• 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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Voga

    What’s your real name? How did you come up with your artist name?
    My real name is Owen Vaga. I was brainstorming about what to call myself before my first release – a friend, knowing that I disliked coming up with titles and names, commented that I should just swap out a vowel from my last name and it ended up sticking.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    Born and raised in Toronto, where I’m currently living.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing piano since I was five. For other instruments, I also play synthesizers on my tracks. Clarinet was my secondary instrument, and I’d love to start playing more guitar.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Growing up, we had a piano at home that many of my older siblings played. It quickly became a want for me to learn how to play as well. I mostly practiced classical music, as well as some pop songs and soundtrack transcriptions that I liked.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I attempted to write piano music starting from when I was a teenager – I was too shy to let anyone to hear my pieces so I would always put down the felted pedal that some uprights have. I guess it’s funny now that felted pianos are something I use to record with today.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I don’t know if there was a specific moment, but taking the music away from manuscript paper and just starting to improvise really helped my writing process. Before that, I’d always jot down ideas on paper and try to perfect each bar before moving on. I found it difficult to complete anything this way.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Too many to choose! I find myself always returning to minimalist classics – things that have stood the test of time and influenced the next wave of artists. Arvo Pärt comes to mind. I also have to mention my frequent collaborator and friend Alaskan Tapes. He was one of my first introductions into the world of contemporary classical piano and ambient music, and I can always pick out his style when I hear it.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Anything by Chopin or Debussy.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Everything! Taking risks and experimentation should always be a part of any art form, even if the result isn’t always successful.

    How do you record your music?
    The recording locations range from studios to apartment bedrooms and everything in between. Sometimes I’m by myself, but I prefer someone else to record while I focus on the producing, composition/arrangement and performance. I often work with audio engineer Dennis Patterson from “Big Smoke Audio.”

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    They have a time and a place. It depends on what sound you’re going for, what genre, how you decide to manipulate them, etc. Personally, I’ve never used sampled pianos or strings for Voga releases.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Thank you so much for all your questions! I’ve got many more projects planned for this year that I’m excited to share.

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

    I think my music just comes from ideas or moods I’m thinking at the time. Many themes I enjoy exploring, identity is a big one, things that are constantly shifting and I use music as a way to figure it out and articulate it. It’s an evolving process.

    Thank you for this Owen!

    Please check out these links for more information and updates:
    Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Javi Lobe

    What’s your name? 
    My name is Javier Lobe, but as an artist name I use Javi Lobe

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Zaragoza, Spain. I have lived in the same place, Zaragoza, all my life.

    How long have you been playing the piano?
    I began to the play the piano about eight years old, so, for almost 30 years.

    Do you play other instruments as well?
    No, I don´t know play other instruments. I would also like to play the guitar, the drums, the saxophone…but I don´t have time to learn.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    When I was child my family had a piano because my elder sisters studied music. In the beginning I didn´t want to learn to play the piano but the insistence of my middle sister led me to start and take it seriously. They didn´t succeed until I was 12 years old!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I made my first songs at age 16, but, seriously, writing music for the piano started around 2015.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    At first it only started as a game. While listening to music I played the piano trying discover the chords that were being used. That’s how I learned to play without a score. Then I started to investigate and realized that I could compose my own songs

    Have you made music in other genres before?
    Yes, I have composed mostly music for dance. And also versions and arrangements for piano and strings, in which I blend NeoClassical/Ambient sound with modern Minimal Electronic music.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    There are so many. In my youth I was inspired by composers such as Michael Nyman and Yann Tiersen, and nowadays I like composers such as Ludovico Einaudi, Johann Johannson, Olafur Arnalds  and many more.

    And, as always: the question from my five year old son!
    Where do all your songs come from?

    Well, the truth is that I would not know how to tell you. I only know that when I compose music for piano, this is my natural way of expressing myself, it is my own language. And we each have a way of composing that makes us unique and different.

    Thank you for this Javi!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Thomas Klak

    Today it’s time to get to know the artist behind the Spotted song What’s here a bit better. I’ll give you – Thomas Klak!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Marl, a mid-sized City of Ruhrgebiet in Germany. But I’m living and working in Essen, which is only 50 kilometers away from Marl. So I didn’t move that far away from hometown. I teach piano at Foklwang University of Arts in Essen. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started to play piano when I was six years old. I played church organ some years ago and play keyboards and synthesizer in progmetal bands. 

