After his debut and crowdfunded album "Trozo" celebrated the modern classical community this year the follow-up "Disarm", which was another important milestone for him, the genre and the beloved Swedish label 1631 Recordings. In September this year present Tristan his old and new soundscapes on his Europe tour and I had the chance to speak with him in Berlin before the Sofar Sounds show about his life, the album and of course about the tour. Enjoy!
Hello Tristan! I hope your fine! First of all thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me. You are currently on your tour through Europe and play today for Sofar Sounds / Amnesty International concert in Berlin. How were the concerts in Europe so far?
Pretty good! The one is Vac was really good. It was at the factory of David Klavins and so it was in this small town outside of Budapest. So there were mostly people from Vac and they were very dressed up and an elegant crowd and of course I played the Una Corda piano, which I recorded my album with. So that was a really cool experience to play it in person. The night after that was in Vienna with Freilich Open Arts and that was really cool too. They are kind of like Sofar Sounds just in Vienna though. Mostly a group of young people, who managed to convince a rather wealthy Austrian woman to let them do it in her flat in Vienna. So it was a Bösendorfer grand piano and a really, really nice flat. The crowd was really young and casual. Then the last night was in Leipzig and that was the totally different type of venue, kind of punk, very low-key venue with an upright piano, but it was also a great crowd and people responded very well and it ended up being really good.
That sounds pretty nice! In Hungary, you played also alongside Lisa Morgenstern, right?
Yes, she played in Hungary also. She was really nice and she played a set before me and it was really good and the people seemed to like it too! Her boyfriend, who is an audio engineer, did a high-quality video and audio recording of it. So he is gonna edit that and get it to me - my set and Lisas. So that is good too!
You describe yourself as a nomad because you traveled a lot for your musical career and how much did those different cities, countries, and cultures influenced your music?
I think they did a lot. Spain definitely influenced my use of a lot of flamenco moods in the latest album. So I am actually like using directly the Spanish music theory, I guess you can say. Also living on the west coast kind of changed my whole perspective on music and life in the music business, because I was in a band there. We played and recorded in LA a lot and in San Francisco also and I went to the Academy of Art University there. So after growing up in Cincinnati, it gaves me a closer look of Hollywood and the entertainment industry and how that all works and the people that are really doing it. So it just totally changed the way I looked at music and then Seattle also influenced the music and me just as a different "West-Coast" experience, but very cool too. There is great music scene there with a lot of contemporary classical music.
Then we moved to Ashville and lived in the mountains for a few years. That was just working on this piano music the entire time we lived there and unfortunately, I did not play around that area because there is not really the audience for the music, but I was touring in the US while was there (Ashville). Then we just recently, while I was here (Europe tour 2017), moved to Cincinnati again. Let's see how that goes (laugh). Going back to Cincinnati when I get back from my tour and that's where I grew up. So finally kind of like circling all the way back to there.
Can you tell me more about your important bands or musicians in your life?
I would say Keith Jarrett springs to mind, immediately. He is an American jazz pianist, who went back all the way to playing with Miles Davis in "Bitches Brew" and all that stuff, but then he played more in Europe after that and did solo piano concerts, where he would just do the entire concert as improvisation. He is a legendary jazz musician and I think those concerts directed of what I wanted to do.
And then Beethoven is, of course, a big influence and also Philip Glass, Steve Reich and some of the other American contemporary classical composers. I really like what Steve Reich does with all the modal, percussion music and that is something I wanna get more into doing.
Last Friday (15th September) you released your second album „Disarm“ via the Swedish label 1631 Recording. What is the idea or philosophy behind this new work in your musical life?
I wanted to do "classical music, but without any tonal harmony just to doing modes" like jazz composers would do with modal jazz, but not make it jazzy - keep it classical music and absolutely composed - note for note, no improvisation. So I took a handful of modes and threw a bunch of sketches and ideas and went from there and formed it in that sound. And that's where the Una Corda came in, because it has that minimal, airy, ethereal sound that fit with the whole modal, linear feel of all the songs.
I am very interested in your process in the recording studio because it has this magnificent „Una Corda“ sound that you already mentioned. How did you create it in your recording sessions?
Actually, I just bought the Native Instruments version and it goes through a DAW to my computer. So I recorded everything live on a stage piano, which was hooked into my computer through my DAW, through the Una Corda model and then I just recorded it like that. Basically, I used everything within Native Instruments to create the album and just did it like if it were the actual Una Corda piano.
Let’s talk a little bit about the artwork of your new album „Disarm“. What is the story behind it & who created it?
I created it. There is not really much of a story particularly. That was actually a wooden sculpture in San Francisco and it was right down the street from where I lived. I laid on the ground and took a picture of it. Yes, it looked cool and it seemed to fit. So I altered it and made it the way it looks on the album with this washed-out, minimal look.
Last but not least: What are you planning for the next years or do you have already some new projects on the horizon? Like a film score? Or collaborations with other composers?
I am definitely focusing on playing concerts and playing the music I have now. So I am booking so many shows as possible in the US and in Europe again after this one next year. Also, I am touring around with the idea of doing a percussion project with like drums and tuned percussions like vibraphones or marimbas and the piano to creating a work with that because I have gotten a lot of ideas and sketches to do it.
So I just trying to gain some ground and get some momentum going with the piano and then when I am in the place where I can really sit down and commit some time to doing a bigger project like that and then I will.
Thanks for this interview, Tristan! I wish you all the best!