Recently, I have made an interview for Berklee Online with one of my followers, Joseph. We talked about many interesting subjects during this 30 minutes interview, so I thought I could share everything with you. Have a nice read!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Antoine Michaud, and I am from Montreal, Canada.
How long have you been playing and what instruments & style do play?
I am playing since 12 years. I started on guitar, but added many more to the list as keyboards, bass, flute, trumpet.
I am playing in 2 different styles: ambient & progressive rock.
You have recently released Space Culture under you solo project Monochrome Seasons. Can you tell me about the inspirations behind this record?
With Space Culture, I wanted to make a clear statement on the direction my music was going in. It was already my 5th release and my previous albums were either going a lot on the ambient side or a lot on the progressive rock side.
My goal was to blend the ambient and prog side as seamlessly as possible to please all my ambient fans from my Youtube channel and the fans from my progressive rock band Mystery. I wanted an album that I would not be shy to sell on a merch table of either of those projects.
I have been inspired a lot by string instruments actually. I wanted to involve some talented friends and write a lot more arrangments for strings. It’s nice to have people to work with and exchange your energy while you are recording. Especially when it is a solo project.
I also kept in mind that wanted the instrumentation from song to song would not to drastically change (as I did on other records). That way I could have the option in the future to form a band for Monochrome Seasons and play live shows. The cellist would not have to wait 7 songs before going back on stage 😉 That being said, I have no short term goals to bring this project to the stage, but it always remains an option.
The name of the album was also very important as I wanted to imply the social aspect of building a little community of ambient music lovers around my project. The word ‘’culture’’ is a very strong word and everything just felt right about it.
How have you evolved as a musician since the release of you last record Scordatura? Were there any lessons learned from the Scordatura project that affected the writing/release of Space Culture?
Overall, I think I’m always improving from album to album, even just in terms of the production quality. I learn to record and mix better with experience.
I think the main thing I did differently, is that I took more time. I was used to a very fast release pace. The time between Scordatura and its previous release was 8 months, and the time between Space Culture and Scordatura was 17 months. I took more time to plan my release. I also wrote a lot more songs and cut some of them in the process to keep the best ones, which is something I did not do on Scordatura.
I think that waiting a little bit more than usual sparked a lot more interest in my new crowdfunding campaign. If I were to do it every 6 months, my fans would grow tired of it.
I also abandoned the concept of doing gapless music. On my 3 previous records, I have done many songs gapless, seamlessly transitioning between one to another. While I think it is a very challenging and creative way to make an album, it’s also a lot harder to move songs around and find the best pacing possible for your album. With Space Culture, I was able to do it and rethink the order of the songs.
Another detail is that I tried on Scordatura to record less with a click to get more of a natural feel. I found that this was a mistake. Always record to a click kids! It’s a lot better to edit and it sounds way more professional and polished.
Finally, I think that becoming the official keyboardist of my band between my two last albums helped me to add more keyboard textures and elements like Moog solos on my new album, which adds a new dimension and new layers to my sound.
Can you tell me a little about your projects prior to Scordatura and Space Culture? What is the biggest change between then and now?
Before those 2 albums, I have made ‘’Under The Crystal Tree Part I & II’’ (EPs) and ‘’Autumn Stories’’ which was my debut album. Those albums all reflect who I was as a musician in that time. They are far than perfect, because they were auto-produced with little to no experience. But looking back I’m still very satisfied on how these albums came out.
If you could collaborate with any artist, living or deceased, who would it be and why?
Very easy question for me! That would have to be my favorite artist: Neal Morse. He is still a very prolific artist on the progressive rock scene. I actually participated in his open video auditions to form a band 5 years ago, but was not chosen to audition in Nashville. If only he had done this now, I would have had so much more experience in video-making and touring with a prog rock band… who knows what could have happened?
Neal Morse made all the music that sparked my love and my passion for progressive rock. If ever I have the opportunity to play with him someday, I will not think about it twice. I actually believe it’s not impossible. He is still in a very precise niche. It’s not like I wanted to play guitar for Maroon 5, you know?
Another band I really wanted to play in is actually… the band that I’m playing with right now! It’s called Mystery. They’re a prog rock band formed in the 90’s and were known because the singer was also the new singer for legendary band YES at the same time. When I got my first gig for an European tour with them back in 2014, this was a dream come true. Travel the world while doing what you love; I wish you all to live that experience in your life!
What advice would you give other musicians who are struggling to write, record, or release their own music?
I think the biggest issue with people starting their own project is that they try (or they hope) to be better than what they actually are right now. It’s ok if your album is not sounding professional. It’s ok if your song is not perfect. At a certain point you have to finish it, move on and create something else. If you never finish anything, you will not gain any experience and experience is the key to become a professional.
