MUSIC INTERVIEW - PETER WESTHEIMER
- On release of Tranzworld Express
First off could you tell us how you initially
got into music making?
were keen classical music lovers and used to take me to
Sunday afternoon Melbourne Symphony Orchestra concerts in
the Fitzroy gardens. I remember being pretty excited by
all the sounds and asking to play the piano but my Mum &
dad were pretty poor and pianos are expensive so my mum
came home with a violin which I started having lessons on
at the age of 7. I wasn't that in to practicing but getting
into the Victorian Junior Symphony orchestra at the age
of 12 kept my enjoyment going... I eventually became the
How has your musical journey
led you to the style that you are currently employing?
||Yes the journey
has led to my current style.
After reaching a classical '"pinnacle" by playing
violin in the Australian Youth Orchestra I felt that the classical
music scene was too narrow socially and musically. I started
playing accoustic guitar but continued playing violin, however
in a totally new way. I started jamming and improvising and
it came really easily to me. This blew me away and gave me
the confidence to compose my own music in a new wave, punkish
band then on keyboards and electric guitar. The new synth
keyboards [my first was a Roland Jupiter 8] with their combo
of synth, rock and orchestral sounds gave me the pallette
of sounds that inspired composition.
The next major epiphany was recording my own compositions
with the then groundbreaking 4 track tape recorders on which
I composed and produced my EP 'Laminex Lovers'. This had reasonable
success and was followed by my move to Sydney where for 10
years I composed music for television and film and continued
to release albums. I moved in the film scene in Sydney as
much as the music scene and was fortunate to have friends
who liked my music enough to make creative videoclips for
me for only the cost of the film stock.
Along the way I flirted with Indian music, learning and performing
the Sitar for 2 years and in particular I spent about a year
in Central Java, Indonesia and Bali, learning Tai Chi and
meditation where I also experimented with Gamelan instruments
and fell in love with the scales and tones of that music.
Also a 4 month stint in Japan and travel through India influenced
What was the inspiration and initial fuel for
the album Tranzworld Express?
a year after finishing a 5 year stint in local politics
where I had a total break from music production I set off
on a solo journey to Europe to visit old musical friends
and explore family history. I had a 10 day train pass ,the
long distance trains were near empty and I often had a compartment
to myself for the day - no phone calls, minimal conversation
but ample cruisy, creative time to muse, to dream, watch
the passing scenery and passing people and their societies,
reflect on the state of the world and make new music via
a laptop ! As usual I felt compelled to draw on musical
inspiration from previous travels in Indonesia & India.
Where did the album begin? What were the first
steps of the creation process?
||So the album
began and each day brought a new composition. I was using
a new Macbook pro laptop and Logic Pro software with an astonishing
library of interesting loops. I experimented with layering
sounds and phrases which were not usually associated with
each other. I usually just play and experiment with no preconceptions.
So I often consider my music is channeled in a sort of way.
My music is intuitively not intellectually constructed initially,
although by the time I have finished compositions I usually
have sections which roughly coincide with verses and choruses
as in traditional song constructs.
What were your intentions and/or vision
for the album?
be honest initially there were none, these creative things
evolve whenever I give myself some space in my life. I feel
I could go on endlessly making new music... there was no
recording deal needing me to fulfill a contract within a
period of time... my visions are always to be as creative
and original as possible and be prepared to join up the
dots of very different genres, instruments and rhythms.
Having strong rhythms however was something that I did want
on this album and which was helped by the movement of the
trains. I have heard of other composers who specifically
travel on trains to aid their composing!
Could you outline something of your recording/composing methods?
thus created draft compositions on my computer, continually
filtering through libraries of samples and loops dragging
my favourites onto an arrangement page and always allowing
time to be adventurous knowing that at any time I can always
just delete what doesn't work or repeat the phrases that
work. So the tracks build up eventually into sections and
bridges. I am very conscious of the variety of feels that
follow each other and the need for transitioning between
them by overlapping instruments or rhythms to give a sense
How did you collect the international
sounds that many of the tracks feature?
from Logic Pro and some came from Dave Basek who was the
music producer I worked with in the quite long 6 month mixing
and production phase.
Did any other artists/individuals contribute
significantly to Tranzworld Express.
||So Dave, as
recording engineer, contributed international sounds, bass
lines and percussion samples as did Tone Wonderland with bass
lines which he sent back from Japan a number of times. The
icing on the cake came from one of my friends Amir Paiss from
'Sheva' [ Israeli/Palestinian world music band ] who plays
delightfully on Persian Santoor on many tracks. He gave me
permission to record his improvisations and then cut and paste
them wherever I liked into the pieces. I also did the same
process with World music vocalist Parissa Bouas who, through
one long recording session, gave me lots of vocal grabs to
use, however, I liked. I spent a few days arranging these
contributions into my preexisting instrumental tracks.
After that I overlayed my own vocals fairly sparsely throughout
In my live audiovisual theatrical DJ performances I add more
vocals, often political in content and fairly heavily treated,
often with a vocoder, reverb & delay.
