P&C interview: Lisa Morgenstern by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist


Born into a world of music, it’s no surprise that young German/Bulgarian composer Lisa Morgenstern is already well on her way of making quite the name for herself. With her second full length-album released earlier this year, she showcased a gloriously fearless voice, paired with intricate experimental electronica and emotive piano instrumentals. Chameleon was recorded in collaboration with Argentinean producer and cellist Sebastian Plano, and contains multitudes of Morgenstern’s phenomenal talent in composing and utilizing several worlds of musical undertones; her outstanding range, both vocally and in regards of genre, tells of even greater things to come.

Morgenstern is currently on tour throughout Europe, but was generous enough to take some of her time to answer a few questions about her back story, her process and her latest album.

So music was always a big part of your life, from your parents’ musician background and your love of the ballet – was there a pivotal moment where you decided to start composing as well? Do you think you would still be writing music if your future in ballet hadn’t been cut short?

I had regular piano lessons before I went to school. For many years I had a wonderful but strict teacher who expected me to practice a lot and with discipline. I liked that, but for me it was very soon like a kind of rest or break from the classical repertoire to write little melodies for myself. Secretly I arranged music for piano from pop songs to metal – just what I liked the most. That was simply a kind of natural balance.

In any case, I can still remember small excerpts that I wrote when I was 8 or 9. That also lasted throughout the time when I had fully promised myself to the ballet, but I never expected to share it with any kind of audience one day. It was always a kind of therapy: something with which I could switch off all thinking and about which I could relieve feelings. So yes, I think, even if I were still a dancer today, I would still spend a lot of time at the piano or singing. It's just something I really feel the need for at least myself.

Could you describe your creating process for me?

With Chameleon the process of creating my music has changed in large parts. Especially since the world of synthesizers was added. Before that, almost everything took place at the piano and I had a good time messing around with samples. At some point I realized that either my sample library wasn't very good or it wasn't necessarily my talent. I've learned all these things to a certain extent and know how to do all this using a computer, but this album was supposed to be created independently of these possibilities. I wanted to avoid having a computer on stage at all costs, and besides, I just didn't find all the editing and time-wasting in any DAW software inspiring anymore.

At some point I had a problem with my right hand and the doctor had prescribed a three-month piano break. Afterwards it turned out to be complete medical nonsense - but it caused me to turn to these strange creatures in the studio, which didn't have any keys, only pretty knobs and cables. Before, I always thought arrogantly that synthesizers were plastic keyboards for people who couldn't really play the piano. Well, I've been taught a better lesson.

When I write on the piano, I write very heady and I never want to go a too obvious route – I prefer the more complicated way. These analog electronic worlds have limited me and tempted me to just feel and flow and record improvised one-takes. I also found it an inspiring challenge not to use a single beat on this album and still build pulsating rhythms just from interlaced melodies.

When it comes to singing, this is the most natural and easy way. I usually write lyrics somewhere on the way when I can't reach an instrument anyway. The best moments are when already written lyrics find their way to new music and suddenly it just clicks.

What can you tell me about your move to Berlin? How has the city affected your music?

Before Berlin I worked two years in a recording studio in Hannover. I don't know if the city was too boring or the work just too much - but I would leave the studio only in order to sleep. There came a time when I almost always looked at the piano through the studios window and the work of recording bands became too repetitive. I needed a cut. Berlin called for me. Or I cried for Berlin. I knew that there were musicians there who could make me grow, who would inspire me. And it was almost too easy to get in touch with the right people.

Today, people I previously adored as a fan have become good friends. Besides, you can celebrate a wonderful hermit existence in Berlin. You can find peace and silence in the middle of the hustle and bustle. It is strange and simply wonderful. I am one of those people who still love Berlin even after 5 years.

What or who is your biggest inspiration when composing? Do your Bulgarian and German roots affect your music?

In my childhood I was very intensively in contact with classical music because both my parents play as classical musicians in orchestras. Not least through piano lessons and much more through ballet. From Tchaikovsky to Stravinsky and above all "Romeo and Juliet" by Prokofiev – ballet music is almost a religion for me. At the piano, too, I wished from an early age for the more melancholic, emotionally profound pieces. Often the teacher gave me the choice and it was always clear what I would choose. Mozart was almost a punishment if I could play Debussy or Chopin. I don't know why.

As a rebellious teenager I went through all kinds of eccentric scenes with all kinds of hair colors: punk, rock, metal, gothic, ambient and last but not least the so-called neoclassic. I guess that means the rebellion is over. Which artists inspire me is hard to say. I guess the list would be either too short or too long. So I don't do that.

Since two years I have been singing with the wonderful Bulgarian Voices Berlin. I could hardly believe that I lived in this city for over three years and knew nothing about it. This is a dream come true, as I admire Bulgarian folklore choirs. It's just transcendent music. Right now we are working on a joint concert and it is a pure pleasure to write for these magical women and I can hardly wait to present what is growing up here. Come to see us on the 21st of August at the Pop-Kultur festival in Berlin.


What can you tell me about Chameleon? What were your thoughts and expectations throughout the whole process?

Besides the whole process of writing, which I described above, I knew that I wanted a producer for this album. I was running in too many directions at once and I needed someone to tame me. I had met Sebastian [Plano] by coincidence at one of his concerts in Hannover and he recognized me two years later in Berlin, whereupon we did not hesitate for long. Sebastian and his musical mindset were perfect for what I wanted to happen. Since the album was made in a time of moving, everything was recorded in different cities, studios and living rooms. And yet the result is round, flowing and organic. Maybe even because of that. It was as if someone had stirred around wildly in a lake and first a lot of stuff had to sink to the ground until the lake turned bottle-green again.

What were the biggest differences from creating your debut album back in 2013? How has the response been?

First of all, the differences were huge. The album before that was an underground gothic album. I'm still very proud of the songwriting, even though I presented the melodrama on a silver plate. But I knew that the next album would have a completely different aesthetic. Too much had changed. I had changed. And also my technical knowledge had increased drastically by working in the recording studio. I was inspired by so many new genres that I sucked up like a sponge. Chameleon can be seen as another debut. Today, I can say that my drastic changes, which have taken place over the years, may slowly come to an appropriate rest. I have found myself, found my style… But who knows. I've thought that so many times.

The feedback on Chameleon has been overwhelming so far. Especially at concerts I deliberately deal with very different audiences. I find it wonderful that people can access my music through so many different corners.  

Is there any track in particular that you feel most strongly represents your style? Any track you cherish most?

I think that would be Levitation.

This is one of the few songs where the music, the vocals and the lyrics were created together. I can remember when I wrote the song that I tortured myself with this song for three days in a row. I recorded again and again about 8 minutes of one-takes with a Euro-rack full of Doepfer modules, a Wurlitzer and a reverb device. It was hypnotic and disturbing at the same time.

I slept on the floor in the studio for only a few hours at a time and didn't speak to anyone during these days. But I knew I had to do it now, otherwise something important might get lost for me. This song was also the first to be finished from the album and definitely set an aesthetic direction for the rest.

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What can you tell me about your current tour? What does the future hold?

This year I have already been on tour with Ólafur Arnalds and recently with Fil Bo Riva as supporting act. Both very different and yet incredibly fulfilling experiences. I am very grateful for the chance to play such big stages, especially because in both cases - concert halls or club shows - the audience embraced me very warmly.

I have to say that touring costs me a lot of energy, but it also gives it back in an incredible amount. I've jumped over my shadow several times this year and I'm growing at every single concert. Now I have a lot of festivals ahead of me. I am very excited about them. And afterwards a couple of headline shows are coming in autumn.

If you have the chance, do yourself a favor and go see the immensely talented Lisa Morgenstern at one of the dates listed below – and in the meantime, you can stream Chameleon on Spotify.

AUG 16 Le Castrum Festival, Yverdon-les-Baines, CH

AUG 21 Pop-Kultur Berlin, Berlin DE

SEP 20 Reeperbahnfestival/Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg DE

OCT 12 The Concertgebouw, Amsterdam NL

OCT 24 Servants Jazz Quarters, London UK

OCT 25 Headrow House, Leeds UK


P&C interview: Hania Rani by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Björk Óskarsdóttir


On April 5th, Hania Rani (short for Raniszewska) released her 10-track debut album Esja on Gondwana Records. Growing up in the country of Chopin, where the standards of piano music are high, Rani aimed initially for a path in classical music before getting introduced to jazz and electronic music at school.

Can you tell us a bit about the writing process for this album? For how long has it been in the works? Was it always supposed to be solo-piano based?

I didn’t plan to record the solo album. I started recording three years ago and I accomplished at that time loads of other compositions, not only for piano solo, but including strings, choir, voice, electronics. But two years ago I met a sound engineer from Iceland - Bergur Porisson. He invited me to finish the recordings at his studio in Reykjavik. I didn’t think twice and booked a flight to Iceland. There, somehow spontaneously we recorded a lot of new piano songs. I really liked the vibe of the compositions and thought that I should release the piano solo album as my debut album. My record label - Gondwana - also encouraged me to do so. I feel like this minimalistic, instrumental album is a nice prelude to all the other music that I am planning to share in the future.

Coming from a background of classical music, was it always easy for you to envision your own musical creations outside of the curriculum?

No, it was definitely not - that’s also why, I suppose, my debut comes so late. For a very long time I was strongly convinced that I would become a classical pianist; I was very focused on this path. But there was always some inner power that pushed me to start getting involved in some non-classical projects. When I said “yes” for the first time to make some arrangements I really felt wonderful and was happy about the outcome. New proposals began to show up and I couldn’t resist them. I was feeling better and better in this new area and realised that this is way more natural and easy for me, compared to classical music.

One might debate that your album falls into sort of a male-dominated genre of music. Have you felt like you’ve had to work harder to prove yourself and be taken seriously, in comparison to your male colleagues?

Yes and no. I never felt that being a woman is a problem, or a limitation. But when I started to compose and perform at less classical venues than concert halls I met many unkind reactions to my knowledge and opinions about my approach to sound system or technical requirements. But it is getting better and actually I only had to deal with it in Poland, where I guess the music business is dominated by male composers and producers. I never felt upset about it, it motivates me to improve and learn more. Also I was always surrounded by great male musicians, who are also my close friends and who are always ready to help me and explain issues that are still new to me.

You are quite an active live-performer. Would you share with us which factors are the most important to you in your live shows?

I feel very good on stage and I like the atmosphere of the live concerts. It is also very challenging for musicians to keep the set fresh and interesting, not to give in to routine.

Not everybody realises that touring is kind of a repetitive activity and hard work in the end. That’s why I try to keep a place for spontaneity and improvisation in my live shows, and I change the set as often as possible. I am also lucky to perform in other bands which gives me a lot of joy and keeps the balance, and a feeling of not being overwhelmed just by performing alone all the time.

Which past live performances of your own do you particularly treasure? How about shows of others that you’ve attended?

One of my most treasured performances ever is one of the first ones I did with my duo partner - cellist Dobrawa Czocher. That was our second non-classical show ever, with my arrangements and composition. The situation was pretty stressful because the concert was supposed to be streamed live on the Polish Radio Station. Me and my friends weren’t even nervous about performing and playing but about… talking on stage! When you are a classical artist you almost never talk to people during the concert.

But when the concert started and we began to play, all the stress had faded away. We felt wonderful playing this new repertoir on stage and were able to communicate with the audience in a new way. The concert turned out to be a great succes and shortly after we decided to record our first album. That was year 2014. And since then, things started happening.

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P&C interview: Flying Hórses by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Björk Óskarsdóttir


Jade Bergeron, also known as Flying Hórses is, in few words, is a Canadian composer and a multi-instrumentalist. Bergeron’s background is an interesting one, but growing up in the Montréal metal scene and living in Iceland for four years are a couple of factors that have influenced her work. Her second full-length album Reverie was released on February 22nd on Canadian label Bonsound, and is already making its mark on popular playlists of the largest streaming platforms.

Can you tell us a bit about your musical background?

I didn't grow up playing classical music. I was immersed in the Montreal metal scene and spent my high-school years playing heavy music. I'm the only musician in my family, and so I really had to make my own musical connections. I had to learn the tools to build my project from scratch through trial and error. It's been a really interesting and challenging learning experience, I finally feel that I have some sort of foundation to build on.

