Steve Jolliffe interview

Featured interview in Dreams Word # 16masthead


by Jeff Filbert


Originally from England, Steve Jolliffe learned to play flute, sax and piano at an early age. In 1969, when enrolling at Germany’s prestigious Berlin Konservatorium, Steve so impressed the music professors with his piano improvisations that he became the school’s first student who couldn’t read written music. This led to his first 1969-71 involvement with Tangerine Dream in the earliest days back when Klaus Schulze was with them. After several other projects, Steve again rejoined the band in the years 1978-79. Together with Edgar Froese, Chris Franke and Klaus Krueger, Steve and the band recorded “Cyclone.” They also completed a successful tour in Europe.

Steve then left again to pursue a solo career, completing more than 14 releases. We join him now to /earn about his life and times, for there is much more to be known about Steve Jolliffe than seems to lie on the surface.

DW: At which point in your life did you become interested in music and performing’?

SJ: I was always interested in music, but it was during my last year of art school in England when I really got into it and started improvising on the piano. Around 1966, when I answered an ad auditioning for a sax player in “Melody Maker,” I got my first break. There were a lot of other guys there trying out for the gig, but I was the one that they chose. The person who conducted the audition turned out to be Rick Davies. He and a couple of other guys were trying to organize a regular gig in Geneva, Switzerland. This was to be the beginning of Supertramp, who were then known as The Joint.

Ah yes…the days of The Joint (laughs). We did this residency thing, but it was a pretty poor setup. We had only one room to live in and not much money. That is, until this film company came along to the club that we were playing in, decided that they liked our sound and asked us to play the music for a film they were making called “The Happening.” This was in about 1967. We did the music and I played a lot of sax leads for it.

A guy whose name I can’t remember wrote most of the music and he was classically trained. I made friends with him and told him of my interest in classical music and that I’d love to be able to study it because at the time I couldn’t read music yet. I was a self-taught musician, yet I loved the classics. I really wanted to learn classical music and be able to play it. This guy told me to go to the Berlin Konservatorium in Germany, so I enrolled myself there in 1968.

DW: It was then when you auditioned for the professors who then accepted you, based on your improvisational abilities?

SJ: Yes. I improvised some stuff on the piano and they accepted me on that basis alone. In fact, I was the first person ever accepted there who could not read music. It was then when I started to explore other areas of music, including electronic music. I even went to a studio that specialized in those sounds so I could find out more about how it was done. (This is the same studio that Chris Franke spoke about in his earliest days before Tangerine Dream: issue 14 of DW. – Editor)

DW: It was there where you had your first meeting with Edgar Froese?

SJ: Right. It was in that same studio in Berlin. I don’t remember whose studio it was, but I recall that the guy who ran it was into musique concrete. He had all these tape recorders lined up and was playing them at different speeds. I was really interested in electronic music, but had only heard some of the works of Stockhausen, Varese, and some other bits of musique concrete.

Anyway, while I was there, I noticed Edgar sitting in a corner of the room, looking very dejected. So I went over and started talking to him and we found that we had a lot of things in common. He told me that he had just split up with his band (rumored to be an extremely early, unknown incarnation of TD – Ed.) and he felt pretty discouraged. I suggested that we form a three-piece group, just find a drummer, and do something that was improvised. We auditioned some drummers and found someone who was quite good and he turned out to be our first drummer.

[ The reuse of the band name is confirmed in another interview Steve did, also in 1993, now available on his web site: “Edgar (Froese) was sitting in a corner there, so I walked up to him and we introduced ourselves. He told me, ‘I had a band called Tangerine Dream, but we just split up.’” – Christopher, 2015]

Next, we did this gig at that same electronic studio, which was then broadcast on German radio. This made us sort of a hit with the avant-garde crowd, so we started touring, doing little gigs at all of the clubs in Berlin. Back then, they were mostly avant-garde clubs, so they really got into what we were playing. Later, our drummer left, so we began auditioning other drummers. We finally decided on Klaus Schulze, and he became our new drummer. These were the early days of Tangerine Dream.

DW: That was even before the release of the first album, “Electronic Meditation” in 1970, right?

SJ: Right. Our early band actually sounded so electronic it was incredible! We mainly just used our instruments with some effects devices. I was using a flute with a pickup and an echo chamber, and Edgar was using a guitar with an echo chamber. Later, we got this little Farfisa-like organ to make some noises with. I remember that I liked the sound of a Farfisa because it didn’t sound like a normal organ.

