Age music innovator Gandalf released Dreamweaver in
2013 and hes back in early 2016 with a new album called All
Is One - One Is All. A number of musicians appear on All Is
One - One Is All, but the accent is purely upon Gandalfs
piano, guitar, assorted keyboard sounds and various atmospherics.
Gandalf has released over thirty albums since the early 1980s
and hes been an acclaimed forerunner of New Age and heavenly
sounds for decades. Although he was raised on the early guitar instrumental
sounds of The Shadows and later, prog-rock guitar icons such as Steve
Hackett, Gandalfs specialty has always been his spectacular,
symphonic instrumental music opuses, many of which have been released
in recent years by California-based label Real Music. As he did on
2013s Dreamweaver, on 2016s All Is One - One
Is All, Gandalf scaled back the electronics in favor of a sound
that is more pure and naturalhe even described the sound as
being neoclassical in scope. Thats partly what makes All
Is One - One Is All so appealing. The melodies are still there
to be appreciated, but the sound is very pure and undiluted. That
approach works wonders, for example, on track six Paint You
a Song, which is a superb showcase for Gandalfs haunting
piano melodies, as well as the Celtic sounding The Fragrance
of Eden, with cello strings provided by Merike Hilmar
and Irish Whistle from Karin Leitner. With a legacy going
back decades, Gandalf is one of Real Musics most acclaimed artists
and he will please his many fans with his 2016 masterpiece All
Is One - One Is All. www.realmusic.com
presents an interview with
Did you set out to make a different sounding album with All Is
One - One Is All and how do you feel it fits into your sound and
compares with your other albums and recording sessions? It seems the
new CD really has a great flow to it.
Gandalf: Creating music always feels like taking off for a
journey into the unknown, you never can be sure where it is going
to take you. For me, it is important to experience new territories.
I like to travel and mostly return with new inspiration. Every other
album captures its own magic, I never wanted to get stuck within my
own clichés and I think the new album is bothsomething
new, but also very much my personal style. Im really happy about
what it turned out to be.
mwe3: Regarding All Is One - One Is All, you speak about
your visit to the volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma. In what
ways did that influence you, or was it just the wonders of it that
created a musical space? It seems like youre very influenced
by nature in your music.
Gandalf: The fascination about such a place as La Palma is
that you can almost watch the development of the surface of our planet
in various states since the very beginning. There are areas freshly
flooded by liquid lava only about forty years ago, a desert of stones
and ashes completely burnt with no sign of life. In other places first
green has just settled on pale volcanic slopes, and then there are
regions rich and fruitful, like a garden of Eden. This is extremely
inspiring; so much beauty and diversity. And yes, nature has many
times been a major source for my music.
mwe3: The sound you get with Merike Hilmar on cello is mesmerizing.
What is the chemistry like with you and Merike? She is one of the
great string players in New Age. How long have you known her?
We first played together when I engaged her for a concert in Vienna
in 2007. This was about the time when my musical path began to head
towards a more acoustic direction and I discovered that the cello
worked perfect with my guitars and piano. Merike is an extremely sensitive
player and it is a real pleasure working with her. She opened up a
new dimension to my music and so I began to give the cello more space
in my compositions. On the album Dreamweaver I even wrote a
solo-piece for her, Between Ebb and Flow.
mwe3: You say you are planning some concerts this year. What
is the story of those concerts and what are the complexities of performing
your music in a live setting? Is touring something you like or are
you mostly happiest in the studio or writing music?
Gandalf: This year is my 35th anniversary since the start of
my career in 1981 and we just settled a concert on November 24th at
the Konzerthaus Wien, one of the best places for Classical
Music in Vienna. Its an occasion to perform my piano-works on
the Boesendorfer Imperial Grand. I am keeping the lineup rather minimalisticbasically
with Merike Hilmar on cello and my son, Christian Strobl on percussion
with a couple of guests joining in here and there. We are going to
play music from the new album and some selected pieces out of my rich
repertoire. A couple of other concerts in Austria are about to be
There is nothing on earth that compares to the magical moments of
a really good live concert, when time seems to stand still and the
audience even holds its breath so as not to disturb the harmony. I
love composing and recording new music in the studio, but I would
not want to miss the feeling of playing live.
mwe3: Seems some artists, and Im thinking of Steve Hackett
with whom you worked, love to tour. Do you feel you could have more
widespread success in a live concert tour?
I would not mind playing a bit more live than I have in the recent
years, but the business is not what it used to be back in the 1980s.
Record companies are not supporting tours anymore and for musicians
out of the mainstream, it has become difficult to find concert-promoters
who are willing to take any financial risks. My experience shows me
that there definitely is an audience for my music, but it would take
a lot of money for promotion to make people come to the show.
mwe3: The title track on All Is One - One Is All is
a kind of medieval pop vocal track thats speaks of a dream
within a dream and that features a young singer from Poland
named Agnes Milewski. The track makes for an interesting change of
pace for you. How did you meet Agnes and what made you want to create
New Age vocal sound on a track here? What do the lyrics speak of in
All is One and is there a concept you had in mind for
the song and the album overall?
Gandalf: Agnes played as a support act at one of my concerts
and I was very impressed by her performance. She has already released
three albums with her own songs and she is really gifted singer/songwriter.
One day the lyrics for All Is One came to my mind and
I knew that she was the perfect person to interpret this song.
There appears to be a general cosmic law that can be found in everything
that existsfrom the smallest particles of matter up to planetary
systems and galaxies, and all things are connected in a special way.
This is what the song is about and I thought it was a good topic for
mwe3: You balance this album with some superb Celtic flavored
songs such as The Fragrance of Eden which features some
nice flutes and whistles from Peter Aschenbrenner. What can you tell
us about that track and how long have you worked with Peter?
Ive always had and still have a strong affinity to Celtic music,
which breaks through from time to time. There are all kinds of emotions
in it, from very sad and melancholic to extremely joyful. Peter has
been working with me almost since the beginning of my career thirty-five
years ago. For me he is one of the most authentic players of Irish/Celtic
music outside of Ireland; his band is called Ciunas.
Actually, Peter does not play on The Fragrance of Eden.
That is Karin Leitner, another specialist in Celtic tunes, and she
has released a couple of CDs with wonderful orchestral compositions
of her own with Irish influences. Peter plays on The Tree of
mwe3: Were you happy with the CD mastering on All Is One
- One Is All? When you prepare a new album do you have specific
mastering instructions for your engineer? Personally, I think
the mastering came out great.
Gandalf: On most of my productions I am also the recording
engineer and also do the mixing and mastering completely on my own
to get as close to my sound-vision as possible. The album already
sounded really good when it left my studio and the mastering studio
in California gave it the final polishing.
So a 2016 concert is planned, and how else are you spending the musical
time in 2016? Seems like a transitional year for the world! What else
are you looking ahead to regarding your upcoming musical activities
that might blossom in the future?
Gandalf: Currently I am preparing for the concerts, which takes
most of my time to get things into place. It is a different thing
to work on the creation of music in the studio, or to make it work
properly on stage, and I am kind of a perfectionist as far as this
is concerned. At this stage I cant tell where the Muses are
going to take me next.
It appears that the world is cracking in every corner and there are
a lot of challenges for all of us to handle, including political,
economic, and ecological problems. Sometimes you can really get depressed
when you watch the news too much.
I do not think that I am able to change this world, but I am sure
that with my music I can send out some positive signals, and to a
very small extent give comfort and faith to people in all this craziness.