Kryshe: I want a narrative thread to my music with space for improvisation and variety

September 18, 2017

Christian Grothe is a German multi-instrumentalist releasing music under the moniker Kryshe. His main instruments are piano, trumpet and guitar which are fed through various digital effects and processors to transform their sound. His last release ‘Insights’ was released on Unperceived Records; a still, introspective body of work. He has an album forthcoming on Serein called ‘March Of The Mysterious‘, out September 22nd. We sat down to talk to him about the album and his process and we even have a track to premiere ahead the release. 

Kryshe (Photo: Liudmila Jeremies)

 

‘March Of The Mysterious’ began life as a commissioned piece to accompany the 1915 silent film, ‘Alice In Wonderland’. Where did the commission come from and what made you decide to expand upon the original work?

There is this, let’s say, collective – “Schwarz weiss ist die bessere Farbe” (black and white is a better color) based in Münster, a city in Germany. They invite artists to play music to a silent film. They asked me and I began to look for a suitable film. It was a wonderful process watching all those old black and white movies. I discovered ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and felt that my music would fit well to the pictures. I liked the costumes, the surrealism and the dreaminess. At first I thought about improvising the whole piece, but I realised quickly that this wasn’t working for me. So I started to improvise around specific scenes until I found something that fit well. With that, I composed sounds and motifs but kept them loose enough that I could improvise with them in the moment. It was a very new way of playing and I discovered new techniques for myself. It was a very rewarding process. Playing to the movie gave broader context and added a new dimension to the music.

One of the goals of this album was to capture some of the feeling from your live performances on record. Why is this important to you and how did you go about achieving this?

There was always a big difference between my studio work and my live performances. My last album ‘Insights’ for example focuses on the piano. I never played those songs live and I’m not really interested in doing so. On ‘March Of The Mysterious’, I decided not to rely on the piano so much. I wanted to use the trumpet more often and to find new ways of processing it – limiting myself is important as it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed by the possibilities available. I want a narrative thread to my music with space for improvisation and variety.

What was your process when working on a new piece for the album?

First of all I had all those Ideas and motifs from the Alice film that I wanted to have on the album. Not everything is on the album, and not everything on the album was in the score for the film, but it was all made using the same process. 

I chose a theme and began recording; I was just focusing on one step at a time and trying to get as much out of each sound source as possible. With all the tools available to a producer today, it’s easy to get lost. Limiting myself is always very important. It’s like a fractal; within those limits you can go extremely deep and the core idea gets clearer and clearer. I mostly used my guitar pedals for processing sounds and a few plugins. I started with one sound and pushed and developed it more and more to bring it to its full potential. Whenever I heard a space that needed to be filled, I was always thinking about how I could fill it using just the instruments I’d chosen – especially if it meant using those instruments in an unusual way. I was adding layers of harmony and texture using my trumpet and processed guitars to add more life to the sound.

 

 

Were you making pieces to accompany specific sections of the film even beyond the commissioned work, or did it end up being inspired by the film in a broader sense?

As I said, some themes I composed for the movie are in the album, like ‘Queens Court’ or ‘Meet The Caterpillar’, but there are some tracks that I composed after the Alice performance. I was still in that mood and continuing the process.

What would be the best way to listen to this album?

I’ve found that it doesn’t work well when driving in the car – haha! But I think that’s the only situation I wouldn’t recommend. I always like to listen to my music in different situations and on different sound systems. For example, I last listened to it while packing my suitcase on a very cheap portable speaker, I enjoyed it. I’ve listened to it while cooking, too. It creates a cool atmosphere I think. But listening to my own music is always different. It’s also great to listen to it on headphones on a train ride or in bed with everything in darkness.

In the end, I guess the best way to listen to music is on very good speakers with good acoustics, sitting in the sweet spot with a great stereo image. I mean, that’s my favorite place to listen to any kind of music. When I think about it, I get goosebumps!

How important is it to have a concept when beginning a new album?

For me, the concept is the most important thing before beginning an album. Sometimes a concept comes while jamming or trying out new things, but sometimes I have something in mind in advance. Before I recorded ‘Insights’ for example, I had the concept of setting up the studio in a very specific way before recording. I set it all up and the only thing I had to do was work with the studio in that situation. I remember one trick was to send the piano through a distortion and delay pedal, but these are technical matters, it’s not the most important thing. The technical setup, for me, exists to serve my musical ideas and bring them to life – not the other way around. 

The music starts within me and to some degree the tools and mediums I use to make music are irrelevant. I pick the ones that seem the most fun. If I was caught on an island with just a few sticks of bamboo to make music with, my music wouldn’t be any different, just the medium that brings the music to life has changed.

 

 

Finally, why do you make music and what would you be doing if you didn’t?

Actually, I’ve never done anything else. I had piano and trumpet lessons very early in life. Then came the guitar and I formed several heavy metal bands with my school friends. Then I got more and more into indie and alternative rock and started to record my own songs at home. I’ve always made music and after finishing school it wasn’t hard to decide what to do next – to continue studying music at a higher level and keep making music. My music has changed a lot over the years and the more I do, the more I find my way; it’s a wonderful process. So, it’s hard to think about what I would do if I didn’t play music, because I’ve never done anything else! Maybe if I didn’t have music, I would express myself in another way. Maybe I would have become a dancer or a poet   (I know some of my friends will be laughing now… haha!).

 

 

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