Carlos Cipa is a 22 year old composer/musician residing in Munich (Germany). Carlos discovered his passion for music very early in his life. At the age of 6 he began taking classical piano lessons with various renowned teachers. Ten years later after he started playing drums he became more and more interested in composition and improvisation. In the following years he experienced many musical styles such as jazz, hardcore/punk, indie rock and orchestral. Not playing just traditional concert rooms Carlos has so far shared the stage with marvelous acts like A Winged Victory For The Sullen, This Will Destroy You and Library Tapes...
The Monarch And The Viceroy is a remarkably mature and assured debut. How did you go about composing it? It also feels very coherent, did it grow organically as a sort of series of preludes or did you start with a clear concept in mind knowing you wanted to release an album?
The songs on the record were written over a very long period. For instance, “Lie With Me” (the 10th song on the record) was written on Christmas 2009 for my girlfriend and the title track “The Monarch and the Viceroy” a week before I recorded the record, in November 2011. Some pieces took me just a few days to write, some several months. Surely, I had the concept of this album in my head before, but not the specific songs, as I wanted them to originate very naturally and very instinctively. I hope you can hear this on the record and in the pieces.
The very first bars of The Whole Truth remind me of Erik Satie, even though the piece then unfolds in a completely different direction. You have a classical music background, what other composers and pianists have influenced you?
Well, I have a deep fondness for impressionism (Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel) but also film music of the 1950s (Bernard Herrmann) has affected me very much. Currently, I am deeply into the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Györgi Ligeti and not long ago I discovered beautiful pieces by Krzysztof Penderecki; you should definitely check out some of his current works. Not least I absolutely admire the music of Max Richter. He really found a way to touch me deeply.
There’s currently a renaissance of piano music with critically acclaimed works by the likes of Nils Frahm, Ludovico Einaudi, and Fabrizio Paterlini amongst others. At the same time the boundaries between experimental / electro-acoustic / and modern classical music are getting blurred. Where would you place yourself?
Well, I (just) started with a modern classical piano record a little in the likes of the ones you named (and in fact 4 or 5 years ago Ludovico Einaudi was an influence for me), but I really don’t know where my journey will bring me. Right now I am studying classical composition with Prof. Moritz Eggert, and this a complete different angle and shows me entirely different directions. But I am sure about something, I will always make music for people to listen to it. Sometimes, that’s a rarity in these days.
How do you feel about classical music samples being used within experimental / electronic music?
It’s a difficult question. Sometimes it can work just fine, and another time it can be horrible. Either way, I personally enjoy listening to classical music not being used as a sample a lot more.
You’ve adopted a “purist” approach so far, have you ever considered digitally processing the sound of your piano or using digital effects such as loops and delays?
I am already working on my next two records, whereas the next release will be for String Quartet (in 6 movements) with pieces I’m going to write for a theatrical performance in July, my second full-length record will be more of a studio record. Over the last year I’ve built a tiny home studio in my basement, and I am going to experiment with very different instruments such as an old reed organ, guitars, hammered dulcimer, etc. and of course I want to feature the drums (and surely the piano).
How do you feel about doing soundtrack work, have you ever been asked and is this something you would welcome?
I scored the music for two short films for a young director from my hometown Munich so far, and in the next month I will do my third soundtrack with another young director from Vienna. I really love working with pictures as long as you get enough time to work on the music. Nowadays in film, there is so little time provided for the composer; that is very sad and you can often hear it in the quality of the music. But I really love films and would like to contribute more of my music to great films in the future.
You also play drums. Was that part of a teenage rebellion phase, a way of getting away from the strict discipline of the piano? Also, what have you transferred from that experience into your piano music?
The drums really are playing a really important role in my life as a musician. Only through the experience of playing our own songs in my first (hardcore punk) band “Pangaea”, I felt that interpreting classical literature on the piano doesn’t fullfill me at all and I have to start writing my own songs on the piano. By playing the drums, you will get a complete different relation to music in general; my rhythmical feeling has evolved to a complete different level, which surely had an impact on my piano music.
How did you end up on Denovali and what is your relationship with your fellow label mates? You have toured with Poppy Ackroyd for instance, any further collaborations in the pipeline?
Oddly enough, it happened the way it usually never does. I sent the album to a few record labels and the guys from Denovali answered right away. Things happened rather quickly after that and we knew right from the beginning that we would be very comfortable working together. All the label mates I’ve met so far, are remarkably wonderful people, especially my fellow tour partners from Blueneck, John Lemke (Poppy’s touring partner, who will release his own debut in 2013 on Denovali) and Poppy Ackroyd; but also the funny guys from The Pirate Ship Quintet (they sold more records for me on the Swingfest in Essen, than me on the whole tour) as well as Eugenio a.k.a. Saffronkeira (We’re going on the road together in November). I am really glad to be a part of this wonderful family.
You will be playing at the Denovali Swingfest 2013 both in Berlin and in London. It won’t be first time for you as you’ve already played at last year’s edition in Germany. What has your experience been and do you already have a set list for the London event?
Last year’s Swingfest in Essen was a very beautiful experience for me. It is very rare, that an audience that big is that silent and attentive. I really loved playing there. On the 2013 editions in Berlin and London, I will do a few more improvisations as usual, but I will also perform a few selected songs of my debut record “The Monarch and the Viceroy”; I don’t have a set list as I always decide right before the concert which pieces I will play.