With the much anticipated release of brand new album ‘When Can You Start?’, the guys from Heavyball managed to have a little talk through the release and explain, why they chose the subject of a normal working week as the theme for their new venture.
So, What can you tell us about the new album? Where did you get the ideas?
“When Can You Start? recounts a week in the life of an ordinary oﬃce worker. The diary of a nobody who represents everybody. He doesn’t know it, but this week is diﬀerent. Because this week is his last on earth”.
“Storytelling, humor and everyday observations wrapped up in sharp melodies. When Can You Start? is a story of the very ordinary told diﬀerently”.
Can you give us a taste of one of your songs, What does it tell us, What stories do you explore?
“The ﬁrst track to be released from the album is ‘Top of Your Game’. You used to be someone, you used to be a contender. Now you work in an oﬃce doing nothing of consequence for people you hate. The memories are still there though, and there’s still a small chance you could still make it big!”
How would you guys describe Heavyball for people that have never encountered you before?
“Heavyball are a self titled ‘new tone’ 4 piece band originally from Nottingham; signed to Magnetic North Melodies.”
So there you have it, a little pre release teaser, be sure sure to stay up to date with all things Heavyball:
Introducing you all to Ikkarus, a Mexican funk-grunge band who are tapping into some of the rock sounds of the early 1990’s and bringing them crashing into the present. What inspires a band to form a rock band in one of the less fashionable rock n roll centres of the world? We set off to find out.
Wendy Castellanos: Keyboards, Synthesizers, Vocals.
David Ramos: Drums.
Javier Lardizábal: Guitars, Vocals
What attracted you to the genre of music you work in?
The genre we are working on is very appealing to me because it incorporates a lot of elements present in the music I’ve always listened to, since I was a little boy. It is music that has marked many important moments of my life.
It has many elements such as rhythms, phrases and sounds that put together make me feel great. They are elements through which I can achieve a certain type of catharsis, relief, happiness, tranquility, and even a very particular bodily energy when we are playing live. It all becomes a great personal experience at the time of playing together, recording, improvising and especially when sharing our music with an audience.
This genre has basically spawned a lot of the music I’ve been able to connect to, emotionally. No real effort needed.
Within the Alternative Rock niche, I have been able to find an ample spectrum of sentiments that are very attractive. From mellow tunes to infuriating, distorted guitar riffs, inspiring choruses and reflective interludes… It has practically been the soundtrack of my youth, always present in important moments of my life.
What is your local music scene like?
There are many projects I’m a fan of. However, I feel it can be monotone. It doesn’t really explore an original sound or seek to create one. Many local bands sound pretty much the same, and I feel emerging styles such as Indie-Pop and Indie-Folk constantly influence them and so the product all around is too similar.
There’s a general lack of emotion in today’s music. You can hear it all around in the media: lyrics that have no meaning, almost like random nonsense put into a sequence with the sole objective of becoming a product to earn some people some money.
I feel it has been a difficult scene in Mexico, for many bands (us included). It’s generally difficult to get a gig unless you have some sort of connection. It also seems that in order to get a spotlight here you need to emulate 80’s and 90’s Latin Rock sounds, as if there is an unspoken pressure to pay tribute to old Mexican bands that made it at some point…
However, there is a lot of emerging talent that’s looking for something else and doing it outside the usual channels. The Internet has been a huge game changer. There are projects that are great proposals and need to be heard…
The Mexican audience is one of the greatest in the world… When we attend a concert, we love to connect with the artist on stage. We shout with everything we’ve got and sing back to them. We always let them know how much we love their music. Because of this, we hope that our music will be appreciated at home at some point.
How do you think you fit in?
Based on our live performances I feel we’ve had a good response from the audience, however, only time will tell what kind of part we played in our local music scene.
I think it’s possible for us to fit in, in spite of all the repetitive stuff going on. I feel we have the capability of moving our audience outside their comfort zone because of our friendly-sounding textures that could appeal to many different people.
It would be profoundly satisfactory to be able to make a difference in what is being heard by our Mexican audience. We want to be part of that wave of fresh and worthy (…and worldly) proposals!
