SPOTLIGHT - Chris Malmgren's musical methods, equipment and journey.

A interview with OVRFWRD keyboardist Chris Malmgren.

©Photo by Melissa Fletcher.


1. What age did you start playing music? My parents started me on piano lessons when I was 6 and took classical lessons through college. 


2. What was the first keyboard you got other than the piano? My first keyboard was a Sequential Circuits Six-Trak in 1984 when I was 13. It was old school analog, a great learning experience - I still have it, and used it in the studio on the track, "Can We Keep the Elephant" from our first studio album. I think it will be buried with me. I've since acquired a few Moog synths, but there is a special place in my heart for this keyboard! (It's in my profile pic, sitting on the baby grand) 3. Lessons/Teacher? Two teachers...Mrs. Carlblom (age 6-17), and A. DeWayne Wee at St. Olaf College (18-21). 

4. First band and what age? My first band was with a kid in my neighborhood who was also a keyboardist. He got a Roland D50(which was hot stuff at the time), and I may have made the band with him so I could play it, LOL. It was just the 2 of us along with my trusty Roland TR-707 drum machine. We covered "The Call of Ktulu" by Metallica, which was awesome and forced me to get creative with sounds. The song creeped my buddy out though, and the band was short lived. I think we called ourselves "Chris and Craig", haha. 


5. Do you play any other instruments other than keys - what are they? I played the electric guitar for a few years, but over-practiced and injured myself. I recorded the first Ovrfwrd album with ice packs on my wrists between takes, but after much PT and (no more guitar), I fortunately recovered. No more guitar for me, which is a shame because I LOVED it! 

6. Main Influences? My musical influences in order throughout the years:  Billy Joel, The Eagles, Beethoven, Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Queensrÿche, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jane's Addiction, Roger Waters, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, and Storm Corrosion. 

7, When and Why did you know you were meant to be a musician and pursue a musical career? My parents took me to Billy Joel's Nylon Curtain tour at the St. Paul Civic Center when I was 9, and that had a huge impact on me! That's what I wanted to do! 

8. What is your main keyboard live rig w/ Ovrfwrd? Nord Stage 2 88(w Ventilator II Leslie pedal), M-Audio 88 controller, Minimoog Voyager(TC Electronics Flashback/Vortex pedals), and a Moog Subsequent 37. 


9. How do you approach composing music/writing songs? I record a lot of ideas in my home studio with Propellerhead's Reason software. For me, the key is to just sit down and do it, and accept the fact that you may come up with nothing...or you may come up with a cool idea to use as a foundation to build a new song around. You can't force creativity! I'll generally start with about 20 song ideas and wind up with a small number of those that find their way onto a new album. I piece them together in the software, adding layers of other instruments, and finally export the audio to the cloud to share/get feedback from band mates. At band practice, we are all there going through ideas and all 4 of us arrange every track as a team. 


10. If you had to pick only one - which one would it be between performing live vs. studio recording? Wow, tough question! I love playing live, but would have to say writing and recording is where it's at. It's magical to imprint something onto the universe, and is especially to do with with Mark, Kyle, and Rikki. We have great chemistry and it's awesome to write and record with them! 


11. From your 4 Ovrfwrd albums - What is the most complex/difficult song for you to play? Ha, that has to be "Utopia Planitia"...which also happens to be my favorite song to play. While performing that song, I switch between 2 Moog patches, piano, Rhodes, Mellotron, and glockenspiel(sampled), and the arrangement contains a lot of timing changes and creative voicing. So much fun! You can see me running back and forth in the live version, "Occupations of Uninhabited Space" video. 


12. What would be your personal favorite/keyboard highlight song from the new album Blurring The Lines? Boy, that might be a tie, between "Taiga" and "Return to Splendor". "Taiga" has a lot of neat string, Mellotron and piano arrangements, and "Splendor" has a celste solo, which is something you don't see/hear everyday. 


13. Worst stage/recording experience story? Yikes! I was playing with my band Sadie's Mirage in '89, in support of Letitia Rae (Slave Raider), and one of my keyboards fell and landed square on my foot in the middle of a song. (The aforementioned Sequential Circuits Six-Trak) Very graceful indeed. Oh, and painful. Needed more duct tape! I've broken several keyboards stands since, but that was my only mishap while playing live! This past fall, I broke my main stand at rehearsal, the day before leaving for the ProgDay festival...so ordered a new one online and shipped to NC so I could use it for the show. Maybe I shouldn't hit my keyboards so hard? LOL

14. Advice to aspiring pianists/keyboardists/composers? Practice, practice, practice. For classical piano, it doesn't matter how good you are, you can always benefit from lessons. Oh, and practice. For composing/collaborating and recording, I find computer based software incredibly helpful, and there is a lot of it out there! Easy to jot down ideas with a simple MIDI controller, and build arrangements, effects, etc. Having said that, it is not a substitute for good old human creativity...but it IS a great tool to help turn your ideas into something tangible to either build from or share with others. 


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