Vulfgang Rainstorme

Beyond the Record

Beyond the Record: Welcome! Tell us a little bit about who you are and how you got into making music.

Vulfgang Rainstorme: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me! I’m a solo recording artist from Newfoundland, Canada. I started writing and producing when I was 19. By that time I had spent the entirety of my teen years listening to music more than I did anything else. It was my food, water, religion, and love affair. It really helped me, especially, to cope with tremendous depression I had suffered from for many of those years. It all started with a laptop for me. I had been playing guitar since I was 12, but was never really confident in my ability. The same goes for singing; I felt passionate about singing and I really respected the voice as an instrument, but I lacked the confidence. So I downloaded whatever free DAW I could find, and started making simple beats. Then I started writing melodies and progressions. I found a certain solace in the fact that I could make instrumental music completely on my own, with a computer, and actually get results. As much as I wanted to play the guitar and sing, doing MIDI based instrumentals at least satisfied the main urge to compose and relieved me a little bit of the prospect of having to devote all the extra time required to practice the guitar and sing. I quickly graduated to buying a copy of Ableton Live, which I still use to this day, exclusively. I eventually got around to developing my skill as a guitar player and singer, because in the long run I did not want to be primarily an instrumental artist.

BtR: And at what point and time did you actually dedicate yourself and pursue this as a career?

Vulfgang Rainstorme: After a very transformative emotional experience in 2015 when I moved away from home for a while and conquered the depression that plagued me for years, I was instinctively compelled to start releasing my music, which, until then, I had been making for no one but myself. I felt it was time and that I finally had the confidence I needed, though even then I wasn’t entirely convinced that I would be able to make a career out of it. I just wanted my music to finally be heard. I wrote and produced my first album, “She Painted This for Me”, which is a dark, conceptual record about toxic love, over the summer of 2016, and released it on December 6th of that year. My mother actually ended up passing away only 4 days later, from cancer. She didn’t even know that I had released my first album. That experience was the final kick-in-the-pants for me, so to speak, and I immediately became consumed by the need to make music my life; something that I had fantasized about as a teenager but always questioned whether I could actually make happen. I’ve experienced the deaths of a lot of important people, too many considering my age, and losing my mother truly opened my eyes to the fragility and shortness of life. It was equivalent to a spiritual awakening; I simply realized there was no reason to hold back and doubt myself any longer. This is what I wanted to do. Now, I work on music every day—even if all I get done is to EQ a kick or rearrange a hi hat. That’s a big part of my philosophy as an artist; never go to bed until you can say you got something done, no matter how significant.

BtR: Do you feel as though your childhood aided you in such a way to be creative person? If so, how?

Vulfgang Rainstorme: Music has been integral in shaping who I am for as long as I can remember. My earliest exposure was to two key artists in particular; Elton John and Celine Dion. My mother, every Saturday of my life as a child, would blast her CDs while she cleaned the house, and these two artists were pretty much all she listened to; the same handful of albums were all she owned and played over and over relentlessly for years. As a kid, you know, I hated it, it drove me crazy, but it wasn’t until my tastes matured as I entered my teens that I realized what a powerful effect the music of Elton John and Celine Dion had on me. I guess I can’t really define it specifically, but there’s something about hearing the same songs on constant repetition that has a way of uniquely defining you in some way, maybe in some ways you aren’t even consciously aware of. The maturity and power and, let’s be honest, total over-the-top quality of that particular music—especially in Celine’s voice and the huge production of her songs— being exposed to that as a child I think ultimately led to me believing that inhibition has no place in music and performance. That belief pretty much led me to discovering and falling in love with artists like Ween, Prince and Frank Zappa. These were musicians who channeled something and didn’t let inhibition or fear of seeming too “out there” hinder their creativity. In turn, I think it takes being able to tap into that feeling yourself a little bit in order to truly appreciate that kind of music. It’s hard to be a 15 year old guy and listen to Prince when everyone else around you listens to what they’re fed on the radio (at least where I grew up). It takes a certain kind of courage and commitment to true creative expression, and I think, in me, that came from being able to sing along, word for word, with Celine Dion songs by the time I was seven. Kind of a weird image. I started to see performance as a form of freedom, and “weird” to me was the ultimate freedom.

BtR: You claim that for a long time while dedicating yourself to your art, people didn't know you were a songwriter. Why was this?

