Following the release of a brand new album, we caught up with musician and songwriter Formaneaux to find out more about the tracks, the production, the meanings behind the music, and plenty more. Here’s the conversation in full.
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Hi Formaneaux – great to catch up, how have things been for you over the past year?
Thank you for having me and all that you do for independent recording artists.
Fortunately, I’ve been healthy. This in the context of the worldwide pandemic and its range and effects had a lot more time to be more reflective, recognizing and appreciating that life is precious and we’re just passing through. So it’s incumbent upon us to take advantage of the present moment. It’s the only thing that’s real.
Congratulations on the brand new album. You’ve incorporated 432Hz healing music into the project, whilst keeping things quite songwriter focused at the same time. What inspired you to take this approach?
I tune all my instruments slightly offset to 432 hertz as it’s a healing sound frequency in order to relax and calm the body and the mind. It’s also the fundamental component of string theory which consists of infinitesimal small strings vibrating.
I think that this serves well for my music, both lyrically and musically, because I like the interconnectedness, the bringing everything together basically with that. Historically, we would see that even in the Renaissance where people would appreciate the interconnectedness among seemingly diverse disciplines. Not just in art and music, but sacred geometry was reflected in architecture, literature, astronomy.
Consider the works of DaVinci and Golden Ratios, Fibonacci sequence. Even Verdi and Mozart recorded music at 432 Hertz., I think 432.Hertz is a nice subset that accentuates the convergence, the oneness, the interrelatedness of everything.
What made you choose to make a video for Castles, and indeed to open the project with it?
Castles has, I think, nice relaxing, upbeat energy, and it serves as a nice prelude for multiple types of instrumentation throughout the recordings.
It was actually quite fun to make the video. Tommy Nguyen did a great job and pieced that together, with a nice pun on castles.
In terms of arranging the album, I arrange things in key ascension, and I learned this through my father, who actually charted Billboard four times 1983 to 1991 with a band called Burbank Station. He learned at a seminar at Vanderbilt University about the significance of the subliminal effects of key ascension.
Now, if I was recording, say, grunge or dark metal, I might want to go arrange in key descension. Key ascension means climbing keys, for example C to Eb to F to G, just going in ascension rather than, say G to F to E. This creates more of a climatic type, euphoric feel of elation. And that’s what I’m trying to achieve with that as well as lyrically.
Lyrically, it also serves as a great prelude to a lot of what my songs are about with an emphasis on Buddhist eastern religion tenets such as detachment, self-actualization, and in bettering and knowing yourself from within.
How have you arranged the album, is it a solo effort, and if so – how will the music translate to the stage?
Well, again, I think it’s with the stronger songs first, but also with key ascension..
So I did write and record the entire album actually in this little studio here in my little mini studio. And then I brought it to the larger studio and they do a great job in master production of my works
The only thing I didn’t perform were the drum fills I. Upon completion, I felt something was missing some type of energy, and I wanted it to be more like a live performance. So Grant Thomas, who also produced the album and is an excellent percussionist, put in these John Bonham-type fills, which would give this nice low end that you’ll hear on a lot of songs. But other than that, I did compose and perform all the parts including drums, musically and lyrically. So it’s a solo effort except for the drum fills.
I actually consider myself more like The Wizard of Oz, the guy behind the curtain. Certainly much more comfortable in a music studio where I control all the parameters of sound and I create and make sounds. I’ve actually never performed live in front of people, and a lot of people have not during the course of the past few years with the pandemic. I think we’re starting to recognize and appreciate the significance of streaming platforms and videos and even platforms like Stereo Stickman..
It’s not to say that I wouldn’t play or perform. It actually could be quite fun. Maybe, perhaps a festival or, or a show. But it does require a lot of work. One would have to get a band.
Of course, a lot of the sounds that I execute in the studio cannot be emulated on stage, so I wouldn’t be able to recreate a lot of that. That would be the problem. So the music would sound quite different.
And it always seems to be like an acoustic performance, correct?
Which is interesting because that’s how I compose the songs anyway. Up to this point, I should say I always write it on guitar as a fingerstyle, full solo version where I’m actually playing the lead, the rhythm and the bass, and perhaps thumping the guitar in some songs. But as I add tracks and kind of blow the song up some of that will be have to be cut out because the sound box is finite in terms of what sound frequencies can exist in there. So a lot of that has to be cut so you may not hear the low end of the guitar or perhaps the pads and electric piano frequencies competed and were preferred. So, if I did play a live show with these recordings, it would actually sound quite different acoustically.
How did the song Riptide come to be, and do you prefer to perform this kind of stripped-back, intimate track, or the bigger arrangements (like Soulmates)?
So Riptides is a fingerstyle song that I’ve played on Epiphone nylon string guitar. I’m playing in an alternate tuning, as I commonly do, because this allows me to access various chord inversions that you could not otherwise access. This tuning is EGCEAD.
And I like this because it’s more like my natural fingerstyle ability, and I like that kind of music. But sometimes both the artist and the music fan prefers blowing it up. So I like to go both ways, and when I do that, I’m merely adding on layers and layers and filling up more of the sound box.
Also, something that maybe was three tracks like that was just a couple, acoustic tracks and vocal track. It doesn’t take me long to get to 100 tracks like something like castles or Funky Spirit where both had more than 100 tracks on it with my proficient recording setup.
But with more track additions upon additions, the song changes quite a bit. It becomes quite an adventure and journey as the song evolves. I don’t always know where it is taking me. Later I’ll isolate tracks I recorded with effects I never even heard with so many layers, sometimes in 5ths with the guitars, pads and strings. It goes both ways. I like doing both.
Which song on the album means the most to you personally, and why? (Or, if you can’t choose one – tell us the story behind any of your choice?)
That would be TrainThrough the Abyss, and it’s probably my favorite song. This is also an alternate tuning CGCFCF with capo 3rd fret. It’s more my natural voice and music style. In there, you’ll hear a lot of interesting jazz chord shapes I can reach with this alternate tuning and some flamenco type licks.
I’m also using a Carvin fretless bass attempting some Jaco Pastorius type bass riffs. A lot going on. But more importantly, it comes at a time when Tony Bennett is fading, and I like to think that this song is in honor of Tony Bennett.
How has your creative style evolved since the release of A Moment In Time, and how does it feel to listen back to that project now?
I think the biggest thing is I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on things with some time off. And one of the things that I did during that time of the pandemic is I’ve purchased and now possess Omnisphere. Utilizing my Roland Juno synthesizer as a modulator, I can now access 14,000 digitized sounds. I’ve just completed custom organizing these sounds. And it’s kind of changes everything because before that I always composed on guitar even though some songs ultimately feature other instruments and very little guitar
I designed about 400 custom software sounds from Roland hardware processors for guitar and I can easily modify or create more as needed. So now I have all these sounds that I’ve categorized and I’ve ranked them. And it’s probably going to change everything in how I go about writing and creating things because I’ll probably write more starting on the synthesizer now. And it’s neat how the sounds and the effects can inspire the song. I have more sounds to work with than I could ever use. There are no limits in sound and effect creation.
So that’s why I think I’m going to be a lot more versatile as an artist and that in comparison to the first EP and now the first album that I released. I did use a little Omnisphere from the master production studio on the first EP A Moment in Time you’ll hear it with the strings, steel guitar, pads. But for the album Formaneaux Sequence I was using old Roland synthesizer effects without Omnisphere. So I anticipate using many more diverse synthesizer sounds for upcoming projects.
What are your main intentions with this album – where do you imagine people listening to it, and what do you hope they take away?
Well, I view myself more as the messenger and the music is the vehicle. I’m using subliminal things, whether it be 432 Hertz, or sound effects and trying to bridge different musical genres with a fusion style. The whole concept of being the messenger is about bringing people together. You know, the oneness, the interconnectedness within the Universe, accentuating those things that unify us rather than alienate us such as the divisiveness we have in the media, politics and religion, in actuality, we are all much more similar than we are different. The interconnectedness of the Universe and Sacred Geometry confirms this.
So I think this album release comes at a good time. So that would be the goal, to be the messenger, the Wizard of Oz and bring people together. And I do hope that people will find it through streaming platforms, through the videos and what not.
And maybe I’ll even perform someday with it.
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“I view myself more as the messenger and the music is the vehicle.”
