Interview / Jon Tye / Ocean Moon

Photograph of Jon care of Dom Moore.

Jon Tye has had a hand in 3 of my favourite vinyl releases of 2020. Starting this hat-trick as one half of Seahawks, alongside Pete Fowler, for Island Visions – the duo’s cracking contribution to the catalogue of legendary library music house, KPM. Then there was Jon`s solo KPM creation – produced under the alias Ocean Moon – the flawless kosmische collection, Crystal Harmonics. As well as the new compositions, Music From Memory also mined Jon`s musical past – choosing his track Birds & Flutes – assigned to the moniker MLO – to open their vast, epic, retrospective Virtual Dreams: Ambient Explorations In The House & Techno Age. In shops this week and a concrete contender for “comp of the year”, its 6 sides tapping into a mid-90s “techno / trance” sound that’s currently in vogue, and that – as the decades have passed – can be considered classic, timeless. 

Did KPM approach you for a solo record? I love the Seahawks one. 

From the outset there was talk of a series or releases…after Island Visions it seemed natural to progress to Crystal Harmonics and from there to Astral Vibrations – a deeply psychedelic vision featuring members of Stereolab, Peaking Lights and The Horrors. There’s also an album with Jon Brooks called Electric Meadows.

I know that you collect vintage equipment. How much of it was used in the making of this record? 

I wouldn’t call myself a collector but I’ve been lucky to have picked up a few bits over the years such as the Roland Juno 6, a Mu-tron Bi-Phase and a Roland 301 Space Echo, but I love recent purchases like the Moog Grandmother too. The Bi-Phase features on pretty much everything I do to be honest…there’s really nothing like it. Such an immersive and therapeutic sound.

The press release lists some key KPM LPs that impacted Crystal Harmonics, but your Instagram account is full of pictures of new age tapes. How long have you been collecting these? When, why, did you start? How many do you have? Where do you find them? Do you have a favourite, and did they also influence Crystal Harmonics?

I’ve been collecting new age tapes for around 10 years. It started when my brother-in-law was throwing a lot of tapes out and I was able to rescue them. At that time it was fairly cheap and easy to find more tapes on ebay or Discogs. I now have over 100. They had a huge effect on Crystal Harmonics and before that the Seahawks` Eternal Beams album. Slowed down, phased and treated tapes are often the starting point for tracks. 

Upper Astral are perhaps my favourite new age tape ‘group’. Their music was released on the Valley Of The Sun label which has now been acquired by Numero, so there should be some re-issues next year. Incredible music.

Listening to Crystal Harmonics I can hear echoes of Cluster, Eno, Global Communications, Vangelis and Japan’s “Kankyo Ongaku”. Is that just my imagination? 

Cluster & Eno was one of the first ‘ambient’ albums I bought, so yes definitely an influence. I’ve only recently started listening to Global Communications but their sound definitely resonates with the kind of music I was making in the 1990s under the MLO name. Japan’s “Kankyo Ongaku” scene has certainly been a source of inspiration and there’s so much of it…a beautiful vortex spiraling into infinity.

Does the name Ocean Moon have any significance? Where does it come from? 

It started life as the name of our Seahawks label and then when I first created an Instagram account it was available unlike Seahawks. Gradually people would message me as Ocean Moon and it started to feel like an alternative name… a kind of ‘spirit’ name. We all get given a name at birth, maybe we should be able to pick our own name later in life. The Ocean and the Moon have a big influence in my life so it feels good.

How long did the Crystal Harmonics album take to create?

The basic tracks were all created in the summer of 2018. The energy flow on the hill that summer was really amazing and I created hours of music. Later I edited down often long improvisations into concise bursts of sound which I then sent to Jon (Brooks), Seaming, Steve (Moore) and Richard (Norris). They all responded swiftly and beautifully…it came together like a dream!

How did you hook up with your collaborators? Had you known them all a long time?

Yes I’ve known all of them for over 10 years and there have been various crossover points in the past, so it was nice to be able to focus things in the present.

How has the pandemic and resulting lock-downs treated you? I get the impression that you’re sort of isolated anyway. 

It’s really just intensified what I’ve been doing for the last few years. Less traveling and live work, more studio and production work. 

Has it been a productive time? Have you been able to focus on stuff in the studio, or have concerns about the world outside and the future cramped the process? 

It’s been an incredibly productive time. I’ve really enjoyed being able to tune in to the vibrations and appreciate what we have here in Cornwall. I don’t think my concerns about the world outside have changed…I’m now just even more aware of how much pain, suffering and wrong there is in the world but it’s also accentuated how much love and positivity there is. 

Are there any more Ocean Moon releases in the pipeline? 

There’s an Ocean Moon Group – me with Jack Amor and Graham Guy-Robinson – album coming up on Ruf Kutz in 2021 plus longform remix /collaborations with Mark O Pilkington (Teleplasmiste), Hatchback and Private Agenda.

Ruf Dug - Feelings

When can we expect something new from Seahawks? 

We’re cooking up some fresh stuff under the name Seahawks & Friends right now and hope to have that finished by Christmas for release next year, and in January there’s a vinyl issue of our first ever collection of tracks Secrets Of The Deep.

Seahawks` Island Visions and Ocean Moon`s Crystal Harmonics can both be purchased directly from Be With Records. The Virtual Dreams collection is available from Music From Memory. 

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