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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Interview: King Fernand (Happiness to Life)

For this week’s interview we have King Fernand, an accomplished guitarist, singer/songwriter from the Indi-Rock band “Happiness to Life.”

MW: King Fernand, thanks for taking the time to talk to Current Music Thoughts.

KF: Well , thank you so much for having me on Current Music Thoughts.I appreciate it.

MW: I noticed from your bio that you actually have a formal music education from both LaGuardia College and Plattsburg State University. How do you think that colors your approach to songwriting?

KF: Yes that does play a factor whether I am at home writing music or at the studio, specially when I am writing parts for other instruments besides the guitar, such as violin, harpsichord .Whether I am writing a three parts harmony , or I am applying chord substitutions for an arrangement

MW: I think it’s incredible that you write for harpsichord! - You’ve played with some impressive folks – F.S.B., Spirit 9, and Raging Storm – do you tend to take a lot if inspiration from your colleagues?

KF: I have learned so much from many of the musicians I played with in the past -and currently - and I am grateful those musicians came along my path and inspired me.

MW: I was also reading about some of your favorite acts, which certainly runs the gambit, from Marvin Gaye all the way to Imagine Dragons. Have your tastes always been so eclectic?

KF: Well, since I was about 7or 8 years old I had great appreciation for different styles of music and  as I get older my appreciation for music continues to expand and throughout those years my tastes have been eclectic .

MW: I’d like to talk about your guitar playing for a bit – could you tell us all what your favorite axe is?

KF: Great, I love this question, without a doubt: FENDER STRATOCASTER

MW: When did you start playing?

KF: I started to play guitar when I was in High School. I used to watch one of my friends playing the guitar all the time, then one day I went to a music store and bought a guitar.

MW: Let’s talk about your new single “New Age.” How did that song come about?

KF: Well, I had the title “New Age” for a while. I was not so sure exactly how I was going to structure the song, not so much the music but the lyric, then one day I sat quietly with a recorder and I kept strumming the guitar and singing along .Afterwards, I listened back to the recording and chose the parts that I liked best.

MW: Interesting – that kind of leads me to my next question - One of the first thing that struck me about “New Age” was it’s very unique speech rhythms in the lyrics – did that come about naturally, or is it something you’ve had to hone?

KF: As I mentioned in the previous question, I sang the song a few times because that day I felt I had something good cooking in the stove. Then I listened back to the recording and I noticed all the parts that I needed were in place.

MW: You must be tickled that took a look at your new album. She’s one of my favorite music bloggers by-the-way. To quote her: “Illustrating the multidimensional sound of the band, the song (“New Age”) captures the elements of classic rock, funk, and contemporary styles of music ( July 4 2014). How does it feel to be looked at so favorably by such a popular writer?

KF: I think I am at the right place at the right time, but seriously I feel very honored that my music has popped up along her way. She is truly amazing to say the least.

MW: Are you performing live these days? If so, where can we see you?

KF: I am in the process of rehearsing the entire album with some new members and talking to booking agents to try to get a good deal because at this present time all of my band members are hired musicians. I will definitely keep you posted.

MW: Please do! So, what’s next for “Happiness to Life?”

KF "Happiness To Life "is in the process of promoting the album, such as: trying to secure college and public radio plays, booking gigs and tours etc.

MW: That sounds awesome, thanks so much for taking the time to talk today!

KF: I thank you for giving me this opportunity and continue on with this great job you have been doing for the community. Take Care.

To learn more about Kind Fernand and Happiness to Life, please visit their website here:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Interview: Alpha Wave Movement

Alpha Wave Movement is the nome de plume of composer and instrumentalist Gregory Kyryluk. He was kind enough to grant me an interview where we discussed his creative process, career accomplishments, and inspirations.

MW: Alpha Wave Movement, thanks so much for taking the time to talk about your music.

AWM: Thank you for your interest in my music.

MW: With only a first listen to your tracks it’s easy to hear a very symphonic element to your compositions. Is this something you went to school for, or did it emerge over time?

AWM: Actually no and my latest release although has symphonic elements is not atypical of most of my music. I mainly compose more sublime music that retains the improvisation aesthetics but with a sense of inward tranquility as with Eolian Reflections,Yasumu and my side project as Within Reason. The symphonic elements of Horizons is mainly my interest in the melodic interplay and strong thematic motifs in music. I grew up listening to John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith film composers which were early influences before I discovered New Age, New Wave and later progressive rock. I never went to school to study music seriously but was always drawn magnetically to it like a river to an ocean.

