What do you hope Sonarpilot’s music creations bring to the world?
There’s a lovely quote by Albert Einstein: “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed”. Sonarpilot’s work is designed to make the audience stop for just a moment and feel that sense of wonder, step out of their everyday reality – even if it’s just for a few minutes – and experience a different world. And when you come back, you hopefully look around you with fresh, open eyes.
Since 2020, we have been creating these audio-visual journeys that take our audience to strange and amazing places in a parallel universe. Sonarpilot, my alter ego, he’s the pilot out there, exploring these strange worlds. He is a bit of a mixture of Major Tom and Captain Picard. A little lost out there – but a mission the search for new worlds that no one has seen before!
We call this endeavor The Mirage Project and we hope that these journeys grant our audience a little break in their everyday lives, a glimpse through a window into another world that might give them a little bit of this sense of wonder that Einstein is talking about.
What is it like working as a director and artist with Roger Mader on the visual for “Gorgon”? How are you able to release such elaborate visuals for each track?
Roger and I are working very tightly together. At the beginning of each Mirage, we discuss the basic visual language that we want to use for that specific video. All Mirages are based on fractals, machine-generated visuals, based on mathematical formulas. Fractals are a fundamental concept that you find everywhere in nature. A spiral galaxy is a fractal, a meandering river, or that crazy green cauliflower on sale in your supermarket.
Roger then feeds the fractal formula into a small farm of networked laptops. A few days later, we have a batch of sample videos which we then select out the material that we want to work with for the video. Then, it’s crunch time. The machines start the full rendering process. One image might need 20 minutes or more to get done. We need 25 pictures per-second of video. So, five minutes of animated fractals might take a week, or a month, of non-stop rendering time.
Once those basic animations are ready, I start with the editing process. In the beginning, I am not sure what the final journey will look like. I create collages of the animations; I twist and tweak them until a new world begins to emerge. That takes time. I don’t want to show off pretty pictures or amazing special effects. It is important to me to give the whole experience context, a visual flow, and a narrative frame that invites the audience to embark on that specific journey.
During that process, I am also developing the soundtrack for the final video. I start with a rough draft, rather early. As the Mirage grows, I refine and adjust it continuously, I make sure that the visuals and the sound are supporting each other in an optimal way, creating a fully immersive experience.
“Gorgon” off of The Mirage Project album centers around the multiverse, science, aliens and so on. Where does this fascination and desire to illustrate cosmology stem from?
I have always been fascinated by these large questions that we all have: Where do we come from? Are we alone in the universe? What is the true nature of reality? It is amazing what we continue to discover about our world, about nature, about the structure of the cosmos, about the weird realm of the subatomic space.
My work gives me the possibility to explore these big questions in a playful way, to create my own universe and find my place in it.
The Mirage Project is a meditation about us humans, traveling through this immense, incomprehensible space between the endless universe above us and the mad subatomic world right below the surface of our everyday reality, trying to make sense of it all.
How has DJ Jonny Miller contributed to the creation of The Mirage Project, Season 2?
Jonny is our voice of reason, our sounding board. I show him all my work during the creative process, he is an extremely valuable commentator. I am totally immersed in the whole creative process. It is impossible for me to have an unbiased view. Jonny and I have worked together for more than ten years. I trust his judgment and we are in a constant dialogue about the direction of The Mirage Project.
The other element is the whole communication and marketing strategy, our activities on all the social networks etc. that we develop together. Jonny coordinates all these activities. That’s a huge pile of work and I couldn’t do it without him.
What is new or different about Season 2?
We pushed the envelope much further than in Season 1 – visually but also sonically. The Mirages are bolder, and the worlds that we explore are more fantastic, bordering the abstract.
We learned a lot during the first season: The animations of the fractals, the way the camera moves, the montage of the animations – all these elements are pretty complex to master. In season one we went through a massive learning curve. We started the new season with a much larger tool chest and a lot of techniques that we developed in Season 1.
Why is it important to acknowledge artificial intelligence in your musical creations? It is such a unique and relevant topic!
I believe AI is one of the most important topics of our time. We are at a tipping point, unique in human history, some even say in the whole evolution of our planet. For a billion years, life was very simple, there we were just single-cell organisms. Then, slowly, multi-cellular life emerged and spread around the globe. Organisms became more intelligent. Now we are at the point where that development takes the next leap. Pretty soon we will have machines that have human-like intelligence. These machines will be able to create the next versions of themselves, taking evolution from biological to synthetic systems.
The outcome of that experiment is totally unknown. If these systems are being used wisely, they could be very beneficial for us, for the whole planet. But right now, there’s this mad land grab, this gold rush with all the large tech companies pouring billions into this fight for the new frontier. And we have no idea what the defense industry and their friends in the intelligence communities around the world are working on.
The pace of this development is breathtaking, while the large majority of our society seems to be blissfully unaware of that fundamental revolution that will soon touch every aspect of all lives. AI is like a car going at 180 miles an hour and the driver is asleep at the wheel!
Put it out into the universe! What do you wish to do more of in the future of your music career?
Music is the foundation of what I do. That’s where I come from and that’s my emotional home. But going forward I will continue this journey as an audio-visual artist. My goal is to push the boundaries in both the musical and the visual areas. Sonarpilot, my alter ego, he’s out there on his journey to explore what lies beyond the borders of the known Mirage cosmos. I’m sure that there’s a lot of amazing stuff he’ll discover.
Back here on earth, I would love to take The Mirage Project to the next level and take our journeys to larger places and spaces. Today, a vast portion of our audience watches the Mirages on their phones. That’s great – but these videos look really amazing on a big screen, or, even better, in a space where you can walk around and have the visuals and the sound all around you. We are currently looking at opportunities to create such experiences.
I would also like to present the Mirage cosmos to an audience that is focused on contemporary visual art. That can happen online, for example in the NFT space where I have been active before, or with a presence in more traditional environments, such as physical art galleries.
My guiding principle in all that will be that Einstein quote: I’d like to do things that make me – and my audience – stop and spend a moment rapt in awe.