We hope that the different elements we’re bringing to the table captivate our audience from the first experience, whether it’s live or listening to the studio record. If there’s something we’re looking to be, is emotional in our music. To create something that touches sensitive fibres and makes you want to connect and experience more. This is what we hope works on our local music scene as well as in any other.
How do you balance your ‘real-life’ jobs with that of rock musicians?
I think balance should come naturally with the passion one has for doing what they absolutely love. Fortunately for me, this has been the case between my Graphic Designing day job and playing with Ikkarus.
It all comes down to organising my time, which can be difficult occasionally since I teach at a Music School, give personal lessons and also play with a few other bands dedicated to Cumbia, Salsa and Mexican Folk music.
Playing with Ikkarus is something I love to do and fortunately I haven’t really encountered problems doing this.
We organise ourselves in our free time and we normally land 3 to 4 rehearsals a month. It’s really not too different to other bands that for example, rehearse once a week. It can be difficult now and again because of the inescapable, occasional priority. We’ve all sacrificed many leisure/personal times in order to make this work and so far all of this (Stains & Echoes album, Live Session, more music yet to come, etc) is what he have come up with. We hope we find the time in which we’ll be making a living out of this in order to be full-time, Ikkarus musicians.
You’ve got a huge concert lined up – what would be your dream venue?
Any music festival such as Glastonbury. Any outdoors festival, really.
Not a particular venue, but a place in which the audience will be expecting us with all the excitement and willingness to have a great time. Any place in which we can share our music with our audience and make it a great experience.
Any huge venue with a great sound!
Describe a typical live show by the band.
A mixture of excitement and anxiousness, typical of a live gig. For my part, I give everything on the drum set. I absolutely enjoy the music, all the movement and the applause from the audience. I see Wendy projecting all her energy and talent on the piano and Javo connecting with the audience through the lyrics and his musical presence.
The fact that we have an upcoming gig, gives me an explosion of positive energy. Just knowing that our music will be heard by others… We always try to make people feel happy and enjoy the moment with us. We’re just delighted; we jump, shout and run all around and seek to transmit to their hearts every sound charged with who we are.
It is what I love the most to do. Once “I find myself” on the stage it just feels like home, but in all honesty, everything that goes on before that, from the moment we’re unpacking our instruments, the plugging-in, to the sound check, up to the first song out of my throat, it’s all very nerve-wracking to me!
Tell us about how you go about creating your music, from initial idea to completion.
Normally, Javo gets to the studio with the main ideas, or sends them to us through email or any other means. When I listen to a “skeleton” I start to think about patterns, rhythms and fills that would fit into it. Sometimes I just work on it by humming.
Another “work-mode” we have is to jam over one idea with a specific, creative mindset. It is something I like to call “Cinematographic Simulation” (I hope you love my Cinematographic term!) and it goes something like this: We put ourselves to think about a specific intention from a specific movie scene, as if we were writing a film’s soundtrack. We go ahead and say something like: “Ok imagine you’re James Bond, you’re at some port in Italy at night, hiding behind some boat, the bad guy’s about to escape and you’re about to break all hell loose to catch this guy and fire upon all his guards. How would you print this whole situation into a rhythm, a melody or a riff?”
To write and play a song, it is really important for me that we are “synchronised” with each other musically yes, but also personally. We constantly hang out and that lets us be in the same high frequency vibration and emotion in order to come up with something new.
Sometimes we start by playing phrases or tones that detonate a deep emotion in all of us. Then we start thinking of rhythmic ideas and melodies and soon we land a base that we start giving structure to. After a while it starts to adopt a form.
We also play and jam for long periods of time. We normally start with powerful bass and atmospheric sounds and just let them take over our feelings. See where that takes us.
Other times Javo brings ideas to the table, whether it’s on rehearsal time, or sends them to us so we can let them sink in for a while. I listen over and over and see what kind of feeling it evokes on me and I take it from there.
