Thanks so much for the interview Joe! Your music was recommended by a writer friend who told me that while she listened to your work she wrote 10,000 words in one night. Obviously, your work is inspirational to writers and other creatives. My first question is how would you describe your work, and in what genre of music can it be found?
I write instrumental electronic music, primarily as theme albums. Its basis is electronica/trance/techno/ambient, and my latest work is what could be classified as ambient or ambient techno.
You’re a musician with an incredibly wide-ranging selection of influences. Can you name your top three influences and why?
Top three influences – hmmm. For sure, Jean Michel Jarre is the most profound influence on my music. I have been listening to this French electronic musician since the very early 80s, when my music teacher exposed me to him. From him, I learned the subtle art of how to coax a machine to make sounds that are out of this world. How to construct a song. How to weave a complex tapestry of sounds. That’s a lot to take from one artist, I know.
Next up, Nine Inch Nails/Trent Reznor. His work is amazing; what he’s done with soundtracks and instrumentals (particularly Ghosts, The Social Network) along with his conventional albums (Pretty Hate Machine, Hesitation Marks) is phenomenal. I particularly enjoy how well he uses dissonance.
My last influence, in order to acknowledge my classical training, would be J. S . Bach. Of all of the classical composers, it is Bach I frequently enjoy most, even though I know Mozart was the genius and the most popular. Yet, there is something in the manner in which Bach composes that speaks to me. My favorite of all classical pieces, Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, was written by Bach and demonstrates what I enjoy most about his writing: the ability to interplay themes and continually reuse them with subtle variations.
What instruments have you taught yourself to play? And do you recommend self-teaching to budding musicians, or is it better to pursue lessons from someone else?
I was originally trained on the violin. I have taught myself keyboards, and have a dubious flirtation with the guitar. I am very seriously considering taking some piano lessons. My advice to other musicians is to seek out learning wherever it is possible; however, having the guidance of someone who can teach technique is of great value. Lessons help students to avoid learning bad habits or making critical mistakes, and with a new instrument, this is important. Even some of the online training available these days is excellent!
With music lessons, though, recognize that most of the learning is still going to happen independently, because the real secret to any creative art is practice, practice, practice! Most practice takes place on your own.
Is your music ever influenced by books you’ve read or movies you’ve seen? And if so, which ones?
Oh, of course! I’m a fan of science fictions stories and movies, and those tend to be the kinds of stories that affect my work. I especially see much influence from Asimov’s Foundation novels, the film 2001, and The Matrix. As well, I deeply respect both Jerry Goldsmith (Star Trek) and John Williams (Star Wars) as both of them are influences on my own work. Of late, the fantastic work done by Bear McCreary on Battlestar Galactica has been some of the most powerful influence; some of the show runners have given interviews where they mentioned that his music actually became a character of the show as well.
This is a fascinating question. I think that a phenomenon we have experienced as a culture is that music pervades everything. There is now a soundtrack to our own lives, as it were. It seems to follow that whatever we read, whatever we view, is going to have some attachment, musically, to suggest emotion. That’s the kind of music that really speaks to me; it’s why I compose instrumental music primarily. There is such power in being able to set a written scene to music, or to imagine some fragment of a movie or TV show with different songs.
You took the RPM 2008 Challenge, described as “Write an album of 10 songs or 35 minutes, in the 28 days of February.” It sounds a lot like the NaNoWriMo competition (in which writers attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November). How did the RPM Challenge change your perspective on what you’re capable of musically? Would you recommend it to other musicians?
Why anyone would want to try writing a novel in November is beyond me. Or an album in February. That is, until you actually get down to the business of doing it, and then, in just a brief span of time, you gain vast experience about what not to do. These kinds of challenges are critical in my opinion, because they force you to learn new techniques, refine existing ones, and give you the opportunity to practice what you have learned along the way. If you aren’t doing these kinds of challenges, officially or otherwise, I feel you are missing out on some incredibly important opportunities to hone your chosen craft.
I absolutely recommend the February challenge to any musician or band. (Click here for The RPM Challenge). Of course, for authors, NaNoWriMo is the gold standard.
As a creative artist, how do you think the internet (and the explosion of social media) has helped your career? Has it hindered you in any way?
I have been on the Internet for an extremely long time, from its earliest beginnings back in 1990. To me, the Internet is quite possibly the greatest single invention, ever. It has profoundly changed human society forever, if only for allowing us to communicate as freely as possible to as many people as possible. I think that without the Internet, I would have a very difficult time getting my music out to the world. I recognize that ambient is a niche genre with a select group of listeners; for years, those listeners HAD no way to even obtain such music unless they were directly involved with the scene creating them. This was frequently problematic if said scene were many thousands of miles away (I am thinking of the early beginnings of Chicago House, or drum and bass in England, say) and one couldn’t be present. With the Internet, we have largely eliminated the delivery problem.
Think of it! We can publish complete works! Art! Novels! Music! Even films! And with the way that technology has progressed as well, we have reduced the cost of creation as well, so for the first time, the barrier to creation and distribution has dropped so significantly that people who would never have found a way to express themselves now can quite literally reach the world.
Where I see a hindrance, though, is that now more than ever we are competing for more mindshare. Books, movies, shows, games, blogs, posts, what-have-you, it is ALL there demanding our attention and competing with everyone and everything else at the same time. I am quite glad that for music, at least, we have eliminated the gatekeeper (the music labels and executives that determined who got airplay and exposure and who didn’t) as a bottleneck for getting less popular but no less important musicians out there. Unfortunately, that means we have to stand out in a sea of unending releases and distractions. Just even getting exposure to as many people as possible can be difficult. It is a problem I have not yet solved.
What’s your most recent album and where can interested listeners find it?
My latest album, Gateway, can be found on:
More information can also be found on my website.
For years, Joseph Gergis composed and produced individual songs, but in 2008 he released his first album, ‘The Darker Light. A simple bass synthesizer loop expanded into sonic landscapes of electronic and acoustic music. Violin and synthesizers intertwined at the crossroads of ambient and techno with the power of Propellerhead’s Reason software and his own violin. The album was part of Record Producing Month (RPM), the music world’s answer to NaNoWriMo: complete an album during the month of February with at least 10 songs or 35 minutes.
In the wake of that crucible, the production process matured into 2010’s ‘The Passage to Eternity.’ ‘Passage’ utilizes the orchestra to its full potential around the synthesizer with tighter production quality and a narrower focus of flow. Its 7th track, ’The View To Eternity’, was featured on the French compilation album, Radio Equinoxe 3.0.
In February 2014, after a four year hiatus, Joseph produced ‘Gateway’ for RPM. This evolutionary shift in Joseph’s career is an invitation to embark on a single, 40-minute sonic journey, pared down into small explorations. This departure from the more orchestrated prior works utilizes synthesis and minimal soundscape to give birth to dark, ambient textures.
Joseph Gergis currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio.
For more on Joseph Gergis and his work you can:
Like him on Facebook
Follow him on Twitter
Visit his website