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You’re a multi-instrumentalist with a few less common choices at your disposal – what’s your go-to when sitting down to write, and are their any instruments you’ve yet to play but would like to?
In actuality there are very few instruments that you can actually play chords, song or lead and base simultaneously. There is guitar and its variants such as harp and there is piano and its variants such organs and accordions.
Through those two instruments, you can actually pretty much access all the sounds now with digital technology. Not to say that they are better. But I don’t need to know how to play cello or violin when I can access a great sound patch.
Now there are times that I want the feel of a nylon string guitar, or maybe the Blue Ridge acoustic I use in Train through the Abyss or Moment in Time, Or some recordings I prefer a Carvin fretless bass to create slides and a jazzier feel. These I cannot emulate digitally!
But essentially, my whole recording efforts are much more proficient. Now I’m using less to get more and I’m doing it in a more proficient manner which optimizes my time and gives me more freedom. I do have Baritone acoustic guitar Nashville tuned to DADGAD and Dobro I’ll likely use at some point.
Does your creativity manifest itself in any other ways?
Well, I am a full time podiatrist in private practice, I have several practices and I’m on staff at a number of the hospitals. And I consider the practice of medicine to be quite an artform predicated on a large scientific knowledge base. I’m actually designing various minimally invasive surgical foot procedures as well, so I’m kind of multifaceted with two different lives.
And it’s everywhere you look by the way. Creativity abounds. It’s everywhere. It’s more about how you see the world and pattern recognition and the structure amidst the chaos. You just got to open your eyes to it and you can be creative in whatever discipline you’re doing and bring new things to the table.
What’s the best piece of advice you would give to an aspiring musician at the start of their journey?
Do what you know and do it well! Because that’s all you know, and it doesn’t matter if somebody else thinks it’s good. It’s what you know is good. And if you follow that, you might make it somewhere. And if you don’t, if you do what everybody else is doing, you probably won’t. And this is a quote I actually stole from Pat Metheny in a recent interview he did with Rick Beato.
And it’s quite har I really like and live by. It’s important to understand the context of this quote. Bright Size Life, which Pat Metheny released in 1976, which also featured Jaco Pastorius, only sold an abysmal 800 copies. The culture was not ready for an album like that and did not appreciate it.
45 years later, in 2021, after selling millions of copies, it was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry in the Smithsonian Anthology Deemed as culturally, historically and aesthetically significant..
The point being, if you’re attempting something unique, society might not be ready for it. Most people who are going to check out your stuff have not even been born yet. We know countless examples throughout science and the arts.
So, you know, stick to your guns, do what you know is good.
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“Music is the creation of order out of disorder, it’s mathematical how the Universe is created. Everything is interrelated with physics, mathematics and the cosmos.”
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What’s next for you?
Well, now that I have a portfolio out, I would actually like to network with some various artists, perhaps jazz, soulful R&B vocalists, somebody who has a good feel for the type of things that I like to create. This could be refreshing. Perhaps the Summation could be greater than the individual parts.
So that’s musically, personally, I’m more of a reclusive introverted. I’d like to travel and date more, maybe become a little bit Casanova, who is actually in one of my songs. Music is the creation of order out of disorder, it’s mathematical how the Universe is created. Everything is interrelated with physics, mathematics and the cosmos. Einstein wrote about that and saw his life in terms of music. Composition is really the creation of structure from chaos. Some naturally thrive on that premise.
Do you have anything to add to that?
I wrote that consolidating it from different sources. . And again, to reiterate the whole concept of this album, perhaps is being the messenger musically.
It’s not about me. I’m the vehicle, time is finite in this realm. While I’m here, I want to emphasize the unity in the 432 hertz and music with a positive message that can bridge different genres with a sophisticated music style that can be listened to over and over again. I try to make it interesting like a fingerstylist never to play the chorus or verse the same way and sometimes intentionally to be off a beat with the lyrics randomly.
I think it is important how we look at things, perhaps more like Renaissance thinkers, recognizing patterns and sacred geometry. We have to see through a lot of things like the media, politics, religion and accentuate Oneness. And we’re all more alike than we are dissimilar. And that’s how we should approach it. And we’re all brilliant, by the way and have to access that and follow our bliss.
Well, thank you for sitting down with us, and we’ve enjoyed having this interview. Thank you very much.
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