Sonarpilot Profile Page
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In 2008 producer and composer Michael Moppert made a long-held dream come true. After 15 years away from the mixing desk Michael left his position as CEO of a successful software company he founded in 1993 to re-focus on his lifelong musical passion. The multi-talented Swiss musician, who launched a small 16-track studio in the 1980s in his hometown of Basel while studying history at the local university, is currently putting the finishing touches on a dynamic ambient electronic instrumental project under the concept and name of Sonarpilot. The first release, a double CD titled "Mothership", includes expansive, richly textured tracks that evolve in unique and surprising ways. It is scheduled for release June 8, 2010.
Taking a unique approach to his long awaited return to composing and producing, Michael has developed the character of "Sonarpilot". "Sonarpilot is my musical alter ego", says Michael. "Think of him as the enigmatic captain of a futuristic vessel that explores remote sonic spaces. As the guide who takes his listeners on a fascinating journey, he takes on a somewhat remote persona, a contemporary version of David Bowie's Major Tom." From ‘First Contact,' the trippy, 23 minute jaunt into deep space electronica that starts with mystical underwater sonar pings, through the loungey, Far East minimal groove of ‘Osaka,' the tracks build as acoustic notes of Sonarpilot's singular excursions, almost like sonic log files.
By design, the tracks do not follow the usual structure or length of a pop song or techno track. Often they launch from one quadrant of sonic space, explore that area and then move on to another sector. Michael adds twists and turns to his sonic landscapes, reflecting his love for books and films that take unexpected plot turns. Sonarpilot's sonic diaries include this element of surprise, making it a perfect soundtrack for listeners with a curious mind and an appetite for unconventional contemporary electronic music.
Michael has always been fascinated by minimalist electronic music. But when he was making music in his teens, the available technology was limited - and expensive. "That's why I started my own recording studio back in the 1980s: I produced bands to pay for the equipment - and when the studio wasn't booked I could work on my own material in a professional environment. I wasn't making any money, but I learned a ton about making music. Still today, this experience is the basis of my creative work," Michael says.
When he started to produce again last year, Michael was blown away by the progress technology has made in the last 15 years. "Today you get a computer with a massive software package, thousands of sounds and a fully automated mixing desk with all the effects you can dream of for the money you had to pay for a couple days of studio time back in the 80's," he explains.
Now, blending his love of off the beaten path music and with the means to work with an unlimited arsenal of sounds, he is excited more than ever before about the unlimited sonic possibilities before him. He sees the end result of Sonarpilot's music as "a personal soundtrack you take with you, a multi-layered palette that you can add new color to with each fresh experience."
"Sonarpilot's music is very accessible in terms of the melodic content and the overall sound," Michael adds. "But it does not necessarily follow the listener's normal expectations regarding genre or structure of a track. My goal is to make music that is not intrusive, that blends into your natural environment but that is interesting enough so you want to listen to it and discover new and interesting elements with each hearing. It's like an acoustic companion with a certain contemplative meditative aspect - perfect for a walk on the beach, a long train ride, a flight or to chill at home."
"First Contact", the opening track on Sonarpilot's album "Mothership", illustrates the way Sonarpilot builds his compositions: The piece begins in a wide open space where you hear the subtle pings underwater underwater - a reminiscence of Pink Floyd's early 70s classic track "Echoes. There are blank spaces between the pings, which grow louder as you imagine the vessel coming towards you. A pattern of piano notes emerges out of the distance and creates space around the vessel as it gets closer still. With its later sense that the piano is bubbling up through the murky water, the track draws inspiration from "Aquarium," a piece composed by French composer Camille Saint-Saens as part of his cycle "Le Carnaval Des Animaux" before moving on into a sequence of trippy ambient techno parts. Think Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" remixed by Underworld.
The mix of psychedelic concept-album influences and contemporary electronic music is typical for the sound of Sonarpilot: Growing up in the 70s, Michael was fascinated by innovative artists from Bowie, Pink Floyd and Roxy Music to the electronic output of pioneers like Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk and Jean-Michel Jarre. With the explosion of Punk and New Wave, Sonarpilot was inspired to make music himself. He acquired an electric guitar, a 4-track tape recorder, a slightly battered TR 606 drum machine and a Korg MS-20 analog synth, and began to work. Main influences at that time were british synth-pop bands such as Yazoo, Bronski Beat, New Order, Heaven 17 and the Eurythmics as well as more experimental artists such as Brian Eno and Laurie Anderson.
When he opened his own studio, Michael began to use extensively digital technology, samplers and synthesizers. Towards the end of the 1980's his sound was losing the typical song-structure, tracks became longer and increasingly technoid. Then came real life, the founding of what became a multi-million dollar international corporation, travels around the world and years in exile from his musical passion. In 2008, he handed over the day to day operations to a successor, grabbed his old guitar from the attic, bought a pile of computer based sound equipment and, as if welcoming an old friend back into his life, began again making music.
"When I started after a break of 15 years, I didn't know what would happen," he says. "Could I still do this? Could I still make music that was personally exciting to me and relevant to people in the late 2000s? I was happily surprised that the experience was like stepping back into a wonderful old place that I hadn't been to in a long time. The creative process felt immediately familiar and very comfortable, as if you put on an old cherished sweater that had been set aside for a long time. Soon I was working all day long on new material and quickly it grew into an expansive concept that incorporated my longtime influences and new sounds I began experimenting with. That's when I realized that I needed a unique identity to transport the experience of these sonic landscapes - so I created Sonarpilot! I am very excited about the project. It's been an extraordinary journey and I can't wait to see where it takes me next. I look very much forward to releasing the material and sending Sonarpilot on his journey to the hearts and minds of interested listeners."