Vulfgang Rainstorme: I grew up shy. Debilitatingly shy. I was an only child with a single mother. My dad was a stranger to me, but he died when I was very young. I experienced a lot of isolation growing up. My mother was very reserved and didn’t go out a lot, in fact, reiterating my previous remarks, the only time I ever saw her come out of herself was when she listened to music. I don’t mean to present anything I’m saying as a sob story, but living with loneliness became totally natural to me. Almost necessary at certain points in my life. I grew to become very comfortable in my own company, and when it came to making music, I escaped into it. It was the first time I really had a way to express things inside me that I didn’t know how to express any other way. A condition of that I guess was that I kept my music to myself, almost protected it, because it was so completely mine. For a long time I didn’t want others to know what was going on inside me. It was sort of a strange thrill to go out and interact with people, and despite how uncomfortable and inadequate I felt in some social situations, I knew that I had my music at home waiting for me, where I could be who I wanted. Having that secret empowered me a little. All of this, however, is very contrary to the person I am today. I love sharing myself and my music and have had nothing but a positive experience since I began releasing.

BtR: You recently released an album called "A Yellow Spot". Tell us a little bit about how the album was recorded. Give us all of the little details. Where, what influenced this creation, etc.

Vulfgang Rainstorme: The music on the record evolved over a period of 6 or 7 years— I’m talking at least 100 separate bits and pieces and sketches of musical ideas, kept in a folder on my 10 year old MacBook, that I shaped into an album over a brief but intensive period of a few months. To speak frankly, when my mother died in December of 2016, I felt an internal charge to release the music as a dedication to her on her birthday, which was 3 months later, in March of 2017. And I did that. I like to equate the process of making the record to going through a photo album of your favourite memories, and staying up all night in a candlelit room and putting them together into one crazy, cathartic collage, then going out in the morning and plastering it on a giant wall somewhere for everyone to see, without taking the time to second guess or "perfect" it. That's essentially how it went. And I'll be the first to say that, technically, the music on “A Yellow Spot” isn't perfect. It's not meant to be. I easily could have spent another 6 months to a year developing and fine tuning the album and, as an unknown artist, it wouldn't have made a difference to anyone. But that wouldn't have been in the spirit of what “A Yellow Spot” is. Going through my huge, totally private collection of random demos, that no one else had even heard, and shaping them into a definitive statement, for better or worse, is what “A Yellow Spot” represents. The music was inspired by a myriad of different experiences over the years, but it was the act itself of releasing that music into the world that is dedicated to my mom. Putting together and releasing that record ultimately lent a lot to my development as an artist and was essential to my becoming more confident in pursuing music as a career.

BtR: The first track off this record is of its own entity. It's incredibly unique in such a way that I have yet to hear something produced in such a manner. What inspired you to create Semblance?

Vulfgang Rainstorme: Those words mean a lot to me, really. That particular song is special. You might be surprised to learn that it’s over 6 years old, and one of the first serious things I ever wrote. Of course, the original demo was a far cry sonically from what it is today, and it evolved a lot over those years, but the basic elements—the 9/8 drum track, bass line and the chord progression—were all written when I was about 20 or 21. It was originally titled “Elaine”, who is my aunt with schizophrenia.

BtR: The sounds heard off that track in particular, as well as many others off this album, are also unique. How did you get those tones? What equipment did you use?

Vulfgang Rainstorme: To be perfectly honest, I’m not a “gearhead” in any interpretation of the term. In fact, I hate gear. I take a very minimalist approach in my production process. My current home studio set-up consists of a Mac desktop with Ableton Live, Yamaha HS8 studio monitors, an Audient id22 USB interface, Grace m101 pre-amp, an Electro Voice mic for vocals and a bare bones M-Audio MIDI contoller. That’s it, I don’t even own anything else. Everything I have is what I use to make my music. When I find something that works for me, I stick with it until it breaks. The synth sounds come from plug-ins, which again, I don’t use a lot of. I have maybe 2 or 3 main plug-ins that I pull sounds from, and even make use of the stock Ableton library. I then spend hours and hours reshaping, manipulating, and adding effects to stock sounds until I get the tones I want (or discover new tones that I’ve never heard). I often make my own synths from very obtuse sources, like my own breathing or weird sounds around the house, and turn them into MIDI patches that I can write melodies with. The prospect of sitting down with complex hardware and trying to figure out how it works makes my head hurt. It’s very important to me that when inspiration strikes I can sit down at my desk and produce as quickly as possible until the muse flutters away. One key thing I’d like to acknowledge in how I produce the sounds that I do, is that it’s not so important to me to achieve unique sounds and tones in and of themselves, as it is to achieve unique combinations of sounds. One particular synth part could sound interesting enough on its own, but I really get off on taking that part and layering it with another interesting part that could serve as a total contrast. With the right blend and attention to subtle detail, the result of putting very different sounds together is often very exciting and I pursue this a great deal in my work. I hear music very deeply, and I love dense arrangements. There’s definitely value in listening to music loud through good speakers, but I’m all about headphone music, and focus a lot of my effort into producing songs that translate best through headphones. My favourite albums are the ones where you hear something new every time you listen to it.

