Dario | Nov 22, 2023 | 0
Gleb Kolyadin on the making of The Outland, influences and new opportunities
iamthemorning piano virtuoso Gleb Kolyadin‘s third solo album “The Outland” was released through the British Kscope label on July 21, so we reached out to him to inquire about the making of the album in turbulent times.
Hi Gleb, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your new album, “The Outland“. Avid followers of your work might know the album already since you put it out on your Bandcamp in November last year. Now it is finally getting the big label release via Kscope that it deserves. Do you think now is a better time for it to be able to achieve the maximum amount of impact possible?
Hey there! Yeah, I’m glad that “The Outland” is finally on its full-fledged journey. Originally, I planned to release this work about a year ago, but due to war and some other circumstances, it got stretched out in time… It’s a bit surreal for me to listen to this music now; it takes me back to different times and mindsets, and honestly, I doubt I could compose something similar at this moment. But in a way, it’s not entirely my music anymore. Once you finish recording, the music takes on a life of its own. That’s the magical part – each listener can perceive and interpret what they hear, creating their own unique worlds through the music they experience. So, even though this album was created in different moods and feels a bit distant to me now, I’m confident it can find its audience and be captivating for someone. As you can see, it’s instrumental music; no lyrics or specific ties to events. It’s highly abstract and can transform into each listener’s own “inner movie.” Overall, yeah, I believe this album will find its way, despite the delayed release.
It is your third solo album, counting of course your self-titled solo debut that was released in 2018, but also the 2021 piano only release “Water Movements“. Even though the time period, during it was written and recorded, must have been the most challenging to say the least, global pandemic, war… I have the feeling that despite all these horrible, frightening circumstances, this might be your most uplifting work yet. Where did you find these beautiful melodies in times of crisis?
You know, despite the endless stream of awful events lately, I actually consider these years to be quite happy for me. When the world seems to be falling apart, you start to perceive everything around you differently and appreciate what you have even more. The past year and a half have been incredibly warm and human for me because they were filled with interactions with friends and mutual support. I guess I found myself in my own bubble, and maybe there’s an element of luck to it, I don’t know… But I’m still surrounded by fantastic people, and my connections with them have only grown stronger and more meaningful.
Sure, I had to leave everything behind and move out of Russia, and I’m still struggling with certain practicalities and my life has completely changed. But at the same time, I’m incredibly grateful for the wonderful people around me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to play and compose music with amazing musicians, and I’m thrilled to be able to share what I can do. It’s truly a fantastic feeling, and I try my best to cherish it. Perhaps, this is the main source of inspiration for new ideas and melodies. Some might call it naivety, but I think it’s more like a healthy way of engaging with reality.
You know, if you take in everything happening without any internal filters, you could go crazy. I believe I’ve developed a form of healthy escapism, where I try to create my own inner world despite all the chaos.
On your solo debut, you explored an eclectic and versatile mix of fusion and atmospheric prog, with guest vocals and a distinct darker edge. On “Water Movements”, there were not really any ‘band’ instruments (drums, bass, guitar) present throughout the whole duration of the album. “The Outland” features a lot of ‘band’ material again, yet without any lead vocals this time. When you sit down to compose new music, do you always know for what kind of musical ensemble the next composition will be, or do you just start composing and worry about the arrangement later?
It varies, but in about 90 percent of the cases, I start by recording a piano part. I might have ideas in my head, imagining different instruments and arrangements, but when I actually start recording, I begin with a rough draft on the piano. Theoretically, the entire “The Outland” could be played on the piano, although, as you can imagine, it might sound quite minimalist to some. I initially planned to create an album with rich instrumentation, the complete opposite of “Water Movements.” However, I also wanted it to be less chaotic compared to my first album and have a brighter tone. I consciously set myself the challenge of making this album feel positive and uplifting. It was even a bit of a challenge for me because, you know, making sad and dark music is way easier than creating something joyful and life-affirming.
For this album, I had a clear vision that the introductory track would feature a flute, and I had a rough idea of the percussion and how the guitar would sound. I knew in advance that I’d ask Gavin Harrison to play drums, simply because I’m a huge fan of how he colours the music. So, this time, when I made the demos, I hardly added any specific drum references. I just sent him the demos with the other instruments, asking him to do something cool in certain sections. And it all worked out wonderfully.
The process of arranging music is always fascinating for me. It’s often a pragmatic and somewhat analytical process, especially when I’m finalizing an idea. But in this album, I derived immense satisfaction and was truly inspired by the arranging process. Perhaps that’s why the album turned out to be relatively short in terms of duration but incredibly rich in terms of instrumentation and musical development.
There are a lot of (returning) musical collaborators from all over the world on “The Outland”. Who are some of those other instrumentalists, how did you choose them and how did you manage to bring all the recordings together in these turbulent times?
Fortunately, the internet was our saviour during these turbulent times. The entire album came together like a puzzle. I recorded demo tracks and then sent them to my sound engineer, Vlad Avy, in Canada, and we systematically replaced all the computer-based instruments with live recordings. Vlad also played all the guitar parts and produced the album. He’s a unique person, and we’ve known each other for many years, even before the first “iamthemorning” album was released. He moved to Canada, so our collaboration for the past decade has mostly been online. I can’t imagine what I would do without him; he’s truly irreplaceable.
