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Progressive Rock Interviews

Echo Us

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Ethan Matthews of Echo Us from 2012

It’s been a couple years since we interviewed you last. Can you catch us up on the events of the last couple years?

Well yes, the past few years have seen many changes and a lot of internal activity since the release of The Tide Decides. The initial inspiration and experiences that led to me making this series of interlocking albums actually started happening in 2007, about when The Tide Decides was half way complete. I had a lot of “mystical” and inspirational experiences in the first part of 2007 and on throughout much of 2008. Tomorrow Will Tell The Story was actually ready to be released in full in fall of 2010, but I happened upon some terrible financial circumstances from about 2009 on that drained everything I had. I had returned to Portland in early 2009 because I was still recording with people here, even while living in Eugene, Oregon for much of 2007 and 08. It was very hard, but at the same time I kept everything together and kept working my butt off to get these projects done. And thus, The Tide Decides was released- on a shoestring budget and as well the small digital and truncated release of Tomorrow Will Tell The Story in September 2010. However, I wasn’t able to actually do anything to promote Tomorrow… at all until now, and now that that is actually happening it’s picking up quite a bit of interest...more than I’d suspected.

Overall the experience of the past few years has been fairly opportune, however. I am very used to ridiculous things happening to me, but at the same time I’ve had a lot of good fortune- to be working with Henta for example, and continuing my recording work with Raelyn Olson, Echo Us’ harpist, while all this was going on.

MSJ: What similarities exist between the previous Echo Us music and the current album?
Much of the music from Tomorrow Will Tell The Story, is actually ‘rephrased” from The Tide Decides through re-sampling. All the alien-like vocal samples come from The Tide Decides. In a way, I wanted to resample an album and turn it inside out. Tomorrow…  is a much more friendly album, not as long, easier to understand than previous Echo Us music, at least for me.
MSJ: How about differences?
It’s more straightforward, but more ethereal. It floats, and, it will blend! The Tide Decides was actually meant to be “an album of consonance”. People, particularly intense musicians, hard studies, get caught up in dissonance. If you aren’t clashing they won’t like you. The Tide Decides was all about consonance, but doing it in such a way with the arrangements that it really felt different. So, it maybe got labeled new age, but new age people would never listen to that album- because the arrangements don’t appeal to meditative states maybe? It’s telling a story. It demands some attention. Most people, if they make music that demands attention they do it with grit and dissonance. I did it with a different kind of aesthetic. I love the unobvious becoming intrusive. Either you relate to something or you don’t. I am not afraid to make people angry, and I think music is still the best medium to bring people together as well as bring to light differences.
MSJ: Did you approach this disc differently?
For Tomorrow Will Tell, the whole thing was about not controlling the music at all- The Tide Decides was tightly controlled. The Tide Decides took three plus years just to make in and of itself, and then I refined it more...because everything on there was re-done 30 times. Tomorrow Will Tell The Story was the opposite. All vocals are basically first and second takes, the arrangement stayed the same throughout the production process, in most all cases. The songs were “just there.” I had all the electronic sounds, most made from scratch already in place before I entered the studio, so I’d do the initial composition for a piece very quickly in comparison to The Tide Decides - usually within a couple of hours.
MSJ: How did the name “Echo Us” originate?
In 1999 my former group wanted to change our name at the time. I was using a thesaurus at the time but had run aground. Nothing was coming. Then I thought of Echo Us, almost immediately it came and had a special kind of meaning. It’s all about a revolving consciousness and communication. To me it was never a command- or even worse, meant to be called “echo US” as a lot of people have mistaken through the years. It’s unfortunate that I reside in the country of that abbreviation- it has nothing to do with the name.

What's ahead for you?

With the fourth album, the third in this trilogy, basically done, I am taking a bit of a rest from musical output right now. I always am working on something while in the process of releasing something else, so I’d imagine I’ll get working on a fifth album of some sort before the fourth is even released. We plan on an early 2013 release for the fourth album. It’s the conclusion of the “trilogy" and it’s quite different again. I am really excited about it in the sense that I got to play my instruments- particularly the guitar a lot for once. Also, I played percussion and everything else I usually do. It sounds like a live performance, lots of classical guitar, that sort of thing. Way different, but still with all the peculiarities of Echo Us music.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
If you’re a true super hero, you have no arch nemesis. You’re just a darned good chap.

If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?

I'd rather see Debussy and Stravinsky make a modern album together, with all the bells and whistles. Something like that. I don’t go often to live shows, but think maybe at some point I’ll find the time again to go to see the symphony, or classical of any kind again. I saw “The Four Seasons” sometime in high school, right up front and it changed me.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
No one! Music to me is an art form just like painting. That painter guy with the ‘fro on PBS- that guy, he’s the performing painter. We should leave the musicians at home and watch people like him for a change! 
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
As far as newer things I’ve listened to and enjoyed the past few years the group Qntal is one. I’ve also finally discovered some more of Enya’s work that I did not know about before. I finally got a copy of Music For 18 Musicians, which will prove how behind I am in my listening habits! I have no time to listen to music outside of five to ten minutes in the car a few times per week.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
I’ve been a big fan of The Seth Books by Jane Roberts for some time. I have an aversion to fiction for some reason, so I have to find topics that interest me. I love anything to do with “psychic” phenominae, but not in the sense of a ghost hunting or anything like that. I dream about aliens from time to time, but it’s usually just me zapping them with my mind waves.

What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

Nil. Nada. Not NIN.

Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”

I just said I liked Enya, OK?

What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

You can’t have those in the studio. You get fired. At least by me, and I don’t want to fire myself. I’ve already fired my assistant Beaker twice this year and he keeps hobbling back to the doorstep.

If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?

Probably Jane Roberts.

What would be on the menu?

Peanut butter sandwiches and cigarettes.

Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

Direct orders from get extra goodies! That’s my marketing stunt for this evening. Thanks Gary! Always a pleasure, and until next time...
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 2 at
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