Jerry Lucky: At what point…if there was such a point…did you think; music was going to
be a major part of your life?
Richard Wileman: Music was always an enjoyable part of my life as an entertainment when growing up, but it didn't properly become something I really wanted to be involved in until I was 16 when I had an electric guitar for a Christmas present. I'd always liked chord buttons on home keyboards and dabbled at learning the keyboard, but when I had the guitar everything changed - I couldn't put it down. Quite a late starter, really.
JL: What music was most important to you at that time?
RW: I was very into to heavy rock/metal and just starting to listen to prog rock too. I was especially into learning Toni Iommi's guitar parts and a little later, Alex Lifeson and Steve Hackett.
JL: As an artist, do you consciously think…oh I must make this sound different from ‘those guys’ or from your previous music for that matter?
RW: As far as my guitar playing goes, yes early influences do linger, although I do attempt to minimise this. As far as composition goes however (which is my main concern), I have so many different influences and interests that I find my music seems to turn out pretty much 'me' anyhow. Its not some grand design to sound 'different' as such, I'm just drawing on a wide range of styles and techniques, that this naturally happens. I love writing for orchestral instruments, making loops, playing percussion, generally experimenting and so on. If anything, I would say Karda Estra sounds closest to the soundtrack composers I admire as they are also working with wide instrumental variety and textures.
JL: The music you made with Lives and Times is quite different…how would describe it?
RW: L&T was a mix of art-pop, indie and prog. Female vocals and mainly song based - although I did slip in some basic, proto-Karda Estra type instrumentals in. We gigged quite a bit and recorded six CD albums plus some collaborations and compilations. Musically not where I'm at now, but I have fond memories. A good experience to have when you're in your 20's and dreaming of fame and fortune ... until reality steps in!
JL: What led to that band’s demise and you going solo?
RW: The usual - including diffences of opinions. There had been a lot of line up changes, no more so than in the last couple of years which included personal issues too. The band had run its course and was probably overdue to finish. Getting my own home studio equipment pretty much re-charged my enthusiasm for music. I could do so much more ideas and arrangement wise - it was a huge jump compositionally for me.
JL: Musically Karda Estra is a very different animal. When you give someone your ‘elevator speech’ where you describe your music, what do you say?
RW: When I've tried in the past, I get such puzzled looks that for many years now, when asked, I reply 'You won't like it.' Saves time! When trying to catagorise on sites like MySpace or Soundclick, I use the terms 'progressive', classical, 'gothic', 'instrumental' etc. There's a strong soundtrack influence too. Yet, I think the most predominant element to my music is my love of chords/harmony. Plus I'm very interested in arrangement and production - from all the classical players I use (lots of woodwind, plus some strings and brass as well as stacked female choral wordless vocals) to electronic instruments, percussion, experiments and of course guitar (electric, classical, bass).
JL: Does Karda Estra have a kind of musical mission?
RW: No mission as such, but I guess I'm keen that it has no limits. Whatever I feel like writing, whatever instruments, players, techniques or ideas I want to use, then I will.
JL: I mentioned to you while listening to your latest CD, “The Last of the Libertine” that I detected familiar hints of John Barry’s James Bond themes. Was that just me or is there something to that?
RW: Well, I would say the track 'Atom of Warmth' has a touch of John Barry. In fact, when my trumpet player was recording, she enquired as to what the opening chord was. When I told her, she said 'Ah, the James Bond chord.' I didn't really figure this when writing as it was composed on classical guitar. As soon as I changed it to piano for the final arrangement though, it instantly had that Barry feel. Which I don't mind as I think Barry is terrific. I have to mention that the tempo and piano feel of the track was more inspired by Ennio Morricone's 'Fistful of Dynamite' title track. Then it all went through the Wileman melancholy grinder! In fact, while I was recording the Libertine album, I was primarily listening to Morricone, discovering several other Italian soundtrack composers like Piero Umiliani, Franco Micalizzi and Bruno Nicolai. Plus discovering the soundtrack music of Roy Budd and the library music of Syd Dale, the Amphonic and Brilliant labels etc. I also got really into the Jimmy Webb composed 5th Dimension album 'The Magic Garden' too - which is especially why the album has an 'intro' track. All of it fantastic music and the main influences the album has, along with my usual prog and classical ones.