DW: After touring, you decided to leave Tangerine Dream to pursue other projects. This led you to join the blues rock band, Steamhammer, and release the 1974 album, “Steamhammer MK ll.”

SJ: Yes.

DW: What was it like to be back in the heyday of the early Seventies with all of the big name groups in England, as a member of Steamhammer, opening for Pink Floyd, The Who, and some of the other musical greats?

SJ: It was a good, healthy time to be playing in, that’s for sure! There was a lot of work, that was the big difference back then because were a lot of gigs to be had. We used to play six nights a week regularly throughout England and Europe. These were some really great times.

DW: And then you left Steamhammer to start on your own solo career in 1975.

SJ: Yes. I had the opportunity to score several small films, including a documentary called “Tattoo.” This won some awards when it was shown at the National Film Theatre in London in 1977.

DW: Soon after that, you rejoined Tangerine Dream. This was around the time when Peter Baumann was getting ready to leave the band to pursue his solo career.

SJ: Yes. In 1978, Edgar phoned me in England, telling me that Peter was leaving and asked it I wanted to join the band again and do some more music together. I accepted. We rehearsed a little, and then made the album “Cyclone” in 1978. Right after that we started an extensive tour throughout Europe to promote the album. Every gig we did was sold out wherever we went. The tour lasted for about 2 1/2 months. It was a lot of hard and demanding work, but I enjoyed it.

DW: After that experience, at what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue your solo career again?

SJ: Oh, it was pretty much after the tour when I’d gotten back home. Edgar and I conversed on the phone back and forth a few times. Eventually, I decided that I would just stay in England. In 1979, I started to work on my first solo album, “The Bruton Suite.” I got the contract to do “Drake’s Venture” in 1980 which I made for ITV Productions. Another release called “Earth” was a project I did for another company, ATV Productions, in 1981.

DW: “Drake’s Venture” was a dramatization of the life of Sir Francis Drake, right?

SJ: Yes, that’s right. I composed that one with original 16th century period instruments. “Drake’s Venture” starred the well known British actor named John Thaw.

DW: With your classical background, I presume that you could conduct an orchestra.

SJ: Yes, l could. ln fact, I was thlnking that Imight re-score “The Bruton Suite” for a small orchestra, to make it sound more realistic. I’ve been discussing the idea with different arrangers about the possibility. So you never know, it might happen.

DW: Who played originally on “Earth”?

SJ: I recall that Rich Bruton played guitar and another guy played drums. The drummer now plays with Howard Jones.

DW: HowardJones? The guy whose first hit song was “The New Song”?

SJ: Right. In fact, Howard used to give keyboard lessons to my older brother, Geoffrey. We came from the same village, so he’s like an old friend of the family.

DW: l see. How many brothers do you have? Are they also musically inclined?

SJ: Yes, they are. l have three brothers. There’s Geoffrey, who’s the oldest, and used to be a professional musician. Next, there’s my younger brother, Richard, who also plays. They both still live in England and run the family tailor business. And then, there’s my youngest brother, John, who lives in L.A. and had his own band named Big Big Sun. He’s a very talented songwriter.

DW: He also played on your 1984 album “Beyond the Dream.”

SJ: Yes, he did. In fact, we may even do an album together, you know, something like “The Fabulous Baker Boys” and call it “The Jolly Jolliffe Brothers” (laughs). But seriously, we may work on something together sometime. There aren’t too many others in my family who showed a lot of musical ability, except if you go back into the past, to my great, great uncle, who was Sir Edward Alger. (Famous classical composer -Ed.)

DW: Impressive! And “Beyond the Dream” wasn’t an inside joke about being an ex-member of Tangerine Dream?

SJ: No. I really never even gave it much thought, but l guess that it could be interpreted that way. Nice of you to point that out to me (laughs).

DW: Before “Beyond the Dream” you released “Journeys Out of the Body.” That was the album that had the late guitarist from Jade Warrior, Tony Duhig, performing on it?

SJ: Right. That was back in 1982. We were pretty good friends and lived close by each other for a time, until I moved out into the country. I told him years later that he should move out there too. He told me that he was getting real stressed out but declined to ever move. When he died very suddenly of a heart attack a couple years ago, it was quite a shock. He did some excellent playing on “Journeys Out of the Body,” and I always liked his band work with Jade Warrior. I’ll miss him, he was a good chap.

