JAMES NORBERT IVANYI: Therapeutical Music

James Norbert Ivanyi

Australian guitarist and composer James Norbert Ivanyi is on the verge of releasing a new EP. Titled “The Usurper,” the three-track release is due on April 13, and it sees the artist pushing the creative envelope even further after “Aphasia” (2013) and 2015′s full-length “The Matter Circumvention.” Prog Sphere talked with James about the new release, the gear he used for recording it, and his future plans.

Define your mission as a musician.

I’d like to think that I write interesting music that blends elements from the classic rock/psychedelic era of the 1960’s & 70’s and mix it with modern, progressive, forward thinking heavier metal that challenges the listener.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your new EP “The Usurper” and the themes it captures.

Early on in the year I started to experiment with the concept of visually looking at an artwork, and writing music as an interpretation to what I was seeing. Some of the results were very interesting to me, so I continued on with the method until I had the bones of a full song. I didn’t consciously start writing for another album or EP, but a friend of mine suggested a shorter ‘EP’ as I’d only just released a full length the year previous. I liked the idea of potentially releasing less music, but more frequently. The theme of ‘The Usurper’ is based on my frustrations with the corruption of legal systems worldwide. I’ve experienced it first hand with the death of my father, and it’s something that I find perturbing.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I always operate on a ‘one song at a time’ principle during recording seasons. I find that if I stray from song to song, I loose the direction of what I was trying to achieve. With ‘The Usurper’ I wrote as I recorded, and I was lucky that it flowed easily because I always had the artwork on display for me to analyze and draw ideas from. It was very cool!

The Usurper

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

It is. I did try to capture the dynamic flow that resembled the experiences I had with my family going through a countries corrupt legal system. It was a time of much horror, anger, answers, resolution, lies and smoke and mirrors. I made an effort to reflect these emotions across the three songs on ‘The Usurper’.

Describe the approach to recording the EP.

Straight off the bat I knew I wanted it tonally to sound different from ‘The Matter Circumvention’. I really loved what I achieved with ‘TMC’ but didn’t want to rely on things I knew worked well. I wanted to be in the dark with the approach so I could be surprised by the end results, whether they were good or bad. I started to plan the tones, and notably different was that I wanted to use a type of guitar that I always fantasized about in my childhood, which is a Gibson SG. –A classic vintage rock guitar that was used a lot during the 60’s & 70’s. I also knew that I wanted to use my new amplifier, a Friedman BE-100 because it has a wonderful vintage, yet heavy tone that identifies with me perfectly, instead of my AXEFX. I wanted to push myself further with my psychedelic influences, and knew I wanted to have more vintage keyboards, saxophone and flute playing, so I spent the time needed to line up those for the recording sessions. All of these things came together perfectly. My friend David Horgan (drummer on the album) and I decided that we wanted to keep the ‘bigness’ from TMC in regards to the drums. So we worked carefully to maintain that, and David did an outstanding job, both with his writing, performance and preserving a drum sound that is both huge, but breathes and has dynamics. He’s the best in the world at what he does, no doubt. I mixed the record with David’s assistance, which was quite easy, as all of the source tones were carefully captured and sounded fantastic. Something I did different was getting it mastered by Brendan Zacharias of Breakneck Mastering, who helped me achieve a more vintage style master that I really love. Typically a little tamer on the low end, but full of dynamics and stereo excitement.

How long “The Usurper” was in the making?

All up from writing the first riff to mastering it was about 6 months.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

There was no particular band that influenced this release, but I think in my mind I pushed harder to capture the elements of the classic psychedelic bands that I loved in my childhood. It’s surprising how difficult it is to get those tones and recording methods right in this digital age we live in. It made things a little slower, but it was definitely worth it.

What is your view on technology in music?

My view is that it’s a wonderful thing, and the fact that I can make records from my home is something that I’ll never take for granted. Sometimes I think about how bands used to go to a studio and pay a fortune just to sit around and maybe get one instrument down a day, or a week. Its insanity… I don’t actually know if I would have what it takes to do that. I know in my band days it used to frustrate me to no end. For all its positives though, I find that to many musicians (especially the solo musicians) out there use it as a crutch, due to its convenience. Poorly programmed, un-realistic sounding drums (often done by someone who is not a drummer) are probably the main thing that hinder the enjoyment of a lot of that music for me, at least in the instrumental/independent scene where it’s very common place. In my opinion, there’s no way around the fact that once my ear catches it, a big part of the ‘essence’ of the music is lost. Perhaps this is a problem the predominantly affects only other musicians. I’ve found that for myself, the right balances of technology and tradition make for a listening experience that embraces a wider and more diverse audience.

Interview with James Norbert Ivanyi

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

For me making music is my therapy, and in a way keeps me on a straight and enjoyable path in life. It’s a bonus that anybody likes it and supports what I do, but honestly, making it and putting it out there is the best feeling I’ve ever experienced, so as long as I have my health I’ll continue to do it and make the most of the privilege.

What are your plans for the future?

Keep making music, playing live and sharing the experience with as many people as I can.

The Usurper by James Norbert Ivanyi is out on April 13. Pre-order it from Bandcamp, and follow James on Facebook for future updates.

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