TOPIC: The jan-hammer.net Interview
The jan-hammer.net Interview 14 years 1 month ago #35
Here is the Interview that Martijn Kalf had with Jan Hammer.... I hope you will all enjoy it.
JH = Jan Hammer
MK: The most popular question, as you might know is about your music for Miami Vice, and (Specifically) if there is going to be any more of it?
JH: As far as from the TV series? I think basically my feeling is I've come very close to finishing all the stuff that was outstanding to my ears. There are a few things that people keep e-mailing me about, and talking about that I've listened to and for some reason I haven't been able to figure out how to make those into complete or extended pieces of music. There may be a way to combine several themes again and create sort of a suite. I don't know. Right now, there may be a couple of things that come up. I'm sure and I'll probably do some of them, but it will be more of a downloadable (file).
MK: I was thinking maybe an interesting way to release if would be for instance on the iTunes music store, which seems to be a popular medium at the moment.
JH: Oh sure. First, I'd have to do it (laughs). And then I don't see doing like another, let's say, a "Complete Collection". There may be one, two maybe three at most I would think. I don't know which ones yet, but you know, something will come down and it will be a good surprise, and people will be able to download it.
MK: A question from a young fan: What you think of Jean Michel Jarre, and if you'd consider collaborating with him?
JH: Yes, I obviously heard of him but I never met him and I'm not familiar with his work. So I don't think that there is any chance that a collaboration would happen.
MK: Your output for the last 10-15 years has gravitated more towards beautiful melodies, soundscapes and less soloing (some would call it MOR or new-age) Would you consider playing jazz again perhaps with John Abercrombie or Billy Cobham?
JH: Listen, that's all possible. I'm not saying that it's not going to happen. I had great fun playing this summer with Jeff Beck
MK: I could clearly see that I was there!
JH: That was something that really clicked , basically it was lots of sort of jazzy improvisational music. So, that was a very good outlet for that. The problem that I have is with the music business. For some reason it seems almost impossible to get anything, any music, released which includes improvisation or soloing. It's just something that's, I don't know what happened. It's just not considered "cool" anymore and it's almost impossible to put anything like that out. You know? I think it's a great pity. Unfortunately, a lot of people who may be talented don't get a chance to be heard. Maybe something is going to change. CDs, as a physical product, are almost finished. Basically it's going to be "Wide World of Online"?
MK: The Peer to Peer Downloading?
JH: Yeah. Maybe there'll be new bits of music that will start showing up. You know? Like what happened in the 60s. Everything just broke wide open. Music started getting connected between Jazz and Rock and Pop. Everything was wide open, there was much more freedom. Hopefully something like that will happen again. I really don't know, I couldn't tell you. I definitely miss being able to improvise, and play solos.
MK: It's more like "American Idol" and projects like that which are more like short term investments; getting as much money as possible.
JH: (It's like)What happened with radio here, I'm sure it happened around the world, but it really happened over here where one company now owns just about every radio station there is. You now what I mean? And they just play a couple of things and that's it (laughs)!
MK: Yeah that's basically what happened here too
JH: So there goes another outlet where people don't get to hear anything new.
MK: I am really glad the Internet is getting as big as it is now with lots of online radio stations, including the one I am doing for you (laughs).
JH: Yes (laughs). So through things like that I'm sure that maybe we'll create a new level of freedom for musicians to do whatever they want instead of being held down by the music business.
MK: There's one question from Rick Leon, I'm quite sure you've hear of that name?
JH: Oh yeah, sure (laughs).
MK: Do you find it challenging to score from a written script or from a clip?
JH: My approach has always been to come in to the process as late as possible. I would prefer not to read any script, not to know specifically what the story is and see the actual film without music and then imagine and respond to it musically with an instinct rather than a thought. So definitely I would be the one to go to a clip (laughs).
MK: This is a pretty interesting question for people that get inspired by your music in terms of (those who make their own music). What would you think is the best approach in terms of software and equipment?
JH: Uh, that's hard. There are so many things that are available. A lot of them are pretty much equal in a way-- especially given the speed of processors and computers today. Let's say five or ten years ago you really had to have dedicated box to run the DSP (Digital Signal Processing) For instance, as an example I'd give you Pro Tools with the TDM dedicated box that was running along side the computer. But I think that computers have gotten so fast now-- the processors-- that you can actually run it all internally you know on the host (computer).
MK: Including virtual synthesizer and sequencing.
JH: Yes and all those are starting to work beautifully now, I don't know, it's really a matter of what you are used to, and it brings me back to the major point that I would like to make which is that you can make great stuff with a very "bare-bone" setup. It's really much more important to what kind of musician you are and how inspired you are. I think that's 90 percent it. People say: If I could only get this new Pro Tools HD, or whatever, I could only make this and that. It's not true. If you have the idea, and you are good enough, you can make it with a much more basic setup, let's say.