When creating music, I try to make it a spiritual thing. I ask for guidance within my beliefs and I start playing for a long time until something jumps out and catches my attention: Maybe a simple melody or guitar riff. Maybe just a chord sequence. I record that onto the computer, leave it sounding on and on for a while. Either the next musical phrase comes along in my train of thought and I record it, or if nothing comes at that moment, I start thinking of rhythms that could go with it, bass lines, variations, etc. I just listen to everything millions of times over. Every so often something comes along and many other times I just have to let it rest for a while. Then come back and see if anything from the already built phrase, melody, chords or textures is activating or provoking some new sound route in my mind. I also start experimenting with my voice over this structure. Just humming/singing random lines, or more bass lines, guitar lines, or just improvising on top of it with the guitar.
Other times I just have a tune going on in my head. Maybe it’s a male voice singing or saying something. A riff, a bass line or a melody that could do well with some weird synthesiser. If I’m not near my computer or my guitar, I simply hum it and record it onto my cell phone. It sounds really funny all by itself, but when I actually get to my recording software (Logic Pro X and before that Garage Band) I use bass, guitar, Reason software to write down a few chords and textures and rhythms. It just becomes a minute of a song. It’s normally the beginning. Occasionally it can be a sort of interlude, so now I’ve got to figure out the beginning and the ending movements! Then either I send it to the guys or just show them when we get together and start working on it.
On the Stains & Echoes record I practically finished the whole music before I met Dave and Wens. One of the things we also do on rehearsal is experiment on top of a song’s defined foundation. This has been the point in which Dave and Wens have imprinted the already existing songs with their personal touch.
When we came across this “work-mechanic”, we decided to keep doing it in order to play a slight variation of the songs for our live performances. We want the live experience to be entirely different and personal to the one with the record.
This has also become a sort of “standard operating procedure” with each new melody or phrase we’ve come up with. There is a lot of new material; we’re trying to condense it into the second Ikkarus’ album. Yeah. We’re already thinking about that! So now when we rehearse and experiment over given lines we’re all part of the creating process together. Ikkarus is supposed to be the three of us.
What equipment do you use (the more information the better – that way we can also target publications relating to specific instruments/brands)
I really like the sound of Premier drum sets as well as Pearl snare drums. At the moment I’m using a Premier Cabria Drum Set and a 14” Pearl Maple Shell, that has quite a versatile sound, works well in many genres and fits great with the spectrum of genres we play.
For details such as bell overtones, atmospheres, etc, I chose a custom set of Paiste 802 series cymbals, consisting of two pairs of Hi-Hats, a Crash and a Crash Ride. A 16” Sabian Pro Crash, a 19” Custom Hybrid Zildjian China and a couple of 6 and 8” Zildjian Splashes.
I use a Roland GW-7 Workstation (I really like the strings patches on this one) and an AKAI MPK249 Controller. At the moment I use it to control the Reason 8 software by Propellerheads. There are times in which Javo and I sit down for hours to try and come up with different, custom sounds apart from the pre-designed ones.
I use a Parker Fly Mojo Midi electric guitar. I really like the endless possibilities you have with midi instruments. Like making a sitar, an organ or a trumpet out of your guitar with some weird effects. This guitar has basically become my personal synthesiser to spend hours and hours of fun with. I use it with the Roland VG99 Guitar System. For travelling light purposes, I use the POD X3 Live pedal by Line 6. Awesome delays.
In general, I’m in love with the atmospheres one can build with a delay and a Wah pedal.
I also like to sit for long periods of time at the computer using the Reason software by Propellerheads, exploring sounds and textures, choosing a few of them for our live and recording set, as well as making a few of our own along with Wens.
You took a particularly long time to put the songs on the album together – how did you decide on the final tracklisting?
We practically went through all the finished songs we had. We took care that the ones chosen for Stains & Echoes were all part of the style and genre we’re trying to work on; and at the same time that they all had something to do with each other. The resulting record is a narrative, phonetic and conceptual unit.
Writing a musical piece is not easy at all and finishing a whole album does take time. Javo has worked on the project over the years and when I got to know it and work with it, he practically had all the material selected. It merely was a matter of working on the songs and enriching them even further.
