Brian, your new album “Deep Clues” showcases once again your deep skill set. You handled all instruments, vocals, mixing and production for the album. Is it important to you to have all things firmly under control?
It really depends on the project. For records like “Deep Clues” and “Mirror/Mirror” absolutely. I hope to do an album with a full band in the near future.
Do you feel more at home on stage or in the studio?
The studio is home and the stage is like the vacation home, haha. I love both equally.
When I first heard your new album, I kept thinking about old heroes like George Duke, Prince or Kool & the Gang. Many sounds are reminiscent of the 80s, like the sublime “Bulletproof” with its warm AOR guitar sound. What fascinates you about this music era?
I feel like this kind of music is timeless and universal. Each of the artists you mentioned all worked within many genres at once, often simultaneously, while individually creating their own “signature” sounds. I hope to come across in a way that pays homage to the greats of the past while paving my own way into the future. Great music will never get old.
How important was soul, R&B and AOR for your musical development? Which artists influenced you?
I’m heavily influenced by a huge range of music from all spectrums, from thrash metal to video game soundtracks to italo disco, etc. R&B, Soul, and AOR have always played a huge role in my understanding of chord progressions and vocal melodies. Pretty much anything with a smooth, funky rhodes piano is going to be something I gravitate towards.
Many of your songs have cinematic qualities. Are movie scores and library music another important source of inspiration for you?
Absolutely. The “Bloodsport” soundtrack is one of my favorites. I’ve purchased several synths that were used in the making of that soundtrack for that reason alone, haha. Library music as well… labels like Bruton, KPM, etc. So much great stuff.
Brian, you called “Deep Clues” your most personal album. What motivated you to become more personal in you songs this time?
I think getting older and being at where I am in my life now as well as being more confident with my own singing. I’ve always tried to write from my heart when it comes to lyrics. Having a lot more life experience has made those words come more easily and honestly.
The excellent lead single “My Favorite Song” is an anthem for a fantasy California lifestyle of parties and free living, accompanied by your favorite tunes. You live your whole life in California. How much truth is behind this sunny California cliché?
At the time I wrote that song almost 3 years ago I was very much living that life. It was a summer full of swimming pools (and 100 spf sunscreen, haha!), parties, cocktails, etc. Best part of that summer was eventually meeting the love of my life, who much of my new record is also inspired by, namely “Brand New Love”.
Brian, you’re often called a “synth wizard”. Already with the progressive rock band Astra you played not only guitar, but also the Moog synthesizer. What fascinates you about the vintage sound of old synthesizers and analog keyboards?
I love that with synthesizers there are endless possibilities with sound creation. So many great classic records all use that same gear… music I grew up with, so there’s also a strong sense of nostalgia when hearing these classic keyboards. Almost like traveling back in time while still moving foward if that makes any sense.
You’re known for your big workload. Can we expect further releases or a tour this year?
Absolutely. I’m working on a bunch of singles and some secret projects that should see the light of day in the next few months. I’m also currently working on the follow up to ‘Deep Clues’ that I hope to release within the year. I’m putting together a new full band in the next couple months to start performing my music live and eventually tour.
Photo: Brian Ellis
This interview was first published on January 16, 2019.