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Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, guitarist/composer Jamie Bonk has graciously agreed to become a contributing editor to NewAgeReporter.com. Jamie will be conducting a series of interviews entitled Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series. We look forward to his contributions for they are both insightful and offer a unique artist-to-artist perspective over the typical interview. We hope you enjoy them.
Other Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series:
A Conversation with Verdun, Oct. 2004
A Conversation With Calvin L Coolidge II, Oct. 2004
A Conversation With Craig Urquhart, Sep. 2004
<<-later interviews | earlier interviews->>   <<- all interviews ->>
Jamie Bonk
A Conversation with Grundman
January 2005
In these bottom-line times, composer/keyboardist Grundman is a rare musician. Releasing his music through his own label Non Profit Music, Grundman donates all profits from sales to humanitarian causes. With his most recent release, We are the forthcoming past, take care of it, he has donated all profits collected from the album to Doctors Without Borders. And he's not stopping there. While it's a bit of a "secret", Grundman, in our conversation, alludes to a future compilation album of different artists with the profits also going to Doctors Without Borders. Looks like he's started something great.

Of course, there wouldn't be any profits to donate if the music wasn't as good as it is. Grundman describes his music as "New Age/Neo-Classical", which is I suppose the most concise description. But I think a little bit of his years playing in top power pop bands in his native Spain has rubbed off on his music. Either way, I'm not the only one to notice his talent. Since 2001, when Grundman first started releasing his music on the Internet, he's had over one million downloads! Truly impressive...

If you'd like to learn more about Grundman and Non Profit Music, please visit Grundman.org.

Grundman
"And when you know that with your music can save a life, you will never be the same. Believe me." - Grundman
Jamie: As I usually do before these conversations, I visit an artist's website to get some background on the person and their work. I have to say your Why? link really got me thinking. And I think that was your intent. Many of the things that you've done with your most recent release, We are the forthcoming past, take care of it, seem counter-intuitive -- at least from the point of view of the major labels. As you say:"The majors are against sharing because they say they lose sales… to be exact, this is just the opposite of what happened to me; after listening, sharing and downloading, people not only bought my albums, but made donations to Doctors Without Borders, too." Why do you think your approach has resonated with so many people?
Grundman: I'm not sure. I ask myself the same question. Perhaps is a matter of honesty that people like. I do not ask for anything and at the same time I'm freely offering the best of my work, as one would do playing on the street. But this cannot be the only answer; there are a lot of composers, if not all, who put their soul into their work and still nobody cares. What could be different is that the music I write is written with minor chords, which are usually the best companions for sadness and meditation. You know, if a tune catches your attention, you leave what you were doing and find yourself in another world. In following, you try to learn more about that tune, and, perhaps read some author's note about the music. Here is the point. When the reader knows why this music was composed, that is the point of no return. He then knows what I am trying to explain through my music. And, he knows he has a chance to contribute to help build a better world. The program is not huge, it's just my 2 cents, but perhaps it inspires others. If every one of us holds out our hand just once a year, you can be sure that our tomorrow will be a better tomorrow for all of us. "I do not ask for anything and at the same time I'm freely offering the best of my work..." - Grundman
Jamie: I think you're right: music can and does transform the listener -- even if just for a moment. Personally, I know that the moment I'm not thinking about the surface structure of a piece, is the moment that I'm truly listening. And that's not always easy to do when you're a musician. I tend to listen for things that non-musicians don't even consider (i.e. production/engineering).

