From the ethereal soundscapes of Denkmensch to the organic, unplugged and historically inspired tones of a classically-rooted Steve Dream, this is an artist with unignorable versatility and depth to his creative approach.
Celebrating the release of his latest work, a full-length project including the beautifully complex conceptual undertones of solo piano-piece Cmin Piano – Der Verlorene Schatz, we were blessed with the opportunity to dig into Steve’s artistic process and his journey so far in life and music.
Here’s the conversation in full.
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Hi Steve – a real pleasure to finally interview you! We’ve come a long way since the cinematic production of 2020’s Travel To Star. For those new to your work, where did your musical journey begin?
The year 2020 was characterized by significant personal changes. This led me to fully embrace my passion for music.
“I was able to develop my music in a way that pleased me and provided me with what I had been missing for years: intimacy, openness, and fidelity in the sounds of music.”
My musical journey began early on. My father is an exceptionally sensitive person who is very introverted and intelligent. Back then, I saw him as a hero because he fought for something he believed in: the ability to listen to Western music.
I was born in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), which had been annexed by the Russians and had a restricted cultural landscape. I didn’t understand the political implications at the time, but witnessing my father’s actions to obtain music in some “criminal” way, as it was forbidden in the GDR, gave me a sense that music was important to him.
I have a memory of Christmas. Traditionally, my father would play Handel’s Water Music on a vinyl record, and the music fascinated me; it was so beautiful. However, it was the song I Just Called to Say I Love You by Stevie Wonder, when I was around 5 or 6 years old, that captivated me with its melody and opened the door to more music. But it was truly in 1992, during Christmas, when my musical journey began.
I received a small keyboard as a gift because I had been fascinated by the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata (I had discovered it in my father’s music collection after his separation from my mother) a few months earlier. I desperately wanted to play it myself and experience it firsthand. It helped me during my grieving process, underscored my profound sense of inner conflict, and gave me strength.
What can you tell us about the inspiration and ideas behind Der Heros in tausend Gestalten?
The book The Hero with a Thousand Faces delves into the concept of the monomyth, the hero’s journey of every individual. As a work of mythological research, it examines the ancient stories of humanity, exploring motifs and connecting diverse civilizations that may have never had contact with each other (such as the Maya-Inca and the Egyptians, for example).
This fascinated me because since my youth, I have read many works that delve into self-realization, rational worldviews, and more. Myths are narratives of past spirits, much like ourselves. However, what captivates me is the symbolic language of myths, the mental images evoked by the stories, and the deeper meaning they acquire when the symbols of myths point to human qualities.
All stories share similar motifs, only the symbols and protagonists take different forms. These stories have led me to self-reflection, as I search for and find the motifs of myths within myself. I had the idea of musically and thematically describing this wonderful book that has provided me with guidance and clarity in my life. Thus, each composition in this cycle is closely connected to the themes of the book or at least conveys a message that guides me in composing.
What is it about classical music that draws such passion from you, and who first introduced you to the likes of Bach and Beethoven?
“Classical music is the most wonderful gift that one person can give to another because it requires tremendous personal effort to develop this art.”
The passion begins with the first note of a good piece, the dedication of the musician who strives to play the music and convey the composer’s thoughts.
I believe that there is always a part of me that seeks to immerse myself in the musical cosmos of the composer. From a young age, I have convinced myself of the qualities of composers. I did not value technical aspects; rather, I focused on whether the composer could enchant me with their music.
It was Beethoven who first enchanted me with his Moonlight Sonata (due to its simple musical structure, I thought it could be easily learned auto-didactically since my parents couldn’t afford music lessons). However, during the same period, Bach also captivated me immediately. Especially his famous piece BWV 565 (Toccata and Fugue in D minor) blew me away. I tried to understand how Bach modulated the harmonies in this piece without knowing the important significance of a scale or modulation.
