I decided to
'form' Modulator ESP as an outlet for my desire to produce
improvisational electronic music. I compose my music using synthesizers,
sequencers and samplers and spend far too much of my time on sound design.
I am into a wide range of music from ambient electronica to thrash metal via
all points between and tend to like weird or progressive stuff. I
listen to music because it takes me away from the humdrum reality
of everyday life and into new worlds of imagination. I play music
so I can design my own new worlds. I am happy to include in my musical influences such
diverse acts as Airsculpture, Dream Theater, IQ, Jean Michel Jarre,
Radio Massacre International, Redshift,
Tangerine Dream and Yes.
December 1968 - Spent childhood living in
various places in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire moved to
Nottingham in 1987 to attend what was then Trent Polytechnic.
First album bought - BBC Space Themes - a selection of music from SF and
Space TV programs.
Earliest musical influences - Dr Who incidental music created by the BBC
Radiophonic workshop and music by French composer Jean Michel Jarre,
particularly the albums Oxygene and Equinoxe.
moving to Nottingham in 1987 to attend Trent Polytechnic, my musical
horizons expanded even more and I discovered lots of great bands, including
Demon, Hawkwind, Journey, Metallica, Pallas, Queensryche, Saga, Tangerine Dream,
Twelfth Night, Yes and loads of other stuff,
mostly anything melodic from AOR to prog to metal and all points
in-between, usually avoiding anything that could be considered mainstream
pop as I preferred music with drama and intensity,
experimentation and a wide range of sonic colors.
My first attempt at playing an instrument was whilst I was
at Trent Polytechnic - I bought a Kay Les Paul copy guitar from my friend Stuart, but was defeated by
a very high action and in the end sold it to another friend. Rock
super-stardom nipped in the bud? It put me off playing guitar for a long time.
In the early 90's with the advent
of grunge I became very disillusioned with the state of rock music,
feeling that new bands seemed to have taken a step backwards musically,
towards punk, which had had a similar affect on the music scene in the
late 70’s, driving all the so-called ‘classic progressive’ rock
acts underground. At this point I bought my first synthesizer, the very
simple analog Korg Sigma, and started on what would be a very long
journey, with my intended destination being the ability to play the kind
of music I loved, because most of my favorite bands seemed to have
given up or disappeared underground in the new musical climate. My first musical efforts over the
next few years comprised mostly of some very basic synth rock in the
Tangerine Dream / Jean Michel Jarre mode, with odd songs that had lyrics sounding
very synth pop. Material written during this period was recorded
as Chameleon and later on I changed the name to Kamelian. A few friends got copies
of these tapes and (hopefully) I still have the midi files on disk.
By 1994 I felt
I needed to play with other musicians and advertised to try to get a
band together. One person who responded was a certain David Waddington -
who it transpired I had a lot in common with musically. So we set about
writing and recording our first project 'Spiritland' featuring David on
vocals, guitars and bass and myself doing the keyboards and drum
programming. The whole project was put together very quickly in my bed-sit,
using just a 4-track. People we played it to said it reminded them of
Rush, Marillion and Blue Oyster Cult, so we were quite chuffed as we
both thought these were great bands and definite musical inspirations.
(artwork for Spiritland - Awakenings - by
Having completed the recording of what became 'Awakenings', we set out to get a band together to
perform the songs live. Everyone we had played the tape to had found
something in the music that they liked, so it was quite a shock when it
transpired that David had sent a copy of the tape off to his musical
hero Toyah, who offered him a job playing guitar in her band, leading
to rather an abrupt end for Spiritland, and the
demise of my first musical collaboration. UPDATE David is now going by the name of David Stanley and playing guitar in a band called Franklin.
music is now available for streaming and downloading from Soundclick
(click on music
to go directly to download page).
(artwork for Voyage Within - Awakened - by Jez Creek)
Time to start looking for other musicians again, this
time leading to project number 2, progressive rock band Voyage, this
time with myself on keyboards, Simon Rawicz on guitar, Richard Fox on
bass, Rob Sheen on vocals and more drum programming this time shared
between Simon and myself. At this time we were all heavily into Dream
Theater, Rush and Queensryche, all bands playing very technically
complex music. So, unsurprisingly we ended up writing music in a similar
Our music tended to be of a very 'progressive' nature which,
although technically quite demanding with long songs, time changes,
poly-rhythms and odd key changes, tried to include contemporary sounds,
incorporating techno and dance drum rhythms into a rock format. It took
us a long time to find a vocalist who could sing over the instrumental
material we had written and we never found a drummer who could come
close to what we wanted in the rhythm department. We only managed to play
live on 3 occasions and recorded a 4 track demo at Bandwagon studios in
Mansfield with the proceeds from one of our gigs. Voyage seemed like
quite a good prospect for some kind of success until differences of
opinion between Simon and myself led to my departure in 1997. During
this period I had moved to work in Lincolnshire, which didn't help
matters at all. I am quite sorry that things turned out how they did, as
I had high hopes for the band which had actually become ‘Voyage
Within’ when we discovered that there had been a French disco act of
the same name in the 70’s.
