• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Philip Campbell

    Today it’s time to get to know Philip Campell a bit better! You can find the spotted post about him and his song Seeking here!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’ve lived in the small, coastal town of Larne in Northern Ireland all my life.  It’s the perfect blend of town, countryside and views of the Irish Sea.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I was sent to piano and violin lessons at age 8 and I’m now 34 so you could say that I’ve been playing piano for over 25 years.  In reality though my obsession was guitar, bass and banjo in my teens and 20s and it was only in the last 3-4 years that my main focus has come ‘full circle’ back to piano.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    At school a few friends and I formed a 5 piece rock band, we played a few gigs when I was at university but ended up going our separate ways.  After that I actually ended up playing 5 string banjo in a bluegrass group for a few years.  Both a far cry from the ‘solo piano’ genre!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ll never forget hearing Ludovico Einaudi perform ‘I Giorni’ on youtube in 2016.  It was unlike anything I’d heard or seen before.  One artist, one piano, one simplistic arrangement that was one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’d ever experienced.  I immediately fell in love with solo piano and was inspired to try composing a few ideas myself.  That’s a long way of saying 3 years!

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    A few years ago my wife and I started the adoption process.  I remember sitting at the piano one night after hearing that things hadn’t worked out with an adoption application and feeling totally frustrated and disappointed.  Playing piano always relaxed me and I remember just repeating 2 single notes over and over again.  All of a sudden a simple melody came into my head; I added a few chords on the left hand and that became my first solo piano composition. (Here’s a link to the song Almost Home).

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    It’ll be no surprise that Ludovico Einaudi is first on the list.  I also love Goldmund, Joep Beving and Olafur Arnalds.  It’s great that Spotify playlists allow you to continually discover new artists; recently I’ve been listening to Anna Yarbrough’s albums ‘Divided’ and ‘Softer Sessions’, they’re fantastic.

    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? 
    That’s an easy one – ‘Berlin Song’ by Ludovico Einaudi.  I just love the chord voicings and dynamic variations he uses to produce the melody.

    How do you record your music?
    It’d be my dream to have a row of grand pianos lined up in a large studio but unfortunately it’s just me, a piano and a laptop at home. 

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    For me solo piano as a genre already breaks the rules!  You don’t need 20 layered tracks, 40 instruments and an insanely technical arrangement to make amazing music.  One pianist and a carefully crafted, simplistic arrangement can create some of the most beautiful music you will ever hear.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I don’t think there should be any restrictions in creating music.  If sampled instruments are what you have available to you and enable you to create music in a way you enjoy, I say – go for it!

    Anything else you want to share?
    It ties in with the previous question about ‘rule breaking’ but I’ve found the ‘community feel’ among solo piano artists really challenges the competitive arena of mainstream music.  Sites such as ‘Sleepy Songs’ greatly help with this!

    And the very last question from my son:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    (Tell your son, great question!)  I’ve found the hardest part is coming up with the ‘start’ of the song.  Once I’m happy with a few starting notes or chords, the rest of the melody seems to follow naturally.  Whatever mood I’m in or whatever has happened that day will help shape that melody.

    Thank you very much Philip for these wonderful answers!

    For more information, please check out any of these links:
    Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Andy Feldman

