Part 1

Name: Nicolas Snyder
Nationality: American
Occupation: composer
Current Release: Spell of Remembrance on Evening Chants
Recommendations: Fountain by Lyra Pramuk is the most powerful thing I’ve heard in years is. It gives me chills / Paul Selig’s “I am the Word” series. It’s a sort of channeled guidebook on how to see things anew, if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you enjoyed this interview with Nicolas Snyder, visit his website www.nicolassnyder.com to find out more.

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/ or sound that drew you to it?

My father is a musician, so really I didn't want to be that. There was a lot of emotional turmoil wrapped up in it from what I could tell. But he always had instruments laying around and I found myself drawn to them and they kind of came easily to me. I never wanted to learn other people’s songs, I just wanted to tinker and make up my own things, even if it wasn’t the “right” way.

I feel like many early influences happened on a subconscious level. I wasn’t choosing these things at first, they were just speaking to me in new ways that excited me even if I wasn’t fully conscious to it. Vince Guaraldi’s score for “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, Hans Zimmer’s mildly inappropriate yet beautiful score for “The Rainman”, Sade in my mom’s car, the oldies station you couldn’t seem to escape—these were all just surrounding me, guiding me, whether I knew it or not.

The elements that have drawn me into music are probably on some base level, the right mixture of melancholy, heroism and freedom. But you don’t think about these things when something appeals to you, you feel it and it doesn’t matter why. That’s what I love about music so much. It doesn’t matter why. Do you feel it?

Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?

I definitely CAN experience great emotion when listening to music. In fact, I use it often as an emotional amplifier in my manifestation meditations. John Luther Adams’ “Become Ocean” is my fav in that department. But music is such a big part of my life that it varies drastically from hour to hour. Sometimes it’s on and I don’t even hear it. Sometimes I’m shopping somewhere and it makes me want to leave the building. I’ve even experienced sonic orgasms, where my whole body feels like it’s vibrating away. The first time I experienced this I was stoned and surrounded by The Flaming Lips Zaireeka. It was a particular moment that happened. I wish I knew which.

So, because I’m acutely aware of how music fits into various life-spaces, I do like for it to have a sort of purpose. My last album “Temporary Places” was meant to conjure up surroundings in your imagination. “Spell of Remembrance” is meant to be devoured like a poem, in one sitting. You could call it an ambient album I suppose, but it’s not meant to drift into the background, it’s a journey.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

Though I no longer really relate to the music I made in my 20s, I appreciate that the experience of it all was valuable and fun. That garage band life seemed so alluring, but I was still in the phase of imitation and very under the influence of my friends and collaborators. I had to lose the idea of what I thought I wanted and go inside myself to find my voice. I had to do it from a place of fearlessness, unafraid what the consequences were.
It’s funny, I used to think that if I made music as a job I would lose touch with the aspect of me that made music for music’s sake, but once I started to get work in the film and tv world and make a living, I no longer cared who my personal music spoke to, so I made it for myself only and that was soooo freeing.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

I have no desire to get bogged down into some idea of who I am. These archetypes are fun
—I’m goth, I’m punk, I’m a druggy, I’m nihilistic, I’m a lover, I’m broken, I’m spiritual. But I’ve been on this planet long enough now to recognize how rapidly things change, how I change. Who I thought I was 6 years ago is not who I am now. Where I belonged 4 years ago is not where I am now. I don’t see much point in attaching myself to ideas like that.

But if I had to pick an identity right now, for the sake of fun and play, I’d say I’m an earth child, trying to grow roots down into the soil and sing out the wind, but with a laptop.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

Evolution. Discovery. Beauty. There’s an aspect of me that really admires a group like the Ramones, let’s say. They do one thing and do it perfectly. But that’s just not me. I’m evolving and searching for something different and new and scary and most of all beautiful. I might always have less of a following for that reason, but that’s not the objective—if there even is an objective. I just want to tinker away in my workshop and create new worlds and let them drift out into the night.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

I’m simultaneously interested in both and actively attempting to not worry about either. Music of the future can only be created in the now. And one of my biggest driving factors is finding something new. But it’s more like discovering a new species of insect than it is sitting down and trying to map out a blueprint for what future music will sound like. That may be some people’s approach and there’s value in that, no doubt, but for me, I’m just experimenting, which I think is one of music’s most long-standing traditions.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

God, we’re living in such a boom time for creative tools for music creation. It’s really exciting, but I can also see how it could feel overwhelming. For some of us, choice can be crippling. I highly recommend finding like one or maybe two things and just going deep with them before moving to another. I think for me, if you want me to get specific, it’s been ProTools. Any DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) will do, and I’ve been recommended so many over the years, but PT is what I know the best. I can do nearly anything with it. At the end of the day though, these things are just conduits for your imagination and flow.

If synth sounds really speak to you, get one really good synth and go deep with it. If samples speak to you, get a sampler and go deep, whatever—there’s infinite untrodden territory with
any instrument or tool, no matter what some might say, but only if you’re mining your own personal landscape and not trying to follow in anyone’s footsteps.

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