Gavin Harrison recorded his parts in his home studio, during breaks from King Crimson concerts. At some point, we were discussing the album, and the idea came up to ask Tony Levin to contribute his bass playing to one of the tracks. I really wanted to use double bass instead of electric guitar, and I thought, why not? I didn’t know him personally before, but Gavin introduced us, and I’m so glad everything worked out. That track is still my favourite from the album.
Besides that, I reached out to Tim Lefebvre, whom I had been following on Instagram for a while. I’m a big fan of his work with sound, and I constantly stumble upon fresh releases with his involvement, so it felt like a natural choice to ask him. Again, it all happened through email, and after a couple of days of figuring out what we needed, I had the bass parts on my computer.
I also recorded some great musicians in St. Petersburg whom I know personally. Clarinetist Ilya Gindin, known for his jazz and klezmer performances, was one of them. My longtime friend and violinist Iliia Dyakov, who had previously played in early iamthemorning concerts, agreed to assemble a small string orchestra and record parts for several tracks. Grigory Losenkov, a person who had helped us with iamthemorning and is also one of Marjana Semkina‘s solo works’ arrangers, handled the beautiful string arrangements. I managed to gather a small choir for a couple of sections, thanks to my old school friend Darya Goloushkina.
Grigory Osipov played the marimba and vibraphone; we have been connected through numerous performances of academic music and minimalism. We recorded Steve Reich‘s “2×5” together a few years back. For the remaining tracks, bass parts were recorded by the Indonesian virtuoso Zoltan Renaldi, whom I’ve shared the stage with on multiple occasions, and we even played on Marillion Weekend together a few years ago.
Percussion was played by my friend and fantastic musician Evan Carson, who has been part of our live band with iamthemorning for about 7 or 8 years now. He also introduced me to the wonderful Eliza Marshall, who played the flute in the title track.
Even a seemingly small part on the hang drum was performed by Svetlana Shumkova, who had previously recorded drums for the last iamthemorning album.
So, as you can see, it all came together quite smoothly. I simply asked my friends with whom I frequently performed or had worked before, and almost all of them agreed to record something for the album. It’s like a musical mosaic, assembled from various countries.
Could you name a few major musical influences for you in general and/or also for “The Outland” in particular?
In the past few years, I’ve been listening to a lot of contemporary jazz, and I think it’s been influencing the music I’m making now… As for “The Outland,” I’d say there are echoes of Pat Metheny, maybe some Avishai Cohen vibes… a bit of Tingvall Trio, Hiromi Uehara, and some Scandinavian jazz elements. And of course, Mike Oldfield – the musician whose genuine melodicism never fails to inspire me. Early Gong, Steve Reich, and other minimalistic styles are in the mix too… Basically, a lot of different influences.
But I believe everyone will hear their own associations in the music. My musical tastes are super broad. I’m really into electronic music, various ambient sounds, and that dark jazz vibe like Bohren & Der Club Of Gore. I love it when different genres come together, like how Portico Quartet does it. At the same time, I never get tired of revisiting David Sylvian from the “Blemish” era, Dead Can Dance, Keith Jarrett’s solo recordings, Chick Corea‘s concerts, and I really love the recent Brian Eno‘s album… All in all, I’m open to any music.
Now that you have managed to move to the UK and are able to play live with iamthemorning again, will you focus on that, with a European tour already confirmed together with Cellar Darling coming up in the fall? Is there a new iamthemorning album coming as well around that time?
Yes, we have two exciting tours coming up with iamthemorning – apart from the October shows with Cellar Darling, we’ll also be supporting Marillion in November. It’s fantastic news because the last time we were on tour was back in December 2019 with The Flower Kings. A lot of time has passed since then, and we were limited in what we could do since we were in different countries. Now that I’ve moved to the UK, we’re planning to start working on a new album. We’re still in the very early stages, exploring new ideas, but I’m confident that we’ll have something to share next year.
Might these new opportunities also lead to a chance of some Gleb Kolyadin solo material being performed live in the UK or elsewhere in Europe?
At the moment, I don’t have any specific plans or offers for solo performances in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. Since my move, not much time has passed, and I’m still settling in to some extent. It would be fantastic to organize something like a tour with an expanded lineup, but I’m also intrigued by the idea of playing a few solo piano concerts. If there’s a good venue with a grand piano, that would be equally fascinating. Let’s see how things unfold. Right now, the most challenging part is aligning schedules for the upcoming months. We already have several offers for iamthemorning performances next year, and on top of that, I have a pretty packed schedule with several drama theatres for which I’m composing music, and a lot of remote work for other friendly projects… I’d love to be able to do everything everywhere!
You are also part of the Patreon community. What can fans expect when they sign up to your musical diary there?
I resisted the idea of creating my own Patreon for quite some time, but Marjana convinced me to do it in the fall of 2022. Honestly, it’s mostly like a musical diary, where I upload small new sketches or unpublished tracks from previous years almost every day. Over the years, I’ve accumulated around 400 of these drafts, so I’m slowly organizing them and sharing them on my Patreon, occasionally uploading some new music that can only be heard there.
Periodically, there are also live streams, including our joint tea parties with Marjana and her Patreon community. I’m not very good in the communication aspect, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some of my music, and I really appreciate those who support me there. It means a lot to me, especially during my move. In the fall, due to the concerts, I might not be able to post there every day, but perhaps there will be something like secret behind-the-scenes live streams and other video content.
Thank you so much for taking the time and all the best with the release of “The Outland”! Is there anything else you would like to add for your fans and our readers?
Thank you for your questions, kind words and support! I’m grateful that my new album can travel and reach new listeners, including through you and your readers. See you again soon!