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I grew up in New Jersey, not far too far from the beach. I still live in NJ, but a bit further north now.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started taking piano lessons when I was 5 years old. I was always interested in the piano as a kid and eventually gravitated towards other instruments as well. In addition to piano and other keyboards, I can also play trumpet, guitar, drums, and some other assorted instruments.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    My family always had a piano in the house when I was growing up. As a young kid, I would always sit at the bench and hit random notes to make sounds. My parents eventually started to teach me simple tunes and by the age of 5, I was taking lessons.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I always had an interest in jazz, blues, and improvisation so I always was fooling around on the piano and making things up. I don’t know when exactly I started thinking of those creations as songs though. I always initially took my popular style music more seriously than my instrumental music until I was in college and started posting to SoundCloud. I found my piano music was getting more attention, so I also began to pay more attention to it. Eventually I took what were essentially improvisations and made them into more well formed pieces that became my first EP, and some of the songs on my more recent releases.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    It was very gradual process. My piano teacher always encouraged me to start recording various ideas I had, or to use recordings to make backing tracks to try to improvise over. I had a few friends who were interested in recording technology as well, and started using those tools to get an idea out of my head so that I could move on to the next one without the fear of forgetting it. Like I said, I originally focused on writing pop songs, and didn’t think too much of my instrumental music, but I always had a love of improvising and was constantly playing whatever came to mind.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I never gravitated towards the classical genres much so I didn’t have much exposure to this “piano genre” in the traditional sense. I take a lot of inspiration from soundtrack music, jazz, and even pop. Nobuo Uematsu was probably a very early inspiration for my piano music – I always loved the soundtracks to the Final Fantasy video games and learned many of those songs on piano. More recently, the soundtrack to the movie “Her” which was written by Arcade Fire, was an album that really stood out to me. It’s beautiful and simple. Lots of great use of space and some interesting tones. In highschool, I had a phase where I listened to The Doors constantly, and Ray Manzarek was a big influence. I loved hearing someone use the piano and other keyboards as a lead instrument. I guess I was always jealous of guitars having all of the fun stuff in most popular music. In the jazz world, Oscar Peterson, Thelonious Monk, and Gene Harris were guys I listened to a ton.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Usually I play whatever my latest “song” is. I often start by improvising something, and then playing that over and over, over the span of weeks or more, eventually refining it into a more structured piece.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All rules need to be broken, but you have to understand the rules first to understand why you are breaking them and be able to do it tastefully and with purpose.

    How do you record your music?
    I record a lot of music myself at home. I have a mini studio and an assortment of instruments. But I’ve also gone to various studios locally or in NYC to record for myself or for others.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    Samples instruments are great. Just like anything else, they are tools – when used appropriately and purposefully, they can 100% be the right instrument for the job. The piano is a particularly hard instrument to sample, but again it depends on the context. A sampled piano in a pop song may cut through the mix nicely, whereas a sampled piano in a solo piano piece might sound a bit unrealistic. But there are some truly amazing VSTs out there these days!

    Anything else you want to share?
    You can check out my music anywhere music is available. I also play in a funk/jam band based in Asbury Park, NJ, called Secret Sound. We’ve played with acts like Umphrey’s McGee, Dark Star Orchestra, and The Black Crowes. You can also check us out anywhere you routinely get your music!

    And, of course, the question my five year old son one asked me:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    It’s hard to say where the songs come from. Some are thoughtfully crafted, others come from the space that exists somewhere between thinking really hard about something and not paying any attention at all.

    Thank you for these answers Andy! It’s been great talking to you!

    For more information and updates, please check out these following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: William Ogmundson

    I have spotted a couple of Williams piano tunes before; the touching story behind the song I will return being my favorite.

    Now its time to get to know William a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from rural New Hampshire, and still live there, in a little town called New London.  We’re part of New England (yes, everything is “New”) in the NorthEast corner of the U.S., north of New York City and south of Quebec, Canada.  Everything here is quite old, by American standards-many houses date back to colonial times and every village has a center with a town hall, a library and a white congregational church.  There are lots of lakes and trees and is rather cold most of the year.  

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano since I was three and started lessons at age five.  I play other instruments badly.  I got a guitar for $35 at a flea market recently and I’m determined to learn to play it properly.  I played a shruti box (a middle eastern drone) when I was recording my latest album “La Vie en Couleurs”, and I’ve also played hammond organ, marimba, orchestra bells and the wine glasses for other recordings.  

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I started picking out Icelandic (my dad’s family is from there) folk songs on the piano when I was maybe three. “A Sprengisandi” I think was the first song I learned by ear-it’s about herding sheep and watching out for elves.  I guess everyone starts somewhere, right?  Not a bad song actually.  

