In the run up to our next collaborative event, Semi Peppered & Intermission: Empty spaces, we meet the artists getting involved.
What is your name:
Robbie McDonald (Open Ears)
IB: So how long have you been making music and what got you into it in the first place?
RM: I’ve been making music for about 12 years, my brother used to play classical piano, he’d play people like Ludovico Einaudi and I’d kind of just dance around the room, and then afterwards I’d sit on the piano myself and try and work out what I could. So my whole time of playing music has entirely been through my composition, I’ve never learnt through playing someone’s songs, or classically or scales or anything. I think there’s loads of good ways to learn, but for me that worked. I got really into it in uni because I was very very stressed, and it became a release and a way to express those feelings I had, that I didn’t know how to express otherwise.
IB: How would you say your creative process has changed since then?
RM: It started out very simple, because I didn’t know how to play anything. So just finding a few chords in the white notes. Then I experimented with it for a very long time. I started singing at uni, and I also got a keyboard, and now that I’m using loops, it’s a lot more electronic. I think my piano style is now somewhere between jazz and contemporary classical.
IB: When I listened to your stuff I found it quite haunting and ethereal, how would you describe what your currently working on?
RM: Umm I guess otherworldly… fading. I feel like I’m in another world when I play, and I guess I kind of am…it’s meditative. Yeah, that’s probably the main things, meditative and therapeutic.
IB: How would you say music and making music has shaped your life?
RM: Well It’s been a way for me to express things that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. In a way, something like a diary which I can use to let things out, so it’s been very healthy for me.
IB: Who would you say your biggest musical influences are?
RM: Jeff Buckley, Nick Hakim, Marvin Gaye, Synkro, Nick Drake, Mos Def and Jonwayne, then like Iron and Wine, Kings of Convenience, ahhh I’m just giving you loads.
IB: Yeah it’s a stupid question to be honest because you know, there’s so many good people out there.
RM: Yeah because my music is inspired from so many places, from Synkro which is I guess ambient dubstep… there’s a million genres that influence me.
IB: Do you have a specific purpose for your music, what would you ideally like your listeners to draw from it?
RM: Uhh sound, that’s something I’ve recently come to actually because for a while I was like the sound doesn’t mean anything, sound was like secondary to the expression and if I expressed myself then the sound would come from that. But yeah, sound and presence, like to be present and hear the sound and feel the emotion while being there and mentally not being anywhere else, that’s something I want for people who listen to my music. What it does for me is allows me to get through everything in my mind, it allows me to experience everything I think and feel. I think that’s very healthy and I would like to be able to share that with other people.
IB: When you think of ‘empty spaces’ what springs to mind?
RM: So I see ‘empty spaces’ as a space between things. There’s levels of emptiness to everything. To me there wouldn’t be empty spaces if there weren’t spaces that were full. So my music for this event will have elements of fullness, with a lot going on, lyrics, and many sounds and then the contrast between that with periods of relative emptiness where it’s much more minimal and it leaves those gaps. The space in between notes are just as important as the notes themselves because together the space and the notes make the music.
IB: When you’re not creating music what can we most likely find you doing?
RM: Umm teaching, hanging out with my friends, playing basketball. I like playing sports to let off a bit of steam, ‘cos you know, life can be stressful sometimes.
IB: And lastly in 3 words, sum up what we can expect from your set.
RM: Ambient, meditative, emotive.