That’s an impressive story. What do you think your current music has in common with metal? Has it grown far apart at its core?

I wouldn't say that my music is metal, just like I wouldn't say that it's classical, or post-rock or ambient. I truly feel that it startles lines and blurs different styles of instrumental music together. This record feels heavier than my debut, and I certainly felt more connected to metal and post-rock roots while composing it. Icelandic winters are harsh, long and dark. I found myself feeling homesick from time-to-time and metal really grounded me when I felt that way. It's possible that my piano playing and writing was reflective of what I was listening to, or how I was feeling during that time.

When and how did you start composing music?

I started writing my debut record in 2013. I wanted to combine some of my metal/post-rock influences with the piano. It was an experimental idea, that sort of took off, I suppose. I didn't know that I would end up recording my first full-length in the Sigur Rós studio, life just sort of guided me there. I mostly compose on the piano before I include other instrumentation. I usually leave room for other instruments in my piano tracks and beds, I like the idea of the tracks being versatile.

You have been very open about the fact that Reverie is a heartbreak record. While many artists might gather their inspiration from heartbreak, it does take guts to be unambiguous about such matters and their usage in the art. Have you always been comfortable with sharing from your personal journey?

Not at all. In fact, I've very rarely discussed what my music is about, publicly before. I finally feel comfortable because we are in a day and age where mental health is finally being talked about, and people are coming to terms with the fact that there is nothing to be embarrassed or apologetic for when it comes to being sad, or our emotions in general. It makes sense that I can elaborate on what the songs mean to me, this time around.

Would you share with us some of your biggest influences for your music

Nature is foremost my biggest influence. Being near or around bodies of water, really allows me to dive into places within myself, where I can process my thoughts and emotions. On a good musical day, I can lay out some of those emotions onto my piano. I'm a very visual person, and something that I enjoy doing is composing while watching movies or documentaries on mute. Certain films trigger or channel emotions, that allow me to open up to my piano.


I must ask. What is the connection with Iceland, and why the Icelandic titles in your previous work?

I lived in Iceland on/off for about 4 years. I'm not going to go into detail about my personal experience because I want listeners to embark on their own journeys, while listening to Reverie. All that I'd like to say is Iceland will always be my second home, and that my experience there, changed my life, forever. I have Icelandic titles on my debut record because I dedicated that album to the island, itself.

How was your experience with the Icelandic music scene? In which ways was it different for you there from Montréal?

I've always felt like a black sheep in Canada. When I first started my project there were so few instrumentalists/composers/solo-pianists performing live, that I felt very isolated in my Montreal/Ottawa community. It wasn't until I landed in Reykjavik in 2014 that I really began to feel that my music was better understood or 'fit in more' in Europe. Iceland was a stepping-stone in the realization that I could really apply certain aesthetics or performance tools to my instrumental compositions. Visual art is so alive within the Icelandic music community, and it's taught me a lot about breaking boundaries when it comes to expression and communicating sounds without vocals.

What is most important for you in a live performance? Will any of the album collaborators join you on stage on future tour-dates?

I've been performing solo for about 2.5 years now. As it stands, bringing in the cellist, Sebastian Selke, that performed on this record from Germany is proving to be a bit challenging. He's a very talented and busy musician and has worked with artists such as Ólafur Arnalds. We are currently working on some live concerts here in Canada, and I'll be announcing those soon. Regardless of whether it ends up being a solo tour or not, the session musicians that played on Reverie, are an integral part of the album and deserve recognition. My live shows vary from festival to festival and sometimes include visuals, depending on the size and structure of the venue.


P&C interview: Peter Sandberg by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Björk Óskarsdóttir


The name Peter Sandberg is hardly very foreign to the fans of Spotify’s playlist Peaceful Piano, and numerous such playlist intended for relaxation or reading. Sandberg’s track Remove the Complexities has, perhaps, become his most well-known, relaxing the hell out of the tensest of humans. Other musical accomplishments include composing for clientele such as Netflix, Volvo and Tesla. His new album, Motion, released on March 1st via Phases Records, marks a slight shift of instrumentation and a new exploratory direction.

How did you first get into composing? Are you self-taught or did you study music?

I started out with a dream of being a classical concert pianist. I studied classical piano in high school and at a music college in Sweden. But I grew tired of never being good enough so when I graduated I set off to do something else. I bumped quite randomly into an acquaintance of mine and he told me about this new gig he had, composing for music libraries and that he thought I could do it if I wanted to. So, I did and worked with that for about 6 years. That’s when I really got into the whole composer role. I loved it and I created so much music and got a chance to develop as a producer and composer. So, the short answer is; I studied piano but I don’t have any formal education in composition. That has been a more ’trial and error’ sort of setup.

Your previously released music has a very clear, sheer brightness to it. It could be described as sensitive, maybe introverted but hardly melancholic, thus differing from much of the current piano-based music. Is this on purpose or is this the mood that comes naturally to your compositions?

I would say it comes very naturally to me that style I have had. But the thing is that my old catalog is made for TV and then released as albums, therefore being and sounding the way it does. I have a much wider emotional capability though, and I’m very keen on exploring this, starting with this new album.

One might say that you have made a career out of calmness. What is your relationship with “calm”?

This is kind of funny actually. When laying out the concept for the album I wanted to process experiences from my childhood, which most certainly wouldn’t go under the adjective ’calm’, rather the opposite - ADHD. I was all over the place as a kid.

This was quite a big revelation for me. The reason why I was able to turn things around with my ADHD situation was the fact that I started playing the piano. It channeled all that excess energy into the music and it made me so much calmer. I have never thought about this before and it really shows how much impact music really have.


What is the story behind the new direction of this album? Can you tell us a bit about the creative process?

(See previous answer)

When I started working on the album I was just aiming to make a beautiful album in the traditional ’Peter Sandberg’ realm. But I wanted it to be a bit different from the old catalog. So, I just started working on ideas and developed them, threw others away and just kept on creating something that I could be proud of. I think I probably went through 40 compositions before settling on the final 10.

I’m a piano player and that has always been my strength, so it was a no brainer that I would do something that was very piano-focused. I usually start composing at the piano and then I elaborate from that initial sketch.

I also knew very early on that I wanted to have a string quartet included on the project and was fortunate to get a group of very talented musicians together at the legendary old Abbey Road / EMI studios in Stockholm, nowadays named ’Baggpipe Studios’. I had a very specific sound in mind when composing the tracks, so we worked pretty thoroughly with how to capture it correctly.

I guess this album has been a search about finding myself, finding my feelings and my direction as an artist. All of these tracks are very personal to me and are snapshots of my life, in one or the other way. It reflects my journey as an individual in a way, across the time making the album but also my journey through music to date.

Any live performances planned this year?

Yes, for the nearest future I will be doing a headline show in Istanbul on ’Piano Day’, March 29th. Another gig in London in May (date TBA). And will hopefully get a tour going this fall/spring 2020. We announce everything on my website and on socials.


P&C interview: Jonas Hain by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist.


After shifting from the path of a techno-DJ to the modern-classical world, Berlin-based Jonas Hain released his debut album Solopiano earlier this year – a collection of eight gloriously melancholic tracks, inspiring the listener to become fully enamored with the piano and its many-sided possibilities. In the middle of October, Hain released a brand new single, accompanied by an engulfing, positively entrancing video, called MMXV – and he lent us some of his time to tell us all about the project.

You’ve previously spoken about how your initial interest in music tended more towards the techno genre – what can you tell me about the transition into classical music and composition? Did you bring any experiences from the techno world into the classical one?

It was a gradual process. During my studies I noticed that I was starting to develop issues with my electronic music workflow. I was so focused on the technical aspects of the composition that I just got stuck after a certain point.

When I started to compose exclusively for the piano it really felt like a fresh start. I knew that the technical possibilities are limited, and I was well aware of the fact that I wanted to avoid the mistakes I made in the past. This mindset helped me to contain my perfectionism, I just started writing music.

Do you work with any labels?


Why not?

After recording ‘Solopiano’, I definitely considered presenting my debut to a few labels. However, I decided to walk the first steps on my own. When I look back at the events of the last 6 months, I feel that I've gained lots of valuable insights. I can very well imagine working with a label for ‘Solopiano II’.

Could you walk me through your creation process?

For me, the most important aspect of music is melody. In the case of my music, I can't really explain how the melodies develop. Probably that's why this process fascinates me most about composing.

From time to time I am lucky to find a melody or a musical idea that triggers something in me. If this is the case, I lay the musical sketch aside and let it rest for a while, sometimes even for months. When I come back to it after a while, I'll see if it passes the test of time. If it still affects me emotionally, I'll pick it up again to finalize the composition.

What can you tell me about MMXV?

I wrote the piece in 2015, when a friend of mine who is a director asked me if I could write a score for a segment of a film he was working on at the time. There was an imminent deadline, and the fact that the birds right outside my studio were tweeting loudly, made any recording impossible. So I waited until 4 a.m. and recorded something – anything – more or less spontaneously. The birds started singing again at around 5 a.m., and I was still lacking the counter movement. So I just quickly sampled something and underlayed it with a bassline. That is how the synth-part came together. Now, three years later, it felt like it's the right time to publish it.

Did you create the video for the track yourself?

I work together with the highly talented editor Leopold Schulenburg. He helps me develop my ideas, and he also contributes his own ideas.

Where did the idea for the video come from?

It just happened. I was on the train on my way to Berlin, listening to MMXV. I just started filming out of the window of the train with my phone.

You’ve worked with some visual media previously – where did that desire stem from?

We live in very visually driven times. Personally, I don't want the videos accompanying the music to tell a complex story; I want them to support the composition with an appropriate mood.

Any particular moment in your history with composing music that stands out to you the most?

Right now is the most exciting time for me, actually.


P&C interview: Josh Alexander by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist


On the 2nd of November, Bristol-based musician Josh Alexander released his debut full-length album, Hiraeth – an imaginative delve into a world of carefully weighed organic piano, analogue synthesizers and spacious ambience. With a track record of writing film scores and producing his own EP’s, Alexander ultimately decided to lock himself inside a house in Wales, with one goal – to compose an album. The project proved extremely fruitful as the musician ended up with a glorious collection of tracks, ranging from bubbly and dreamy, to sensible and thoughtful; a generous light in the dark winter slowly creeping up on us.

Let’s start from the beginning. How were you introduced to music?

I grew up in a house that always had music playing, where it would range from early 20th century classical music to Miles Davis to Brian Eno and a lot in between. There were thousands of records in the household for me to listen to – not so much a big deal now with Spotify etc, but it was pretty amazing back then to have that many records readily available. It’s had such a big impact on my own tastes, both in listening to and making music.

When did you start creating your own?

As soon as I could! I would lock myself in my bedroom for hours as a teenager, producing music on whatever instrument I could find – either a crappy casio keyboard, cheap xylophones or borrowed guitar. Anything I made would go online and I would share it as much as I could – it could be terrible music but I found that every time I shared anything it would open doors; either a conversation with other musicians or other new opportunities that would in turn lead on to something else.

Eventually, this lead me to creating various EPs under different monikers, as well as composing soundtracks for film... and now this album!

Did you ever study music?

I was classically trained in the clarinet at school, but then my musical interests veered in many different directions. I'm not a virtuoso in any particular instrument, but can just about scrape a melody out on a fair few.

What can you tell me about Hiraeth? 

I decided to give myself a project and a deadline, in which I would write and record some music in a week while I stayed in an old barn in the middle of Wales. It was freezing cold and raining a lot of the time, so it was the perfect reason to stay inside and make music! I had half a track written before I arrived, but I ended up writing a lot more than I thought I would and managed to put together the best part of an album while I was there.

Getting in touch with Moderna Records was a real shot in the dark. I'd never spoken to them before but thought I would try my luck, so it was amazing to find an email back from them the following morning saying they wanted to release the album. It's been great working with them too – they bring a keen eye for detail and a lot of passion, which I think has had a big positive impact on the album and how I work.

Could you describe your creating process for me?