DW: That’s too bad. His work was great. Another album that you did was “Japanese Butterfly,” released in 1983. What was that album like?

SJ: That album was actually named “The Japanese Way” for contractual reasons. Originally, it was titled “Death of a Japanese Butterfly.” In fact, on the original pressing, the last song title of the album was called “ko cho no shi,” which translates literally to “the Japanese butterfly of death.” But the record company didn’t like the idea of having death involved in the title of the album, so we didn’t use it.

DW: Your next album was “Voices,”released in 1985. What was that all about?

SJ: That sort of grew from my interest in ancient Egypt and mysticism, so it’s a very strange, very spacey album. It may sound crazy, but I was trying to create a style of music that would actually unbalance one’s sense of reality and split their awareness, so that it might open up a new awareness. I even did a few concerts with it around that time and heard some strange reports from people in the audience that the music caused them to lose their balance. So, I don’t know… maybe I was onto something (laughs).

DW: How about yourself? Did you ever experience anything odd as a result of composing the music or in the inspiration of the album?

SJ: Yes, I did. There is one track on it that is very strange, where the music goes into a sound that builds up and seems to go into a triangle, with the point of the triangle in front of you, and the bottom of it behind you. It gave me a very odd feeling.

DW: So it created a spatial effect that throws off a person’s equilibrium.

SJ: Yes. I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that there is something there that can be progressed in. That’s why I’m getting involved with the visual stuff lately.

DW: You mean like virtual reality?

SJ: Right. That sort of thing really fascinates me. l think that it has great potential in regard to music. l‘m working on some computer programs that will allow virtual reality to integrate with music. I think that it’s the wave of the future.

DW: I assume that you saw Stephen King’s “The Lawnmower Man” and enjoyed its depiction of virtual reality special effects.

SJ: Yes! There were marvelous virtual reality effects in that film. I also liked some of the work that I saw at Epcot in Disney World.

DW: I really enjoyed those tool Computer imagery and visuals are a powerful medium, but so too is music, and even sound itself, like ultrasonics and subsonics. I’ve heard that one could even focus a beam and knock down a wall with it, right?

SJ: That’s right. I can always hear Christoph saying to me that he was going to build this massive speaker that was like 30 feet across and knock down buildings with it (laughs).

DW: So how did you like working with Chris Franke?

SJ: He’s a very easy person to work with. He’s a very tolerant sort of person. He never complains about anything. There could be a small possibility that we might work on something in the future. We just have to discuss a few things first.

DW: Keep us posted on that, if anything. Your next release was “New Age Emotions” in 1986. What was that like?

SJ: It is very popular as a means of source music on TV for PBS broadcasts and networks like The Discovery Channel. A lot of people have told me that they have heard it on TV, and I have too, on different occasions. I just heard some of it at home a couple weeks ago on the set, and thought that I’d left the stereo on (laughs). There are some pretty catchy phrases in it. It has a sort of Celtic influence to it that people seem to like. “New Age Emotions” wasn’t a bad name, but I think that if I re-released it, I would call it something like “Stonehenge.” There is a picture of Stonehenge on the cover, you see. I think that the term “new age” has pretty much run its course.

DW: We think so too. Your next musical encounter was with Klaus Schulze, under his pseudonym as Richard Wahnfried, on his 1986 I.C. release “Miditation.” What was it like working with him again?

SJ: Yes. That turned out really well. I spent probably a couple weeks with Klaus in his studio. We were doing various recordings, just sort of improvising through the night in his house where his studio was located. We would play until the early morning hours. Eventually, I went home, back to England, and the next thing I knew, there were people flashing these CDs around (laughs). There is a good possibility that I might work with him in the near future as well. I spoke to him a while ago and he asked me if I would like to come over to Germany and do another CD.

DW: Excellent! Keep us posted on that possibility too. I’ve always enjoyed his music as well. Your next release in 1987 was “The Minotaur.” What was that one all about?

SJ: That came about while I was living in Glastonberry, England. There was a theater company that asked me to do the music for a play that they had written about the minotaur, so that whole thing was composed for the play. it was a very dramatic album.

DW: You then followed that up with your 1988 concept release “Doorways to the Soul.”

SJ: “Doorways to the Soul” was a very melodically powerful album. It, and all of my other albums, are more than just concepts, they are an experience that I was going through at that time in my life. To me, all the albums are like a diary. Rather like chapters in my life.