MK: Basically, well this I heard of Rick, because I speak to him quit often. He told me, for instance, he wasn't really a good player. So most of his music what I know is, like 80 percent, is being programmed. (This) is completely impressive.
JH: That's a whole different approach. I don't even know how that works! (Laughs) Everything I do, I play live. I just play it in, so that way I think to me that's 90 percent of it. The equipment, you know, helps you organize your thoughts, add some polish, and clean up mistakes. It's not the most important thing by any means.
MK: There is another question form someone else I am quite sure you heard of, Dadrian Wilson.
JH: Yes, yes I have.
MK: He was really interested in knowing how you managed to change from the (Pitch) wheel to the stick when you're doing the pitch bending. He quoted you "The wheel should not be dicked with" (Ed. Note see Sept '85 Keyboard Magazine cover interview).
JH: (Laughs) that's true, I mean, that's how I felt ten years ago, and as far as today it's all the same to me. The stick and the wheel are fine. The only thing, to me, that is useless is a little ribbon. Some of the controllers that only have ribbon for bending notes. That is not really useful. Either the wheel or the stick is fine. I don't have a preference anymore. Actually, there's a slightly different style of playing, and I do play different with the wheel and the stick. I use both depending on what feel I am gong for. There's a different kind of vibrato that I can do. They are both good for me. I basically learn to live with it (laughs).
MK: Most new keyboards come with the stick now.
JH: It's much easier to handle (to begin with) I think the wheel is much harder to learn.
MK: You seem pretty adamant on not playing live in recent years. What changed you mind? (Referencing performing with Jeff Beck)
JH: It's not really that I didn't want to perform at all. What I didn't want to do was try to put together a band, rehearse, on my own. You know what I mean? (Where) I would have to be sort of the leader of the group, altogether, and to face all the financial hurdles and all the responsibilities that go with it. Doing this thing with Jeff, there was an existing tour all ready to go and all we had to do was get together with two fantastic musicians, the Mondesir brothers (Michael and Mark), on bass and drums. It was just as easy as riding a bicycle
MK: I can imagine.
JH: It wasn't playing live per say, it was really the rest of it; all the headaches that go with it.
MK: So basically that's the deciding factor, on possible future performances?
JH: Yes if there's something already (organized) I'll join!
MK: Back on Miami Vice, any thoughts on doing the Score for the upcoming Miami Vice movie?
JH: Of course, if I am asked, I'll be thrilled! I really don't know what they have in mind. Given the way movies are going (now), they're usually going with orchestral, you know, old fashioned scores. If there is any way that I could be a part of it, I would obviously enjoy it.
MK: There hasn't been any contacting ? (Regarding being approached to do the score)
JH: No, there hasn't been any communication yet.
MK: I get many questions regarding the older LPs being released on CD? Any plans?
JH: What happened was as I've gone through my career; I've been on many different labels and even when I stayed on a same label that label was sold and sold again (laughs). So basically in the three decades I have been putting out albums, almost each album is owned by someone else. Some companies are easy to approach; some others don't want to know about it, because they don't want to be bothered. Even though it could be an interesting thing for them because it's just sitting in a vault, it might as well be out there and sell a few copies especially, if it were to come out on CD. Where I'm getting, you know, we finally got "First Seven Days" which is one of my things that I am very proud of. Now, the next thing that is coming out very soon is going to be a double CD package. The two albums that came out in the 70s, "Black Sheep" and "Hammer". Those two are going to put together as two disks in a single package. It's going to have bonus track. When we did the song "(Oh) Pretty Woman", we also did a reggae version. I found the tape, and I am going to put it on as a bonus track. It's really great! As far as "Oh Yeah" and "Like Children", those are the ones that are harder to get rolling. But we are working on it Sooner or later, it will have to happen. I know that.
MK: Any Possible soundtracks, like Ã¢Â€ÂœWe Come In PeaceÃ¢Â€??
JH: Yeah, I don't know, again, it gets really hairy because when you do a movie soundtrack the rights are owned by the production companies. Some of these companies don't exist anymore; you don't even know where to go, but you still cannot use it freely. It's really a nightmare. It might be an interesting because there are bits, odds and ends that would be nice to release as some sort of compilation of music from movies. I haven't thought about it concretely, but it sounds interesting.
MK: When I was at the concert (with Jeff Beck) In London, I remember a DVD logo displayed on the graphics being projected in the back. Is there a chance for an official DVD being released?
JH: There's a zero chance (Laughs). Jeff is adamant about it; he doesn't like to do that. But there are bootlegs (video) from both nights. You can be thankful for that! (Laughs) I'm glad to look at it because it was a wonderful, wonderful tour.
MK: Going back to Miami Vice. How did the (fourth season) collaboration with John Petersen come about and why didn't he end up taking over when you left in the fifth season?