It typically starts with an idea that usually comes to me while I'm walking or when I should be thinking about something else. This idea usually gets fleshed out on the piano, and then maybe I try playing these ideas out on my synths or any other instruments if I feel like it could work. I try to keep things flexible or experimental when creating, which means a lot of what I make is from 'happy accidents' that occur when I'm just playing around.

For Hiraeth I wanted to create a very intimate sound on the piano, so I placed layers of thick felt in between the hammers and strings. This allowed me to put the microphones really close to the piano, which then picks up all the nice sounds from the piano keys and other mechanical parts. I would spend a lot of time trying to pair the recorded piano with the right synth sound – I wanted to make sure the two elements complimented each other and no juxtaposition.

When Moderna were involved they helped arrange for it to be mastered by Taylor Deupree at 12k, who did a fantastic job and really brought the record to life.


What is your biggest inspiration when composing?

With Hiraeth I wanted the album to convey the moods and feelings associated with where it was recorded – primarily the welsh countryside. You could step outside during the last light of day and see the starling murmurations, and then an hour later it would be pitch black and suddenly everything sounds a lot louder and more intense. There’s a real range of moods with the place, and I wanted to try and get that across. I approached it as a soundtrack for a building.

How does it feel to be releasing your debut album? What were your thoughts and expectations throughout the whole process?

I'm really excited to be able to share it with everyone. Over the last few months the album has changed from being a personal project to something quite different, so my expectations for it haven’t really caught up! I'm just looking forward to getting it out there.

The promotional/social media part of the album release is something that I've been quite unfamiliar with before, so that’s been a learning process for me... but thankfully the guys at Moderna have been very patient with me, haha!

Is there a particular time in your history of composing that stands out to you the most?

Composing the music for the film Pixelschatten was a big highlight for me because of how it pushed me to collaborate with everyone on the project. Making music is usually a solitary activity for me, so it was really rewarding to challenge myself in that aspect. I would have long conversations with the director about specific moods and themes, which I would then try to boil down and compose bits of music to take to the other musicians on the project. There were five of us recording the music and we would swap a lot of ideas throughout the whole process – it was great fun!


P&C interview: Pieter de Graaf by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker


Pieter de Graaf’s latest project, Prologue, is the composer’s next exploration in his search for musical meaning and depth. His debut project, Fermata, first introduced Pieter as a new talent in the neo-classical world. The songs aren’t “written” in any traditional sense; instead he plays and improvises segments, records them, and listens back over and over before deciding what to use, what to discard, and what to embellish.

Hello Pieter! Thank you for agreeing to let Piano & Coffee Co. interview you!

First of all: I absolutely adore a good coffee. And piano. My motto is: ‘No coffee no music’. So very nice to do this interview for you! Thank you!

It would seem that you have been involved with music for a very long time. How did it become a part of your life in the first place?

My father used to play piano at home. Quite often. Chopin, Beethoven, Bach, but also pop songs of the sixties like from the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Because of that, I can’t remember not having a piano and music around me.

What were some of your proudest moments as a young musician? Is there anything you look back on now that you are older and realize, “That was a special moment”?

Yes, plenty. Among them some highlights of my ‘touring life.’ Like the first gig I played on North Sea Jazz festival and playing the main stage of Pinkpop with the Kyteman Orchestra. Another special moment was in Seoul, South Korea, with Wouter Hamel, where we did a great gig at a festival and the audience was screaming so loud I never experienced before. But also some other special moments... One of the things that had huge impact on me is a workshop I had one day of trumpet player Ack van Rooyen. I remember so well, he talked in the same way as he played his instrument. Very little words with major impact. Very few notes, major impact. Another thing I remember is that the movie “Shine” had a major impact on me. David Helfgott learned to play one of the most difficult pieces there is for piano: The third piano concerto of Sergej Rachmaninov. He struggled, fought for it, with a very nasty family situation at home at the same time. I was sixteen or seventeen years old and saw the movie. Major impact. And this piano concerto is still one of my favorite compositions ever.

What was it that drew you toward the neo-classical style of music? Why do you feel that you should compose and perform this type of music rather than another type of music?

I never made a plan to make neo-classical music. I just started from scratch and for me it was very important to feel every note I played. I wanted to let go of all stylistic framing and be free to do what I want. This process, which I call ‘Fermata’ now, is still an ongoing development. So I don’t know what the future will bring. If everything I make from now on will be called neo-classical music it’s all fine by me, if a future album will be called an EDM album, or death metal, it would be fine by me as well. I don’t have any plans, except to make beautiful music that I feel very intensely and hopefully the listener does as well.

As you have grown in the neo-classical genre, what have you noticed as major differences between it and other music worlds such as jazz or popular music? Are there things you prefer about one world of music or the other?

In our modern world, the previously so visible differences are slowly vanishing. Musicians share and discuss ideas with each other and the public, they mix and match various genres and styles so I can’t necessarily say I feel differences in making music. I think that the differences today are way more found in the audience, concentrated listeners vs. wild party people for example.

Can you discuss how your entire musical background, ranging from formal classical to avant-garde jazz, has influenced your overall sound as a musician today?

I guess that every style I have gotten to know has influenced me in one way or another. In jazz music I discovered the interest and gained a lot of knowledge about musical theory, harmony, improvisation and timing. From classical music I learned a lot about arrangements and about instruments and orchestration.  The classical repertoire I’ve played also definitely helped me to become a better pianist on a technical level.  During my time playing in hip-hop bands as a keyboardist, I discovered the art of production and some about synthesizers and keyboards. All these elements, of course, have an influence on who I am now, musically, although I couldn’t point out in my music which part in the music comes from which style.

What was it like to take such a long break from music, your hiatus or “fermata” as you say, and then return to it? Have you experienced any revelations? Does your intention with what to compose and play come to you more naturally now?

It was a relatively short break I took. I stopped with all I was doing musically in order to find my way back to my joy and love for music and playing music. So actually, I directly started with Fermata at the point that I quit all the other things. But, then what? I just sat down. Started playing. Often started with one note. Quit playing whenever I felt I was playing but not feeling. Everything has to be felt. Fermata contained quite a few revelations, or at least they felt like revelations to me: like discovering the even more intense beauty of a single note, of a church organ, of certain intervals or chord progressions. Or discovering the use of dishcloths, a rubber hammer, and window wiper and making nice stuff with that. I could almost say that Fermata, the whole project, is like a Revelation to me. The intention of what to write or create definitely comes to me more naturally now, because the only intention I have is to make something that I deeply feel. Of course, every composer needs to feel the music he or she is creating. But the advantage I feel that Fermata offers is that I don’t have the intention to make an album, I don’t have to work in a certain style, or with certain instruments. I can do in that sense anything I want, whatever I feel at that moment. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have to ‘work’ for it: There are good and bad days, I’ve always had them and maybe always will. The bad days I believe do always, in the end, contribute to the music I am making.


Was the writing and recording of Prologue always intended to include the cellist Jonas Pap, or did that idea come after the ideas for the songs already existed? What was that process like, to involve a second instrument such as the cello on these recordings?

No, that wasn’t always intended. I met Jonas as a cellist of the Kyteman Orchestra. Later we started to share a studio in Kytopia. We became friends and we naturally discussed and talked about music quite often. Then, when I had plenty of ideas and I decided to start recording, it was a very natural decision to do this with Jonas. I do and did ‘write’ the songs myself, for 99%. Jonas has been and still is my ‘right hand,’ backbone, and he records, produces and mixes the music with me. We always start a session by finding a good sound. We put the microphones in exactly the right spot. Jonas listens where certain frequencies sound best while I am playing. Then, when the sound is set and it inspires us, we started the recording. Once a piano piece is recorded, Jonas and I sometimes feel like it should stay a solo piano song, but for others, we may feel they need something else. And we don’t want to feel any restrictions. So far we’ve recorded a church organ, a soprano choir, cello, synthesizers, tubular bells and some more instruments and effects.

You tell a story of being moved to tears by a classical performance, while your friend sitting next to you had little or no emotional reaction to the music. Do you ever find that this ability to feel music so strongly on the emotional side can have a negative effect on how you experience music, or would you say it only benefits your experience?

I would say it benefits my experience. For me music is a purely emotional thing. Of course, you need technique to play an instrument and there’s all kinds of other technical issues one has to resolve and arrange to make music, but when all of that is done, for me the mere goal is to make beautiful music.

Lastly, you mention that Prologue is only “the first part of Fermata.” Can we expect to hear more music such as this? And how do the next chapters of Fermata continue the spirit of Prologue as a careful and intentional piece of music? We are excited to know anything you can tell us about future projects of yours!

You can definitely expect more music to come. I cannot and do not want to say anything about what it’s gonna be like. This is because I really want to feel free to go in any direction I like. Of course, there will be a strong connection with Prologue, because I am the same person making the music. Right now I’m working with loops, synthesizers and bass pedals while I am creating my music. This opens new doors and I’m very excited about the results so far. 


P&C interview: Mathias Van Eecloo by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker 


Mathias Van Eecloo is the sole person behind the magnificent IIKKI Books, a French publishing label which promotes the overlap of visual and musical arts. Eecloo has been experimenting with visuals and sound on his own, and through labels as a combined piece of art since 2014 with eilian rec, a second label he also manages alone. With five editions of IIKKI Books released, and a sixth just around the corner, we spent some precious time talking with Eecloo about his two labels and the story behind them.

IIKKI is an incredible project, unlike any other. How did it begin?

Around early 2000, in my solo artistic practices I frequently worked with slide projectors, in black and white photography. At the same time I started to record my own sounds and I completely immersed myself in it. I received some positive feedback, but it was too difficult for me to be in the forefront of a scene – to be in the spotlight. 15 years later, I needed to return to it, not for my own works, but to highlight some artists that I loved and would like to support. The result was IIKKI. Put simply, I wanted to create a dialog between a visual artist and a music artist. As a passionate collector of books and physical editions of music (CDs and vinyls mainly) I wanted to make my own publishing house/label.

Which desire came first: to release and support music, or to release and support visual arts? Or did the idea come together at once to join them in the way IIKKI does?

The idea came together... it was evident to combine the two. It’s the IIKKI brand!

How are musical and visual artists selected to be paired in an edition?

I have a list of favorite music artists who I think could work really nicely with some visuals; and same in the other way, I have a list of visual artist that I love, who I think could work nicely with sound. From there I approach the artists and introduce the project. When we agree to work together, I propose to them to choose between two or three music or visual artists, whichever is opposite their art. When their choices match with one another, I connect the artists together and the project starts. IIKKI is the bridge – sometimes there are a lot of exchanges of ideas, directions, etc. and sometimes, each of the artists work separately and I put together the pieces of the puzzle.

How has each edition evolved over time? Has the format of IIKKI editions been refined, or is it the same as it was for the first edition?

For each series we work with a friend of mine, a graphic designer, and we use the same graphic charter: same format, layouts, size for the books and the same paper. So the first series (Stills, Alveare, Lowlands), including three books and three vinyls, were similar in the approach. The second series (Mythologies, Orbit and Touch Dissolves to be released in July 2018) keep this idea: same formats, layouts, size and paper, and same for the vinyls. But it’s a different size, paper etc. than the first series. The second series was visually focused on the black and white photography. The third series to come from November 2018 to July 2019 will keep the same idea. It’s a radical choice, but it gives us the strong imprint of IIKKI’s style.


Personally, are you a musician or visual artist yourself? Or have you come to love, and chosen to support these arts by some other way?

Like I’ve explained previously, I was a photographer of silver photography mainly, and a musician too. But with IIKKI and my other editions projects, I have no other time to express myself, which I sometimes miss a lot! I would love to come back to my personal practices, and I hope I do one day. But I don’t know when… I have to admit that I do consider opening all of my old boxes with more than a thousand black and white slides, scanning some of them and presenting my works in a near future. Maybe on IIKKI!

You also run the unique record label eilean rec, which stitches together music and visual arts as well. Has this been a side-project or something older than IIKKI?

eilean rec. is older than IIKKI, but not so old. The first release was in April 2014, and the last one will be December 2019. Since the start, the plan was to have only 100 releases. And true, the visual part on eilean rec. was and is important since the start. The goal was to try to have coherence between the visuals even if the visual artists come from different practices and horizons. It gave me the idea to develop that more, and then IIKKI was born in September 2016.

