In Conversation With…Mihail Doman

What attracted you to the specific area of classical music you work in?

I grew up listening to Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Klaus Schulze – I’ve always liked the electronic music of those times (70s and 80s). And I wanted to write some music in that vein, but as it turns out things changed, and so did the aesthetics. Today that sort of music would seem a bit too simplistic or outdated. I
felt that this kind of “modern” classical music – the kind Neoclassical artists like Olafur Arnalds write – is today’s equivalent to, you know, the “medditative” electronic music that I was listening to. And today’s Soundtrack music is getting even closer to that. So it all kind of pulled me in this direction, naturally.

What is your local music scene like in Romania? How do you think you fit in?

The local scene in Romania is almost non-existent for the kind of music I write. There’s a pretty good Rock music scene, but Classical meets Electronic is something very rare. I actually don’t know anyone who plays this kind of music.
I think it’s a bit early to tell you how I fit in. Ask me in a year’s time 😛

You’ve got a huge concert lined up – what would be your dream venue?

My dream venue would actually be a public square. Something like what Jean Michel Jarre did with the “Concert Pour La Tolerance” or “Houston – A City In Concert”. Something big with lights, fireworks, a lot of extras (dancers etc), a big orchestra and a lot of people.
You know, the kind of concert you organize only once a few years, but people remember for a few years too.

Tell us about how you go about creating your music, from initial idea to completion.

I first create the theme on the piano. For Arhythmology it was a very basic thing in Em, which you can hear all-through-out the album.
After that, I create a rough draft in Reaper, so I have something to prepare the strings to.

Then comes the sound design part – probably the best part. There’s a lot of Native Instruments (Absynth, Reaktor, Massive), but more recently I’ve been using U-HE plugins (Hive and Dark Zebra). Very easy to use and light weight 🙂

I usually like to do my own sounds, so a lot of times I start with an empty sound, like just a basic Sine or Saw wave.

Next is the string orchestra. Hopefully on the next albums I’ll be able to use a live orchestra, but for now it was Native Instruments’ Session Strings, along with a really old East West Quantum Leap Library that I had lying around, to give it a bigger size 🙂 Programming the strings is a super tedious work, because you basically have to write every note manually for every individual voice. And afterwards you have to tweak the velocity and the sample sounds until you have something that sounds natural. And this is not mentioning that you have to respect some basic rules of musical harmony – although working in E minor is not that hard. Playing the bass for a few years certainly helped me with this.

The last part I’m involved is mixing. I use almost exclusively only Waves plugins. There’s nothing better on the market. And their analog emulations are great. There’s a lot of CLA compressors on every track (especially LA-2A), API eqs, Vcomps and some tape saturation from the Kramer series. But I also use their modern plugins like the C1 and C4 Compressor, their really good sounding IR-L Convolution Reverb, or the H-Delay.

And after this, I export some basic stems and it’s off to mastering, where Marian Nica – the engineer I worked with on Arhythmology – also did some basic mixing first, to get it to sound just right.

Tell us about the inspiration and making of the video which accompanies the album

The video was inspired by Boticelli’s “Birth of Venus”, but with a modern twist – if you wish. I didn’t really want to make a video of me playing the piano – because who would watch that, really!

I thought of creating something like a painting, you know, something which will express my ideas and would be another complex creative endeavour.
I don’t want to get too much into the details of what the story means, because that would ruin the fun, but I can say there’s an underlying esoteric element to the film. To some people it will probably be obvious.

But I only had a concept to work with – I needed someone with an artistic vision. And this is where the director and producer – Matei Sopterean – stepped in. He’s a young guy, but he’s been working in the film industry in Romania for some years and he does know his stuff. He came up with the idea that we should have a choreography, and the different stances fo the main character. And he’s the one who also beautifully shot the scenes.

Now, the choreography was done by Stefan Lupu – an actor working at The Little Theatre in Bucharest. He had a very special chemistry with the actress – Alina Petrica, and they put together something really good.

It was quite the project – with a team of around 15 people, shot with a 5k Red Pro camera, in a studio, with cranes and everything else needed.
My role was more that of a consultant, but most of the merit goes to the director who put together a fantastic team of artists.

What would be your ultimate aim in the industry?

Well, I don’t really aspire to be part of the industry. I would like to flirt with it a bit, but ultimately, my goal is to do something like what Jean Michel Jarre did. My approach to all of this is probably closer to someone working for the United Nation, than to that of a musician.
What I want to do is to write “humanitarian” music. It sounds kind of funny, but I guess this is the term I would use. I want my music to change people, touch people and why not, help to create a New World.
I know I’m an idealist, but I think in life one should be idealistic. There are too many cynics around these days.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your current release?

I think I’ve said it all in the description of the album:


In Conversation with…Nej!Las

What attracted you to the techno/electro/house scene?

The ability (and even the requirement) to make, not only harmonic melodies and bass lines, but to additionally have percussion and drums that could, by themselves, carry a song. Techno/electro/house pushes the envelope by requiring and allowing for creativity in all areas of a song. It requires one to constantly innovate and come up with new, original, creations and techniques applied to the production.

What is your local music scene like? How do you think you fit in?

The Detroit Techno scene is so prominent; it created its own genre. The Detroit Techno Militia shows the attitude of techno producers that reside in Detroit – independent, proud and original. Detroit allows for producers to have creativity, to not necessarily fit inside the box of what “techno” is supposed to be, but to continuously push the boundaries of the genre. Detroit Techno is innovative. The innovative and original style shines through my music.

You’ve got a huge gig lined up – what would be your dream venue?

An intimate venue where I could feed off of the audiences’ energy and they could be up close and personal to my live production. A symbiotic relationship between me and the crowd.

Tell us about how you go about creating your music, from initial idea to completion

I create two different live sets.
The first live set – the “progressive, melodic set” focuses on the harmonic elements. This set, by itself, would be categorized as “progressive” music. I spend days creating and manipulating analogs, wavetables, and filters in order to find a unique synth sound. I tend to favour an almost guitar-like synth – overdriven and raw. I then, likewise, formulate an “opposite” synth that is sweet and melodic – as if it could lead a progressive/chill-out song. This synth tends to be a string or rubber instrument. I then spend additional days writing, rewriting, and rearranging midi data and appreciations. With all the variations of synths and midi, I usually have enough sounds and tracks to form an entire arrangement. This is the next step, to formulate all the melodies into an arrangement of a harmonic song from an intro to an outro.

The second set – the “techno” set focuses solely on drums and percussion. I likewise arrange a very heavy techno arrangement from an intro to an outro. Hardware, like the Alesis SamplePad 4, is very useful to continue to create original midi data, or even audio samples, for percussion. I want this second set to be able to stand alone as a song without bass or melodies.

In the end, I combine the two sets, which could, by themselves, be sufficient for a song, into one set that has movement and free flowing segments. I arrange the set to make it play as if I were playing it live. I even record all the modulations and envelopes from a MIDI controller (the AKAI MPC40) as if I were performing it live. This “live performance” of the song becomes the final track.

What would be your ultimate aim in the industry?

To continue to innovate and bring original music into the traditional “techno” genre. I want to create a niche of original, harmonic, progressive, techno songs that play, and sound, like a live set.

Is there anything you would like people to know about your current release?

Songs like “Fini” play like a live set, except it allows one to listen to it anywhere. That is the style of my production – to have harmonic synths that could stand by themselves as a progressive song, but on top of the harmonies, to have percussion and drums that could also be sufficient for a song. The music is “alive”, always changing and morphing into something new and creative.

Check out Nej!Las here: