Editor’s Note: Swiss pianist/composer Andrei Poliakov recently released his latest record entitled “La Promenade in Paris in the Sunshine”. The track depicts a a nocturnal vibe of the city: mystical and sensual, yet somewhat cheeky and mischievous all at the same time. His live album “Moonlight & Sunshine” is also out, and the album features unconventional structure, which has a yin & yang vibe, one track features a story in the moonlight while revealing the same narrative but different interpretation in the sunshine. In this mental health conversation with Madness To Creation, Andrei Poliakov discusses the writing process of this material, along with mental health and how he composes his music. Fans can find Andrei Poliakov at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: Most challenging and rewarding aspect when writing a song in the studio.
Andrei Poliakov: The most challenging aspect for me is to start a new track. I often sit at a piano or a keyboard, roaming across the keys back and forth, trying to stumble upon an idea (a melody, a harmony, a feeling…). And then I get up and nothing happens. And then the next day I do the same, and then the next day… it can be many days or weeks in a row that I have nothing worthy – and then all of a sudden a light comes up in a dark room and the tiny little piece of the future track gets through my thick skull bone right into my mind (I honestly never know where does it come from – but I doubt it’s me). Done, now I know what I am going to be doing in the next couple of weeks
The most rewarding aspect is to have completed the entire track and then start listening to it the next morning: as if by magic, the new music is born and I often feel like I have nothing to do with it. The music and I are getting to know each other, we start polishing small imperfections and begin to understand what story this music is trying to tell, but most importantly – just enjoying listening to it!
Madness To Creation: How do you prepare yourself mentally when you go into that studio to write or to arrange music?
Andrei Poliakov: I spend an insane amount of time at a piano or a keyboard beforehand. Just plainly browsing familiar and unfamiliar paths, playing around with the tunes I composed in the past, trying the new harmonic soundscapes and melody lines etc.
Also, a very important thing for me is the absence of a distraction. When I am in the studio (which is my office room at home crammed with the keyboards and some other gear), my phone is typically dead and not responding, my laptop is silent outside of my DAW, and I often lock my room so no one could come in and bother (and then they still interrupt me of course, and I do make a sigh and stop the music, stand up and go help my 8-year-old build that funny Lego car). Otherwise, to be honest, I do not need to prepare mentally a lot as I feel like I am always in this mental state of readiness to jump on a new tune.
Madness To Creation: You combine jazz, rock and pop in your piano playing, who are your biggest influences in your music?
Andrei Poliakov: I do combine these genres indeed, but the foundation of my music is always classical. When I was in school (yes, seriously underage…) my favorite pastime while cutting lessons was to grab a couple of friends, buy a box of beers, go to a nearest abandoned building (which we had a lot in Russia in the 90s), sit down on a window sill, take a sip of a cold one, and put the 6th symphony by Tchaikovsky, or the 2nd (no, 3rd… any of them!) Rachmaninov’s piano concerto on a Walkman and basically drown in emotions and thoughts… and beer.
Hence, the music that has influenced me the most, comes from the second half of 19th – first half of 20th century – and I must admit, most of it is Russian music or music with Russian roots. Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Skryabin, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Stravinsky – but also Mahler, Bruckner, Richard Strauss – these composers influenced my taste the most. Depth of thought, wide array of emotions, unimaginable soundscape and extremely clever and elegant arrangement solutions; beautiful harmonies and melodies…
Madness To Creation: What can fans expect out of the release “La Promenade in Paris in the Sunshine”
Andrei Poliakov: Expect a stroll in Paris on a sunny day!!! This instrumental has not only nostalgia and a day in Paris in its nostrils to take us away clear of our current snowy scene outside, but there is also a jollity bringing a smile to everyone in earshot.It is featuring an array of various live instruments, depicting a bright and sunny vibe of the city: romantic and frivolous, yet dynamic and playful at the same time. This music builds on a previously recorded tune for a solo piano, called “La Promenade in Paris in the Moonlight” – which was released last December and available to stream from anywhere – on Spotify or everywhere else https://www.funkypianoplay.com/music. I would definitely recommend listening to the whole pair of tracks as it gives a listener both a diurnal and a nocturnal perspective of the City of Light. This tune is also describing a real live story which happened to me years ago.