Of course, managing two different labels is a lot of work – I alone am the one behind the two publishers/labels. But it’s a great experience and I make a lot of nice discoveries, exchanges with the artists, conversations, ideas. It’s a creativity process too, that I love a lot, truly a pleasure. The only thing is that I don’t have any more time for me, to create my own works and sometimes even, simply, in life. I moved away from Paris seven years ago, and it has been a personal choice to be more isolated, on the countryside in Brittany, far away from what I love and loved before. All to focus on what I would love to create, to choose my time to work on that (mainly during the night) and to be my own employer! So, for now, it’s the perfect place to walk alone in the forest, visit the sea, and work on the two labels.

IIKKI has released 5 editions and will release its 6th in just a few days. What are you excited about in releasing this edition?

Like each edition on IIKKI, I’m always excited to present the next edition. There’s always a lot of excitement but a little stress, too. But that’s the deal! The new one to come features Touch Dissolves, including Aaron Martin for the sound and Yusuf Sevincli for the photography. It’s a special one because it will close the black and white photography series, and I will be at Arles with my graphic designer for Les Rencontres De La Photographie to present the new book and the vinyl (and a CD, too, this time). And of course, we will have the previous editions too. So, fingers crossed, we hope it goes well!

Anything else you want readers to know about IIKKI that we haven’t already asked?

I believe almost everything has been said. But again and again, I would like to offer a big thanks to all the music artists and visual artists who have been involved with IIKKI since the start, the new ones to come, and for trusting me with IIKKI. Without them, nothing of IIKKI could have happened! And on the other hand, too, I thank all the people who have followed the project and continue to follow it, for the passionate listeners, readers, collectors, book shops, music shops, galleries and people who spread the word, for those who have some editions at home! Without that IIKKI could not exist. And thanks a lot to you at Piano & Coffee Co., for coming to me with the idea to do an interview. I really appreciate it.


P&C interview: Snorri Hallgrímsson by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Björk Óskarsdóttir

Snorri Hallgrímsson by Nicolas Hyatt

Snorri Hallgrímsson by Nicolas Hyatt

15th of June will mark the release date of Snorri Hallgrímsson's first album, Orbit. Hallgrímsson, a recent name at the Canadian-based Moderna Records, has an impressive background in composing. Holding degrees in composition from Iceland Academy of the Arts and Berklee College of Music, Hallgrímsson has scored several projects for screen and is a long-term collaborator of his compatriot Ólafur Arnalds. Orbit is a curious construction of music, using distorted beats, piano, strings and vocal elements to achieve a result, which conveys clearly an internal dialogue, a struggle, and ambivalence. 

You've summarized the project under the name Orbit, a term from physics. Could you elaborate on how the title sheds light on the album concept?

Most of the songs on Orbit were written shortly after I moved back to Iceland. I had been living in Spain and Mexico, where I made so many wonderful friends from all over the world. Coming back, Iceland felt half-empty. While Iceland is my ‘home,’ it felt much less so when I came back because of all the people in my life who weren’t there. Now I’ve accepted that no place will ever feel fully home – for better or worse. Nevertheless, I’m always searching for that feeling, planning and organizing trips to try to see the people I miss.

The title Orbit comes from a poem of the same name that my wife wrote about coffee (her best friend while she experienced her first Icelandic winter). There’s a line that goes “I spin consistent circles ‘round the centre”, which I blatantly stole, as I thought it described how I felt perfectly: Drifting from place to place, but held on a steady course by the very people I’m searching for. Ironically, I actually hate coffee...

Having lived, studied and worked in such interesting and different corners of the world, in what ways have these different cultures influenced your working process as a composer?

The most obvious answer is work/life balance. Everything feels more laid back in Spain, and even more so in Mexico. Since the cost of living was so low, I could afford to work less and take more time on each project. In Iceland, I need to work constantly just to be able to make a living as a composer. But in my experience, having more time doesn’t mean you’ll spend that time working on your own projects. When I’m too relaxed, I can’t get myself to work on anything – and when I’m constantly working, I can’t stop. Finding the right balance between the two is the hard part. Maybe there’s a fourth country where I’ll find it?

You have made the great decision to use your own voice on this album. The voice itself and the style of singing gives a very personal and organic, fragile touch to the soundscape. Was it always in the cards for this one, to sing?

Thank you! Yes and no. I’m much more experienced in writing instrumental music, and generally, I focus more on harmony and atmosphere than melody. Usually, I start a song without even knowing whether there will be vocals or not. The main reason I decided to sing on this album was exactly to make it feel and sound more personal. I work a lot with Ólafur Arnalds, one of the forerunners of neo-classical music. He’s had a huge influence on composers in that genre so I was very aware of the need to establish my own sound, that felt personal to me. One of the best ways to do that was to use my own voice.

It’s also funny that you ask because Moderna Records almost exclusively releases instrumental music. When I told them I wanted to sing... well I’ve seen happier people in my life. I actually ended up singing way more than I anticipated on the album. Sorry guys! In all seriousness though, they’ve been great throughout this whole process in giving me the freedom to do what I think is right. 

Snorri Hallgrímsson by Nicolas Hyatt

Snorri Hallgrímsson by Nicolas Hyatt

Is the lyric-writing process for you any similar to the composing of the music?

Yes, I think I subconsciously approach it in a similar minimalistic way. My music isn’t really telling a story, rather it’s describing a feeling or a state of being. So once I’ve found a text, or a harmony, that accurately portrays that, I don’t feel a need to expand or complicate it. Instead, I find repetition is a very powerful tool and I use it purposefully when writing both music and lyrics.

All of the album’s lyrics are in English, yet the two instrumental tracks have Icelandic titles. How come?

My wife, Jelena (herself an incredible songwriter), actually wrote a lot of the lyrics on the album. She’s a native English speaker. I also get her to look over the stuff I write. I’m aware of how easy it is to settle for over-used clichés when you’re not writing in your native language because you don’t realize how limited your vocabulary actually is, even when you think you speak fluently. It’s very handy to have a personal thesaurus at home!

The two tracks with Icelandic titles are named after lines of poetry they were inspired by. They also happen to be the only instrumental tracks on the album. Those tracks are more internal somehow, and it made sense to use my native language to express that. I think your native language can strip you down more, whereas other languages don’t fully reveal what’s behind the mask. Maybe I write lyrics in English because I’m subconsciously afraid of showing too much of myself?

Your native Iceland has a rich choral tradition and a large repertoire of some eerie folk tunes with dark lyrics. Somehow they came to mind from time to time, listening through Orbit. Do they ever ring through your mind or was this a coincidental effect?

I had an Argentinian teacher once who always said my music sounded cold. I was pretty sure it was just because I was the only person from Iceland he knew. It became a running joke among my classmates and still is. I used to be annoyed by it (OK maybe I still am), but I also have to admit there might be something to it, though I’m not trying to make my music sound ‘Icelandic’.

I’ve sung in many choirs and still do. I’ve also written a lot of choral music which inevitably is inspired by Icelandic choral tradition, which in turn is partially inspired by those eerie folk tunes and rhymes. And writing choral music heavily inspired the approach to the songwriting on this album, the harmony in particular. The string chords in the track Homeless are “borrowed” from a choral piece of mine, and the album’s outro Týnd er tunga þín is built around a heavily processed live recording of the same piece. Manipulating my own choir recordings is something I really love doing. It can create this dark, almost uncomfortable beauty which is so inspiring to me.

Finally, the official video from the album track Still Life was premiered recently, you have talked about it revolving around the relationship between architecture and nature. It´s a very nice angle to the concept, how did it come about?

I’m glad you think so because, in my completely unbiased opinion, the video is absolutely gorgeous! I was so lucky to get to work with Gala Hernández, a fantastic director based in Paris. I trusted her completely so I gave her free rein. I had previously scored one of her beautiful films, so I knew she was capable of capturing this fragile, bleak melancholy that in some ways characterizes my music.

The video begins by showing how simple things in nature have inspired city architecture. But then Gala takes it further by capturing ordinary people in suburban Paris going about their day surrounded by these huge lifeless buildings—a reminder of how far we have come from our natural roots. These images, combined with the line “spring, unbearable and never-ending”, show this depressingly mundane reality in an almost dystopian way.

But this is just my interpretation of her video—Gala may not agree with me at all. To me, the best art leaves room for you to portray your own feelings through it. That’s what Gala’s video to Still Life does for me, and what I hope my music can do for other people.

Preorder Orbit here .


P&C interview: Fabrizio Paterlini by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker


Fabrizio Paterlini, a popular Italian composer and pianist, recently released the album Winter Stories, his latest addition to his collection of over a dozen records. However, this album is unlike most: the recording process was done live, in one take, while streaming on Facebook. Fans were able to tune in and get a first-hand look at the songs of “Winter Stories” as they were being recorded right in his own living room.

Paterlini, who recently started on his performing schedule for spring 2018, was kind enough to let us interview him on the one-of-a-kind album and the process of its creation.

You have quite an extensive catalog of recordings under your belt. When did music enter your life, and how has the role of music in your life changed over time?

I started playing the piano when I was six years old. My family is mostly composed of musicians, so it was quite natural for me to follow that path. Despite starting to play the piano so young, it was only when I was around 35 years old that I started composing my own music. Before that, to me music was just playing others’ music. Then… yes, you’re right, I composed a lot of music!

My journey with music cannot be seen as separate from my personal life and growth: becoming a more conscious human being has also had positive effects on the music side. At first, music was a hobby; an important one, but still a hobby. I was an accountant, to pay my bills. Slowly, something happened and I became a part-time worker, and then ten years after my first album “Viaggi in aeromobile” was released, I became a full-time musician.

What does your creative process normally look like when creating an album? Has this process evolved as you’ve created and released more music?

My process is more or less always the same: I sit at the piano and start playing. I always make sure to have something to record with, in case an idea comes – it can be the computer, the tape or the Zoom (even the iPhone), because otherwise the music gets lost. Most of my piano solo songs are improvisations that came to find me, and I had the luck to immediately record them.

Your music has a gorgeous, cinematic tone to it. Did you dream, early on, that you would one day make music for short films?

Making music for films is one of my dreams. In the past, I collaborated with several filmmakers, who used my songs for their videos or short movies. But those were songs already released. I really can’t wait to create something new alongside someone’s ideas of a movie.

Your most recent album, Winter Stories, is quite unlike any other because you recorded the tracks while live-streaming on Facebook. What a remarkable and unique way to make an album! What gave you this idea? Did you have any worries or fears specific to this album that don’t come with making a normal album?

The idea was a natural evolution of a concept I envisioned over the years... Only a few years ago, a good way to promote music was to create a track, post it on SoundCloud and let it go, free. In my Autumn Stories project (2012) I did exactly this: one song a week for the entire Autumn season. And it was a great deal because in those days Spotify wasn’t the ‘king’ yet and people still loved to download free tracks!

After the release of that album, I had been asked several times to create a sequel. I liked the idea, but I wanted to make something really different and special. So I asked my team if it was technically possible to do this “Winter Stories” album, in one single take, live from home. I have a small recording studio at home, with all the gear I’ve been collecting over these 10 years and it seemed like a good idea to me to use that equipment.

The project was exciting, to say the least: playing live and knowing that there are people watching online is not much different to playing in a hall… with all the worries that we normally have when playing live. But everything turned out for the best and I was really happy with the result!

Something noticeable about this album’s sound is how personal it is. For instance, during or at the end of many pieces listeners can hear your breath as you exhale. Personally, I enjoy this kind of vulnerability in recorded music, but some say it takes away from the experience. Did you record in such an intimate way by choice? What are your thoughts about its effects on the music itself?

Yes, it was a choice. I wanted it to feel intimate, and I was doing this in my living room so it couldn’t be different. The idea was to give the audience the feeling of being right there at home, with me. And I am happy to notice that this result was obtained.

Were there any challenges about making this album that stand out to you? Was the album rewarding in some way that other albums are not? Would you consider making another album in this way again?

