Name: Nad Sylvan
Occupation: Multi-Instrumentalist, Singer, Songwriter
Current Release: The Bride said No on InsideOut Music
Recommendations: Argent "Circus" from 1975 and the live version from Edmonton of "In Held T'was In I" by Procol Harum. Wait until the very end of it. Endure and you will be massively rewarded.
Contact/Website: If you enjoyed this interview with Nad Sylvan, head over to his website or Facebook profile for further information. Nad is also well known for his work with former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett - check out our Steve Hackett interview here.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sounds that drew you to it?
I started playing the piano at the age of four or five and composing came quite immediately for me. Growing up in the late 60s into the 70s my influences were initially the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and quite a lot of Motown music that my mother was listening to at the time. Later I began listening to the likes of Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Frank Zappa, Return To Forever, Gentle Giant, Focus, Yes and of course Genesis.
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 the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
True, you learn by listening to the music you like and if you have any real musical talent, you start to build your own musical vocabulary. I know some of the critics slate me for being a Genesis clone, but they've actually only heard a fragment of what I can do. I felt musically, I needed to be where I was creating "The Widow", since most of my fans know me from working with Steve Hackett. Then move on and foster them into my own world if you like. I'm a cunning little devil, aren't I?!
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My basic skills come from playing around with the Portastudio in the early 80's. It's a four track cassette recorder and believe me, I tried to cram in as much as possible, by bouncing tracks until the humming noise became unbearable. I moved on to 8-track recording with a Foster R8 and a 20 track mixing console in 1990 and then drifted into my current set up of digital devices that update as often as I can.
Right now I combine old analog stuff with the latest software such as Cubase 9 and Propellerheads Reason. And of course my old Squire Strat from 1983 a friend sold to me for basically nothing.
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?
I feel that the human soul can never be replaced. The machines can, if used in a sensible way - help you to achieve your goal. How it all should sound. Being able to send midi files to other musicians can be very useful to, if only as a guide for something.
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?
I find it very rewarding bouncing ideas with other people. On "The Widow" I wrote and arranged everything myself. Self gratifying of course, but actually I prefer working with other gifted people. I need to be fed by new ideas and blend in my own. That's how you expand your horizon I feel.
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?
Usually I have an idea in my head that if it's strong - it lingers and develops on its own. I hear music in my head constantly and it can be a little annoying sometimes. When I feel it's time to make a real song out of these fragmented ideas, I basically sit down in my studio and completely lose myself in the massive array of sounds and filters at hand. But there are exceptions, such as "Ship's Cat" that came in two days - start to finish. It was raining heavily that summer of 2015, and as my studio is located just underneath the ceiling (lift room overlooking two floors of my house) I recorded the rain smattering against the roof and if course Skrut, my cat moaning and purring away like she always does. There I had the atmosphere. It made me go, places. The verses I remember popping up in my head when I'd just gone to bed. I leaped up and went over the footbridge to my working den and just recorded what I'd heard. You will never know how music will come to, I just know it does.