We Speak With Sonarpilot And Take A Deeper Look Into The Mirage Project

If like us you’ve been mesmerised by Sonarpilot’s releases the past few years as part of ‘The Mirage Project’, you will no doubt have some burning questions you’d like to have the opportunity to ask. We took that opportunity ourselves recently, and hopefully we’ve been able to answer some of your questions in our interview below.

We’ve been writing about your music for a couple of years now, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to ask you about it! So thank you!

It’s a great pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me!

Tell us something about The Mirage Project. How did you come up with it and what is the overall concept?

The concept of the Mirage Project is to take the listener/viewer on journeys beyond their imagination. We explore worlds that lie outside of everyday realities in order to gain fresh perspectives.

The project has a long history: I have been making electronic music for many years, focusing on a sound that you’d enjoy as a companion when you’re travelling, going for a walk or simply relaxing on your sofa – interesting headphone music. Then a few years ago, I started to add visuals to my tracks. This led to The Mirage Project, where sound, music and visuals play an equally important role, supporting each other to create a unique, trippy experience.

I’ve been listening to ‘Pandora‘, and my first impressions were, “soothing yet glitchy, mesmerising, hypnotic, and trippy”. Do you find comfort in your own music? Once released, do you continue to listen to your creations, or are they set out into the world in order for you to create more?

Great question! Making music is a home for me, I love to get up in the morning and sit down with a steaming mug of tea to dive back into what I am working on. I get lost in a new track, it’s a world of its own, with its own beauty, colours, structure, details, and challenges. It keeps me emotionally and intellectually busy. 

Once a track is all done, when it is mastered and released, I rarely listen to it actually… But when I do, I am often happy about it. There are people who download a bunch of libraries and cobble together a song in one afternoon, following some latest trends but I’m a very slow producer. Most of my stuff is composed manually, I need time, I don’t cut corners, and I work on every detail until I am fine with it. The final result is near and dear to my heart, and when I listen to an old track, I am usually happy about the work.

How do you come up with your music? Do you play physical instruments or is it all software based?

I get inspired by a whole range of things: I listen to a LOT of music, from early medieval vocal music to baroque and neo-classic, from jazz to ambient, and of course a lot of electronica. I also get inspiration from other art forms, I visit exhibitions, galleries, and museums and follow the explosion of online electronic art. And then there’s nature – which never ceases to amaze me with its ingenuity, elegance, and mysteries.  

To write my music, I use a keyboard and loads of plugins and effects to create my soundscapes and I play most of my tunes manually. I do work with samples from libraries, but really, I prefer to use materials I’ve created myself. It just seems to give the music more depth and character.

‘Pandora’ is just over 8 minutes long and yet it doesn’t feel that way, in fact it feels like no time at all. Do you think more tracks should break the mould of the 3 and a half minutes that demanded by streaming platforms and radio? How do you keep the attention of the listener?

A track should simply have the length it needs. I grew up with the music of electronic pioneers such as Brian Eno or Tangerine Dream. Some of their pieces were over 15 minutes long. Nils Frahm has just released an album with a total running time of over three hours but of course, only a few radio stations will ever play such music and you won’t find it in the charts. But it’s wonderful to go for a walk along a beach or sit on a train or a plane and watch the world go by with such music as a soundtrack.

All the pieces of my new album have been designed to be soundtracks. They support these videos, or ‘Mirages’, as I call them, that are visually very rich and almost psychedelic. Usually, the viewers are mesmerized by what they see and hear, it is a very immersive experience, and you tend to lose the sense of time that you have for a normal piece of music that you might hear on the radio or in a playlist.  

I really enjoy the videos that accompany your releases, I find the fractals work really well with the music. How did you come up with that idea?

I ran into fractal technology back when I was looking for innovative ways to add a visual element to my music. It is quite an esoteric technology that needs a lot of patience and technical skill. I have a very good friend, Roger Mäder, who is a movie producer and is a specialist in animation technology. He is responsible for the generation of all the basic fractal animations. I take this raw material, arrange it and add some heavy video editing to create a visual journey so It’s really a team effort.

The work that goes into these Mirages is pretty mad… The generation of the basic visuals for all eight episodes of season 2 took over 30,000 hours of rendering time, followed by around 2 months of video editing and the creation of the soundtrack – for each Mirage. It’s a crazy amount of work, but from a creative point of view, it is very satisfying. And it seems that no one else is mad enough to do this. I think these Mirage Project voyages are pretty unique in today’s crowded music industry

What’s next for Sonarpilot?

There are a total of eight episodes in Season 2 of The Mirage Project. Pandora is the first one, the whole season will keep me busy well into the second half of 2023. In parallel, I’m planning to create a series of more compact edits, maybe as NFTs, for each Mirage. The original Mirages are very long and visually opulent and there’s a ton of material that we have generated for the new season that would work very well in a smaller, shorter format, such as an NFT.

Another project we’ll likely do on the Sonarpilot Audio label we have is a series of remixes. In the past, I have worked with exciting electronic artists from all around the globe to create remixes of my music. The season 2 soundtracks are very rich in content and perfect for reworking into something new.

And then there’s of course the question of how we could push the envelope even further now to create another season that is even wilder and more abstract! One avenue I am currently exploring is the use of Artificial Intelligence technology to create new, amazing worlds… Let’s see what happens!

Finally, and I ask this of everyone I interview – what question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer to that question?

Well, there’s one fundamental question: What do you think is the nature of reality?

We’re sitting here, with our brains locked away in darkness and silence in our sculls – yet we experience a world that is so rich, so filled with all kinds of sensory impressions and above us is the vastness of the cosmos, below us the mad realm of subatomic particles – isn’t that all just amazing? What is really going on here!?

I guess that would be a rather interesting question…My answer? I truly have no idea – but I’ll keep digging!

Sonarpilot is online and you can find out more about his project via his official websiteFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

"Pandora" by Sonarpilot [Fractal video with music]

About the author

Lisa has been writing for over 20 years, starting as the entertainment editor on her university newspaper. Since then she's written for Popwrapped, Maximum Pop, Celebmix, and ListenOnRepeat.

Lisa loves all good music, with particular fondness for Jedward and David Bowie. She's interviewed Edward Grimes (Jedward), Kevin Godley, Trevor Horn, Paul Young, Peter Cox (Go West), Brendan B Brown (Wheatus), Bruce Foxton (The Jam), among many many more. Lisa is also available for freelance writing - please email lisa@essentiallypop.com