Behind the piano

Behind the piano: Aatraus

A while back I posted about the track Gone are the days by the Finnish composer Aatraus, and today we go Behind the piano to get to know the person behind the artist name a bit better!

What’s your real name?
Sami Lehtiö. My piano album bears my real name, but orchestral music I only release under my artist name.

How did you come up with your artist name?
I tried to come up with a more international name than my own, and I was ready to make music under an old online alias that I always liked. It was, however, quite hard for some Finns to pronounce, so a friend suggested I just adjust it to fit a Finnish mouth. I shunned the notion at first, but then it grew on me, and now I love it.

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I am from Finland and live in a city called Tampere.

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
We got our first keyboard when I was seven, and with that my dad taught me my ABCs, so to speak. I’m 31 now and have been playing on and off since then, but I was never really any good. Only in the last six years or so did I actually try to learn a bit more as I started taking composing more seriously. Before that I did have my own power metal band, but I played the drums.

Tell us about how you started playing music.
I think it’s fair to say that I’ve always been creative and music has been my number one outlet. It’s hard to pinpoint how I started, but my father has always been musical and music was a big part of my childhood in one way or another. Funnily enough, I never wanted to be a musician but a writer, until I noticed how much easier it was for me to write a story in melodies than it was in words.

How long have you been making piano music?
I probably wrote my first composition at age 13. We started our band soon after and made bad metal for a few years. Some 10 years later I started playing a bit more determinedly and learning orchestral composition. Although almost all of the songs I’ve ever composed have been piano-based to some extent, this new album is my first project to feature only piano.

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
I discovered early on that I could learn songs by heart pretty easily, but because I wasn’t very good, I couldn’t make other people’s songs sound correct without following notation. Soon I got frustrated trying to copy others, and I started playing how I felt comfortable. Not long after, I could play a handful of songs from memory, all of which were my own.

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
Hard one. I like to listen to all kinds of composers and make new discoveries. If you pushed me, I’d probably say Ludovico Einaudi and Yann Tiersen, and also Alexandre Desplat to whatever extent he fits this genre. If I may, I also want to shoutout fellow SleepySongs feature Thomas Hewitt Jones, who I’ve been a huge fan of since discovering his album Neoclassical.

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s?
I can only really play my own songs. If I sit down to play, I usually warm up with the same song. For a long time it has been “Cascades”, which is quite an old composition, though I recorded it for the first time for the new album. If I sit down to compose, I might not warm up at all, because I like to empty my mind into the melodies.

What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
I am a huge perfectionist myself and constantly struggle with being content with any piece of music I write, so I want to say the presumption that music should be perfect, because someone like me out there needs to hear it.

How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
I have a rather primitive home studio where I make all of my music.

What’s your take on sampled instruments?
They are a life-saver for someone like me, who has a strong creative disposition to make music but limited resources to record real instruments or musicians. They also allow me to compose everything I do on a piano, the only instrument I truly play.

The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from?
Mostly, trial and error.

Thank you very much for this Sami!

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