11 February 2013

Roma Khleb's Interview with Graham Mushnik

It is with great pleasure to present my good friend Roma Khleb's wonderful and insightful interview with multi-instrumentalist Graham Mushnik. If you are not yet familiar with monsieur Mushnik's music, you're in for a real treat!

It seems now that we hear midi-controllers and computers more than actual musical instruments, so it is a real pleasure for me to talk about real instruments. And even more, when we talk about multi-instrumentalist Graham Mushnik. Mr. Mushnik plays several instruments (one of them being my favourite instrument – the electro organ), and is a member of several bands, as well as one of the founders of the label Catapulte Records.

I’ve come to know him lately and am impressed not only by his music, but by his parties as well. Currently, we rarely hear such good and honest music with the pure atmosphere of the 60’s and 70’s, when outer space was so close to us. Sometimes it seems that Graham can scamper with the blaster on the organ keys and shoot all hint of sadness from our minds. It may sound romantic or even pathetic, but it is so. Just have a listen.

Axel Oliveres (Graham Mushkin’s real name) is nonpublic and shy man. He shuns social media, but nevertheless I was able to get acquainted with him and begin a musical collaboration. I would like to share with you some his music, as well as a little interview that I got few days ago.

Roma: Hi, Axel. Tell us something about yourself. When and where were you born, and where do you currently live?

Axel: I was born in 1985 in a small French town. I left home at the age of 18 to study in Lyon, after which I moved to Amsterdam, then to London where I live now.

R: When did you start writing music? Are your parents musicians too?

A: I grew up in a very musical environment. My father was a record collector and singer/songwriter. My mother also played music. She had a great all-girl rock and roll band called The Godzillas in the 90’s. I never went to music school nor had any music teachers. I am completely self-taught, although my parents always encouraged me and helped me with my music. I started fiddling with piano and drums when I was 4 or 5 years old, but I really didn’t get into it until I was about 11.

In the beginning I wanted to become a filmmaker, so I collected film soundtracks (the first CD I ever bought was a John Barry compilation from the local supermarket!). I made short video films with my little sister, to which I would compose music on the piano. My grandparents had a cool electric piano/synthesizer where you could record 3 different tracks and that is how I started working on my own stuff.

R: what instruments do you play? What is your favourite and what is your dream instrument?

A: I play piano (and other keyboards), drums and guitar. I am also learning to play accordion. I don’t know which one I prefer, probably the drums or the piano…or the guitar! I really can’t choose. Actually my dream instrument is the human voice. I’ve been singing backing vocals in various projects and it’s the best sensation ever. I would love to improve and sing more (which might sound ironic since most of my music is instrumental). Another dream instrument I would love to own is the Hungarian Cimbalom. It is beautiful! One day I’ll have one.

R: How much time do you allot for music? Do you earn money with your music?

A: I spend more and more time on my music. On average I must spend 6 to 8 hours a day working on my projects (this includes my 5 bands, my solo project as Graham Mushnik, and my label Catapulte Records). I don’t earn a lot of money, although since 2012 a small income has started to appear thanks to gigs.  I also give piano lessons, and sometimes DJ or record stuff for other people. I still have to work from time to time at the market in London to make a bit of cash.

R: What/Who is your inspiration? Who are your favourite musicians?

A: I was a lot inspired by films and soundtracks, at first John Barry and Lalo Schifrin were my heroes, then I discovered all the Italian soundtracks; Piccioni, Morricone, Umiliani, etc. I’m also a big reggae and soul fan. At the moment I particularly like Curtis Mayfield, Syl Johnson, Ken Boothe, and since I moved to London, I’ve also been discovering a lot of amazing stuff from all over the world. For example, I love pop music from Lebanon, Ethiopia, and Algeria. I also love Brazilian forro and became a big fan of Luiz GonzagaĆ­s. There’s definitely a lot more!

R: Tell us a few words about your label Catapulte?

A: Catapulte is my main project. It’s a label I run with my friends Luke Warmcop, Juste Voyant and Andrea Piro. With them I also formed the bands Guess What, Pissinboy and L’Orchestre du MontPlaisant. It’s a great freedom to run your own label because you basically release the music you like, when you want, and how you want! You can also release music you like from friends’ bands, etc. Of course, we only make 500 copies of each release, but for us this is a good thing because if we made more, it would be so much work that we wouldn’t have time to play music!

R: This spring your new album will be released, can you tell us about it? What instruments did you use? Any new experiences for you?

A: Yes, it’s a silly title: ‘On the Phone with Graham Mushnik’, I wanted it to be more funny and playful, and also more diverse musically than the first LP, ‘A Distant Wildlife’. I don’t want to say too much; there’s some Iranian Dulcimer on it and some Roland Juno parts as well. There are guitars, pianos, organs, and a bit of accordion on a Brazilian-sounding song. New experiences? Yes! I always explore new sounds and new rhythms, which is the point when you work on your own!

R: Well thank you Axel for taking the time to answer some questions.

Here is a collaborative track between Mushnik and myself, which I am posting exclusively for Alfonso’s blog:

Be sure to check out the accompanying video as well!

You’ll be able to hear more of our collaboration on Mushnik’s upcoming album. Enjoy!

Check Catapulte Records’ site here.

Graham Mushnik's page can be found here.

Graham Mushnik's blog.

Lastly folks, be sure to check out these fine albums:

Graham Mushnik’s ‘A Distant Wildlife’

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