It was only later, from 2021 onwards, that I solidified my auto-didactic skills with six months of studying music theory and began to truly understand the music.
How do you begin when crafting a new piece of music?
That’s easy to answer. Depending on the tension I want to create, I consider which scale resonates with my emotions, and then I play learned motifs within that scale while accompanying minimally with my left hand.
I still lack technical skills in my left hand, but I am working hard to improve them, and I may even have the opportunity to pursue organ studies in the near future. Only then do I think my future compositions will become more polished and playable with added complexity.
The simple approach yet complex evocative nature of Cmin Piano – Der verlorene Schatz is captivating. What does the track represent, and what is the poem or text accompanying it on Soundcloud?
The lost treasure is hidden within each of us. I believe that everyone has loved something that they eventually had to forget.
In this poem, my focus is primarily on the Germans, as we are a nation that has grown up with different ideologies and values, divided between East and West.
“This division was caused by the political ideologies that tore Germany apart after World War II. Our lost treasure is the justice towards the people in East Germany and the call to end this unequal treatment.”
However, this text is not exclusively tailored to Germany, as its main message is that in essence, everyone tends to prioritize themselves, given that we live in a capitalist system where money holds more value than empathy and compassion.
Are you musically trained, did you study music, or are you self-taught?
I taught myself how to play. It took a very long time since I couldn’t learn music through sheet music. As mentioned earlier, in 2021, I studied fundamental music theory concepts.
It’s important for those who are interested to always believe in themselves and in the music. Every minute spent with the instrument is valuable, even if one doesn’t realize it at the time.
Do you aspire to get your music in films and other media formats, or is your goal to build a self-standing repertoire and perform live on tour?
If anything, I have a primary goal with my music. I want the music to touch people. Certainly, a significant focus in recent years has been on film music, especially Hans Zimmer. He writes incredibly good compositions and revitalizes classical music in an enchanting way. However, since I also enjoy creating other genres, I don’t want to limit myself to specializing in just one.
From Pink Floyd to Rachmaninoff, your love for music seems limitless. What would you say has been the one track or composition that you’ve listened to the most throughout your life, and why?
So basically, it’s the Moonlight Sonata in the 1st movement, as I spent five years of my life trying to play the song “similarly” using sheet music (which I couldn’t read since there was no internet back then). I don’t know how many times I played it, but it was very often.
I also listened to Chopin’s Nocturnes for a long time and tried to play some of them. I was greatly fascinated by Chopin. It wasn’t until my early thirties that Bach truly reached me, and I started composing pieces in the style of Baroque organ music using a DAW (this music is my absolute favorite).
You mentioned being unable to play some of your works in their entirety, do you get session musicians in, or program everything in a DAW? And are you currently taking lessons or working on your own musicianship?
In the past, mainly for compositions like Travel to Star, I programmed the main components using FL Studio. Additionally, I incorporate unspecified elements using my MIDI keyboard. It wasn’t until the end of 2021 that I started focusing intensively on developing my playing skills.
I have a strong desire to sit at the organ, and for this purpose, I already programmed a cycle in the DAW last year called Work for Organ. I work on it almost every day, even if it’s just for 20 minutes, to keep my fingers moving.
What’s your biggest ambition as a modern composer and artist?
I want to use my art to provoke people to think, to create things that revolve around controversial social and political topics, as well as the simple love for music. I aspire to collaborate with other musicians and make a living through my craft.
“My goal is to bring forth creations that do not yet exist, and to contribute to the artistic landscape in a meaningful way.”
Is there anything else we should know?
Absolutely! Holding onto one’s dreams is crucial, but it’s equally important to take action, invest time, and put in the effort to turn those dreams into reality.
Dreams alone are not enough; it requires dedication, hard work, and perseverance to make them come true. By actively pursuing our dreams and investing our time and effort, we increase the chances of achieving our goals and living a fulfilling life.
And my absolute master tip -> Use ChatGPT for self-development!
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