DW: What kind of instrumentation did you use in the production of that album?

SJ: That was mainly an ESQ-1, saxophone and flute. In fact, it was done live with all of the synthesizer parts done on that one keyboard using the eight track sequencer that is built into it. Then I just set up the mike and played improvisations on the flute and sax. I did it all live, in just one take.

DW: In watching you perform, you look so relaxed that it seems you are playing something that is rehearsed. But in hearing you play, it sounds totally improvised. Which are you doing?

SJ: It’s all pretty much 95% improvised.

DW: Then we can take it that you predominantly utilize that approach in the production of all of your releases, or at least to some extent. You just get the feel for it and have the whole background to serve as a foundation for your improvisations.

SJ: That’s always been part of my whole musical direction, really, is to try to pull out things as spontaneously as possible without having to pre-think them.

DW: But I imagine that there is a lot of pre-planning before you reach that stage, especially with the sequencing.

SJ: A whole album generally takes about a year to complete. It tends to take less time now that the equipment gets to be easier to work with and more user-friendly.

DW: And your next album in 1989 was “The Art of Minimalism”?

SJ: On that one l just hired a Yamaha grand piano and sat there and improvised for about four or five days. Then l just picked out the bits that I liked, and set up the ESQ-1, a C-melody soprano saxophone which is a type they stopped making in 1925, and a wooden flute that was over a hundred years old. Both of those instruments had a very unique and unusual sound to them. So l set all three of those instruments up and just played back each piece on the tape. The piano was recorded digitally too. Even at that time I was using the PCM, the 701. They were the forerunners of the DAT machine. You would use a videocassette to store information in it. I next recorded that digitally, and then l did just one overdub from that digital onto another 701. l had two 701s set up, and played everything live. So I had the two woodwind instruments next to me and I’d be playing a bit of keyboard, and then very carefully pick up a woodwind instrument and leave something going with the sustain pedal, and then go to another woodwind instrument.

DW: I see that is also the method that you use in your performances too in order to go very smoothly and effortlessly from one instrument to another.

SJ: Yes, that’s right. It’s very similar. I’ve been doing that for quite a few years. I developed that because I like to keep that spontaneous feeling in the albums, instead of a thing that keeps getting over-processed and thought about until it is almost dead. I like to hear mistakes sometimes, or something that you think is a mistake. But that mistake actually leads on to something else. So you don’t allow it to be a mistake, you allow it to be something that directs you somewhere else musically.

DW: So you focus your creative energy and direct it to go where you want it to go. That’s very interesting. That leads to your next album in 1990 known as “Ethereal.” What was that like?

SJ: There was “Ethereal” and another one that I did at the time known as “Horror and Suspense.” They were part of a group of pieces which I wrote shortly before I left England two years ago to live here in the U.S. These were commissioned by a library music company called Amphonic. “Horror and Suspense” was real interesting. That one was divided up between myself, with about ten synth pieces, and about the same number of tracks by 2 other composers using full orchestra. I used an Ensoniq VFX on my half of the recording. Strangely enough, that synthesizer seems to work in the middle of all those orchestral pieces because it has such a big and full sound… it’s very powerful.

DW: By the number of times you’ve mentioned it, sounds like you’re really happy with Ensoniq equipment. Have you used it more than any other kind of synthesizer?

SJ: Ensoniq is my synth of choice. I’m real happy with them and have been using their equipment tor years. It’s an American made product, designed by the engineers who made the Commodore 64 and Amiga computers, so it’s very reliable and easy to work with.

DW: Much has been said already concerning your excellent album, “Escape.” Perhaps an explanation for the title and the musical inspiration is in order.

SJ: The title is meant to be taken literally. The musical inspiration came from my arriving here in the States from England two years ago, in a strange new land with the uncertainties of what I would find. I wanted something that would dramatically break with what I did in the past, and show the optimism and anxiety that I was feeling at the time.

DW: There is hope that you have been made to feel welcome now, with all of the activities and projects that you have gotten involved in, and all of the supportive people that you have met.

SJ: It’s been great! Everyone has been very kind, supportive, and helpful.

DW: I’m glad because you have been so generous with your time and talent. Your new album titled “Warrior” pays tribute to the values and traditions of the Native American Indian, both musically and philosophically. What prompted the first spark of inspiration that led you to this exciting project?

SJ: Some of the inspiration came from the teachings of Carlos Castananda and they dealt with a certain communication with the Indians. They helped to make me aware of how deeply spiritual they were.

