Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: What type of artist are you?
E: Elektragaaz is an electronic multi-fusion instrumental band with a filmic or cinematic approach. One commentator has described our music as a successful combination of a variety of genres “ranging from the sizzle of jazz, baroque aromas, the smooth elongated flows of prog-rock, the energy of dance, and the heft of alt-rock.”
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
E: The unique multi-fusion electronic music of Elektragaaz is created by a group of talented New York metropolitan area musicians and a reclusive and mysterious young Frisian composer who goes by the name of Poppo Redband. The project was started after a 2017 conversation between Redband and Trebor “Big T” Lloyd, the producer at City Canyons Productions. Redband explained to Lloyd, who produces and arranges the Elektragaaz material, that the cinematic instrumentals of Elektragaaz were intended to unreel personal films in the listener’s mind and reflect a smorgasbord of old and new pop cultural references ranging from video games to film noir to tales of gods and heroes—both modern and ancient—to epic science fiction, to a myriad of other pop influences. Lloyd was intrigued and realized that a very special group of musicians would be needed for the Elektrgaaz project and proceeded to scout out the very finest talent available in the New York metropolitan area. The “chosen ones” turned out to be Kathy Sheppard aka Kathy Kaos (keyboards), Mathew Muntz aka Mat Thunder (electric bass and double bass), Jasper “Shogo” Dutz aka Jas Windstorm (woodwinds), Kate Amrine aka Kosmic Kate (brass), Tom McCaffrey aka Tom Elektron (guitar) and Josh Henderson aka Josh Firebow (strings).
While Elektragaaz has now released three EPs in 2021 (The Synaesthetic Picture Show, Parts 1-3), the group doesn’t simply churn out six new songs every few months. As noted, Redband launched Elektragaaz in 2017 (at the age of nineteen) and the catalogue from which the band has crafted its ongoing series of EPs is a deep one. Little is known about Redband except his nationality (Frisia is a section of the Netherlands) and that he is a talented composer and a video game developer. He is intensely private and has chosen to remain that way and his collaborators respect his privacy. However the band is very happy to talk about the Elektragaaz project and their work on it.
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
E: Poppo Redband composes the electronic core of the music and then the Elektragaaz band contributes additional flavors with bass, guitar, keyboard, woodwinds, strings and brass.
The songs vary so much they’d be hard to describe, though they all reflect a variety of influences as noted above. Here’s the way some music journalists have described just a few of the songs:
Dancing with Evil Intent (from EP3): “Elektragaaz opens their new EP with “Dancing With Evil Intent,” a deliciously sinister song that feels like the opening title track to a great thriller/spy movie. It sounds dangerous, sly, and a little sexy, like a dark trench coat whipping around the corner of a building.”
Sister Sangfroid (from EP2): “Swinging to a dancehall-infused groove like they’re out to prove how committed to chill beats they can be, Elektragaaz sound like the preeminent masters of multi-instrumental songwriting in “Sister Sangfroid” we’ve been in need of in pop and electronic music over the past ten years.”
Cabin Fever (from EP1): “Cabin Fever is a sharply written, gleaming shot of electronica further fleshed out by a perfectly deployed smattering sound. It’s a tense, tightly wound song suggestive of an animal poising to strike and delivers some memorable high points and climaxes along the way.”
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
E: We use Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube (we are just about to release a new video on YouTube) and promote to various music curators on the internet. We get some press coverage and reviews through a New York press agency. We’ll expand our scope, adding addition PR assets, when we finally are able to do live shows. Our producer has had some experience in promoting live shows which should come in handy.
PD: What music have you available online and where can we buy it from?
E: Our EPs are available on all major music platforms. A handy link to them all is https://songwhip.com/elektragaaz. For further information, you can also visit our website at https://citycanyons.com/
PD: So what are you working on at the moment?
E: Elektragaaz is currently working on its fourth EP in “The Synaesthetic Picture Show” series. It will debut on all major music platforms in early February 2022.
PD: What are Elektragaaz’s dreams and goals?
E: Currently our goals for the foreseeable future are to continue to turn out top-quality EPs every three or four months, pulling material from that deep catalogue. Our dream would be, once the pandemic is behind us, to take our show on the road. A big dream would be for that road to be an international one, since we are building a truly global audience with listeners in the U.S., UK and other established markets but also in Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, India, North Africa and other spots scattered across the globe.
PD: How would you describe Elektragaaz’s music? Anything you want to say about Elektragaaz, why you enjoying working on it?
Kate : It is eclectic and texturally always interesting. I love how every song sounds different and I never know what to expect.
Jasper: The music can only be described as vastly eclectic and densely unique in both texture and rhythm. There’s very few things it can accurately be compared to. One of my favorite parts of the project is the sense of “magic and mystery” each track gives the listener.
Josh: Music of the future!
