Grok found time to chat with New Zealand electronic artist Pacific Heights about his latest single The End Is Near from forthcoming album A Lost Light, as well as the inspiration and creative process behind the latest record.
Coming out of Shapeshifter—a pretty big deal on the d&b scene in New Zealand—how has the journey as an independent artist been for you since emerging from that group?
Really quite easy. I have always been a solo artist alongside Shapeshifter. All of the networks and community that I connected with during my time in Shapeshifter assisted with pushing my solo work after my departure from the band. The toughest factor was getting used to working for and by myself as a fulltime thing.
How does the experience of being a part of a project like Pacific Heights differ from being a part of a big group like Shapeshifter?
Completely different in many ways. Pacific Heights, to me, is much more niche-sounding music and has never had to deal with the expectation and commercial requirements that Shapeshifter had going on. The pressure valve was well and truly off with Pacific Heights, which allowed me to jump in and out of the entity as I wanted to.
On to latest album, A Lost Light: there is a historical story or narrative behind the record; and the latest single, The End Is in Sight is the latest episode in the narrative. Does the story come independently from the music, of which you must imbue the soundtrack into it, or does the story rise out from the sound itself?
The story definitely enlightened the creation process of the music. I knew that a dream such as the one that I had which pre-empted the album was a rare experience for myself, and wanted to make sure that that experience informed the creation of the album. A full blueprint was laid out in the text with timelines and emotional cues to guide the writing of the album.
The End Is in Sight has a conclusive, definitive tone. With some pretty strong vocals from Joe Dukie and a nice overlay of synth, what was the set up to achieve the final aura for this track?
Lots of automation! I wanted all of the sounds to have a peak moment, almost crashing into each other towards the end of the song. All of the synth’s filters open up slowly over the second half of the track, with the drum layers building piece by piece and building into a crescendo where the sonics almost overwhelm the listener. I wanted this tune to sonically represent the turning point in the narrative of the album’s concept—the impending storm that is about to throw us off our ship in the middle of a deep ocean.
The story behind the record is a story of settlers and colonists. Did you draw a lot of inspiration from the history of New Zealand, or perhaps even your family’s history?
I don’t have any lineage that is in symmetry with this story that I am aware of. My family is predominantly Irish and Scottish and were not early migrants to New Zealand. I really do think this dream was like lighting in a bottle and just hit me with its might and left me to process it upon waking. I do have a fascination with what it might have been like seeing New Zealand prior to human existence, though.
This isn’t the first time where you have worked with different mediums when creating music. You worked with graphic artist Matthew Eales on The Stillness which included illustrations of birds accompanying the tracks. Do you draw a lot of inspiration from different artistic mediums and can you say the same has happened with A Lost Light?
I love all forms of art. If something resonates emotionally with me, challenges my thinking or beliefs, or inspires me to want to create, I think that deserves attention. I love collaborating with artists of different practices as you can easily end up creating something that might not exist within your own discipline and palate.
What can we expect next from Pacific Heights?
With director Rob Burrowes, we have created a short film to accompany the release of this album. I am also hoping to bring this album into the live performance arena at some point, ideally with a small chamber orchestra, choir and band. Hopefully another album!
Pacific Heights’ upcoming album A Lost Light is set for release August 31.