Behind the piano

Behind the piano: Matthias Krauss

Today we’ll get Behind the piano of the German composer and piano player Matthias Krauss!

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I am from a small town near Frankfurt, but I am living since nearly 30 Years in beautiful Cologne / Germany 🇩🇪

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I startet as a kid playing piano and guitar…first on a little keyboard with an organ sound and the old little nylon guitar of my father. After a while, thank god, my parents bought me real upright piano and a „better“ acoustic guitar. I started taking piano lessons when I was 9 years old…

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
I remember the moment when I discovered this little organ like keyboard at the age of 4 or 5 – I was so excited and I played it the whole time. Same with the guitar – a good friend showed my the first chords and I was practising a lot to get it in my fingers. After I started to have piano lessons I realised that I had the gift to play music that I heard on the radio – something my classical piano teacher could not understand, cause he was used to play „only“ with scores. At this point I realised that for me the piano is something to express myself in music – not only to play music which is already written by someone. I found it always more interesting to find some own melodies or chord progressions…

How long have you been making piano music?
Making piano music was always a big part in my music career – I had some band projects in my school time where I was writing songs on the piano, but my first solo piano piece that I released on a professional record was in 1991 with my jazz rock band called „Matalex“ – we toured a lot all over Europe, made 5 albums and did some nice collaborations with big jazz stars like Randy Brecker, Steve Smith, Jean Paul Bourelly. In this period I learned a lot about playing, improvising and also producing. On every album was one dedicated piano Ballad which was for me the start of the actual „Improvising Silence“ Project.

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
As I said I was able to play songs I heard on the radio – that was for me the inspiration and the starting point to write my own melodies.  I also startet very early to work with Keyboards, Computer and 4 Track Tape recording machines…so I recorded a lot of song ideas, some instrumentals, some with vocals. The piano was always the center of my musical life and still is. I love playing on an acoustic Instrument – there is a something magic about sitting in the center of the sound of a Piano.

My first Solo Album was not even planed. I was producing a Pop Band in a very nice Studio in the south of France (Studio Miraval) – there was this unbelievable Boesendorfer Imperial grand piano in this Studio, and every night when the production time was over I played on this magic Instrument – so at one night a recorded a lot of my ideas – just to have it – at home in my studio i listend to the recordings and my first „Improvising Silence“ Album was already there ! 

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
During my classical piano lessons I realised that I like Chopin, Schumann and Debussy the most – later, I discovered modern Jazz pianists like Chick Corea, Keith Jarret, Bill Evans or the beautiful playing of Herbie Hancock, also a big Inspiration for me was to work with Jon Jord (Deep Purple) – I was blessed playing in his Band for a few years and did some recordings and Concerts with this outstanding gentleman. I learned a lot about composing and bringing the both worlds of classic and pop together.  

In our days there are many of really good piano artist/composers – in the neoclassical genre to name a few like Max Richter, or Olafur Arnalds – I love the creativity of those guys !

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? 
No, there is not the one song – music or composing for me is to be open and to let it flow, I always try to find something new, the first seconds sitting on the piano are the most valuable for me, cause I am not thinking, I am just playing.

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
I think every rule is there for a good reason, but also that every rule needs to be broken to go further…This is a very personal process that every creative mind has to explore. Sometimes I change my recording setup in my studio or I travel to another place which inspires me and compose / record there. Since a few years I did many productions in a very nice studio in Ireland – in the middle of nowhere – things changes when you leave your „normal“ setup, you get inspiration from the environment or the people you meet an your travel…when you start to feel to comfortable – go to a different place, find different Instruments, talk to other artist and composers – how are they working ? 

How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
I have a big studio where I write, produce and record, this is my main base where I work as a producer with many artists,  but I also have a small (Laptop based) recording setup, which allows me to record also in many different places.

Im my studio I have this wonderful upright piano which I used for the „Improvising Silence II“ album – I do everything by myself, recording, editing, mixing – only for the mastering I have a good friend who works as a mastering engineer,  I like to have this second opinion !

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
I bought so many sound libraries the last 15 years and I am still exploring them ! I love the Libraries from „Spitfire Audio“ – I think they are doing a fantastic job ! I also use „8DIO“ or „Toontrack“ – Samples to name a few.

Anything else you want to share?  
It is fantastic to have the possibility as an artist to be heard in nearly every country on the planet and for a listener it is even more exiting to explore all the different kinds of music. I really hope that some of them will enjoy listening to my music 🙂

And the question from my 6 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from? 
Wherever  the  songs come  from, they are accepted with gratitude. I feel like a medium through which the songs evolve. I regard it as a gift that I have the possibility to channel certain powers at certain times, and at the end of this chain a song emerges that wasn`t there before. Sculptors always say that the sculpture itself already exists somewhere in the stone and they only need to carve it out. Writing songs is similar. Strictly speaking, all of them already exist!

Thank you very much for this Matthias!

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