The music was practically all finished when we all met. When we started working together, new ideas started to flow. Some of them became part of the existing songs and others were totally different: darker, heavier and even progressive. They’re part of the new lot. Part of what’s coming next for Ikkarus!
What would be your ultimate aim in the industry?
To build a solid career in music, make a living out of it and to put Mexico’s name way up high musically. To become worthy representatives of Alternative Rock. To keep creating spiritual and emotional art for everyone, specially for people in time of crisis and with the need of unburdening. It would be an awesome thing that our music could prove useful in this aspect.
Our aim or in other words, the musical dream of Ikkarus, is to be heard all over the world and that well into the years we’re able to create and produce more music.
We want to touch people’s deep, spiritual and emotional fibres with our music. When you go to a concert to see your favourite musicians live, it is something that’s simply otherworldly. A connection’s made from the moment you make their music your own; when a certain song of theirs “soundtracks” an important event in your life. It just becomes part of who you are, so when you experience this in front of a stage it’s one of the most meaningful experiences I feel one can have.
I wish our project would cause that same effect on many people. We want our music to be the life soundtrack of many. To know that what we did leave a mark somewhere. Transcendence.
We’d like to be heard all over the world. To play all over it. All the time.
Is there anything you would like people to know about your current release?
Stains & Echoes is our presentation card to the world and at the same time seeks to be an instrument to find some good vibes, solace and consolation through art.
Sure! I want to say that Stains & Echoes has a little piece of our hearts tattooed into every single song of the album. We want it to be a good medicine or antidote to each soul that wishes to listen to it; we really hope our songs give out something good to every heart, as it was the case with me. A huge detonation of good vibes and a relaxing voyage in which people want to remain constantly…
Stains & Echoes is a huge thing in my life. The hope of its existence at the beginning led me personally through many rough places, helped me push through a multitude of musicians who just wouldn’t believe in this project, through a huge lack of self-belief and many other things. I would listen to those great records like Pearl Jam’s Ten, Vitalogy, Yield, etc Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine, Downward Spiral, The Fragile, etc Porcupine Tree’s In Absentia, Soundgarden’s Superunknown, etc just thinking what must have went through these musicians’ heads when they were creating, recording, rehearsing all of it. Just dreaming and dreaming and keeping hope that one day, an album would be finished and that I had something to do with it.
It took its time, but everything inside is filled up with our passion and our love. We tried to be thorough artisans with every single sound, chord, texture, word, etc.
Countless sleepless nights, crying, fighting, making up with each other made of this set of songs an album and a family out of us.
Over the last 4 years, the band Anarchy Reigns have been hard at work, with over 20 metal and rock tracks written and recorded, 5 music videos, 5 lyric videos and the completion of their very own recording studio, Hitch and the boys can now start to take it easy, or will they?
At an early age, Hitch was involved in his local music scene, where he saw bands such as Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, in Liverpool where he would go every Friday and Saturday. Throughout his life he had great love and respect for hard rock and metal, he then went to a show, and it all changed.
During the show, where he was going to town on the air guitar, his wife said,“why don’t you learn to play the guitar?”, after this, Hitch had the idea to follow this dream, and throughout the years has been building his career and reputation. and with the drop of the album on the horizon and the recent release of brand new track ‘Hypocrisy’, the guys seemingly have no intention of slowing down.
A DJ, a producer, a writer, composer, performer and lastly US military man.
Christopher Dickinson is a dedicated music enthusiast, who doesn’t let being in the middle east hold him back from following his dream.
When asked about how he balances his work life between music life, he replied “I usually get off work at 17:00-18:00 at night, and ill go into my room for 4 or 5 hours, creating, experimenting, practicing”. This easily shows how committed he is with this simple statement. However, this is no call for sympathy. His drive and love for music and the immense respect he has for his favourite artists is immense.
“One of my biggest influences when it comes to creating my music, would be Skrillex and Alan walker. I’m trying to experiment and become my own”.
It is clear that this man, has now got his eyes set the prize that is full time music making, hopeful of leaving the army.
Olisha is one of a million in the modern pop world. As she works harder and becomes more determined to show her talents to the world, Olisha explores her talents to a further degree.
