Interview with Urban Dreams album composer Kebu

Image credit: John Tackman

Hailing from Finland, music producer, and experimental musician Kebu a.k.a. Sebastian Teir has always gravitated towards the authentic production of analog synths since the beginning. The results are breathtaking with free-flowing synth notes that leave one in awe, especially when performed live. His latest album Urban Dreams features 20 epic cosmic synthwave tracks that will have you drawn in from the beginning to the concluding song. Kebu’s sound pays homage to synthesizer-focused musicians of yesteryear and was even invited to perform at Ridley Scott’s dedication concert. We had the privilege to discuss Kebu’s key influences and overall workflow below.

Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?

I have listened to music since I was a kid, learning early on how to operate my Dad’s cassette recorder. We even had a reel-to-reel tape deck, but I was too young to understand how to use it, and when I got old enough it broke down. But I had tons of fun with my cousin recording our own music onto a stereo track cassette deck. We had about five 60 minutes cassettes full of our music by the age of 12. I think it was when I was in high school that I could afford a four-track tape machine.

What inspired you to start making the electronic music that you are now?

I started around 2010, and at that time I had played in many different hobby bands and began to be fed up with it. But then I rediscovered the synthesizer music that I listened to as a kid and tried to see just for fun if I could make something similar. The very first two songs I made were ‘Basic Principles’ and ‘Pulsar’, and I realized that I had a talent for making that kind of music. And I rediscovered the fun of making music. So eventually I quit all bands I was playing in, even my day-time job, and started to focus on my own music.

What key pieces of gear/software are you using to define your sound?

On my studio albums and live performances, I only use analog synths, which restricts a lot of what I can do, but at the same time, it kind of defines my sound automatically. I mix using a hardware digital mixer, which brings its own limitations, so that also helps to shape my productions quite a lot.

Has your arsenal of equipment changed much since you first started?

It has become much bigger. My first album To Jupiter and Back was made on a small analog mixer when I could still fit my synths in the corner of a room in my flat. But nowadays I have a dedicated studio and probably three times more synths. But I still use all the synths that I made my first album with. The main work has been the migration between different mixers. When my first album was ready, I bought a digital mixer (Behringer DDX3216) that I programmed one and a half hours of mixes in for my live show. Quite soon I realized it was too limiting for me, and I wasn’t so fond of its sound, so I upgraded to a Yamaha 01V96, on which I recorded my second album. Just migrating my existing set and preparing the new songs for live use took me two months. Now I’m in the process of migrating to a Behringer X32, so again I have a couple of months of work ahead of me.

Which three albums or artists would you say have influenced your sound in a big way?

The main inspirations for my music have been Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis. Normally, I list Mike Oldfield as the third inspiration, but I think it is fairer to mention Ed Starink – a dutch producer who made a series of synthesizer cover albums in the ‘80s called Synthesizer Greatest. There are so many great songs and artists covered on those albums that I never would have heard of. And many of Ed’s versions of the songs are even better than the originals.

Any new or upcoming artists on your radar?

I have a Polish colleague called Madis that has a similar approach to making synthesizer music that I have. Still, he has his own unique style, so we are not stepping on each other toes. In contrast, I think it’s great that there are more electronic artists that perform their music live with hardware synthesizers and do not rely simply on pre-recorded backing tracks or loops.

What inspires you outside of music?

A good night’s sleep :D. The more tired I am, the less I want to try anything new and it’s really difficult to come up with new ideas. If I don’t get enough sleep I only drone on in the same tracks that I’m used to. Environmental protection and new technologies for reducing our environmental footprint are also something that inspires me. I used to work in this field before, but had to quit my job to be able to concentrate on my music. I get the best results if I can focus on one thing for a longer period of time.

What do you want to accomplish with your music?

Many of my fans have told me that my music has helped them to get through difficult times, and I think that is really the best that I can achieve with my music. My music tends to be uplifting, so although my latest album Urban Dreams is kind of sentimental, I think the music is also very hopeful.

What, in your opinion, would be the perfect genre fusion?

I think today’s artists are too focused on genres and fitting into a certain niche. I think the best music comes from artists that don’t feel tied to a certain genre.

What can we expect from you in the near future? Any upcoming projects or releases in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?

Right now I’m preparing for a tour in Europe in spring 2022, and there will be several concerts in Finland as well. So my hands will be full with preparing to perform the new music from my album live. But it’s all really uncertain due to the worsening covid pandemic in Europe. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Famous last words?

A big thanks to all my fans for supporting me! Without my fans, there wouldn’t be any music.

‘Enter Dreamland’ features on the Spotify playlist WAVE_GRØUND

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