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Hmmm…well, I recorded my first album in 2006, but I didn’t take it seriously until about a year and a half ago, after I went to a Piano Whisperings event in Seattle and got inspired.  I was still a full time musician before that, but mostly focused on other things.  I wrote quite a bit of musical theater, taught some lessons, music directed at a church and performed locally.  

    Something clicked though when I went to the Whisperings event.  Maybe it was looking around and realizing how happy and fulfilled all the people there were, and thinking, “Wow!  I think this is what I’m meant to be doing.”  So I kicked it into high gear-I recorded three full-length albums and four singles in a year’s time and here I am now. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I used to play in pit bands and would entertain the other musicians by messing with the music, especially if I didn’t particularly like it. I think I played the whole score of Annie as a cha cha cha once-it was a big improvement! And you can ruin any song by making it a stripper number, with big octaves in the base and heavy triplets.  Hahahaha  At some point though someone suggested to me that maybe instead of making a mockery of other people’s music, my time might be better spent creating my own.  

    I wrote a lot of bad music-a whole show in fact before I wrote what I consider to be my first good song, “Dance of the Fairies”.  It was written to be sung during the Shakespeare play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  I still remember the ecstatic feeling I got hearing it performed on stage and thinking, “Hey, this is really good!  I could get used to this.”.  

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”? 
    So many….Greg Maroney stands out.  Rachel Lafond is quite good, I don’t know-there are so many good ones-it gets daunting when one thinks about it too much.  

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    A few.  “Someone Else’s Story” from Chess is one.  “Hold On” by Sarah McGlaughlin.  Someone about the chord patterns and melody of those two just gets me every time.  

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Parallel fifths and octaves for sure!  Are there any other rules?  I never took composition so I was spared having to learn a long list of “thou shalt nots” for a budding composer.  

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I use a studio.  For my last two albums I’ve gone down to Pennsylvania to record with my friend Greg Maroney.  I love going to the studio-it’s like being a little kid in a candy store.  I almost always discover some instrument that I decide, spur of the moment, just has to go on my recording.  

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    A qualified “like”.  I was hired to write songs and background music for a half hour TV show a couple years ago, and for the most part they liked what I did.  They sent back one of the background pieces I had written though, and asked if I could write something that sounded as if it had been put together on garage band.  So I basically sewed together what I considered a horrible Frankenstein of a song (I actually called it the Frankensong) using sampled sounds and beats on garage band, and of course the TV people loved it!  

    To this day I’m not sure what to make of it, honestly.  Sampling brings the ability to compose to the masses I suppose, or at least gives them that illusion, but there will always be a place for real sounds created by real people.  

    Anything else you want to share? 
    We’re all on a musical odyssey.  I just want to keep traveling and creating as long as I can.  I’m so very fortunate that  I get to do something I love all day, every day. 

    And the last question from my five year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    Everything I do, every conversation, every book or movie that I absorb, everything gets taken in and influences the next composition somehow.  I like to give myself parameters when writing.  Stephen Sondheim said it very well, and I paraphrase.  “If someone asks me to write a song about a guy that’s sad, I freeze up.  But if someone says to write a song about a white poodle wearing a pink hat, that’s easy.”  We’re all intimidated by a blank canvas.  I drew notes out of a hat to form the melody of “Pharaoh’s Horses”.  Sometimes I read poetry and recite it to get a rhythm, and then the melody springs out of that.  Or it could be a horn honking, or a dog barking, or the way a dragonfly’s wings sparkle in the sun.  Inspiration is everywhere you look.  

    Thank you for this talk William!

    For more information, please check out these links:
    Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Christopher Colaço

    A while back I wrote about the piece The brightest point of light by Christopher Colaço & Philipp Schaeper. I had a talk with the pianist of the duo. Here it is!

