This month we have amazing news, our oboist of the month in Medina Reeds is Russel Walder. It is unusual but we will not writing about his life as you read it in the following link: https://www.russelwalder.com/about .
The amazing news is that we have had the chance to interview him to discover more about his passion for the oboe and the jazz. The result is a very interesting and inspiring interview that you cannot miss.
In conversation with Russel Walder:
1. When did you discover your passion for the oboe? And what is it about this instrument that has conquered you?
My passion for the oboe is the same now as it was when I was ten. It’s such a deep relationship that goes beyond the material object. For me the tonal qualities of the instrument give my spirit a context in which to make sense of the world. I personally feel it’s the most complex and beautiful sound I have ever heard. I love the sound because it can be so mournful and human. It can express the depths of despair and hope in a single note in a way that nothing else can. As a child, when I first heard the sound, I knew in an instant I would do this for the rest of my life. Everyone has an internal vibrational frequency that is magnetically attuned to lock onto other similar frequencies. This accounts for why people who play certain instruments have common personality types. The oboe chose me.
2. How much time do you dedicate to the oboe daily?
My daily oboe practice time varies depending on the demands of the project. In general, 1-2 hours a day. I easily spend 8-10 hours a day on music in general though. I do lots of soundtrack work or working on my music. Currently I’m preparing for my NZ Symphony debut later in the year and also in the middle of composing the soundtrack for Sony X Box games.
3. We have read that you have done tours through Europe, North America, New Zealand … Practically around the whole world! What differences do you perceive in musical trends between some sites and others? Any difference to highlight?
The concept of musical trends is rapidly disappearing based on geography. This is due in large part because of connectivity and assimilated global tastes. Some things stand out though. Audiences in cultures like Spain or Argentina, show such a passion for music that is being performed by passionate performers. Passion is the thing. One of my concerts in Spain ended with the audience clapping in triplets on cue as if someone had choreographed it.
4. Do you play another instrument or is there another instrument that you would like to learn to play?
I play the duduk, wood flutes & hand drums, but I have always wanted to play piano. In the studio I can get the keyboards to do what I want, but that’s different than performance level.
5. What made you fall in love with jazz?
Jazz and the oboe while seemingly not an oboists first port of call, has always been a natural thing. Jazz is more an expression of needing to create my own music. I knew early on that another performance of the Mozart Oboe Concerto wasn’t that inspiring of a direction. My love for jazz is centered on creating in the moment. It is also a spiritual practice of being awake to what is really happening around you. From night to night my interpretation of the music changes because I feel different about it. Playing the same thing, in the same way is not how I get excited about performing. Keith Jarrett was probably the reason I started improvising. It wasn’t that it was jazz; it was seeing someone so deeply involved and committed to each and every note. There was an element of being on the edge, which made it even more intense. Bach was a prolific improviser. He would sit down and play for hours with little more than figured bass or nothing, and then be able to write it all down later. Its no surprise that he would do that in that it’s the most direct way to access the unconscious part of ourselves. To this day most audiences have no idea I’m improvising the entire show, as it sounds very natural. Jazz also changes the way I listen to myself. I’m ‘listening’ to myself from the standpoint of discovery, which changes the process from academic to involved emotionally.
6. On your website www.russelwalder.com you are described as a sonic innovator, jazz artist and film composer, with which one do you feel most identified?
Perhaps Sonic Innovator best describes my priorities. The jazz aspect fits within the Sonics as well. I have an obsession with the actual sound of my music. What the audio sounds like is more important than what its doing harmonically. My goal is to imbue the sonic texture with the feeling of consciousness if that’s possible. As if the music is a sentient being trying to communicate back to the listener with a point of view. I’ll spend months working on a single track to create a specific environment for the music. As if you went to another time and place and in that space was my music.
7. You have written over 60 plays, which one are you most proud of?
(I’m working on several projects that involve writing but not plays) My current favorite is a Matrix styled film called ‘The Vortex’ that I’ve been working on for the last 2 years.
8. Have you encountered any difficulty getting where you are now? Can you tell us something about them?
That’s a big question with a long answer but I’ll keep it short! In many ways, this whole journey I’ve been on has at times has been very difficult. There’s really no path as an oboist, composer, improviser that is a clear way to go forward as I can count on one hand the number of oboists in the world doing what I’m doing. The biggest difference being that you have to create your career rather than going along for the ride. Once you have an orchestral job, you don’t have to think about where the next job is coming from. I’m always thinking about the next project which is always exciting but that also involves starting over each time. Setting things up takes time and energy. As much energy goes into creating the circumstances for something as it does to make the thing itself. The most critical aspect of making this kind of approach work is to know who you are and what you want and then make sure everything is aligned to make that happen. It’s just as difficult to do the wrong thing as follow the path to the right thing. The biggest difference knows that doing the right thing is more important than doing the expedient thing. That allows the difficult times to have a context beyond keeping the status qo going.
9. What advice would you give to oboists who are beginning?
My advice for oboists just starting is to spend most of the time creating what is most unique about you and your style and sound rather than how to fit in to what has happened before. The musicians that are remembered thought-out time have all been iconoclastic. Bob Dylan’s voice, Glen Gould’s tempos, Frieda Callas self portraits are all remembered for how they only did the thing they do and not what anyone else did.
10. What is Nomad Soul Records? Can you tell us a bit more about this exciting project?
Nomad Soul is the business entity around bringing people and projects together to create magic. The latest NS project is working with some of the worlds brightest entertainment technologists in creating a revolution in reimagining what a large scale Arena show can be.
11. What other projects and tours do you have coming up?
In November of this year I am debuting with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra premiering three new orchestral works for oboe and orchestra. This may be the first time in history that an oboist and composer has had a major symphony perform their work as soloist, composer and most predominantly, that the oboe part was improvised. In 2020 I’m planning a global tour of my orchestral music with a recording to follow. I have a new record deal with Real Music so I will also be touring that new album in the next few months as well.
Also, since you have traveled and played in Spain on several occasions, we would like to know what do you like most about Spain? What I love about Spain and its people is the exuberance they have for life and love. Spanish people understand what it takes to achieve mastery and show their appreciation for the journey. Although I don’t speak Spanish, I would live there for a while to soak up the culture.
Thank you very much Russel for this amazing interview, we wish you the best in your carrer and will follow it very closely.