Think Rhys Fulber and you flash back to his beat-breaking tenures with both Front Line Assembly and Delerium. At the decade's end, when the industrial genre started to run on fumes, Fulber broke from the pack once again with Delerium, an ambient dance project created with former Assembly collaborator Bill Leeb. In 1997, after years of playing to an insulated audience of digital diehards, Fulber and Delerium went worldwide with Karma and lead track "Silence," a blockbuster single featuring the Grammy award-winning vocals of multi-platinum artist Sarah McLachlan. A global smash, "Silence" rocketed to No. 3 in the U.K., No. 1 in Ireland, No. 4 in Belgium, hit the top five in Australia and the responsible album (Karma) sold a quarter of a million copies in the U.S. alone.
Since then, the multi-talented Fulber has become a producer-in-demand, with production credits that include P.O.D., Sarah Brightman, David Foster, Fear Factory and many more. Not bad for a guy "from the underground."
With Conjure One--his solo debut--Fulber expands upon the promise of Karma with a rapturous blend of lush textures, hauntingly beautiful melodies and softly curved electrobeats. Like a filmmaker using varying shades of light and dark, the studio wunderkind manipulates sound to create mood music rich with images. "It's ambient, epic music with a pop structure," says Fulber. "The goal was to make cool, world-influenced songs without the constraints of a specific genre. As an artist, you're always grateful for the support of your core fans, but at the same time you want to stretch and reach a broader audience. To create something that everyone can get into is music in its purest form."
As Fulber tells it, the making of Conjure One was truly an international affair: it written and recorded in Amsterdam, Vancouver, London and Los Angeles, and draws its principal inspiration from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern music. "I did a lot of the writing and the initial programming in Amsterdam," recalls the Canadian native. "I also went to Turkey and Cyprus and bought a lot of weird CDs, which I later wound up sampling. I'd comb all the world shops looking for unique sounds. It was all about creating a vibe."
It took Fulber three solid years to make the record, and the resulting music--bracingly resonant and evocative--reflects his reputation as a meticulous artist. "I planned on making the whole album within the span of a few months," he says. "But the vocals took a lot of work. I'm not a vocalist and I don't really try to write lyrics. I like to stick to what I know I can do, so I wound up recording countless demos in search of the right singers."
It was worth the wait.
Critically acclaimed Atlantic recording artist Poe, Israeli vocalist Chemda, Argentinean singer Marie-Claire D'Ubaldo, and Melanie Garside take turns breathing emotional life into Fulber's exquisitely crafted compositions; their vocal performances are warm, seductive and absolutely mesmerizing. "I handed the songs over to the singers and let them do whatever they wanted," says Fulber. "Most of the final versions are their original visions."
"I wrote the melodies and lyrics after just three listens," says Poe, who appears on both "Center of the Sun" and "Make A Wish." "Rhys' music inspires that sort of creativity. His songs are beautiful and have that rare timeless feeling." Tracks like "Center of the Sun," "Satellite Girl" and "Manic Star" are intoxicating and exotic, their honeyed melodies pouring over a throbbing pastoral pulse. The latter was co-written by Fulber and songwriter Billy Steinberg, co-writer of hits such as "Like A Virgin" (Madonna), "True Colors" (Cyndi Lauper) and "Eternal Flame" (the Bangles). "Pandora," featuring vocals by Melanie Garside, is a swirling exploration of Middle Eastern melodies and atmospheric dance grooves inspired by an Albanian folk lament. "I heard it on a CD purchased in Turkey," says Fulber. "It was so grim, yet there was something about it that I really liked. I made loops of the samples and wrote the track around it."
Additional Conjure One contributors include Tom Holkenburg, the progressive house maestro behind Junkie XL (programming and mixing), London-based composer Chris Elliott (string arrangements) and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
Says Fulber, "Everyone involved played an integral part in the making of the record. It's exactly the kind of album I wanted to hear and I don't think there's a lot of music out there that sounds like this. I must admit though, I did feel a certain amount of pressure at times. You get to a point where you don't know if what you're doing is good, but I got great feedback and support from my friends, my manager, publisher and label people. When I listen back to the record now, I'm really pleased. I feel like I've said something with it."
Fulber's musical roots can be traced back to his early childhood in Vancouver. "My dad was a musician, so we always had instruments around the house," he says. "When I was five or six, I started playing drums. By age 11, I was already hanging around studios, going to shows and buying Dead Kennedys records. I was a little kid hanging around these older punk rockers and music became really important to me. It suddenly became a lifestyle and a means to an end. Then I heard Pete Shelley's solo album, Homosapien, and that changed the way I looked at music. I began to realize the electronic aspect was way cooler because you could do everything yourself. My father bought me a synthesizer and drum machine when I was about 14 and things took off from there. Within a few short years, I was making records with Frontline Assembly and touring Europe. Looking back, I think I always knew I'd be making music one day, I just didn't know in what capacity. I never dreamed I'd wind up where I am now."