ROMAN SPEKTOR: Unlimited Creativity

Roman Spektor

Israeli singer-songwriter Roman Spektor combines elements of industrial, prog rock and experimental pop, and his debut album ‘Functionality‘ is a perfect amalgamation of the mentioned styles. Spektor was recently featured on our Progotronics compilation, and he answered our questionnaire about the album, his mission and more.

Define the mission of your project.

For me it seems somewhat like a typical solo debut album – I wanted to share a glimpse of my world and experiences. But I also wanted to explore my creativity and push it to various directions and limits. I think the fact that different listeners like absolutely different songs and genres is an advantage.

For instance, “Checkbox” is a protest song and is more on the grunge/hard rock side. “Thank You Father” is about family drama. “Look For…” is a story of a broken heart where I explored experimental pop. The song “Docks”, a lucid dream is described in very gloomy minor scales, and “Cut the Cool Air” is an optimistic love song.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your recent album “Functionality” and the themes it captures.

It all began with the will to explore sounds and rhythms that I wanted to hear more, as a listener. I started by playing around with one of my self-built instruments – a merge between a hurdy-gurdy and an acoustic guitar (which I ended up not using at all in this album), but I also experimented with pre-recorded samples. This eventually became the song “Look For…”. After completing only a verse, I moved on to creating another song. I tried to combine a soft melancholic melody, with cajon drumming that I recorded with a ribbon microphone mostly made of wood, which I made a few years ago. So, this one eventually became “Thank You Father”. I started each song differently, but almost always working on the music and the lyrics simultaneously, and I merged them later on.

Afterwards, I made gradual changes to both music and lyrics until I was satisfied or close to being satisfied with the results. This process was applied to all of the songs, with “Tiny Virtual Mouths” being the last song I recorded.

As for the production – I made drastic changes throughout the whole process. Some songs initially had more electronic sounds in them, such as “Checkbox”, which I replaced the drum-machine sounds with an acoustic kit in the end. I recorded, edited and mixed all tracks.

As for the themes of the album, they include my view on: cultural behaviors, love, loss, personal struggles and day to day life.

Roman Spektor - Functionality

What is the message you are trying to give with “Functionality”? 

The album is all about the efforts you invest in life: Throughout  all the tracks, actions and decisions are being investigated. With “Functionality”, my attempt was to deliver a strong sense of real life situations in recent times among family and society, and the possible outcomes.

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

Recording and performing on my own, I concentrated on the work itself and rarely documented any of the sessions. I did post some short videos and photographs of the making process on my social pages. But they are far from reflecting all of the work that has been actually done.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

I was fourteen (and it was fourteen years ago, actually) the first time I ever produced anything on my own, and it was a hip hop track. Naturally, ever since my inspirations varied and have been enriched. In “Functionality”, one sometimes hears unexpected surprises that interrupt the flow of the song – but actually it is an interpretation of dynamic levels/harmonies/rhythms. The song order is also set in a way that the energetic level always maintains highs and lows.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

Working as an audio engineer for a while – didn’t leave me any other choice but to get it done as neatly as possible. It was tricky to record myself and play or sing at the same time, but also convenient to do so at home. I have a small recording studio that I crafted and adjusted acoustically. But other than the traditional methods, I experimented and recorded sound effect ideas, for example: In “Checkbox”, there are computer keyboard typing sounds; In “Binary”, there are growls in the backing vocals that sound more like haunting whispers in the way they are mixed together with the lead vocals. Drums and some percussion instruments were recorded with MIDI devices.

I also recorded Gali Spektor’s (my wife) mesmerizing saxophone parts in “Functionality” and “Selling Doors” and Didi’s (her sister) haunting vocal parts in “Look For…”. Also, Gali is the person who made this whole thing possible. She didn’t just help me, she was an active consultant for almost everything in the process.

How long “Functionality” was in the making?

Grossly, it took me three and a half years from the point when I recorded the first verse of “Look For…” to the end of the mixing process. A lot of exciting and wonderful things happened in my personal life during this period of time, and I also keep a day-job which is not music related.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

Iamthemorning, Bent Knee, Anekdoten, Antimatter, Kevin Gilbert, Katatonia, Leprous, Steven Wilson, The Mars Volta, A Perfect Circle, Riverside, Sóley, Röyksopp, Soulwax, Opeth, Depeche Mode, Air, Massive Attack, Radiohead, Beck, Björk, Alice in Chains, Queens of the Stone Age, David Bowie, Fever Ray, Kings of Convenience, Korn, System of a Down, Infected Mushroom, Matt Uelmen.

What is your view on technology in music?

When it comes to music, technology is simply underrated – even for the most futuristic-sounding bands and artists. The film industry has used much more advantages of the updated sound design capabilities. As an artist, you can now be more dynamic than ever before in terms of volume levels and spectral characteristics, and it would still sound conventional.

In terms of marketing – it feels like we had to wait ages before the streaming applications became popular. On the down side – of course, anybody can share their music now and the amount of published music is unimaginable. Still, as a listener it’s still much more convenient to just consume the promoted, top tracks in playlists that I’m more likely to trust. Nobody wants to spend time on listening to music they’re just okay with. The struggle to stand out remains, but the rules have been changed.

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

That is the hope of anyone who publishes their own art, isn’t it? Otherwise artists wouldn’t create their own music. By expressing myself I want people to relate to my music, to see some reflection of their lives, and sometimes just to surprise and inspire.

What are your plans for the future?

Six months before the coronavirus pandemic broke out and locked us all down, I started a band and we were playing songs from the album together. Hopefully, we soon will be able to restart our rehearsals and perform on stage for the first time. Afterwards, we might record new songs together as a band rather than a solo project. Currently the band members are: Shay Kintzlinger (drums), Itamar Oz (guitars), and Amit Pozner (bass).

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