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MORPHEUS MUSIC INTERVIEW - PETER WESTHEIMER

30.04.12 - On release of Tranzworld Express

 
PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS PETER WESTHEIMER - TRANZWORLD EXPRESS
Q: First off could you tell us how you initially got into music making?  

My parents 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 Orchestra leader.

  Q: 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 my work.
 
Q: What was the inspiration and initial fuel for the album Tranzworld Express?  

In 2009, 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.

  Q: 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.
 
   
 
Q:  What were your intentions and/or vision for the album?
 

To 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!

  Q: Could you outline something of your recording/composing methods?
 

I 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 of continuity.

       
Q:  How did you collect the international sounds that many of the tracks feature?  

Many came 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.

  Q:  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 the album.
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.
       
 
     
 
Q:  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.
  Q:  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.
       
Q:  Do have any interesting anecdotes around the creation of the album that you would like to share with your listeners?   'Tranzworld 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.   Q:  Do you currently have any musical possibilities for the future in mind?
  Video has 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 video artist.

 

Speaking to Becca Dakini Event Coordinator, Selector and Connector from Resonant Temple Productions, we gained some more perspective on Peter's work.
Q:  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.   Q:  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.
 
Q:  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 percussive journey.   Q:  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.
 
Q: 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 unexpected sounds,
instruments.”
“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
something new'.”
“Have enjoyed the music for the past few months and appreciate the
texture, layering and complex yet subtle nature.”
“Love this stuff. Why haven't I heard of this guy before. Want more!”
“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 the possibility
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.
Thanks to Peter and Becca for allowing us that interview.
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