We spoke to Olisha about her life, love of music and her many inspirations.
Q: So, your recent release of new track ‘Strangers’ is a great pop track, what do we need to know?
A:“The project is self-funded and every aspect of my music is straight from my heart to you. I believe in myself. I believe in my dream. I believe in breaking down boundaries and making history through my music”.
Q: Can I ask about the bigger picture? What is the Ultimate goal you want to reach with your music?
A: “I want to break down boundaries and make history. I want to bring people of all walks of life together through my music. I write music from my heart. I want people to relate to my music and hopefully help them get through something that they experiencing in life”.
Q: So early on, what was you first musical inspirations?
A: “I grew up listening to pop music…Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion, Kylie Minogue. I love the big choruses and beautiful melodies that you can’t get out of your head”.
Q: How has your Indian Heritage influenced your music?, does it have any creative input?
A: “My Indian heritage has not affected the way I make or listen to music. I love listening to many genres of music from pop, r n b, hip hop to Punjabi and Bollywood music. Being Asian, I do get lots of support from my Asian community because we love to support someone who is trying to break boundaries of colour and do good in the world”.
We thank you Olisha for speaking with us. Check out her new single ‘Strangers’, Out now.
We briefly sat down to talk to singer-songwriter, performer and Genre bending artist, Ms Mohammed.
Talking about the release of her latest E.P., she spoke to us about her origins, where she draws inspiration from and what she aims to do with her interesting fused music.
Q: So, Thank you for sitting down with us. Firstly can you tell us, where was your start? Where did you come from?
A: I grew up in Trinidad surrounded by soca, reggae, chutney, pop chart radio, gospel music via my Christian parents, steel pan from the pan yard a few hundred feet from my house. Music was constant in many forms, but it wasn’t until my parents split up and my Dad went to NY that I discovered the guitar music that would go on to inﬂuence my sound to this day.
Q: How do you perceive labels? How do you want people to see you?
A: The world we do live in is the one that has labelled me, feminist, queer, female, feminine, South Asian, immigrant, controversial last name, provocative. I’m just trying to live authentically.
Q: Have you encountered any one who disagrees with you and is unfair to you, due to your views?
A: To be honest I don’t think they’ve discovered I exist yet! But I am bracing for it; it comes with the territory when just being who you are out loud upsets the status quo.
Q: Your creative process! What does it include, how do you write your songs? Where do you draw influence from?
A: I tend to go to my well-worn, but much loved, Pearl export drum kit ﬁrst. Most of the songs are born out of rhythms created on kick, snare, hi hat. I ﬁnd a groove I dig and run with that. Then I write guitar parts, bass line, vocal melody and lyrics tend to be last. I’m a huge control freak with strong ideas about what each element should sound like, so I record demos using Logic X and take that to the studio to my engineer so he knows what I’m after sound wise for the ﬁnal product
Q: And finally, what is the ultimate goal? Where do you want your music to go?
A: I’m bored of its current state to be frank. There’s too much mind-blowing talent and music on this planet for us to be presented with anything this dull, safe and beige 24/7.
With her E.P. ‘Alibi’ recently being released, she is ready to take on the world.
India Mãe da Lua, a multi-instrumentalist with no formal music training of any kind, is the focus of a new album from Kalibé , a musical collective who have been mentioned in the same breath as Grammy-guzzling, World Music phenomenon, The Buena Vista Social Club. We spoke to the album’s producer, Matteo Crugnola about the difficulties and inspiration the project brought..
“Of course I’m a fan of Ry Cooder and you’re not the first one to find this similarity. More than Buena Vista Social Club I would say his album with Ali Farka Toure, “Talking Timbuktu”, maybe because of the common African roots with the [first] album “La Danse d’Harmattan”.
Ry Cooder is a great guitarist and producer and I’m not even worth the comparison [we beg to differ!]. But of course, he has explored world music with great success, meeting and recording with some of the greatest musicians of different cultures. I also love his Indian album “A meeting by the River” [with Vishwa Mohan Bhatt] , where guitar, sitar and tabla dialogue together as though they belong to the same tradition.