Made in the Shade/ Shadowdancer
I decided to take a break from bands for a while, as I felt
disillusioned with playing with other people and need to spend time
working on playing and compositional skills. However, by late 1999 I had
that ‘itch’ to play with other people once more. I was working in
musical instrument retail at the time and decided to go and see a gig by a
couple of people I had met through work. They were Dave
Davies (who I had sold a drum machine to) and David Atkins (who always
seemed to buy his stuff from the competition) and together they were
playing as ‘Made in the Shade’. The gig was at Berlins, in Hockley, a fairly
‘trendy’ bar, and was quite interesting. Musically the Shade were a
strange proposition, a combination of folk and rock, with some nice synth sounds/fx married to quite
strong bass-lines and some very spacey rock guitar. Visually Mr. Atkins
put his all into a very theatrical performance, which was probably wasted
on what little audience was present, most of whom seemed to be ignoring
what was occurring on stage. However, in my opinion they were trying to
do too much, with Mr. Atkins not only singing and playing guitar, but
trying to get his backing sequences and drum machine going all at once
was proving very difficult. So, afterwards I decided, on the spur of the moment, to
offer my services as keyboard player/drum programmer. So began my time
with Made in the Shade.
After a while we discovered that the name Made in the Shade was already
in use so we decided to change our name to Shadowdancer. We recorded an album
entitled 'The Darkness and the Light' featuring re-worked version of songs by both
David Atkins and Dave Davies, which was well received by those who had a
chance to hear it. Over the course of the next 3 years the band
developed a more progressive sound and started work on a new album,
featuring more band based compositions. During this time we performed
extensively around Nottingham, attracting a diverse range of people.
However, by 2003 I felt the need for a change and decided to leave to
pursue a more improvisational, instrumental approach, returning to my
first love - electronic music. After six months of preparation and
planning I felt it was time to start my new project and Modulator ESP was born...
music is now available for streaming and downloading from Soundclick
(click on music
to go directly to download page).
Evolution of Modulator
this time I discovered the Arturia Moog Modular V (a software
emulation of the old Moog Modular IIIc as used live by bands like
Tangerine Dream in the mid to late seventies and nowadays by
Redshift) and found that I loved playing with the sequencer on it.
I only had the demo, but I liked it so much I went off to my local
store to purchase a copy. When I got there I found that a friend
who I'd recently shown it to had only just been in and bought the
last copy, so I ended up with a Nord Micro Modular (a hardware
emulation of a modular synth) instead.
In some ways it could be
said that my music seems to have devolved rather than evolved. Or maybe
it's just evolved backwards. When
I started out making EM it was more in the Andy Pickford/ Mark
Shreeve, lots of layers, very composed sort of style. This was a
sort of side project that I indulged in between being in more
prog/ rock oriented band projects (see above). It was never really
something I could do live so that was never a consideration.
I finally decided to go it alone a couple of years ago and quit
the band I was in at the time. I had also recently discovered that
there was more to EM than TD, Jarre, Pickford and Shreeve and
discovered bands like Arc, RMI, Redshift, Airsculpture, Arcane,
STDM etc that were doing a more retro-styled improvisational take
on EM, which came as quite a revelation to me, as one of the
reasons I'd left the band I was in was that I was tired of the
endless rehearsals and want to do something a bit more freeform. I
knew I still really wanted to play live and I also knew I didn't
want to play along to pre-programmed, structured backing tracks,
so my original style was definitely out.
to snowball from there; especially once I started to get to grips
with the Micro Modular's step sequencers. Next up was a Doepfer
Regelwerk (hardware analog step sequencer), a Line 6 Echo Pro
(delay processor) then a full Nord Modular Keyboard. I got a
Doepfer MAQ16/3 (hardware analog step sequencer) earlier
this year and finally integrated it into my setup only recently
and am still getting to grips with it. A P3 is lined up for later
this year :)
got into playing synths because I loved the electronic/ synthetic
other worldly nature of the sounds so Ambient/ Berlin School EM is
probably the best style for me. I'll probably stick with it, but
hopefully stretch the boundaries a little as I get more proficient
and incorporate some more of my progressive influences.
Interview for LeftLion, December
This interview was for a local music magazine/website/promoter
prior to my first appearance at the Orange Tree with Formication
on the Monday 19th January 2006.