The most difficult challenges were the technical ones - luckily I can rely on a small team of great people, who in the end found a perfect way to stream both audio and video in high quality.

The result was absolutely rewarding: this album is the demonstration of what I have been saying for the past ten years. What matters in music today is exclusively the relation between the artist and their audience. No middlemen, no gate-keepers. Only the music, which goes directly from the people that compose it to the people listening.

I am already working on a “secret” project in line with what I did on “Winter Stories” and soon you’ll see what it is all about.

It seems you have Autumn Stories and Winter Stories completed. Can fans of yours look forward to more full-length albums relating to the seasons? What can listeners of yours get excited about in the future?

I don’t know actually, though I have to confess that the idea of composing a “Summer Stories” is quite intriguing. I love contrasts and composing mostly melancholic music during summer days should give fantastic results!


Stream and purchase Winter Stories on Bandcamp.


P&C interview: Lambert by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker


Known to many across Europe and the world, Lambert is a pianist and composer from Hamburg, Germany. His unique and original style of music blurs lines between contemporary and traditional classical music, in a way one might call him a “neo-classical” artist. However, any moment that Lambert might fall into one category, his music swiftly avoids definition – while he could be classical, he has released very dance-oriented remixes of his songs by artists Anatole and Vessels; however if he is called modern, or even pop, his more complex and subdued full-length albums put this to rest, such as the brooding and beautiful Stay In The Dark from 2015.

Lambert has been on the rise for some time; however his most recent project, a collaboration with artist Stimming, is an even greater leap forward for the man behind the mask. Stimming x Lambert's new album, Exodus, is a contemplative and diverse collection of music, which is subject to cause thoughtfulness, tranquility, foot-tapping, and humming along. Despite all this, the album still seems to walk the fine line between classically-rooted music and popular, rhythm-oriented music in a way so skillful, it is characteristic of Lambert’s work.

Piano & Coffee Co. got the very fortunate chance to talk with Lambert days after the new release, and days before he and Stimming took the music on the road, touring across Europe.

Where did your journey with music begin? How have you changed as a musician over time?

I had to take lessons from the age of around 5. My parents would tell me later that I wanted to, but I can’t recall any pleasure, except when my teacher brought piano arrangements of Beatles songs that I loved. That was fun. I wanted to quit when I was 12 and start playing the drums. My parents allowed me to play the drums, while I also continued to play the piano. I started playing in bands on different instruments; played keys, drums, bass, and guitar. After a while, I decided to focus on the piano…

Your compositional approach is very amorphous and fluid, setting you apart from other musicians. For example, some melodies change from straight 32nd note runs to a swing-rhythm very suddenly, and many songs seem to change key freely compared to other music. What inspires you to make these musical decisions?

I don’t know, I spend a lot of time playing jazz, free-improv music and some classical next to that. But in a way, I see myself as an instrumental songwriter. I think my pop cultural roots are still a big part of my music. I don’t make decisions when I write, somehow it feels like there is only one way, I just have to wait sometimes until I find it.

Your rise in popularity can be partially attributed to the reworks and covers of other artists’ songs in your own unique style. Do you find these reworks to be more or less creatively rewarding? Do you think there are pros and cons to doing reworks, versus solely original material?

I only do reworks of tunes I like. I have the freedom to treat them freely. I can use the compositional material, or I can rewrite it or use it to improvise over it. It’s not so different from writing my own music, just with the little aspect of treating the original in some way. But since I developed such a free approach on that task, it feels like the creative process is almost the same.

Gaining the recognition you have, do you ever feel overwhelmed or undeserving of the spotlight you are in as a musician? Or do you relish each moment you get to perform and express yourself through your instruments in front of a crowd? Does your characteristic use of the Sardinian mask speak to your feelings on this topic?

I am aware that I am in a very lucky position since I can base my life around my own music. Of course, I just love to play and create music, and I like the feedback I get from playing live shows.  Before I became Lambert I had to deal with ten years of not getting any recognition for anything I did. Of course, the love for music kept me going, but since I now experience worldwide feedback for my music, I must admit I am enjoying myself. I am neither comfortable with admitting that, nor was I comfortable with myself when I started to be Lambert.

I guess Lambert is also a result of shame… It is complicated, but when I wear the mask, I feel I can be someone else. Don’t have the pressure to publicly represent myself. That really helps me. I am having trouble with the need of the audience for a strange thing called authenticity. I don’t want to tell anyone that this guy on stage is the same guy brushing his teeth in the morning, for me it feels more honest to admit that being in public, or on stage is always an act, a show and just partly representative of who you are. In the end, I am doing music – it should speak for itself anyway…


What was your relationship with Stimming before this collaboration of the album Exodus began? How did the idea to collaborate come about?

He listened to my debut and wrote me a message on a social network. He invited me to his studio and before we even really talked or got to know each other, we were improvising for hours. After that, we decided to work together and became friends.

Being a drummer in your younger years, how do these recent collaborations and the presence of percussion affect you musically?

I guess my piano style has a strong rhythmical content. My left hand is often oriented on minimalistic rhythmical patterns. Because of that, I guess also Stimming, as someone who produces rhythmical music for people to dance to, got interested in my music. With Stimming I enjoy very much to let someone else take over that part, so I can focus on other aspects. I treat the piano differently when we perform together.

Can you identify some differences between your creative process for a solo project versus the creative process for this collaboration? Any similarities?

Well, with Stimming I enjoyed not being the one who takes final decisions. I threw in ideas and Stimming had to bring them in order and decide how to use them. That was great for me and totally different from my solo recordings, where I am always in charge of everything. That can be nice, but also an annoying burden you have to carry…

On the new album, specifically the two singles Edelweiss and Der Blaue Fels, there are melodic elements that have a mild distortion effect on them. It is hard to tell in both songs what the originating instrument even is for these sounds – piano, vocals, or something totally different? Can you elaborate on the use of these perplexing and unique sounds in the compositions of the collaboration, compared to all the more familiar sounds such as piano, strings, drums, etcetera?

Well, I used samples of the piano that I recorded, like strings or percussive sounds of the body or the piano strings. I also played guitar, searched for string samples and some other acoustic instruments and sounds to arrange with. Stimming did the rest. He used his electronic gear and synths to develop the material he received from me.

Were there any moments of creative difference or disagreements during the making of Exodus? Or did you two have the same ideas musically for the entirety of the album?

No fighting at all. If something didn’t work we usually agreed and just left it out.

Were there any particularly inspiring musical moments during the collaboration? Perhaps a favorite memory or something very eye-opening to you as a musician?

We didn’t spend a single day in the studio together during this process since we live in different cities. It was an eye-opener: that this way of working together actually works.

With this album going on tour, and you and Stimming bringing the new music to different theaters and venues across the continent, what can people look forward to about the live shows? Any exciting secrets or surprises you can give us hints about?

Our tunes will be the basis of our performance, but we found a great way of treating them freely. We don’t have to stick to arrangements. Actually, I enjoy that improvisation will be a big part of our show, that way it will always be something new and we avoid the autopilot.

Besides the amazing tour you and Stimming have lined up, what’s next for Lambert? What can fans look forward to from you in the future, near or distant?

I will release another collaboration album with Brookln Dekker  (Singer of the band Rue Royale) in Autumn, and we will tour with it. Also, I am working on new ideas for a new Lambert album. I want to do another album with Stimming; we already produced two new tunes that will be part of our live show. And I’m working with the Thring Theory on ideas. I am having a great creative time this year, I must admit.

Finally, and this one is not a question, but I have to say from all of us at Piano & Coffee Co. as well as from myself personally: congratulations on this incredible and captivating work of music. You should be extremely proud of your art! It is a wonderful album and one that we will be listening to for a long time to come.

Thank you!


P&C interview: R Beny by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Norqvist


Austin Cairns, based in California, is the musician behind the electronic ambient project R Beny, through which he has self-released two albums and just recently released a third album via Dauw. Saudade, which is a Portuguese word for a melancholic state of mind, is filled with glittering synth and airy droning, tracks with a slow-burning build up and cascades of warmth. Austin is indeed a master of modular synthesis, and the emotion and passion he feels for the music he creates resonate clearly in every track he produces.

Austin, how were you introduced to music? Did you ever study it?

Music has been a part of my life for a very long time. I grew up with musicians in my family; my grandparents were bluegrass multi-instrumentalists and my mother played the piano. Despite my close proximity to music growing up, I didn’t truly start my own journey with music until I picked up a guitar at age 13. I took lessons for a little while, but beyond that, I am self-taught with no music theory training.

When did you start creating your own music? How did you come to explore ambient modular music?

A major reason for wanting to start playing the guitar was to play with my friends. So, from the beginning, we were creating our own compositions… for better or worse! I would also dabble with ambient guitar music from time to time, using loopers and other guitar pedals. I played guitar in many bands throughout my teens and early twenties, up until a few years ago. I was struggling with depression and anxiety and hit a major creative wall. I quit the bands I was playing in and sold off most of my music gear.

After about a year of no musical output, a friend of mine showed me a synthesizer he bought and we spent an afternoon jamming on it. I was hooked! I bought a similar cheap synthesizer for fun, but quickly realized the synthesizer’s creative potential. It didn’t take long for me to accrue a small studio’s worth of electronic instruments and to start making music again. A few months into my synthesizer journey, I started seeing demo videos on YouTube of modular synths and didn’t exactly understand what I was hearing or seeing, except that it sounded beautiful and beyond this world. I wanted to be a part of that.

Getting into modular was a revelation. For the first time, I felt like I was making music that I had always wanted to make and I was working within a creative process that allowed me to express myself.

Could you describe your creating process for me? Has it changed over time?

My creative process is not exactly set in stone. It may vary from project to project, it’s constantly evolving and changing. For recording projects, the creative process from idea to recording is very much tied together.

I usually have a general idea of a direction I’d like to go in, or at least a jumping off point. For example, I will feel inspired by something – this may be an experience, a memory, a feeling, a place, a person, a song, etc., and I will start by slowly patching and searching for a sound or texture to match from one of my synthesizers, running it through different filters and effects. Once I have something I like, I usually play around with melodies until something stands out to me.

I will record that part for a lengthy period of time and that creates the skeleton of the song. From there, everything is about building up other parts around that initial part. Searching for sounds that fit. The writing and recording process happens at the same time.

What or who is your biggest inspiration when composing?

I’m inspired by nature and emotion.

What can you tell me about Saudade?

Saudade came together very quickly, but also took a while to get to. Pieter of Dauw and I started talking after I had self-released my first album Full Blossom of the Evening in 2016. I think I initially hesitated to say yes to do a release for Dauw, mostly because I had a very positive experience self-releasing and I like having creative control over every little detail. I don’t think it took long to agree to do a release. Dauw’s pedigree as a label, as well as their true love for the music and art they put out, made it an easy choice.

It took quite a while to finally get a release together. I had an extremely busy year and ended up deciding to self-release my second album Cascade Symmetry. Saudade was recorded and worked on around the same time as Cascade. As the year was coming to a close, Dauw asked if they could release something early in the year and Saudade was the result.

In a way, the two albums are sister albums. Cascade Symmetry is about looking forward and moving on. Saudade is about yearning for the past and sifting through old memories.

What were the main differences in self-releasing and releasing through Dauw? What were your thoughts and expectations throughout the whole process?

Not as much work, haha!! Okay, that’s definitely not true, it has just been distributed differently.

In self-releasing, finishing the recording of the album is just the beginning. From there, it’s contacting and communicating with the mastering engineer for the masters, contacting and setting everything up with the manufacturers of any physical product, creating and getting the artwork ready for print, selling and shipping the physical product, sending the album out for review and press, promoting the album on social media. It’s a lot for one person to do.

With Dauw, it’s been nice to have some of those responsibilities lifted. In that, I was able to focus on the music a little more, knowing I’d have some support once I finished recording.

I could not be happier with how the whole process has gone down. Dauw has been immensely supportive. Ian Hawgood did a fantastic job on the master. Femke Strijbol’s artwork fit so well with the music, I got chills the first time I saw it. Charlotte Lybaert made a lovely, hypnotic video for the title track that absolutely nailed some of the feeling I was trying to convey with the album.

