Ilya Goldberg, the violinist of Emancipator, simultaneously ventures out into his own musical endeavor with his project, Lapa. Lapa is an ambient chill out project that, “weaves together musical stories with complexly textured harmonies, expansive melodies, and intricately layered beats.” I had the honor of speaking with Ilya after his show at U Street Music Hall. We discussed many topics including his recent album, Meeting of the Waters, the process of creative sampling, his musical adventures around the world, the Portland music scene, and his plans for new music in 2017.
I listened to your album, Meeting of the Waters. I thought it was beautiful I really enjoyed listening to it.
I: Thank you!
What were the stories you were trying to tell with the songs on this record?
I: The title of the album, Meeting of the Waters, was the best way to summarize these stories. There’s definitely emotional content from meeting people around the world, from people close to me, including friendships and collaborations … it’s all part of that music. To me, it’s really a journey of mind and soul through the music. That’s what the music writing process has been to me. I am not sure if there’s a particular story to those tracks, but it’s more a gateway for people to take their own journey and make their own story. I see it as a platform for that outlet.
In terms of the music itself, what was the role of field recordings? Because I heard many unique sounds throughout the record.
I: Well I do like to take field recordings, it’s true. Though I can’t say I’ve gone out with a mindset to get a specific sound for each track. I have a folder of field recordings that I dig through. Further, I take the sounds and process them in all the imaginable ways. So to me, often the goal is not to have the sound itself. I use the reflection of a sound through effects.
What’s the weirdest sound you’ve recorded?
I: I am working on a new track and I am using a sample that I recorded years ago. I was sitting in an airplane and an Indian lady was sitting behind me. She happened to be singing a lullaby to her little baby. It was so pretty, so I recorded a sample of it. It was an unexpected place to record something like that and also a beautiful sound to incorporate into my track.
I: The weirdest sound I’ve recorded was walking on a trail crossing a little wooden bridge. Every step I took on the wooden bridge made a singing noise, almost like a little creature. That was a weird sample to record.
I really appreciate it! I do hear a lot of unique sounds that I’ve never heard before. It’s interesting and fascinating learning where it comes from. The reality is that music is all around us.
I: Right! Sourcing samples can be fun because it’s experimental and can be found everywhere.
What’s good about the music scene in Portland, where you currently live? I hear so many great things and I would love to hear your perspective.
I: The music scene here in Portland is really good. There are a ton of amazing musicians who live here. If you want to check out a good show, you’ll probably be in luck most days.
Are there some Portland artists that come to mind?
Tell me about your musical journey. You told me previously that you grew up in Russia in the Ural Mountains.
I: I grew up there until I was fifteen.
What brought you to the U.S.?
I: I came to the U.S. to study classical violin. I went to Cleveland and spent six years there studying violin. Then I went to Boulder, Colorado to get my Master’s degree. Then I moved onwards to the west coast.
How did you get involved in Emancipator? And what was your experience as a classical violinist who became involved in making electronic music?
I: Even when I was young playing classical violin, I enjoyed jazz, soul, funk, and hip hop. So that seed was there a long time ago. Then when I was in Colorado, inevitably I was hanging out with a lot of bluegrass musicians because bluegrass is at a whole other level in Colorado. So then I started playing with bluegrass musicians and singer-songwriters more and more. Then I discovered the whole electronic scene in Boulder and started to experiment with this group called Future Simple Project. They played primarily dubstep. That was my introduction to electronic music with violin. I started jamming with them, then I got introduced to Doug Appling (of Emancipator) at his show in Boulder. We tried it out and it lasted.
It looks like you’re traveling all over the world with Emancipator and Lapa shows.
I: Yea we’ve travelled quite a bit this year. It’s taken us to Australia, Europe, and parts of the Middle East.
What’s your favorite place you’ve discovered on the tour so far?
I: This past year, I went to Copenhagen for the first time and I really love that city. Every place I go to I have about a day or two to spend before the tour moves on, so I get a quick impression. From what I gathered in my quick impression of Copenhagen, it’s a very healthy city with the most bicyclists I’ve ever seen in my life. It seemed like the people there tended to have some sort of healthy routine.
So you’ve been touring with Emancipator and with your solo project. Tell me about your decision to start your own solo project and what do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
I: I started that project because I am a musician. Ultimately, I have to have my own creative outlet even if I am collaborating with other people. I still feel the need to have my own way to express music. That’s really the main reason. I got Ableton and started playing around with it. I feel like I have some music to put out there.
I agree with you, collaborations are a great learning exercise and one grows tremendously because you feed off each other’s ideas. But at the same time, being able to create your own compositions is a huge accomplishment and I applaud you for that. For this record did you perform all the instruments?
I: I played many of them, except for the ones listed. I had a few collaborators. For example, Doug played guitar on a couple of tracks and my friend, Cedar Miller, played professional drums on a few tracks. Another friend played bass guitar on the record, as well.
That’s good to work with session musicians.
I: Yea, but they aren’t just session musicians, they are my homies! They are people who inspire me too. It’s not a session musician situation. There was mutual inspiration, so we recorded something.
I was actually just about to ask who inspires you. You mentioned some of your friends. Who are your biggest influences?
I: Sometimes people ask me who is my favorite composer. One composer I always go back to is Johannes Sebastian Bach. His music is timeless to me. Also, LTJ Bukem is a legendary drum and bass producer. You should check him out!
I will definitely!
I: His music is some of my favorite. Right now I am in this phase where I don’t listen to other’s music much because I need to brew my own sauce, so to speak. Whenever I listen to other people’s music it definitely influences me in many ways, so right now I am taking a little space from diving into the world of musicians out there.
I feel that, that’s happened to me. I’ve had phases where I can’t listen to music due to oversaturation. For creative purposes, I agree. You have to focus on what you’re doing and create.
I: Exactly, especially when I am working on an album. If I am listening to other people’s music that can affect my sound. Inspiration doesn’t come from nothing.
Do you plan on having new music in 2017?
I: My goal is to release another album for Lapa in 2017. I’ve been working on it. It’s already a good ways towards completion. That’s my main focus. I’ve also been collaborating with Random Rab for the past few years: our collaboration is going to the next level as we keep writing more tracks. With Emancipator, there’s always new music in the works. That never stops.