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INTERVIEW: Prolific Music Producer illrecur

illrecur is the moniker used by Jeremy Allen Pursell. The American music project was founded by Pursell, the only official member. Since 1997, thirty-nine instrumental albums have been released. The music explores a wide range of styles, while often using experimental ideas. Interests between music, psychology, mood, behavior, memory, story-telling, and developmental advancement have always been a driving force behind illrecur’s aims. This year alone illrecur has released 5 new albums which can be found Bandcamp – “Evolu”, “Then were once than”, “Tautochrone”, “Upsodown”, and “Mnemonics”.

When did you start making music and what or who were your early passions and influences?

illrecur: I’ve been into music for as long as I can remember. I’ve been creating art and music since before my teens. Growing up, much of what drove my interests came from books, radio, television, and video games.

For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and producer, and the transition towards your own style?

illrecur: I think there was definitely learning through emulation. I’d pick up a guitar or some cheap synth and play a lot of what I was hearing on the radio or television and film scores. I was absolutely fascinated with the moods, emotions, and memories that sounds and melodies would invoke… I still am fascinated. With regards to performance, I’d memorize as best I could the rhythms and notes, so that I could reproduce on a whim. Back then, that could take hours or oftentimes days. Somewhere in there, probably like any other musician, I started to deviate from what I had memorized, as to experiment. That is where discovery, growth, and individuality slowly sort of happen I suppose. I do remember enjoying the learning processes that seemed more complicated, emotionally and physically. Sometimes the really simple or strange stuff would do the trick, especially playing by my lonesome. I should add that, back when I played in various bands, I was never interested in playing covers. I did play covers, in certain groups, but I didn’t enjoy that. Mirroring other artists, both didn’t seem fair to the artist, nor felt like my own self-expression. Having that unpopular opinion, never helped me much in group situations.

Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?

illrecur: The strongest, right off of the top of my head… Beethoven, Bach, Queen, Bowie, and Depeche Mode. There were so many though like, Gary Numan, The Smiths, Duran Duran, Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, Toto, Reznor, John Williams, James Horner, Bernard Hermann, Alan Silvestri, and Danny Elfman. To be completely honest, that list could be fairly large and I could go on for days with that. I was drawn toward quite a bit of underground music growing up. Artists, from all over, inspired me and that list got much larger as I got older.

What do you feel are the key elements people should be getting out of your music?

illrecur: I’m not sure there is a direct or simple answer to that. On one hand, I write things that I’ve experienced, sometimes there is a sort of creative storytelling. On the other hand, a listener’s unique experiences or memories and associations should be interpreted. Memory is very important to any individual and there is a connection to who any of us are presently, especially through things that we’ve experienced. Music is a great way to tap into memories or create new associations.

What do you think separates you from the crowd of young artists and producers emerging right now?

illrecur: Hmm, I love instrumentals, I love writing instrumentals. I’m sure many listeners may as well. I advocate and enjoy free expression, free thought, focus, clarity, growth, and creativity. I try to focus my musical ideas that way. Each instrument is a voice or another part to another story. Otherwise, that is really a tough question to answer.

When writing a new song, where do you usually start?

illrecur: Sometimes it might be an idea that had been forming for a while. There are also sudden strokes of inspiration while I am working on some other task. Other times I force it out, I sit down and it begins with the first note or instrument. A few times ideas have come to me in dreams, those are interesting.

How strict are you with genres? Are you comfortable working with most genres and styles and what is your preferred style?

illrecur: Honestly, I work with whatever I feel while writing. From time to time, I do try to force myself to attempt different or new things. Learning is definitely ongoing for me, it never ends. There are quite a lot of genres to choose from and I enjoy mixing various instruments or rhythmic ideas together, but it does have to project and fit the narrative that I am going for.

What would you consider a successful, proud or high point in your career so far?

illrecur: There are many good moments. Back in the beginning, a couple of years after starting the illrecur project, I was working with some artists, developers, and animators on experimental project websites. I remember seeing hits coming in from everywhere. Then various artists and developers, from different places, all over the world, were using various pieces of mine for their projects. There was a sort of feeling of pride I suppose, it made me feel like I was doing something big, but I’d say it also humbled me quite a bit. Even now though, seeing hit results come in from all over the world, still feels pretty awesome. Having fans of my work, getting emails from fans, and receiving comments on my work always feels nice.

What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?

illrecur: We’ve all had our ups and downs in life, some of us have had more than others sure. I’ve honestly never been the type of person to outwardly pride myself on coming through any dark, difficult, or trying times. It is hard for anyone before realizing the difference between focusing on a problem and actually finding a solution. And staring back at problems can often just do more harm than good. It can put you in a negative space. However, having to choose something in particular… it has always been difficult to find time to compose music, at least as much as I would like to.

What key ingredients do you always try and infuse into your tracks, regardless of style or tempo?

illrecur: The element of surprise, in one form or another. I like to try and do what is unexpected, sometime like a plot twist. Occasionally that can mean doing exactly what might be expected. How that is accomplished exactly varies. It might happen in progression, timing, chords, instrument switches, FX, or rhythms. I also have a wide variety in tastes when it comes to sounds. Just with FX for example, I might choose to turn the tone all the way up, or over-bass an instrument, phase something in, or use digital click, snaps, and pops. I might record different, unnatural sounds and manipulate them and insert them at specific times. There are times when something needs to sound clean and times when it should sound dirty or unclear. Again though, it has to work with the story that I am telling.