Lastly, any particular moment in your history with composing/experiencing music that stands out to you the most?

I’ve been fortunate enough to experience quite a few highlights. I think the best thing to me has been getting to know the online synth and modular community and getting to meet and share the stage with other artists who continually inspire.

If I had to distill it down to one moment, it would be getting to play the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco last year. I grew up going to shows there and have seen so many of my favorite bands and artists play there. It’s long been my favorite live music venue and is a place near and dear to me. I was lucky enough to be asked to open for a band playing there and the whole experience was beyond surreal. 

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P&C interview: Otto Totland by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

In a follow-up to Pinô, his spectacular debut solo album released 2014, Otto A. Totland has released another quietly beautiful album, produced by the legendary Nils Frahm. Ultimately an expansion of his debut album, the Lost tells stories of an escape from everyday life where genuine connection is lost in the overwhelming quantity of interaction. The Norwegian composer has an infallible way of utilizing every single aspect of the gorgeously vintage recording technique, where warmth and intimacy is key; to further portray the lingering hope to his pieces.

How were you introduced to music? When did you start creating your own?

I’ve always felt a natural pull towards creating music, since I was very young. I wasn’t immediately drawn to the piano – I started making music with computers and music software. It started with “trackers”, where you plot in the music note by note. Later I moved on to sequencers and MIDI keyboards – and that is where I started learning to play the keys.

I learned a lot from this. Recording bass-lines, drums, string chords and so on via MIDI to build my compositions. I tried piano lessons just a couple of times, but that really wasn’t anything for me – I wanted to explore the instrument on my own terms. It’s a slower process for sure, but I believe I developed my own characteristic going that path. The transition from working with computers, synths and sequencers to focusing more and more on the piano, has happened gradually over the years. These days, I mainly just play the piano.

You’ve previously explained how you have different approaches to composing, could you elaborate on that for me?

It is very hard for me to explain how a new composition is born, because it is very coincidental, different and almost never planned. When I sit down to play the piano, I never have any intention other than “I feel like playing the piano right now”. Sometimes I’m in “rehearsal mode” and other times I’m in “exploration mode”. Honestly, from there, things arise. Some pieces are formed as part of an improvisation, others from a specific new playing technique I try out or a set of chords I like. But then suddenly I get obsessed with a new idea or melody, and that often ends up being a new composition.

As an example: On ‘the Lost’, one of the compositions I spent a lot of time on is ‘Greiner’. I already had the melody I play with my right hand; I don’t remember when I first made that, because it came to me effortlessly. I decided that I wanted to create a melody for my left hand that complimented it, and that was the hard part. I built it note by note, spending many days working on it. Then I spent equally long learning to play them together. ‘Greiner’ was hard work to compose and to learn to play – other compositions like ‘fox’ came suddenly and effortlessly.

Has this approach changed over time?

My approach hasn’t changed, though I did learn a lot making ‘Pinô’, and that experience made me more determined and focused composing and preparing for ‘the Lost’. As a result there isn’t as much improvised material on ‘the Lost’. That may be the main difference between the two.

What or who is your biggest inspiration when composing? Do you do anything in particular to get in the right mood for composing?

I don’t have any particular routine. It’s like working out at the gym. You go in feeling tired and not in the mood for training; but when you start, you are surprised at the amount of energy you have that day – and vice versa. It’s this weird unpredictable thing. I have days I feel down and depressed, but then wonderful things happen playing the piano. Then I have periods where I’m very productive and periods where I can’t create anything. But one thing I’m sure of, it really motivates me to have a goal. As of right now, I don’t have any plans on doing a third piano album, so I’m not as productive.


What can you tell me about the Lost?

The feedback I received after releasing ‘Pinô’ was so incredibly warm and loving. People understood and felt exactly what I wanted to express. I felt connected to them and their appreciation was so authentic.

After Pinô’s release, I didn’t plan on doing a follow-up. But when Nils told me he was willing to do another album with me, I knew I wanted that to happen as well. I spent the next one and a half years composing and preparing for the recording of ‘the Lost’. I didn’t want it to be just more of the same, but still similar to ‘Pinô’. We used three days recording and three days mixing and mastering ‘Pinô’. ‘the Lost’ was recorded in two days and mixed and mastered in one; half the time. I was better prepared this time, though. Still, it’s such an emotional experience. I didn’t touch a piano for weeks after that... it’s strange. I came out of it very satisfied but also completely creatively drained. I do believe other artists have similar experiences as me, when creating an album.

Were there any other differences to creating the Lost as opposed to Pinô?

The process of creating them was very similar. Both were made with Nils Frahm as producer in his Durton Studio (now moved to Funkhaus, Studio 3) in Berlin. Going in recording ‘Pinô’, I wasn’t prepared for what an emotional experience it would be. How different it is playing for an actual recording, compared to sitting alone at home playing the same piece. I had a more determined attitude the second time. ‘the Lost’ was played on a different piano and with different recording equipment. The process was exactly the same as well as releasing it on Monique’s Sonic Pieces. It’s a true follow-up in every way.

Lastly, is there any particular moment in your history with composing/experiencing music that stands out to you the most?

I’ve had so many wonderful experiences with music; it’s hard to point out particulars. It has been very emotional discovering some of my own compositions. 


P&C interview: Bruno Sanfilippo by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist


There are few artists who manage to stay current within their respective musical scenes for so many years without losing originality and quality in their work. Such is the case of Bruno Sanfilippo, who with each new release gives us magisterial lessons of sonorous exquisiteness and compositional resources. It does not matter if the pieces were composed yesterday or if they are works that have been buried for several years - like the four pieces of their most recent release, Lost & Found - their works endure over time, go beyond any barrier, and never, but never, leave to surprise us. Here is our interview with Bruno Sanfilippo.

Hi Bruno. First of all, tell us a little about yourself. Where you come from? What do you do when you are not composing?

I was born on a rainy night in Buenos Aires in 1965. I grew up studying piano at the conservatory until I graduated in 1988. In the '90s I composed several works of chamber music and works for piano and other instruments. I also presented my first albums on CD, (some of them currently discontinued) such as Sons of the Light, The New Kingdom, Solemnis, and later Suite Patagonia. I have offered several concerts in Argentina presenting these works, until my final departure to Barcelona, Spain, in the year 2000.

When I'm not composing, I might be giving some concerts, working in my studio on recordings for third parties, or managing issues in our ad21 office. I also like to travel with my wife Ximena, play with my dogs or walk around the house in the mountain where I live, near Barcelona.

How was your approach to music? When did you start composing?

Well, there was an old vertical piano in my parents' house when I was born, and this became my first toy. When I was a child I used to improvise for hours and hours on it, and since then I loved it. I grew up with it the piano, I even put objects inside it to change its sonority, I also get to put tacks on the hammers ... Then later I was attracted by the electronic sound, and then I started to study synthesizer and samplers programming. Little by little I was enriching my home-studio. I had a Roland Juno 106, then a Kawai K5 additive synthesis, then I got some of the first rack samplers; the Mirage (which loaded the rudimentary library of sounds with a Diskette!), used to use a cassette portastudios, reel to reel machines ... very nice memories.



Could you describe your creative process for us?

When I start a composition I do not think of anything particular, I do not have a conscious preconceived idea, I try to be unprejudiced and daring, like when I was a child ... sometimes improvising on the piano, and then I stop when I notice that there is something to develop there. Then it ends its development just when I want to abandon it, then I proceed to record it. However, sometimes an idea that is born, for example, on the piano, is transferred to strings or other instruments. I also believe that inner silence has a powerful creative source, as long as the inertia of having certainties does not interpose its fluidity. In any case, each artist must discover his own paths that lead him to create.

What or who is your greatest inspiration at the time of writing?

Possibly, part of the music comes from dreams, that inexhaustible and shameless source, but also from everything that I have lived and experience every day. Also, great artists emanate that breath of inspiration, their unique art and personality inspire me and surely anyone.

What can you tell me about Lost & Found? How did you decide to reinvent these ancient compositions? What was the selection process?

Lost & Found is an album where I present piano-based pieces that were scattered in different previous recordings, which for different reasons were no longer exposed. In addition, there is a piece "What I Dreamed" that was also added as a Bonus Track in the CD version, and that was abandoned on the hard drive of my computer. I just thought that it might be interesting to rescue those lost pieces and that is why we have presented it as a release through our ad21 personal stamp.

Is there any advice that you have been given that you always keep in mind?

Yes, there is, I remember that my teacher used to tell me: "When you're in front of a microphone or on stage; connect fully with your instrument or you will not connect with your listeners "Art is like that, it has that mystery that technique alone cannot offer, if it does not excite in some way, it does not make any sense


P&C interview: Matt Emery by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist


Already familiar with the composer scene, having released several singles and with his works featured in ads, trailers, and theatre, UK composer Matt Emery is now releasing his debut album, Empire, via Injazero Records. With an interest for music sprouting from his early years and growing steadily along with him, Emery found his particular sound early and put his heart and soul into expanding and excelling at it. The album shows clearly the hard work Emery has put into getting where he is now, and the grandiosity and emotive palette of his music is positively entrancing.

How were you introduced to music? When did you start creating your own? 

Music is something I’ve always loved as long as I can remember. I started drum lessons at the age of 6 (because at 5 sadly my legs weren’t big enough to reach the pedals) which I carried on until I was about 20, and I have spent most of my music career drumming in bands (mostly rock and metal). I also started to learn piano at 6 but gave that up after about a year as the teacher was really strict and always said; ‘well I bet you could do that if it was on a drum kit’ so I left that to one side and just focused on drums for a while.

Fast forward another 6 years to secondary school and that's where the fun really began. In music lessons we got the chance to start working on the computer and making music on Cubase, which blew my mind, I was instantly addicted. I was really lucky to get Cubase at home along with a little midi keyboard at about 13, and I would compose and write every night or at the weekends when not playing football. At this stage in my life, I was mostly writing dance and garage tunes, finding the flute setting on my midi keyboard and playing it on the lower octaves to produce the phatest Sub Bass sound I physically could. I also started playing drums in bands at this time also discovering grunge, punk, emo and nu metal, they were special times. 

Did you ever study music? 

After scoring an A in my music GCSE for imitating a rollercoaster in my improvisation exam on the drums, and feeling my low end flute led dance tunes were finally getting the recognition they deserved from the GCSE examiners, I decided to really concentrate only on music and went straight to Music College at the ACM in Guildford. I studied there for 3 years, doing 3 separate courses receiving diplomas in Production, Vocals and Drums. 

Could you describe your creating process for me?

There is no set way to be honest, but the majority of my music starts on the piano or synth if I’m writing string pieces. I always start with a riff or little idea, occasionally everything comes together and you can almost improvise or produce a whole piece in a matter of minutes, but most of the time I write riffs and ideas and record them on my phone. I have hundreds of ideas recorded down. Normally if it’s something that I still really like after 2 or 3 weeks or keep coming back to when I sit at a piano it’s something I’ll develop further until I have the full piano part written, which I’ll record down as a demo on the computer. I’ll then start writing and recording the string parts and add a little synth or sub-bass if some extra depth is ever needed.

Then the real final stage is when I write something I like enough to record properly with other musicians (I’ll normally make sure I have enough pieces for at least an EP or Album, as this part isn’t cheap). At this stage, I normally give my good friends James Kenosha (producer) and Fraser Bowles (Cellist) a ring and book some studio time as I really like just worrying about the performance at this point and not worrying about the technical side of things. Then we make a record. 

What is your biggest inspiration when composing? 

It’s all about connecting and letting yourself go, I just want people to be able to connect with the music in the same way I do, in a form of a big audio hug. Every piece of music is like a different case or cocoon that I would like people to get inside and just listen and experience, whether that’s in the form of seeing certain pictures or visuals in their head or provoking certain feelings within themselves. Music is just so much more than hearing – it’s energy, whether contained in a record or presented live, and it is trying to connect the listener to that energy which is my biggest inspiration when making or writing music.  

What can you tell me about Empire?

