An O.G. who often remains in the shadows, the elusive Iona Dream has been a part of Dream Catalogue over the last half a decade – releasing music as Shinatama, Fentanyl Embrace, Iona Dream and other mysterious aliases, his hand has always been at play throughout the history of DREAM, steering the sound of the label with great foresight.
We caught up with him to get the latest updates on where he’s at with things now, what his plans are going forward, and his opinions on the “End Of Music” conversation, which he has much to say about.
What have you been working on as of late?
Iona: I have been mostly working on my new Iona Dream album and Shinatama’s ‘Astrocide II’, as well as furthering other aliases I am using. I am also trying to work on various AI and coding projects related to music and audio generally. I have become quite deconstructive sonically as of late. I have been quite interested in manipulating the fundamentals of digital audio, the sampling, spectral and synthesis mechanics, so I have been frequently sat in front of my PC messing around with WAV files in Python seeing if there is any value in this tangent.
Where did you get the idea from to use Vocaloid voices in your work?
Iona: That was back in 2011 when I was doing my Sound Engineering course, I found this crazy software with sick character designs and cyberculture, that is where my music bent started pre-Dream Catalogue. In 2012, I released my first Vocaloid tracks on Nico Nico Douga as Shinatama. Almost a decade later having seen a Miku Hatsune concert in London with the girl that I love and countless hours writing song lyrics I unequivocally denounce the culture and actively laugh at the grotty bed bugs that still propagate vocaloid ‘culture’ and ‘music’, although I do think that the software has legs. I have intent on developing my own Vocaloid counterpart using the academic literature on synthetic voices before this coronavirus mess clears up.
As someone who studies AI and Engineering, what do you think of machine learning?
Iona: I think Machine Learning is fascinating, I am absorbed by the concept of consciousness and relative intelligence, I am always gauging the nuances in intelligence in myself and those I interact with such as myself, people, objects and animals such as my hamsters, dog and frog. Machine Learning is another aspect of this and has truly massive potential in the long term, however, at the moment the hype is a bit ridiculous, what people aren’t aware of is that AI is an extension of maths and control theory, one way you could look at it is as a simple closed loop system, people would not call their washing machine or boiler intelligent and as it stands and nor should they really treat AI as such. Much like a simple closed loop system a neural network can automate certain tasks well though, so it will be revolutionary in time. Just be careful when listening to hype beast nerds like Elon Musk who have already killed numerous people overestimating what ‘autopilot’ can do.
” Machine Learning […] has truly massive potential in the long term, however, at the moment the hype is a bit ridiculous…”
What’s the longest you’ve ever worked on one track?
Iona: Probably a month when I first started making tunes, unbelievable I know, the product was garbage too, however, the journey has got me here, so I can’t complain.
I assume you’ve gotten quite a lot of glitchy, but also very interesting sounds from your Python experiments. Are the sounds you’ve found gonna influence your next record in any way, or is it just an experiment?
Iona: I am hoping eventually I will, I have come across a problem with generating full songs as of late, given that full songs have millions of samples, I need to find a suitable method to reduce the feature count whilst retaining intelligibility. I am doing research at the moment so that I can approach this a different way, meanwhile, I am going to work on generating midi patterns which will at least automate some of my processes, which has been done with reasonable success. Not for now, but once I have found a suitable method I am going generate such albums.
How many years do you think it’ll be before Machine Learning truly comes into it’s own and goes beyond just hype?
Iona: I think it will take a long time before it will reach human approximation at least, what differentiates the consciousness we possess from machine intelligence is that the brain is ridiculously capable of parallel processing, there are billions of neurons and synaptic connections in your brain that allow you to process information without even being conscious of it, a machine is ridiculously fast but is not nearly as capable of that level of processing, I have a 32GB RAM PC I use for AI and even it chokes on stuff we take for granted such as music generation. That is not to say it will not revolutionise the world and achieve simple tasks in the meantime though.
How’s 2020 been for you, on a personal note?
Iona: Not ideal. I am on my way to a first class pass on my honours and that has been the highlight really, possibly of my life so far, and I have never been so creative like I am as of late, both in music and programming. However, with the Coronavirus pandemic things haven’t been great, obviously. Still, I have hope that the inertia will end and a bright future awaits for all of us.
” I unequivocally denounce the culture and actively laugh at the grotty bed bugs that still propagate vocaloid ‘culture’ and ‘music’, although I do think that the software has legs”
What’s your thoughts on the End Of Music? Do you think music still has more left to give, or is it truly ready to give up the ghost?
Iona: Music is stone dead to me in the traditional sense, at this juncture. I can honestly say that there are many things that interest me in the world more than music for the sake of it. I do not see the point in iterating infinitely through the same concepts and ideas ad nauseum for the sake of ego, attention or the delusion of financial gain. The way I perceive it is that music as it is now is a commodity to the extent of seagulls or grass where people will eventually be paid to get rid of it. The irony of all these woke, pedantic musical artists turning up to XR rallies with their white, middle class, nerdy friends is that they are contributing to the problem of global warming by shoving their nothing music online and leaving it there endlessly consuming server space and thus energy without a thought for the crops and trees that will inevitably be chopped to power the biomass furnace that makes their soy latte and business techno production suite. They are a massive part of the problem they wish to solve ultimately. Hence, my purpose in music at this point is to develop new methods of approaching music with AI and other algorithms, then flood the market under various aliases and accelerate music to it’s inevitable heat death all for the trees and dolphins whilst giving some talentless, puritanical, communist, metropolitan, dweebs a taste of the power of the free market.
Do you fancy going into detail about your multiple aliases, how they relate to one another, why they exist etc.?
Iona: I would juxtapose another question in response. That would be ‘Why not have hundreds if not thousands or millions of aliases? Some of which completely illegible and unmarketable in Wingdings?’ Back in the day when I first started around DC I wondered why people would have multiple aliases instead of just one container, the answer to me is simply as they were deemed their existence in that moment as reflection of the artist and my aliases aren’t any different ultimately. Much like my music they are here because they are here ultimately.