Please read below for an interview with Michael Bowman, a composer, songwriter, and musician from British Columbia, Canada. To access Michael’s music, please visit http://michaelbowman.bandcamp.com and www.michaelbowmanproductions.com
When did you first realize you wanted to be a musician? What was the process like?
I don’t think I can recall the moment when I decided that I wanted to be a musician or when I wanted to work towards making a living from it. I grew up with access to a piano with which I would tinker for amusement. I always enjoyed music but it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started to take it seriously and developed any concept of what went into making it. I started playing guitar for fun when I was fourteen or fifteen and that was my instrument until I reached sixteen or seventeen. I got into sound production around that time by simply recording wave files and layering and merging them together in a wave editing program. Soon after that, a friend and former guitar teacher lent me a basic interface that plugged into my PC via the game port on the sound card, and he gave me an old PC version of Logic. He kindly showed me the basics to get started and also gave me some sample libraries to work with. From there I kept on learning and upgrading my equipment. I started to become interested in playing piano, inspired by bands like Radiohead. Eventually I grew to like almost all instruments. I realized that with practice I was confident in my abilities and decided to record an album, which took about five years to actually finish.
How do your identities influence your music if at all?
Some of my songs are definitely influenced by my obsessive-compulsive disorder. Since age nine, I’ve essentially been experiencing a constant state of mental unrest. OCD is unfortunately a very misunderstood form of brain damage and it affects every aspect of my life. I’ve tried to channel my stress into ideas and use the anxiety as energy to fuel motivation. In a way, the fear and negative feelings I experience can be converted into dark ideas that can sometimes lead to interesting musical concepts
What is the creative process like for you? How are you inspired?
I wish I could provide some kind of profound insight but honestly it’s often a very random process for me, and the process differs for each idea. Sometimes I hear an idea in my head and develop it mentally for awhile. Sometimes I just run to my studio and record the idea if I think I’ll forget it. Other times I may think of a lyrical idea and meditate on it until I hear a melody to accompany it. But most of the time I just mess around with instruments, samples, and effects until I stumble upon something I like. Soundscapes are an important part of music for me, so I spend a lot of time working on them. For me, the most challenging part of making music is finding inspiration and motivation. I am constantly trying to create something unique and interesting, but that’s not always easy. It’s really not as mysterious of a process as some people think; sometimes songs just seem to come out of nowhere and other times I have to really work hard to come up with something. It’s just sort of random, which is frustrating a lot of the time, but it’s just the way it is.
What feedback do you have for aspiring artists?
Well, I’m still improving myself of course. What I can say for sure is that motivation, inspiration, and practice are probably the most vital ingredients for any artist. You get people recommending ‘this method’ or ‘that method’ for improving one’s productivity, but I think it’s a bit different for everyone. I do think that without those three things I mentioned, an artist will have a hard time getting anywhere with whatever it is they’re creating. Without the motivation to go and work on something, one won’t accomplish much at all. If you don’t feel like doing anything, try anyways. If nothing seems to be working at that moment, then relax and come back later. Inspiration is different than motivation; some days I go to my studio feeling wonderful and able to create something great, only to find that I am lacking in creative stimulation. I try to find inspiration from other forms of art including music, films, most visual arts, abandoned places, nature; pretty much anything. I try and convert my emotions and feelings from other art sources and focus them into my own. This idea of practicing seems obvious but many fail to realize how important it actually is; particularly when you’re first starting out. So many people I’ve talked to who are interested in trying something but haven’t yet, complain that they “suck at it” or that they “aren’t good enough.” Well, how do they think every other artist started out? They weren’t proficient at first but with practice they became proficient. For me, these three ingredients are fundamental in the creative process, and without them, one won’t get far.
If applicable, in what ways is your work gendered (i.e., affected norms connected to femininity and/or masculinity)?
I don’t think that my music is affected heavily by being a man. I believe strongly in equality between men and women of all races. I think that being male or female, mostly from cultural and societal expectations (or lack thereof), naturally affects one’s views of everything. But I don’t think that there is anything about being a man that specifically affects my work. Generally, I don’t consider my lyrics to be very straight forward. I often try to write abstract stories, writing from a more metaphorical sense a lot of the time, so any gender influenced material is likely wrapped up in metaphor and would be hard to recognize. Ultimately, I think anything gendered would be up to the listener to discover.
What future projects are you planning?
Currently, I’m working on a second record. So far, it’s fairly different from Acrimony. There are some similarities. The ambience is still there, the orchestral flavor is sometimes still there. Many of these new songs have an eerier, darker, and more surreal mood. I want the songs to essentially be unsettling to a certain extent, even scary; sort of in the way surreal art can make one feel nervous. I had originally planned to have more of those feelings on Acrimony, but I ended up getting tired of working on it so I just stopped where I was, finished the songs I’d written, and released it. Unfortunately, due to my mental illness, progress has slowed down on my current project. It may sound like an excuse, but I had honestly planned to release these songs by September 2013. I don’t think it will be done by that date, mostly because I’ll be having more real instruments on the record instead of samples. Anyways, I will finish it; it’s just gonna to take me a bit more time.