– I didn’t want to make “normal” music
Sion Orgon is an artist whose work is difficult to describe in one term. On his albums we can hear many different genres, electroacoustic music, ambient, industrial, pop and psychedelia. His music is multi-layered, multi-colored. Each album is a big unknown, we never know what we will listen on a given album. I invite you to an interview with this interesting artist.
MM: Hi Sion! I hope you’re okay and you’re coping in these strange, pandemic times…
Sion Orgon: Very strange times indeed… who knows where this is all leading.
MM: Listening to your albums, I have the impression that there are sounds from different opposite sound poles. Which is, of course, very interesting and unique. I find there a combination of many genres such as ambient, electroacoustics, pop, avant-garde rock. What are your musical roots?
SO: My musical roots are very simple. I grew up listening to my parents music collection, which consisted mostly of The Beatles records. My dad inspired me to take up drums when I was 13, as he was a casual drummer in the 1960’s and was incessantly tapping throughout my childhood. I started playing in Thrash, Indie and Psychedelic bands from the age of 15, and this started an interest in recording. I bought my first Tascam 4 track which pushed me towards learning other instruments like guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals. From a young age I was interested in collecting/exploring music and this is how I discovered electroacoustic/experimental music. I purchased a Stockhausen record from a second hand vinyl store. I only knew of Stockhausen from the list of people on The Beatles Sgt Pepper album cover. I had no idea what this guy sounded like. But hearing Stockhausen’s Kontakte opened up a huge world of limitless musical ideas that weren’t constrained to a formula. I realised there were no rules and I could mix synth pop with avant-garde, thrash metal with field recordings. This discovery also paved a way for me as a Sound Designer many years later.
MM: Your first album “Orgonised Chaos” was probably the most “experimental” musically. There were also no vocals. How do you read this album now?
SO: I hadn’t actually listened to Orgonised Chaos since the day I finished mixing it. I had to go and dig it out of my archive and listen to it so I could answer your question. When I recorded Orgonised Chaos it was around the time that I was working with Coil and recording/collaborating lots on those early Thighpaulsandra albums. So I guess I was taking influence from them. Also around this time I had some minor success playing in a band called Rocketgoldstar. It was a very eclectic song based band, which relied on a lot of vocal three-part harmonies, and I remember wanting to get away from song structures and create music without words or rules. Music that spoke for itself through sonic structures. But like the title of the record, all the music is made from organising chaos. I would record something random that had no structure, and multitrack other instruments on top then sculpt the sounds until I kinda made some sense of it. BBC Radio 3’s experimental show Mixing It helped promote Orgonised Chaos. They invited me to the legendary BBC MaidaVale Studios in London to record a 4 track live session. It was all new material, performed with a band, that was supposed to end up on the Zsigmondy Experience album, but never did. Hopefully I can release the Sion Orgon – Mixing It session as a CD/Digital download in the near future.
MM: On the next, two albums “The Zsigmondy Experience” and “Recognition Journal”, these avant-garde structures are mixed with more “song” things. There’s guitar, a voice, you’re singing in a few songs. You also used vocoder, which gives these songs a certain, nostalgic atmosphere. How did it happen that such a change took place?
SO: The Zsigmondy Experience and Recognition Journal albums are me trying to fuse all my ideas into one. I love experimental music, but I also love formulaic music. I’m always trying to marry the two. I know it probably ends up being a challenging listen, but that’s what I like. When I write music I never have a pre-conception of how its going to turn out. I also like to collaborate with other artists. There are a lot of collaborations on those two albums with various artists like Peter Christopherson (Coil, Throbbing Gristle), Mike Edwards (Jesus Jones), Thighpaulsandra (Coil, Hawkwind)… etc.
MM: The fourth album is “The Black Object”, where we can hear a kind of return to this experimental side of Sion Orgon. We hear a lot of concrete music, and there is also some noise based compositions.
SO: I wanted to make a quick album for NIFE Records based in the USA and The Black Object is that album. Using the same working practice as Orgonised Chaos, I basically created hours of sounds and landscapes using my modular system, Moog mono synths and collected field recordings, twisting them in various software programmes. I then pieced them all together, to create something cohesive… hence the organised chaos.
MM: Your latest album “DUST “. For me, the most perfect of your albums. Of course, as always, we get a mixture of many genres; aggressive rhythms mixed with beautiful vocal harmonies, there are also industrial and ambient structures. For me, this is one of the most interesting albums of 2021.
SO: Thank you. DUST is definitely my favourite release so far. Again it’s me trying to mould and sculpt all my musical interests into one harmonious thing. It took me almost forever to create. Unfortunately, it took as long to release the album as it took to make it, due to the pandemic-induced backlog in every vinyl printing plant. But it was worth the wait. I plan to release DUST in CD format come summer 2022.
MM: You have released most of your albums on Lumberton Trading Company. Richard Johnson (Splintered, Theme), currently living in Poland, is responsible for this label. How did you get to this label? Richard also sings on your latest album “Dust”.
SO: I know Richo through his Adverse Effect Magazine. I think I contacted him to ask if he would be willing to review Orgonised Chaos and this communication lead to a great friendship and four releases. Richo champions music that needs to be heard and thank fuck he does what he does! He works incredibly hard to constantly put out new releases and to keep his labels (Lumberton Trading \ Fourth Dimension Records) running. I master a lot of the releases that come out on those labels, including Richo’s own bands that he performs with; Splintered and Theme. Being the vocalist, I asked him to collaborate with me on something, and Spat Out Like Dust is the result.
