Twinmusix Talk With S Peace Nistades Read Below
How has your music changed from when you first started?
I think I've learnt a lot about clarification of lines and focus, much like a painter (or any other art form for that matter) over the years. Earlier I had much more of a tendency to simply throw layer upon layer of melodies, counter melodies and various colors onto the canvas so to speak without clearly defining the lines as much as I should have during the composition phase but leaving it to be worked out (by me and my engineer) during mixing. Now there are times when one would want the explosive textural cluster as an effect but this was not the intention and I'm glad I've moved away from that. I've learnt a lot from my close friend and filmmaker Benjamin Gabriel about this and working with my mixing/mastering engineer and co-producer Gerhard Westphalen, who is currently based in Canada, has also influenced me a lot along these lines as well.
From a more creative standpoint, I'm not sure I've changed all too much really. I've always written music based on emotional instinct rather than from a theoretical basis, with a few experimental exceptions, and I've grown a lot emotionally over the years so I hope it's reflected in my work.
What bands influenced your style of music?
I'd say my influences have always been a bit eclectic. My first conscious memory of music was Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker (in which I played the dual part of the naughty boy who breaks the nutcracker and the Prince when I was six) and the film scores and musicals of the Disney ilk and particularly of James Horner. Shortly after, in Kindergarten, I first heard, and fell in love with, and was terrified of, my first opera, The Magic Flute (Mozart). I remember still hiding under the table each time the Queen of the Night appeared. Then followed a lot of classical music. Wagner remains a looming figure for me whose music will eternally inspire just as much as Trent Reznor has and more contemporary composers as Jonny Greenwood and Max Richter.
Have you always wanted a career in music or was it unexpected?
Not from the beginning no. My first love was art. I loved painting and wanted to pursue that for a long time. Another early love was literature. I loved reading and writing, both of which I still do. Music crept into my life starting with piano lessons which my mom encouraged, then growing into other areas like the opera choir, chamber music and musicals. It was eventually film that I wanted to pursue (I had wanted to be a director at one point) and by chance, while I was helping a friend on a short film he was directing, he'd asked if I wanted to give a crack at scoring it. That's when I realized my love of storytelling as well as music could be combined which led to my moving to Los Angeles to pursue it ten years ago now.
Where do you see your band sound in the future, are you looking for a similar sound or are you going to go in a different direction?
That's a tricky question mainly because a lot of my music has been reactionary, meaning that I've reacted to stories, characters, paintings etc. I am very interested however, moving forward, in trying to find a chamber sound that can combine my love for acoustic, organic instruments with modern production techniques within the actual composition itself. I feel I've begun to find something in this way with the current album I'm working on, a collaboration with concert pianist Christopher McKiggan on a new take on the solo piano album. I have some upcoming projects I'd like to explore this further in as well.
What personal advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue this career?
I would say my advice would be two-fold. Firstly, know that this is a tough path that likely will not yield a kind of stable lifestyle so you've got to not only be okay with that but be able to feed off that and channel it into your work (or bar it from your work). Knowing that, the main thing I'd say is work on yourself; work on growing, learning, experiencing life. Figure out what your point of view is, I don't mean in music but in life. Technical skills can always be learnt but it's the point of view, the emotional, psychological, philosophical collection of who you are that is unique and cannot be learnt in a course or from a manual. There is so much media out there that to have a chance at cutting through and being 'heard' at all has to come from your own drive, your own need to express something whether it's a feeling, an experience, or a point of view. For me there is a fundamental difference between inspiration and drive. Inspiration can come from anywhere at any moment. And it's just that, a moment. It's fleeting. You can perhaps recognize it, you may even try to seize on it, but without drive, and drive has to be in some sense long term, there is little chance of you turning that spark into something. I'd say to a certain extent you must be obsessed with whatever you've chosen to pursue. Creative work, unlike a more technical job, cannot truly ever be mastered. Once you've woken up and feel like there's no longer anything for you to explore, no longer a better piece for you to write, you're done. Perhaps the only other thing I'd add is one word: persevere.
What type of music have you listened to growing up?
I realize I've semi-answered this earlier but I'll elaborate a little more. Apart from the Tchaikovsky and James Horner scores (and other Golden Era scores such as The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, Breakfast at Tiffany's) that played a big part in my musical formation, it was also everything from Bach and Beethoven to The Carpenters, The Beatles, some Thai folk songs, and lots and lots of Irish and Scottish music. When people ask me what my favorite instrument is, it's still a tie between the Uillean Pipe and the Scottish Highland pipes.
Tell us a random fact about yourself that fans don't know?
Well I was going to say the fact that I started off in ballet when I was six but I'd said that earlier in this interview. I owe a lot to music that accompanies and tells stories whether its ballet, opera or film, as that's really laid the foundation for what I do.
What do you love about what you do?
I love being able to explore stories and characters through music. I love using music to create worlds (and this doesn't always have to be fantastical or magical ones but the everyday, the foreign). Based on the type of project, the first things that come to mind are usually what the vocabulary of the music will be. What musical language am I writing in? What the elements does that language consist of, what are the grammatical constructs of it, the colors used etc.
Did you start off writing your own music or did you start off doing covers?
Neither. I started writing music for other people's films. But in a way, it's not entirely dissimilar to doing a cover in the sense that with a cover you're taking a pre-existing, in this case, song and approaching it from your own musical and emotional point of view. That's pretty much what I do with films, except that there isn't always pre-existing music although often times there is (in the form of temp music that the filmmaker already likes etc.).
What do you love about music?
I love the emotional directness music has. My loves really balance between that and the specificity of language and writing (whether poetry or prose) that music does not have. Music can speak in a very direct way towards a feeling, capturing a sense of first love, first breakups, all the way to more complex emotions over time. But a piece of music (on its own without pairing it with language or drama i.e. a song, or opera/musical) can never tell the listener specifically what the piece is about, i.e. a story-line with characters that grow and develop over the arc of the piece. I love and need both in my life. They speak to different parts of me.
What subjects do you sing about in your music?
I think the most recurring subject in my work has been about identity. Growing up in Thailand with English as my first language is incredibly strange and I still know no one else that has this same background (I have a few friends who learnt English and Thai at the same time, but not English seven years before Thai as was my case). It had to do with my mother wanting me to be fluent in what at the time was (and in many ways still is) the international language of communication. Naturally with language comes culture and Dickens and Dumas were two of my first heroes growing up. I of course learnt Thai as well, the customs and culture having grown up in and around it, but naturally the question of identity remains an important one for me and I feel as the world is in its new era of growth and change, this question of identity seems to lie at the crux of most debates, whether on a communal, national, or international scale: what does it mean to be ___________ (substitute the name of your community, culture, sexual orientation and country)?
How did you come up with the track listing, did you go by order or name?
It was a tricky one as the music in this album is quite varied in terms of genre and style and I wanted to find the best way to still tell a kind of narrative through it for the audience and reflect the emotional adventure it has been for me over these past ten years. Often, as is the case here, the literal lining up of what was written first, second, third doesn't always tell the best story and in the end, it was my co-producer (and mixing/mastering engineer) Gerhard Westphalen's order which felt the most cohesive and well-balanced while still maintaining a sense of story.
Website - www.nistades.com/