Curtis Stansfield, Win an Alpha competition winner
Curtis Stansfield emerged victorious in our Win an Alpha competition earlier this year. Judged by Hans Zimmer, Courtney Pine and Eigenharp inventor John Lambert, Curtis beat some very tough competition. Here, we pick his brains about his musical life, inspirations, influences and of course, the Eigenharp
Name: Curtis Stansfield
From: Originally Yorkshire, has lived in London for 10 years. Currently in New Cross – an area Curtis describes as having a “creative buzz”.
Occupation: Professional musician
Music education: Piano from a very young age, started saxophone aged 12. Went to Goldsmiths, University of London.
Instruments: Curtis modestly describes himself as “a jack of all trades, master of none”. His main instrument is piano. He also plays keytar, saxophone, drums, bass, guitar, clarinet and flute (although assures us the last two aren’t fit for public consumption!)
Software: Primarily Logic. Cubase in the past (on a PC). Changing to Mac a couple of years ago was the best thing he ever did. He is keen to use Ableton for it’s live applications. For scoring he uses Sibelius.
Musical life: Music is his life. “After about 16 or 17 I realized this was what I was going to do. Everybody tries to put you off, because you don’t make enough money from it, but you do make enough to get by. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else. The older I get, the more enthused with music I become. It’s an evolving love I have for music.”
Musical influences: Well, the first single Curtis bought was 'Boom! Shake the Room' by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. His tastes evolved during his teenage years, and he admits to having “frightening amount of Gangster rap and heavy metal.”
Nowadays, it changes quite a lot, but at the moment he's in to electronic stuff. “I like messy electronica. Hudson Mohawk is my favourite at the moment. That kind of messed up stuff with scatty beats, which is why playing the Pico was really interesting ... composition is what I love doing … (the Pico) gives you a different way to write stuff.” I love playing classical music – I work for a musical theatre college, accompanying ballet classes, I do a lot of classical repertoire. It’s good for technique.” Still playing and listening to “synth stuff” is what gives Curtis most of a buzz.
Who he plays with: He does session with about 5 or 6 original artists. “I’m quite fortunate because I really like the material.” Artists include Julian Peretta, Gabriella Cilmi, Indie and R&B artists.
Curtis’ material: Like many musicians, Curtis is a perfectionist – he’s planning to put some material up online – we’ll let you know when it’s up!
His musical aspirations: “It would be great to make a living from writing music and be a signed artist. If I could write tunes, go and gig it and have people like it – that would be ideal... Being in a band is the best thing you can do as a musician. It allows you to be creative, collaborative.”
Describe the Eigenharp in one sentence: To me, the Eigenharp is an all encompassing synth controller with which you can do anything - playing it is an ever changing, instinctive thing.
Curtis on the Eigenharp Alpha competition: “I saw the Pico, got a Pico, wanted to show what I could do with it, so entered the competition. There was lots of improvisation in my competition entries. I wanted it to be fairly free. I thought I’d like to be part of the online community, show what I could do with the Pico and get some feedback.”
Pico: Curtis got to grips with the playing in a day. The other functions took a bit longer. The Pico made him “write in a different way. I would never have come up with something like (my entry) if I was just sat on the keyboard.”
“I like that you can create such a lot from this little thing! It’s almost like people don’t believe that you’re doing it with just 16 buttons. You can turn up at a gig, record stuff on the fly, loop it, change the tempo … it never has a midi crash! People like seeing something different”
Alpha: Curtis is going to take some time out to familiarize himself with the Alpha. He plans to go solo with it on stage. “I’m really excited – I can’t wait to get cracking with it. It's really nice to have a visual reaction from the instrument you're playing.” He will be using the Alpha for composition too “studio wise, I’m looking forward to seeing what I come up with.”
Who do you see playing the Eigenharp: Technology wise, the Eigenharp does everything in one. Definitely a great for live performance.
People who are always on the cutting edge of tech would be great with the Eigenharp. Curtis mentions Bjork, Imogen Heap and Simean Mobile Disco. “It's great for laptop performers - rather than going to a concert and watching them 'check their emails' here, visually, someone presses a button and something happens that you can see … and there's a light to prove it!”
Thanks Curtis – we’ll be keeping an eye out for some more great Eigenharp performances!