Philosophy seems to be important to you both personally and as an artist. For many artists, their personal philosophy guides them artistically. But the inverse can also be true. Music, and the act of creating it, can change the artist. Has creating your own music changed your own personal philosophy in any way?
Grundman: Prior to answering your question, let me agree with you about the way musicians and composers listen to music. Or the way in which a painter looks at a picture. It is as though there are two layers in the art: the one most people enjoy and the hidden one, which only the professional notices. And while the latter insight could be annoying because it sometimes does not let you simply enjoy a work like most people, on other occasions you can take twice the pleasure in the work. Well, returning to your last question my answer is "yes" my music has effected how I view life. Whenever I end a composition, I listen to it trying to feel that which was my goal when it was composed. I try to be sad, or to empathize with someone who was in the same situation that my work attempts to convey…soon enough, I am talking to myself about what else I should have done to help the situation itself. Although is not completely like a real-life experience, this process has helped to shape the way I understand life.
Jamie: That's a beautiful answer... To go somewhat off on a tangent, the list of instruments/signal processors in the liners notes for We are the forthcoming past, take care of it is truly amazing. You must feel like a kid in a candy store every time you go into your studio! But what's impressive to me, is the fact that your "voice" is never overwhelmed by the resources at hand. Do you have an idea of a piece's overall texture, before you begin recording, that guides you to a particular synth/plugin?
Grundman: Unfortunately, not often. Usually, in composition, I start with using the Kurzweil in a piano mode. When I think I've gotten the tune, I record to a CD and listen to it again and again in my car as I drive to the University. Then I begin the arrangement, thinking about which instruments which will be enclosing or playing the tune. This is the start of the nightmare! When you think about an instrument, most of the time you will not find a perfect pad, one which does not cover or hide the sound or the body of the instrument. I have spent weeks trying to figure out how to make the sound I want for the work. But, on other occasions it is easy because, thank God, I have heard the tune, the arrangement and the orchestration in my head from the very beginning and I don't need to think too much. It all started when my family and I decided to move into a new home, and I asked the bank for a little more of a loan to invest in my studio. Sometimes I thought I was wrong to do so, but now I feel it was worthwhile. "I have spent weeks trying to figure out how to make the sound I want for the work." - Grundman
Jamie: Well, I'd say it was worthwhile too... I'm sure you're going to be recording for years with the new gear!

Just to delve a little deeper into your composing/recording process... You have a sheet music page on your web site where you provide the sheet music for various pieces from We are the forthcoming past, take care of it. After you have written a composition, do you generally notate a sketch for the arrangement of the piece (i.e. melody, harmony, basic orchestration)?
Grundman: Yes...but not as prettily as one can imagine. Usually, when I end a composition it is because either I have found the perfect end or I'm tired of perfecting it and another melody begins playing in my head, hurrying me to start working on it. But, prior to publishing it I have to copyright it, so I need to prepare a sketch to do so. As you know, haste is not a good companion, so I do not care much for this step. I recognize that I am a complete disaster, because I am always starting something new! Currently, I am doing orchestration work and the score needs to be clean and readable… so perhaps this is the best time to start it.
Jamie: There always seems to be something to do... just one of the many challenges of being a musician today. For me, one of the greatest challenges is simply moving my PA from gig to gig. All the lifting, setting up and breaking down is often a lot tougher than the actual playing.

You had a very successful pop music career in Spain before you "divorced from the record industry". Do you feel, if you hadn't made the break from the industry, that you would be creating the same music as you are now?
Grundman: Perhaps not, I'm not really sure. But, knowing the way I am, my "divorce" from rock was a foregone conclusion destined to happen sooner than later. What really changed my state of mind was (the album) "Innovators" from Kurt Bestor and Sam Cardon. This jewel fell into my hands as a promotional CD for a word processing software, including a presentation of the software and the audio tracks. The fact that this album was not available at stores in Spain created a great demand for it. Ramon Trecet suggested that we start to take collections for Doctors Without Borders in return for the CD, and in two minutes there were one thousand copies sold; and, the telephone lines at the headquarters of DWB in Barcelona were lit up for a week. That was ten years ago, but it left such a sweet taste in my mouth that it changed the way I see the world. Just the inspiration that one can help to build a better world. No need to make great efforts. Every one of us can do it. And when you know that with your music can save a life, you will never be the same. Believe me.

