Michael Moppert aka Sonarpilot delves deep into The Mirage Project, his latest body of work for what he describes as his interpretation of a 21st century concept album. The project, a series of fractal films backed by boundless soundtracks is truly stunning and Micheal takes us through how it all came together in our exclusive Q+A…
Thanks for speaking with us today. How have you been in 2020?
Thanks for having me! Well, this has certainly been a weird year for all of us. But I felt that the outward limitations allowed, or even forced me to spend more time going inward diving into my creative space, spending time at the studio, writing music and working on visual content. I was very glad to have that place I could go to.
Tell us about how The Mirage Project was born, what sparked the initial idea?
After many years of making club-oriented music I was looking for ways to break out of the routine of releasing EPs and albums. The industry has changed so much. The sheer amount of new releases has become overwhelming. There is still a lot of wonderful new music, but sometimes I feel that the majority of the electronic music has become a commodity, a sonic wallpaper. I wanted to do something that was a bit different.
So I decided to do two things: I wanted to add a strong visual component to my work and create something that echoed the concept albums that I loved when I was a teenager.
How hard was it to get off the ground and what were the first steps?
Actually, it all happened very organically. Together with a good friend of mine, Roger Mäder, a movie producer and animation specialist, we were looking for new, innovative visuals to work with. That’s when we ran into fractal technology. Fractals are all around us: Trees, rivers, coastlines, seashells, hurricanes or whole galaxies are all fractal systems. Think of a Romanesco, that psychedelic-looking cauliflower, and you get the picture.
Fractal shapes can be described with rather elegant mathematical formulas. And such formulas can produce new fractal objects, even whole worlds, that are completely synthetic, yet look amazingly realistic. Once we began to explore these strange worlds we were completely hooked and decided that this is the way to go. We had no idea how much work was waiting for us. But I’m glad that we took that decision. Almost all visuals of The Mirage Project are based on such fractal formulas.
Over your extended career in music, who have you worked alongside who’s made the best impressions?
In general the vibe between musicians in this tough industry is very positive. Over the years we had many collaboration projects and remixes – and most of them were lovely experiences. But there are some people that are really special: New York-based Brendon Moeller is always a pleasure to work with. I love his music, he has been in this game for a long time, is extremely professional and a super friendly person. The same is true for Robert Babicz and Martin “Atjazz” Iveson, who have done amazing mastering work for our label.
We were blessed to work with the late, great Marcus Intalex on our ‘Radar’ album project, around the time he was building his ‘Trevino’ name in the techno scene and then there’s artists like DJ Simbad and Lay-Far, producers who’s music we love who really bought into what we were doing, they were great to have as remixers on the label.
Tell us the secret art to making a great track, what advice would you share?
Trust the creative process! I usually start with a simple musical idea, maybe just one sound. I add other material and develop it into a sonic landscape. For me, this initial phase happens fairly quickly. But then the real work starts. How do you create a good narrative, an interesting flow? What do you keep and what do you throw away? I can spend days or weeks going through iteration after iteration until I have something that I like. Starting a track is easy, getting it done is hard. Just don’t give up, don’t use shortcuts and don’t be happy with compromises. Find your own voice and trust this process. And then: Sleep, rinse, repeat.
How many times do you go back and forth between audio and visuals to ensure they flow together? Was it a lengthy process?
Oh, dozens, maybe hundreds of times. It happens in stages: First we created some rough renderings of possible worlds that we might want to explore. One we had decided with which fractals we wanted to work Roger began to generate the raw visuals. That alone took over 30’000 hours of rendering time with a small farm of laptops.
In the meantime I began to develop musical ideas that could go with the visuals. Once I received the basic videos I started to edit them and fleshed out the music, going back and forth between music and visuals.
It was a very laborious process to get every detail right. But it was very rewarding. Usually there is a piece of music and you create a video that goes with it. Or you write a soundtrack for an existing video. Here I had the chance to do both in parallel. And with this we could really create totally new worlds with visuals and music that support each other in optimal way.
If you could exhibit the music and the visuals in one venue in the world, where would it be and why?
There is an ancient quarry in Les Baux, in the South of France, called “Carrières de Lumières”. These are huge caverns that feel like an old temple. The ceilings are three storeys high, the place is truly spectacular. You step into this place and it feels like it does not belong into our time. I think it would be an ideal location as it echoes the otherworldly atmosphere of the Mirage Project.
You have an extended mix set to be released next month to really pull together the whole process – how excited are you to share that?
This mixed edition of the album, together with the videos, is definitely the most ambitious body of work that I have ever released. I know it’s a big word but it almost feels like a legacy. You know, as a teenager, back when there were still only vinyl records, I loved the big concept albums with their beautiful artwork. The Mirage Project is my interpretation of a 21st century concept album – one hour of music and visuals, a trippy journey that take you to truly amazing places.