"I'm sitting at Spun Academy and this 68-year-old man comes in holding this CD, and he goes, 'I want you to show me how to make this.' I shouldn't have thought this, but I was thinking it would be jazz or rock. I pop it in and it's HARD BANGING TECHNO. And I looked up at him and I said, 'You want to make this?' And he's like, 'Yeah.'"
This is how Brandon Neustel, founder and director of Portland's DJ and music production school, Spun Academy, recalls his first encounter with Roger Groendyke, now known to electronic music cognoscenti as Mister Chill'R. A retired research chemist, high school teacher, and Silicon Valley veteran, Groendyke enrolled at Spun in April of 2007 to enhance the music production skills he had been cultivating as a hobby since discovering the joys of MIDI and electronic music through his local Mac users' club in 1987. A mere six months after beginning his studies at Spun, Groendyke realized the goal that brought him through the academy's door, releasing Alien Unfolding, an 11-track album of downtempo and chill-out music.
"The greatest stroke of luck was having Brennan Murphey (AKA Epsylon) as my instructor, mentor, and as my album's producer," says Groendyke. "During the first class, he told a story about his father, a long-time musician, songwriter, and performer, who had a song come to him in a dream. He wrote it down and polished it and called it 'Wildfire.' I looked in amazement at Brennan, and said, 'You're Michael Martin Murphey's son?' He returned my amazed look, and said, 'You're the first student I've had who knows who my father is!' I said, 'Hell, I heard and saw your father perform that song in concert here in Portland before you were born!' We bonded."
Groendyke asked Murphey to listen to and critique the thousands of pieces he had built at his home studio over the past decade. Murphey was pleasantly surprised by the quality of Groendyke's abundant but still nascent work and offered to help him identify the standout tracks, polish them up, and release the highlights on his own Metakinetics label. Groendyke enthusiastically accepted the terms of the proposed partnership, and Mister Chill'R was born.Aside from his technical expertise, Murphey explained that he was able to utilize the biological advantages of his youth for Groendyke's benefit: "He can't hear much above 4,000 Hz because a lot of people when they get to be that age they start to lose the higher frequencies. He's got excellent compositional skills and, just as far as the engineering goes, without ears that can hear in that frequency range he needed someone to help him that was a bit younger and still had good ears."Roger and his wife, Glenna, have ended up becoming really good friends for my partner and I, in fact, sort of almost best friends. It's definitely become as much of a friendship as a partnership and a client/student relationship," Murphey continues. "We definitely have plans to continue working on this for years to come. He doesn't show signs of letting up anytime soon." Groendyke is currently taking classes on music theory and technology, and working on the next Mister Chill'R album at Murphey's own Phoenix Fire Sound School, which he founded in January, shortly after leaving Spun.Murphey finds inspiration in his collaboration with Groendyke: "Even after working corporate jobs for 50 years, and saving up, and going through all the different things in life that people go through, you can still find a life after all of that as an artist."