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What got you into creating music?
Once, when I was at school (late 1980s), our music lesson homework was to compose some music. I found this strangely easy and enjoyable, with pleasing results. Eventually this turned into a composition project towards a music qualification. This project included (basic versions of) ‘SunRise’ and ‘Organic Manoeuvre’, which appeared on the Memories of Moosetopia album.
I’ve always had music in my head since I was young as there is always some tune lurking in the background. I often feel that I do not compose music but I receive it from somewhere as if I am faintly listening to some radio station in my brain. It is my job to replicate what I hear in my head, which is the hard part, especially if there are lyrics! I am a Christian and feel very blessed that God has given me such a gift of creating music so naturally. Over the years I have written in many different music genres according to what I listen to, including musical theatre, rock and children songs and, of course, instrumental electronic music.
Who are your Musical Influences?
My electronic music is mostly influenced by Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Kitaro. I like the way they paint sonic pictures and create moods and emotions with synthesizers which can, by nature, be cold clinical instruments. My upbeat music is also heavily influenced by 90s / ‘classic era’ dance/trance music. I also like the thematic concept of Daft Punk (two robots making music) and Kraftwerk who influenced my more robotic sounding songs such as ‘RoboDrama’ (which is like a dystopian response to Kraftwerk’s ‘The Robots‘). Outside electronics, I really like later romantic-era ‘classical’ music, particularly Russian composers such as Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov. They use the orchestra to the full to paint tonal pictures and that’s the reason why my music often strays away from pure electronic instrumentation.
My theatrical music influenced by Sparks, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz plus songs I hear on the better kids TV programmes such as The Muppets, Lazy Town or Veggie Tales. Christian praise lyrics are influenced by Ishmael, Graham Kendrick and Noel Richards and great hymn writers such as Charles Wesley or isaac Watts although I do not profess to have anywhere near their lyrical ability.
Instrumentation influenced by Vangelis, Kitaro, Tchaikovsky, Sparks, Prokofiev, Philip Glass and mixing various world music styles and instruments.
[As Inspector Cluseau might say: I am influenced by everything and influenced by nothing]
What synthesizers do you use?
Since Cosmic Invasion people assumed that I have a massive rack of synths in a studio. However my CosmoMoose music is so far created using software synthesizers, loops and samples. My studio is my laptop which I often take on train journeys to and from my day job to create and edit music. You can see me on the early train with headphones on! I use Cakewalk Sonar digital audio workstation. My favourite software synths: Cakewalk's z3ta, Rapture Pro, Pentagon I (esp. the vocoder), and I often the UVI engine with Plugsound Pro.
On Cosmic Invasion, I used a lot of Theremin and Mellotron sounds but have never touched those instruments – nor Moog Synthesizers! My Moosetopia album uses African choirs but these are samples played on a keyboard as were the bird sounds, rainsticks and a bamboo flute on “Bamboo Forest”. The track ‘JiGiToN’ has an accordion lead melody but this is reworked from a sample library.
Do you use real instruments as well as samples?
On my album All Aboard the Heaven Express I used a mixture of real instruments and samples. Real instruments include Zampona panpipes, wooden and tin whistles, nylon and steel string acoustic guitars, Westone Thunder II Electric guitar, Kazoo on “Why Worry”, (I'm a virtuoso on the Kazoo!!) plus wind chimes and various toy instruments and percussion. In fact anything within reach that makes a noise; I even recorded a toilet flushing for the song “Whenever you eat (munch, munch)”. The most interesting sample is from the end of “I’m a Jesus Fan” which are chants of “Jesus, Jesus…” - these chants are from Graham Kendrick’s No More Walls album. I asked Graham for permission to do this at a Christian conference and he kindly said that if it advances the kingdom then go for it!
Who is the female singer on “My Beautiful Day” and “Tears of the Moon”?
People assume that the singer on “Tears of the Moon” (where the voice goes stratospherically high) is my wife Sharon as she sings on the track before it (“RoboDrama”). However the ‘singer’ on this song and on “My Beautiful Day” is actually software called Vocaloid Avanna. I type in the words and notes, add vibrato and expression and the software sings those note with those words. I then import the audio file into Cakewalk and add reverb and delay.
What is your Favourite song and why?
I often say my favourite is probably the simple track “Distant Longing” (from Memories of Moosetopia) because it is pure expression; a song without words, from the heart. The song originated on the train on the way to work one day when I opened up my laptop (my portable studio) and I didn’t know what music to work on. So I thought I would just express how I felt at that time using a tiny 2-octave MIDI keyboard (connected via USB to the laptop). The piano line just came out naturally: simple, beautiful and melancholy. The English horn and strings just fell into place and the piece was complete relatively quickly, which is unusual as it can take weeks or months to complete a piece sometimes. Therefore, although there are more popular, groovier pieces like “Shooting Stars” and “Get Funky” it is this simple music of the heart that appeals most to me personally.
How do you create your album artwork?
My wife is a prolific photographer and I trawl through her photographs to find the right images and feel for my album artwork. Most of the photographs I chose were taken in my hometown of Dawlish, Devon, UK. I add graphics and logos, such as the light beam on the front of Cosmic Invasion (no, Dawlish didn’t really have a bright cosmic encounter!!) and I designed the moose-in-a-spacesuit character which appears on artwork.
Why do you call yourself CosmoMoose?
I could have used my own name but this electronic music is soooo different from my previous work (kids songs, stage musicals etc) that it needed something new. So, I like mooses with their big noses and big antlers and ‘cosmo’ is rather spacey like some of my music, so ‘CosmoMoose’ was born. Also my initials are ‘CM’! Note that it is ONE word ‘CosmoMoose’ or ‘Cosmomoose’. I have also been called ‘Cosmo Moose’, ‘Cosmic Moose’, ‘Cosmo Mouse’ etc…!!