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montage collective

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Montage Collective’s debut album “interstitial” presents a sprawling variety of electronica that is deeply rooted in the genesis and golden age of the genre.

Admirers of the best examples of early 80s English and German synth music will feel very much at home. However, far from being just a time capsule, the album is of its time, bringing in the sophistication and eclecticism of today’s huge electro moment. #synthfam

Melodically, the album feels almost like a soundtrack. Each of the 12 songs are introduced by short instrumentals or “interstitials’.

The inclusion of strings and piano on many tracks suggest visual storytelling whereby the listener can create their own film.

Montage Collective have released an album with a variety of moods and textures. There are even a couple of dance floor bangers for good measure.

The album has being masterfully mastered by FUSED (UK).

radio interview

Timo was interviewed in August 2020 for a radio show on WOWfm. He selected 9 of his favourite songs, talked about his musical childhood, his influences, the Static Icon days and his new found love in the creative process. Below is a two minute excerpt from that one hour show.

interview

Q: Timo, congratulations on your new album “interstitial”. Tell me about the studio gear you used on the album and what you like about those tools.

I wanted to keep it very minimal. I just wanted to work with a keyboard, a microphone, a bass and a DAW. That was it. It was very lean, which is what I needed. Whenever an idea would come it was easy just to go to the laptop and get the idea out.

Q: What was your creative process for this album?

Well, these songs had been rattling around inside my head for nearly two years. I’d wake up with melodies and go to sleep with melodies, so I’d grab my phone and I’d record whatever was in my head.

That was the first step. I would often have lyrics accompanying the melody, so I’d write those down or sing them into my phone.

This went on for over a year. Some melodies stayed and kept coming back, some didn’t and some others evolved.

Then it was a matter of turning these melodies into songs. That happened essentially thanks to the pandemic which forced me to get the melodies off my phone, onto the keyboard and into the DAW.

The third step was getting the vocals down. Again, this was assisted by the two week hotel quarantine I found myself in. I turned the shower cubicle into a vocal booth and just went for it. It probably kept me sane.

Q: What part of the process flowed most easily?

The whole process was easy. Once you have the melodies it’s just a matter of finding the sounds you need. Sometimes that is the hardest part. I had thousands of sounds on VSTs at my fingertips. That was part of the problem.

That’s where the time was spent just tinkering to find the right sound.

Q: This is your first solo album but I know you love to collaborate. How was the process of creating without others input?

It reminded me of being 13 again because that’s when I first started composing on my own. I basically drew upon that again. It was easy to snap back into how I felt when I was a teenager with just a drum machine and a synthesizer and a piano.

I felt more confident now because I know a lot more. I also had to draw upon my sound engineering background. But I also had a big learning curve with the tools as well.

Compared to collaborating it’s a completely different process. Fortunately I was motivated enough because it was like an obsession to get it finished.

I didn’t feel like I had another option. I couldn’t turn around and go backwards.

Q: What was your production timeline from start to finish? When did you first realise you had an album’s worth of tracks and would embark upon that?

I think that’s when I went through my phone and realised, hang on I’ve got all these melodies here, and some of them were still rattling around inside my head. I realised, that’s a lot of material you could actually do something with.

And why wouldn’t you? From that point the production was quite quick over a few months working part time getting the music down and the mix which took another few weeks.

What I realised was when you work alone you have to play everything. You have to critique everything, and I am quite critical of myself. So I didn’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of.

Normally a band consists of more than one person. So when you are solo you are doing the work of those who aren’t there. I have to be the first, second and third keyboard player. I was the singer and the backing singer, which is why it took longer compared to how I have worked in the past with others.

Q: Did you learn anything or did anything change throughout the process?

I learned I can rely upon myself for decisions. I found confidence in those decisions. I was always aware that my abilities were there but I wasn’t sure how things were going to turn out, or if anyone else would want to listen to it.

So I think there was a point initially where I thought was I was just doing it for myself, then at some stage I thought, these aren’t too bad. So what could have ended up staying purely on my phone, I eventually realised I could share.

I think once I got into a rhythm it became easier and I could trust myself more.

Now I’m looking forward to doing something else because I would be going in with a much better understanding of what can be achieved with the gear and also me. There was a lot of questioning in this process and I suspect there wouldn’t be the second time around.

Q: Why did you choose the name “interstitial” and what does it represent?

The name was suggested by someone very dear to me. I hadn’t heard of the word before but it seemed to fit perfectly with the concept I had. It’s often used in media to describe a short piece nor more than a few minutes, which could be information or infotainment.

It is a snippet of something you see or hear and sometimes come away feeling you have learned something.

And then I realised that all of the songs were about being in a temporary space you are not used to. So I took the word interstitial to mean the space between. It is also what happens to you when you are between phases or points in your life.

For me the last two years has been one long interstitial. But there have also been many episodes or snippets within those two years. So it’s capturing the idea that is okay to go through those separate moments and you respect each one for its own value.

You can work through the big things better when they are seen as independent steps, or interstitial steps.

So instead of a three hour movie, it’s 25 short films which explore one overall topic. In this case the topic is grief, loss of role, loss of identity and consequently change. But each track and each instrumental represent those little moments that reflect the mood I felt at the time over those two years.

Q: What about the cover design? Are the circles symbolic?

Yes, the circles are these moments, points in time or stations. They can overlap slightly but they are independent. It’s a bit like days of the week. Each circle represents something else. But they do overlap to a degree and seen from a distance they can be seen to form one whole image.

I think thematically you could say the album is about one thing but there are many aspects and perspectives to view.

Grief is a huge topic and loss of identity is a huge topic and you can’t tackle it in one track. So the cover represents all those different pieces and how they may come together to form something that looks aesthetic hopefully!

Q: How is creating music different for you now than 25 years ago?

I think just life experience mainly. There is also a sense of urgency now more than before. 25 years ago things still had significance but they weren’t as heartfelt, well for me personally. I think there is much more to share now than there was back then. Now every note has much more resonance.

Every melody is much more personal. So I think it is a much more intimate process than it was back then.

Q: I can hear influences in your music. Can you tell me more about key influences or those that are your longstanding muse?

So, I guess this gets back to being 13 again and feeling comfortable. I realised I was drawing upon music that inspired to me since 1980 and I felt close to and it comes naturally. Part of my musical DNA maybe. I was aware that I was drawing upon those influences in some way.

So I decided that in my own way that I would include tones that would be like a homage to those artists.

I would say there some John Foxx in there, some Depeche Mode, some OMD, a bit of Gary Numan and early Human League too. To bring it up to date I think there is some Presets in there too. Maybe a little bit of 90s to a degree.

What was happening while I was creating sounds I would think “Hang on this feels like something I know”. So I thought let’s go with that. Let’s not be afraid to use that same synth sound that John Foxx used early on.

But I think it’s different enough. It is still electronic in form but I think the sentiment is very different. I’ll leave that up to everyone else to decide though.

Q: What’s next for Montage Collective?

I’ve already started visualising a few things. I think the whole process of me getting back to a creative life is something that isn’t going away and I should continue to feed. One idea is to collaborate with people who generally do not have a voice or platform.

It would be something entirely different, for example go back to just piano, bass and vocals. Very simple. But the lyrics would come from someone else, or a group of people. I am thinking about working with the homeless and asylum seekers. I can just step back and maybe write the music and record it.

I am also keen to compose music for short films as well. But both of those things can happen at the same time. Who knows.

I’m just grateful to have had the time and space to create again.