MW: Many of the people who come to this blog are interested in music production, could you tell us a little bit about your studio set-up? Do you have any favorite pieces of kit?

AWM: Well I am not actually an engineer by trade more via osmosis. I record using my best judgment levels, eq etc and then all the results are recorded direct from the board into my Pro Tools setup. Nothing really fancy or bank busting Abbey Road-esque. I over the years simplified and down sized everything to bare essentials so that my recording set up is easily portable. I like working quickly and in the moment. You would be surprised what you can do with just a hand full of gear from creativity to a finished product. The latest and greatest gear addictions are not really of interest to me. It’s all about using what I have at hand and stretching the imagination. I still use some really old synths form the 80s that are a part of my sound the Ensoniq ESQ-1 and Novation Nova are always working within the realms of my creative muse.

MW: I hope you will forgive me if I make comparisons, but there does seem to be a strong connection between your sound and the synth composers of the 1970’s such as Jarre and Vangelis. How would you feel about people drawing those parallels?

AWM: I take that as a compliment! Although Vangelis is very well known in the states for his music in Chariots of Fire etc Jean Michel Jarre I think never really caught on but the two of them have a knack for drawing these beautiful melodies out of the ether and incorporating that sense of composition into modern technology. They do not limit themselves to traditional instrumentation i.e. acoustic instruments and the atypical form and function of what music "is" supposed to be according to societal indoctrinations. I can relate to these composers as much as those jazz musicians of the 1960s who took a deep dip in the sea of improvisation.

MW: Are there any current artists or genres you’ve been enjoying?

AWM: My musical listening taste is all over the map. I will listen to older ECM (a classic German jazz label that never followed tradition) jazz artists like Ralph Towner, Eberhard Weber, Pat Metheny Group albums then onto dub techno like the Segue, BVdub and classic Jamaican Dub like King Tubby. I have also taken interest in the minimalist genre of music like Peter Michael Hamel's work with the German ensemble. Between and Terry Rileys Rainbow in Curved Air. I basically get drawn to music with atmosphere, melodic content and the use of modern/older technology in a very aesthetically pleasing way. I am also very keen on 1970s progressive rock not for its pomposity but for the use of technology that did not further "hipness" of the times. I view music like food subjective to each persons audio palate!

MW: In any one of your pieces there are a number of themes and transitions, not typical at all for today’s electronic music. Could you describe your process for composing works and putting them together?

AWM: I don't usually follow any sort of popular formula or structure when composing especially since the 3-4 minute pop song is not my cup of tea. Sound and rhythmic elements are key to inspiring me such as a certain percussion sample of synthesizer sound. I also enjoy incorporating the natural world into my music and try and use various elements of field recordings to enhance and articulate my point. Much of my music comes thru I guess my consciousness trying to tap the atmosphere of being someplace maybe in a metaphysical sense and then transferring the feel/emotion into a sort of ambiguous sound sculpture. The music really comes about and forms itself during a sort of automatic state of creativity. I do not have much formal music training but I understand how to structure music and compose a melody which I guess is really an autodidactic sort of way I do things.

MW: Do you ever use studio musicians or are you entirely self-contained?

AWM: I have collaborated in the past in various projects such as Thought Guild which was a vintage synthesizer improv collaboration as well as working with a few other musicians in the field of electronic music. However, I prefer the freedoms of working solo and not adhering to any one sort of style of music or others interpretation of what the music has needs to be. What many listeners out there don't realize is that contemporary instrumental and electronic music varies quite a lot and within this genre there is a lot of creative space from which one can co-exist. The genre is really a microcosm of creativity.

MW: I’m curious how you feel about the need for technological expertise on the part of today’s composers?

AWM: I think technology is wonderful and I thank the engineers and musicians who made it happen. The synthesizer and digital recording devices make creativity from start to finish much more accessible to those of us on a small budget. I believe because of technology many DIY musicians began to walk their own paths bypassing in a sense the "traditional" methods of music composition.

MW: Do you ever feel like you have to be more of an engineer than a musician?

