On Piano Day 2018 the sounds of musicians will be heard around the globe celebrating a love for one of the most beloved and expressive instruments in the world. Among them will be names that might be new to many listeners such as Barry Kernachan who is releasing his new album to coincide with that special day. Not that he is new to music. Far from it. Barry has been playing since he was a child and writing for a number of years. But Layers is an album where he strips everything back and focuses on the core instrument. It is bright, melodic, and engaging record that piano music lovers will find easy to fall into. In this interview provided by Preserved Sound, Barry talks about the album, his musical journey and his improvisational process.
Plucking Music Out of Thin Air
Hello Barry. Could you tell us about yourself and your music?
I grew up in Burnley, a town in the north of England, and was first introduced to the piano as a very young child at a family member’s house. All I remember is being amazed by the sound that it made, and I was completely hooked.
From then on, whenever or wherever I could get my hands on a piano, I would play. I haven’t been classically trained, I’ve never had a piano lesson and I can’t even read music.
What defines your sound?
That’s an interesting question. My music is mostly improvised and a product of my feelings and emotions. I often see patterns and melodies before I even begin to play. This can be both a blessing and a curse, as I tend to pluck music out of thin air and then wish I’d recorded it afterwards. Although my technical ability could definitely be better, I wouldn’t change the improvised nature in which I compose, as it seems to work best for me.
Playing the piano for me is a form of meditation. A piece just starts with a single note or simple melody. I try not to control anything and just let the idea flow. When I play on a piano I haven’t played on before, it takes me some time to become acquainted with the instrument before ideas start to appear – it’s almost as though the piano dictates what it wants me to play.
All of this characterises my sound.
Your new album is called Layers. Could you tell us about it?
Layers was mainly improvised, without any control or restraint, and as a result, the album has a very relaxed and free-flowing texture. This, for me, is an important part of composing – my ideas are born in this way rather than being predetermined.
But I don’t write in this way all the time. On the piece “Hellas”, for example, I heard the complete piece in my head after recording the ambient sounds that accompany the music.
How and why is this album different to your other albums or previous work?
I’ve spent years writing music – mostly releasing deep, progressive electronic house music. But whatever music or genre I’ve worked on, the ideas always started on the piano. This album is different from any previous work, as it is very organic, stripped back and natural.
I wanted to create a collection of piano pieces in which normal life could be interrupted by surprise – where just for a moment, we can be lifted out of the repetition and routine of everyday life into a creative world that is hidden inside every moment.
How did you make the album? How do you generally record?
The album was mainly recorded on an upright piano. On some pieces I recorded the music first and then added ambient reverbs and delays. After recording a piece, I often play around with different sounds and effects to see whether I can make a good track into something greater.
On the title track “Layers”, I recorded five separate piano pieces and then layered them together. And on “Hellas”, I recorded ambient sounds on a beach in Greece. I already knew how this piece was going to sound from beginning to end.
Layers is now available digitally and on limited edition CD via Preserved Sound.