That’s the power of music: the power to unite and transcend cultural barriers. Power to communicate at a deep level with people who don’t even speak your language and to create a sense of community.
That’s surely the spirit also of Kalibé.
But -as I said- I am not Ry Cooder and we also don’t have the same budget! There are so many amazing musicians around (it doesn’t necessary mean also famous), I had the great luck to meet a few and they have been open, generous and happy to become part of the Kalibé family. To be honest, in the last album there are not so many collaborations, since it’s focused on India Mae da Lua. Most tracks is just her and me. The next album will have many more people involved and won’t be focused on just one person; but India Mae da Lua deserved a full album!
I think nowadays we are getting used to living in a multi-cultural society, to share a flat with, for example, an Indian student, a Korean engineer and a Ghanaian refugee and slowly starting to mix our habits: to start adding Indian spices on a French salad, than having some sushi and a Mexican guacamole. Kalibè goes in that direction.
So, I think it’s more of an open attitude that brought me to know other musicians, rather than a process of research and discovery.
I’ve never called a musician I don’t know to propose a recording collaboration or to hire him for a recording session. It’s more genuine friendship and sharing the same message, or the will to do music together. I met India Mae da Lua in Spain more than 10 years ago when we were both street musicians (she was in Spain to represent Brazil in a musical event, then decided to stay there a few months). I described our meeting in the website ( https://www.kalibemusic.com/music). A few months before meeting her, I met Ermanno Panta who’s the co-founder of Kalibé. We are close friends and have done many gigs together – he also participated in all my albums. He spent one year working in Burkina Faso in 2010 and started playing with all the best musicians of the country, then he invited me to go there to play together, to get to know African music an maybe create a band together.
We didn’t even mean to record an album or to write those songs…it’s been the magic of that moment, it just happened! We were staying in an old house and, as people started to know that there were two “white” musicians in that place, local musicians started to appear just to play together! In other cultures, music is a way of communicating and having fun together, something to share easily with great humbleness and laughter. That’s also the spirit of Kalibé, we don’t go to big studios for recordings (we don’t have the budget!) but try to use high-quality microphones and equipment. In Burkina Faso, our “studio” was the same bedroom where we were sleeping. The hardest thing is to get moments of silence.
Once in Italy, I spend a lot of time selecting and editing recorded material in order to make sure the audio quality is the highest possible and the mastering has been done in one of the best studios in Italy by experienced professionals.
So, it’s never -I mean not even once – been difficult to unite, nor I should say, have I ever perceived so much difference between us. There’s much more in what people share than in what makes the difference. And I always try to see differences as a source of richness”
Roger Rudenstein is one of the most prolific living classical composers. His output is matched only by his desire to push the genre to its very limits in terms of subject and content. Here, he explains what inspires him and where any newcomers to classical music should start their journey
What attracted you to the area of music you work in? Do you come from a musical family?
My parents were classical music lovers and had many recordings in their house that I discovered at a very early age. They took me to concerts in New Jersey and also to New York City to the Metropolitan Opera. I played violin in my grade school orchestra and attended Music Camp every year I was in high school. I wrote duets for me and my sister for violin and flute. Later I found “The Variety of Lute Lessons” at the Folklore Center in New York and played them on my guitar. I used to play guitar and fiddle in an ad hoc old time music band that performed in Washington Square and sometimes in the Greenwich Village coffee houses. During college I studied theatre and played in a bluegrass band called the Green River Boys. After graduating college with a degree in Drama I played in a jug band called Tiny Alice for several years in Cleveland, Ohio. After moving to New York City I went to a lot of opera, decided I wanted to compose opera and within a year my first opera, “Faustus”, debuted at Symphony Space. I was on my way as a composer.
What is your local music scene like? How do you think you fit in?
Here in Portsmouth, NH, I have gotten a very good reception by audiences for my modern classical music pieces. The workshop debut of my opera Ulysses was sold out for six performances and received a rave review in the local press. I was composer in residence for a year at the local Unitarian Church and my works were well received there also. However there is no new classical music scene as such here; on the contrary, the new music scene consists of a plethora of bands that hold forth every weekend at the numerous bars in the historic part of town. In light of this I have aimed to step up my presence on the Internet in order to meet a wider audience.