DW: Was this one of the first impressions that led to your wanting to further explore their background?

SJ: I never really explored it that much, it was just an emotion that I felt, especially when I got here to the U.S. It was while I was living in Seattle, Washington that the feeling really began to take hold. I would see these little signs and markers on the sides of the roads that said things like “this road was built 90 years ago to prevent settlers from being attacked by Indians.” It gave me such a shock to realize that it had been just a short time ago when this really had occurred. Especially when I knew what a proud, intelligent, and deeply spiritual people they were. It affected me deeply in a really sad way, and still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it or when I read Chief Seattle’s letter.

DW: You mean the speech he wrote to the President of the U.S. asking for protection of the Indians‘ way of lite?

SJ: Yes. It’s called “How Can One Sell the Air?” and it’s a beautiful speech, very poetic and meaningful. And it‘s still relevant and important today in our time, regarding the preservation of our natural resources. In fact, some of it is included in the liner notes of “Warrior” and it was a real inspiration for me.

DW: The speech is important and is very moving. The selections of “Warrior’ that you played at a Florida concert last year had the same emotional impact. I think it will be a very well received release.

SJ: I hope so.

DW: What ideas do you have for the future of your music, and how do you get the inspiration for composing a musical work?

SJ: When I write music, I don’t think about what I’m going to do or how I’m going to do it, it just starts to happen. And very often at the time that I’m writing things, I never can imagine that it will become an album. But then suddenly I start putting the pieces together and finding out what I’ve got, and pretty soon I have enough material for an album. It’s a bit like the way that someone would write a book. it works for me. It’s really an expression of my life, like writing a diary, except that I use music to explain how I feel at the time.

DW: The creative process of releasing albums; what is that like for you?

SJ: Music is something I’ve done for so long, I just keep on doing it without even thinking about it after awhile. I think I’ve become sort of like a writer writing a diary. I start scraping the bits together that I have been doing, start looking back on my notes and realize I have enough material to release an album again. I then always get rid of as much stuff as I can, so that I am left with something that really has all the essence in it. A lot of people despair when they see me do it because I throw so much away. I just don’t want to leave anything hanging around that doesn’t really say what I really feel. I’m very organized, so I’m very decisive about what to keep and what not to keep.

I also have this tremendous responsibility to finish stuff. That’s why the “Bruton Suite” is hanging over my head all the time.

DW: Tell us about the history of “Bruton Suite” project.

SJ: It was just after leaving the Dream the second time. I was supposed to be writing an album for Virgin Records. So off I trundled. I heard about Bruton, but I’ve never really been there. it’s only like one hundred and fifty miles from London, but the whole way of life is completely different. The pace is so slow. It’s hard to imagine in America what the difference is like. It’s like driving into another world and another time. It’s like going back to the fourteenth or fifteenth century. All the roofs on the houses have these big stone slabs on the roots. You just feel it all around you. The Romans were there. They had a mint and they used to make their money there. The population has been only 2000 for the last six or seven hundred years. The village has been there since 2 thousand years.

It had a tremendous influence on me. I was living in a huge church that had been bought by a friend of mine. It was just left empty so there was nothing happening in it. It was just my luck to be there at that time. It made me stop making electronic music at that point and get right down to the root of what I was trying to say. I wrote it for harpsichord, classical guitar and violin. The whole thing was inspired. That’s how it felt. It’s so alien for me to be able to play something like that. It’s not the sort of stuff I’ve ever played.

I then took it back to Virgin and they just didn’t want it at all. They said: “This is a piece of classical music. We can’t sell that!” They were expecting something electronic.

DW: In other words, something to go on the heels of “Cyclone.”

SJ: That would have made sense, wouldn’t it? That’s what I should have done if I had any realistic sense. So that blew that deal. So I carried on. Eventually my friend gave the “Bruton” tape to someone in the TV world. They were looking for somebody to write medieval music tor a film that was coming out. So basically, something good DID come out, so I was able to keep on writing as well. “Bruton Suite” led to this project called “Drake’s Venture.” I want to combine all the scores from that period and call the whole thing “Bruton Suite” because they are all written in Bruton. That was the whole inspiration behind it.

It sounds very classical. I know, without blowing my own trumpet that people are going to mistake it for something that was written in the 16th century. It will be quite strange for people to hear something like this from me. I don’t think there is anyone else out there doing something like this as far as I know. At least not that I have heard on record.

