“Sometimes you have to just feel around a bit until you’ve got something that inspires you, but I prefer having an intention before diving in.”
– Bird of Prey
Sound designer and mastermind of electronic music projects Bird of Prey and Birds of Paradise (with Tyler Gibson), music producer Torin Goodnight gracefully invites us into his world of experience and compassion – shedding light on how he integrates his work as both a high-flying winged creator and a grounded human being with both feet on the Earth.
Enjoy this exclusive interview with Aluna Verse of SolPurpose…
SP: A mirror of creative influence is a powerful ally to sustain our flight. In whose musical delights have you been indulging lately?
Torin: The Future Sound of London have been releasing a series of Environments albums that I derive a lot of inspiration from. I see myself pursuing this direction more and more in the future. It’s sort of a continuation of what they were up to with Lifeforms and they’re incredible. I absolutely love the downtempo albums by Digital Samsara, particularly Ceasefire. It is a stunning combination of instrumentation with cutting edge psychedelic electronics that is seamless. I was recently given an ambient album that I can’t stop listening to called Music For A Busy Head by Matt Coldrick. I think BT‘s new album If The Stars Are Eternal So Are You And I is pretty phenomenal. I am LOVING a guy from Sweden that goes by Mitch Murder…80’s New Retro Wave perfection. Seriously this guy is healing me on some pretty deep levels, heh. I listen to Peter Gabriel, acoustic guitar music and of course my usual ambient suspects Ishq, Robert Rich, and Steve Roach. I’ve also been delving more into video game and movie soundtracks. They have always been a major source of inspiration for me. I’m into anything that takes me somewhere special and provides an environment for introspective exploration and reflection.
Torin: Tyler and I met three or four years ago at an event in Mount Shasta, close to where he was living at the time. We spoke a bit at the party and I ended up going back up to visit him in Ashland, Oregon. He played me the music he was making and I felt it was the closest to my own as any I’d heard but with his own unique power and style. We talked about working together and created Sonic Bloom by sending files back and forth via the internet while I was living in San Francisco. Some time later I got into a relationship and moved down to Santa Barbara, and while he was visiting to work on music he fell in love with my gal’s best friend and moved in down the street. This we took as a sign from the Universe, and promptly started making more and more music together. It became apparent that this was a very complimentary collaboration and it just felt great for both of us. We could trust each other with our songs, and continually push them further then we could on our own. We chose the name Birds of Paradise to keep with the momentum and theme of my solo project, and continue in its path with a more tropical sound that could’ve been influenced by our environment at the time. And, after three years of hard work we now have our full length album Flight Patterns to show for it, and we’re very grateful people are responding to it. We no longer live in Santa Barbara, but work together in person as often as we’re able to, and always when the time comes to finish a song or body of work.
Listen to latest release from Birds of Paradise, Flight Patterns:
SP: Of all the alluring options available to you of technology’s fractal advancements, what are your favorite performance and production tools?
Torin: These days I use a Mac running Logic 9, along with a bunch of software synths and FX plugins. Hardware consists of an Apogee Duet interface, Dynaudio BM5A speakers and a MIDI keyboard. I also have a Nord 3 Rack synth but haven’t used it in a while although I aim to more once I get a proper studio set up again. For playing out I was called to explore using Traktor for some time, and while I really love some of its features, I’m currently in the process of reverting back to Ableton Live in order to create a more interactive performance.
Torin: A healthy, happy planet inhabited by fully realized beings that live in harmony with themselves and their surroundings.
SP: If your waking life were as a lucid dream, how would you then create your every moment?
Torin: I’d blast fluorescent streamers out of my fingertips that contain all the necessary information and elements to bring into being that which I’ve mentioned above.
SP: Many agree that we are re-membering pieces of the cosmic puzzle at an accelerating rate – and it’s clearly coincident with our digital age. What is your perspective on the interplay of technology and spirituality? How do you feel we can remain in alignment with this potential for digital satori?