JH: Yeah, I really don't know, (Tim Truman) who did the fifth season, was a friend of Don Johnson. I think that's how that connection came about. Since I was leaving for good, they were just going to have someone in L.A. who's, you know, closer to Don or (the show). As far as working with John Petersen, he was doing really wonderful work with TV commercials here in New York City. I heard his stuff and it just was great, and we met. I was really trying to get out of the weekly grind of the responsibility for each weeks episode. This was like a nice compromise that I worked out with Universal TV and the producers of the show. I would still be involved in some creative decisions, but I wouldn't have to do most of the hard work (laughs). So I did the first six episodes of the (fourth) season all by myself, and then he got involved and we sort of collaborated. He did most of the work but I spotted the scenes where the music should go. John took it from there, but would use a lot of my themes and sounds. Then, at the producers request, I scored the last three episodes of the season.
MK: What are you feelings about your son's music about what he's doing at the moment, and where it's going?
JH: Oh, Paul! Yes, I am so proud of him you have no idea! It's wonderful; everything he does is quite different from what I am doing or what I have done. I can hear, you know, certain strings of musical ideas that would remind me of myself. But then once he is finished with the songs given the fact that they are mostly acoustic guitar and vocals, that it's such a different world from my world. I can totally relate to it, I don't know what else to do to make more people hear it! I'll do anything (laughs)!
MK: Yeah I gave him a little spot (link) on my web site.
JH: Yes, I saw it and I am really grateful! Thanks, a lot!
JH: He is also involved with (two) other bands and he is a full time student.
MK: I was really impressed with his songs.
JH: Yeah it's wonderful; I want more and more people to hear it somehow (laughs).
MK: Any chance of the Miami Vice 12" remixes being put out on CD?
JH: Unfortunately, again, we'd have to deal with the master rights, which used to belong to MCA (records) which no longer exists. I don't know who if it's universal records or who owns the rights to those 12" remixes. There were some nice ones François Kevorkian did. The one guy from Holland, Ben Liebrand did some beautiful things. The one, my favorite that he did was the "Eurocops" (theme).
MK: Wasn't that released on "Snapshots 1.2"?
JH: Yes, Exactly. Obviously it would be nice to get it out at least in some sort of digital (or) downloadable form. But you are still dealing with whoever owns the rights to the masters. It's just trying to dig out the paperwork, that's the hardest part.
MK: What truly inspires you when creating a song, as opposed to soundtrack work?
JH: As far as what I call music for music's sake? Stand alone music.
JH: Boy, it's different every time. It could be an emotional trigger, or it could be a visual trigger. I can see something like, let's say, something (beautiful) in nature. A tree-- a hill (laughs). Sometimes it can be 100 percent abstract, where a series of notes, a melody, or a motif just starts ringing in my head. It's not connected to anything, not connected to any emotion or trigger. So again, it could be any one of those ways.
MK: Exactly, I used to play around with music on my Amiga 10 years ago, and I was inspired just by the sounds.
JH: That can do it too, sometimes, sure. The hard part is though once, let's say, you hear something like that, knowing what to do with it. That's what separates the men from the boys (laughs).
MK: The method I used was I would create it and then listened to it the next day. If I liked it, I'd save it and continue on, and if I didn't I'd delete it and start over (laughs).
JH: If you think about it, the word "composing" or to compose, means to put together. So, you have to know what to put together and what to leave out.
MK: That leads to another question Rick had. When do you know if a song is finished or not?
JH: (Pauses) That's interesting (laughs). Sometimes, it depends, sometimes you get sick of it (laughs), then it's finished, but in the wrong way (laughs). I think when you get a certain level of satisfaction out of it. You know what I mean. When hearing the whole song gives you pleasure. It has to please you. I think then you know. You listen to it and you feel good, you start smiling, and walking around. It gets your happy juices going.
MK: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians everywhere that would like to break into the business?
JH: The only thing I would say is that you'd better love it, and don't expect to make a living.
MK: I believe the comparison you made in another interview was that it was easier to make a living winning the lottery than out of making music
JH: If you just go into it with the idea of making money, your going to be disappointed. You know, there is a 99 percent chance you're going to be very disappointed. You might get lucky, like some totally no talent people out there, they know who they are (laughs). Well maybe they don't know (laughs). I think a better approach is; ask yourself if you love music, the process of participating in music. (And) If it really makes you happy. The next step is to keep doing it, but be prepared not to succeed (laughs). It's a sort of grey or black outlook, but unfortunately, it's like when kids (here) growing up expect to be millionaire basketball players. They all play good basketball; they come out of high school or whatever, but how many actually make it?
