Barry Craig passed away a few days ago on September 4th. You may not have known him by that name, but you might be familiar with the music he produced over the last two and a half decades as A Produce. He was featured heavily on Echoes, especially in the 1990s when he was most prolific.
It’s sad to take note of Barry’s passing since he’s in the Echoes generation of musicians if you will, artists who are about my age who grew up listening to the same music. Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Michael Stearns, Steve Tibbetts are all artists who fall into this group, the 50-somethings, and that’s much too early to leave the planet.
As A Produce, Barry Craig created sweeping expanses of sound that owed a debt to Steve Roach. But unlike Roach, A Produce usually had a hint of melody in his music, even in some of his most abstract, drone-zone works. I interviewed Barry in 1996 and looking back on it, it seems to sum up this musician as a man and as an artist.
He picked a difficult moniker for a stage name, but it was an even more difficult musical road that this synthesist and composer tried to follow. Throughout the 1990s he released a series of albums that explored the dimensions of introspective music and techno-tribal trance. Under the name of A Produce, synthesist Barry Craig made an ethereal brand of techno-tribal ambiences.
Sitting in his apartment at the corner of a busy intersection in Glendale, California, it was a different kind of ambience that dominated the room. “That’s ambient traffic noise out there,” said Craig sardonically. “People are waiting to turn at the stop sign there and have their radios cranked. And the windows down.” It was a wonder how he made his music amidst the noise. “I sort of wait for the spaces in between,” he said. Once I’m into it, I’ve got the volume up a little bit, I can tune out the rest or tune in more of what my sounds are.
Some of A Produce’s music was as dissonant as the ones outside his windows. In fact, many pieces, like “Choir Of Industry,” seem to emerge out of a bed of indistinct textural sounds. “I kind of like the idea of just the position and contrast in that piece,” he explained. “That you have these sort of harsh, factory type sounds, stamp presses and such, Tesla rays and sort of threatening or ominous sinister sounds against a sort of velvety choir type sound. It was basically the textured piece, a mood piece, comparing sort of opposite poles of harsh sounds and quiet sounds, and smooth sounds, dark sounds, light sounds, and kind of blending them together.”
A Produce started out as a guitarist and even made records with a mid-80s new wave group called After Image. that music is far from the sounds he creates now, and a produce looks different. Completely hairless, Craig was a striking figure, but it wasn’t a fashion statement. “No it’s not,” he lamented. “I started losing my hair a few years ago. Alopecia is what it’s called and it’s not debilitative or life threatening or anything like that and I guess if it had to happen now is a good time for it to have happened….. It’d be nice, I tried a number of things and treatments. It’s again one of those mysterious things in life I guess I’m trying to evoke a little bit in my music.”
Before he lost his hair, but following the demise of After Image, A Produce began making the move away from guitar. He was seduced by synthesizers and their possibility to create landscapes of sound. The early results can be heard on his 1988 debut album, The Clearing. “The Clearing was a very minimalistic album,” observed Craig. “At the time I described it in a stuff I sent out with the promo copies as a… What did I call it? Something about an abstract, well, I forget, but anyway it was an exploration in abstract sound or conceptual space, that’s what I called it…. I had played guitar in a band here in Los Angeles in the early 80s and really hadn’t done much with keyboards or synthesizers and I’d just started to get interested in that and so it was very much a transitional album going from a rock environment in to more of an ambient one.”
Since The Clearing, A Produce released dozens of CDs on his own Tranceport label as well as the Hypnos label. If his influences aren’t apparent in the music, he reveals them in his instrumental credits. he gives his sounds names like Wavestation, Hassell Air, Somber Reptiles And Fripp Vs Room, nodding to the first generation of modern ambient musicians.
By now, you might be wondering why Barry Craig is known as A Produce. He says it was given to him by another musician who wanted Craig to produce him. “Then, when the band later got together he started giving everybody names,” recalled the synthesist. “He was R Dash. There was another guy named I B Morgan. I was A Producer. And we later dropped the “r.” I told you it wouldn’t be that interesting but that’s how it happened folks.”
Whether he went by A Produce or Barry Craig, he never became a household name, even within the limited world of the ambient scene. But A Produce did slowly build a following, selling a couple of thousand copies of each record, mostly thru word of mouth. With a studio in what would normally be a dining room, he was content to create the soundscapes of the unconscious. “I see myself as doing a deep listening kind of music,” he avers. “Music for contemplation, meditation. The name of my label is Transport, something that transports you out of your daily routine and puts you into a space where your thoughts can travel.”
Barry Craig died of natural causes on September 4, 2011 in Los Angeles, CA. He leaves behind his wife Jane, parents Jim and Doris, and sisters Cheryl and Laurie. Friends and followers are invited to leave words of remembrance about Barry on this Facebook page. Those wishing to express words to his family are invited to contact his sisters: Cheryl =email@example.com or Laurie = firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read tributes to A Produce on the Hypnos Forum.
His most recent CD release in 2011 was INTANGIBLE, performed by A Produce & Loren Nerell. Barry’s musical works are available from Hypnos Records or CDBaby or www.amazon.com.
A Produce transported us for years. Now he’s been transported himself.