What artists influence you in general? What is it about the way they write, or their sound that is appealing to you?
I am greatly influenced by a number of European composers including Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Haydn, Vivaldi, Purcell, Dowland, Mahler, Richard Wagner and others. Twentieth Century influences include Stravinsky and Richard Strauss. Although this is a diverse group, their music has in common the qualities of depth, complexity and harmonic richness that result in works of great musical beauty and expressiveness. The richness of feeling in many of the works of these composers affects me greatly. My efforts, as a composer, have been to fit in with this outstanding community of musical works presenting my own spin based on my life and musical experiences which include both classical and popular music, especially blues, old timey and Bluegrass. Distilling the essence of our existence into music is difficult and even more difficult is to also make it entertaining to the listener. During the Twentieth Century many composers got hung up on theories that said, “This world is going to Hell in a hand basket so my music should reflect that by being as unpalatable to the listener as war, poverty and oppression are.” Unfortunately this resulted in honing their musical talents to a high standard of incoherence and extreme dissonance. While this garnered grants and even acclaim in some cases, it did not create an audience and actually instilled in the classical music audience an aversion to modern classical music. Many composers have learned from that mistake and I am one of them. I feel so strongly about this that I authored a series of short fiction on the subject called “Thought Experiments” which is about the misadventures of a certain cultural icon in the land of music thought. Although my music often does reflect the war, poverty and oppression of our times it presents itself in an accessible way and seek to create musical beauty of a high order.
Tell us about how you go about creating your music, from initial idea to completion. What equipment do you use and what instrument is your weapon of choice for composition?
My music flows from my id – or you can call it God or the World Spirit or you can say, like Mozart, “I’m spitting music”. I am very prolific. When I first started composing as a kid I composed on the guitar, as a young adult on the piano and now I compose on the computer, using Finale and the Vienna Symphonic patch library, mostly, on a Pro Mac. Oh, and earphones.
Tell us about what drove you to compose an opera based on Ulysses? Were there other literary works which you considered? How did you crystalise a full-length novel into only 2 and a half hours?
Ulysses was my favourite book in High School. I read it after my parents took me to see the play “Ulysses in night-town” in which Zero Mostel played Leopold Bloom, the Jewish everyman. I found the book much richer than the play which only deals with a fragment of one of the book’s chapters. Later in life, with a couple of operas under my belt, I reread the novel and thought “Wow this book could be a libretto”. Why? Because it’s written in poetic prose so I decided to use only Joyce’s own words in my adaptation. Also the book quotes a lot of music including “Don Giovanni” as well as popular music and even has the sheet music of a song written by Joyce within its pages. Joyce was a great lover of classical music, especially opera. He stopped writing for a while to take an opera singer he was championing around to get gigs. In addition to all that, he wrote into Ulysses verbal motifs similar to those used by composers to delineate feelings and ideas. One of the pleasures of creating the opera was to create my own musical motifs to track Joyce’s. Ulysses also deals with prejudice and alienation: his main character Leopold Bloom, a secular Jew, the wandering Ulysses of the title, is not accepted by Irish society due to religious bigotry and rejection of his modernism. Stephen, his Irish Catholic Telemachus is not accepted because of his striving for truth and hatred of hypocrisy. He is consistent to a fault. For example, an atheist, he refuses his dying mother’s request to kneel down and pray for her. One of the most amazing things about the novel is that it takes place in a single day: June 16, 1904, subsequently commemorated as Bloomsday during which the novel is celebrated in many cities around the world.
What would be your ultimate aim in the industry?
My professional aim is to reach as wide an audience as I can via the Internet and to have my music played by numerous performing organizations. Currently I am working on getting an established opera company to stage my Ulysses opera…anyone interested in this should contact me at email@example.com. I also think my four-opera cycle based on Trump as a modern American Faust should stir some interest now that he has been elected President of the United States…an outcome I never anticipated when I picked a well-known con man and crook as the subject of my opera cycle back in the 1980’s.
What should new listeners to your music expect from you? How do you see yourself as a composer in 21st Century America?
New listeners should expect to hear music unlike any other. It is not an imitation of any particular composer’s music or even very similar. If you don’t like classical music then you might not like my music but it’s worth a try, especially if you have never been exposed to classical music before. Right now I’m working to complete my four-opera cycle based loosely on the life of Donald Trump, seeing him as a modern day American Faust. I’m also working on more purely instrumental music including a trio for viola, clarinet and piano which I hope to release shortly. Also I have a short Trump satire called “Ronald Glumpf, part two” about to debut on the net. Look for it at my website or on Soundcloud.
Some have argued that classical music is dead. That modern composers in this idiom will never surpass the dead composers of the past centuries so why bother. And anyway, the famous composers of today are all in the popular music sphere, propelled by millions of dollars in commercial investment, so why listen to such notes as mine. My advice is this: If you can’t get to my music because the style is not like the music you ordinarily listen to then take a chance and expand your horizons. If you are a classical music lover who looks forward only to the ninety millionth interpretation of Beethoven’s sonatas then you are contributing to the demise of the music you love so much which is in danger of becoming pickled in a jar in a museum. My music will not bore you and is not esoteric so take a listen and you will not regret it. Believe me.
One of the difficulties of being a classical music composer in America is the incredible commercialization of popular music to the exclusion of all else. Early in America’s history, although there was always such a thing (Tin Pan Alley and Big Band music) but there was also a great deal of classical music in American culture. Even with the initial rise of television in the 1950’s classical music was still a factor with opera programs and the NBC Symphony Orchestra led by Toscanini. However, with the rise of American post WW II prosperity teenagers became the owners of large amounts of cash; once this was noticed by the large corporations popular music because a juggernaut, not just another form of music. With huge investments on the line, it quickly eclipsed classical music as a money-maker and things only got worse for classical after that as the immigrant population died off and their progeny called the musical shots. This, paired with the decline in school music programs and a traditionally low amount of government funding of the arts – made worse by the ascension to the throne of Donald Trump and his cronies — is where things stand now in America. I am looking to Europe with its higher cultural standards and greater appreciation of classical music, including modern classical musi,c to be a port in the current storm in the States.
Is there anything you would like people to know about your music?
I think music has a two-fold mission: to entertain and to elevate the lives of those who listen. All music does this to some degree, however I believe classical music’s depth and complexity creates the ability to go beyond mere entertainment and become life changing. This is hinted at by the “Mozart Effect” that some researchers discovered several years ago. So that’s why I’m in the game. In addition to entertaining and elevating music can also serve the cause of opposing the injustice of our times. Many composers of the past have done this: Beethoven, Mahler, Wagner (his anti-Semitism aside), Shostakovitch, Prokfiev, Bernstein…the list goes on. I position myself squarely in this camp. My first recording for MMC was called “State of the Union” and dealt with the Bush administration’s use of torture and invasion to prosecute its war on terror. A work entitled “We do not torture” is on my website rogerrudensteinmusic.com which is based on the CIA’s attempts to justify its attack on human rights and quotes its own words to that effect. My short opera entitled “The Rise and Fall of Ronald P. Glumpf” has been streamed by over 100,000 people on Soundcloud. While some of my music is abstract, not topical, it still reflects the tumultuous times we live in. How could it not?
We spoke to Techno/Electric house artist, Nej!Las, about her love of music and her take on the Tech/Electro House scene at the moment.
:Tech/Electro house is a specific but interesting scene, what were some of the things that attracted you to playing this type of music?
Nej!Las: 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.
:In Chicago, where your based, what is your local scene like? do you feel that you fit in?
Nej!Las: 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.
:Do you have a writing process or any other special way you approach your music or performance?
Nej!Las: The first live set – the “progressive, melodic set” focuses on the harmonic elements. This set, by itself, would be categorized as “progressive” music. 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.
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.
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
: And finally, what is your overall aim, what do you want for you and your music?
Nej!Las: 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.
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?