When I was writing it, there were parts of it where I would suddenly get a block. I remember one particular part where this happened.

I got most of the piece and I just could not finish the end section. I was in the house of a friend where he had an upright piano. He used to go down to the shop and buy one egg and come back to eat his egg. I said to him: “Let’s go down into the cafe.” I always liked cafes and still do. So we went down there and had egg and chips. Then when we left… You’ll have to know that every doorway down there is so low – since it’s all from the fifteenth or fourteenth century – so you have to continually duck your head. He was very tall, so as we were going out, he whacked his head on the top of the doorway. I felt so sorry for him. I mean I really FELT for him hurting like that. So when I came back and sat at the piano, I immediately was able to write this end section. Straight off. Didn’t even THINK about it! But sometimes it can happen that way. Sometimes inspiration can come from the most unusual places!

DW: How do you feel about the limited commercial potential of your music?

SJ: The music I write; it’s not really commercial. The record companies see it as too personal. It’s nothing that will make them lots of money very quickly.

There are no thoughts behind it of making money or being popular or “following up” so the current one would sell as good as the last one. I can’t think seriously about “selling” because I never really sell much! It’s not something that keeps me going. The only thing that keeps me going is the dedication to the art. Just feeling that this is what I want to do in my life; to create sounds about my emotions.

DW: There are a great many people who appreciate that approach. There would be a lot more of them if they had the chance to hear it. So many people only know the sounds and images they encounter on commercial radio and on network television. They don’t explore any other avenues and become deprived of a certain enrichment in their lives that could serve them in good stead later on.

SJ: I think so too. It’s like reading books. Everybody sits watching the TV day and night and don’t realize all the great books they miss reading. They could have gotten something special out of having tried. It’s like being on a sort of spiritual search, to be able to actively discover things rather than just being entertained until the time’s up.

DW: And those things have a lasting permanence that people must dig deeper in order to appreciate. Those are the things that are worth striving for, which you have to make the commitment to try and discover. There is also the responsibility of thinking about what legacy we will leave behind. It’s whether or not we decide not only to better ourselves but to better other people as well.

SJ: That is what life is about, really. The main thing about life is the fact that we are here for just a short period. What are we going to do about it? How do we feel about it? How do we react to it?

Another part of the difficulty of creating something like this music is you get such little feedback. All of us want to feel that we are being appreciated. It’s not just for an ego thing, but also so that you know that you are doing something that’s worthwhile – not just for yourself but for other people. That’s one of the main reasons you survive is because of your relationships with other people; the reactions that your feelings invoke in others and vice versa. It’s very hard because electronic composers today can become very isolated. It’s something you can do in your own little room and never see another soul for months. Yet you want to feel like you are a part of the world. It’s a difficult thing to keep going. It’s like becoming a monk in a way.

DW: And there are so few outlets to hear what comes out of your efforts.

SJ: You tum on the radio in America, and when you run through all the channels, it’s all variations of rock and roll. I’m not trying to put down rock, but what’s the point of having fifteen stations that are all playing the same thing? You might as well have one! I think it’s the industry that dictates it all. It’s not the people. It’s the record companies and whoever’s running the radio stations making the big decisions all the way through.

DW: Things have become more homogenized in American radio, because they are playing it sate. There is no risk involved. Even with their popularity, everyone is just playing in the sale ballpark that everyone else is doing. They become another face in the crowd. Someone like you, on the other hand, gets involved with a higher degree of risk because you are putting your artistic integrity and everything on the line. There just needs a few people like yourself to show the difference. We believe that there should be contrast, so everything isn’t the same, and there is a choice, not just what‘s dictated by the powers that govern popular culture.

Let’s go on. Tell us of your video series for Brevard Community College.

SJ: Originally it was going to be called “Biography of An Artist.” I was going to talk about the things that have happened to me through the years and all of the albums that l have made. But that didn’t really trigger of any great interest in the powers-that-be who run the college.

So instead I decided to propose something that would appeal to them more. I then dreamed up this idea of “The Art Of The Music Workstation.”

I thought that it would be a good idea to show people how the idea of the workstation works as far as enabling people to compose music is concerned. In this way, it can be done very quickly, spontaneously and completely. So they asked me to do a thirteen-hour episode video. Thirteen hours of me yapping and playing. (laughter)

DW: There have been instructional music videos dealing with areas of synthesis and music theory. This is nothing that anyone has ever done before quite as completely as you have. Nothing covers the whole spectrum from composing to equipment like this video series does.

