The Ukraine born Oleksii Spitsyn has been calling Netherlands his home for the last 7 years, residing in the city of Enschede. Soon to be graduating the University of Arts and Music, Oleksii sees a future working with transmedia storytelling.
We caught up with Oleksii to hear how he expresses his creativity and how Freedrum plays a big part in the creation of his music.
What’s your background?
I was brought up in Ukraine, I come from a musical family. My mother is a vocal coach and jazz singer. My father is a bass player, that is also how they met. Long before they met, my grandmother was a ballet dancer, and my grand father was a master of ceremonies back in the Soviet Union. Everyone in my family is artistic and pretty “out there”.
I got into music pretty late, I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” when I was in a computer club in Bulgaria. I was like “Shit I wanna play that!”. I was around 15 years old at this time, I told my dad I wanted to play guitar. His response was just “Oh god..”.
Eventually he got me a classical guitar and I went ahead and just practiced a lot, I’m self-thought in that sense. My mother brought me to some lessons with the guitarist in her band. He said “Look at his fingers, they are made to play the guitar”.
I got really into playing guitar and I was learning all of the Nirvana songs. Around two years later I started to write my own music. I wrote mostly alternative rock, starting from Nirvana you can kind of imagine in which direction I was going. As I was getting into learning to play better, I got into bands like Muse, Velvet Revolver, Metallica, Megadeth. Eventually I went into progressive death metal.
Years after practicing I was getting more and more into composition, this led me to try out other instruments. Doing vocals, bass and then drums eventually. I was programming some drums and I showed the drummer in my band. He just looked at me and was like “No dude, I don’t have three hands”. He was noticing that I had placed a tom, snare and cymbal in the same place. After this I realised I needed to get more into learning to play and understand the drums.
Have you always sought out new ways of making music?
I have a negative tendency that I stick to the same gear and the same plugins. Although I explore other mediums to express myself in. I have plans on starting a YouTube channel and I already made a bunch of content. I just want to finish my studies and then I would like to get it going.
How did you got to know about Freedrum?
Actually I think I got to know about Freedrum through an advert. I started to follow Freedrum on social media and they were doing a give away. I entered and then I found out that I actually won. It was one of those random things that just happens.
What was your first initial thoughts of Freedrum?
When I first got them, I thought they didn’t work. I then realised that I had put the sensors on backwards. After that I got it to work fine and I got into it pretty quick, It’s a really fun way to practice the drums. As well as using it when writing my music, it made it easier to actually play the notes rather than writing them in the software.
My first reaction was that it felt like it was a very fun thing. My appeal was also that it was this new thing and that nobody had seen it before. I felt that you could make really cool things with it and especially if you like me, try to reach the boundaries of what instruments can do. I like to play around and try out how far you can take it, I think you can push Freedrum pretty far!
You play Freedrum a lot in your videos on social media?
Yes I made a lot of covers using Freedrum, I posted many of my own songs as well. In most of the stuff I have shared on there I have written the drums using Freedrum. It’s not that I wrote it and then learned it on Freedrum, but that I wrote is while using Freedrum, I think it’s pretty cool to expose that.
What kind of software do you use?
I use the Freedrum app a lot, I have a setup where I put the phone into an interface so it just gives a raw sound, so it’s not MIDI even. That's my workflow since MIDI on my computer doesn’t work the best over bluetooth.
I use Logic as my DAW, when I’m recording these types of things I make a regular audio track with a compressor, a little bit of EQ and saturator. Just three things and it sounds pretty good. The sounds from the app are really good, I really like the clickyness of the kick, snare and the china.
What hardware do you use?
Generally I’m more into the mixing and mastering and just arranging things. That’s my passion within the audio sphere. I have a good friend that is really into recording, he has a lot of gear and we work together sometimes if I need to record something demanding hardware-wise. Otherwise I record everything with my simple setup at home.
Do you feel Freedrum helped you develop in your music career?
Yes, specifically the thing I mentioned earlier about chasing the boundaries. I remember how I made a song that I wanted to be Meshuggah inspired, more mathematical, weird patterns and accents. So I made the song starting with the drums from playing Freedrum, then on top of the drumming I wrote the riffs. So that one was created purely from playing Freedrum.
Also about two years ago, I was in Ukraine, waiting for my mom in the park. I was just working on my laptop and this drum pattern came into my head so I started playing on my knees and feet. Then immediately when I got home I recorded it with Freedrum.
It seems like you play a range of instruments?
Besides guitar and drums I also play piano. Two years ago I got a violin as a gift from friends, so I’m playing that one too.
The next songs that are coming are going to be very weird, there is going to be some chip tune sounds, there will be music from a string-quartet. One song will be this heavy death metal song, but I’m playing it all on a keyboard.
It’s exiting to me to go to these new dimensions with my music, I tend to call myself a creative and I want to go to creativity in music first, rather than, you know just writing music. I have some specific plans on some of the songs, one idea is to make a full Freedrum play through. That one will be entirely playable with Freedrum.
I’m also working on a lightshow where I want to integrate the MIDI-compatibility of Freedrum, to control the tempo of the preprogrammed light show that I’ve made. For example using the foot sensor as the controller while I’m performing, that’s very specific and outside of the normal use which I find exiting.
Do you collaborate with other artists?
Right now that is one of the goals of mine, to get musicians for my next songs. At the time I’m in a one-man band, so making all the music myself is kind of hard. I used to have a band (Wax Mayhem) but we got split up.
All of the band members are from Ukraine. Unfortunately what happened is that I moved to the Netherlands, the guitarist went to China, the drummer went Poland and my bass player got to Canada. It’s pretty hard to keep the band going being miles apart from each other. It was hard, it felt like a breakup honestly. So now I’m continuing on my own, as well as the others.
I write many things that I can see other musicians play. I like working this way to get another flavour for my songs. I write arrangements myself and then I can communicate them to the musicians that I want to play it. Just making them understand more of what I want in my music. Also working with other vocalists as well, to me vocals are the most differently flavoured sound you can get.
I do this for creativity essentially, If I can tap into a new cool sound using something I can’t do myself, then it definitely makes sense for me to collaborate with other musicians and artists.
How do you find these people?
I like communicating with people in general and mostly I reach out to them through social media. Especially in these times, it’s the only way really.
I think it’s also a great way to promote the music, it’s organic promotion. When people are involved and happy with what they’ve done in the project they will then be happy to share it with their network.
How is the music scene in the Netherlands?
In my area it’s pretty big, we have a University of Arts and Music. A lot of really bands are coming up. The scene is good but I feel that many people are super talented musicians but they don't have a strategic sense in how to promote their music. They just want to release the songs but don't understand the importance of marketing and putting some budget behind it.
How do you stay inspired?
Finding new music and just seeing other people do stuff inspires me.
In the last months I’ve been pretty occupied with other work and my studies. Sometimes It could be that I don’t pick up the guitar for a week or so, which is a long time for guitarist. When I feel there is nothing going on, for inspiration I just go out and find some band that I haven’t listened to and I give them a decent chance. Through this I sometimes find really cool bands. Like Cynic, I discovered them a couple of years ago. I found them and they became the most influential thing for me for a long time. Love them!
What’s next for you?
I have many stories to tell, I write and concept a lot. I wish to work with transmedia storytelling.
As of my own music career, I will release many singles in the near future, maybe an EP later this year. I want to incorporate Freedrum in some way for the songs. I’m planning on making a video for each single as well. I will be graduating in a couple of months, after that I want to go more into doing social media projects and work with transmedia storytelling.