Empire has been a long time coming, I recorded it in its first incarnation in January 2014. It was initially a split between instrumental piano and string pieces, and upbeat tracks including drums, choirs and synths. The hardest thing was trying to find the record a home and somewhere it would fit. I had spoken to a handful of people but when Injazero Records sent me a message one day after hearing my track ‘Effervescent’ on Fat Cat Demo’s page I got really interested in what they were doing. I met up with Siné who runs Injazero and was pretty inspired by her vision and the other artists she was signing. It took a couple of years to then shape Empire into the record it is now, but we decided to go down a more instrumental and focused piano and string path. I actually wrote Empire, Louloúdia, and Orpheus just before going into the studio to complete the record on the second stage of recording and can’t imagine the record without them now.  

How does it feel to be releasing your debut album? What were your thoughts and expectations throughout the whole process?

It’s really nice to finally have it released as the last nearly 4 years I’ve been in a bit of limbo with no official releases to promote, which has also made gigging and performing very minimal too. It’s just been great to start really pushing things forward. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I always set myself high goals and targets and have certainly ticked a couple of boxes which is good. I managed to sell out my debut headline show at St Pancras Old Church and perform it with a 7 piece string ensemble which was the first time I’d heard a lot of the pieces played entirely in their full form (as in the studio I’d had 2 or 3 string players come in to record all parts to keep budgets down). It’s been amazing to have support from the likes of Huw Stephens on Radio 1 and being Song Of The Day on KEXP was a real highlight too. Also just to hold my record in my hands on Vinyl is always a special moment.

Were there any significant differences/challenges in composing your debut album as opposed to the works you’ve previously created?

It’s just been very satisfying. Previously in bands I have sat in a practice room for hours carving out a new track between us all with everyone having a thought and opinion. It’s all about compromise which is not a bad thing at all but this time around I got to see more of my own visions develop to where I wanted to take them or see them which was nice, but on the whole it’s been a great experience. I just want to keep writing, performing and pushing on now. 

Any particular moment in your history with music that stands out to you the most? 

I had my music used on an online GoPro Camera ad and it went viral very quickly, it was quite surreal watching something that I had soundtracked getting that much attention and having so many people asking about the music and track. Also again performing my tracks live with the ensemble at my album launch was a real highlight, I’m looking forward to doing that again. 

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P&C interview: Austin Johnson by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Mikhail James


As is the case with many artists and creatives, it’s difficult to pin down a direct influence from which to attribute the work of 22-year-old filmmaker/musician Austin Johnson. Formally educated in film at the Pratt Institute, Austin’s creative journey began long before then, when he first picked up his dad’s mini point-and-shoot camera to record his friends during skateboarding sessions, and compile and edit the clips into skate videos. Though residing and attending school in Brooklyn for the past few years, the New Jersey native spent much of his childhood in London, where he lived with his family from ages 1-10.

It’s not single instances or frozen frames, but rather eclectic moments and experiences like these which make up and inspire Austin’s work. His latest short film babyteeth, released Friday 10/13, is an intimate glimpse into the life of a young boy grappling with anxiety. The 8-minute film takes viewers on a beautifully shot and emotionally charged ride, all without using a single word. As if that’s not enough, Austin also composed the soundtrack for the film under his new alias, breaking – doubling as his debut album, babyteeth o.s.t. serves as the perfect sonic accompaniment to the film, augmenting the already winsome imagery with lush and ambient tones. We spoke with Austin to learn more about the film and album.

Tell us a bit about the film and the inspiration behind it!

So initially the film was supposed to be a musical, but it was kind of hard getting people on board with that. ~laughs~ Also, writing it without making it too cliché or pastiche was really tough, so I decided to take it into more of a different... realm, I guess. More of a slice of life type film.

Basically, I just wanted to portray these feelings of anxiety and angst in a different light. It’s sort of me revisiting this anxious and angsty time of my life with this newfound sense of tranquility and calm that I haven’t found until recently. And I’m still an anxious person; I’ve just learned how to deal with it now. So it’s viewing that time of my life through the lens of understanding how to deal with those feelings.

So you would say the main character, the little boy, is kind of a caricature of your younger self?

Yeah, definitely.

Can you walk us through some of the process behind the film?

So a lot of times when I’m writing a film, I’ll write it in stills. Basically, images that I know I want to be in the film. For babyteeth, that image was of the opening running sequence, and then the match cut to the classroom. Once I had those pictures, I knew I had to make a story out of it, and kind of just started writing whatever came to mind. It was a really long process of critique, seeing what people thought, and taking that feedback to rework what I had. And eventually I had a finished script.

In terms of getting a crew, a lot of my friends are filmmakers so that helped. The DP Mark who shot the film is amazing, we’d worked together before but I just felt like he’d be right for this project. My sister produced it. My brother was also on set, he worked on stills. And we shot it at my Grandma’s house. All in all, it was a really low-budget film.


And the music?

Yeah, during the writing process for the film, I was writing a lot of the music as well. So the soundtrack, not all of those songs are in the film, but I wrote all of those songs for a specific scene or a specific tone that may have gotten cut out or something. But basically every song on the soundtrack is inspired by the film.

Is there a story behind the name?

The name came after I finished the first draft of the script. I didn’t really know what I wanted to call it. I had the script printed out to show somebody, and it said “untitled” on it. So I just scratched that out with a pen and wrote babyteeth- but in that, like, logo style that’s in the film with the really long a. So I wrote it that way and was just like “okay, I guess this is it”. No one really questioned it or critiqued me on it, and people said they liked it when I would ask them about it. Also I think it just fits, too.  

So with the release of the film as well as the soundtrack/album, what is the reception and impact you’re hoping to have?

If one person can watch it and say that they like it, that’s enough. I was just making something that I would like, and the fact that other people have seemed to enjoy it so far is already amazing to me.

Ideally, where do you see yourself/your art taking you in x amount of years? What do you want to be doing with this type of work down the road?

Honestly, I’d want to be doing what I’m doing now. That’s kind of where I’d like to be ~laughs~. Just having the freedom to do whatever, you know? I’d like to make films and make music. And wherever I can do that is fine with me.

Visit Hush Hush Records' Bandcamp to get a copy of babyteeth o.s.t. or stream it on Spotify.


P&C interview: Iz Smith by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Camila Craig


To get recognition in the art world is a hard task, more so for women and other diminished groups in society. It is also rare to encounter a platform which encourages the protagonism of such groups. However, Iz Smith, an English artist and illustrator, shares with us her initiative to incentivize female empowerment.

How was Red Moon Art Collective born? Tell us the story! 

It was a sunny day in July and I was sat on my patio letting the sun dry my hair when I had a sudden burst of thought to create Red Moon. The name came naturally to me, the connotations of the name regarding the female reproductive system and periods and how it all connects with the moon. After visiting the Tate Modern in London during the month of February, and getting the privilege to see some of 'Guerrilla Girlswork, I was very inspired to create a project which empowers and uplifts female artists, attempting to give them more recognition in a field which is very often dominated by males – so from there Red Moon Art Collective was born. 

What are the main goals and future plans you’re working on right now?

As Red Moon is only three months old I am still coming to terms with how it’s all going to work. At the moment I am messaging female artists on Instagram, giving them a few interview questions to answer, as well as getting them to send me over images of their artwork. This then gets posted on the page as a feature. However, I am looking into getting other ladies involved with the page, giving them the opportunity to ask people questions themselves to feature on the page. I am very inspired by creative magazines and if I was to give myself a massive future goal it would definitely be to create my own magazine for Red moon.

How has the public received this project? Have you gotten any feedback yet?

It’s been amazing so far! Everyone I’ve messaged has been so supportive, complimenting me on the idea of the page and how much they love the concept. So many lovely women have sent me their own artwork too, as well as a few asking to be involved with the interviews. It’s early days but there’s no doubt the Red Moon community will continue to grow in many incredible and empowering ways!



Tell us about yourself and your art. Who are you, how did you get initiated in the art world and how has your work evolved over the years?

My name is Izzy and art is my passion. It’s no word of a lie when I say it's the one thing I live for, without it I see no existence. For me I see the beauty and art in just life itself, taking inspiration for my work from anything and everything, from depression to a lady on a bench. Illustration is what I do primarily, however I am a massive advocate of photography, and there are so many creative aspects I’d love to try. Although I’m only in the last year of sixth form, I’d say I have had quite a mature upbringing with my art, inspired by artists and photographers like Yayoi Kasuma, Wolfgang Tillmans, Nan Goldin, and Tracey Emin since the age of thirteen. I started working with illustration three years ago now, I remember scrolling through tumblr and seeing a line drawing and thought ‘I want to try that!’ It is my dream to be an illustrator, or to have a job as some sort of a creative.

I started doing art from a very young age. Being brought up in a creative family I have always been encouraged to paint and draw etc. I started off doing really realistic pencil drawings, now using pen and ink, gouache paint, and paper cuts. No doubt that will all change in a year – I love the fact that my art might evolve into something completely different in 10 years time. 

Do you have any messages for emerging female artists out there? 

As one myself, never stop working and always be open minded to accepting criticism. I read the latest ‘Womankind Magazine’ recently and there was a really inspiring quote from Gabriel Isak which really held onto me - “Explore what inspires you and don’t be afraid of stepping outside of your comfort zone and failing. It is only then that you will move forward and continue to grow as an artist.”


P&C interview: Gregory Euclide by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist


In a way of paying homage to the effort artists put into their work, only to be consumed in an uncommitted manner, Gregory Euclide created the Thesis Project – a way for musicians to collaborate, either with each other or with a visual artist, always with a 10” vinyl with uniquely handmade packaging as a result. Gregory himself is an artist and a teacher based in the Minnesota River Valley, with works of art that all dip heavily into the inspirational well of the land, resulting in stunning depictions of the landscapes he has experienced. Alongside this affection for nature, music is a strong influence to Gregory’s life as well, and though he tried to be a musician for a while, he realized he needed to make a choice between the two art forms, and decided to pursue the career of the visual artist – a decision that proved fruitful, as Gregory’s work has been published and featured on several high-end platforms, and rightly celebrated.

What can you tell me about the Thesis Project? How did the idea first come to life?

I was sitting in at the Turf Club watching Vic Chesnutt perform and I was thinking about how musicians make money. The question came to me, “Could I directly pay Vic Chesnutt to make a song for me?” I think it was just a different way of thinking about how I support artists. I had to think for a minute, “How much does it mean to me to have this musician in my life? $200? $1000?” 

Fast-forward 5 years or so from that night at the concert, I'm on twitter and I read Taylor Deupree (owner of 12k) tweeting something about a wonderful moment from a Great Lake Swimmers performance. It dawned on me that a lot of this music is coming from the same place. GLS make music about the land... Taylor Deupree is largely influenced by the land. Yet, the way they go about expressing it is unique. I wondered if I could bring some of those connections together to widen the musicians understanding and to bring something new to the listener. I got the idea to ask Taylor to do a project with S. Carey of Bon Iver. They both frequently post photographs of the land on their Instagram feed. I could see a nexus between their forces. They agreed to it, and that was the start. 

THESIS 01.png

Could you describe the process of the project?

1) The first step is to contact the musicians that I think might work well in a THESIS environment. They then decide how they would like to go about the collaboration. Some work together in the same space and some work at a distance. 

2) Once the rough mixes are turned in the musicians receive their first payment. I honestly have no idea how other record labels function, but I wanted to pay the musicians upfront regardless of sales and before sales. 

3) The tracks then get mastered and sent back to the musicians for approval. After approval, test pressings. After approval of those, we wait. That is when I start creating the jackets and sleeves. 

4) Each jacket and sleeve is laser cut, glued and folded in house. Each jacket gets a unique cover that is a combination of air brushed stencils, laser cut paper and type set embossment. Each one takes over 2 hours to make. 

Sleeve Graphic: Each artist involved sends me a photo of their hand. From the photo I do a contour line drawing which gets used on the sleeve along with a depiction of the musician’s place of origin. The line drawing is drawn on the sleeve and the land is air brushed. 

Jacket Graphic: This is more of a personal response to the music. I pick a few images or shapes that come to me while listening to the music and use those in a modular way to generate the unique images. These change over time, as I am making 300 for each release. It is an evolving image based on experience and time with the material and subject. 

THESIS 02.png

Has the project changed in any significant way from its early stages?

