. Now he’s back with Conjure One, a project that continues in the direction of the past few Delerium albums. The self-titled debut CD, featuring such guest vocalists as Marie Claire D’Ubaldo, Sinead O’Connor, Chemda, and Poe, is being released by Nettwerk on September 17, 2002. While in England producing a rock band called Paradise Lost, Rhys spoke to us over the phone about the Conjure One project.
How did you come to start up Conjure One?
“Well I started it in 1998, so a lot of the music is quite old now. I kind of walked away from Delerium / Front Line in about 1996, right around the time when we finished the ‘Karma’ record. I was just doing producing and remixing and after a couple of years of doing that, I just wanted to start writing some music again. I was living in Amsterdam and set up a little studio and started writing. And this is what it turned into.”
How did the music evolve from the initial compositions/recordings to what we hear on the CD?
“Some of the songs didn’t change that much, actually. It was just a long process. I started it in Holland, went back to Vancouver, did some work there. Moved to Los Angeles did some more work there. It was just kind of a work in progress. But there are a few songs on the record that really haven’t changed much at all from the way they initially were. What happened was some of the songs got written earlier, some later. There were bits and pieces, adding string arrangements. Little things changed along the way. But the song ‘Redemption’ musically is pretty much the same as when it was written, and that was the first song I wrote for the record.”
Were you working on other things while making the cd?
“I was still producing, and remixing, and doing loads of stuff. So that’s why it took so long. The other thing was there was a lot of logistics. With the exception of the song ‘Tears From The Moon,’ the album has basically been in the can since last year. It’s just there was a lot of getting deals with singers, and sample clearance, and all this kind of crap just seemed to take a really, really long time. So it delayed the record for about a year.”
What was the process of working with the vocalists like?
“For the most part, it was a case of me doing the music, creating a demo of how a track would basically sound, and sending it around to different vocalists to see what they come up with. It just kind of went from there. Then usually I’d go into the studio and make a few little tweaks here and there. So that’s how it went down, I’d usually just put the music together and demo different singers and pick what worked. For a couple of the songs, there were loads of different demos done by different people. It was just trial and error in a lot of cases.”
Did any of the vocalists particularly take you by surprise with what they came with?
“Yeah, the vocasl on ‘Redemption,’ the Arabian vocal. The girl who did it basically came from out of nowhere; she was a friend of a friend who did this demo that blew us away. That was a big surprise, because she hadn’t really done anything before. It totally blew us away.”
What effect has improvements in musical technology had on the way you create music?
“I do most of my work on just on my computer now, even just my laptop. The big difference is that I just use less stuff. Most of what I do comes out o my Powerbook. I’ve got loads of keyboards but I hardly use them anymore. It’s mostly manipulating audio. I go into studios and record stuff; I use a lot more real instruments than I used to. It’s mostly audio manipulation; I don’t use nearly as much synthesizer stuff. Years ago, we had all this gear and all these keyboards, and now I just show up with my Powerbook. It’s streamlined, and more and more it just comes out of the computer. I use Logic Audio, and there are samplers and synthesizers in there. You can pretty much do everything in there. It’s completely boundless. We’re able to change stuff, even once we’ve recorded it we can still change speeds � it’s better now than ever. Making electronic music in the late 80’s was the pain in the ass compared to what it is now. Now you get exactly what you’re going for. Back then, sometimes it was a shot in the dark. You had step sequencers and all that crap. It was such a long winded affair, even if what you ended up with wasn’t exactly what you wanted, you just kind of had to make do.”
Are there particular songs on the CD that you think would have been difficult or impossible to do earlier in your career?
“Yeah, probably most of them! It’s just experience; you get better over the years and learn new things. I listen to some of the record now, because some of it’s kind of old, and I’ve already moved beyond that stuff. It’s just a constant learning process. If you ever stop learning, then something’s wrong. And I’ve been working with lots of different people since I’ve moved to LA. You just learn more and more, and it makes your music better.”
Will there be any Conjure One live shows?
“I’d love to do lives shows, but the reality of that is really dependent on how well people react to the record. Because the only way I’d be able to do live shows is if promoters are able to put up enough of an advance to pay or the production. I’d have to hire everybody. It would be a costly ordeal, and the only way it would make sense would be if the record had done a bit of business and there was a demand for it to be seen. Otherwise, it would be hard to pull off. It would cost me a fortune, and I’d be losing tons of my own money on that. It’s a tough thing to do when you make a living off of music and are not a millionaire. It’s like pay my rent or put on a tour? That’s the main thing, it would be up to the people. If the people bought the record and reacted well to it, then I’d love to put on a show. But it would be really unrealistic without that. Because I wouldn’t want to do it and just have a guy standing there with a keyboard and someone singing, you’d want it to have some musicians, and have some depth. I’d rather just do it right, or not do it at all. I remember when I was a kid and saw certain bands and you’d have this image in your head of how it should be, and then you’d see something completely disappointing and it kind of ruins the whole thing. I wouldn’t want that to happen. This is vibe oriented music and I wouldn’t want to spoil that.”
What made you choose the name Conjure One?
“What happened was the song ‘Redemption’ was the first song that was written, and it was called ‘Conjure One.’ I had the music pretty much put together and needed something to call it on the computer. And the first thing that came to my mind was ‘Conjure One.’ I don’t know where it came from; it sounded sort of like conjuring something. So I just typed it into the computer. I had a hard time coming up with a name for the project and two different friends said ‘why don’t you just call it Conjure One?’ but I was like ‘no, that’s the name of the song, I can’t really do that.’ And then the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was a cool name, so I changed the name of the song and kept that or the project. I thought it was kind of a ‘meant to be’ thing, because it was the first thing that popped into my head when I put that track together. And I like the way it sounds; it’s a little different. It’s hard to come up with cool names nowadays.”
When you started working on the Conjure One disc, were there specific ways you wanted it to differ from Delerium?
“I kind of wanted it to be grittier, a little deeper, more song oriented. I mean Delerium was song oriented, but a lot of it was long ambient pieces. I’ve got a few of those, but I wanted to move into more song writing. I was aware of it; I wanted to make sure it was different. There’s no real point in making another Delerium. Because the way I heard it, the way I wanted to do it was different anyway. And I think when I did that first track ‘Redemption,” I was wanting it to be heavier and grittier and almost with a slight hip hop edge to it. That’s what I had in mind initially. Over the course of it, it went a lot of different ways. And I think the new material I’m working on is evolving even further away from the Delerium stuff.”
What else are you working on right now?
“I’m producing a rock band called Paradise Lost. It’s going really well, it’s kind of dark/gothic-tinged rock. A little bit of keyboard stuff here and there. I’ve done loads of different stuff, some remixes of mainstream rock stuff, I’ve produced a couple of tunes on this classical singer Josh Groban’s record.”
You have a lot of experience working with heavy bands – have you considered doing your own project in that genre?
“It would be hard for me to do because I don’t play guitar! Yeah, I’ve thought about it. But to be honest, I’m more into mellower music. I like working as a producer on heavier stuff, but as a musician what touches me is more of the style of Conjure One. Maybe I’m getting old or something, but I like the more chill out stuff. I like heavy music, but I don’t know – what comes from my heart tends to be more moody and a little more down tempo. Though I do like rock music. But that said, who knows? I don’t want to spread myself thin, because I think what it ends up doing is watering down what your focus is. I think it’s better to cram a lot of your ideas into one thing.”