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Interview with David Arkenstone, July 2024
Interview with David Arkenstone, image 1
David Arkenstone is one of the first artists who come to mind when talking or thinking about the history of so-called "new age music." He released his first album in 1987 and became one of the most prominent artists on the Narada label, which also released many albums by David Lanz, Spencer Brewer, Tingstad and Rumbel, Wayne Gratz, and so many others. David recently released his latest album, Quest For the Runestone, which I really like, and this seemed like a great time to catch up with him. Michael Debbage interviewed David back in 2008, and you can refer to that interview for more about David's earlier career.

KP: Congratulations on the recent release of Quest For the Runestone! It's an amazing album! How is it doing in its first weeks of release?

DA: There has been an amazing response to this recording. I’m so pleased. I think people really enjoy the complete package, the story, the keepsakes, the conceptual form of the music. And big sound lovers are enjoying the album in Dolby Atmos on Apple Music.

KP: Which came first - the idea for an album in collaboration with your son, Dashiell, or did his story inspire the music after it was written?

DA: I had the idea of doing an epic conceptual album and started a few sketches. Then I asked my son Dashiell if he’d like to write an adventure story. What he wrote was so rich in its mood and characters that it inspired me instantly to compose, as if I was scoring a film, or creating a painting.

KP: Have you worked on any other projects with Dashiell? Is he a professional writer?

Interview with David Arkenstone, image 6
Click on album cover to go
to Kathy's review.
Interview with David Arkenstone, image 5
Click on album cover to go
to Michael's review.
Interview with David Arkenstone, image 12
Click on album cover to go
to Kathy's review.
DA: This is really our first collaboration of this nature, where he has written a story which would then be included with one of my recordings. And yes, he is a writer. Also for the LP of Music Inspired By Middle Earth, Vol. II, Dash did the hand-etched art on one side of the blue vinyl. Hopefully there are many more collaborations in the future!

KP: Yes! Tell us a bit about the story, which is printed in its original form as a 48-page booklet that comes with the CD.

DA: The story involves a young female warrior who, upon the death of her mentor, becomes the keeper of an ancient magic that protects her mountain village from cataclysmic dangers.

KP: Can people who download the album get access to the booklet or it is just with the boxed set?

DA: The story is available at this point with the limited-edition CD and the keepsakes, but the booklet will be available as a bonus when people purchase the digital album.

KP: I was reading the interview you did with Michael Debbage for MainlyPiano.com back in 2008, and you are quoted as saying: "There's always a personal 'movie' playing in my imagination when I write." I thought that was really interesting. Is it still true when you are composing music now?

DA: It was especially true with Quest For The Runestone, as I had a story to follow as well as my own musical imagination. So I could visualize with even more detail the sounds of the story.

KP: Tell us about some of the other musicians that play and sing on the album.

DA: I’m very fortunate to have some very talented colleagues and musical friends. On violin and the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, I invited Luanne Homzy who brought her heart and soul to my music. I also invited Eric Rigler on the Irish Uilleann pipes. That instrument and his mastery of it has such a powerful, ancient sound that brought wonderful soul and emotion to several pieces. I decided early on to have vocals on this recording. So I reached out to Clara Sorace who has a powerful, unique, and versatile voice. I also featured Sergio Gonzaléz Prats on the hurdy gurdy, Kimberly Zaleski on flutes, Carlyn Kessler on cello, my friend Dov on violin and viola, and Giulia Colantonio on more vocals

KP: You play a lot of different instruments on the album yourself. How do you play guitar, flute, whistle, drums and keyboards all at the same time? Just kidding! What other instruments do you play on the album?

DA: Not at the same time for sure! There were many recording sessions of different instruments for each song. In addition to your list, I played melodica, cittern, Turkish saz, handpan, bass, more percussion, and did some vocals.

KP: You have released the album in a limited-edition boxed set that has the CD, the booklet and some special collectible goodies. Tell us about that.

DA: Yes, when I decided to do a box, I realized there was more room in it beyond just the space for the booklet and CD. So I looked for some items that would enhance the whole experience. Fans have really liked that each CD box is unique and has a different runestone.
Interview with David Arkenstone, image 10
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Interview with David Arkenstone, image 2
KP: I'm really enjoying mine! Where can people get the boxed set?

DA: Currently, the limited edition CD box set is only available on Bandcamp.

KP: Will CDs still be available once the boxed sets are sold out?

DA: Yes, CD’s will be available after the Limited Edition box is sold out and the story will be available.

KP: The album is also available to stream and download from the usual sites. When will the album be released in Dolby Atmos?

