Occupation: Producers, Live Performers
Current Release: Arrival EP on Diynamic
Recommendations: Nearly every picture of Helmut Newton. Thom Yorke’s Album Anima.
If you enjoyed this interview with GHEIST, check out their facebook page, which provides recent tour dates and release information. More of their music can be found on their soundcloud page.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Individually we started to write and produce music about 20 years ago.
In the beginning all of us were influenced by different genres. We were very much into ‘70s bands like Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin but we also liked Hip Hop and we’ve always been into electronic music artists like Caribou. As we all had the chance to learn different instruments from an early age, music was an important part of our life and grew on us as a way to express who we are.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I guess nearly every artist starts out with learning from his favourite kind of music and evolves more and more into their own voice, especially if you’re very young and kind of insecure. But with time and a lot of practise you gain a certain kind of awareness of your own style, which is a very nice feeling. If you copy other music you can learn a lot in terms of songwriting or production but at some point you stop comparing yourself to other artist and you reach a point where everything gets much more interesting for you and your audience. I guess it’s the goal of every true artist to create your own unique genre.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Not that we think we managed to find it all yet, but probably the biggest challenge for us in the beginning was to define our own sound, or the specific sound we feel for this project.
We strongly believe that authenticity should be one of the main things to focus on in arts – the more we can translate pure emotions into our music, the more we feel we‘re doing the right thing. It will always be a challenge, but maybe nowadays a bit less than when we started with GHEIST.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Our first studio was within the apartment of one of us. It was basically just a desk with speakers and some instruments, microphones and of course a computer. With time we collected lots of gear like synthesiser, amps, a piano and so on. So we realised to get to the next step we need a space with the simple purpose of being a studio in terms of sound, and also to separate the place you live from the place you work. The most important gear we use at the moment is our piano and our computer.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Creativity always depends on the person, technology is just an interface to make it happen.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
First of all this depends totally on your own skills and workflow. We like to compose our tracks on the piano or guitar and later on we use any given technology to create the soundscape around the composition. For us music starts in your head and everything else are tools you can use to lay it down.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
As we are a group of four guys we are very much used to work with others. This being said we don’t have a fixed way to approach our every day work even though each one of us has certain key strengths which we rely on. We also like to make the most of our time which means we often work on different tracks at the same time and just hand them over to each other at a certain point. This doesn’t mean that we don’t spend time together in the studio working on one track we just don’t do it all the time. The way we collaborate with other artists depends a lot on whether they are in the same city or not.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Actually, we all like to start the day quite early and if we’re not busy we also like to do some sports in the morning. But in general all of us are free to live through the day in their own way. I guess to separate our work life from our private time is not a hundred percent possible, as we’re not just working together but are also very close friends and like to spend a lot of time with each other. You could say we’re family by choice.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
First of all, every piece of music we release is at that time very dear to us and important to our evolution. At the beginning there is a mood which is very personal. As I said before, we like to compose on the piano or guitar before we start with any kind of production. This means we’re taking our time to make sure we have the chord progression we’re aiming for and the melodies we like. When this part is done we go deeper into production and details to make sure the vibe gets through even better. From then on we go back and forth, try to change the stuff we don’t like and make it better and better in terms of our very own voice and style.
This sometimes goes quite fast, but other times it takes weeks. But one thing is for sure we’re not done till each of us is happy with the outcome.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
With time we developed a certain kind of level that allows us to be creative nearly every day. In our case it helps to simply do stuff and not worry too much about the outcome. To have constantly the same output volume seems impossible to us, but you can still try. Something that definitely helps to be in the “zone” is freedom. It doesn’t matter if you’re sad or super happy, both is good to be in this certain state of mind that allows you to feel creative. You just have to make sure that you don’t feel empty or uninspired by yourself.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
It always helps if you’re excited when improvising. Not playing safe obviously has a risk to it, but makes it interesting and maybe in the moment you do something unexpected, which is always nice. Playing live to us is a great reward and you always get the most reliable feedback from your audience. So it helps a lot to get better with your production and composition.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
As mentioned before we like to compose first and then produce. But still you have to open up to every aspect of music. Which means sometimes there is a loop or a soundscape that is so meaningful, that it carries the whole composition.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
This is something very individual to us. Reading a book, looking at a painting or even the taste of great food can be very inspiring. Everything together brings the whole experience to another level for sure. But to us music is the most direct way to trigger emotions. So sound and music can bring us to the edge of whatever you’re feeling.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
In our opinion everything combined makes a true artist. It’s just different phases you are in, which constantly rotate and change. This is one of the most beautiful things about being an artist no matter which kind, you don’t have to decide, you just have to keep your own attitude doing it.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
As music is mainly about emotions you might change the concept of the approach but you can not change its purpose.