We recently wrote about Chris Wirsig’s new instrumental album “The 13 Crystal Skulls.” The record contains pieces composed using experimental sounds and atonal harmonies, producing an impressively atmospheric listening experience. It was inspired by the collection of crystal skulls located at various places around the world , which many people believe are pre-Columbian and exhibit supernatural powers. I asked Chris about his interest in the skulls, the themes on the album, and his background of classical training.
First, I wanted to know how Wirsig had discovered the crystal skulls and how they influenced his music. Wirsig responded that he could not remember exactly when he first came across the idea, but it always fascinated him. “The legend somehow always intrigued me with its ambiguity and the folklore around it,” he said. “If it were true it would be a great adventure story and would also hold some implications on historical and spiritual level. On the other hand if you don’t believe in the legend, it’s still intriguing to try and figure out what schemes lay behind them – why they were made in the first place, who invented what stories around them, why people still believe in them, and so on.”
All of these open questions provided considerable creative potential for the album. “The album came about after I wrote the first song (and all songs on the album were really written in the order they are presented on the album) and realized that there’s more in this topic musically than just one song,” Wirsig added.
We moved on to discuss the feelings and emotions in the album, specifically how it shifts from a foreboding and at times spooky atmosphere to some more relaxed moments. I asked if this was what he intended to produce. “Yes, this was definitely something I wanted to achieve. But I didn’t exactly plan the structure of the songs beforehand,” Wirsig explained. “it rather is a kind of natural progression in the music. To me it would be boring if a whole album would stay in a certain atmosphere all the time. I like a change of pace and that’s what I try to incorporate in my music.”
He continued that one of his inspirations when creating the album was Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts, where “Trent Reznor collected all these experimental instrumentals. Of course “The 13 Crystal Skulls” has a different sound, but most songs dwell in the same area, have the same spirit,” he said.
Another influence in Wirsig’s music making is his background as a classically-trained musician. “I guess that training accounts for the harmonies that you can find in most of my music, even if it’s some more experimental or noisy or atonal piece,” Wirsig told me. “And that’s what I usually go for: I like the experiment, and I like to use sounds, structures or melodies that are not necessarily common, but the songs still have elements of classical structures in them.”
Wirsig acknowledges that his music is “certainly not in the mainstream” and “might be not so easy to digest.” Nonetheless, the reaction to the album has been overwhelmingly positive. “So far there were only very good reviews, which makes me very happy and grateful,” he continues. “regardless of background or genre preference, people really like the atmosphere and emotions of the songs, and see the effort that went into the creation of them.”
As well as working on new music with his electro band No Carrier, Wirsig hopes to compose more film soundtracks following his success with the short film 20 Matches. “”I’ve started a blog where I write about music in general and also give production or music business tips. This will grow soon and I hope to give other musicians some helpful information just like I still get important tips from meeting other composers or from blogs or other resources,” he adds.