SJ: Right, I don’t think it had been done. I find that quite unbelievable. Even when you think of all the rock and popular music – which is mostly done on synthesizers – nobody in the schools, universities or colleges have ever done a complete video course like this. The development of the synthesizer, the workstation, etc. Even in the music business, people don’t really relate to the idea oi a music workstation. They still think a “workstation” means a computer. They still think of lots of equipment hooked together, not having everything all in one place.

Very few individuals have clicked onto the fact that we are now entering a new age of composing music, as far as simplicity, affordability and versatility are concerned. The workstation is the future as far as I’m concerned. It’s all in there with the dedicated computer whose functions are wrapped around the keyboard. Everything is designed for the composer/musician to do everything from start to finish in one place. This is something that I made a good example of with the album “Escape” because that was all it was. It was just a stereo output from the keyboard straight into the DAT master. There was nothing in between. I know that there are many people who have them and don’t realize that. Probably most people don’t realize that. Even though l tell them, they still don’t take it in.

DW: Well, they wouldn’t even be aware of how this new recording process is done. People tend to think of doing things the old way of going through all the multitracking and overdubbing and everything. You, on the other hand, are using just one machine in real time…

SJ: It’s all completely done from start to finish on that machine. That means that most of it was done with me being able just to sit anywhere with a pair of headphones and this keyboard and do it. That’s the other thing. I didn’t even have a speaker setup. I literally just created the album using that keyboard and a pair of headphones. The whole thing was done without even a recording studio. Even the mixing was done that way. It is completely transportable. Just put it under your arm and off you go.

DW: People would be surprised to realize that not only did you do things on camera and create the music, you were also behind the scenes working with the video production itself.

SJ: Yes. And the other thing about the telecourse is at the end of each episode, there is a piece from any one of the three live gigs I played at Brevard Community College. I also managed to slot my computer animation work in there as well.

DW: The video series is a full-fledged telecourse.

SJ: Yes, it’s an approved course with a proper class number. The students get a certain amount of credit hours for it and all that stuff.

The whole series is presented from a beginner’s view. I’ve designed it so that whomever I am talking to could be someone who has never seen a synthesizer before. It starts simple and gets more complex as it goes on. In the first episode, I am showing how recording and multitracking started, how the composers used tape recorders and recording techniques in an earlier time to write their music and how that developed into the music workstation which I believe is the future. At this point, I’m probably one of the few who believes that way.

The idea of the workstation has been a futuristic goal for me. The next step is to combine music and visuals with this technology. That will be a further development of the workstation as I see it. That way you can sit at this machine and make a new artform, combining visuals and sound at the same time in a spontaneous way because it would be so simple to control. One would be wearing eyephones as well as headphones. You would be sitting there designing your own world. That’s where it’s going.

DW: Do you listen to your own albums?

SJ: Lately I tend to listen to my stuff less and less. At one time, I used to listen to it a lot but I don’t really listen to my own stuff anymore.

DW: It’s more or less that you’ve done it and accomplished it in the past and you’d rather keep your mind going on what is happening in the future?

SJ: I think that is what it is, really. All those albums including “Warrior”; it’s like I spent so long writing music. I devoted most of my life to it. That was a completion in a way. A sort of a period, the end of an era.

DW: Thanks Steve, I’ve really enjoyed this time that we’ve had talking together. I wish you much success and happiness for the future.

SJ: Thank you too.. I’ve always thought that it was more important to progress artistically than to just make money. Progressing in the arts has always been closer to my heart. Otherwise, I lose the fun of it and it doesn’t become as interesting to me. There are, after all, easier ways to make money.

DW: Yes, but isn’t it more important to find your bliss, where you are happiest?

SJ: That’s right. Follow the path of the heart…that’s what I think it’s all about.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The DREAMS WORD Credo (the official ethical policy for this newsletter) states: “1. The manuscripts to all interviews… must always be previewed and approved by the interviewee prior to publication.” Unfortunately, Steve Jolliffe was not available when the time came for him to approve the final edit of this interview.

By the time you read this, Steve will have seen it as well. We hereby invite the artist to please send us any clarifications that he would like to see in this interview. We will then print them in the next issue of DREAMS WORD.)

2015 information from Christopher:
Steve Jolliffe’s web site is and my own 2015 summary of Steve’s music biography is here.