    What´s your name?
    Christopher Colaço

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Bavaria in southern Germany, where life is good and easy and now living in Berlin since 10 years.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I´m playing the piano since I was 5 years old and I sometimes play the clarinet, which I started quite the same age, but I had to focus on one instrument. That’s what my piano teacher told me back in the days.

    Tell us about how you started playing music?
    I basically started with straight forward piano lessons in my village and quite quickly got into a music based college, where I had the opportunity to meet a lot of like minded people. My teacher there, was a Jazz enthusiast and that’s how my love for Jazz music started. Therefore I founded some local jazz bands but even reached my hand out to funk and reggae music. I decided to dedicate my life to music and applied for music studies at the university of arts in Berlin. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Since the age of 5 where I started playing. By the end of my jazz studies I focused more on neo-classical piano tunes combined with strings.

    Tell us something about the moment you realized that you could make songs yourself!
    It was pretty romantic, haha. At the age of 16 I composed some piano pieces for a girl to like me, which worked out pretty well 🙂

    What are you favorite piano artists in this piano genre?
    Of course I’m influenced by the great jazz masters like Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Wynton Kelly but as well as modern classical piano pianists such as Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds and all these beautiful players out there.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Usually Chopin brings me in the mood.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    What, are there any rules?

    How do you record your music?
    I have a basic setup to catch some ideas in my home studio. When it comes to music production I choose one of the great studios Berlin has to offer.

    What´s your take on sampled instruments?
    I think there is a hugh variety out there which sound beautiful, but I think mixing them with real instruments is the way to do it.

    And the last question from my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    Your son seems to be a philosopher. If I only could answer this question!

    Thank you very much for this Christopher!

    For more information about Christopher and the music he makes (together with Philipp Schaeper) please check out these following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Ahren

    A while back I wrote about Ahren and his track Continuum. Today it’s time to get to know Ahren a bit better!

    Whats your name?
    My name is Ahren Merz

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born and raised in Kilchberg, Switzerland, a town not far from Zürich and currently live in Adliswil, which is also right next to Zürich. My mother is American and my father is Swiss.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I originally learned playing the piano (and the flute in school) about 20 years ago but did not have an interest in composing my own music until 13 years later when I discovered Electronic Dance Music (which eventually shifted to contemporary/classical music) and noticed that my past experience with the piano made the introduction to music production/composition a joyable experience from the beginning. I started playing the guitar as well but it didn’t give me the same emotional response the piano was able to. All instruments in my compositions are played with a midi keyboard and tweaked accordingly to make them feel organic.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I started playing music 20 years ago in form of piano lessons and the flute in school. The piano lessons weren’t a long term hobby back then however because playing other people’s music felt unnatural to me.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been making piano/orchestral music for about a year now.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    The moment I realized I could make my own music was a gigantic new world opening up to me. The beautiful thing about it is that it’s a constantly changing world which regularly brings me back to that comforting initial feeling.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    My favorite artists of the genre are Ryuichi Sakamoto, Akira Kosemura, Nils Frahm, Joep Beving and many more.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    No, there is not really a specific song I like playing again and again. I like experimenting with new sounds and instruments/synthesizers however. The approach I take with my music is like building something. It’s more of a construction process, although starting compositions is usually based on improvised ideas.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All of the rules can be broken once they’re understood. Broken rules characterize authenticity: If the music feels right it doesn’t matter what rules are being broken.

    How do you record your music?
    I record all of my music with my computer in my bedroom/living room in
    a 1.5 bedroom apartment. Currently I am also experimenting with ambient sounds from nature which requires going outdoors and recording sounds like rivers, chirping birds, wind, etc. which is a lot of fun and is very inspiring to me.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I like sampled instruments and the freedom you have in processing their sound. They allow anyone with a computer to create their own music at home or wherever. What’s important in my opinion however is to process or combine these in a way that is fresh for the ear which can be difficult since so many people are using them. With sampled instruments I find it especially important to know exactly what they do and to experiment with playing them in ways they’re not supposed to be played.

