Read Tom Eaton’s new Q&A talking about his albums Abendromen and most recent one indesterren!
What inspired you to become a composer and who are your early influences?
I started playing piano in high school around 1987 and got into synthesizers at the same time. Mostly I was listening to the pop music of the time, Peter Gabriel, Eurythmics, Thomas Dolby, but also Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre. Through a friend I was led to Windham Hill…Will Ackerman, Michael Hedges and George Winston, and those more acoustic albums balanced the music coming from the Private Music label that was releasing amazing electronic work. So my piano playing was being influenced by the sequences of electronic music and people like Winston, and my electronic work was being influenced by the ambiance and sparseness of the Windham Hill records, which was similar in use of space to what Patrick O’ Hearn was doing at the time. Probably the deepest and most lasting influences were Tangerine Dream and Tim Story.
Tell us a little about how you write, how do the songs come? What gets you going creatively?
Both of my albums that were released in 2017 came from a huge emotional upheaval and life change I was going through. “Abendromen” was a way to process the deep sadness and loss I was feeling, and “Indesterren” was more about me finding my footing in a new chapter of my life. My music frequently starts at the piano, even if the piano doesn’t play a huge part in the finished material. For much of what I doing these days, the first thing I do is create an ambient electric guitar loop as a textural landscape for the piece and then work the melody over that shifting drone. Once I have the bones of melody, usually drawn from one of the piano improvs I’ve got stashed away on video, I start weaving electric guitars, bass, percussion and synthesizers in and around the melody until things seem to find a sense of cohesion.
Your bio mentions that you’ve been a recording engineer since 1993. Tell us more about that?
I opened my first commercial studio in 1993, catering mostly to the folk and singer-songwriter scene around Boston/Cambridge, MA. For seventeen years I produced albums in that genre before a chance opportunity led me to Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road studio in Vermont when Will was in search of an engineer. We hit it off and in the last six years, we’ve produced more than fifty albums together for clients from all over the world. We record at Will’s studio in the mountains of Vermont and then I mix and master at my own studio where I am usually working on some of my own music in addition to the Imaginary Road albums.
What is the first record you bought and why?
I was dj-ing friends parties starting in sixth grade, with my own 45 collections, so it must have been some pop hits of the time. Prince, or Men Without Hats or Hall and Oates, maybe. I definitely remember the first three CDs I bought: Tangerine Dream-Tyger, U2-The Joshua Tree, The Police- Every Breath You Take, The Singles.
What current Australian(or Local) acts inspire you? Ditto for international acts?
I’ve done a bunch of work now with Fiona Joy, both on her Signature Synchronicity album and in her capacity as a member of the FLOW group with Will Ackerman, Jeff Oster and Lawrence Blatt. Working with Fiona is a blast…she is fearless and completely committed in the studio. I adore Damon Albarn’s recent work…his “Everyday Robots” album is brilliant. There’s a rock band from the states called House of Heroes that is amazing, their newest album “Colors” is getting a lot of play here these days!
Tell us a little about your music and what a crowd can expect at a live show?
My music sits somewhere between “pretty” new age, full on electronic music and ambient music…with some electric guitars thrown in for good measure. I wander in and out of using rhythm parts…some songs are percussion driven and others float on those beds of swirling electric guitar. When I’ve played live in the past few years it has been solo piano… the albums are too textural for me to pull them off in concert by myself, so sitting at the piano seems like a direct and familiar way to introduce at least part of my voice to an audience.
Favourite artists of all time?
David Sylvian, The Blue Nile, Tim Story, Tangerine Dream, Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush, Kate Rusby and Will Ackerman!
Where do you see artist careers heading?
Well, it’s hard to see the financial return side of the business improving anytime soon, but for those that want to be out on the road playing there is still a living to be made. It’s a different music industry model now that the internet allows music to be moved nearly instantly all over the world. I still love making albums that are collections of songs circling around a central theme or feeling, but the world seems to have returned to a more singles-based model, though of course vinyl is coming back to some degree, so there are music listeners who do want to immerse themselves in a longer experience, which is a good thing. I hope that somehow the streaming world comes around to a more artist friendly system, where fans can listen without spending too much money and musicians can get more than fractions of pennies per spin.
What are your future plans for 2017/2018?
I have three albums of my own in the works right now, and the constant cycle of albums that Will and I are working on. So my plans are to sit right here in front of my mixing console and make some music!
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