In our latest in the Gear Nerd series, we thought we would chat to one of our newer musicians about their instrument and playing career and so we sat down and had a chat with Konstantine, keyboard player with newcomers DOMMIN.
RR UK: How old were you when you started to play keyboards?
Konstantine: Originally I started on trumpet when I was in the fifth grade, a girl told me she thought trumpet players were cute and I liked this girl, so that’s originally where the inspiration for me being a musician came from. Two years later I started teaching myself the piano and a music teacher came across me playing the Moonlight Sonata, and she asked me who my teacher was. I told her I was just teaching myself based on what I knew from playing trumpet. So she offered to teach me and took me on for four years, for free. I’d say I was about ten or eleven when I started.
RR UK: Who inspired you to play the keyboards in the first place?
K: The song Moonlight Sonata actually. It wasn’t necessarily any person. As soon as I heard Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata I knew I had to learn the piano to play that.
RR UK: What styles have inspired you the most over the years?
K: Classical, the romantic era. All classical music’s great, but specifically that era.
RR UK: Who do you aspire to be like now?
K: I don’t really [aspire to be like anyone]. It’s not necessarily that I don’t hold anyone in that regard, but I don’t want to limit myself!
RR UK: What’s your practice and warm-up regime?
I do a lot of scales, a lot of finger movement to get my fingers warmed up – cold fingers move slow. Mainly I just move up and down the scales a lot.
RR UK: How important are scales to writing your music?
Oh, really important. Knowing what keys to play, what notes to hit, the sounds they’ll bring out. You can start in a major scale and it sounds happy, go down to a minor scale and it’s a little bit darker, then darken it up even more by diminishing it… Knowing all that really helps bring out the right mood.
RR UK: Can you give us a quick run through your playing career?
K: Fifth grade, started on the trumpet. About seventh grade, started on the piano, did a lot of classical music shows through that. Then, in twelfth grade I joined a band and we were on the Zippo Hot Tour in California. It was short-lived, we weren’t exactly great, but it was fun while it lasted! I composed stuff myself until 2006 when I joined Dommin.
RR UK: Can you run us through your set-up?
K: I have a single Roland Fantom X8, it’s a 88-key weighted keyboard, it weighs about 64 pounds, it has 16 sample patches where I can access samples at any time. If I have too many layers going on that I can’t perform live, I’ll put some of the layers on a sample. I do that on Dark Holiday, for example. Halfway through the song I can bring out the rest of the music while I’m doing the piano part. For our cover of (Cutting Crew’s) ‘Died In Your Arms’ Tomo from 30 Seconds to Mars did a solo, and obviously he’s not able to come to every one of our shows, so we’ll push that patch and pretend he’s on-stage. Every once in a while he’ll come to one of our shows and perform it live for us. I have pedals too, just for sustain, but nothing else.
RR UK: What’s your dream set-up?
K: Well, I love my X8, but actually, Roland just released a new model – the Fantom G8 – that would be ideal for me to use but they’re so expensive. I would love an endorsement from Roland!
RR UK: What top tips would you give to budding keyboardists?
K: Just a lot of practise. Figure out exactly what you want first, then practise day in-day out. I learnt to play scales pretty fast up and down just by sitting down for one night, repetitively practising. Your fingers and your muscles become used to that movement. Listen to a broad range of music too. I started with classical, but I listened to a wide range of music. I didn’t preclude myself from other music out there, I listened to Metallica, Depeche Mode, all these other bands that my brothers and sisters were listening to, I kept my music library open to everything.
RR UK: Finally, could you give us some tips on looking after your equipment?
K: It’s tough with a 64-pound keyboard! But keep it clean of the dirt that gets in between the buttons, use rubbing alcohol on electronics – while it’s off, obviously! – that’ll remove a lot of the dirt. Wrap your cords accordingly, don’t just throw them in a box cos you’ll pinch cables. If you really care about your equipment, take good care of it.
Check out the FEATURES PAGE for our other Gear Nerds in the series, which include Daniel Adiar (Nickelback) and Willie Adler (Lamb Of God).
Dommin are currently on tour with H.I.M in mainland Europe and will enter the UK with them March 13th. They play a headline show at London’s Borderline on March 21st. Tickets available from HERE.