    Anything else you want to share?
    I also would like to share that I am planning on experimenting with paint and audio visual media for performances.

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    My songs come from what I see, hear and feel. And sometimes they come from musical accidents. Great question by the way!

    Thank you very much for this Ahren!

    For more information, please check out any of these following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Spotify

  • 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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Kepa Lehtinen

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Finland, and I live in east Helsinki (the poor side of town).

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing piano since I was a child. I also played drums, when I was younger. Nowadays I usually play different types of synthesizers, theremin and piano.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    First I played classical piano music in childhood. Then I was a teenager, I started playing drums and synthesizer, and finishes playing classical music. We had a garage bands with my friends. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I started making music at my band, and it was really undergroud stuff. I got 4-recorder, and started to record my own music. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I studied film and sound design at Finland’s Aalto University. I worked as a sound editor and designer, but more and more I found myself as a film music composer . 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Ryuichi Sakamotos Playing the piano is my all time favourite piano album

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Mostly I don’t play piano, but I compose with piano – there is a difference. I kind of play what comes in mind and usually it is rubbish but sometimes there is gems too.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think, that my own broken rules are, that even I have studied playing piano I have never studied composing. I have studied sound design and film that is my musical background.

    How do you record your music?
    I have an own company with my friend (Helsingin ääniraita oy) for music, movie sound desing and mixing. We have a state of art studio in Helsinki.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments? 
    I use them all the time for commercials and tv. I own many cool sampled pianos and Spectrasonics Keyscape is my favourite today. 

    Anything else you want to share?  
    Skateboarding is my favourite hobby. I started when i was over 40 and nowadays i skate allmost everyday. In winter we have neat skatehall in east Helsinki.

    Thank you for this Kepa!

    For more information and updates about Kepa, check out these following links:
    Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Michael Ottosson

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I come from Sweden and grew up on the countryside really. Didn’t realize it then, but it gave me so much in terms of like everything. Nowadays, after having lived in Stockholm and Gothenburg for ten years, I can’t wait to head back into the wild again.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing piano for as long as I can remember. I have some photos of me as a kid, standing up trying to reach the keys, just dressed in a diaper! So music has been there forever. I started playing the viola when I was six years old and did that for ten years. At the age of 9, I started taking piano lessons and ultimately, that was my calling.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    We had a fantastic upright piano at home and when I was a teenager, I started experimenting with electric pianos and synthesizers as well. I had classical training, both on the viola and piano, right from the start. It’s been an invaluable background for me as a musician, composer and arranger but I didn’t believe it back then. However, all those years reading music and playing in orchestras eventually payed off!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve always found myself sketching out ideas by the piano. I’ve composed and produced music in different styles, but it always starts by the piano. It wasn’t until very recently I realized the piano itself was enough. I could tell a story and having it all done by just a piano. I guess things happen in life where your focus shifts and I this was really such a moment.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    Small fragments of musical ideas have always popped up in my head, for as long as I can remember. But yeah, that first time I was able to write it down, combine it with something else and then compose a song…to be able to express something, and see/hear a reaction in yourself or someone else…that’s just fantastic!

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I listen to a lot of Joep Beving’s work. Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds and Chad Lawson also find their way into my playlists. There are so many incredibly talented new composers as well and I’m happy to see this genre grow even more!

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I tend just to let my fingers go and not think about what I’m playing. I’ve always been really bad at practice my weak spots. Throughout school and ever since, I find myself just ’sketching’…maybe it’s all just some therapy to make me feel better. And, that was sort of the idea behind my new album ”In time we’ll be”. Songs that comes from within without all these filters and the brain stopping it before it even has a chance to be heard. But I love experimenting in G minor, so a lot of my songs starts there.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Hm, I don’t know about rules, but I can say that music has to have an origin. It has to come to life because of something. It has to reflect something and it has to be true. The listener has to feel like ’this means something’. As long as that’s in place, let’s brake all the rules there is! Let’s get inspired by each other and the way we make music and let’s never be afraid to bring out the flaws and imperfections.

