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Many of you may have not heard of Bob Guido, an ambient musician from Canada. However, Bob has been making music and more specifically ambient music since before the term “ambient” was familiar to most of us. Bob’s music is unique. His music recording techniques even more unique. Bob recently released a few singles online and we had the chance to get insights about Bob’s musical world.
Q. Introduce yourself Bob…
Ans. Hello, my name is Bob Guido. I love making music and I am from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
My folks started me on violin when I was four and my teacher was a Catholic Nun that used to to whack me on the back of my legs with a wooden stick each time I played a wrong note. I wanted to be outside riding my skateboard or building snow forts in the winter but I spent much of the early years of my life with a violin under my chin and tears in my eyes.
Q. How would you describe your music?
Ans. Maybe emotional, visual, melodic, expansive, organic, hand made….something like that. I’ve always been a big fan of melody. I love the great old melodies like Moon River and Sleepwalk by Santo & Johnny. I lean towards a melody or theme in all of the music I make.
Q. What is the theme/aim of your music? We see track names and sounds inspired by different places such as Iceland and Mooregate?
Ans. I’m not really sure what the aim is. All I know is that each time I make some music, it makes me curious about what other kinds of music I can make and at the same time it’s quite puzzling if I think about my experiences with music and how I got to where I am now. Like right now I’m not so sure there is a better way to create the emotional landscape and peaks of a song other than with my voice. I’ve never been a singer until now but I might like to continue figuring out how to get in touch with that. I love music with that ability to transport me to another world and take a break from this one. I dream a lot, even when I am not sleeping. I became fascinated by space as a kid after I went on a school trip to the Ontario Science Center. I had a lot of wild dreams soon after where parts of the incredible outer space exhibits from the science center turned into places I would travel to or they would often become the insides of a spaceship operated by a crew of beautiful women.
Music gives me great happiness, knowing that it’s something I can put my imagination to. What I like to hear is something very surrealistic and some of it will evoke memories or images from early childhood, things from the past, long forgotten. To bring back lost information from the past is mystical.I think we’ve all been to places where there is something very interesting happening. I get these very strong feelings about a place or a person sometimes and they seem to always translate into music. Iceland is a place that no matter where you are, no matter where you turn your head and look, you will always find something magical happening. The beauty of its nature is like something you read about in fairy tales which is probably why Icelandic people believe in fairies and elves. Often it’s the people and their way of life that make a place fascinating which is the case for the Mooregate film that Colin Zantinge and I made together.
Q. I’ve heard that you don’t use delay pedals in the way that most of the ambient gear freaks out there are. Describe your technique and also silophone? How did you come to know about it?
Ans. My high school had this incredibly long corridor, like a narrow 100 meter long hallway with a concrete floor, ceiling and solid brick walls. It was called the corridor of time because it had these cute little mural paintings all along the corridor for each year that the school was open. The echo inside there was crazy and encouraged all the kids to make loud sounds to hear the cool effects when they walked through it. I remember that I used to wander off into the forest during bush parties and clap my hands really loud and listen to all the lonely echoes bouncing back and forth off the trees and rocks. I developed a fascination with acoustical places, especially ones that existed in nature and started using really big spaces and acoustic objects to make ambient treatments. They sounded very interesting, dynamic, three dimensional and mysterious. Listening back to a recording made in one of these places, you’d feel like you were right there inside of it.
For a while now I’ve been experimenting by making a recording of the sound echoing and reverberating in a space with a super nice ribbon microphone and then sending that recording back out into that space again or maybe into a different space and recording it again. I’ll repeat that several times and keep on going until it becomes something really supernatural. I’ve been very lucky to have access to some great sounding spaces like big churches with high ceilings and then there are many grain silos and other ambient sounding structures around here too, many to explore.
The silophone is an art installation piece in Montreal that a visual artist friend of mine told me about. It’s an old grain silo with a speaker inside at the bottom that broadcasts your telephone call into the silo, records the reverberation with a microphone hanging at the top of the silo and then you hear it come back to you on the telephone receiver with all that echo and reverb. I’ve called the silophone many times to send some of my tracks into it and then record the results back to my recording equipment. It’s best to call late at night so that no one else is going to interrupt your call with “hello…hello…..hello…..hello….hello….hello….”
