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Finding creativity in community, with Leonard Maassen

Following the debut album 'Inside Cycles', we sat down with Leonard Maassen to gain insight into his creative journey. From the vibrancy of Hackney to the serenity of Epping Forest, Maassen's innovative project is a culmination of his background in sound design and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Where do you get creative inspiration from?

Community. Collective experiences really inspire me. That’s a large part of why I love making music. Feeling the synchronised vibrations of many humans in a music space has taught me about myself and how I relate to others. I find myself especially drawn to places where different art forms and approaches overlap and interact. Working in Hackney and spending time in London is amazing in this sense.

Outdoors. Attuning to environmental textures allows me to conjure up sonic colours and musical structures spontaneously when I work. Breathing fresh air and experiencing the atmosphere has something incredibly rejuvenating. I recently discovered that Epping Forest is only a short overground ride away from Netil House. It’s a wonderful place to have some quiet time on days when I need a rest.

History. Absorbing the knowledges of previous generations allows me to channel creative ideas. A few years ago, I was focusing on my German roots and became very obsessed with the author Hermann Hesse. I read everything that I could find, which prompted me to start thinking about how creative work develops over a lifetime. That level of in-depth engagement is something I constantly aim for.

Tell us about the album. How has your previous work in sound design influenced this project?

My debut album ‘Inside Cycles’ came out in April 2024. It engages with the feeling of being in a world which is shifting away from the environmental stable state that supports human life, and our awareness of responsibility for this change. In the music, environmental experiences become metaphors for relationships and personal/collective growth.

The album is broadly experimental electronic pop, bringing together influences from dance music, jazz, psychedelic rock and the classical tradition. I wrote and produced it while studying for a Master in Electronic Music at Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

One of the main aims for the album was to develop my voice as a solo artist. And while I spent a lot of introspective time alone writing the music, the project turned out to be one of the most collaborative things I have done. It features a violinist, another singer and a saxophonist, and many more people helped by offering feedback and guidance at various stages. I am infinitely grateful for all the support I received.

For the second track on the album, ‘Take Me To Space’, I produced a music video with director Oscar McNab. We used generative AI to re-animate studio footage of a dancer, making her look like she’s made of plants and metal (watch here).

A significant part of the interest of the music comes from the sound design aspects. My work designing sounds for art installations and films, as well as producing music for other artists, had a strong influence in this sense. Building on my experience of experimental recording devices and avant-garde production techniques, I explored these elements in a more commercial sounding record that is based around narrative composition and songwriting.

Following the album, I’m becoming increasingly interested in interdisciplinary collaborations. I’m currently working with a team of artists and designers to bring the album to life with a 3D audio-visual show. The first performance will be on 7th June at Rich Mix, Shoreditch.

Alongside the launch, I’m working on new music for the autumn and composing for a short film. As a next step, I’d love to compose music for a fashion show.

You can listen to Leonard Maassen's debut album here.

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