    How do you record your music?
    I’m recording everything by myself, at home. ”In time we’ll be” was recorded on my Yamaha upright and mixed by me. In bigger projects I do all the writing at home but use studios for recording overdubs and other parts.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I love them! I love what they’ve become and what they can do to help us in early production. But, in the end, nothing beats the original. The way we play our instruments is way too personal and can never be captured in a sampled instrument. On my album, all the squeaky noises from the piano, my breathing, my somewhat bad sustain pedal and the hammers hitting the strings, it all just made these songs more alive and true to me.

    Anything else you want to share?
    Music is the way we can communicate truly in a world of so much distortion and stress. Whether you write music, or listen to it, to laugh, cry, believe, hope, love or whatever…just do it and do it with all your heart!

    Thank you for this wonderful talk Michael!

    For more information about Michael and his music, please check out these following links:
    Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Josh Kramer

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Ohio originally but also spent about a decade living in Minnesota so I also have roots there. For the last several years, I’ve been living in the beautiful country of Turkey.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I first began playing piano when I was 4. I started formal lessons a few years later with Pat Pace, a graduate of Juilliard, and learned a variety of genres including jazz, classical and contemporary. I also picked up guitar in my teen years and taught myself to play at a basic level. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    When I was four, my mother was talking on the phone and her friend asked who was playing piano in the background, and that’s when she realized that I had somehow learned how to play the piano by ear. I remember playing everything I heard on tv and the radio – the Transformers theme, Van Halen’s “Love Walks In”, and the Knightrider theme, to name a few.  

    How long have you been making piano music?
    The first memory I have of actually writing my own music, I was around 8 years old. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    My piano teacher encouraged me to compose my first piece of music around the age of 8 for a school competition, in which I took home first place. I’m not sure how, the song was garbage, but I guess it was okay for an eight-year-old, haha! I began composing more and more each following year and eventually placed first in the state of Ohio for the Scholastic Composer’s Contest.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    My biggest influence is definitely Thomas Newman, who is in my opinion one of the most prolific and talented composers of this age. I gravitate towards his music not only because it is largely piano-driven, but because he has an ability to evoke such profound emotion with relatively simplistic melodies and instrumentation. I love how his music marries feelings of melancholy and hope together as if they’re a seemless union. The way he uses chords, harmony, dissonance and atmosphere in unique ways is also very inspiring to me as a composer. I’m also a big fan of artists like Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm. 

    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’ve always loved the Gershwin Preludes and Rhapsody in Blue as well as Chopin’s Fantasy Impromptu. I’m a little rusty though, it’s been a while!

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    Good question! I’m a nonconformist in a lot of ways, so my first impulse is to say “Break all of them!” But at the same time, there are certain rules that are there for a reason, but I see them more as a guide and not something to strictly adhere to. The most important thing about music to me is passion and feeling. You can follow all of the rules you want, but if you don’t have real feeling and palpable emotion, all of that music theory you learned in 10th grade is all for naught. 

    How do you record your music?
    I write and record everything from the comfort of my very tiny and humble home studio. It’s probably the smallest and most minimalistic studio you will ever see. But it does the job!

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I love samples! Of course if you can afford real instruments in all of your productions, that’s ideal but for most of us, that’s simply not reality. Also, there’s just so many sounds you can get with samples that aren’t possible with any instrument. You literally have access to almost any kind of sound you can imagine which in turn can really get the creative juices flowing. However, sometimes it becomes a little overwhelming because the possibilities are endless. I’m currently in one of those phases where I’m a little burnt out from all of that, which is why i’m focusing on a series of solo piano works for most of this year. 

