Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I have the luxury of having a day job that gives me all the freedom that I need for my music endeavours so I can keep "creative hours", getting up without an alarm and then working until it's no longer possible to stay awake. I'm quite an owl so very often the most productive part of the day for me are evening and night.
I usually like to begin my days with yoga, breakfast (most important meal of the day) and then get to whatever burning tasks I have. I've got a habit of multitasking - not always convenient considering my ADHD - but it helps me blend all of my activities together.
If I'm in the "writing" stage of an album of course I hyperfocus on writing much - but usually during the evening when all of my work colleagues wouldn't distract me and all admin stuff is taken care of. I manage myself and the band and I do basically everything that needs doing (from social media to packing and sending the orders) so my life is always divided into periods … when I'm writing for a release I close merch stores to not get distracted by my postman responsibilities and focus on writing - I taught myself to approach it like a job in a sense of discipline. I don't wait for a specific mood or for the mythical muse to grace me with her presence, I pick up my guitar, turn on my computer and just start playing and something always comes to me.
If, like now, I have an album that's ready, my days mainly consist of admin, making sure all merchandise is designed and manufactured and managing the store. It's hard when during that time you have to also write because it's a completely different headspace so I'm trying to separate these different "modes" of my life but it doesn't always work. For example I'm in the middle of a promo campaign for my solo EP at the moment but I also have to put together a livestreaming event for the band and write some material for a new project I got that has a studio booked in a few weeks time so it's time sensitive. I'm yet to find out if I can effectively combine everything I have to do because I don't think I've ever been that busy before … I'm always busy but this is another level.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
It all starts with a deadline.
I discovered for myself that setting tough deadlines helps me focus so each time an idea for a release comes to my mind I go and set a deadline - either it's talking to a record label or just deciding for myself when exactlyIi want this particular release out. And then there's no way out of it, I have to deliver so I start writing.
I'm an avid reader and I love history so very often ideas for albums/songs come out of books or sometimes I see something in a museum (I practically live in Tate Britain!) which triggers an idea and I just unravel it until it forms a song.
There was a song on Sleepwalking that was inspired by the Ophelia painting by Millais and indirectly quoted Ophelia from Hamlet - I love sneaking in the little references to my favourite poets and writers into my lyrics.
I did it with Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, William Blake and Christina Rossetti and William Rossetti. I'm always curious if anyone will pick it up and some people do - mostly with my help though (laughs).
The idea to release an EP (Disillusioned) came to me in early June, and I immediately started writing for it. I wrote two songs, selected one of the old ones for the release and found two choirs in different languages that I'd like to include, and at the end of the month I was already recording everything in a studio. After that I flew to Russia to work on all the imagery with my creative team while my producers helped put together the arrangement for the songs and mixed/mastered it. By August everything was ready and I launched the preorder. If i'd given myself more time I probably would have used all of it with pretty much the same result … I probably would have been stressed and exhausted a little more but I'll rest when I'm dead so it's okay. There's nothing more precious than time and I'm not here to waste it when I can get things done.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Every time I feel stuck or like I'm walking in circles I go see new places, new museums or go traveling - which of course was a problem in the past couple of years but even then there's so much to see around us to seek inspiration from. I love burying myself in some new topic to research and read about and very often I get a lot of inspiration out of it.
For the last IAMT album it was Victorian England and premature burials (both were my passion for a long time actually) and now I'm into criminal psychology and serial killers so I can't wait to see what the next band album will be about (laughs).
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
When we just started, we played a lot of shows before even recording our first album but after we got signed and joined all the "cool kids" we rarely played unreleased songs live before we recorded them because this is just how it works. Which I think is quite sad - sometimes I come back to the recordings after a few years of touring the material and regret that we didn't play the songs live enough before going into the studio. It's such an interesting process, it's like you're getting to know your creation a little bit better over time of playing it live. Like a new acquaintance vs the same person in three years - you talk to them differently because you're closer, you know what their limits are and what not to say or do, you feel comfortable in their presence (provided that you like them of course!). I'm sure I'm not the only one who notices the difference in how I sing on the albums vs how I sing after years of performing certain songs live … it's fascinating.
Improvisation plays a big part in how iamthemorning songs shape - especially when Gleb and myself actually get in the room together. If we get a chance to play and try writing new material, new songs can shape in a matter of minutes, and it's quite incredible. As for myself personally, I find that being comfortable as a vocalist improvising with other musicians is a whole new level of musicianship and I wish I could do it more often. But I'm quite a secluded person so the opportunity to play with others doesn't present itself very often.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
Well, I'm mainly a vocalist, not an instrumentalist, so I can talk about my voice here. There are so many shades to it and it's so important to get to know all of them to become a good performer. I believe that listening to other people's voices can trigger a lot of subconscious reactions, because after all we're social creatures programmed to pay attention to the sounds we make. So it's vital to know what message you want to bring people because year after year I see the confirmations of a simple fact - the listener will know if they are being lied to. If you're singing about pain while not feeling much, it's not going to work. The voice is a very powerful tool and it's capable of translating any feelings even if you're being very subtle, but art should be honest so you really have to mean it when you sing it.
I also believe that subconsciously we can respond to certain sounds in a very powerful manner and I'd love to look closer into the subject. It can have a very important impact on the listener if you use specific sounds in your production and I think knowing what you're doing in this regard means so much new potential to reach peoples' minds.
It's a fascinating subject.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
Do you know the feeling when you're listening to some music you haven't heard in a while and it sort of transports you back in time to the period of your life that this music was accompanying? I've got a bittersweet feelings towards this phenomenon. It caused me much grief more than once when I discovered that I can't listen to my favourite album because it reminds me of something I don't want to think about anymore. But it's truly fascinating at the same time how music can not only trigger memory but make you feel immersed in it.
I also love the overwhelming feeling when you're at a gig of some heavy band and you feel the bass vibrations going all through your body like the music is physically connecting with you, the wave of sound devouring you. It's very powerful and I miss it very much, I haven't been to a show like that for a very long time now.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
It's very important to me to always be honest with myself and people that listen to my music, but I also always try to find a silver lining in everything because I really try to bring less negative thoughts into the world even when things get tough. (laughs)
I think the purpose of art is to not only make our own lives more meaningful but to also make good companions to others. They help us to keep creating because it's what we need to survive and in exchange we make music that helps people get through difficult times - or at least I hope that's the case for me. I got countless number of emails and messages saying that and it's the best compliment I can dream of, because I myself find solace in music and art when things get tough and I view certain musicians as quite the life savers because I don't know what I would be doing in the past if it wasn't for their music. This is the type of artist I am aspiring to be.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
Music is a very special phenomenon, created by people but so much bigger and better than us. It follows the rules of the world but it's also above it all, and it has an impact on every one of us, sometimes a very inexplicable and mysterious impact.
And no matter how the world changes, nothing can replace it, we all will have a need for it, for art. No matter how amazing the technological progress of humankind is and how far it gets us, you can never replace the need for real soulful music with technology. A lot of people are toying with AI now but music is about real human interaction, it's another form of it. We can't just easily replace a real person with a machine.