Music & Me with … Greg Schwan from Witnesses- 01 Aug 2018 -
In this interview Elizabeth chatted to Greg from Witnesses, the New York City-based band, whose latest album “Witnesses II” is now available for purchase.
Image: Suvo Sur and Greg Schwan from Witnesses
Hey Greg. When were you first introduced to music?
I played piano as a kid. My older brother was playing saxophone at this time, as well. But in my young teens I became obsessed with drums. I can still play a basic beat, but my parents quickly redirected me to guitar. It was a pretty smart move on their part, thinking back!
Tell me about your favourite music teachers
That’s a really interesting question. I took piano lessons as a kid and had a guitar lesson or two, but I don’t have any real formal training whatsoever. Perhaps I can better answer in terms of which musicians have had the biggest impact on the Witnesses project for me: Ulver (their soundtrack work in particular), Arvo Pärt, Steve Roach and Wardruna. Truth be told, though, the deeper I get into Witnesses the more I listen to music unlike it. That’s very intentional, and I do it to try and keep clear of being overly influenced by others.
What are your fondest musical memories?
My wife and I flew from NYC to see Wardruna (for the first time) live at Union Chapel in London. I can’t really put into words what it was like when they start off the show with those massive lurs. Everything else in the world fades far, far into the background and you just wait to hear what will happen next. I believe the earliest lurs were instruments of war, so that makes sense. I think I’ve seen Wardruna’s first shows in London and NYC, and I feel very lucky in that regard.
What is your favourite TV theme tune and film soundtrack?
I guess a lot of people today would answer Kyle Dixon’s theme to Stranger Things, and I get it, it’s truly amazing work. But honestly, nobody has topped the edit of Jace Everett’s “Bad Things”, the theme to True Blood. It sticks with me even more than the iconic themes to The Sopranos and The Wire. In terms of film, we obviously lost a huge figure recently in Jóhann Jóhannsson – what a sad thing in particular coming off of the Arrival and Sicario soundtracks. He and Ryuichi Sakamoto seemed to be the best things going, probably followed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Finally, I guess I’d look like a charlatan if I didn’t mention Bernard Hermann, in terms of all-time greats – the prelude to Psycho may be the all-time best.
What was the last download/ CD you bought?
I actually purchase a lot of music. I use streaming services, as well, but I have no problem properly buying albums. In fact, if I can buy direct from an artist over a service like Bandcamp, that’s highly preferred. Anyway, the last album I picked up was Malmø’s We Come From the Stars.
Say you’ve been given a voucher for £300 ($400.00) to spend on equipment, downloads, vinyls, CDs, DVDs or concert tickets. How will you spend it?
I’ve been eyeing a Neve tape emulator, but it’s a bit more than that, unfortunately! I believe the Schiit Valhalla 2 headphone tube amp just makes it! I love my current amp, but I’ve been looking to get another. Though now you have me thinking about upgrading my DAC!
How do you balance your music with other obligations?
It’s not always easy to work a job and do music. Then again, I don’t really know how people who do music full-time can afford to eat. I think it’s just really a question of staying focused and having an understanding partner or family. I don’t have children, so that’s covered. But otherwise my wife is incredibly supportive and knows that I have creative goals that I am reaching for. So, perhaps the answer for me is that I’m just lucky.
Happiness is … I’m not sure I’ve figured this out yet. I studied philosophy and I think I just gave up. All I can do is try to figure out how to live in the world, the world being as it is.
Image: Cover of Witnesses II
You can purchase Witnesses music via these links: