Behind the piano

Behind the piano: Async Ross

A while back I posted about Async Ross and his song Cambria, and now it’s time to get to now the man behind the song a bit better!

What’s your real name? 
My name is Benjamin Ross Stitt and I release Indie Folk music under my name Ben Stitt and Neo Classical music under the alias ‘Async Ross’.

How did you come up with your artist name?
After I recorded my first 4 piano pieces I was going back and forth between different names or even just releasing them under my normal name along side my Indie Folk stuff. But ultimately decided that I want to separate the two. So I settled on Async Ross. I kind liked the sound of using my second name ‘Ross’ in combination with the word async which stands for asynchronous and describes events or things that are slightly out of phase or not happening at the same time. I just really loved the idea of that and was drawn to the sound and the whole aesthetic of how Async Ross looked and sounded.

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I’m originally from Potsdam, Germany but I currently live in the US. I moved to Boston in 2014 to study at Berklee College of Music and moved to Los Angeles in 2017 after I graduated.

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I actually only just recently started playing the piano while studying at Berklee. I usually went into one of the piano practice rooms when I was studying harmony or ear training, since it’s a lot easier to visualise and understand music theory on a piano rather then on a guitar just due to the fact how it’s laid out, from there I just started to tinker around on it and apply certain theory concepts to the piano. So I kinda learned playing the piano through learning theory. I still wouldn’t really call myself a pianist I have no idea about the proper fingerings for each scale or any of that, I do however have a pretty good understanding of theory and ear training which helps a lot when playing and writing on the piano, even though I have to admit while writing or improvising on the piano I usually don’t think about theory or harmonic concepts at all, I just play whatever comes to my mind and whatever feels good. Apart from piano I also play guitar, bass and I sing.

Tell us about how you started playing music.
I started out as a guitar player which is still my main instrument and the instrument I feel the most comfortable on. I think with around 13-14 I got completely obsessed with practicing guitar and blues music. I started to listen to all the old masters from B.B. king to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Back then all I wanted to be was a guitar player, it was pretty much the only thing on my mind. This started to slowly shift when I got into my later teens with artists like Bon Iver and Ben Howard, I started to become more and more interested in songwriting and from there on also more interested in ambient, classical, neo classical music and film scores.

How long have you been making piano music? 
These four pieces I just recorded are actually the first solo piano pieces I ever composed. I mean I did record and play piano on some of my other projects before but this is the first time I actually specifically wrote music for the piano. 

Tell us something about that moment you realised you could make songs yourself! 
I always liked improvising even when I just started out on guitar, I usually would learn a part of a song and then just start to explore more possibilities from there to create my own parts for it. A game changer was when I got my first loop station with around 15, it opened up so many new possibilities of stacking and layering sounds and the same thing happened when I started using DAWs like Ableton. I think I always enjoyed creating my own songs and improvising a lot more then learning other peoples songs. Of course when starting out you kinda start with just learning songs from other people but as soon as I had somewhat of an basic understanding of the guitar or the piano I immediately starting writing my own music mainly because I’m way to impatient to actually sit down and learn a whole song somebody else had written, I just wanted to play. 

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”? 
Nils Frahm and Olafur Arnalds are definitely the two musicians who first got me interested in Piano and neo Classical music. I just love how both of them manage to blend different styles and manage to still make solo piano music sound new and exciting. Apart from that I also really like Johann Johannson, Goldmund, Ryuichi Sakamoto and my most recent discovery but one of my favourites already Hania Rani. 

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? 
Mmh that’s a good question, since I wouldn’t really call myself a pianist I actually don’t know that many classical or contemporary pieces on the piano so I mostly just start improvising something or play some patterns or chord progressions and then go from there. I do however usually start by playing something in C# for some reasons that has always been my favourite key. There is just something about the way it resonates on a piano or guitar that really appeals to me. 

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken? 
There are a lot of different paths I could go down with this question, but I think what all of them ultimately come down to is: Whatever feels right to you is correct. I think you should never follow a strict set of rules just because somebody told you that thats the correct way of doing it, and this goes for both, the harmonic/theoretical aspect of music as well as the recording and production side of music. coming from someone who studied music and has a pretty good understanding of theory and harmony I think it’s important to remember that a lot of those “rules” were never intentionally made by certain composers, musicians or producers, they were just writing music that resonated with them. In a lot of case those ‘rules’ were created by people who then later on analysed those pieces of music and then created a set of rules to follow incase you want to recreate that kind of music. 

How do you record your music?
I usually record all the music I write or produce by myself in my little home studio. I have a nice little setup which I know inside out, everything is set up and I can pretty much just record anything right away. I think thats the most important aspect for me, there is nothing I hate more then having an idea and the then having to spend hours with setting up or trouble shooting some issues because you don’t know the studio or the gear.
But unfortunately I currently don’t own a piano, so I actually recorded the piano pieces in my parents living room while I was visiting them last winter.

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
I actually think they are incredible tools for writing and composing and enable musicians who maybe don’t have access to a piano or a violin or a full orchestra to still create their music and ideas. Sample instruments have become so good that you can have some of the most beautiful pianos, string players and orchestras at your fingertips which is amazing and super inspirational. I don’t think they will ever replace the real thing but I think that was ever the intention of sampled instruments, but it’s an amazing resource to have.
I actually also really enjoy sampling all kinds instruments and sounds and morphing them into new textures, I think it’s such an inspiring thing to do to create your own unique sound pallet. Nowadays I actually get a lot of my ideas and inspiration for songs or pieces from sound or textures I created. For me a lot of the emotion of music actually lies in the texture of it’s sound.

The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from?
I tend to wonder that myself sometimes, music is such an impressive thing, no matter what language you speak or where you are from you are able to understand music and the emotion behind it. It’s even more impressive to think about the fact that you are not really inventing anything new, all the notes, chords and words are there already and all have probably been heard, played and said before, you are ultimately just combining notes in a way that makes sense to you and makes you feel some kind of emotional reaction. So long story short I think my songs and music just come from a need to express myself and from a need to understand and process my surroundings.

Thank you very much for this Ben! It’s been a pleasure reading through this article!

For more information about Ben and Async Ross, please check out these social links:
Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

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