Tom: I’d describe Elektragaaz as a setting or wallpaper instead of as songs. It makes you feel like you’re in a different place. The colors that I see usually are a different color depending on what track I’m working on or listening to. Everything feels a little bit off, and I think it helps bring out your childlike imagination if you let it. When I work on Elektragaaz music, I sit and listen to the track and let whatever imagination hold my hand all the way through. I try not to second guess any decision I make and tend to work fairly quickly. I think that if I got hung up on too many parts my contributions would start to lack a playful quality.
Mat: The music has a joyful maximalism that I feel is rare – the willingness to draw on a huge range of influences and to treat them with equal value reminds me of the “polystylistic” approach of Alfred Schnittke, one of my own favorite composers. I enjoy recording for Elektragaaz because I never feel limited in my self-expression when constructing the bass parts.
Kathy: The music speaks for itself.
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
Kate: Musical influences – everything from Miles Davis to Bjork honestly. It feels like every day there is something new that is inspiring. The other day I heard a cement truck with such a fun sound… I was like WOW how cool.
Jasper: Musical influences: -Oliver Nelson, Nat King Cole, Eric Dolphy, Bjork, Billy Strayhorn, Joe Hisaishi and many more
Non musical influences include nature, space and outer space, spirituality, films, animation, East Asian culture and comedy.
Josh: Gil Shaham, Jimi Hendrix
Tom: Radiohead, Frank Zappa, Trey Parker & Matt Stone
Mat: musical: Charles Mingus, J.S. Bach, Ornette Coleman, Ustad Amir Khan, Pandit Kumar Gandharva, Harry Partch; non-musical: David Lynch, Mikhail Bulgakov, John Dolan, Slavoj Zizek, Harry Partch.
Kathy: My greatest musical influences are Frank Zappa, and most prog rock, especially Gentle Giant. I also am influenced by classical music, especially the neoclassical composers. Non-musical influences would come from classical British literature, particularly Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Alexander Pope.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
Kate: I think downloading music online is great but we should always support artists with a purchase as well, instead of just a free download.
Jasper: I think its great! So much stuff to access now so easily and digital audio quality is getting better and better. I wish streaming platforms had better rates for artists and payed more ethically but I have only positive things to say about downloading music you pay for on services like Bandcamp that both support high quality content and pay artists reasonably.
Josh: I am a frequent streamer, so can’t knock it!
Tom: Downloading and Steaming are virtually the same and morally questionable even though ones legal and one isn’t , and the artist should be getting paid more.
Mat: I prefer having files to streaming things, and prefer having physical copies to files, but organization is hard.
Kathy: I miss the thrill of physical product. I miss shopping in record stores, coming home with my new treasure, unwrapping it, putting needle to vinyl, and settling in to enjoy an ALBUM meant to be listened to as an ENTITY, while reading the lyrics and enjoying the artwork.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
Kate: I can’t think of a song I wish I’d written!
Jasper: I don’t wish I’ve written any music I haven’t written. I am happy giving full credit of music I like to the artists that creates it. There’s music I haven’t written yet that I aspire to write tho! I want to compose the score to a video game one day!
Josh: 50 in Da Club; and more specifically the beat, as I wish I could make heads bop like that!
Tom: Happiness is a Warm Gun because it’s 2:45 but feels much longer.
Mat: Whatever I’m going to write next.
Kathy: The song that immediately comes to mind is “Little Baby Swastikkka ” by Skunk Anansie, which makes us FEEL the horror of racism, particularly when it is taught to children.
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
Kate: Musical pet peeves are people not taking things seriously or not paying attention to the details that make the music extra special.
Jasper: I don’t have many but I really don’t like when self proclaimed “dance music” completely lacks syncopation to dance to.. so much popular EDM doesn’t “swing” at all. It just blasts the same 4/4 downbeats forever and that’s really ungroovy to me. I wish more people aspiring to compose “dance music” would listen to afro-cuban and latin music to understand how syncopation naturally makes us want to move!
Josh: Name dropping.
Tom: Playing out of tune.
Mat: Bad counterpoint
Kathy: Anything where the musicians’ worth is devalued, such as paying to see a deejay play cover tunes or lip-synching, makes me want to barf. It’s inconceivable to me that anyone would accept imposters that replace musicians.
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
Kate: Proudest moments include getting through the past two years with a strong sense of optimism and excitement for music, making my two albums, chamber music I’ve created with friends in Spark Duo, eGALitarian and Kings County Brass, and what I’ve been fortunate to do as a freelancer in NYC.
Jasper: I’ve traveled the world, played at concert halls for thousands of people and won competitions. Ive also gotten to work with many of my childhood musical heroes. Im incredibly grateful for all of that, but the biggest moment for me was finding out the husband of someone I worked for was the voice actor to one of my favorite characters from a childhood video game/tv show I loved dearly. He read the text in my video game for me with the voice of the character he played and in that moment I realized music could take me anywhere I wanted to go.
Josh: Anytime slow work pays off
Tom: Making the first and second record with the band, Civilians.
Mat: The big achievements usually don’t feel good for that long, so whenever I make the right musical decision in the moment is my proudest moment
Kathy: There have been a few of these, but one of my favorites was getting to play a synth solo accompanied by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, while performing a piece written by composer, Chris Florio.