JL: Tell me about the people who perform with you?
RW: These are the musicians who have played on my recordings since the inception of Karda Estra: Ileesha Bailey - vocals, Zoe Josey - flute, alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet, Caron Hansford - oboe, cor anglais, bassoon, Helen Dearnley - violin, Louise Hirst - trumpet, Rachel Larkins - viola, violin, Michelle Williams - clarinet, Sarah Higgins - cello, Amy Hedges - clarinet, tenor saxophone, Jemima Palfreyman - tuba.
JL: What do you and the others do for your day jobs?
RW: I work for Dolby - mainly testing audio and digital cinema equipment. Ileesha is my wife and currently looks after our daughter Sienna. The others in my current line - up are all music teachers, with the exception of Jemima who is a music student.
JL: Any thoughts about doing live gigs?
RW: Not at the moment. Due to the amount of instrumentation and multiple layers to the arrangements, it would be impossible to reproduce well live without a lot of money being thrown at it. These days I find once a piece is done, I've pretty much had enough of it and want to compose new music, rather than rehearse it for live. But I never say never and if opportunities arose, I would definitely look into it.
JL: You sent out a notice a while back about the state of the music business causing you to rethink your sending out of promo CDs. Explain that a little bit.
RW: It was less about the state of the music business and more to do with the practicalities and costs of doing the promo for an indie release of the kind I do. Essentially, I wanted to try an experiment and release three brand new tracks as free mp3 singles to celebrate 10 years of me doing Karda Estra. And obviously I wanted to promote them. So I tried a different approach than I usually do and asked various prog magazines, sites and stations if they would feature/review them or give them airplay. If they wanted to, they would be sent mp3 files, not CD's of them. It got a mixed response, which I expected. Some wanted to, some didn't, some ignored them. Plus, I got responses from people who I hadn't dealt with before. Kudos to those who did help. Its tough getting the money together to promote an indie CD at the moment and more and more people need to realise that if someone like me is trying a different angle like this - there must be a valid financial reason. With free artist approved mp3 promotion, there is a great chance to really spread the word and make a project still viable for future CD releases. But I think it worked and will do it again. The response to the new tracks was so favourable that I've had requests for them to be included as bonus tracks on a future CD - which I've decided I will do. But for now, they're still available for free from: www.kardaestra.co.uk - feel free to download, pass them on, review, give airplay etc.
JL: Have you been affected by illegal downloading?
RW: I suspect so. But I may also have people buy albums as a result too in a 'try before you buy' type way. It's difficult to judge, but the climate for labels and distributors sure has changed, fact.
JL: Having been an independent and now on a smaller genre specific label (Cyclops), what’s your assessment of the current state of technology and the music business?
RW: There are a lot of opportunities and outlets now for musicians. And as a result, an awful lot of musicians around trying to get your attention. The major problem is there are so many, it is virtually impossible to have the time to sift out those that may be to your taste. I don't really take too much notice of the mainstream business, as I feel quite disconnected from it these days. Making global contacts is fantastic though - been great to do my collaborations with Artemiy Artmiev and Spirits Burning. Plus I've met so many more musicians and discovered some amazing music. I also found the last two Karda Estra members via MySpace. And I'm ok with mp3's too. But I'll always prefer CD albums.
JL: I always like to close with my desert island disc question…if you were stuck on a desert island what five discs would like to have with you…and why those particular discs?
RW: That is very tough as I would have hundreds and probably a different answer tomorrow - so with all apologies to my other favourite albums....
Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Talk Talk - Colour of Spring
Ennio Morricone - Fistful of Dynamite soundtrack
Beatles - White Album
JL: Richard, thanks for taking the time to fill us in...we wish you all the best. Cheers.