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    Oh man, I would normally give a completely different answer but I’m going to keep this light given his age. They come from a special device I have called “The Musical Blender”. I put everything in my life into it; good, bad, pretty, ugly, happy or sad. I push a few buttons, and it magically turns it all into a piece of beautiful music. Or at least that’s the goal 😉 Hopefully I passed the 5-year-old test!

    Thank you for sharing with us Josh!

    For more information and updates, check out these links:
    Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify


  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Dino Bastiani

    What is your real name?
    My real name is Andrea.

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    I chose this name as an homage to the Italian artist and writer Dino Buzzati and to his novel “Il deserto dei Tartari” (The Tartar Steppe). The novel’s protagonist, Giovanni Drogo, is a young army officer,stationed inside the Fortress Bastiani, a military post in the middle of nowhere. Drogo spends his entireexistence waiting for “the great event” that will finally give sense to his life: The invasion of the Tartars. At the end (Spoiler) Drogo dies alone, in an anonymous tavern, without ever experiencing the glorious event which he waited for his entire life. I chose this artistic name as a reminder to me: not to let external events give sense to my life. To remember to give value to any present moment, using the time that is given to me to make something of significance.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I live in Italy, Mesero, a small town in the province of Milano.

    How long have you been playing the piano?
    For about five years.

    Do you play other instruments as well?
    Yes, I play guitar, bass, and for some years I played drums.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    Since I was a child, I’ve been particularly fascinated with the music. I started playing and studying seriously when I was 14 years old, and so far I’ve never stopped.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I started composing for the piano in 2016. I was going deep in my studies and I wanted to have a go at an instrument that was both versatile and relative “new” (I had just started playing it), so I could assumea different perspective on the music.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I think anybody can write music. The problem was writing something that I would like. I started to write since I started playing, with some deluding results. But it was this difficulty that was pushing me further.

    In this way now I write music everyday. The results are still hit and miss, the progress is slow but constant. I think that the best way to learn to compose is simply. To compose. Without influencingyourself with the expectations of the final result. I think that if I’ve obtained good results that’s becauseof daily practice. If you write 30 songs a month, sooner or later something good will come out, maybe also by accident.

    Have you made music in other genres before?
    Yes, I played for ten years in an Italian rock band “Orizzonte degli eventi”. I used to play the bass, and sometimes I handled the arrangements and the production. But the author of the tracks was the singer, Matteo Petracca.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    There are many: for sure I will forget somebody. Philip Glass, Ludovico Einaudi, Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, Yann Tiersen. I listen to a lot of artists, also from other genres. To mention some which have influenced me: Trent Reznor, Ramin Djawadi, Angelo Badalamenti, Darren Korb, Massive Attack.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    There are some. The first that comes to my mind is the Theme of Laura Palmer by Angelo Badalamenti,from “Twin Peaks” soundtrack.

    What song inspires you the most when you’re making music? Can you name just ONE song/composition?
    The inspiration is something unpredictable and unexpected. It can come from one song but also from a book or a TV series. From a conversation with a friend or from a movie. From one single thing from the upper mentioned or more of them at the same time. I usually realize that I got inspired from somethingin particular long after I had finished writing a song. So, no. it’s impossible to identify a single song.

    Anything else you want to share?
    Schonberg in his “Theory of Harmony” wrote: “…the pupil learns most of all through the example shownhim by the masters in their masterworks. … if composer could have atelier as did painters, then it wouldbe clear how superfluous the music theorist is…” The painters had places where they could share thecreative process, but for the music the places never existed. Also, because with music is a bit moredifficult. I would like to share the creative process. I don’t know how to do it yet but I’m working on itand I think you will hear something about it next month.

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    To be honest, I don’t know. Maybe as a composer, my job is to explore new places in search of songs.

    As if the songs themselves were hidden everywhere, I just need to find them and share them with the world. Or maybe is them finding me, and they’re using me to come into this world.

    Thank you for this Andrea!

    For more information please check out these links!
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify