How long have you been making music and why did you come to the neoclassical style?
At the risk of sounding old, I have been making music since the mid-1980s but it wasn't until the 90s that I produced anything I liked. However, that music was all part of a band (alternative rock) playing guitar and it wasn't until around 2010 that I started producing music on my own, closer to what I do now. In terms of the neo-classical style, I have always been interested in that kind of music. When I was 18 I went through a long period of just listening to instrumental music, and some of the things I listened to then are still a big influence; People like Erik Satie, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, David Sylvian, and Brian Eno.
Speaking of the names you listed, this is mostly minimalism and ambient, in which emotionality practically does not play any role. Still, your music is quite romantic, melancholy, and sometimes even sentimental, isn't it?
I agree to an extent, although I would say a lot of Philip Glass' later work has quite a melancholy and emotional feel, as does Erik Satie. I have always been attracted to melancholy music and aside from instrumental music which has had a direct influence, I am also a big fan of Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake. Also, a lot of the current music I listen to has that melancholic quality, people such as Max Richter, Hildar Gudnadottir, Johan Johansson, and Olafur Arnalds.
What was your first musical instrument?
The first instrument I played was the bass guitar, which I got when I was maybe around 12 years old. After a year or so I got an electric guitar, and then a couple of years later I got my first synthesizer, the Korg Poly800, and then the Jen SX1000. It wasn't until I was 18 that I got my first acoustic guitar, which looking back seems a weird way round, as usually people start on acoustic guitar.
Listening to your albums, one gets the impression that your favorite instruments are strings and piano rather than guitar.
Yes, that is correct. I loved the sound of the piano since I was a teenager (I think the first record that really attracted me to the sound was 'Nightporter' by Japan), but didn't have one at home and at the time there were no decent-sounding electronic versions. I had lots of ideas of what I wanted to achieve but didn't have the instruments or technology to do it. It wasn't until about 10 years ago that I got my first upright piano, which is about 100 years old and has a really warm sound. These days there are a lot of really good sample instruments which I mix with my selection of acoustic instruments and that allows me to achieve what I had wanted to years ago. Unfortunately, I have never had access to string players, so had to wait until I was able to do it myself.
In addition to music, you also do visual arts, how did you get into this?
I always enjoyed art at school and then went on to university to study art and have been producing artwork ever since. After graduating I worked for about 9 years as a freelance designer, but was really more interested in producing fine art pieces and now produce mixed media paintings that I exhibit regularly. After finishing working as a freelance designer, I started teaching at college (16 - 19-year-olds) and that is what I do full-time now, so I am involved in visual art daily. I also run a gallery as part of an artist cooperative, so am constantly producing new pieces to exhibit there.
Do you make music regularly, or by inspiration?
I make music regularly (usually in the evening, as I work full-time), sometimes there will be a particular idea I have had during the day and others I will just improvise and see what happens. One thing that is important for me is that I finish the pieces that I start at least to the point that I am reasonably happy with. That doesn't mean that I release everything but finishing each piece allows me to explore the idea fully and learn from them. I usually finish a piece before going on to the next, although occasionally I have a couple of pieces on the go at once.
What comes first for you: music or painting?
I usually have paintings and pieces of music on the go at any one time, although I go through phases where I concentrate on one more than the other. I suppose I spend a little more time working on music than I do on painting, and this could be because I teach art & design all day at my full-time job, so the music feels like more of a break from the day job. It is hard to choose one over the other, and often I'll have paintings and pieces of music that I am working on simultaneously that will have the same title, so the works feel like part of the same piece whilst I am working on them (although are usually presented as two different things when completed). I can't imagine myself ever stopping painting or producing music and luckily the kind of work I produce is appropriate to all ages, so it wouldn't feel weird playing my music in 20 years' time (the way it might if it was a pop or rock band).
Interviewer – Dionis Afonichev (Dionisaf)
Photo by Bryan Styles Edited by Iuliia Rychkova
More neoclassical ambient music in our Spotify playlist