BtR: I question if you are able to take these tracks to a live setting. Do you see this as something that is possible in the future? How do you see one of your shows being hosted? Any visuals?

Vulfgang Rainstorme: I don’t perform live, which I guess is an obvious conclusion to draw based on the way I’ve presented my story thus far. I prefer at this time to focus on my recorded work and building an online fanbase. I do dream of putting a backing band together someday, however. I have a number of songs that I think could translate live in a really interesting way, but with a “A Yellow Spot”, I do agree that the songs would definitely have to take on a very different character in a live setting. By that same token, I feel like if I were able to find the right musicians, bringing those songs to life could be a very exciting endeavour. I’ve also considered doing solo live YouTube streams.

BtR: Who inspires you to write and produce music? Give us a few artists, but also people you may know personally.

Vulfgang Rainstorme: My relationship with my mother was very influential in shaping my basic principles as a person and my approach to writing the kind of music that I write. The way she raised me bestowed me with a stubbornly independent personality, which of course has a lot to do with why I choose to have total control over my image and creative output. I have been a semi-practicing Buddhist since I was 16, so that also informs my motives as an artist. As far as other artists I look to for inspiration, I am forever indebted to Prince, above all. I could rattle off a list of other important influences (Ween, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, Nick Cave, The Cure, Mike Patton, Les Claypool, Shannon Hoon, Morrissey, Nick Drake), but Prince’s music and the cult of personality he built over his career affected me the most. He’s a near mythology figure in music, and that kind of mystery excites me almost as much as the music itself. I tend to gravitate toward musicians who not only make art on their own terms, but who also have a great story.

BtR: Outside of music, what else are you passionate about?

Vulfgang Rainstorme: Studying and making my best effort to incorporate the teachings of Buddhism into my life is something that is very high on the list of things that I consider most important. It is a lifelong practice. And contrary to how I’ve kind of made myself sound like I never leave my house and do nothing but work on music, I love life! I’m passionate about all experiences, whether grand or mundane. A perfect day for me could be mowing my lawn, pruning trees, and relaxing afterward on the couch with a beer and a Haruki Murakami book, as much as it could be flying to Brooklyn, NY just to watch Ween perform live from the edge of the stage (which I did a few weeks ago, and yes, it was incredible).

BtR: Where can people find your music? When can we expect your next record or single?

Vulfgang Rainstorme: Currently, I stream all of my music on vulfstorme.com, but Vulfgang Rainstorme can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, and pretty much any high traffic digital platform. I don’t make much time for social media, though Twitter and YouTube are my main areas of focus when it comes to online interaction. I have a lot of material I’m working on simultaneously, and am ahead of myself with enough material for my 3rd and 4th records. My first 2 records, “She Painted This for Me”, which has a lot of spoken word, and “A Yellow Spot”, which is all instrumental, exist on their own terms and are each unique in their own right. My future work will be closer to what people would call more “traditional” songs, at least in the sense that I sing a lot more on my new material and incorporate recorded guitars and bass. I have no release dates set as of now, but I do have a new song coming very soon, unlike anything I’ve released so far. 

The Bandcamp Diaries Blog

Vulfgang Rainstorme is an eclectic and forward-thinking artist hailing from Newfoundland, Canada. His sound defies genre classifications, embodying cinematic soundscapes, clever arrangements and thought-provoking songwriting.

Imagine the mercurial edge of artists such as Ween or Frank Zappa, combined with the ethereal depth of The Cure or Nick Cave. Recently, Vulfgang set out to release his brand new single, “Semblance”, which is also accompanied by a beautifully filmed matching music video.

The song is taken from the artist’s full length alum, “A Yellow Spot”, an exciting psychedelic record that is self-described as an “obtuse musical testament to nothing in particular and everything under the sun”. This description seamlessly fits in with the colorful and kaleidoscopic sound of the single.

