Living in a big ol’ house in Oslo, Sten Erland Hermundstad has been passionately collecting old synthesizers, electric pianos, bells, drum machines, tape echos, tube amps, microphones and anything or everything that makes strange sounds for more than 25 years now. With his other big love (next to music) and their two children he also takes care of a cute little dog. (We asked for a picture, but it would break the internet – true story.)
I grew up in the countryside in beautiful surroundings, and I started playing the piano already at the age of seven. Since my family has a long and strong musical tradition, my playing the piano was not really by choice, I just happened to start playing classical piano. I have had good teachers and my mother always encouraged me and made me appreciate practicing. I never questioned the practice. It was just the way it was supposed to be. I loved it, and I still do. Practicing the piano brings a sense of peace and balance to my life.
When I was twelve I heard – for the first time – “It is Only A Paper Moon” with Nat King Cole Trio playing on the radio. I remember it as if it was yesterday. This gave me an amazing boost, and ever since that day I have also been a huge jazz fan. Keith Jarrett, Bud Powell, Lennie Tristano, Bill Evans, Paul Bley…God knows how many thousands hours I have spent listening to these amazing pianists.
What is your motivation behind composing classical music instead of popular music for example?
“Well, I grew up playing classical music and I still love practicing Mozart, Bach, Grieg, Chopin, etc. Sometimes they obsess me – Bach’s inventions part 2 and 3 have followed me for more than thirty years and I never get tired of playing them. I suppose this is one of the reasons composing classical, traditional music comes natural to me, although I am very open minded when it comes to genres and music styles. I also love electronic, jazz, pop, rock and folk music and have played in lots of different bands here in Oslo over the last 25 years. I have dreamed about being a singer-song-writer for a long time, but I have set this dream aside for a while. But I do enjoy singing, making and combining text and music, so time will tell. But to say that I only compose classical music is therefore not correct. It is just that this is the music people have heard – this is the music I have recorded for release.”
Your first album ‘Mountains’ was released on March 11th this year. Please, tell us a little about its origin and your inspiration.
“The music to «Mountains» was a natural reaction and a result of having played in a loud, noisy punk-jazz band for some years. Being a part of this band was extremely educational and a whole lot of fun for me, playing in crazy tempos and strange scales, but through this I also found a desire to play more quiet, beautiful music. So little by little these piano pieces came to life, one by one. I released them on SoundCloud – one by one – where they have had an unbelievable high play and download score. The response has been overwhelming. I have received hundreds of emails from people, young and old, telling me how much these little pieces have meant to them, and this, of course, is very inspiring and rewarding to me. I also received requests from several different record companies asking me to release my music. I chose the Swedish label 1631 Recordings.”
We first heard of you from Christopher Leger (looky, looky, with whom you have created an EP. Do have any other collaborations planned we should know about?
“Yes, I am working on several exciting and fun collaborations as we speak. KLUNKS is one of them, a project together with an amazingly talented guy in Bergen, Norway. In this collaboration I play my Fender Rhodes electric piano with effects pedals like a wha-wha, ring modulator and distortion linked to his electronic beats. This is just incredibly rewarding and fun, and I can’t wait to continue this work, and also to perform it live. If things turns our right this music will also be released. In addition to this I have an ongoing collaboration with the amazing multi artist Martin Hoogerboom. For this music I play “prepared piano”, which means that I “prepare” the piano for example by putting objects like screws, coins or paper on top of the piano strings to make different sounds and effects. The next release in this project will be somewhere in May/June. I also do gigs from time to time with a couple of bands here in Oslo.”
Do you have more released planned for this year or will you focus more on writing?
“Yes I do. I am in the middle of making a new solo album. This is a long and slow process, but I enjoy that as well. I am hoping to be able to release this album next winter. I am also working on new solo piano pieces for a release together with three other pianists. This collaboration is to be released on 12″ vinyl sometime this spring by the Scottish label Mini50 Records.”
Will you be performing ‘Mountains’ live?
“The honest truth is that no one has asked me yet. But if the question comes up I will perform live, of course.”
You heard the man! Book him now or you will make MOBI cry :'(