Behind the piano

Behind the piano: Tom Blankenberg

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I was born in Düsseldorf, Germany and I still live there.

How long have you been playing the piano?
Maybe started with 7 or 8? My piano teacher and and I had like an on/off releationship. It started with maybe 7 or 8 for a short time, continuing briefly with around 12 and then again with 19… but not a long time in total.

Do you play other instruments as well? 
I played saxophone for a short peroid of time as a teenager, but very unskilled… and I can play the most common guitar chords for campfire situations!

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
I went to music school at a very young age for a first introduction in music, playing a small c-major glockenspiel. Then as a child i had those piano lessions. The Teacher loved „The Beatles“, so I was more used to play non-classical stuff. As a teenager I was into synthpop. So I started at 13 or 14 with a synthpop band, having only a few rehearsals, maybe just one… ha ha, this was more about having the image of being in a synthpop-band. After that experience I tried a little Sade-like popjazz and funk as saxophone player and/or keyboarder. Nothing long or serious. But after that I start playing piano, Rhodes and synth in the guitar-indie band, i’m still in. We released 4 albums so far. No. 5 is in the making.

How long have you been making piano music?
I did only a few pieces when i was young (one of them ended up on my debut album 32 years later), but then I stopped somehow… and started working and having a family… I still did music in this guitar-indie band but I did not participate in the songwriting process. I fullfilled my demand for songwriting/composing doing soundtracks for a few short films. But 6 years ago I started doing solo piano music again more seriously.

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
It was always there. I made tiny tracks or musical experiments with my brother as a kid. Those felt songish already. For me Making music was always making compostions too.

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
I love the piano work of Ryuichi Sakamoto. A „piano genre“ artist I like very much is Hideyuki Hashimoto. And I regularly comming back to Matthew Bourne, Carles Viarnès 

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
There’s a song of mine I come back to more often that to other ones. It´s „tori“, the opening track of my latest release.

How long is your shortest song? 
I did many very short ones for an audiobook, from 4sec. to 45sec. But on the album the shortest is I guess 56sec.

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
It took me a long time to realize: ignore expectations and go out with your music! 

Anything else you want to share?
After stoping having piano lessions as a kid, my parents didn´t sell the piano. They hold it, it was always there. That was very important for my musical development. I was able to play it whenever I wanted to… Having access to a piano is very important for me now. My advice for everyone: don´t sell your instrument ever! Even the longest pause may end and then it´s like an old friend coming back. 

The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from? 
I don´t know. It feels like that they´re already there. I have to dig a while to reveal them completely… Then the songs tell me their stories or allow my to tell them.

Thank you for this Tom! And thank you for that lovely record of yours!

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