Artist Interviews 🎶 Studio Tours 🎛
Hello music people 👋
Today in the spotlight, Joshua Wentz
Coming from the United States, for 27 years he has been involved in music through writing, playing, and releasing solo projects. At 45, he is more active in music than ever before and hopes to continue this trend 🎶
Read Time: 10 minutes 📰
My current favorites:
Tascam - Portastudio 414 MKII
Strymon - El Capistan
EHX Memory Man w/ Hazarai
For my full gear list, go to my website.
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Who are you and what is your relationship with music?
My name is Joshua Wentz, I live in Chicago, Illinois, USA, and music is all-consuming for me.
I learned piano starting at a young age, then started singing in high school choir, playing piano and organ for school and community theater musicals. In college I got a PC for the first time and began recording. That was 27 years ago.
Since then I've been semi-professionally involved with music, writing for films and theater, playing in bands, and releasing solo projects regularly.
At times I've been employed only in music; currently I have a "day job" at a printing press which I enjoy (and not just because it gives me access to printing equipment for album covers!)
I'm 45 this year and have never been more active with active with music - I hope that trend continues for a while!
Which piece of equipment in your studio is essential to your production process?
The Korg Concert C-15 piano has been the starting point of almost all of my projects. I've had it since 1994 and it went with me everywhere I lived - college dorm room, internships, etc. I use it solely as a MIDI controller now, it's big and heavy, but it's comfortable and has stood up to everything I've put it through.
What is the least expensive piece of gear that gave you the most results?
Most of my gear is in the low-to-mid-range for price, but I would say the Pocket Piano from Critter & Guitari has had the most impact at its price point.
It makes its way into my live setups and always spices up a track. People love seeing it and playing it. I'm always amazed at how versatile it is, and what people come up with when they get their hands on one.
Walk us through your process for creating and producing music.
I like to start with a concept.
If there's not a brief for a project, like there is when working on sound design for a play where they have specific cues and such, then I tend to make up my own parameters.
Sometimes it's a general theme, or maybe I want to explore a particular instrument. After that I will typically sit down at a piano to begin. A few times I've started songs with a groovebox, like the Electribe Sampler 2, but mostly keyboards are my way in to a song. I'll typically come up with a general sound and structure, then come back to lyrics/vocals if it's going to be that sort of music.
Once I feel like I have a piece of music where I want it in terms of recording and a general mix, I will usually step away from it for a few days and then return fresh to see if it still works. At that point I'll do more mixing and prep it for release.
What is a production technique that you always come back to?
Playing drums piecemeal and then sampling them into beats. I am not a drummer, but I love having real drums in my music. I will play and record each drum separately, then chop all of those up into individual hits and playing them on a MIDI controller. Most of my songs contain a blend of drum machine and real percussion.
How would you explain your style?
This is a hard question for me to answer.
I don't really adhere to any specific genre, and I try to do something different for every project.
I suppose my style is just "eclectic and optimistic." I'm open to any type of collaboration and love discovering new techniques.
If anyone asks me to do something, like play keyboards on a track, or master an EP, or remix their song, I will probably say yes.
What is a big challenge you have as an artist?
At this point I would say balancing expectations and reality is my biggest challenge. Maybe that's always been the challenge, if I look back. Ambition burns bright, and it can be hard to keep that light from dimming.
No matter how much I've done, the feeling that I refer to as "community theater blues" always follows after a momentous event. You focus all of your creative energy into a project, or a performance, and then once it happens, you can be a bit adrift. Thoughts of "Is that it?" or "Now what?" creep in. The high of putting your work out into the world can lead to lows when you don't have something already lined up to look forward to. Mitigating that is something I'm always trying to figure out.
More often than not I find that I want to listen to other peoples' music right after I finish my own. Often on a project I am only listening to my own work for weeks at a time, in a very critical way, so letting go of that can feel very positive. This is a decent way to get out of my head and release anxiety.
Has building a hardware setup changed your perspective on music or life in general?
Most of my time early on was spent trying to make instruments sound "real" without any actual knowledge of how real-world instruments were recorded. I was completely in-the-box, and this was before there were copious sample packs available, so my sound set was limited to my 05R/W ROMpler and some pretty rudimentary MIDI annotation software. As I gained experience, I learned that a performance on a piece of hardware will flow differently than one played with virtual instruments, and that there are a lot of different ways to record that performance.
Even if the sound can be made nearly identical in the computer, I play differently depending on the action of the instrument. Now I get to choose whether the Rhodes part of a song will be played with a VST in Logic, on a Reface CP, on the Vox Continental, or on an actual Rhodes.
I love having options!
One tip on how to spark creativity?
Record a cover.
It takes the lion's share of the writing out of the equation and lets you think about structure, instrumentation, and performance.
Plus, at the end of it you have a song people already know, which means they'll be inclined to listen to it.
A book, movie, article, or album that has inspired you?
C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy.
My first album (1996) was a speculative soundtrack to her SF/Fantasy books. I actually sent her a copy and she was kind enough to warmly reply. Years later, she wrote a foreword for a book/album project I participated in, and I'm working directly with her on an upcoming piece.
I never would have imagined that possible when I started out.
Anything else you'd like to say?
Gear is really fun - I've spent decades collecting instruments, growing from a 1-bedroom apartment where all my stuff is crammed into the corner to having a studio that can comfortably accommodate a five-piece band.
HOWEVER, not having that one piece of gear should never stop you from making music and putting some beauty out into the world.
Where can people find more of your music and connect with you online?
In Case You Missed It
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