Breaking Waves all the way from the UK, Syd R. Duke sits down with Indie Volt to give us and all our followers the scoop on how he produces music and what his plans for the future are.
1. Where are you from?
I was born in Bristol in the UK but currently live in Sheffield, UK.
2. Are there any other members besides you?
Nope, all my music released under the name Syd R Duke is totally solo.
3. How did you come up with your band name ?
It is my name 🙂
4. Is there a deeper meaning behind it?
It is my name 🙂
5. How would you describe the type of music you play?
My releases have covered quite a few different genres, from psychedelic folk (My Witness Is The Empty Sky), to glitchy beats (Breaking Waves EP) and ambient music (Calm, Vol. I). I also have a YouTube channel, where I’ve uploaded classical and jazz mashups (Five Elise, Fugue on a Theme of Eminem, Improvisation on a Theme of Nirvana), as well as occasional covers of music from games in a variety of styles – including a reggae version of some music from Super Mario World, a classical guitar cover of the Pokemon theme and a laid-back acoustic cover of some Sonic music affectionately referred to by fans as Green Chill Zone.
6. What would you say your biggest influences are?
I was classically trained when I was younger but soon branched out into many different genres. I try to find something to appreciate in all the music I listen to, and I tend to get really absorbed in a particular artist or style of music for a while before I move on to something else. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Charles Mingus, whose music encourages me to explore and experiment more, and I’ve also been discovering Neo-Soul through Robert Glasper and his supergroup Dinner Party. Bob Dylan was one of the first artists whose lyrics drew my attention away from harmony and melody, and I particularly like the way he’ll reinterpret his own songs when he plays them live. Early on I was influenced by The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s drive to be creative – there’s a scene in the classic music documentary “Dig!” which shows Anton Newcombe recording individual layers of a song in a storage unit which I found particularly inspiring. And when researching for my mashup EP (Syd R Duke Presents Intellectual Property – free to download on Bandcamp due to legality), I discovered an album which has remained one of my favourites: Tom Cuarana’s mashup album of Wu-Tang and The Beatles called “Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers”.
7. What is a typical day like for you? What are practices like? How long is a typical practice?
I make music every day. Sometimes that means practising my instruments (primarily piano and guitar, and I’ve also been learning the clarinet), but most days I’ll try and work on recording something in my home studio. I try to live by the Dewey Cox mantra, “Make a little music every day ’til you die”.
8. I know some people have meanings behind each song, is this true for you? If so can you tell us which songs have a deeper meaning behind them?
I’ve been focussing more on instrumental music lately, so I will often have a specific goal in mind regarding the mood I’m aiming for, or a musical journey I want to go on. However as far as my songs with lyrics are concerned, I’m a firm believer that it is not an artist’s place to interpret their own work. It’s far more important to me to let other people find their own meanings, and I think that announcing what I intended by a certain lyric undermines listeners’ interpretations.
9. What is the creative process like? How do you get inspired to write a new song?
In my experience waiting for inspiration is a pretty unproductive way to create music. These days I try to follow a more disciplined approach – working on music every day is far more satisfying, and leads to far more finished work. What works for me is having many different projects on the go at the same time, so that I can step away from something if I need to, but still continue to be creative in a different area.
10. Are there any live performances or tours in the near future?
Unfortunately not at the moment.
11. What’s one of the biggest problems or struggles that you had to overcome?
I used to be extremely snobby about music, and it was holding me back. It wasn’t until I met other people who were aloof and dismissive of the music I liked that I realised what I was doing and how unhelpful snobbery really is. It took me a few years to train myself to find things I appreciate in all the music I come across, and it’s been incredibly beneficial for me, both as a musician and in my personal life.
12. Are there any new albums in the making?
I released an hour of ambient music called “Calm, Vol. I” last week. It was made over the last few months in lockdown, and I’ve been getting some really positive feedback so far. I also currently have two larger projects that I’m working on that may become albums – one is inspired by contemporary classical musicians such as Steve Reich and uses tape loops to create acoustic soundscapes, and the other is my attempt to bring together the experimental glitchiness of “Breaking Waves EP” and the folk sensibilities of “My Witness Is The Empty Sky”. I also aim to upload something every week or two on my Youtube channel.
13. Besides on Indie Volt Radio, where can people find Syd R Duke at?
I’m most active on my Youtube channel, and most of my studio albums are available on your preferred streaming service. The ones that aren’t streaming can be found on Bandcamp, where I also have a sheet music site for my classical/jazz work.
Bandcamp for sheet music: https://sydrdukepiano.bandcamp.com/
14. Any fun facts you want to share with us and your fans?
I have caught all 151 Pokemon in the original Pokemon Blue, making me a true Pokemon Master.