I say, don’t have any expectations. Make your music only for you. Do it, because you love it. Don’t try to please other people. It might work in the beginning, but there will always be a moment where you will lose yourself and start to doubt who you really are as an artist.
The goal of starting my Youtube channel was never to get successful. It was just a way for me to keep being creative and share it with others. I was never looking for any kind of success or recognition. And over time, I just kept making videos because I loved it. And the number one reason while I’m still doing it is because I truly love to do it!
Searching on internet how to find shortcuts to get better (buying better gear, reading forums, watching one hundred tutorials per month) is a total waste of time. You need to get your hands dirty and overcome your fear of not being good enough. As someone once said : ‘’JUST DO IT!’’ 😉
An advice a lot more related to music is to stop worrying about music theory and start working on your hearing skills.
A lot of people think that knowing music theory is the key to be able to write all the songs they want and get better at their instrument than anyone else. In fact, it is not. The key is to work on your ears, because they are your main tools in music. Not your brain, not your hands. Your ears.
Start to pick up some simple memories by ear. That’s the best training you can do. When you become good to find simple lines on your instrument, try to pick up some riffs and chord progression.
Explore the most you can the music you love. You will start to develop you ears so much more and that’s when you will slowly be able to write the songs you’ve always wanted to write.
In my opinion, hearing comes first and theory comes second. Theory should only serve to put some words on what you are already hearing and understanding without realizing it. It’s useless the other way around. So, my friends, go train your ears, that’s the best advice I could give you !
What is the right mindset to become a successful artist/musician?
Be curious, take risks and always hustle more. If you don’t work more than your neighbour, you will not succeed. And again: don’t work because you have to do it. Work because you love it. If you don’t love it, you should find another passion! (there’s nothing wrong about it, we’re not all made to have a career in music as we are not all made to be doctors, you know!)
You really have to have a good discipline. When I started getting serious about music, I could practice for 4 to 5 hours a day. You have to know that you have the concentration to do it. Few people have this gift and it’s a nice gift to have. If you want to be the best, you have to do what it takes to be the best.
I know it’s easy to say and hard to do, but that’s the reality. I don’t know a single professional musician who did not work hard to get to where he is.
Do you have a favorite piece of gear? If so what is it and why is it your favorite?
The day I bought my first Suhr guitar, I instantly fell in love. I think that pedals and microphones and all of that stuff is very crucial to your sound, but there’s nothing like the instrument itself to express yourself creatively. And that’s what I felt with Suhr guitar.
I am simply not able to play with something else now. Everytime I pick up a Suhr guitar, everything feels right: the neck, the playability, the fine-tuning of the instrument, the sounds of the pickups… I would never go back.
It would be very nice to get sponsored by Suhr someday, but it’s a lot harder because they are a smaller company doing everything by hand. Maybe one day!
I personally love the sketches you do on Youtube. Where did the idea to do this come from?
Well, thank you! Actually, I was hesitant to do it in the first place. The first series of songs I recorded on Youtube was called ‘’Instrumental Songs’’. The original idea came from Andy Othling from Lowercase Noises who did his ‘’Ambient Sketches’’. I felt like doing ambient sketches would be plagiarizing his work, I didn’t want to do that… for him and for me, because I have pride in my own artistic expression.
But after a while, I think the ‘’sketches’’ thing became a trend on Youtube and small independent musicians all started doing it.
I think when you’re the first to do something and someone copies you, it’s called being plagiarized. But when you’re the first to do something and a hundred people copy you, it’s called creating a new trend, a new style, being a pioneer at something. And all the credit goes to Andy for doing something that became bigger than himself.
At that point I decided that it felt right to make my own sketches too. But I divided my sketches series into two: ‘’ambient sketches’’ and ‘’prog rock sketches’’ to express myself in my two main genres, and I think that’s what makes me different than everybody else on Youtube. No one else does that.
What can we look forward to in 2017 from Monochrome Seasons?
I already started 2017 with a bang with the released of my new album Space Culture, so it should be a lot quieter in terms of releasing new music. If I’m going to release something new, it’s surely is going to be at the end of the year and it’s going to be a small EP. But nothing’s sure.
If you want to follow me with my band Mystery, we already have some gigs confirmed in Germany and France this year and we should release a new album at the end of this year.
For the rest, I just released a new blog that you can follow at antoinemichaud.com. I will post a lot on it if you want to learn more about me, get inspired and get some tips as an independent musician.
I also want to build my own courses on chords and harmony to teach my own way to approach the guitar in that matter. I think I have a unique offering for that particular subject. I will work very hard on it this summer.
Is there anything you would like to say before concluding this interview?
Thank you very much for having me, it was a pleasure!