I have access to the heavy artillery as well, the Lexicon, AMS, Fractal Audio, Strymon, Digimatic Truance & Squelchalizer. With these good times machines it may become quite involved with a complex mixture of the real acoustic spaces and the surreal effects processing. I like to work with my hands so I play with everything using the mixing board instead of inside a computer. I don’t use synthetics like synthesizers or drum loops. I like to use real instruments and I like music with an organic, expressive quality that I can feel is an extension of my personality. There is a tickle trunk here with lots of noise makers and wooden toys from Canadian junk shops, Chinese markets and South American flea markets collected over the years. These things sometimes find their way into the music and are helpful with provoking different imagery than proper instruments. I also use the infinite guitar quite a lot in my own way.
Ans. Thank you. I’ve listened to thousands of different artists and composers, burned their music into my subconscious and inhaled the fumes from each one of them. I don’t listen to music that much anymore but I listen to the sounds the earth makes when I’m in places that are completely free of sound pollution. I think you need to take a rest from music when you are making music all the time. When you come back in after a rest, you get some great new things. It’s fun to pop into the internet and find people doing their own magic and you get to hear lots of peculiar things that way too.
Ans. Ambient music was born about a toads jump from where I grew up so I think I come by it’s influence from being in the neighborhood. Daniel Lanois had a home recording studio here that played host to Brian Eno, Harold Budd and Michael Brook working on sound experiments in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s. Then of course U2 hired these guys to give them that ambient sound and the whole world got a taste of it. Ambient is part of Canada’s musical heritage along with it’s aboriginal music.
I think these labels make sense for marketing music and I don’t feel they impose any limitations on me because I don’t really have any control over what music comes out of me or not. I’ve always had a lot of fun playing around with new ideas, taking things apart and putting them back together in different ways, taking lots of risks to get going somewhere I have never been. I don’t think about any particular style of music when I’m making music and I don’t take myself too seriously either. When I get careless it seems to be when I stumble into the best things that the mysterious universe can deliver.
Music comes so fast, you know, and never at a time when it’s convenient to the other people around you in your life. I’m often standing here with one sock on, holding this guitar against my naked body with a toothbrush in my mouth and drooling while turning on the power to the recording equipment just in time to catch something. Music comes like a storm rushing through me and then it’s gone and I have to ride the wave of all that energy until it’s over. I usually take a shower after.
Q. Do you think tagging your music with some particular genre narrows down the essence of creating music or takes away the freedom of it?
Ans. Like I say, I can only work with what the universe gives me so I can’t really determine what music is going to come out of me in the future. That might come as a challenge to people who may at some point feel that I qualify in the ambient or post-rock category.
Q. Will you ever think of getting signed by a label?
Ans. I think there has to be people at record labels who really believe in you for it to work. In that situation I would love to make a record with them.
Q. You seem to have met Sigur Ros? How was the experience?
Ans. I went to Sundlaugin (The Swimming Pool Studio) in Álafoss, Iceland to find out about working on music there, the costs, the facilities. The door was open, I walked in and there they were in their dirty paint covered clothes doing renovations on the studio themselves. The kind that most hugely successful bands’ management or assistants would hire contractors for. While I was there I saw carpentry, drywalling, painting…..hammers and nails! They were like a crew of construction workers smoking old man pipes. We met, we hung out, I pet their dog, it was great. Sigur Rós are humble, honest, hard working people.
Q. Will you ever consider playing live? If yes then how will you perform and arrange those complicated textures as well as music live?
Ans. I have performed live and because I’m fascinated by people, I find the interaction very rewarding. I have many friends who are live performers and I would ask them to come give me a hand to perform live more in the future which is something I would love to do.
Q. We wish you all the best with your future. Thanks a lot for your time Bob.
It was my pleasure.
Photography by Colin Zantinge
Mooregate short film featuring music of Bob Guido…