Behind the Track

Behind the Track: Substereo

16th March 2017

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BIMM Berlin’s Chris Angel Walker goes Behind the Track…

What was the inspiration behind your track?

I wrote ‘One for the Fallen’ when I returned from serving in Iraq and Africa with the armed forces. Some of us went through many emotional phases after coming home but mostly there was a certain feeling of guilt for having made it home when others didn’t. It was difficult to re-adjust to normal ‘everyday life’.

Even after having come home to safe surroundings, other colleagues and friends were shipping out continuously to new missions. I remember having to read about our losses abroad on Facebook and the cold chill one would get when it was a face you knew personally.  At first I didn’t really know how to deal with it.  It was like a nightmare that just wouldn’t end.  We had lost so many people – friends and colleagues – but I remember the one that struck me the hardest and the incident that forced me to sit down and put music to my thoughts.

It was months after I had returned home, that a dear friend of mine shipped out on a mission to Afghanistan together with her boyfriend, who was also in the army. Tragedy struck when he was killed in a roadside bombing. I remember our mutual friends, who were with her at the time, describing how she insisted on flying back home with his body. She lay for 8 hours in a rugged military transport plane, curled up motionless next his casket which was wrapped in a flag and decorated with his medals. She wanted to lay next to him for one last time.

Hearing about that was the straw that broke the camel’s back in my world. Enough was enough. I sat down and wrote the piano piece without words and played it straight hours on end while thinking of what I had just learnt. I must have played it non-stop for a whole day.  Eventually I decided to see what words would flow out if I didn’t think about them consciously and the song sort of wrote itself from that point on.

I suppose we all react differently to loss, and feeling loss and guilt in losing somebody can happen to anybody, in any setting. Writing ‘One for the Fallen’ was a way of helping me cope with the thoughts and feelings that were rushing through my mind. I just hope it can help somebody through tough times like it helped me.

What did your songwriting process involve?

‘One for the Fallen’ was written on the piano from the get-go. I have always loved Chopin’s Prelude in E minor and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. I wanted to have a song that took elements of classical piano pieces yet coupled with the simplicity of a pop song. I started by experimenting with ways of using an arpeggiating progression with simple octaves on the bass notes thereby achieving that heavy feeling throughout the song.

Where I would usually create a progression based on where the melody takes me, on this song the vocal melody came after the piece was finished. It was a different way of constructing a song but it gave me a certain sense of freedom, knowing where the melody had to go based on the chords that were already there.

Is there are story behind the song?

The song was eventually performed by my band Substereo, where we added drums and electric guitar. We played the song as a part of the permanent repertoire for two years, before deciding to scrap it. Although it was a strong song, the sound of the band had evolved to a point where it didn’t make sense to perform it live anymore.

Recently I got into conversation with some students at BIMM, where we were discussing the different approaches to songwriting and how a song could function as a catalyst to clear the mind in times of emotional need.  This made me want to revive the song and re-record it on the piano, as it was originally written.

Can you describe your sound in three words?

Dramatic, pensive & deliberate

What’s the best thing about studying at BIMM?

Being around so many talented, like-minded, and motivated people is something that is absolutely priceless! It inspires me on a daily basis to be a better musician and songwriter. Not only is it conducive to creating new material in ways I could never have imagined before but it also motivates me to revisit old songs and try them again in new and exciting ways.

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Author

Sarah-Louise Burns

After studying Ba(Hons) Photography, Sarah has worked in Social Media Marketing since 2013 - she's now part of the BIMM Social Media Team, and is photographer for the Who, What, Why series.