Music & Me with … Laptop Philharmonic- 01 May 2019 -
Image: Sam, producer of progressive, piano-led electronica
In this interview, I caught up with Sam, aka Laptop Philharmonic, who has recently released a new album called – Two Monologues.
When were you first introduced to music?
I have an early memory or two of my mum playing classical music on our stereo system. It used to make me cry – “It’s too sad, turn it off!” I’d apparently say. But I guess it started properly when I was about 6, and went for my first piano lessons. I had no idea then what I was getting into, or how much it would dominate my life. It took a long time to click. Until I was maybe 13 or 14, I think I was pretty much just playing for the sake of playing really. It wasn’t until I heard some proper classical music – Beethoven’s Pathetique, or the third movement of his Moonlight – that I really switched on to it. All of a sudden, I realised that this instrument could be cool.
Tell me about your favourite teachers
I have fond memories of my first teacher in reception class. She was (and still is) a very musical lady, and was very keen to encourage her class in general towards musical thinking. Going to a music club that she ran actually came in just before piano lessons, and was the thing that sent me in that direction, I think.
What are your fondest musical memories?
I can get quite nostalgic about the late 90s/early 00s, which is kind of when I started to produce, although in a rudimentary way. Me and a friend of mine worked on a lot of silly little video games that we never finished, and I always got lost in making soundtracks for them. It was just tinny MIDI from the default synthesiser on my PC, but I just really enjoyed the experience of creating something that I could play back. Just occasionally I’ll listen to one or two of them now for fun. They’re really terrible!
What is your favourite TV theme tune and film soundtrack?
This is a tough one. Weirdly, I always remember the sound track from Ang Lee’s the Hulk. A lot of people didn’t like that movie, but I thought Danny Elfman’s score was really interesting and cool. Monsters Inc is another one – I love Boo’s theme. As for TV shows… I’m stumped. I don’t think I like any of them really.
What was the last music download/ CD you bought?
I found a copy of Les Misérables (the original cast recording) in a charity shop. Usually I can’t stand musicals – they’re so cheesy – but Les Mis is a bit different. I only listened on a whim after my vicar mentioned it, and I surprised myself by really getting into it.
Imagine you’ve been given GBP 250.00 to spend on equipment, downloads, vinyl, CDs, DVDs or concert tickets. How will you spend it?
I would totally spend that on production software. I’m using stuff from 2010 and backwards because I’m really stingy. I’d be interested to see what’s out there now. I’m sure I could find something good for that much money, although the world seems to be flooded with those horrible subscription-based things like you get from Adobe at the moment… it’d have to be software I could own and not just rent.
How do you balance music with your other obligations?
I jam it into every spare moment of my life basically. I work at a University, and there’s a big advantage in that because it has practice rooms with pianos I can go to at lunch time. Because I’m an IT nerd I can also happily listen to stuff while working most of the day – it’s not like we talk to many humans anyway. At the moment I seem to be waking up quite early in the morning. Before my child even. So, I get to spend some of that doing production stuff.
Happiness is … surviving a 10-hour brain op, then being able to just rest up and watch stuff and generally enjoy yourself for a few weeks because you can’t do anything else. There’s literally no guilt there at all – no one can expect you to function properly. Wonderful. On the other hand, I don’t want to have another brain op, and would not recommend that you have one unless it’s strictly necessary…