Interview: Sandor Gavin
Hello Sandor Gavin and welcome to the Sanctum! I am more than honored to have you here! Now, your wide discography makes me wonder, are you a full-time musician or are you creating on the side? Also, is this a solo project?
I am not a full-time musician. Music to me has always been a passion and an emotional release. I do have a full-time career outside of music. Working full-time and releasing music does come with its challenges, but I just ensure I plan time to create space to write and record. The hardest part is scheduling creativity. Living in New York City, I oftentimes write lyrics while riding the subway. I have a voice recorder app on my phone for when an idea pops in my head. Then I use my studio time to get those ideas solidified. I used to perform in bands, but I went solo around 2010. However, solo isn’t exactly the right word. I often work with other musicians these days on either collaborative releases or as support or features on my self-titled releases.
What motivated you to start expressing yourself through music? Did it come at an early age or later in your life?
Music was always a part of my life as I was raised in a musical family. My parents ran a small opera company and I remember being on stage at a very young age. However, opera wasn’t really my thing. I was always more inspired by the sounds of the synthesizer, especially the New Wave and Synthpop music of the 1980’s.
Your first LP ‘The Edge of Love’ was released 6 years ago. How did it feel to put your first full body of work out there and what does ‘The Edge of Love’ mean to you?
I actually had 2 albums before The Edge of Love, “Partial to Blue” which was my debut solo album in 2010 and “Resonance” which followed in 2011. However, the recordings of those two albums needed some support so they are awaiting remastering and re-release at some point. There are only physical copies of those albums floating around currently. “The Edge of Love” was a re-worked album including songs from my first band Syntax of Devotion and was initially released under that name. However, another band in the United States trademarked the word Syntax and my music was taken down. Because of this, I released the album under my solo project. This album will always be special to me as the songs were some of the first that I had written, and the album was intended to have them produced the way I had envisioned them.
It’s extraordinary how you’ve been releasing a whole album each year from 2015 to 2017. From ‘The Edge of Love’ to ‘Fiction Theory’ to ‘Fascination Inc’, where did all this productivity come from?
Thanks! It’s interesting how things can look in a discography, but the truth is I’ve had periods of extended musical hibernation. There were 4 years between my album 'Resonance' and 'The Edge of Love'. During that time, I was having challenges finding inspiration. Eventually, the inability to write new songs led me to decide to re-work older songs leading to 'The Edge of Love'. 'Fiction Theory' was really my first album of new material since 2011. Similarly, the following album is made up of re-worked songs I had written during my time in a band called Fascination Inc around 2005. I had written a lot of good songs during my time with the band, but we were only together for a year and never properly recorded them. All I had were live basement recordings and I decided to finally put them out into the world.
After that album, I again faced a period of extended writer’s block. Other things in life were taking priority and the music just wasn’t flowing. I began writing Definitive Motion at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic during lockdown. I found that while being forced to isolate, musical ideas just started pouring out. It was like a dam broke and all that pent up creativity was set loose. Since then, I’ve just been trying to harness and control it. After Definitive Motion, I set a goal to continue to release something at least once a month. I am continuing that trajectory today and is what led to Primeval.
Your latest offering is called ‘Primeval’ and it’s obviously a tribute to the 80s. Can you please elaborate on your vision for this album?
'Primeval' is all about base human instinct. Raw sexual energy, love and desire. It is an exploration of the evolution of these feelings and experiences over a lifetime. The album starts out with 'Call of the Wild' which is that younger experience of being on the hunt, and 'Hooked on You', which is that puppy love and the unhealthy infatuation we tend to experience early on. Therefore, I felt it fitting to end with 'Heaven is Here', apart from the sax solo that just feels like an ending, the song is about finding that forever person. The search is over.
The value of your production in ‘Primeval’ is undeniable and I rarely come across an indie artist that sounds as big and polished as world-famous artists of their genre. Are you in charge of the creative process from start to finish? Do you mix and master your material yourself?
Thank you! This album in many ways was created in more of a professional, pop way than my others. I was not alone in the production, mixing and mastering. While a few of the tracks I wrote, produced and mixed from start to finish, I enlisted the support of a co-producer, musicians, and a mixing/mastering engineer to bring this album to life. While in my past I was kind of a control freak and wanted to own everything myself, I think there is magic that can come out of leveraging the strengths of others and pushing and pulling on each other’s creativity. This happens naturally when you’re in a band but is sometimes lacking when you’re a solo artist.
I want to know if there are tracks in ‘Primeval’ that, for some reason, are a bit more special to you and why. Also, how did you make ‘Déjà vu’ SO GOOD?
While they all feel like my children, and really this whole album was very different for me in terms of style. There’s definitely a few that feel a bit more special. 'She’s a Professional' was a lot of fun to do and was my first-time adding saxophone. There is just something about that song that transports me to a dingy bar on the wrong side of town that I love. Working with Fabian was a dream too, he just has this raspy quality to his playing that is just so sexy. 'Heaven is Here' is a special one to me too, for one it is about the love of my life, so there’s that. Another is that it feels like an evolution of my signature sound.
Yes, 'Déjà vu’ has certainly been a stand-out track! That song has been with me for quite some time. It was originally written during my time in Fascination Inc. around 2005 and was a much slower ballad. At the time the band didn’t like it as they felt it was for an older audience. It was released on my first solo album and this version is technically the third iteration. I do much prefer it with the nu-disco dance vibe! There is also a dance remix by Max Lyazgin which is quite groovy!
If someone asked you to recommend only 3 albums of your top influences, that contain the whole essence of the 80’s, which ones would you choose?
Oh wow, what a question! The first would have to be New Order’s 'Substance'. It’s kind of cheating I guess because it’s a double album with so many great New Order songs. They are probably one of my biggest influences and I even have a New Order tattoo, so yeah, I’m a fanboy. The Cure’s 'Disintegration' is another one. I like most everything that The Cure has done, but that album is just fantastic start to finish. The last for me must be a Depeche Mode album as they really were pioneers of synthpop. Like the Cure it’s hard to pick one, but I think 'Black Celebration' is my personal favorite. I just love the feeling of that album overall.
Let’s say you have the option to pick one album and one single of yours to reach the top of the worldwide charts. I know they are all your children but here’s the challenge! So?
Yeah, that is hard! Honestly, I’d be over the moon if any of my tracks charted. I think 'Primeval' is the album that is the strongest of my releases start to finish. Aside from the instrumentals that I created for cohesion and flow; I think each song can stand alone as a single. The original plan with this was to release all the songs as singles and then drop the album at the end, so I do think that guided my decision making as far as what to release (and what not to). Sometimes, when working on an album you will include a song or two that just isn’t single material on its own, so I think this approach made a difference to the quality of the album overall. As far as which single, I think I’d choose 'Déjà vu'. So far, 'Hooked on You' has had the strongest fan response, but if I was to choose the song to go to the top, I’d want to make sure I wouldn’t get sick of it because I’d have to play it over and over. Because 'Déjà vu' has stuck with me for over 15 years now, I think I could handle that!
We see a variety of visuals throughout your music, on your album covers and social media. Is there a specific graphic designer/illustrator who’s in charge of your image? Is Sandor Gavin part of this ‘sector’ as well?
I am not a visual designer or artist at all. I just enjoy a certain look and aesthetic. I have commissioned a few artists for unique designs along the way and is what I intend to do for the most part moving forward. I really like the work of Jordan Noir who did my portrait in the subway that I use on my social media. He is designing the cover of an upcoming collaboration that is looking cool. Some of my art in the past I have licensed, but I prefer exclusive works. The cover of 'Primeval' was designed by colemarkk an artist I found on artgrab which is a site for exclusive works created for album covers and such.
Has the pandemic affected your creativity in any way? How do you feel about the current situation both as a person and as an artist?
As I mentioned earlier, the pandemic broke me out of a writer’s block. For that, I am very thankful but of course I would have preferred the catalyst to have been something else. These are just such difficult times to live through. I do think that the silver lining will be all the art, music and otherwise, that has been created and continues to come out of this moment in history. I just wish things weren’t so politicized around the virus and people could begin working together more effectively to get us to the other side.
What are your plans for 2021? Are you enjoying Primeval’s release or have you already started preparing new material?
It’s very nice to have finished 'Primeval' and know it is out there being enjoyed. There is certainly a good amount of promotional effort that needs to be done to support the album. However, creatively I am already working on the next material. Where a lot of artists and bands would be spending time getting ready to tour the album, I am more of a studio musician these days and my passion is songwriting.
I am working on a few different things right now. I am producing a few tracks for other singers that will come out as singles over the next few months. Additionally, I am beginning work on my next album and a new side project. My next album is looking like more of an upbeat dance album and will be a collaborative album with the artist Horizons 1982 who mastered 'Primeval'. The side project is more of an instrumental chill wave band that has yet to be named but is sounding really cool so far!
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