Listen to the audio interview here (just click the play button)

When did you begin writing and playing music?

I began playing music when I was 8 years old. I always wrote little bits
of melodies and things ever since that time, and I remember coming up with
rhymes and lyrics since before then, which I would sing to myself in the
shower. I probably wrote my first full song when I was about 13.

What is a recent influence you have had or
found?

I have been going to see operas and ballets recently which is a super
awesome experience when they are done well. I've seen some good
productions in Minneapolis where I live and have been to performances in
New York and San Francisco as well. My music has a very theatrical
element to it and seeing good productions gives me endless ideas of what I
could do.


What influenced you in the beginning of your
career?

I was influenced enormously as a teenager by bands like The Smashing
Pumpkins and Metallica. I learned so much from them that I have had to
unlearn some of it. When I was young my dad also got me into Peter Gabriel
who has consistently been a major influence. I also really liked jazz
music when I first started playing - I am less into it now overall, but I
think it had a big influence on my rhythmic sense.

What is your main instrument?

That is a tough question for me as I never really became a virtuoso on any
instrument. The first instrument I got good at was the drums, and that is
probably where I technically have the best “chops”. My drumming style has
definitely infused itself into everything I do. I played a lot of guitar
and bass for a long time, but I never learned them in a traditional
fashion which has made me more of a unique player but has also limited me
in some ways. I also realized relatively recently that my very small
hands probably limit my potential abilities on various instruments.
Funnily enough, I only got good at the piano a few years ago even though
it was my first instrument. I suppose I might say my voice is my main
instrument – I write with it and around it a large percentage of the time.
But usually I just say vocals and piano or keyboard.

What has been your best experience with music?

I'd say my best experience with music would be all the times when the
artistic ideas in my head present endless, amazing, and seemingly magical
possibilities. That foreshadowing of what I will create and the
development of concepts is the most exciting thing in the world to me.

Any terrible experiences you would like to
share?

There have been many rotten experiences with shitty clubs and promoters,
selfish, malicious, unorganized, or just plain stupid people. But really,
those experiences usually make good stories so they are not all bad. The
worst times have probably been periods when I spend so much time working
alone that I just get depressed. Being an artist can put strain on
relationships and just daily life. Sometimes I feel like I have this
entire dimension to my life that most people can't relate to, and that can
make me feel really lonely.

What have you been listening to lately that is piano
oriented?

Peter Gabriel's “Scratch” album - probably his least popular album but it
has some great piano playing on it. Also Harry Nillson, Randy Newman, and
Andrew W.K.

What you have listened to lately that is not piano
oriented?

Lots of stuff. String, brass, and choral music by William Walton (one of
my all-time favorite composers), chamber music by Harrison Birtwistle,
“Pentecost” by Michael Torke, Aqua's “Aquarium”, “In The Shadows” by
Mercyful Fate.

Looking down the line, what impact would you
most want to see emerge from your work?

I want my music to be enjoyed by a diverse audience, and I want it to be
fun and challenging at the same time. I want to offer something that
people can't quite find anywhere else. Most of all, I want it to provoke
people's imaginations.

What would be your ideal place to live?

The place I think I would enjoy living the most is Manhattan - that is, if
I had enough money to live the kind of lifestyle I'd want. Although there
are a lot of amazing things to do there, I like it mostly for more basic
reasons. I am a night owl and I usually go to bed as everyone else is
waking up, so it's great that things are actually open late hours there
and that plenty of other people are awake too. And I find that my
personality fits in much better there than in my hometown of Minneapolis.
But while I would enjoy living there, my ideal place to live in terms of
being a productive artist is somewhere where I am comfortable and safe,
know my way around, and have family and friends around to support me, and
my hometown does pretty well in those regards.