    Ah, and I play „Olaf“ my hedonistic mocca-kitchen-organ, which is an electric Magnus chord-organ. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Music was always in center of my family. The sound of the piano had a strong impact on me when I was a child. I remember being fascinated by the sound of our Bechstein C. 

    My grandfather bought his first piano when he was sixteen. That was in 1928. And it’s still in the family. He also played violin and other instruments in the era of silent movies. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    As i wrote, I began to play piano at the age of six and I’m composing my own music since my teenage years. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I remember it very well. The first songs evolved out of a band session during easter holidays in 1994. I good friend of mine rented a room in a fishermen clubhouse. We put all our stuff there and started our own power metal thing. We came every day to this place at least for a whole week and all we did was improvising while having good days and nights. 

    This was the environment, where all the ideas, that I had found during my (real) piano practicing (Bach, Chopin, Liszt) could come into other ears and other lights.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Brad Mehldau, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Nils Frahm

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    At the moment I’m improvising Boogie Woogie as soon as I sit down at the piano. I like the strong motorics and the feeling while improvising in the right hand. It makes my body happy. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I guess, all musicians and composers are used in braking rules all the time. Their rules and the rules of others. 

    How do you record your music?
    All my songs of the last two albums where recorded with a low budget equipment that I own myself. My first album „slow acting“ was recorded in my bedroom on a day and a night. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Use everything if you like it. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Love what you have and love what’s here

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

    I guess, my songs are from the 5 year old child in me, who wants to play, play, play. 

    Thank you for this Thomas!

    For more information about Thomas Klak and his music, please check out the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Prof. Lacasse

    Hi there professor! I wrote about your song Lost and found a while back. Lets get to know you a bit better!

    What’s your real name? 
    Serge Lacasse

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    Well, I’m an “actual” university professor in music…:) 

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Canada and live in Levis, clos to Quebec City.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    That’s an interesting question. I started as a child, but was always playing by ear, by memory… I thus stopped taking lessons because sister Therese (who was teaching me) didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t able to properly read music… Then, when I got 16 I decided to try to get into the piano performance program in college (Quebec’s cegep). I started again my courses with Sister Therese and was actually admitted at the university level. However, I was feeling that I didn’t “deserve” this admission and I decided to study drums instead (which I’m plying since I was 8). But I’ve always played piano and composed for the instrument all these years.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    The Beatles fault…  When I was 8 I discovered the Beatles and wanted to be Paul. But my best friend at the time, who was older, decided he was Paul and I ended up as Ringo… I started playing drums at 8 which became my main instrument (I’ve played jazz, pop, rock, in studio, on stage with major Canadian acts). 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Well, as I mentioned, I’ve started composing music for the piano at 16-17. Actually, one of the pieces featuring on my album, “Debussy’, was written then. But I never played them in public nor recorded them. It is just a couple of years ago that I discovered that the tens of pieces I’ve composed through these years were very similar to the postclassical genre. I then discovered Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds, Joep Beving, but also more “romantic” ones such as South Korean Yiruma. Since then, not only did I started composing new music, but also dig  into my past (because, fortunately, I did record on on dictaphone a lot of these early compositions). What I also discovered was that these musicians had a very similar background that mine: age (I’m 56), but also their wide musical taste and competence: pop, jazz, classical, contemporary music, electronic, etc. As a musicologist, I strongly believe that this is linked to this new “cultural condition”, that is the cultural omnivores: people that distinguish themselves by being equally at ease in many musical traditions, as opposed to earlier generations where artistic quality, or cultural taste, were measured according to their knowledge of strictly classical music. 

    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? 
    Well, there are two; Lost and Found is probably my own favorite and i play it a lot. Bu I also love Max Richter’s Written on the Sky (based on his own On the Nature of Daylight, both featured in his 2014 album The Blue Notebooks).

