Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Tamás. Let’s begin with the piano and why you feel the instrument has stood the test of time and its seemingly never ending capability of convening human emotion?
Thank you for your interest. For me, the answers are in how the piano is built. It seems very simple, there are strings, hammers and keys. Despite all this, it is the instrument played by Theolonius Monk, Lang Lang and the list goes on. The human factor is the key. The most wonderful thing is how people can play the same apparatus in many different ways. This leads to a certain cohesion between artist and instrument that is unmatched, and unique In my opinion the sound and physical range of it makes us able to express million of emotions and all their variations.
Your debut artist album: Minimalism is a beautifully played, evocative piece of work. Can you tell us how long it took to complete and how you actually record the piano in the studio – do you have a favourite microphone you like to use?
The project vaghy is one that has been long in the making. In the beginning it was more of an electronic type of production. For some reason the songs didn’t come together like I wanted so I decided to go with a minimalist approach using only a piano, and it worked. The songs started to take shape, the piano moved everything forward. The instrument that I recorded the album Minimalism on, is an old Swedish pienette which I stumbled upon by accident at a store and liked the sound so much that I bought it then and there. It has a lot of mechanical noise and because it only has 64 keys the sonority range is limited. When recording, I had to work with these attributes in a way that they would benefit the songs. Recordings were preceded by lots and lots of experimenting, luckily because I have my own studio there was no time limit. It wasn’t easy to find the correct placement of each microphone, took a lot of tries. I usually used ambient mics in the surrounding space and a large membrane mic to record the keystrokes from above. Because of this, every recording session was preceded by a complex setup process.
But the end products were well worth the amount of effort put in, it was great to work with the recordings.
I tried plenty of microphones because of how special the application was, the industry standards didn’t prove to be a solution. I used Neumann and Audio-Technica devices to create these complex solutions that resulted in the final sound.
How do you compose a piece of work? Does it began with single note or do you get inspired from something else you have heard, or watched, or seen, or from something completely unrelated like reading a book?
It’s very rare that I make a song that I have composed in my head previously. Improvisation is an element of mine and I often have these sort of sessions. Just press record and start playing. These usually lead to a theme or idea that I start working from. But there are also examples of just one playing becoming a song, the one called ‘Rush’ being one of these. I usually find minor mistakes in these recordings but if the flow of it is good than these don’t bother me, the song comes first. The album ‘Minimalism’ is entirely made up of personal stories and I can only hope that whoever listens to it can find and create their own. This might seem a bit old-fashioned as music consumption has sped up so much that not many albums come out with a concept like this. This needs time and cannot be rushed. I have the incredible luck with my label, Theque Records, who are partners in this.
Where did your passion for analogue synthesizers originate from? And what do you think they can convey / add to music that a more traditional instrument cannot?
I have been interested in synthesisers since I was a kid. I was drawn to their sound, their versatility. I have tried lots of different ones from software to hardware options. For some reason I prefer the physical versions, I need to be able to to hold it, turn the knobs, and not just with a mouse or controller. The feeling is very different when you are holding a real instrument. I am not an analogue maniac but in many cases they add a certain something to songs that gives them colour, makes them very unique. I loved the Mood Taurus, but I didn’t have the money for it, so I decided to build one with extra functions, and it has been a staple at every concert ever since. I am open to digital instruments as well but they have to have the adequate character. One other aspect that I have to be able to bring it with me everywhere. The setup for my live performances is designed in a way that if needed I can easily tweak the tunes or themes. The reason of this being really challenging is that I don’t use a laptop. I am currently working on something new, I transformed an 1978 Vermona organ and added a unique feature that I haven’t seen anyone else do. There will be recordings made with this at my live performances, and hopefully the instrument will be there at my record launch concert in Budapest.
Outside of music which artists, writers etc have continued to inspire you most?
I’ve used to do a lot of applied music writing in the past, so I’m mostly inspired by film scores and soundtracks. But of course I am excited about fine arts, photography, mainly in the form of exhibitions. I visit a lot of these if I have the time. Aside from music, I am a movie maniac, the different stories are always a good source of inspiration.
The word Minimalism has been used to describe many things from music to architecture. What does it mean for you in relation to the album?
When it comes to the album it has several meanings. How these songs were initially made on a keyboard, slightly overscored, that didn’t quite work so I reworked them to a sole piano and they immediately came to life. This is one of the reasons behind the albums name. On the other hand I played the keyboard in different bands since I was 18 years old. Stepping out of this meant that all the authority and decisions became mine. To me, this itself was minimalism as it was very different to what I was used to. In a band the focus and responsibilities are shared, which has both its benefits and drawbacks.
It is an incredibly exciting journey.
Tell us about your relationship with Théque records and why you felt it to be the right home for the album?
The encounter between me and Theque Records was incredibly lucky. I didn’t want to release this album with a big label nor did I want it to fall into private hands. I felt like I needed a team who I could think together with, and whom we had the same goal with. When I approached them the chemistry was almost instant, and I could feel that this was the right way. Of course this takes a lot of work but it is well worth the effort. They are very open to my ideas and so am I to their professionalism. It is a working symbiosis.
What can you tell us about the forthcoming plans for Piano Day Budapest?
I have been organising Piano Day in Budapest since the beginning. Unfortunately the events had to be cancelled in the last two years, but in 2022 we are back on track. It will be held on the 30th of March, in one of the hottest venues in Budapest, on A38 . The lineup will include two Hungarian performers, Konkoi and the Wave Of Sound, both solo productions and talented young individuals. We have Badfocuss coming in from the Czech Republic, and after them I will perform too. For me it’s always strange to play at my own event but it seems like I’m the only one who has an objection to that. 🙂
And finally. How do you see the future for the creative arts in terms of how musicians etc will be able to generate income for themselves? And do you think the role social media plays in all this is a positive one?
I think it’s very difficult for creative artists to assert themselves in todays world. Music consumption has accelerated and transformed unbelievably. It is no longer fashionable to make albums because the market expects fast production and because people’s music listening habits have changed. They don’t really have time to sit down and listen to a vinyl. People use streaming options like Spotify or Apple Music on their phone to listen to playlists the same way they’d scroll on TIK-TOK. If the first few second aren’t catchy enough, they just skip right onto the next one.
This is why I believe in “forcing” the attention of people with live concerts, you can’t skip songs there. But the responsibility is also bigger this way, the end product has to be able to convey the message and be entertaining at the same time. These are the tools you can win over an audience with. One of the most important things for me is meeting the audience. I always leave time after the concerts to be able to talk to the people present. You need to listen to them, pay attention to them. There is so much to learn from and feed off of. Doing this over social media results in a much more superficial encounter. There are no thoughts, only likes and pretence achievements. But of course I’m not fighting against it, you have to keep up with the times and speak the language of the younger generations. Their habits control the way these companies develop their platforms. This pandemic was good chance to test out new online income opportunities, I am not one to decide whether if it worked or not. What I am sure of is that holding concerts in the online space does not work. You need physical contact because the whole concept of playing live relies on chemistry and you can’t get that across digitally to either of the parties.
Tamas Vaghy will release his debut album Minimalism on Theque Records on February 18 2022