The Creative Process #27 Poltergeist

When did you start making music and what was the contributor factor that made you to do so?

I started playing guitar when I was 9 and started learning to write and record music when I was about 14 or 15. I grew up being around music a lot; my dad plays guitar and my family always had music from every genre playing. Ever since I was in middle school, all I wanted was to be in a band and I was enamoured by all the rock bands I was getting into as a kid.

How hard was it for you to create, record and release your first material?

Learning to create music is definitely a learning curve. I’m self taught and always had a hard time finding other kids to help make the music I wanted to make. The first thing I ever recorded and released by myself were two really bad sounding black metal demos I wrote and recorded in my bedroom at 15. Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about good songwriting processes and recording techniques. The stuff I’m doing now as Poltergeist is the result of years of practice and trial and error. I’m still figuring things out but easier than when I was starting off.

What is the main art form that influenced you in creating? Was it only music or did movies and other forms of art influence your creative process?

Since I was a teenager, I’ve been mostly into music from the 70s and 80s which is still my main creative influence. I heard a bit of everything growing up so I’ve always appreciated music from different styles and eras. With Poltergeist, the biggest influences are 80s post punk and traditional metal. Artistically, I think books and movies do play a big role. A lot of my lyrics are inspired by fantasy books by the likes of Michael Moorcock and J.R.R Tokien. I’ve also always been inspired by classic horror films. I’m a big fan of the atmosphere of 70s/80s horror and try to capture a bit of that.

What are the steps that an idea takes before becoming a fully fledge song? And how does that idea affects the way you build an album from the ground up?

It can vary from song to song. Depends on how much the idea “clicks” with me right away. I usually will start with a riff that gives me a strong feeling and then try to write a bunch of other riffs and melodies to go along with it. Then it’s piecing together a song structure until I have a rough outline. Then I’ll spend some time playing it and letting all the sections naturally evolve and become fleshed out. From there, I try to write other songs to compliment what I’ve come up with by either contrasting or reinforcing certain ideas.

What do you consider the most important traits that a song and an album must have before you consider it to be completed?

I try to make sure there’s a good range of different sounds and ideas on a release while keeping it cohesive and having the songs sound like they belong together. It’s important that an album has a good flow that keeps the listener entertained without losing the overarching “feel” that the music has.

What are the actual steps that you take when you are creating? Do you need to enter or go to a certain setting in order to get creative?

I usually start by just jamming riffs on the guitar and record the ones that stick out to me. I’ll listen to them and try to think of what songs/bands/art/movies it reminds me of and then will focus on those things and try to think about why the connection is so profound to me. I don’t want to blatantly rip off other ideas but I try to evoke the same emotions and feelings as things that have a big effect on me. When it comes to lyrics I come up with most ideas at night especially when I can’t sleep.

Except art are there any other external or internal factors that influence you when you create, if so what are they?

Things I’m feeling and thinking in my day to day life, nature, the night sky.

What is your main motivation to create and be creative?

I just want to always be working on music and growing my creative skills. I’ve always dreamed of being in a band and playing live and being around other artists. Despite having to move from my home city for work, that fire has never died. I’m always trying to find opportunities to work on music in hopes I can put all my time into it in the future.

How long does it take to go from a song to an album from scratch to the fully recorded version?

Since I record from home, it depends on how much time I’m putting into a song. I usually go through tons of different mixes and recordings on a track because I’m always listening and thinking about how I can make it better. At a certain point, I’ll decide it’s good enough because overworking on something can seriously damage the mood or feeling I’m trying to accomplish.

Do you take multiple takes of the songs before settling on the final version or do you go with the flow and just do one take?

Yes I do multiple takes. Even if the first one is perfect, I’ll record another few more to see if I can get more energy or feeling.

During live shows what do you like to do more, experiment and improvise on the basis of the existing album and songs or you are more likely to recreate the recorded material as faithfully as possible?

In my old band, Whyte Diamond, we didn’t get a chance to play live after recording our EP but we definitely tried to make our live performances more exciting than the original demos. Live shows are a great opportunity to let songs evolve naturally and grow with new life.

What are the main ingredients that makes a live show special for you?

It can really vary based on who’s performing but I think the most important thing to make live shows special is to really play the songs with feeling and intent. The performance doesn’t need to be perfectly tight and clean and not every band needs excessive stage presence but the music needs to feel honest and natural.

Do new ideas appear during live performances? If so how to do you proceed in order to materialize them?

Yes, sometimes new ideas come up live. It’s been a long time since I’ve played live so I don’t really remember what came of those ideas. I think I’m usually so jazzed to be in a live setting that I forget the ideas but that’s just part of being a creative type.

What is the perfect time of day and weather that makes you creative?

Night time seems to be when I come up with ideas the easiest. Different weather can have different inspirational effects. My favorite time for inspiration is after rain in summer or fall.

What are your future plans and what advice do you have for people that want to get into creating music?

My biggest goal is to move back to my home city and find new members to get Poltergeist some live shows. I’d love to open for my favorite post-punk and heavy metal bands or do a festival one day. For now, I’m writing new music for future demos.

The biggest piece of advice I have for people who want to make music is to just make music. Learn how to play songs that inspire you, record yourself jamming, try to commit to an idea and write a song. Even if you think it sucks, it’s important to your development to figuring out what works and what you’re capable of.

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