Name: Pas Musique
Members: Robert L. Pepper, Jon Worthley, Michael Durek, Jesse Fairbairn
Interviewee: Robert L. Pepper
Occupation: Sound artists
Nationality: American
Current release: Pas Musique's new album Amateur Radio is available for pre-order at Alrealon.
Recommendations: Book: Manly P. Hall’s “The Secret Teaching of All Ages”; Paintings: Any paintings by French artist Gustave Moreau

If you enjoyed this interview with Pas Musique, visit their website for more information. Or stay up to date on their work via Instagram, Facebook, twitter, Soundcloud, and bandcamp.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I started to make sound recordings around 1995. I was interested in the concepts of just abstract sound recordings like Zoviet France did. You can hear the influence in releases of mine like Electric Rain and Antarctic Tribe on Bandcamp.

I read that they used a 4 track Tascam recorder and did everything track by track. So I went out and bought a used Tascam, delay pedal, drum machine, microphones, and Yamaha CS1 keyboard. I love the DIY approach and that you could make music with any sounds you recorded and you could do it in your basement studio.

For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?

I am always learning. I think that is what makes you an interesting artist. If you don’t learn every day, you stay the same, even so most aspects of life. When I think things are becoming typical I buy a new instrument or piece of gear. I usually lean towards something challenging that will change the sound of the music.

I think the development periods come at certain intervals. Maybe with every few albums. You need to keep your sound and attitude fresh.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

I think making any music and/or art is an expressive channel of who you are, unless you are a commercial artist and are trying to sell millions of albums and cater to a mass of people. In my case I tend to illustrate themes of esotericism, meditation, with a sense of humor in my recordings and painting. Maybe people understand it or maybe they don’t. That doesn’t matter. What matters is the process and creative aspect. People can take what they want from it.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

Well I guess, money and collaborators. When I was younger I had less money and didn’t know many people in the music world. Now I have a better day job to support me and many more music friends to collaborate with.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

Well, I think I answered this in the first question for the most part but I should add that touring as an independent artist the equipment has gotten smaller and lighter over the years. I look for smaller keyboards and processors.

I just bought a Roland JP-08 boutique keyboard because it’s easier to carry on planes and in my gear bag. I even have an iPad now with Jim Audio’s Groove Rider’s sequencer so I don’t have to carry another box. I usually look for interesting equipment that will become a staple in a live set that is easier to carry.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

In the beginning I was obsessed with small contact microphones. I used to love catching the sound of cheap fishing reels and reprocessing and sampling them. I love recording insect sounds.

I really love abstract sounds over sequenced beats. I think making abstract sounds and marrying them to sequenced beats brings together the best of two worlds. You have the abstract strangeness and then the more drum beat elements that many people can latch on to.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

It really depends. In the early days Pas Musique was 100% improvisation with an open door for collaborators. It was always an unknown how gigs would turn out with the open invite for different musicians. That was the exciting part.

I changed that through the years because I wanted more of a specific direction with certain tours and releases. I have a handful of folks I do releases with now but generally Pas Musique is a four piece in different incarnations. In the proper band with Jon Worthley, Micheal Durek, and Jesse Fairbairn we do more Krautrock/space rock style like on The Phoenix release.

But with my releases with Robin Storey/Rapoon, they tend to be more abstract like Composited Reality.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

Well, I have my daily job which overlaps I guess because I am involved in the post production multimedia world. So that has taught me many technical things which overlap through the audio/visual aspect of Pas Musique. As for a fixed schedule, we do have weekly rehearsals on Tuesdays either in person or online.

I guess regular life and art life intersect through what I am reading or watching. I like a lot of horror and surreal films which influence my art and music. I also read a lot of hermetic philosophy and horror novels which influence my art. Travel is also important in the influence of my art. Although these days with Covid it’s not in the mix.

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

I have fond memories of playing Faust’s Avant Garde Festival in 2010 and a few more years after.

It was a wonderful time of artists collaborating and sharing with no egos. I wish all festivals could be like this. I learned a lot from that tour which blossomed into many more trips to Europe and Asia years after. I met many great people that I am still friends with and it opened up doors for me musically as well as personally. Jean-Herve Peron and his family are lovely people.    

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

Just jump in and try to focus. It will take some time but you have to get over that. I think what holds most people back is that act of starting. I just jump in. Yeah, the beginning may be rocky and not the best but you get over that to come to the good stuff.  

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

I think all music is healing but it’s all subjective. Music brings you away from the everyday and puts the mind in a different place. That is if you like the type of music.  I think the hurting part is if you don’t like the particular music, maybe like top 40 in the shop or something.

There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?

If you are doing it out of curiosity, influence, integrity, and respect, cultural exchange is fine. But maybe explain why and what you are going for on your release/art.

Everyone is influenced by everyone else. It’s the joy of being human and to share. But also remember to give homage to what you are influenced by.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

My art/music is very meditative and fun. I make things for beauty and make an outlet for people to get away from the everyday. I never include social or political themes. I am not against those that do but my art serves as an outlet for everyone to loose themselves.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

Music moves me more than words but I think both do the same for people. After all words are sound and sound is music. They both can express life and death.