AWM: Both. As mentioned in the last question I am still an independent musician after 20 years I am not really working for a label except my own and at times reeling music on a friend’s label. I compose, record/engineer, create the graphics and promote my music. I have been running my small label Harmonic Resonance Recordings since the mid-1990s to allow me total freedom over my music releases. I believe many of the DIY musicians work this way and I think that’s what I enjoy is the purity of the music and product that is the end result. There’s less money or ego to drive the music!

MW: You just released your album “Horizons,” (on Sept 1 2014) which seems like it was an incredible task to compose – I’m guessing from listening to it – could you talk a little about the album coming together?

AWM: Most of the music I release comes in phases. I sometimes will compose and record very uptempo moving music and at other moments the music is very subtle and meditative. The tracks on Horizons where recorded over a period of years and then assembled into a much more fluid track order. Back about ten years ago I had started work on a one off sort of electronica meets progressive rock cd called "The Mystic & the Machine" not long after that release I would compose not consciously just by sheer momentary inspiration more of that sort of more structured space themed music with rock style energetic drumming. I have been a fan of Ozric Tentacles since the 1990s as well as growing up listening to early Tangerine Dream and Steve Roach. Horizons sort of merges those aesthetic principles together into the music.

MW: To me, track number 2 “Traveller” is a real stand-out piece in a very ambitious and quality array of songs, could you talk about your inspiration for that one?

AWM:  Traveller is also one of my favorite compositions on the release as well. Inspiration I think again probably my love of space themes in some of the music I admire and grew up with and merging that sort of floating cosmic sound (if there is such a thing!) along with the tribalistic sound of drums pushing the music forward on a course for somewhere out there wherever the listener wants it to take him/her.

MW: Shifting gears for a moment, I wanted to talk to you about your contributions to the gaming and film world. Especially when it comes to the inclusion of the track “Artifacts and Prophecies” in the Grand Theft Auto franchise – no small achievement by the way - how did that great opportunity materialize? Do you have any plans to seek more of these kinds of outlets?

AWM:  Thanks for the question. About 6 years ago I received an email solicitation for my music and like many I wrote it off as spam but I did not delete it. Curiosity got the best of me and I open the email to my surprise it was not spam but Rockstar seeking my approval to use a track from my 1995 release Transcendence for their video game. I am honestly not a gamer, well not since the Atari, and had no idea who Rockstar was but I reached out and contacted them. They were receptive and offered a great opportunity to expose my music to listeners who might never have heard of Alpha Wave Movement. To this day I don't really know how Rockstar found my music but my hunch is My Space which back in 2007-2008 pro to Facebook was "the" place to have your music promoted.

MW: Another notable feather in your cap was inclusion on the True Blood soundtrack – this was from your “Open Canvas” days. What I find most interesting about this track was the North Indian Classical elements. Do you still use world instruments in your music?

AWM: Open Canvas was a sort of outlet for my interest in taking traditional instrumentation, rhythms etc from the east and incorporating a hybrid electronic/ethnic music. I was always interested in the music on India, Middle East and ambient aesthetics. Although I have never visited India or the Middle East it’s the cultural history/legacy of such ancient instruments and the language they speak that continues to lure me into their realms of sound. Open Canvas was the fruit of that labor of which the US label Waveform was kind enough to release which consisted of my debut Nomadic Impressions (1998) and Indumani (2000) the follow-up. Well Waveform somehow made a Hollywood connection and was offered to license the track Ojopati for the final season episode 3. It was fascinating to see something I had composed used in another medium like cable television. That alone was very gratifying.

The Open Canvas project was a trilogy of three releases but although that chapter is closed I do still incorporate "world" or ethnic sounds into my music. In fact Yasumu (Japanese for letting go) has elements of koto, table and assorted gongs I utilized to convey that zen like eastern meditative spirit in the music. Great question.

MW: Do you ever play live shows? How do you manage so many parts in a live environment?

AWM: I have performed a few live shows over the last decade but to be honest there are performers and there are composers. I can honestly convey to you I am feel comfortable wearing the composers shoes than out there performing in front of an audience. It’s never been a form of artistic release for me to perform live.

MW: So, what’s next for Alpha Wave Movement?

AWM: I have another release in the works which is much more restrained on the percussion side and a dense darker space music album. I have been working on that over the last year incorporating an old ARP Omni analog string synthesizer into the mix for that “vintage" sound. I also have a side project Within Reason which is my ambient/dub minimal tech electronica. Music for a fifth release will begin soon for a 2015 release.

To hear more from Alpha Wave Movement please visit his website here: