Crows Labyrinth, aka Theo Tol, is a Dutch bass guitar dronescaper who combines effects processing and improvisation to create otherworldly idyllic ambient soundscapes. He released an album in 2013 called ‘Travels’ which was followed up by an EP in 2016 called ‘Consolation.’ He is currently finishing his second album in Volendam, Netherlands where he resides.
How did you decide on the name Crows Labyrinth?
The first half of the name goes back to a nickname I’ve been using on the internet since day one: The Crow. This nickname goes back even further and was used in my dad’s family for decades, possibly close to a century ago. Furthermore I wanted a name that has something mysterious, or even something mystical to it. I think that Crows Labyrinth has these characteristics.
What do you love about living in Volendam?
I have lived here for whole my life. Most of my family and friends live here too, which is convenient. It’s a very nice place to live, and it’s close to Amsterdam. Everything you need is within walking or cycling distance. And when the weather is nice, you can go for a walk or have a drink on the boulevard at the harbor. The coast is a ten to fifteen minute walk from my house. Not too bad I’d say.
What’s your motto / life philosophy?
Do good, and good things will come to you. That’s a terrible cliché, I know. So I’d like to add this one too: always make sure you have something on your calendar to look forward too. Or in other words, always have a reason to keep going.
Your lifestyle in five words?
Family, friends, music, work, play.
What inspires you?
Hearing and seeing talented musicians play their music. The latest example of this was seeing King Crimson live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Eight people, some of them over 70 years old, that play the most mind-boggling, intricate, but beautiful music. I am a huge fan of King Crimson’s band leader, Robert Fripp, who is one of the main inspirations when I started making music as Crows Labyrinth.
Finish this sentence. Life is…
I think Mark Hollis of Talk Talk said it best: ‘Life’s what you make it’.
What are you listening to non-stop?
My main music genres are ambient music and progressive rock. And because I grew up in the eighties I love a lot of music from that period as well. Ambient artists I like a lot are Brian Eno, Robert Fripp’s soundscape albums, Steven Wilson’s Bass Communion, Chihei Hatakeyama, Loscil, Celer, William Basinski and many, many more. From the progressive bands I love The Flower Kings, Beardfish, King Crimson, Yes, Rush, Porcupine Tree, and many more. I could go on and on. My music collection consists of close to 2000 CDs and LPs.
Is there such a thing as “destiny”? Why or why not?
No, I don’t think so. I’m not a religious person. Life is a combination of what you make from it and what happens to you that’s beyond your control.
Say someone puts on ‘Improv 1’ and switches off the lights. What do they ‘see’?
Hard question. Everybody experiences things differently when they hear this improvised and experimental music. My best guess is that they see themselves floating in space, looking at a colorful nebula, or maybe floating in the deep sea observing all kinds of alien plant and animal life. What images do *you* see? 😉
How convinced are you that the sun will rise tomorrow?
I’m pretty sure. I’d call that a scientific fact. 🙂
What do you feel has been your best piece of music to date?
The piece that people have responded to the most is my track ‘Heliograph’; the last track of my debut album. It’s played on a fretless bass with the E-string tuned down to D, and using a lot of effects. I think it would sound amazing when it fills up a large cathedral.
Are you more or a rule breaker or rule follower?
When I create music I follow my own rules. There aren’t many actually. Rule number one: it has to sound good to me. It has to move me in some way. Second rule: only a bass guitar may be used as the sound source to produce the sounds. Any effect can be applied though, but should preferably be possible to reproduce in a live situation. Nearly all of my music is recorded in one improvised, live take. The way I work is that I look for a sound, or find an interesting sound by accident, and let the music happen. The keyword here is serendipity. When I start creating a new piece, I never know what I’ll end up with. I also don’t think about the length or duration of a piece. It’s an organic thing. The final track on the new album turned out to be over 13 minutes long. It didn’t feel like 13 minutes at all when I recorded it, haha!
What does silence feel like to you?
I don’t mind silence. Every now and then everyone needs silence, including me. For thinking over something, or just doing nothing, staring out of the window.
What ambient / drone music would you recommend?
There are so many great ambient/drone releases that I would like to mention dozens of artists. A few of my favorites then: ‘Ghosts on Magnetic Tape’ by Bass Communion, ‘Coast / Range / Arc’ by Loscil, The Tired Sounds of Stars Of The Lid and ‘Coastal Railroads in Memories’ by Chihei Hatakeyama. Special mention goes out to two indie artists that I’ve learned about via social media and make excellent drone music: Grey Frequency and Wolfgang Merx. Go check them out, folks.
What can we expect from you for the rest of 2018?
Currently I’m focusing on finishing my second album ‘All Will Perish’ of which I released the single with the same name. I don’t have a release date yet, but expect to release it by September. I’m planning to do a limited run of CDs of the album that can be ordered via my Bandcamp page. Furthermore I plan to experiment more with live streaming. I have done a few audio-only livestreams where I record and create sounds and audio loops on the spot, compared to what I did with my track ‘Improv I’. Maybe I’ll put out these recording on a subscription page on Patreon or Bandcamp in the future, or use the recordings to compile a new album. Nothing is set in stone. I’ll just let it all happen. Serendipity, you know. 😉