We have been collecting customer data through our online survey since the first set of releases. We use that information to improve the project. We want it to be the best it can possibly be. For example: We switched from white to black vinyl. Some people like colored vinyl, myself included, but black gives you the best possible sound… So, we made a choice to switch in the interest of bringing the best possible product to market. We are continuously improving. 

You’ve spoken about ‘showing respect’ to the music and the arts – could you elaborate on that for me?

By hand-making a unique object for everyone who purchases the work, I am saying "I care." I am also taking a large portion of my time and devoting it to the production of the object. Respect through effort. THESIS is a direct response to the idea that Art should conform to our self-imposed busyness or be under our control or be easy. The care that is required of an object and the relationship that an object has to the body is of interest to us. 

Learn more about THESIS and purchase their unique, beautiful projects on their website.

P&C interview: James Maloney by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

On July 7th, London-based producer and composer James Maloney had his debut album, Gaslight, released by our friends over at Moderna Records. With experience both from studying music and producing scores for film and theatre, Maloney channeled his creative spirit into an exceptionally atmospheric album, filled with intensely harmonious as well as more experimental pieces. James took some time from his busy schedule of composing for a huge musical play, and spoke to us about his debut solo release.

Firstly, James - how were you introduced to music? When did you start creating your own? 

My introduction to music was an organic one. Music was constantly playing in my home when I was a child, by my parents who are music enthusiasts, but not musicians. I remember vividly hearing Holst’s ‘The Planets’, which my dad brought home when I was about three, and experiencing a total, overwhelming euphoria, which I realise now probably isn’t a normal reaction to that music for a three-year-old.

I was exposed to a really eclectic mix of stuff, and got really hooked on Michael Jackson’s music. One Christmas, when I was about six, I saw a Casio keyboard with a picture of Michael Jackson on the front of the box; that was my Christmas present, and it all started there.

From that point I started making my own music, in rudimentary ways, and it’s never stopped. 

Could you describe your creating process for me?

Every creative project I have brings its own process; this in itself is terrifying, but also vital for keeping the journey invigorating, and the end product interesting. 

Generally, however, I have an impetus. This might be a vague idea I’ve had for something, or it might be a commission. This is what sets the ball rolling. What tends to happen next is a lot of thinking; eventually I get brave enough to try to make some sounds, whether it be at an instrument, a laptop, or notated on manuscript paper, and the rest tends to be a process of constant reworking.

It’s so important to have the courage and tenacity to keep reworking ideas until they’re where you need them to be. It can be hugely exasperating, but that’s how I get most of my work done.  

Are there any significant differences in composing your solo work and the work you create for film and theatre

Ultimately it’s always about graft.  People think making music is about inspiration; it’s not.  It’s about really hard work, perseverance, imagination, and a bit of cunning.

The principal difference is that with solo work, you have total control of everything; in theatre, you’re at the mercy of many exterior factors which are completely out of your control; that’s what makes the latter so terrifying, and so exhilarating. 

What or who is your biggest inspiration when composing? 

Bach, I think, is the ultimate master; students of composition can little better than study his work in minute detail. Other major inspirations are Radiohead, Steve Reich, Miles Davis - warriors of integrity. 

What can you tell me about Gaslight?

The impetus for Gaslight was twofold: I’d been living in Paris, and then in London - two very intense cities – and found myself listening to more and more ‘quiet’ music, as a means of counteracting my surroundings - I liked the idea of making something in this area. Additionally, I’d been writing a lot of very complex, densely orchestrated atonal music, and was getting nowhere with it. I imagined what the musical antithesis of this might be, and arrived at a vague idea for the album.

Then it was a case of making several hundred iPhone recordings of little musical ideas on the piano, whenever I could access one (I don’t own a piano), over the course of a couple of years. Eventually, I realized there was probably an album’s worth of decent material in there somewhere, if I really worked at it. I borrowed a couple of microphones and spent some weeks at my parents’ house experimenting. I’d return a few months later, and do a few more days work, and it grew like that.  

In regards of Moderna Records: I was a big admirer of the label, and simply followed them on SoundCloud after I’d uploaded some of my music. I had the very, very good fortune that they noticed that I was following them, listened to my music, and got in touch. I’m so grateful to those guys. 

How does it feel to have released your debut album? What were your thoughts and expectations throughout the whole process? 

It’s been joyous getting it out there - especially on a label like Moderna - and the reception has been brilliant. But at the same time, I’m already onto the next thing. Knowing myself, it’s important to be working on new material straight away, rather than spend too much time thinking about what’s already complete. I’ve made a couple of sketches for my next album already, which I’m really excited for, and a big Shakespeare play I’ve written the music for is about to open too, so I’ve had little time to bask. 

Any thoughts or advice you’d like to share with young artists out there? 

Make something that’s true to you, and work hard at it. Keep going, keep going, keep going. 

And keep going we will! While we all wait for James’s next album, you can listen to his latest release on Moderna Records’ Bandcamp

P&C interview: Garreth Broke and Anna Salzmann by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

With the September EP, Garreth Broke and Anna Salzmann began a project to cope with and comment on the stages of grief, portrayed in the different seasons. Following the first EP came three more – December, March, and June. With Garreth’s heartfelt pieces ringing with accuracy relevant to each season and Anna’s incredible, abstract paintings so clearly following each note of each piece, the project has been a joy to keep up with. The artistic duo joined us for a second interview, telling us about the latest – and last – addition to the project.

What can you tell me about the June EP?

Garreth: It’s summery, hopeful, and - I guess inevitably, given that it’s me - occasionally pretty bleak! I really wanted to write something that would sum up the whole series, a series which began with a track called The First, a minor key waltz that I wrote around the first anniversary of losing my Mum to suicide. At the time I was still in the middle of some pretty intense grief - probably still in shock, to be honest. The First opens the September EP but for most of the rest of the series I made a conscious effort to focus my thoughts elsewhere, to look at the landscape around me, to respond to it in music, to try to find some hope. I think that comes out particularly in the March EP. The track Hope is one of the most joyful things I’ve ever written, I love it. So when it came to this final June EP, I thought the best way to sum up the whole series was to refer back to The First. I wrote an even bleaker minor key waltz, and called it The Last. It’s the opening track.

Anna: Why “The Last”?

G: It’s a neat pairing with The First, for one thing, but more than that - grief is a process. Sometimes it’s really painful but there are also times when you completely forget about it and then it will hit you again out of nowhere. I guess The Last is about being hit again by grief, and knowing that while it might feel terrible, it’s survivable, and actually necessary. I think I’m getting quite good at grieving.

Anna: [sarcastically] Yay…

Garreth: [laughs] … I guess the point is that there is no “last” grief; it just goes on and on. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy life anymore, you just have to accept that sometimes you’re going to have to spend some time grieving. I guess the June EP is about that: grief is incorporated in it, but it doesn’t dominate it. The next track is called Take Flight, and it’s totally different in character. It’s almost a dance, it’s just such a pleasure to play. I remember the day I composed it, it was almost like it just appeared out of nowhere, and I remember you really liking it.

Anna: It made me cry!

Garreth: But in a good way, I think?

Anna: Yes, it was beautiful!

Garreth: For a while I jokingly called it “Anna cries” but eventually I changed it to Take Flight, because it’s a really positive, stirring, moving kind of song, and I always feel like I’m taking off towards the end when my right hand starts playing those rapid arpeggios. I guess the flight thing is also a reference to Murmuration on the September EP.

Then, finally, there’s another track called Making Something from Nothing on a Random Evening in Dobrota in June. This is really a departure from my usual style - it’s even more jazzy than normal. It’s also a collaboration with a friend of mine, Phil Smith, a musician and radio producer. I wanted to get that feel of a hot summer evening in southern Europe. Phil sent me some field recordings of cicadas from a tiny village in Montenegro, and then I just made up this jazzy chord structure out of nowhere, came up with a melody and he improvised a response, and it’s just there, as it is, in all its slightly random glory, mistakes and all. I love the process of improvising - you just let things happen and extract the good bits. I’m sure Phil feels the same. And sometimes you have to keep the slightly rough bits in the mix, because the “mistakes” make it real. Anyway, for the EP cover Anna created some pretty spectacular art, like she’s done for all my EPs - do you want to describe it, Anna?

Anna: I wanted it to be summery, a bit heavy, a bit dark, a landscape. But I also wanted it to be abstract. I really wanted to be able to feel the heat, the sun, the cicadas, the long evenings. When I look at that painting it feels a lot like longing for that place where summer never ends.

Garreth: Like the long evenings?

Anna: Yeah, but also like being a teenager again, or a child, and having those endless-seeming summer holidays, that felt like they’d never come to an end.

Garreth: And I took the art, did a bit of digital manipulation and created this video, which was fun.

So the year-long project of yours is coming to an end – how does it feel? Did you both get to express and portray all the things you wished to?

Anna: That’s an interesting question. When I look at each EP they are artistically very different. I think the March EP was the most exciting for me in terms of the art that I created, just because I used a different format - the leporello format - and with that leporello I had this order, this chronology, and it was a bit more like telling a story. And I always feel like spring does that. As you watch plants grow, the countryside coming to life, growing out of the earth, I thought that was very fitting.

Garreth: I guess there are a few bits that I seriously considered including but eventually dropped - a lot of improvisations fell by the wayside. I also really wanted to do an arrangement of a favourite Welsh folk song of mine, but I just couldn’t find a place where it fit naturally in the series. Maybe I’ll release it at some point. But I never had a concrete plan about all the things I wanted to portray – it was more that I wanted to create a sort of diary of the things I’d experienced throughout the year. I needed a structure, and doing one per season seemed logical. I wanted to focus on something other than myself - landscapes were an obvious choice.

Were there any significant differences in your respective creating processes from beginning to end? Did they change or stay the same?

Anna: As the project has gone on, we’ve become busier and busier and have had less time to spend creating art at exactly the same time, which was always our process.

Garreth: We still work together a lot, though, don’t you think?

Anna: Yeah, I guess, but we used to work at exactly the same time. You would sit down to compose while I painted and your composing would influence what I painted and vice versa. Now it’s more like you compose and then I listen to it and react to it.

Garreth: Yeah, but your paintings definitely influence the final product. But my way of composing has definitely evolved. I still start all my compositions with improvisations, but I now record everything I do so as soon as I’ve done a good one, I’d listen back to it and try to capture that in sheet music. It’s much more efficient for me because I can focus on the good ideas and discard the bad ones quickly.

What will you take with you from this experience?

Garreth: I’m really happy with all the music, and I really enjoyed it. I also really loved working with 1631 Recordings - they have been so good to me.

Anna: And I’m also really pleased with the collection of art we now have and I think it goes really well together. We work well together! It’s fun, I like it!

Garreth: Me too!


What might the future hold for you two?

Garreth: I’m gonna make a CD of the collected EPs. I’m also preparing all the sheet music for all the EPs and my Coping Mechanism album. I’m going to spend some time making sure it’s really well presented, and then I’ll publish sheet music books for both projects. I want Anna’s art to be featured very prominently in those books, both on the inside and the outside, and I might even include some writing. Oskar Schuster does a great job with his self-published music books and I want to follow his excellent example! Aside from that I am going to take some time to improvise again for a while, and learn to play other people’s music.

Anna: I’m still hoping that we can do a performance piece at some point, where I paint large scale paintings as you play.

Garreth: That would be a lot of fun.

Anna: I would also like to have the opportunity to exhibit all the pieces I’ve made for your music over the time. And then I have a picture book project I’ve been working on, which I’d like you to make the music to.

Garreth: Definitely more concerts - I’ve got a few scheduled for the autumn. I played several house concerts this spring and I’d like to do more of them - they are such an awesome experience. I’ve attended a few as an audience member recently and they are usually so much better than concerts in traditional concert halls. Just more intense, somehow.

Anna: I started making art for other musicians as well - Dominique Charpentier’s EP Esquisses came out on 23rd June, and there’s an album with a group of musicians coming soon. I really enjoy creating art for musicians and I wouldn’t mind doing more!

Garreth: If people are interested in keeping track of us they should sign up to my mailing list, or follow Anna on Instagram, or either of us on Facebook (Garreth/Ana).