Occupation: Composer, pianist
Current release: Positive, Lambert's new collaboration album with Stimming, is out October 15th 2021 via XXIM. [Read our Stimming interview]
Recommendations: Favourite Book lately: New York Ghost by Ling Ma
Yesterday I saw the last Season of Sex Education (great TV Show!) and it played a great song that I rediscovered. Aimee Mann - Save Me (Jon Brion production / my favourite producer)
If you enjoyed this interview with Lambert and would like to know more about his work, visit his official homepage. He is also on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, and Soundcloud.
When did you start composing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Kinda hard to answer, cause I don’t really know when the moment occured was I first fulfilled this high cultural term of composing. I always enjoyed playing things that came to my mind, much more than playing music by someone else. The first time I was able to write down a piece on sheet music must have been in my later teenage years. Let’s say 16 or 17. From that point on I wrote down music every day until I was 25. Later I discovered other ways of conserving my ideas, like recording for instance.
My earliest heavy influences, that still have a strong impact on my music were the Beatles. The perfection of a song, strong melodies, and harmonies, exploring new way of production, being open for all kind of influences from anywhere, still keeping up a sense of humour in everything you do. All of that was brought to me by the fab four.
For most artists, originality is 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?
Well yes, to me it was important to at least try to emulate what my favourite pianist where doing. I spent a lot of time channelling people like Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock or Brad Mehldau. It was a long process to find out that the knowledge is useful, while you strongly have to step away from it at a certain point and find your own voice.
In classical music I didn’t have that so much. I enjoyed playing the pieces (mainly Bach and Chopin) and since there were so many interpretations of them anyway and the fact that I never intended to become a classical concert pianist, I felt more free to develop a certain style playing those pieces. I guess these two ways of my pianistic vita brought me to my own musical voice. Adding the fact that I always had an interest in pop culture, songwriting and learning all kinds of instruments.
In my case it took a long time, and I admire artist who find their own "thing" at a much younger age than I did. On the other hand I am glad about this long process. Now I can use this history to understand music from very different angles, and can easily find ways of inspiration.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Identity is a difficult term these days. I actually am critical with it as well. I don’t think that the feeling of belonging somewhere (in terms of coming from a certain place) has such a strong influence on my globalised creative generation.
I studied improvised music in the Beginning of the Century in Amsterdam, I met a lot of people from everywhere in the world who shared musical backgrounds and influences. I played in a band with members from Israel, South Korea, Columbia, France, the US and many other countries and places around the globe, and sometimes we would start talking about a certain recording of an underground free jazz drummer, that everyone knew, cause already by that time it was possible to nerd your way through the internet. Also MTV had a strong influence on all of us.
These influences were stronger than the fact that we grew up in different parts of the world, and I am getting a bit tired of the simple story, I'm coming form that place and that is why I sound like that. Even though there might sometimes be some truth in it, we should not forget that this is a narrative that can easily be sold (so in the end a pop cultural trick, that we all learned on MTV;)
In the end I don’t want to deny that identity is important to many people, just want to question if the focus in art on this topic might sometimes lead to exclude other people. And art should have the opposite purpose.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Fighting stage fright. I still fight with it, but found better ways to accept it and cope with it.
Time is a variable only seldomly discussed within the context of contemporary composition. Can you tell me a bit about your perspective on time in relation to a composition and what role it plays in your work?
Never thought about this. But I know that I search for the absence of time when I play live. A condition almost spiritual in its nature, in wich everything is possible and time doesn’t matter to anyone.
It doesn’t happen very often, and not always in the same intensity. Sometimes the search for it can already be satisfying, when it finally happens it makes me high for such a long time. I use a lot of improvisation on stage to find this place.
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?
I don’t see these two parts so divided. To me a good tune requires a good sound source, but every good sound source requires a good idea as well.
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?
That depends on the partner.
With Stimming we found a way to tickle each other without getting annoyed. We don’t have competence boundaries. We use the content of the other one, to explore and get inspired. We always allowed to throw out content of the other one, to comment or to tickle.
I know that this doesn’t work for many bands, where every member needs a certain role. Maybe because we both have our own thing going on, we don’t see it as a problem.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. 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?
I have to get up early, to take care and fix school sandwiches for my kids. I work until the afternoon.
I have a time frame from 5 to 6 hours for exciting creativity and boring business every day. I told you about the phase in my life when I forced myself to write down music every day, no matter what happens, or how I felt that day. I think I learned during that time how to get my creative system going, no matter what the circumstance are. I am happy it still works …
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
First time I played my own show in Berlin in 2014 in a little Bar in Mitte.
A promoter called Martin Hossbach sent out an "invitation to wine and Lambert". He announced it a few days before. 100 people were there and listened intensely. I was shocked this this could actually work.
A year later we did a similar thing in London. Just organised it ourselves and posted the show on the social networks some weeks before and it sold out. When I played at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie some years later, I thought of these initial shows. How did this all happen?
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?
As I said: Also creativity can be crafted. That doesn’t mean you need to follow the academic path, you just need to find a way to get your creative system to work, when you need it.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Too many answers in these questions. Music is great because it triggers emotions, but it doesn’t follow any assignment.
If you have serious trouble with dealing with life I suggest more professional help than to rely on music. I can be part of every individual path, but it should carry this responsibility. Especially since science has developed so much effective ways of healing, and can provide individual help for every case than music. Please rely on science in this case!
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
True! On the other hand culture has always been an open-source project.
A strong musical background of mine is Jazz Music, in the end it is to anyone who works with pop culture these days. It is one of the most influential art forms of the 20th century and probably the base of pop culture and all its sub-genres as we know it today. Jazz music had the power of building bridges.
Like every musical development coming from the black community in the US, white people tried to make it theirs, but unlike in Rock n Roll, history showed us that in Jazz exchange and union is possible. it gave the world the chance to see black and white musicians united on stage with equal rights. It was possible! Also here we have to notice some critical developments, but it is not such a bad example of culture as a bridge building tool.
If you refer to my mask with this question: It is a sardinian mask from the City of Ottana, I didn’t invent it. It is a carnival mask and symbolises fertility. I talked to the mask builders there, they are happy about me talking about their culture in every interview I do. As a European culture, they probably don’t have the experience of cultural exploitation as much as cultures from other part of the world, so they might be not so sensitive as cultures with worse experiences about that.
After the communication I had about this relation between me and the origins of the mask and the people who still live this culture, I see this a cultural exchange, but I am willing to learn if there are any other opinions about this relationship out there.
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?
I don’t know.
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?
Well, I don’t see any other purpose in Art and culture then communication.
If communication is always social or political, I am not entirely sure. Probably there is a connection. But instrumental music for example, doesn’t bring in a direct massage. Music and art generally are subforms of communication. We use them when words don’t work.
We can only speculate about the exact influence on our political and social behaviour. It is probably there, but the great thing about music is, that words don’t work, not even in the analysis right here.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
You want to find words for something that is already in the question claimed as inexpressible.