Martin Rebelski needs no introduction. The longtime keyboardist has been playing live with Doves since 1999. Martin has also played on the studio tracks from Here It Comes right up to last year’s The Universal Want album. Martin has been very prolific of late with several EPs and stand alone tracks released this year. Martin kindly agreed to answer questions from fans about his music past & present and of course his time playing live with Doves.
You’ve been very prolific of late releasing music all over the place. Is this the result of the pandemic and having more time to work in your own music or what? What has been inspiring you to compose lately?
It goes without saying what a turbulent time it’s been for all, these past 18 months or so. I’ve tried to be as productive as I can with the unexpected free time I’ve been given, especially seeing as I’d been pretty much on tour for the previous four years, with only sporadic opportunity to write and record. It’s given me an extra impetus to produce my own music as much as possible and make the best out of such a difficult situation that we’ve all found ourselves in.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the new tracks you’ve put out this past year. Waterfalls being the latest, on the excellent Wake Up and Dream compilation. How did Waterfall come about, did you compose the track specifically for the compilation?
Why thank you kindly. Yes I’m really pleased with how Waterfalls turned out. It wasn’t specifically written for the comp. That happened after. It came together quickly though, after initially playing around with the Celeste sound. Which in turn triggered imagery of a waterfall that I encountered on a local scenic walk.
Shimmer from the Kaleidoscope EP is a track you can easily lose yourself in. For me I close my eyes and imagine traveling on a train in the beautiful countryside of Southern Bavaria. What inspired you to compose Shimmer? All of the EP does have a feeling of being on the move.
Glad you like it and that’s great to hear. The Kaleidoscope EP started out with the lead track which was written in December 2020 specifically to have some more of my own material to play on a livestream which I was invited to play for ‘All Day I Dream’. Shimmer came about when I’d signed the EP to Amulanga records and they wanted it to be a four track EP, so ; Shimmer, The Journey and Solar Symbol were all written back to back.
Reflections from the Landscapes EP is hauntingly beautiful. If you can, tell us the inspiration behind the track. The vocal has an otherworldly vibe to it. It’s a beautiful listen.
That vocal is something I’ve had laying around for years. Think it was from a free sample CD-ROM that came with a magazine, so that shows you how old it was. I tend to document sounds, samples, riffs and grooves and keep them to pull from my archives, and that vocal just perfectly fit the bill.
Any plans for an album or do you prefer releasing stand alone tracks/EPs?
I’m really enjoying the process of stand alone tracks and EPs, as they feel more immediate and are less pressured than a full length album. Having said that, I’ve made an ambient album, which I also composed during lockdown. Featuring mainly modular and analog synths. Not sure of the plan for that yet.
There’s a lot of love out there for Thanks For Your Thoughts, with many folks asking about specific tracks. What are your memories of that time putting the album together? Which tracks are you most fond of today?
Hugely fond memories. I was so energised by the support I received from Jeff Barrett, who is the founder of heavenly. He actively encouraged me to write and produce music during our first doves tour. I was only young and I think the music reflects that, and hopefully it has a naive charm about it. I never listen to it to be fair but ‘dad’s hi-fi’ is the one I’m most proud of looking back.
Play the School Piano sticks out from Stickers on Keys for me. The late Roger Quigley’s beautiful vocal compliments your music so well. Do lyrics often come into your head when you compose music?
Roger is sadly missed and it was an absolute pleasure to have known and worked with him. Such a talent. Lyrics don’t really ever pop into my head. I’m all about the melodies and harmonies.
Please tell Martin how much I love The Rift Valley. Did he use a real choir?
Ace. Thanks. It was a simple one note vocal sample that I layered and morphed into my own melody and chords.
You’re described as a multi-instrumentalist. Is there an instrument you’ve not used on your music you’d love to use on a future project?
First and foremost I’m a keyboardist/pianist but I’d say once you reach a certain technical level on an instrument, you can adapt those skills to almost any instrument. However, mastering an instruments technique is another matter. I’d say I can play to a basic enough level on other instrumentation to get by for my own recordings. I love the sound of the Kora, and would love to get that on record one day. Not me playing it though.
When you are creating a piece, what comes first? Is it a theme/story or does the music/notes come first?
It can be thematic, as in terms of instrumentation and mood. For instance an electronic dance track or a sparse ambient glockenspiel led track as a starting point. These can go out the window once things get flowing though. I’ll go wherever the music takes me.
Which key is the saddest of all keys?
Haha, D minor of course !
Do you have any plans to perform your own music live in the near future?
Nothing concrete but certainly an option. Depends when and where and what offers I get. Hopefully at some point.
What’s been your proudest moment in music?
I’m so fortunate to have so many to choose from ; Playing at Wembley stadium (the old one). Being on top of the pops (which made my mum proud). Headlining the John Peel stage and the other stage at Glastonbury. Writing the track ‘Rise of Angel’ with Luciano and then hearing him drop it that very evening to thousands of people was pretty special too.
Which Doves track (if any!) is the toughest to perform live and why?
Kingdom of Rust is a tricky one because I’m not playing keyboards in a traditional sense. I’m playing/triggering a lot of samples in most tracks. In kingdom, there’s a huge amount. As well as playing the main glockenspiel chorus part (mirroring Jez’s guitar riff), and organ chords, I’m playing all the string/orchestral parts which had to be sampled note for note which covers the entire 88 keys on my weighted keyboard. Good fun though.
Which is your favourite Doves track to perform and why?
Black and White Town. As it’s such a great uptempo track that gets everyone moving.
Genuinely, the best Doves remix released imo was the one you did of The Sulphur Man. How did that come about and name one other Doves track would you’d love to have a go at remixing?
Oh cheers. Jimi, Andy and Jez just gave me free rain to choose a track to remix. I could hear an alternative arrangement for it in my head, which is essentially what I did. I’ve actually remixed a couple of tracks from the new album – Universal Want and Carousels, which will hopefully be released at some point soon.
Which of the tracks off The Universal Want are you looking forward to playing live?
All of them! Especially – Carousels, Prisoners, For Tomorrow.
Has working with Doves influenced your sound at all? One fan suggested The Journey has hints of early Doves.
Yes definitely influenced my sound and productions. They’re such great producers, song writers and sonic architects and that’s infectious to be around.
Does Martin have a painting in his attic?! He never ages!
Who or what inspired you to play the keys?
My grandad who was a pianist and organist in his later years. Also, hearing 90s Italian house music which always had soaring piano riffs and was easy to pick up by ear and then more technical players such as Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.
Are you given free reign and improvise when contributing to a Doves’ song or do the guys tell you what or where to play within a song? Your keyboards add so much texture and layers. I especially love the piano on Valley.
Yes I am given free reign but the guys usually have solid thoughts on what they want. So a bit of both.
Let Martin know his piano part at the end of Carousels is one of the highlights of the album. How was being back in the studio with Doves after so long?
Nice one. Yeah it’s been brilliant. Always a pleasure.
How did you come to join Hooky’s live band? That must be so much fun playing those tracks live.
Just got a call out of the blue and it sounded like a lot of fun, and it really is.
How will Martin fit in playing with both Doves & Hooky live?! Do live dates clash, how does he pick which band to play with if there is a clash?!
All worked out smoothly so far. Fingers crossed it’ll continue to work out.
What’s next for you?
Couple of really interesting and exciting collaborations coming and more single tracks and EPs. Also the ambient album. 2022 is thankfully shaping up to be a busy year.
To check out all of Martin’s latest music visit this link. You can also follow Martin on social media, visit his official website for all the links. Thanks to everyone at Doves Forum for the questions!