When Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride began their musical partnership under Stars Of The Lid, they may not have anticipated it would span over twenty years.

Discovering each other at a party during the '90s, Wiltzie explains, the two bonded when a record of the classical pianist Erik Satie came on and Brian was the only other person whom it made smile. The music they subsequently made together has proven impossible to wrap a genre around. Although commonly referenced as ambient, their records are engraved with absorbing, expansive and detailed moments for listeners to get lost in. Both have gone on to pursue other projects; Brian became a part of a new band, Bell Gardens, and pursued a career in academia as a debate coach while Adam pursued composing film scores as well as another duo with composer Dustin O'Halloran, A Winged Victory For The Sullen.

This October sees the cogs turning again within the band as they embark on their biggest European tour in years. The shows are a special collaboration with Moog, the vintage synthesizer company, which takes centre-stage of their new live arrangements. Andrew Darley chatted to Adam about the upcoming tour and how the shows feature the most satisfying representation of Stars Of The Lid to date.

How did this tour and collaboration with Moog come about?

Essentially it began with Paul Smith who is the founder of the Blast First label. He's been around for a long time; he was connected to Mute for a number of years, worked with Wire, was Throbbing Gristle's manager and broke Butthole Surfers back in the '80s. Basically he's a guy that just makes things happen. We met years ago when I was touring with another band I was in, Labradford. He's a Stars Of The Lid fan and he started working for the Moog company and the Moogfest - he acquired some vintage Moog gear and had an idea to curate these concerts and possible recordings.

Paul found me in my hotel in London when I was doing the Atomos premiere with A Winged Victory For The Sullen. He came up with the idea of using this Moog 55, which Keith Emerson used before he passed on, and doing something with it. It's about taking these old instruments and making new music. It's a particularly special one. The 55 is the original modular system and it's a bit of a beast. It's such a beautiful pure sound. The dark side of it is that there's no 'save' function. There was no such thing as presets back then so you have to be careful. As the wiseman once said there's a fine line between clever and stupid with this instrument. When you get it working it's absolutely fantastic.

So there's no going back if you make a mistake!

There's no going back - well you can try, but you don't always get there.

How has it been selecting the pieces to play on this tour?

Initially I just wanted to see if I could get musical with the instrument. I brought out a couple friends who are more modular-knowledgeable, Bobby Donne from Labradford and Francesco Donadello who introduced me and Dustin (O'Halloran) and records all AWinged Victory For The Sullen records with us. They got some beautiful sounds going so we asked them to join the tour and work on new stuff to breathe life into these old, tired pieces of Stars Of The Lid.

Have they changed a lot?

Well I'm not sure how much they've changed but for me they feel different. I won't know completely until we start rehearsals which is two days before the tour. I have specific ideas of how we're going to use it. Our pre-test showed that this Moog has amazing potential for drones so it's going to fit in just wonderfully with what we do.

With the new material you're writing, will that shape up to be a new record?

I can only say that only the shadow knows (Laughs) - it's impossible to tell with us. Things move very slowly with this band.

You are working with visual collaborator and projectionist Luke Savisky, and German lighting designer MFO. How do you approach translating the music visually?

Luke has been with me and Brian since day one. We've never played a concert without him so he's a big part of our live sound. If anyone knows us, it's him. Marcel Weber, who is MFO, I've got to know him over the past few years who also works with Tim Hecker and Ben Frost. We don't play that much, a handful of shows every few years, we've always used projection but never really had a lighting engineer. We really wanted to step it up with this tour. I've never been more happy with the visual set-up that we have right now. It's the most satisfying representation of what I've wanted to present in a live setting since we've existed.

A lot of your songs are lengthy pieces that reach 10 minutes and more. What interests you about working on that scale?

I've always been interested in the grandiose and film music. As a kid film music was what I was most inspired by. I didn't start my music career till quite late. I had a connection to minimal music and listening to Brian Eno as a kid. His long pieces, like 'Thursday Afternoon' were an huge inspiration for me. I liked that the fact that nothing would happen over a long period of time. One piece we're going to play on this tour is 30 minutes long so we are pushing that boundary.

Do you think longer compositions can create an experience for listeners which shorter ones can't?

Not necessarily. As I've gotten older I find that I'm writing more shorter pieces which may be because I'm working more in film and some scenes requires shorter pieces. As an artist, when you know a piece is finished, it can always be developed and changed. In the early days, a song could take four or five years for me to complete. Now it's much easier for me to complete. I'm looking at some of the pieces, they're 20 years old but we're still changing them.

Going back to the beginning of the band, you traded tapes and field recordings through post?

Well that happened a bit later. In the early days when we lived in the same city we would get together and play in the same room but more often than not we worked off these 4-track cassette recorders. I'd make a piece of music and invite Brian over for a glass of wine that evening to listen and he'd take it home and add to it. That's the way we always worked so it wasn't that strange when we lived in different parts around the world.

When you taught yourself how to write music and notate, did it give you the freedom to write bigger pieces?

It gave me the freedom to write with classical musicians. The most fun thing for me, particularly the French thriller whom we worked with Jalil Lespert (who recently directed the BBC's series Versailles). Justin and I recorded for two months in Budapest and it wasn't until the orchestra came in and stood in the stands that I really got excited. I got to see this crazy science experiment where they'd play all the notes we wrote. It's been very liberating. I'm not classically trained so there's always a part that don't turn out exactly as you'd expect. The acoustic instrument can be played in so many ways, for example, one D note could be played in one hundred different ways.

Is there any piece that you're particularly proud of?

Proud is not really a feeling I have. The work I've done with Dustin over the last few years has been really exciting because it was so unexpected. The first A Winged Victory For The Sullen is probably one of my favourite records because it came out of nowhere. I never thought I'd make a record that sounded like it - I've never been so content. I never get sick of it.

When you say pride is not something you feel about your work, is that because you're a perfectionist?

I've been putting out records since '93 and made a lot of records over the years and they're like little children. These time capsules. It's not a feeling of being proud, it's more of a recognition that it was a time in my life. Sometimes I'll hear a piece of music and I'll forget that it was me. It's a bit surreal.

Do you identify with the term 'ambient' that Stars Of The Lid have become known for?

I identify with ambient more than I do with neoclassical or any other genre. I remember back when we started, everyone called us post-rock. People need some sort of description of the music rather than one big ball of goo and no-one knows the difference. If I have to pick one I usually select 'Other' because I don't know what to describe it as.

It's interesting because I was speaking to Valgeir Sigurðsson and Nico Muhly for the 10th anniversary of Bedroom Community this week and they both said that classical music has totally changed in how it's being distributed and received by listeners today.

Classical music has come a long way in a short amount of time. I remember trying to find people who could play strings and let go of the classical world and come into my world which was hard. The general classical audience is dying out because they're getting older so there is a new breed of young people who are able to appreciate the classical scene.

What do you think has been key in maintaining a strong creative relationship in Stars Of The Lid over 20 years?

Friendship is the basis and that's how we started. If we didn't like each other we wouldn't keep making records. We've known each other since the beginning of time. We go in and out of making music but we'll never stop doing it.

Stars Of The Lid's European tour begins on Oct 1st and all dates can be found here.