Stephen R. Burroughs will be always connected to Head Of David. After the split of this legendary formation -which already happened early 90s, Stephen R. Burroughs got involved with numerous sonic projects. In 2013 he released the official debut album “Lost Corridors” of his solo-project Tunnels Of Āhon Cold Spring. The work revealed a mix of influences moving from Ritual to Dark-Ambient and Cinematic to Industrial. Stephen moved on releasing new material. By the end of 2023 Zoharum released the album “The Smeared Cloth 2012-2018 Unearthed” featuring a selection of previously unreleased tracks. The album is quite diversified but still featuring the familiar sound and influences from TUNNELS OF ĀH. Time for a chat with Stephen R. Burroughs. (Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: I realized the first official Tunnels Of Āh-album “Lost Corridors” was released ten years ago now. How do you remember this debut album and how do you perceive the evolution of the project, the sound & the albums throughout the years?
Stephen: It happened quickly. I’d written the material and decided to upload them on to an online page. As I was posting I realised I didn’t have a name. At the time I was reading “Nightside Of Ede” by Kenneth Grant. A section of it is titled “Tunnels Of Set” and I added the sanskrit ‘Ah’ to replace ‘Set’. Within hours Cold Spring contacted me saying they liked what they hear and it started from there.
As for the sound and material I follow my instinct. I simply see what emerges and take it from there.
Q: Head Of David remains the most famous project you’ve been involved with. What did you keep in mind from that period and how much of all side-projects (think about writing, spirit, way of working…) do you still use in Tunnels Of Āh?
Stephen: I’m asked about Head Of David quite regularly but there is no connection between Head Of David or any musical work I do now. Head Of David is a distant place now.
Coma’, which got released fueling my enthusiasm to record more FRAG which I continue to do. Tunnels Of Āh has gone quiet apart from the aforementioned re-releases. I’ve played twice as Frag with a third date in February.
Q: The recently released album “The Smeared Cloth 2012-2018 Unearthed” reveals previously unreleased tracks. Tell us a bit more about the background of these tracks which have been written over different periods and why did they remain unreleased? How did the album and the selection of tracks finally came to live?
Stephen: The material on “The Smeared Cloth 2012-2018 Unearthed” was written at the beginning of Tunnels Of Āh and simply lay in my vaults with no outlet or intention of releasing them till I had the chance and the desire to release a retrospective collection of work. I was very pleased with the “The Smeared Cloth”. I have another album of retro material coming out on Zoharum in 2024. This will include the original album recorded around the time of “Deathless Mind” which I sidelined in favour of new material.
Q: I’ve always experienced Tunnels Of Āh and especially this new album as the offspring between different music genres; Ritual, Dark-Ambient, Experimental, Drone, Cinematic, Industrial… name it. How do you explain this eclecticism which is however characterized by a dark sound atmosphere? How would you introduce your music/sound to people who aren’t familiar with Tunnels Of Āh?
Stephen: I really don’t know how I describe my work. It gets filed under all those descriptions you mention but I genuinely just followed my instinct and wrote. It does have a dark atmospheric fell to it so I suppose I’d describe it as that.
Q: Do you follow a specific procedure in the composing process and what are the different stages to achieve a song/album?
Stephen: I simply believe in experimentation and following my instinct. I have never thought of being part of some particular genre, I allow people to decide for themselves.
Q: You like working around ‘conceptual’ themes which I think are totally matching with the Ritual side of your music. What do these concepts mean to you and is there any deeper link with your belief in Buddhism? How do you transpose themes and concepts into sound?
Stephen: Yes, the conceptual side of my work is so important to me. These concepts are my life. Buddhism is my practice and post-Head Of David I joined a Buddhist community and worked for a Buddhist movement. I was close to ordination and the movement imploded leaving me to leave. As for transposing this into sound, once more it all lies in the feel of a piece. I don’t approach work with a particular concept in mind. And I am certainly not trying to convert people to my way of thinking. I do believe that everything we do, from having breakfast to sweeping the floor is an active aspect of ritual.
Q: What comes next?
Stephen:These days I’m working more on my other project Frag. Frag started in the early 90s. The name was presented by Paul Smith (Blast First). I recorded an album for Blast First which sadly never emerged but I carried on recording with no intention of releasing this material. It was only 2020 that I was approached by Cruel Nature Recordings to release something. Out of all the cassettes I made at that time only one remained, “Controlled Coma”, which got released fueling my enthusiasm to record more FRAG which I continue to do. Tunnels Of Āh has gone quiet apart from the aforementioned re-releases. I’ve played twice as Frag with a third date in February.
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