MK: It's a one-in-a-million chance
JH: I think it's the same in music, as far as making good money. You can still make a living, but it's not what people usually expect. You get satisfaction out of loving it, and if that brings you happiness then that's great, that will help you carry through. If you don't, you're going to be frustrated, and you won't be able to make music (laughs). It's a tough thing to say. I think it was easier when I was growing up and starting out in music. I think there is more good musicians, not great, but good and there's more competition. Music education has produced a lot more skilled instrumental players so there's a lot more. Plus the music business has tightened down where only certain things make it.
MK: I get the feeling there are afraid taking risks in publishing new original music.
JH: Right, because they have to invest so much, to promote it. They are only interested in blockbusters. They could have 20 bands with different styles and together they could make money like that, but if they have one band or one artist who sells millions and millions of albums, they'd rather maximize one act. It's unfortunate.
MK: Why didn't you use your Lync LN4 (Portable keyboard) on the Jeff Beck tour, and could you explain your wah wah expression pedal program?
JH: As far as the portable keyboard, I feel I was into it for a long time. A lot of people started using it (remote controllers) in a very stagy way as opposed to playing really well. It was more of a prop. For me, it almost became a joke. I just lost interest in doing it. It became almost a caricature.
MK: On the show "I love the 80s" features them as one of the most embarrassing things.
JH: People didn't play it, they just wore it. If you just wear it, it becomes a caricature, and I just couldn't, plus there was more technical reason for it. For instance, on this tour with Jeff, I had to play more piano (like) parts. Those things are hard to play on a portable keyboard.
MK: I can imagine.
JH: When I was using it, I was playing the role more of a lead guitar. There was always some backing instrument, either a keyboard or some other instrument that was helping me out to fill out the band. Where as in the project with Jeff, you really need a flat keyboard to sit down (and play). As far as the wah wah sound. A lot of it was done with sweeping the filter frequency, in the old days. Nowadays, jeez, in the Triton Extreme, there is so many processors that you can put on, there's a wah wah overdrive module that works even better. In the software, I attach my pedal to work the wah wah module and that would be it (laughs). In the old days, it was either sweeping the filter, or actually if you really want to get technical (laughs)...
MK: I'm quit sure Rick and Dadrian will understand (laughs)
JH: (Laughs) They'll probably understand. It's syncing two oscillators together, and then sweeping one of the oscillators' frequency while it's hooked up in a sync to the first one. You sweep it also with the pedal. It creates this round of harmonics. I use it to this day. That's about as technical as you're going to get (laughs).
MK: (laughs) I am more of a Unix geek.
JH: Unix, that's great (laughs).
MK: Any plans on expanding the items for sale being offered on your website?
JH: It's not like I am a teen idol where you can sell hats and (laughs). All we did was like the T-shirts and some music. I don't know what else we can sell.
MK: What would you credit for your keen sense of melody?
JH: (laughs)There are so many factors that go into that. Some of it has to be genetic being born with it coming from both parents being musical. Growing up in a musical environment, nature and nurture -- all that works. What also really helped was getting deeply into Jazz improvisation. When you are improvising, there is sense of melody that is really needed, otherwise it doesn't make sense. Nobody will listen to it (laughs). When improvisation is really good, when you are doing well, it's almost like very fast composition. You're like composing in an instant. That's the part that really helped shape me.
MK: Being able to improvise on the fly.
JH: Improvise as if I were composing, you know what I mean? When you are listening to it there is a structure and it all makes sense. It's like a complete sentence, there is a language.
MK: Does it ever bother you that you are that identified with Miami Vice?
JH: No way! It was the luckiest strike that I could imagine. I'll never regret it. As far as my musical career, it was the most important thing that's ever happened to me. Basically the reason I am happy about it is that it made it possible for me to be heard by so many people that never ever heard of me. I don't have any conflicts there at all.
MK: I probably would have never discovered your music if it wasn't for Miami Vice
JH: There is nothing minus about it at all.
MK: What's the oldest piece of equipment you use today?
JH: Probably my drum kit (laughs) and some Indian percussion. I do have in the studio everything going back down from the Mini-Moog, you know? I have a couple of Mini-Moogs. I find that I don't really use them simply because I can get something that works for me from something like, lets say, a (Korg) Z-1, which is a phenomenal instrument. As far as the oldest that I still use, there is an Oberheim Xpander, and the (Yamaha) DX-7, both of which are at least 20 years old. So those two still get (use) once in a while, other than that, it's the Korg revolution (laughs) that's totally taken over here for me. I am running everything over here, just about all Korg. Starting with the T series, Wavestation, Trinity and most recently the Triton Extreme.
MK: I remember the Wavestation being a revolutionary thing being released back then.
JH: Think about it, it's like fifteen yeas ago (laughs).
MK: I want to thank you for this interview; this will always stay with me forever.
MK: If there is anything you'd like on the website changed
JH: I am thrilled with it, it looks wonderful. It's very much alive and it's nice that people check in and talk. It's wonderful.