    How long is your shortest song? 
    About 1:30… It’s called “Sunny Day”.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    First and foremost: borders between genres. That said, and as I evoked earlier, many musicians are already working toward breading these rules. For me it’s very similar to what we are witnessing in LGBTQ communities. First, we start by grouping these communities together (as well illustrated by the acronym itself), but then by attempting to radically delete gender distinctions. For example, some researchers have just proposed an AI voice that can’t be characterized as female or male. I believe this is where we are also going in music and in arts in general.

    How do you record your music?
    I’ve been a record producer for like 30 years. The recording studio is truly my main instruments. I do record at home, but also in our University Laval recording facility, the Laboratoire audionumérique de recherche et de création (LARC). I’ve founded this recording studio and am still heading it.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I use both. My goal is to get the sound I want, no matter the means.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Well, thanks for having invited me Johan, it is a honour!

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

    Contrary to many composers who state that they don’t know their style, or that their music doesn’t belong to a genre (as if they were unique), I am totally aware of all my influences. For example, I use popular music forms (verse-chorus for example) [I’m a popular music musicologist], but also use some film music harmonic textures, etc. So yes, all these songs come from a sort of inner “mixing machine” that assembles elements from different sources: “pure” art doesn’t exist in my opinion.

    Thank you for these answers Serge! It was a truly interesting read!

    For more information about Serge and his music; please check out these following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Tristan Eckerson

    A while back I Spotted Tristans song For Natalia and now it’s time to get to know the artist behind it a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio. I was born and raised here although I moved around a lot- Charleston, SC, San Sebastian, Spain, San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, Asheville, NC, and then back to Cincinnati.

    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 6. I’ve had brief forays into trombone, drums, and guitar. My trombone skills are gone, but I’m still pretty passable on drums and can play a little bit of acoustic guitar still.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I’m not exactly sure where I was at this point, but when I was about five I found a piano in someone’s house where I just happened to be, and I started messing around with it. Playing the really low keys and the really high keys. That’s my earliest memory of playing piano, and from there I just started taking classical lessons.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been leading and playing in bands since I was in college, back in 2001. But as far as solo piano music, and the type of music that I’m currently producing, it’s been since 2016. I released a full length album with 1631 Recordings that summer and then did a tour through the U.S. and Canada to promote it.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    The first songs I ever actually wrote were when I was in college in Charleston, SC and playing in a jazz fusion band called Doublestack. I wrote a few bluesy and fusion type songs on piano, and was also writing a lot of lyric based songs on acoustic guitar back then. At that point there was no plan or method, I was just writing anything and everything that popped into my head.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I’m not a huge fan of genres, and certainly when it comes to solo piano I think it really spans the map as far as what people are doing out there. If I had to pick one contemporary pianist right now, I’d say Tigran Hamasyan comes to mind. He might be categorized more as jazz, but I find what he does to defy genres and it is just really engaging to me. His album A Fable is pretty amazing.

    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 really, no. At this point I don’t even practice most of the songs I’ve written and produced. I mostly just move on to writing new music. But when I sit down at the piano I almost always just go to improvising. And that often leads me to coming up with an idea that I can then develop into a composition.

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    I’m a big believer in knowing all the rules so then you can break them. I’m always trying to learn more about theory and compositional techniques. My goal is to have the knowledge and experience to then go beyond convention and create something that defies rules- something that people could analyze and categorize afterwards because it’s never been done before. That’s the idea anyway. But mostly I just try to make music that excites me and that I can be proud of.

    How do you record your music?
    For the past few years I’ve been doing everything in my home studio. I have an upright, and also I do a lot with Logic Pro and Sample libraries. I try to get samples and DAW productions to sound as real as possible. That’s my main goal. For my next album though I would like to get into a studio to record string parts and possibly some other instruments such as tuned percussion, brass, and woodwinds.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I like the saying “It’s not the software, it’s the user.” I went to grad school in San Francisco for Music Production and Sound Design, so I was completely immersed in that world. I kind of went in one end and came out the other, so to speak. I still use samples everyday, but I try to use them in the same way I would with real life instruments. I’m much more interested these days in writing compositions than tweaking settings. I have the utmost respect for people who really get into software and its capabilities, but for me at a point it was just overwhelming and really took away from playing an instrument and writing for humans. There was a point where I was producing so much “in the box” that I barely ever played my instrument. And that’s really the point where I decided to start writing solo piano music.

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

    Thank you for this Tristan!

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