That was the reason to try to compose what I call "emotive music." You know yourself that, as a composer, there are some works that create more of a rising feeling in you than others; sometimes even better or more beautiful tunes do not produce the same sensation. What I try to write are those works that bring the listener to this feeling, and if I have success, he will find himself giving up what he was doing and start traveling with his imagination. This goal brought me to the New Age/Neo-Classical music, which I think can better achieve these results than other styles. Well, this is what I've tried... whether or not I've succeeded is another thing! But, if I draw only one person into the world of solidarity, I will be satisfied.
"But, if I draw only one person into the world of solidarity, I will be satisfied." - Grundman
Jamie: That's just beautiful... You bring up such an interesting point: The importance of the listener. For some artists, building a connection with the audience is paramount. I think you're right that different musical styles will have different impacts on the listener. So what is it about New Age/Neo-Classical specifically that you feel helps you to connect best with your audience?
Grundman: It is based on my own experience. The Classical style requires that you are prepared to listen so that you can make the most of the musical work. Once you are ready, you will enjoy it and feel the happiness or sadness the composer wished to transmit to the audience. But those times in which the music was a real spectacle has gone. We live in a tumultuous world, a world in which most of us do not have enough time to laugh or to cry because the next step is waiting to be made. But the troubles that affect humankind are always the same, from the very beginning of our species. At the most, we live nearly ninety years and in some cases, our moment of realization appears at the end of the road, when then it is too late.

The New Age/Neo-Classical style can transmit the soul of the composer's work faster than other styles, mainly because it does not need you be ready to listen but can trap you in whatever you are doing. And once you have been trapped, it is very difficult to find the exit. Well... that is my own experience. In many of my works, I started with an atmosphere which does not differ very much from other music you have heard before, but which transitions to an emotive melody and harmony as soon as possible to try to catch you. Is like a poison apple... in the opposite sense.
Jamie: That's a great analogy! And I think you're right about the general lack of time for listeners these days. Part of the challenge for artists in this era, working in any medium, is coming to terms with the shear amount of "stuff" out there. And as they say: Time is the one thing you can't make more of!

On We are the forthcoming past, take care of it you handle just about everything -- from writing and arranging to mastering and artwork/layout. What is it about working in this solo fashion that appeals to you? Do you ever foresee collaborating with other artists on future projects?
Grundman: When I decided to leave the music business almost twenty years ago, and take another direction in my life, I left behind my music friends. Not because I wished to, but it was due to my approaching wedding, my new job at the University, my new house miles outside my city and my new daughters!! Well, at the University I found new friends, but they were not musicians so the music was always kept in the bottom of my heart. I continued composing and sharing my music with my closest friends, but doing no more than this. Later, when I decided to go into the music business again, I found myself alone. So here am I... going solo. But, I have started another way for other artists to grow, too. My label, Non Profit Music, will be a home for all the composers who can both create emotive works and be generous enough to share their music to collect funds for humanitarian causes. The next album from Non Profit Music will introduce David Caballero, aka Gnomusy, to the scene; he has decided to collaborate with Non Profit Music. His music is different from mine, but also emotive. One can see another way of collaboration developing here. I do not see myself in a jam session, but in a composer session. You know... saying "Hi! I have this tune in my head, would you be so kind to play the guitar as only you know how?" I think this one of the more beautiful moments in the life of a composer. When you have started to create something and decide to share the moment with other artist. So, yes, I would love to collaborate with other artists as well... but always for humanitarian causes and benefits. "...I would love to collaborate with other artists as well… but always for humanitarian causes and benefits." - Grundman
Jamie: I'm sure you don't want a thousand demos coming in every day, but are you actively looking for artists for Non Profit Music?
Grundman: I'm not looking for artists pro-actively, just in a watchful, constant way. It is very difficult to find someone who wants to share their music for free and, at the same time, donate all their mechanical royalties to Doctors Without Borders. But, there is an exciting surprise around the corner. I have convinced some great artists to participate in a forthcoming compilation album. Please, keep it a secret...
Jamie: Well, alright if you say so... it'll be just be between you, me and the thousands of people reading this... : )

Thanks for taking the time to do this artist-to-artist conversation and good luck with your music and Non Profit Music. Please stay in touch!
 
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