Interview with Alex Zikesch

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Have any of you played in other bands? I am mostly writing, recording and producing my music on my own. I play piano, accordion, percussion and I sing. I played for some time piano in a jazz quartet.  I currently have a band with which I do gigs. The band is essentially a Forró Pé-de-Serra (Brazilian music genre) trio. In this music genre, a band is comprised of an accordion, a zabumba (a large drum played on both sides) and a triangle. But the members of the band also play other instruments, like cavaquinho (Brazilian style guitar, similar to an ukulele) and pandeiro (Brazilian tambourine) and swap depending on the song. The musicians I play with have already played in different bands, including in a Samba/Pagode group.
How is it that you started playing music? I started with classical piano lessons as a child.
What are your names? / Who plays what? / How old are you?
Alex Zikesch: Piano, accordion, percussion, vocals
Hélio Bruno Torres: Zabumba, cavaquinho, vocals
Wanderson Palheta da Silva: Percussion, vocals
Have you had other previous members? No.
Where are you from? I was born and I grew up in Germany. I also lived in the UK and France for various years. Now I live in Brazil (Coari, Amazonas), where the other musicians I play with are from.
What year did the band form? Our band formed in 2016, but I started to write and record music in 2015.
What is your style of genre? Forró Pé de Serra / MPB (Música Popular Brasileira) / Samba which I sometimes fuse with elements from ragtime and traditional jazz (especially Harlem Stride Piano). I am also doing reinterpretations of international rock/pop songs in Brazilian genres and foreign language versions of Brazilian songs.
What inspires you? Life and great musicians.
How often and where do you rehearse? Around every two weeks with the band.
How have you developed since you started with the music? I learned a lot. I moved across many different genres: from classical music to jazz and then on to Brazilian music…
Do you have other interests of work outside the band? Yes, I am a maths lecturer at the Federal University of Amazonas.
Are you looking for a booking agency, and what are your thoughts around that?  I am not actively looking at the moment, but I am open to anything that comes along.
Are you looking for a label, and what are your thoughts around that? I am not actively looking at the moment, but I am open to anything that comes along.
What made you decide to make this music? The reason I started to make music in Brazilian genres, is because they seem not be very well known and a little bit overlooked outside of Brazil. I found that many good pianists in Europe go down the classical music or jazz route, with few exploring in depth other genres, like Brazilian ones. Some of those genres, like Forró have some very interesting features, apart from their intricate rhythms, they have their own scales (so-called Northeastern scales – “Escalas Nordestinas”), in a similar way that blues, for example, also has the "blues scale".  In many of my compositions I try to work with these "Northeastern" scales. I also try to avoid using instruments that are very common, like the guitar and drums. Actually, no song of mine has any guitars (electric or acoustic). And “drums” I only use in the form of the occasional crash or hi-hat.   In particular, I am trying to explore the accordion and the piano together with percussion instruments. I also find Brazilian genres interesting as they differentiate themselves already through the instruments each one of them uses. Typical Forró / Samba / Rock bands for example do not have a single instrument in common!  The melody and percussion instruments in each of the genres are completely different. Finally, it is easier to make something new by working with instruments that are not that common.
What are your songs about? Love, life (the bright and dark sides), nature…
Who does the composing and writes the lyrics? I do.
Do you start with the music or the lyrics? Almost always the lyrics. I find it easier to write music and melodies, so for me it is easier to find a melody that fits the lyrics, than the other way around!
Do you compose in a certain environment? Alone at home, in my home studio, with coffee, no noise and noone interrupting or disturbing me.
Have you done any covers live? I do that all the time!  I love doing covers, especially reinterpretations that “move” a song from one genre to a completely different one. These reinterpretations are especially interesting as most our gigs are done just with three instruments: accordion, triangle and zabumba. Some of these reinterpretations I have recorded in my home studio:
It Must Have Been Love - Roxette
Sweet Child o’Mine – Guns ‘n’ Roses
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
What language do you sing in? Mainly English and Portuguese, but I already recorded a song in French and I plan to record one in German.
What are the least and most people to attend one of your gigs? Usually there are 20 to 150 people in our gigs, but last month I played solo piano live on national television here in Brazil!
What age are most of your concert attendants? Pretty much any age, it depends on the gig.
Do you always play the same songs live, or do you vary? We vary a bit.
Do you have a regular place you play live often? Not really. There are a couple of places we play usually.
What was your latest gig? At the end of March, when I played piano live on national TV here in Brazil.
Have you had to cancel a gig? Unfortunately, yes, a couple of times, mainly because of lack of responsibility of someone involved…
What do you think about people downloading music instead of buying ecords now-a-days? Well, you can’t fight the future. Downloading is how people obtain their music today. But who downloads should still pay something, obviously.
What do you think of my work? It is great that you are giving so many musicians around the world the chance to talk about their music!
How do you think and know that this interview will help you in the music business? Any opportunity for a musician to talk about their work is always positive, as this way your music ends up reaching more people.
Do you have any role models or idols? Dominguinhos, Serge Gainsbourg, Fats Waller, Trio Xamego (Dió de Araújo), Trio Dona Zefa, Jarvis Cocker, João Silva, Fats Domino, James P. Johnson, Scott Joplin, Luiz Gonzaga.
Is it easier to find inspiration from older bands, or bands that are more active today? For me it is mostly older bands, but it depends...
What advice would you give other bands or artists? Try to do something different, something individual. That is always a good start!
How do you get psyched for a gig? Haha, I like to have some coffee beforehand.
Do you have any new material? All the time I post new songs. I plan to release an album of English versions of Brazilian Forró songs. I also plan to release an album of original Forró songs in English.
What are your web sites?
How can people reach you? Through my sites!! Sending a message!!
Do you have something to add? Thanks for the opportunity to be able to talk about my work and congratulations on your great blog! Keep up the good work!
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