Life On The Road / 11 October 2020

James Norbert Ivanyi talks prog rock, guitar and his upcoming album Omen Faustum

Australia’s very own James Norbert Ivanyi is well known for his uncanny virtuosity on the electric guitar.

Hailing from sunny Sydney, James wears many different hats as a multi-instrumentalist, teacher, and music producer in addition to being a prolific performer.

With three albums under his belt and another one releasing in October, we managed to catch up with James to pick his mind about his new music, gear and various other things.

What has been the inspiration for you to write instrumental progressive rock music?

Guitar

Around 2012 I decided to take a break from the band scene, and try working on something on my own.

I always felt slowed down in the typical band environment. So I set out to enjoy the writing and recording process again, but this time with nothing holding me back, or limiting myself to any stylistic constraints.

I began work on what would be my first solo record ‘Aphasia’, and released it in late 2013. I didn’t expect anything from it, but with a bit of luck it took off in the emerging instrumental scene, and I’m still doing solo instrumental records today!

You’ve made a transition from a band setting to a solo act. Are there any challenges in those types of musical transition?

Guitar

There’s pro’s and con’s to each type of setting, but I’ve definitely found my groove as a solo artist.

I miss the brotherhood vibe and weekly rehearsals of being in a band, but in a way I still have that when I head out on tour, as I’ve thankfully had the same touring band for the past 5 or so years.

Overall I’ve found myself really happy in the solo setting and thrive in it. I work at my own pace, and have complete freedom in all areas, and find myself much more productive.

What adjustments have you made to further your career as a musician in a time when live events are unable to take place? Has this period of lockdown shaped the way you write music?

Guitar

I don’t think much has changed, except that typically when I release a new album, it coincides with a tour.

As that won’t be possible this year (or possible for the next 2 years) I’ve decided to focus more on content in support of the record. I completed two video clips for the new record.

One of which was just released (Rubik’s Grand Convolution) and another coming on release day, on October 20th) – I also have another in conception for after the full record release, which will be a full band performance clip. First time for that!

Most of your EPs and albums have a sort of “supernatural” or “dark fantasy” feel to them, could you tell us if there are thematic elements or narratives that exist in your albums?

I’m heavily influenced by art, and notably the artworks on the cover. The paintings are done by Jeff Christensen, and he’s one of my all time favourite surrealist artists, so it’s still a trip to be working with him on my releases.

The records are themed, and I typically present this theme to Jeff, as well as some music for inspiration. From that point, the music and artwork grow together in support of the theme. The theme of ‘Omen Faustum’ was to explore the dangerous and secretive nature of killers. I’ve always had a dark fascination with this area of human psychology. ‘Omen Faustum’ means ‘to have good fortune when committing acts of evil intent’.

In terms of composition, how do you approach writing your albums? 

Guitar

I adopt what I coin ‘the linear approach’ – which means that I always imagine an idea first, and it’s important that whatever it is I’m imagining, is the very start of a song. Once I have translated this idea into music, my imagination takes over from where I left off, and this snowball effect begins. One part inspires the next, and so forth.

I’ve been writing this way since 2015, and I find it really helps me feel like my ideas come from within, as opposed to ‘what I’m good at that month’, or my comfort spots on the instrument.

Most times I’ve very uncomfortable with what I’m imagining, and I have to take a lot of time to improve before I start working on it. It keeps me busy, and gives me a lot to practice too.

Take us through the process of recording and producing your new album.

Guitar

As usual I did everything myself, as far as writing and tracking all the guitar, bass, keyboard parts – as well as handling the production and mix, which took just shy of four years of work on this record.

I program drums as I go to help give me a complete image of a part, or song, and once the record is complete, all of the programmed drums are deleted and the mixed album is handed over to David Horgan who does all of the studio drums, and handles that side of the recording. He’s an adept audio engineer too, so together we finalise the mix before handing it off to mastering.

Mastering on ‘Omen Faustum’ was handled by Simon Grove, who did a brilliant job.

What inspired the new record and how did the album name “Omen Faustum“ come about? What story are you telling with the release?

I experienced quite a few stylistic passions that I wanted to try and explore in the context of my own sound. Notably more of the fusion and dark funk that I’ve been absorbing over the past few years. I thought it would be a fun challenge to incorporate these sounds into a dark progressive metal setting, and overall, I think it turned out great!

As mentioned previously, it is a themed record that explores the transition otherwise regular people go through, before winding up in a the darkest of places. Listeners will certainly feel this transition taking place as the album plays from start to finish.

What can listeners expect from the new record?

Definitely some sharp turns that I don’t think people are expecting from me, so I’m certainly looking forward to gauging the reaction to that!

There’s plenty of dark, technical writing on there too, so hopefully there’s a lot for the guys that appreciate the heavier, more progressive sounds, as well those who are fans of more traditional funk and fusion. It’s quite an eclectic mix!

After releasing this album what is next in the works for you?

Guitar

I have quite a lot of very exciting things locked in that will be rolling out after the album release, which I can’t talk about right now, but one of them my fan base has been asking me about forever, and the other is a life long dream that I can’t believe is coming true.

Apart from working on new content in support in release of ‘Omen Faustum’, I’m ready and excited to lock in some tours as soon as the coast is clear, which I am cautiously optimistic won’t be too far off.

What’s the story between you and your number 1 guitar?

I have a very strong attachment to my Suhr Modern Custom #1 – which is the black guitar I take on tour and the one people mostly associate me with.

It was the first guitar that was ever custom made for me, and the first guitar I ever owned where I feel like I don’t notice it when I’m playing it, if that makes sense! It’s so effortless and comfortable, that I’m not aware of any flaws when it’s in my hands, and I’m completely clear headed and able to express myself without distraction, whether that be in the studio or on stage.

When you’re able to start playing live shows and tour again, what guitar gear will be going in your MONO cases?

James Norbert Ivanyi’s MONOfits

I’ll be taking two Suhr Moderns with me (black & yellow) in my Dual Mono Guitar Case, which is absolutely fantastic. I also keep most of my clothing in the case, and in the Tick, which has been a lifesaver as far as packing space on the road.

I also take my Mono 365 backpack (now discontinued), which fits my pedal board, laptop, all cables and accessories – and is another magnificent piece of kit. It’s incredible how much I fit in those two bags alone.

I’ve been using them for the past couple of years, and expect I’ll be using them for many more to come. My first Mono single went around the world for 5 years, and still looks brand new!

James Norbert Ivanyi with his trusted MONO gear

Listen to Omen Faustum here:

Watch the Official Music Video for Rubik’s Grand Convolution here:

Check out all our other artist features here.


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