Medwyn Interviews Wychazel about his 2012 album SHAMAN 3.
(Medwyn) SO….(pause for effect)…..Chris..how long have you been under the illusion that you were actually called Wychazel?
(Chris) (laughs) My own name looks pretty ordinary on a CD cover so I don’t like to use it. Wychazel seemed like a nice choice for an alias because it conjours up all kinds of New Age images which are appropriate for my style music. I could go on and on about this but . . . are you still awake?
(Medwyn) How would you define Wychazel as an artist, or style? Wychazel has brought to the audience a very unique brand of music that is both a mixture of authentic workshops with Tibetan bowls and shamanic drums and the meditational, exotic soundscapes of titles like Mystique and Walkabout.
(Chris) Wychazel is all about meditational soundscapes and unusual authentic sounds. With so many good musicians out there writing music using the same software packages, the challenge is to come up with something different. I have always liked uncomplicated arrangements, the kind of nebulous music you can drift off to sleep to where sounds and textures take precedence over melody lines and complicated arrangements. I also have an interest in how psychoacoustics can be used to enhance the visualization and relaxational qualities of sound and like to incorporate some of these techniques in my work.
(Medwyn) Are you pleased and feel you accomplished what you wanted with this trilogy?
(Chris) I think it is fair to say nobody expected it to do as well as it has and I’ve been delighted with the response – and with my award A big thank-you to everybody out there who has been buying it.
(Medwyn) The trilogy is very obviously a hands on series, very authentic. How did you go about recording and creating this trilogy?
(Chris) I wasn’t completely new to the spiritual beliefs and ideas behind Shamanic drumming, having attended various drumming circles and Shamanic events (I have some strange friends). During my background research, I was intrigued to find links between Shamanic drumming and psychoacoustic theory. It was a case of modern thinking reinforcing old beliefs. Much of this is arguable although the low binaural sound frequencies produced by the drums coupled with their fast and steady drumming tempo does fall within the same bandwidth as Theta wave cycles in the brain. Theta waves are associated with visualization, trance and some sleep states.
(Medwyn) What future projects are you looking forward to creating and please answer in 4 words or less.
(Chris) . . . tea would be nice
(Medwyn) Is there anything that separates the three SHAMAN titles from each other or was it your intention for the trilogy to be more a continuation of the whole? Maybe you could take us briefly through all three (looks at his watch and remembers the cheesecake shop down the road)
(Chris) (… sees Medwyn glance at his watch and suspects he’s thinking about the cheesecake shop down the road) Shamanic drum rhythms don’t have the same rhythmic diversity or complexity as, say, African, Arab or Indian styles so it is fair to say that all three albums are similar as regards tempo and drumming technique. The albums don’t try to break any of the established rules in this regard. The first Shaman album in the series is best thought of as an introduction and is the most basic of the three. Shaman 2 is different to Shaman 1 in that there are a couple more drums involved and the drumming builds up to more intense levels. There is also less emphasis on the Native American flute in Shaman 2. The third album revisits two of the rhythms that have attracted the most comment from listeners: Heartbeat II and another vision quest track incorporating the evocative sounds of wolves. Also on the third album is a straight Theta-Beat track. This kind of track could almost be described as “standard” because it is the simplest and most common rhythm you will find on many other albums and clips on YouTube etc. This track wouldn’t win any prizes for varied arrangement but has been included to complete the series and is quite possibly the track which displays the most psychoacoustic qualities in the whole collection – the essence of Shamanic drumming.
(Medwyn) For the more technically minded of us was there a recording process to the trilogy. I ask because SHAMAN is 100% hands on authentic drums and drumming, and from personal experience anything real and acoustic is difficult to record well. It’s not just about performance it is about the ability to capture the performance well.
(Chris) Microphone placement is the big consideration. Too close, the drum sound lacks attack and is too sustained and boomy, too far away sounds like someone hitting a cardboard box. The angle of the microphone to the skin makes a big difference too so trial and error is key. Natural-skin drums are susceptable to changes in temperature and humidity and will sound subtley different from day to day. All this works to advantage though because it enables one drum to sound like several different drums when recorded over a few days. Each album track represents a mix of anything between 12 to 20+ separate drumming tracks and the result is a very full sound that is only normally heard in a live drumming circle. I did allow myself a few cheats, namely a few atmospheric effects to enhance the idea of vision quest (avoiding any sounds you wouldn’t associate with the Shamanic concept) and a “deep boom” drum sound from Omnisphere to enhance the bass.
For any teckies out there, my choice of microphone was the SE Z3300A. This is a condensor mic that gives a nice thin sound – ideal for drums of this type because it yields clear high-end frequencies to play around with in the mix. Generally you can add all the bass you wish but higher frequencies are not so easy to bring out unless they are present in the original recording. Oh, and the whole recording process started off with a click track to set the right tempo.
(Medwyn) What is your next release about? and more importantly will it prevent my release from reaching number one again? (momentarily considers the dark side, death grip, black helmet, and the cool mini spacecraft that comes with the job)
(Chris) (laughs nervously, glances towards nearest exit and checks inside-pocket for tazer just in case) Following my visit to your wonderful studio during the summer, I came away infected with some kind of enthusiasm virus which has been compelling me to buy a few more bits of recording kit. It’s all your fault really that I have two new works in the pipeline. The first project “Temptation” is a laid-back rhythmic album with an eastern feel. The second is a Native American theme which picks up where Shaman left off – atmospheric backgrounds for vizualization with minimal Shamanic drum beats, nebulous synths, Native American flutes and environmental effects. But for now I’m keeping my fingers well crossed for the success of Shaman 3.