The song seamlessly blurs the gaps between retro synth sounds, math-rock inspired melodies and progressive music. The arrangement seems ever-evolving, just like a melody constantly chasing itself in a game of hide and seek. The beautifully animated video perfectly matches the song’s unpredictability with its visually vibrant style and unique attitude, courtesy of Annalotta Pauly and Yan Dan Wong, who directed and animated the video.

Progressive / experimental music is kind of a weird business to me. By definition, this music knows no boundaries and artists shouldn’t be constrained by any stylistic barriers. Yet, a lot of up&coming experimental musicians don’t really seem to experiment with their own tone as much as they try to replicate or emulate the style of influential acts in the same niche. On the other hand, Vulfgang Rainstorme is a breath of fresh air. The music he makes is arguably really personal: these songs have a life that can only be so apparent when an artist is deeply connected with his material.

Find out more, connect and listen:
vulfstorme.com

We also had the opportunity to have a chat with Vulfgang about his work. Read on to find out more! 

I love how you manage to render your tracks so personal and organic. Does the melody come first, or do you focus on the beat the most?

Answer: I’ve been composing music the same way since I was 19 years old and had no idea what I was doing. When I began creating music on my laptop, starting off simple and advancing through different programs as I learned more, I always started with the drums. Virtually every track in my body off work starts out as drums. I love programming new and unique beats and have no fear of time signatures. The groove is always what inspires the layers of sound that eventually come to me. Very rarely do I start a song with a melody. Sometimes a bass line, but once I lay kicks and snares and cymbals, it becomes like a paint-by-numbers image for me. I just start adding colour until the picture forms itself. The songs in their final forms are the result of lots and lots of reworking and re-imagining seedling ideas. I could save a simple 2 bar loop and hold onto it for years before I find a way to incorporate it into a full-fledged song. I save everything I do because I know I will eventually find a way to make it work in a track. This is primarily why my songs have unusual structures, but I’m not a necessarily a fan of typical arrangements either.  

Do you perform live? If so, do you feel more comfortable on a stage or within the walls of the recording studio?

Answer: I don’t perform live. I’ve always made music entirely for my own enjoyment. It was only in 2015 that I began to even consider letting other people hear what I was doing, as I was gaining more confidence in my ability to create stuff that I thought others might enjoy as well. I consider myself a recording artist # 1, and always recommend that people listen to my music on headphones because I work very hard to make my songs more like rich “sonic images”, if you will, that are designed for listeners to disappear into. One of my long term goals as Vulfgang Rainstorme is actually to put a backing band together and bring my songs to the stage, but for now I’m just focusing on my recorded work and building an online fan base.

If you could only pick one song to make a “first impression” on a new listener, which song would you pick and why?

Answer: I’m always working on new music, so that’s a hard question. I always feel like my next song is the best thing I’ve done and feel it represents me the most. But then my opinion changes when I start a new song!

What does it take to be “innovative” in music? 

Answer: Being innovative, or rather trying to be innovative, in music as far I’m concerned, in 2017, is not really possible. Being innovative as a person, an artist, however, is a limitless endeavour. Music is nothing more than organized sound. I believe artists should focus more so on themselves, and really understand what it is they are trying to say with their music, what they want people to feel, understand their own deeper reasons why they make music to begin with, and really engage themselves with those things. It’s especially important as time goes on and so much content is coming from everywhere. Everyone wants to be heard, yet it seems most only care about what it is other people want to hear. They ignore their own, unique internal voice, which everyone has, in order to jump on a pre-established path that they think will bring them recognition. Once you understand why you are trying to communicate through music, and feel absolutely assured in who you are and what you’re doing, it will automatically and instinctively come through IN the music. That is the only kind of music that could be called innovative I think, because it is coming from a singular voice that is listening to itself more than anything else. An important word to consider along with innovation is integrity. Integrity is always innovative and always refreshing. 

Any upcoming release or tour your way?

Answer: Absolutely! I have a lot of new things coming, and I plan to see them all released by the end of this summer. So far I have 2 full lengths albums released, and am already ahead of myself with enough material for 2 more albums, including new videos. Expect a lot to come from Vulfgang Rainstorme in the coming months! 

Anywhere online where curious fans can listen to your music and find out more about you?

Answer: All of my music is available via my website vulfstorme.com, including my free debut album, as well as most major platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes etc. My twitter handle is @vrainstorme and I plan on uploading a lot of unique and exclusive content to my YouTube channel very soon.