What is your earliest musical memory?
I will always remember the little keyboard my sister used to have with blue drum pads. I was always fascinated by it but she was always protective and I never got to use it much. I still remember the sound of the demo as it played the same theme through a range of styles. I was also exposed to a lot of Rock music and most of my family were regular gig goers for the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, White Snake and Bon Jovi. As a child my brother, sister and I would record ourselves singing along to songs, playing drums on anything we could find and creating our own songs, comedy sketches and impersonations. Looking back over it now it is clear that a lot of creativity was flowing throughout my childhood even if at the time I was more interested in Wrestling and Football. I didn't even hear Classical Music until I was taking GCSE Music at the age of 15.
What musical training have you had?
Once I had my own keyboard the next logical step was to have lessons. I used to go to a music shop called Westside that was a treasure trove of synths and keyboards that were beyond my wildest dreams. Going in every week and hearing them as I walked up the stairs was always magical. My keyboard lessons were functional to a point but being part of a group held me back and so I soon started lessons with the amazingly named Rose Silk. She was an eccentric Jazz Pianist and lessons with her were really great but often unpredictable and volatile. I still remember her closing the door in my face after I inadvertently offended her. Once my technique was developed I soon began giving recitals and composing my own music. I had a turbulent time at college doing A Level Music Technology in an old building where the technology inside was rotting and not fit for purpose. At the helm was Andy Hague an eccentric and very unstable diabetic. His lessons were frustrating and pushed me away from technology and more towards formal Classical Music. I eventually pursued my love of Composition at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama where I took a 4 year BMus degree. The course was intense but allowed me to really develop my voice. I achieved many great things and even had my music played by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. It was a fulfilling time professionally but somewhat depressing time personally with lots of musical politics and factions making for an uncomfortable experience at times.
At what point did you realise you wanted to be a composer?
When I first got my keyboard I found that I didn't actually know how to play it so for quite a long time I just improvised and made things up. These turned into electronic instrumental tracks that would form albums. I wrote a few albums (in the day of cassette tapes!) which I still treasure dearly. Even when I started formal lessons I still felt more comfortable writing my own music. It was a completely natural process for me and so I realised that I would never be a virtuoso performer but rather a composer.
What artists/composers have influenced you the most and why?
I have a very clear memory as to which artists have influenced me and they appear chronologically in my development as a composer. My first influences were Jean Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield as they took me away from the Rock music I heard all the time growing up. They taught me the importance of music without words and how music can be layered and developed without the need for story or narrative. After this I would place Rachmaninoff as having really shown me how to compose for piano and the role of emotion, drama and virtuosity in music. It was at this time that I was studying piano and I remember going to my local library on a weekly basis to take out scores and recordings of the great romantic composers. I would spend hours score reading and this is still a great pleasure for me. After this I became interested in more modern composers and in particular Steve Reich and the minimalist school. I began to develop an interest in repetition, simplicity and space and felt incredibly comfortable listening and composing in this style. Whilst completing my music degree I moved away from the avart garde modernist composers and returned to Rock music. It was here that I developed a passion for progressive rock and heard for the first time bands such as Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and Pink Floyd.