I was stranded in Paris with a friend of mine – we were 19 – for a couple of days with no money at all – the only several franks we had left we needed to keep in order to purchase a bus ticket to get to the airport. At some point we wanted to go to the Triumph Arc and decided to use the subway without buying a ticket … then we were caught by police, giving all our remaining money away as a fine. We had a guitar with us though; a couple of hours at Place Pompidou singing some Beatles songs and we were good to travel to the airport by taxi the next day…The fans can also expect to hear this music in a good movie in 2021, but I cannot disclose it in detail yet!
Madness To Creation: How have you adjusted promoting this release given the Covid-19 pandemic?
Andrei Poliakov: Believe it or not, 2020 has become a turning point for me in terms of producing, promoting, and even playing concerts. Thanks to work from home I have freed up a big chunk of my time, previously dedicated to putting on the proper pants, commuting to and from work, and all other annoying stuff. So I went ahead and learnt the basics of FB marketing, properly set up all my social media and Spotifys of this world and even designed a website, and – most importantly – got mentally ready to invest a bit of money to my music promotion. Hence, 2020 has been the first year when I took music marketing seriously, and the pandemic situation facilitated it for me tremendously. But I am still studying this area.
I have developed quite a few ideas as to what to play, evolved the way I compose and record, and I have brought a lot of those ideas to life. And I continue exploring things outside of my usual repertoire.Finally, I have re-learnt to properly play piano (I am still re-learning, of course), remembered some of my long-forgotten skills, and even dared to play an online event which you can watch on YouTube here. 2020 has become yet another turning point in my life, had it not come with so many deaths and grief and desperation for most people on this planet, I would have thanked it wholeheartedly.
Madness To Creation: Take us into how Switzerland is handling the Covid-19 pandemic along with how you’re adjusting the promotion of your music.
Andrei Poliakov: At one point in time, Switzerland was being the reddest spot on the COVID map of Europe – the usual life has halted to a stop once the lockdowns took place, and it now seems that the end of this gloomy days is still pretty far away. On the brighter side, I definitely notice the way the nature responds to the decreased air and road traffic – the aromas of the plants, grass, earth come back to life, the leaves seem to be greener than before, and the snow – whiter. We are working from home which means we see our children and get to play with them more often.
All generations have had to adopt digital communications on a wider scale, which means the grandparents see their grandkids more often, albeit on a computer screen. In my case, my mom who lives in Germany and works as a piano teacher, tutors my 8-year-old son on piano every day via Skype, to the point that it now seems that she is dwelling in our house for a couple of hours a day. On the personal note, I am not hugely missing the pre-COVID environment with the bars, restaurants, social life booming and blooming – we have been living outside of the big city for the past 10 years, right in the middle of the corn field and trees and cows in a very detached farm – but I do appreciate that my experience is not the same as for many other people, who have been struggling a lot these days..
Madness To Creation: A song of yours that people should check out if they don’t know who you are and why that song?
Andrei Poliakov: You know, this is the toughest question. Thing is, once I release a tune, it instantly becomes the “me” thing and the feeling typically lasts until I start producing the next one.
But if I had to go with only one it would be the Autumn from my last year album “Four Seasons” –
or if you do not have a streaming subscription, I am happy to welcome you on my website https://www.funkypianoplay.com/music
Autumn (as a part of the entire album) tells us a story of our life – our life reflected in an old, crooked, dusty, distorting mirror of endless seasons change, while people helplessly watching the wheels of time swallowing days, deleting months, munching the years – as lives pass by It tells about our souls and minds, desperately squeezing through winters and summers, rains and snows, winds and sun – in fruitless attempts to grasp the true meaning of life. We get born, mature, age, and pass away… leaving nothing but memories once an Autumn of our life is over…Listen to it, it is a very beautiful and philosophical track that also exemplifies my style pretty well – so if you liked Autumn, chances are you could be my fan!
Madness To Creation: What else would you like to add in regards to Andrei Poliakov and where people can find you?
Andrei Poliakov: I am super blessed as I am working with a fantastic Dutch sound producer – Wouter Kronenberg – who tirelessly helps me bring my music ideas to life; I do not think I would have ever achieved this level of proficiency had I not met this guy; so many thanks to Wouter! And I also have a very good friend of mine, a very talented artist and pianist – Natalia Osenchakova – who has kindly allowed me to use her beautiful paintings as artworks for my music; she is simply the best! You are welcome to visit my website, my Facebook page, or my Spotify page to explore all past and future releases and join some lovely discussions with likeminded people.
Check out his Spotify below and give the man a few streams!