A friend of mine (Angelica) interviewed me for a music class she’s taking – hurrah! Here’s the Q&A session!:
- What influences in your life inspired you to become a musician?
Even though I had grown up with music all around me and played the keyboard since I was little, it wasn’t until I fell in love with video game soundtracks around the age of 8 that I began to think more seriously about being a musician in a professional sense. I would especially listen to songs from The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy series of games and learn them by ear and practice until I got them right. It wasn’t long before I started to think about the possibility of becoming a video game or movie soundtrack composer and I would make up scenes in my head and try to compose themes to go along with those scenarios or characters from my own stories…I still do this often when composing tracks!
Later on, as I started to move beyond video game music, the style of artists like Brian Eno, Ray Manzerek from the Doors, and William Basinski resonated strongly with me. When I finally put up my music on a public platform in 2008, through the Last.fm streaming radio site, users began to recommend me artists they thought seemed similar to my music, like Delia Derbyshire (60s electronic composer, known for the Dr. Who theme) and Ghost Box record label artists – all of this was like pieces of a puzzle fitting together and I just felt more comfortable with making own music because there seemed to be an audience for what I was doing. Krautrock (60s-70s German experimental music; Kraftwerk, Cluster, Can, NEU!) has had more of an influence on my recent work.
- Why did you choose to compose instrumental music?
Mostly because of being drawn to the keyboard for so long, and probably because I’m terribly nervous singing in front of other people! I wouldn’t mind playing in a band eventually, though, and I used to write lyrics fairly often that I may have to do something with someday.
- How do you compose an album? For instance how do you choose how to put pieces of a song together and arrange them into an album?
New Limerent Object in June of this year was the first full-length album I’d done, so that was a big step in something new. The other releases were either compilations of songs, or EPs that had very loose concepts, for instance: Bits was intended to be a light, video-gamey release, Dark Mist EP was a collection of some of the more haunting tracks I’d made, I Dreamt of Sound were songs to fit scenes from dreams I’d had. For these EPs, they were tracks I had composed independently that I decided to put into the EP setting – their was no set destination for them in the beginning, just ideas that I was putting into sound.
When I decided I wanted to do an LP for a change, I was more meticulous about how I worked through the songs, and I really wanted it to be the best I could put out at that time. “New limerent object” is a term referring to one’s new object of affection/romantic fixation. It’s a phrase that interested me, so I decided to call the album after that and do a series of songs that reflected this sort of feeling, but not in a sense of normal relationships and through nature and atmosphere instead (hence song titles like “The Shores”, “The Cove”, and “Out in the Moonlight”). I was listening to a lot of drone-based, hypnotic music at the time (Spacemen 3, Natural Snow Buildings) and semi-dark post-punky stuff (particularly Dead Can Dance), so I think that came through as well. So I worked on tracks independently of each other, creating instruments in Propellerhead Reason and building tracks in layers that way, and later put them in an order that seemed to tell a story of this “new limerent object” idea. It’s hard for me to explain exactly how I come to making a track – I begin with constructing a scene in my mind, trying to evoke an emotion or an element of nature, and then find patterns in the keys and melodies that seem to represent this for me. It doesn’t always work right away, though, I have to be in the right state of mind to make it happen!
- When did you first learn how to play the keyboard and how long have you played it? Are you self-taught or did you learn from someone else?
Around 4, I think. I’m almost 20 now, so that’s about 16 years (which seems crazy for me to think about)! I just learned how to go about it on my own, because my dad had a Casio keyboard that I would play – I now have more keyboards than I know what to do with, but my favorite of all is the Korg Triton Le Workstation! When I was younger, I learned songs by ear and also looked through a chord book and tried out different patterns. I didn’t learn how to read sheet music until I was 15, but aside from understanding more about music theory and being able to play pre-existing songs if I want to, it didn’t really have much of an affect on how I compose my own songs since I don’t write down my music or get hung up on music theory – I just listen to loads of music all the time, absorb it, and anything that goes on when I’m playing is typically automatic!
- What do you hope to accomplish with your music? Anyone you hope to influence in a particular way?
I’m always surprised and happy when somebody tells me that they like a song or release of mine, since I’m mostly doing it because it’s like a part of me compels me to put it out there, while at the same time it is encouraging that it appears to have gelled with some others in a way. When I re-listen to my own music, I notice lots of pieces that remind me that I’m not anywhere near being the best that they can be, which is what I’m trying to get closer to all the time. I hope that when people listen to my music, if they like it, they also take the time to explore my influences, because they’re just as and even more important than my own. It seems like people can sometimes get a bit stuck in contemporary music, when in actuality it’s the whole lineage of works that are important – I don’t think that any type of music can be improved upon if there’s not an appreciation, or at least an understanding, of what came before it!
I really enjoyed teaching a Beginning Piano workshop at my former high school, and while teaching students about music theory and reading sheet music, also incorporated my techniques of learning songs by ear and composing. When I saw the students learning from me and testing things out on their own, it really made me happy and proud! Knowing that what I’m doing has anything to do with someone else making their own music is absolutely cool for me!
- Would you consider performing in a concert setting? Why or why not?
Definitely! It’s just a matter of having the right sort of electronics set-up: the way that I make music now, I’d have to get an array of amps and do something about my laptop and Properllerhead Reason – I’d probably need a more portable keyboard than my main Korg, currently. I’d also prefer to play with other musicians than it just being me on my own – I think it would be more fun that way!
- So what is the next step in your musical career?
I’m currently in the process setting up my own record label, Vulpiano Records, in a partnership with a distributor (Select-o-Hits). The basis for the label is for each artist (currently about 10 involved) to offer at least one single, EP, or album for free. The option will also be available for them to get distributed digitally, through iTunes/Amazon/eMusic, or in a limited run of physical copies. It’s going to be like a sort of artist-collective where we’ll be collaborating with each other and promoting eachother’s music. Aside from that, I’m continuing to write music reviews at A Future in Noise and working on some soundtrack music for a Tim Ashworth film in 2010!