Name: Micah Frank

nationality: American 

Occupation: Musician
Current release : The Music of Hildegard von Bingen Part 1 on Puremagnetik
Recommendations: “De Natura Sonorum” by Bernard Parmegiani / “Jonchaies” by Iannis Xenakis

If you enjoyed this interview with Micah Frank, visit his website to keep up with live dates.

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I started playing drums when I was 13 years old. From there I got into all the great rock and jazz drummers. Started with rock drummers like Keith Moon and John Bonham but then I also got really into Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham and a bunch of Frank Zappa’s drummers. I went to jazz school and then naturally progressed from there and to electronic genres.

Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?

Well I don’t really have anything special like synaesthesia when I listen to music. I think it just comes down to what moves me either emotionally or sometimes it’s also on a technical level that I find interesting, like the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen or Natasha Barrett.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

I consider my artistic search kind of the same as my individual search. I’m looking for my voice and style and it’s ever elusive. I’m trying to find the thing that encapsulates everything I want to say. But I don’t think I’ll ever find it I think the actual music is the active part that’s trying to find itself.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

I can listen to really abstract music and I think that sort of coincides with my personality and how I feel about myself as a musician. I can also listen to 4/4 rock with a ABABC structure and enjoy it equally as well. But I’m especially interested in sounds and noises that are sort of experienced beyond the realm of organized sound and more of just an aural experience.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

For me it’s mainly about keeping myself interested in whatever I’m working on. I feel like if it’s interesting for me it’s going to be interesting for at least one other person out there. As long as I’m motivated to do it and I don’t feel like I’m making compromises or trying to sound like someone else, I’m happy.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

I’m definitely just interested in expressing my own voice in the most honest and efficient way possible. Whether that’s through music as a tradition — which I think we are all bound to be doing sometimes — or it’s part of our process or coming up with something completely original, it doesn’t really matter. As long as I’m being honest with myself.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

Synthesizers have been the most unique tool to what I use to produce music, but not just synthesizers, computer-based music as well. Computers can do things that synthesizers cannot in the synthesis realm. I run a lot of custom software and have created a lot of sounds with custom software. So, for me that’s essential.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

Well I also run a music technology company called Puremagnetik which is the same as the label that this album is coming out on. So there’s a lot of technical overhead with that. I have to create product. I have to answer support emails so a lot of that goes into my work week. It’s hard for me to concentrate on being creative us all those other things are taken care of. So sometimes I go in with a plan to be creative and I end up working on technical stuff all week. That can be frustrating but then there’s the other side as well — where the technical stuff is not so much — and I have an opportunity to be creative for many days at a time.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

Bernard Parmegiani’s De Natura Sonorum has been a huge influence on my work over the last several years. From a sound collage aspect it’s a masterpiece in my opinion. Bernard probably didn’t think so but I do! In terms of abstraction and sound design, this piece has been a real influence for me.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

I think all Electronic Musicians prefer to work alone to some degree. But something like this album would never have been created on my own. Chet was a vital part of the process and helped navigate us in this direction with his own influences and background. I love taking a backseat and going with Chet’s ideas. As a musician, I love working with others too - it takes the music out of my own myopic view and brings in another’s universe.

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

It’s just output. I’m just doing the work. I don’t really think of what kind of influence my music has or what kind of societal impact is going to be projected from it. I’m just doing some work and putting it out there.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

I don’t mean to sound superficial but it doesn’t get that heavy for me. Without music, I would probably be engaged in some other creative aspect. I think that must keep me out of trouble or doing other unimportant things.

There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?  

Well, everything’s becoming more technological. People can create things with minimal tools and minimal skills. I don’t think that’s a bad thing it’s just a different way that the art manifests in the end. Science is naturally going to feed into how people produce music and with technology and science commingled into new tools for music making, we’re naturally going to see the results of that.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

That’s a perfect analogy for my work. It is like making a cup of coffee. I think we can make something every day and share it with people. I don’t think of myself as making some grand masterpiece that I spend years on. There’s definitely a place for that but it’s not in my work. So, for me, yes music is like another mudane tasks. It’s like keeping a journal that I’m sharing with the rest of the world. I guess you could say it’s kind of an Eno-esque approach in that it’s just as interesting as it is ignorable.

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

Well yeah certainly. I’m very into acousmatic music. Natasha Barrett, and even Bernard Parmagiani that I alluded to before. Robert Henke and others too. Acousmatic music is all about the air vibrations and how it affects us. I’ve had an opportunity to work on some complex ambisonics sound systems and I’m very into this type of experience. It’s just difficult to realise because the technology is hard to come by and takes up a ton of space. And the opportunities for spaces and the work involves a lot of planning.