MM: I would also like to ask about your collaborations with Thigpaulsandra. You’ve played on several of his albums, and he’s also supported you on your albums. How did your musical realationship come about?
SO: I met Thighpaulsandra in 1999 at Loco Recording Studios, Wales, whilst recording a BBC Radio 1 session with the band I was in, Rocketgoldstar. Thighpaulsandra was the recording engineer. We found that we have similar tastes in music and humour and our musical relationship grew from there, with Thighp inviting me to play percussion and backing vocals on his debut album I Thighpaulsandra. Since then I have been lucky enough to perform on 9 of his releases, as well as tour internationally. Likewise……. Thighp is always keen to return a favour and happily contributes to my albums….Thighp is a incredibly inspiring musician with a mass of experience, defiantly one of a kind.
MM: Thigpaulsandra performed in 2011 at the Wrocław Industrial Festival in Poland. You played on drums at this concert. It was a great gig. Do you remember your visit in our country?
SO: I do remember this show, it was pretty epic and a lot of fun. I was on tour in the UK at the same time with a physical theatre company as a live musician and I had to find someone who could replace me for a few shows so that I could perform at WIF which was a tough ask as I was playing a lot of accordion in the theatre show. I think the Wroclaw Industrial Festival is a brilliantly unique event run by really cool people.I was due to preform again at the festival in 2020 with Thighpaulsandra but the pandemic soon put a stop to that. I was also supposed to perform what would have been my first solo show. I think we (Thighpaulsandra band) are penciled in for 2022 WIF ……..virus permitting.
MM: I wanted to ask about Peter Christopherson. Peter appeared on your 7″ “Into The Dark”. What was it like working with him? How do you rate his entire musical activity at all?
SO: Working with Peter was fun even though it was done remotely as he was living in Thailand at that point. I would create some odd rhythms on a drum machine or record some text and then send them over to Peter. He would manipulate them using software in that Sleazy way and then I would add them into a project. A few tracks came out of our collaborations. I still have some unfinished ideas I created with him, which I will try and mix and add to another release. I’m very familiar with Sleazy’s work in Throbbing Gristle and Coil, as well as him being this most amazing visual artist with such a brilliant repertoire. I think he’s definitely one of those groundbreaking artists who tore up the rule book and did things his way.
MM: A few years ago, your list of favourite albums of all time appeared on the pages of Adverse Effect Magazine. Next to Can, Talk Talk, The Beatles and Ryuichi Sakamoto you added Karlheinz Stockhausen. Sometimes listening to your albums I have the impression that your music has a lot in common with his compositions.
SO: Stockhausen is a huge influence on me. Like I’ve mentioned, hearing Stockhausen for the first time was a mind blowing experience. It taught me that noise is music and there doesn’t have to be musical barriers or constraints in a creative process. I’m equally excited by many other avant garde/ electronic artists like Bernard Parmegiani, Iannis Xeankis, Pierre Boulez, George Crumb as well as modern day experimental composers like Rashad Becker and Colin Stetson.
MM: Looking at the set of instruments you use to create your albums, I think you can be called a multi-instrumentalist. How many instruments can you play?
SO: Haha… I could probably play one thing on any instrument that sounds acceptable (subjective) if I explore its function for long enough. I’m not a virtuoso musician by any stretch. I’m an autodidact musician, I’ve never had a music lesson in my life other than the generic ones you get in school. But somehow I’ve managed to forge a career in the music industry as an artist, musician, sound designer and mastering engineer. I will often pick up an instrument that feels totally alien to me and squeeze something out of it that I can use in a piece. In most cases I will manipulate and twist the raw sound of the instrument into something that is totally unrecognisable to its original form.
MM: You are a very busy person. Except your solo activity, you are also a multimedia artist, you have created music for films, theatre, animation. Please tell us about it.
SO: I work as a Sound Designer for Theatre and Television, creating audio backdrops or composing music for live theatre shows or Television programmes. Its great fun, very experimental and highly creative work. I also create visual backdrops for live bands like URUK, Thighpaulsandra and Electric Red using my own artwork. I create music videos and short films for various bands and physical theatre company’s. I have also been a mastering engineer for 22 years, working with lots of interesting music.
MM: You live in Cardiff, Wales. What’s interesting going on in your region, what Welsh artists can you recommend?
SO: To be honest I don’t venture out too much these days so I’m not really sure what’s happening out there. Never the less Cardiff is a brilliant place that’s very modern. It’s right on the coast and is one of the most desirable places to live in the UK at the moment. There is a lot of film industry work going on here, with Pinewood and Dragon Studios hosting Hollywood blockbusters, as well as a vibrant music scene with lots of great music and art venues.
MM: Have you already started working on a new album?
SO: Yes, I’m about a year into recording a new album. Again its a no rules experimental album with lots of collaborations. So far it a bigger sounding album than all of my other previous releases, hopefully it should be ready for release sometime in 2023. It takes me forever to make an album due to my other work commitments and the increasing amount of compilation tracks I create throughout a year. There are a lot more drum and vocal inspired tracks on this next album. In the meantime I have just finished an album for Modulisme, a brilliant organisation headed by experimental musician Phillipe Petit that helps promote electro/experimental, modular synth artists and music. The album is much in the same vain as Orgonised Chaos or The Black Object. It’s a collection of experimental sonic landscapes created solely on my Eurorack Modular System, with some treated vocals and guitars which was a great challenge to make as I actually tried to constrain myself to just those 3 instruments. The album, entitled Glorious Infection, will hopefully be released digitally this Spring.
MM: Thank you for an interview.