WITH TIM VAN EYCK
During this interview, I change seats, place myself in front of another artist and ask him the questions I wish people asked me. Today, I speak to the composer and pianist Tim Van Eyck who has just released re-mains and takes the opportunity to talk about his first release and philosophy on music.
Tim, tell us a little bit about yourself?
Well, I do not really want to get into my personality or anything. I studied music and production at university and then travelled around a little bit, eking out some kind of living. When I am stable, I can find a piano and make some music.
What about re-mains your latest solo project?
The EP captures the feelings of watching an experience go from lived, to memory; from memory, to distant past. Watching it dissolve away and yet leaving behind some vague essential element, a remainder; something to show that time has passed. To me, this feels like a weight, of something that hopefully does not dissolve into the aether. So, this is explaining it; finding some honest remains of a feeling you once had, see what time strips away and what it leaves, if anything. It should be what remains as evidence you were here, you felt this or that.
What is your composing process like?
It is the same as most people; improvise, find something you like, use your skills, taste and training to elaborate. It is nothing unusual, it just requires almost a third person perspective, reflexivity about the result in real time, which can be difficult to disengage your subjectivity in the moment. A couple of times I have a specific feeling and need to go play, or write something down. Particularly watching a movie seems to help make you more receptive. I recall a scene in Westworld — the TV show — which was just unexpected, full of atmosphere and just made me stop the show and immediately go and write a piece to capture what this made me feel so strongly. Turns out the music sounds nothing like the music used in that scene, when I went back to watch it a few days later (and finished the episode) but things like this happen too...
How do you translate your thoughts and ideas into music?
I would say that “how” is the same as most… you play, improvise and find something that resonates with you. “How” is also going to be different for everybody, there is no method to this that you can sell online, say this works for me and will work for you because they are holding up people like Olafur Arnalds, or Tool, who are all in a way exceptions to the rule, as the rule. They are the exceptions that prove the rule. Maybe you want to achieve a certain result, maybe you do not, maybe you need real world experience to draw from, maybe you are like Joey Alexander, and you are shredding jazz standards at twelve years old. The why is probably more important to me, because I really think there are a tons of really talented people making, teaching, creating, etc. and there are just the few exceptions that are right place/right time and who also have the work ethic, aesthetic of the moment, and are just part of the cultural zeitgeist at the right time. And as with most composers and writers, you want to read/hear something you have not heard and so you mine this vague territory to find something that you do not know yet. So you just gather some tools and experience and see what you can make of it. Philip Glass described it as wading through fog, and this is a good metaphor. Like many, I wade through the fog in search of something I can fashion into a meaningful experience for others. I also think finding that the result is not overly unique is less essential that I originally thought, it is not as important as it being simply well made.
Tell us about how you approached the production of re-mains; what was the creative direction?
As I mentioned, I had already recorded these works and had larger plans but the pandemic messed with them. I had to cancel two attempts to go record quartet pieces and lost my piano and my job as the pandemic started. So after a year I came back to these pieces and ended up ageing them and re-processing them, to match how I felt towards what was now history. It only recently felt like current work as well, the pandemic and the copy/paste nature of basically the whole year really messed with my perception of time. I think the Bandcamp page explains it well enough. I think it has to be both well made, according to some rule set or aesthetic world, and also be honest; honesty towards yourself when being creative is essential, and exhausting. If you can do that, then you are doing well. The creative direction is minimal honesty, in a way, honest minimalism? Something like that…
Which were your influences and guidelines for the EP?
I really like the War on Drugs — an example of being well made but not overly original — and Ben Lucas Boysen's album from last year, with “Love” on it, this is a sublime album and somehow “Love” immediately crushed me and still does. I try to work within my means, so drums are out for example. So to make something with limited instrumentation, with the minimum possible to communicate, I guess that is a guideline? Piano music for me is like working in pencil, it is not a full painting, it is a monochrome sketch of some temporal, usually intimate, experience.
So after re-mains what’s next?
I have no idea. I still do not have the ability to record new music, so hopefully I can figure out some way to do that in the coming year.
Thanks very much Tim. Last one for the road — one book, one album, one film —, tell us about your latest cultural pearls?
Book: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff — I cannot understand why it is one of Barak Obama's picks, all our paranoia is totally justified. Album: Mirage by Ben Lukas Boysen. Film: Eighth Grade — Bo Burnham is really aware and gives something really authentic here. I would love to say Blade Runner 2049 for the atmosphere basically, it is crazy good. But it is not the most recent one, special mention though.
Bouncing on Tim’s words, although I am not a huge sci-fi fan, the Blade Runner series — if not for the films but for the amazing soundtracks — is a must see! Read my review of re-mains.