DA: The album is now available in Dolby Atmos on Apple Music for an amazing immersive sound experience, and will be available soon in Dolby Atmos on a few other streaming platforms.

KP: I know you have received five Grammy nominations. I'd be willing to bet that Quest For the Runestone will finally get you the award!
DA: That’s a sweet thought, Kathy, and I do appreciate your kind words.

Actually I write music every day, and I don’t make music for that reason. I write music that I would like to hear. I believe my fans and followers appreciate the story elements of my earlier concept albums, so I wanted to do something epic. Before Quest For The Runestone, my last few albums have been a bit minimal by design, with a string quartet or a solo cellist.

KP: Awards are a nice recognition, but I know you aren't creating for that purpose!

As I mentioned before, Michael Debbage did an interview with you in 2008 for MainlyPiano.com and has reviewed many of your albums for the site. I've reviewed quite a few of the albums you've released in the past ten years or so, but my collection of your recordings goes back to the Narada/LP days. Speaking of Narada days, you produced David Lanz and Kristin Amarie's 2022 album Lettere D'amore - Letters of Love. How did that come about? 

DA: David Lanz is a friend from the Narada days. Kristin and David reached out to me to help handle some production chores on that recording, which was a beautiful experience. They are both very talented.

KP: They sure are! Have you done a lot of production work with other artists?

DA: I’ve done a bit of production work, which I enjoy. It’s always nice to wear a different hat, so to speak.

KP: Didn't you do a couple of collaborative albums with David Lanz back in the Narada days? I know there were some compilations that you both were on, but I'm thinking there was at least one collaborative album, too ( it's probably in my big collection of LPs!).

DA: Narada put out an album called Convergence which was a collection of different pieces David and I did for compilations. We did collaborate a bit on a song of David’s on Spirit of Olympia.

Interview with David Arkenstone, image 11
David and Spencer Brewer. Used with permission. (Thanks, Spencer!)
Interview with David Arkenstone, image 8
KP: That's probably what I was thinking of.

I really enjoyed the photos Spencer Brewer (another former Narada artist) posted on Facebook last year of you and your entourage visiting him in Northern California. Spencer did a lot of house concerts and workshops with my piano students when I was in the Bay Area (I moved to the Oregon Coast in 2007). He's one of my favorite people on the planet. Have you stayed in touch all these years or was it a reunion of sorts?

DA: Yes, it was a reunion with Spencer and that was really nice. He and his wife Esther are gracious hosts and have a wonderful house, artists’ workshop, and surrounding property. It was a highlight of our PNW tour. We hadn’t really been in contact for many years, and I’m so glad to be back in touch.

KP: People can read more about your background and history by going back to Michael's interview, but I have a few questions about your history and earlier career. First, how many albums have you released and what/when was the first one?

DA: My first release was Valley in the Clouds in 1987. I really have no idea how many albums I’ve made and been part of. After a concert on our tour last year, someone showed me on their phone that they have 800+ songs of mine, which kind of blew me away. People have estimated that it is between 60 to 80 albums….whew!

KP: That's really amazing! How old were you when you wrote your first piece of music?

DA: I was around 7 when I wrote my first piece.

KP: Did you start with the piano and piano lessons?

DA: I started piano when I was around 6 through age 12. I love the piano as it’s a full orchestra at your fingertips.

KP: Absolutely! And there are so many different ways to play it!

Are you still based in Southern California?

DA: I am currently based near San Luis Obispo in Central California.

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KP: Are you planning concerts to perform your new music?

DA: We are doing a winter tour in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. I am hoping to debut some new pieces in concert in December.

KP: Do you have any upcoming projects planned?

DA: While still promoting this recording, I’m also working on an opera and some symphonic pieces.

KP: Wow! Those will be really interesting!

Who do you consider to be some of the primary influences on your music?

DA: Tchaikovsky, The Beatles, The Chieftains, Peter Gabriel…

KP: If you could have any three wishes, what would they be?

DA: I would move time forward to the point where humans evolve sufficiently to create a world without conflict and poverty.

I would give every child an instrument.

I would invent interstellar travel.

KP: I love those wishes!

Is there anything else you'd like to "talk" about?

DA: Just want to say a big “thank you” to you for this interview, and to everyone who enjoys and supports my music and gives me the opportunity to do what I love the most!

KP: Thank YOU, David! I really appreciate your taking the time!

For more information about David and his music, be sure to visit his website and his Artist Page here on MainlyPiano.com.
Kathy Parsons
July 2024