What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as an artist/producer and how have they changed over time? What is it about making music for others that makes it interesting for you?

illrecur: Exposure is a challenge, especially as an artist that isn’t out performing anymore. Sometimes you have to work with or wait for trends. Other times you’re working with or waiting on your wallet. The music industry has been in shambles for a while now, listeners are focused with more social functions online, and it’s hard for any artist to find anything reliable. What makes it worth it though, are the fans and any appreciation for the work. If anyone gets what I’ve been doing, connects, enjoys it, and finds meaning in it, that’s all I can ever really ask for.

What was your first set-up as a composer or producer like? Has your setup evolved since then, and what currently is the most important piece of gear for you?

illrecur:  Oh wow! Back when I was first recording, by myself… I was tape dubbing with various 70s and 80 stereo units, processors, pedals, beat-up mics, and even a portable karaoke machine. Money was a limitation, so there was a lot of rummaging and building. It was absolutely absurd and glorious! It took forever back then to get anything near what I desired. It was a pain. I can’t say much survived from then. There was a fire that devoured all that equipment. Technology, as well as my understanding of processes, has evolved a lot since then, so things are much simpler. My most important piece of gear right now is probably my PC. Without it, I am not arranging and editing as smoothly or nearly as fast.

Which aspect of being an independent artist and producer excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?

illrecur: Freedom to create and move in various directions is probably the best aspect of being an independent artist. The only discouraging thing that comes to mind is a lack of benefits that comes from corporate teams working toward advertising and distribution. That doesn’t bother me though, I don’t require all of that management.

Are you happy about the way the music business works in today’s digital age, or is there something you would change?

illrecur: There are positives and negatives, many things which can be looked at either way. The old music businesses could have used a restructuring, something that was more artist and listener friendly with less greed, manipulation, formula, and bias. Things have changed, a good bit, over the past couple decades. While there are more freedoms and even some opportunities, there is also chaos everywhere. Honestly, I am sure some groups would have to sit down and analyze everything fairly, then explain it to me in great detail before I could even be capable of making suggestions on how to make it all better. There has already been a lot discussed when it comes to systems, structures, trends, and properties and I’m pretty certain not everyone agrees entirely with any standpoint.

If someone has never heard your music, which keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?

illrecur: Creative, psychological, and instrumental storytelling. So, I think it may be tough to conjure an all-encompassing description, for that question. That is, more than likely, the best I can do there. illrecur is its own sort of monster, with its own set of rules… rules that can change at any given moment. Describing the music quickly or briefly has always seemed difficult; without a mouthful of jargon spilling out. A description that needs a ton of words and covers every topic, sometimes seems like an ego-stroking or an assault on someone’s intellect.

Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites as fundamental in building a career in music today, and what is your personal relationship with the new technology at hand?

illrecur: Right now… sure. That is likely to change as time goes on. I’ve been taking part in many online social experiences for a while now and just like life only a bit faster, nothing stays the same. As far as my relationship goes with technology… the technology is great, the initial intent is always great, but what ends up happening versus what was meant, usually end up very different things. I think there is a great deal to keep track of, I try to, but as many of us have seen… predictability of lifespans and outcomes is complicated. The mood of societies play into that, and that too changes often.

Tell us something about your latest release and where fans can find it.

illrecur: All five albums for 2019 are similar, only, in that when making them, the stories were about strange alternate realities and different possibilities. While all illrecur music is part of a larger and longer running storyline in a way, each album is a different story. Just as such, each of these new albums is an individual story, and in a way of a different reality. As always the titles of the albums and the tracks play together with the melodies and atmospheres to tell the stories. The new albums can be heard on my website: http://www.illrecur.com or at: https://illrecur.bandcamp.com

What is your relationship with visual media? Do you think videos are important for your music? Do you have a video you would recommend fans checkout so they can get in to what you’re doing?

illrecur: I’m not doing or planning any videos currently. I’ve frequently thought about it and usually decide against it for one reason or another, which usually has to do with leaving it to listeners’ imaginations. Although, I may one day do it. I’m not ruling it out. The time and project has to be right for it.

Do you only create and work in a studio environment, or do you also find time to perform live? And which of these two do you ultimately enjoy more?

illrecur: These days, I do only create and work in studio environments. I don’t perform live anymore. I played and sang up and down the East Coast for years, in many very different bands. I was with several smaller, short-lived groups like Redrue, ZX isolator, Hammertoe, TorMache’ 13, NetherRite, Stitch B***h, B.D.G.(Brim Dead Grim), Kill Thomas, Fracas MD, Black Mountain, and Frequency EF, to name some. I lost that desire to be on stage, on a personal level, years ago. I used to love it, but all of the time spent, room for errors, faults, drama, scenes, rinse and repeat routines got old for me. Don’t get me wrong, I really wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, but that was then and I needed to move on to grow. I loved the people and the times. I’ve since then worked with other artists, companies, and projects and am still open to doing that, just not really open to music performance, but hey who knows.

What’s on your ‘must do’ agenda for 2019?

illrecur: Spending time with my family and creating more art and music. I’ll probably be planning more for 2020, I may have already begun.

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