Interview with Taktus

Divine Magazine
Divine Magazine 6 Min Read

Taktus marimba duo Greg Harrison & Jonny Smith is known for their groove-based re-envisioning of classical and contemporary music. Their original marimba arrangements of minimalist music have been described as “virtuosic” (Gapplegate Music), “impeccable and articulate” (The WholeNote Magazine), and “daring” (I Care If you Listen).

Taktus has performed across Canada in classical chamber concert series, new music venues, and indie music festivals. Their recording of Glass Houses No. 13 was choreographed by the Artistic Director of the Toronto Dance Theatre, Christopher House, and featured in dance performances across Canada and internationally.

Getting to know Taktus

What was the last TV series you watched on TV?

Greg: The Boys

Jonny: Dark

If you were a member of the Spice Girls, what would your spice handle be?

Greg: Spicey Spice

J: Bland Spice

What’s your favorite children’s story?

Greg: The Hockey Sweater (that’s how I became a Leafs fan)

Jonny: “I Want My Hat Back” by Jon Klassen

What do you think the greatest invention has been?

Greg: Height-adjustable marimbas!

Jonny Aluminum foil… it’s metal that you can put in a hot oven and then touch it with your bare hands pretty much as soon as it comes out! Also, it helps in making nachos.

Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?

Greg: Tilda Swinton

Jonny: Will Ferrell

What is your current music project about?

taktus musicincontrarymotion

This music video/short film project came out of a collaboration between us and Vancouver- based filmmaker, Tom Belding. Set to the classic minimalist music of Philip Glass, arranged for marimbas and synthesizer, this film juxtaposes the natural world and those things that humans have created within it. As the viewer is mesmerized by the rhythmic flow of this vivid imagery, they are propelled to confront the opposing forces of contemporary society and consider their own role in the perpetual motion. The film pays homage to the experimental “Qatsi” trilogy (directed by Godfrey Reggio with music by Philip Glass) but with a contemporary perspective.

Taktus: Music in Contrary Motion (Philip Glass)

What are your plans for any future releases?

Our next release will be a bit of a departure as we want to focus on original compositions. We envision an album that includes pieces written by us and some commissioned works from other composers that we know. We also want to expand on our electronic backgrounds and incorporate more of that into our sound.

Are you planning any videos for your music?

We will be filming a performance video with the multimedia artists known as Catshrine, and streaming the performance in the Fall of 2021. We will perform some tunes from our recent album, Mirrored Glass, as well as some new stuff in an industrial setting rigged with lights and cameras. This project will help us to reconnect with our fan base which hasn’t been able to see us perform in over a year.

What draws you to your preferred genre?

Minimalist composers such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley are staples in the percussion world. We wanted to explore lesser known Canadian composers, which led to our journey into Ann Southam’s repertoire. We tend to select pieces that give the audience a sort of “choose-your-own-adventure” listening experience. These pieces are very fun and challenging to play – it takes a high level of focus while maintaining almost a trance-like state.

Taktus: Glass Houses No.5 (official music video)

Where was your current project recorded?

We chose to record in two different studios and engineers in Toronto (Canterbury + Dream Date Studio). The video for Contrary Motion was mostly filmed and produced in and around Vancouver, BC.

What do you enjoy most about being an artist?

We love hearing the audience’s experiences after our concerts. Our arrangements provoke strong imagery for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Often people tell us that our music made them “see” something or think about something that we never would have imagined ourselves.

Who would you like to collaborate with?

’We would love to do a collaboration with Tim Hecker. He’s an amazing sound artist in Canada, and he collaborates with a lot of ensembles.

What is your creative process like?

Generally one of us will pick a piece we want to arrange and send the other their parts. We then rehearse separately until we feel ready to try it out in a rehearsal together. The initial rehearsals typically involve us discussing the type of sound and delivery we want to achieve.

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