Behind the piano: Khyaam Haque

Behind the piano: Khyaam Haque

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I originally grew up in Northbrook, Illinois. However, I spent most of my childhood in Guadalajara, Mexico. I moved back to Illinois when I was fourteen years old and then moved to Chicago for college. Now I own a condo about a half-hour away from the city. 

How long have you been playing the piano?
Realistically, about 5 years now – I always had some type of keyboard around when I was growing up but never had great coordination to play classical piano. When I started to feel more inspired by piano music, and started listening a lot of film music, I wanted to become a better pianist and it became my main instrument.

Do you play other instruments as well? 
Yes, I originally was and am a guitar player. I have played guitar since I was 11 years old. When I was in high school and the early years of college, I was involved in a lot of metal bands and post-rock bands. During college I started to broaden my horizons to other styles of music. I started to make music with synthesizers, midi controllers, samples and beats. When that began, I was less interested in guitar and more interested in learning how to write music in different ways. There are so many tools to create music now, why not use them?

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
I heard the song “We Will Rock You” by Queen. Simultaneously, I bought Daft Punk’s album “Discovery” at a local music store in Guadalajara. Queen and Daft Punk were the main reasons I wanted to start playing music. I asked my mom if I could start taking guitar lessons. Truth be told, I didn’t like taking lessons much and became self-taught later. I managed to stick with it after all these years.

How long have you been making piano music?
I released my first piano album in 2016 called “Sonorous Laments for a Future Past” – I wrote most of the material for that in 2015. I wouldn’t say that anything I wrote prior to that would be considered piano music. It was the first time I ever wanted to create an album with piano as the main instrument.

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
I don’t recall a specific moment, but some of the first moments I realized I could make songs was when I got my first electric guitar. It was one of those off-brand, Stratocaster starter packs. In my old house in Guadalajara, we had a small building attached to our front gate that my sister and I called “the band room”. My sister started playing drums when I started playing guitar, and we wrote a few songs together and had our own band with a couple friends from private school. Looking back, I would consider them pop-punk songs or something along the lines of Blink-182 or AFI. We also covered “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes. With practice, I got better at writing songs from that point on. 

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
The more you get into this piano genre, the more you realize that there are so many talented artists and composers out there. The fact they’ve gotten great exposure or not means absolutely nothing – the music is still just as good. It’s very hard to choose favorites after discovering that. 

It definitely started with artists like Ryuichi Sakamoto. I loved the music I heard in the film “Babel” and always wondered, “Who wrote that?” After I figured out who he was, he became one of my favorite artists. 

When I wanted to become a better pianist and write my own piano music, artists like Philip Glass, Nils Frahm, and Ólafur Arnalds were the first artists I gravitated toward, and will always be favorites. Jean-Michel Blais has been a favorite recently, too.

I’ve also always been a huge fan of the music for video game series like Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Silent Hill. Those games always had such beautiful piano music in them – I even went as far as buying the soundtracks for them when I was younger. To this day, I find a lot of inspiration in Nobuo Uematsu, Yoko Shimomura, and Akira Yamaoka’s compositions. 

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? 
Not necessarily, but I do have a lot of ideas that never become songs. Those ideas ended up turning into warm-ups or things I play over and over again whenever I sit at a piano. I have a feeling someday they will become actual songs, every year a little bit more gets added to them. One would rarely, if ever, catch me playing someone else’s song, simply due to the fact I don’t know how to read sheet music. 

How long is your shortest song? 
My track “Hand in Hand” off my first album “Sonorous Laments for a Future Past” is only 58 seconds long. It’s actually the same melody as the track “We Were Infinite”, but more simple, shorter, and played an octave higher. I didn’t have the heart to take it off the album for some reason. 

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
I wouldn’t say that I’ve found a specific rule that needs to be broken when making music. It truly depends on the song and if the rule being broken actually draws the listener’s attention to that moment in the song for the better. The best reason to break a rule in a track is that the song won’t be as good if you don’t break it. If any artist finds themselves in a position where breaking the rules is their best bet, embrace it.

Where do all your songs come from?
I believe it’s a mixture of music I’m inspired by, life experiences, and things I see in the world, art, and films. All these facets have some way of adding depth to my personal life. I could be doing anything, and the music I’m listening has the ability to make moments of my own life experiences more cinematic and memorable. Somewhere in that space is where the inspiration lives, and somewhere in that space is where a song is created. 

Thank your the the talk Khyaam! Please check out these social links for more information:
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