Torin: Music has been the catalyst for most of my profound spiritual experiences, and I’ve always intended to create music that has the potential to act as the catalyst for profound spiritual experiences in others. I believe technology and art can further our conception of what is capable. There’s a quote I really like: “The eye can see only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” I believe art allows us to continue pushing the boundaries of what we feel to be possible and continually shows that the threshold can be set further and further. Technology can therefore be utilized to express our understanding of the Divine if it’s the artist’s intention to do so.
SP: Do you have a clear vision of what a song will become before you begin the journey?
Torin: I definitely prefer for there to be a clear vision or concept for a song to grow out of, rather than shooting blanks in the dark. With all of the tools available today there’s really no limitation on what you can do or where you can go. And while that sounds fun and amazing, it really helps to narrow it down in order to come up with something deliberate and potent. When I have a clever name for a song, or a vision in my head of a place I’m aiming to create the soundtrack for, that is when I come up with my best work. It’s like filling in the colors with an outline already there. Sometimes you have to just feel around a bit until you’ve got something that inspires you, but I prefer having an intention before diving in.
Torin: I think my first memories of being really triggered by sound was when I heard Vangelis‘ Chariots of Fire and the theme song from Beverly Hills Cop, “Axel F.” They evoked something very special for me and I remember cherishing those feelings in my heart and mind. I joined the band in fifth grade, starting with the saxophone and then moving on to percussion when it became available to me. Around that time someone turned me on to Nine Inch Nails and the moment “Closer” hit my ears I knew that was it. Something in the texture reminded me of parts of my being that seemed only a distant memory but more personal than anything I had previously experienced. That was when I really knew I had some sense of destiny working specifically with electronic sound.
SP: What kind of impact has festival culture imprinted on your being? How has it affected you on an everyday level?
Torin: It has had a fairly profound impact on my life. For one it provides a glimpse of what’s possible when creative minds come together and work their alchemy. Creating an environment that’s conducive to epiphanies and breakthroughs by potentially everyone involved is what I consider to be a true form of magic. So good! On an everyday level it gives me a sense of direction as it’s one of the primary applications for my creative expression to be experienced.
Torin: I have a profound respect for the underlying Truths in all of the world’s religions and sacred texts. Personally I’ve always resonated with spiritual science and mysticism. There is something that I find deeply fascinating that speaks to my DNA in the wisdom traditions derived from the ancient mystery schools. I appreciate the value of studying the universal laws of nature and how to align with them. Learning how to unfold the human spirit to its highest potential contributes to the overall well being and evolution of the individual, the species, and in turn the planet and its various forms of life, and so on. As we understand ourselves and come into alignment with our deepest purpose, we inherently contribute to the larger whole.
SP: What ignites your creative fires? When are you “just not feelin’ it”?
Torin: What I mentioned in my previous response is a major source of inspiration and the underlying purpose of my art. Creating music for me has always been in direct correlation to my spiritual path. It is the outward expression of my inner worlds. It’s the way I best know how to allow others to experience my imagination and perspective of life in a tangible format.
It generally becomes apparent fairly quickly when I’m not feeling it. Often it comes from being over-saturated with music. If I’m constantly plotting, or studying, or wondering what I need to make next, that can easily clog my channels. If I get into that space it’s best for me to step away…take a walk, exercise, go the beach and just breathe. My creative process has never been mechanical in the sense that I can just sit down and make music whenever. I’m a very moody creature when it comes to producing music. Sometimes I feel like each song I make has some life lesson I’m intended to learn through its creation, which honestly can be very frustrating. However, it teaches me a lot about myself. How to bend in the wind and work with the elements in order to channel the really good stuff, rather than just going through the motions. I suppose it’s a built in self-defense mechanism against making generic music.
