Name: Nikola Bankov
Occupation: Saxophonist, composer, improviser
Nationality: Slovakia
Recent release: Nikola Bankov's Dream Chaser, featuring Randy Brecker, is out via AMP.
Recommendations: How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie (book); The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene (book)

If you enjoyed this interview with Nikola Bankov and would like to find out more, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram, and Facebook.

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 with music when I was 7 years old.

I attended music theory, singing, flute and guitar classes. When I was 13 years old I switched to saxophone and met great young teacher in my hometown who introduced me to funk and smooth jazz music which was very influential to me and I immediately fell in love with it.

I loved listening to Eric Marienthal and Gerald Albright. I started to compose small sketches when I was about 16 years old.

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?

I am always looking for an emotional aspect of music. It has to speak to me on a different level. I love music that is honest, uplifts my spirit and makes me feel good. I think about it when composing my own music.

I am trying to give people different experiences, hope, motivation and inspiration through my music. I pray when I play and I think that’s important to me.

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 have been very lucky because I have a clear vision and goals since I was 15 years old. Now I try to be consistent and work on it every day.

I know how my music is supposed to sound and what is my personal voice. I think it’s based on intuition and I try to follow it.

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 am an open minded person with strong vision and I work hard on myself. I respect all kind of music and my identity helps me to be structured and consistent in my creative process.

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

My key ideas behind my approach to music and art is to stay honest, humble and to listen to my inner voice.

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 am very interested in a “music of the future”. I try to add something new to what is already here. Originality and innovation is necessary to find one's own voice and place in a music in my opinion.

It also needs courage to do something out of the comfort zone.

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?

To me it’s important to have a strong team around me. To talk and share ideas and to stay motivated and inspired. To have people who support and trust me and to know that I have somebody who will be there for me.

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

I start my day with prayer and heading to the kitchen to grind my speciality coffee. I have breakfast, talk with my girlfriend and take care of emails afterwards. I go to school 3 times a day for practice sessions.

Currently I practice rhythmical independence and melodic structures. In the evening I teach at music school. And after a long day I like to watch a movie, talk or have some time for myself.

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

Sure, I can talk about the creative process behind my album production.

I am trying to be very scheduled and having a deadlines is also great for me to know how to distribute my time. I compose and record short demos in Logic Pro and I also do sheet music for people who play with me. That makes life easier.

When I compose I try to think about the musicians who are going to play the music and write to their personal sound. Sometimes I listen to different music to get inspired if I feel I don’t have enough ideas.

Beside composing, arranging and rehearsing I also manage my projects, do some internationals bookings and a little bit of promotion.

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 compose music by myself. I like to do it that way because only I know the voice in my head and how my music should sound. However, we arrange the music together with my band mates.

And if there is something that might be different I’m open to changes and finding a solutions.

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

I think music should have an emotional aspect. It should speak to you, to your feelings and make you feel a certain way.

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?

Music is safe space where I can be emotional and do what I want. Whatever I feel, I put it into music. I don’t think too much about it.

My music is mostly “happy” and “positive” and I try to give hope and believe to my listeners.

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?

To me music is all about heart and feelings, not about brain and philosophy.

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?

When I play music I am more creative than in any other situation. I can express myself through my instrument and have communication with other musicians without saying a word.

I develop my intuition and imagination through music as well.

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 is able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

That is a difficult question to answer and I am afraid I have no answer for that.