As someone with considerable involvement
in the political arena – how would you say that your
extra-musical activities have affected your recording work?
||Since my recent
political stint and as a father I feel I have a responsibility
to use my music not only as a means of self expression and
fun but also as an agent of change.
I want to hurry up our uptake of renewable energy and phase
out our overuse of oil, coal & nuclear fuel. This triggered
the track 'Renewable Energy' and its video clip, 100% Renewable
Energy. My concern about the toxic legacies of nuclear meltdowns
like Fukushima and Chernobyl, oil spills, the genocidal regimes
of the 20th century such as Rwanda, Srebenica, Cambodia and
of course the holocaust in Germany where my grandparents died
as well as irresponsible use of pesticides inspired the track
'Ghosts of the Future'. My time as deputy Mayor and Councillor
also made me super aware of how resistant to change many people
are... this triggered my song 'Change Now' -the need to change
for our childrens' sake.
What would you like listeners to take
away from Tranzworld Express now that the project is complete?
||A sense of
fun,provocation, originality,open mindedness, a feeling to
dance and move.
Do have any interesting anecdotes around
the creation of the album that you would like to share with
Express' is about an imaginary train of the future which travels
sustainably and comfortably around the planet. I have been
into trains since as a kid I did long overnight trips between
Melbourne and Goulburn near Sydney where I was born, and loved
the smell of the steam engine smoke, the wonderful brass fittings
and leather upholstery of the sleeper compartments and watched
for hours engines and trains coming and going. Now in the
region where I live in northern NSW we have a disused train
line which through TOOT [Trains on our Tracks organisation]
we are wanting to reinstate new light rail services. Until
2004 we had a train service skirting through this most magnificent
World heritage countryside here until a short sighted Minister
of a previous State Government pulled the pin on it citing
erronously economic reasons. So I continue to fight together
with most of the community to get new and modern train connections
in our region for youth, the elderly ,the millions of tourists
and just to get cars off our clogged roads.
Do you currently have any musical possibilities
for the future in mind?
become a very key component of my work these days. For my
recently launched audiovisual performance of 'Tranzworld Express'
I use videos for each track and using Ableton Live software.
I have shot and edited a couple of clips as well and the whole
process of remixing the clips with live footage and video
mixes of the recent launch has created a whole new way of
promoting the album. I am now honing the show in preparation
for performing at the world acclaimed 'Splendour in the Grass'
festival and working with Video editors to release new clips
some to works from previous albums that have had little exposure
to now and some as upgraded videos to the current album. Albums
are a huge amount of work so my idea from now on is to release
singles one by one always with original videos. My works are
crossing over into video art as well so I see lots of possibilities
not only as a musician but also as a performance and music
to Becca Dakini Event Coordinator, Selector and Connector
from Resonant Temple Productions, we gained some more perspective
on Peter's work.
How did you initially become aware of
Peter Westheimer’s music?
||Peter is a highly respected local
musician in the Byron Region, so I'd heard about him from
those in the know within the music industry, before I'd heard
his actual music.
How would you say that the album fits
into the current global chillout scene?
||Tranzworld Express fits into
the current global chillout music scene with downtempo and
mid tempo electronica woven intricately with world music and
instrumental themes. The album is quite cutting edge with
its focus on current political & environmental issues,
containing tracks entitled "iRan", "Change
Now" and "Renewable Energy". A blend of old
and new sounds creates a diverse listening experience sure
to appeal to a wide range of tastes and listeners.
What would you say are the highlights
from the album?
||China India with its exotic Asian
sounds and lush smooth progression, Kharma Than Chaos with
it's midtempo ethnic groove that uplifts, and Ghosts of the
Future with its impressive orchestral composition and epic
If you had to describe the album for
potential listeners, how would you do that?
||Tranzworld Express is a sonic
journey that not only uplifts but inspires. Peter Westheimer
has excelled at weaving ethnic sounds throughout both downtempo
and mid tempo grooves, to create a journey for the listener
through inner landscapes both exotic and mysterious. Parts
of the album soothe whilst others get your foot tapping and
your head nodding…a lush world fusion chill out release
that invokes flavours from far away lands.
To date what interesting critical
reaction has the album received?
||Here are some listener
& YouTube selected comments:
''World Music of tomorrow!”
“Fun, rich and eclectic mix of rich instruments and
sounds. Everything I
love about music.”
'”Cool groove. Light yet engaging music. Layered with
“Excellent fusion of eastern and western music.”
“Peter Westheimer is a keeper.”
“I have loved world music for a long time now and I
am very happy to hear
“Have enjoyed the music for the past few months and
texture, layering and complex yet subtle nature.”
“Love this stuff. Why haven't I heard of this guy before.
“Very exotic, and cultural sounding.”
'”I'm a belly dancer I love the beat of your music!”
“Peter! Beautiful music wrapped in a heart rhythm reflecting
of liberating from images of ideals held as ways of truth
in being... while the
birth of change cries out to set us free. I love it. It shines
like a multifaceted
diamond and cuts deeply into consciousness like one too.
to Peter and Becca for allowing us that interview.