Torin: Ya know, I tend to fluctuate between a hawk and an eagle when answering this question, as I’ve always resonated with both. However, one of the main inspirations for me choosing this name for myself is a beautiful drawing of a hawk by my father, Gary Goodnight. He drew it ten years before I was born and it was always hanging up in our house. He passed away when I was 18, and that was the time in my life when I came to the understanding that this was my path. I had it hanging in my studio’s ever since and one day years later I looked up and it dawned on me. It felt good and made sense so I went for it. I wanted something powerful enough to grow into and embody without being pretentious, as well as something that expressed how I felt about music, having elements of grace and beauty mixed with edgy precision.
SP: What do you cherish most about your upbringing?
Torin: I had two loving parents that provided nurturing environments and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I wish that for everyone.
SP: I understand that you create most of the elements in your music from scratch. Can you elaborate on your process of conjuring authentic sound design?
Torin: Tyler and I put a lot of time, love and care into the music we make and the elements that comprise it. It takes patience and a little know-how to whip the sounds into shape and make ’em do the fun stuff. Usually it’s the combination of a good sound, matched with the appropriate control of dynamics and stuff to aid in the modulation or movement like panning, filtering, and effects to add interest. We do use samples – we’re just careful of what we use and how. Things like drum samples we don’t care to start from scratch with, so we often pull from libraries that we’ve collected over the years. It’s also amazing to have access to all kinds of recordings of natural instruments from around the world that we don’t play but want to integrate. We don’t even look down on the use of samples. They can be an incredible resource; it’s just how you use them and whether you’re creating something new that’s your own rather than just piecing together pre-made elements. With all of the tools available today it’s easy to slap some loops together with some synth presets and call it a track. But I think it’s pretty easy to tell when people are doing that, at least for producers who are familiar with the sample libraries and synths. Authenticity always shines through.
SP: Your tour with Kalya Scintilla has just come to completion. What is it like on tour for you?
Torin: It was amazing to travel around with one of my best friends and respected peers. To be honest I’m not sure I’d ever be interested in doing that demanding of a tour with someone I didn’t feel that way about, or alone for that matter. It’s incredibly challenging to continuously be on the road. You’re often completely physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted…but when you’ve got a good pal with the same twisted sense of humor, it’s a life-enriching experience.
Torin: I’d have to say it’s that I am constantly surrounded by people I respect, adore, and am inspired by. As well as having earned the respect and friendship of many of the people that have inspired me most over the years and set me on this course. That continues to be one of the most rewarding aspects of all of this, and I’m very grateful. That’s what makes me feel successful more than anything.
SP: Thank you so much for this offering from your heart! Lastly, as so many brilliant minds (and hearts) get activated and express their gifts, do you have any seeds of wisdom to plant about how to “walk the walk?”
Torin: Take your time, learn your craft – whatever medium you choose – and strive to come up with something that is yours alone. It’s easy to be overly influenced by what others are doing, and to be fair it’s very natural to pull inspiration from your heros, but I feel it’s essential to allow all aspects of life to find their way into your creative process. It’s also easy to get caught up in having a sense of urgency to get out there as fast as you can. To quit your stressful job and live your dream. However, if you jump the gun living your dream can be just as stressful but it’s far more confusing when it’s your passion making you miserable. So be patient, diligent and authentic, and things will naturally unfold as they should. Because the quality of what you’re doing will speak for itself and provide the correct evolutionary path for you and your art. You can trust that, because that’s how it all works. Dream big, believe in yourself, and create from your heart.
Birds of Paradise is going on tour February 4th – March 4th. See them live at Earth Frequency Festival in Australia. Stay tuned in to Bird of Prey facebook page for the rest of the dates and locations…
“It is a rare circumstance that such a profound space is held that I can fully let go and return to the first fire and watch the recreation process – the dances behind the manifestation of forms. And so that is exactly where I went and it was Torin’s music that played the soundtrack to the musings. Ancient bird clan thunderbird medicine.”
– Ehren Cruz, Founder of SolPurpose