When did you begin to record as Modulator ESP?
Well, I have been recording bits and pieces in between playing in
bands since the early nineties, though I didn't actually decide to
use the name until about 2001. It was then I compiled my first
proper solo album Random Fluctuations out of the best stuff
I'd produced over the previous five or so years. More recent
albums as Modulator ESP have all been recordings of improvised
gigs. I'm just about to start work on my second studio album, if I
can ever make the time.
How would you describe your style to new punters? A mixture
of dark ambient, '70s electronic music (Jean Michel Jarre/
Tangerine Dream) and prog rock (Rick Wakeman). To people who don't
know the music of the artists mentioned I'd say it was spacey
instrumental music, the sort of music they would play in
So what exactly is this experimental synth project? A 'get
out clause' so that I can do different things when I want to
without getting labelled as one particular style. Also a way to
get round the one small problem I discovered after choosing to
call my project Modulator, that there is an American pop/rock band
who have been using it slightly longer.
What instruments and kit do you use to create the music? I
use analog and digital synthesizers in combination with analog
style step sequencers that allow real time interaction with the
sounds and the rhythmic parts enabling me to improvise more
Tell us about the other bands you've been in during your time
in Nottingham? I've been in three 'bands' in my time in
Nottingham: Spiritland was a studio project with a
guitarist called Dave, we made a tape and then he left to play
with Toyah, she dumped him after the tour and he lives down
somewhere down South. Voyage Within was an obscure 'prog'
band. We did three gigs, very weird, complicated music in all
sorts of odd time signatures. We had terrible problems with
drummers and vocalists and were an instrumental band for most of
the time we were together. I left due to 'personal' differences. Made
in the Shade/ Shadowdancer was the last band, doing quirky
melodic rock/pop, with another two guys called Dave, we did lots
of gigs around Nottingham and even one in Derby, again without a
drummer. I left to do my own thing, which turned out to be the
current project and I'm also in another band called Astrogator
with a chap from Manchester.
If you could get anyone in to hook up on a track, who would you
choose? I'd quite like to do some stuff with a guitarist,
someone like a young Dave Gilmour or Robert Fripp, into more
What other music in Nottingham are you feeling? Not a lot
really, there doesn't seem to be anyone doing the sort of stuff
I'm into in the city these days. I mostly go to gigs up in Leeds
or at the National Space Centre at Leicester.
What other music are you feeling generally At the moment,
I'm listening to lot of pretty obscure electronic music, stuff by
Steve Roach, Stephen Parsick/ ramp, a band called Node etc.
What's your idea of a good night out in Nottingham? On a
night out I generally prefer the rock end of the music spectrum,
so I like the Tap and Tumbler for a drink and then on to Rock
Do you follow County of Forest? Neither, I'm afraid I've
never understood the appeal of *expletive deleted*.
Who is your ultimate Nottingham hero? After much
deliberation I'd have to say Richard Beckinsale, he was funny and
it was tragic that he died so young.
What was the last thing that made you laugh? Marvin the
Paranoid Android shooting the Vogon soldiers with the Point Of
View gun at the end of the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy
movie, leaving them all collapsed on the floor moaning about how
depressed they were. Sad to say that was probably the funniest bit
of the film.
What was the last thing that made you cry? The end of King
Kong, when Kong dies at the top of the Empire State building
You're into your films then. What have you seen recently? I
went to see King Kong on my birthday, fantastic, made me laugh and
cry and even feel a bit sick. I've just watched The Hitchhiker's
Guide to the Galaxy on DVD. I couldn't bring myself to see it at
the cinema after reading a review that slated it, I'm a huge fan
of the books. It was an interesting experience, with great
visuals, but I felt it suffered from superfluous additions to the
plot, crap characters and the wanton removal of all Douglas Adams
jokes. I did laugh occasionally though, the POV gun amused me.
What was the last book you read? Batman Year One, graphic
novel by Frank Miller, an extended take on the Batman origin
detailing his first year as a fighting crime and corruption in
What can we expect from your gig at the Orange Tree?
Depending on time, one or maybe two quite long evolving improvised
pieces, with some weird abstract bits and some more rhythmic,
melodic bits. There are several good examples of live sets
available from my website, including one recorded very early on
New Years Day which was streamed live around the world.
Is there any question that you really wish we had asked you..?
No, these have been pretty comprehensive.
Anything else you'd like to say to LeftLion readers? Come
to the gig at the Orange Tree if you fancy an evening of music
almost but not completely unlike anything you will hear anywhere
- all content copyright 2004 Modulator ESP and Jez Creek
All photos and artwork by Jez Creek unless otherwise stated.