Mars Lasar has always been an artist who is on the cutting edge. With that attribute comes an artist that refuses to stereotype himself and who has explored themes such as evocative nature recordings, electronic chill out, ambient to straight up reflective lullabies. A brilliant artist, his listening public can always expect the unexpected.
Mars Lasar’s commercial recording career began in back in 1992 with the release of his debut "Olympus." His freshman offering was geared more towards the mainstream New Age genre, paralleling more with the early years of Yanni’s musical styling. The emphasis was on the melody and intricate crossover rhythms. Never one to stand still musically, Lasar, courtesy of "Eleventh Hour" leaned towards the abstract and electronic manipulations yet still kept matters interesting. He followed up this effort with the sublime and gorgeous "Sapphire Dreams" that evoked lullabies and soft dreams. This theme apparently was evanescent as 2001 saw Lasar return to his patented soundscaping and effects with solid results courtesy of the album "Karma."
Along with Christmas albums as well as tribute albums to the nation's National Parks, Lasar has also been involved in several creative efforts outside of the New Age/electronic genres. These have included collaborations with R&B singer Seal early in his career as well more recent endeavors with former Whitesnake/Thin Lizzy heavy metal guitarist John Sykes.
Late last year Lasar tried his hand at a smooth jazz effort entitled " The End Of The Day" which included a concoction of smooth jazz elements with Lasar’s patented drum loops and sound manipulations. This year he is currently in production collaborating with singer Cadence as well as finishing off his latest "11th Hour" series "11.05 Revival." Nevertheless, Lasar found the time to correspond with Solo Piano Publications.
MD: Born and raised in Australia your musical experience began as early as eleven years old. Three years later along with your brothers you began to perform locally as a group. How involved were your parents in your musical development?
Lasar: My parents were very involved. They encouraged me and my brothers to play wherever we could get exposure; my mother was like our manager. We played at weddings, restaurants, shopping malls and even on the sidewalk. It wasn't all fun and games I must say, there was a lot of blood sweat and tears.
MD: Are your brothers still involved in the musical industry?
MD: You were also involved with Fairlight Instruments and based on what I hear in your music this technology continues to have a significant influence on your current creativity. A much overlooked New Wave band After The Fire made tremendous use of Fairlight and Roland instrumentation. How heavy do you continue to use this type of instrumentation? If not what are you currently using?
Lasar: I do not use any of this technology any more; it is safe to say it's obsolete. Much of the newer technology is software driven. I always dreamt of having my studio in my briefcase, much like the cartoon Felix The Cat, and now it's here. I do use the same compositional methods, sequencing music in a computer and giving it feeling is quite a complex task and takes many years of programming practice. If you clock-in 1000 hours of sequencing time (writing music in a computer) you will have only scratched the surface, but is very satisfying when you get it right. I use a professional music program called Logic, which is designed for composers at any level. Much of composing music is about translating a dimension and feeling from our minds into this world using harmonics only. Computers can be cold and deliberate; this is where you have to learn the art of reproducing human error to "humanize" your work.
MD: Your core New Age fans may not be so aware of your more commercial leanings. Your first big commercial break thru came via your involvement with the monster smash hit "Crazy" by the R&B singer Seal. How did this come about and what was the extent of your involvement with the song?
My involvement with Seal started out with an invitation to work with well known film composer Hans Zimmer on a Tom Cruise film called "Days Of Thunder." When I finished that project, Hans sent me to work with his friend and prominent record producer Trevor Horn (Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Tina Turner, Rod Stuart, Tatu) to work on a new artist named Seal. The project was in a very large home studio in the Hollywood Hills, we worked around the clock developing Seal's first cd. My job was performing, sampling and sequencing the music track using my vast custom sample library and sequencing techniques in the Fairlight Music Computer. I programmed drum patterns, keyboard phrases, bass parts, and sampled many pre-recorded instruments from the original analog (magnetic) tapes and re-arranged them into a combination that would work for Seal's vocal.
MD: The year 1992 marked the debut of your solo album "Olympus" and since then you have released a multitude of albums in various genres and sub genres. Where does this wanderlust and creativity come from?
Lasar: I tried to gain some recognition in Australia with my work but there just was no interest for a guy who plays everything in a computer. In fact, I was regarded as kind of a freak. None of this stopped me from my vision, every time I was knocked down I'd just get right up again and try something different. So when I arrived in the USA I already had composed many tracks and had them ready for a possible record deal, which happened and I released my first record "Olympus." The last thing I expected was to hear my work on the national radio in the New Age format. As to where it comes from? It is my enthusiasm and passion for music and technology that drives me. It is an endless stream of harmony and sound design.
MD: You certainly received heavy radio rotation on KTWV the Wave in the Greater Los Angeles area with your upbeat track "Cellular City" from the "Eleventh Hour" album back in 1993. Unfortunately, the Wave stations have significantly changed their play list format and the outlet for Contemporary Instrumental music has been significantly limited at least via the mainstream media. In your opinion what advise would you give an up and coming artist in this particular genre?
Lasar: Yes, there was a small window of time in the early 90's where the new age genre really took off. It was a good time to be signed to an active label. Unlike today, back then we did not have the internet, so we relied on the label to do almost everything. Today you can put your store on the super-highway and sell whatever you desire worldwide! Promoting yourself amongst the now saturated market is the challenge. The internet provides a ton of info on how to get your work out there.
MD: In 1998 you released probably your most commercial and organic album to date entitled "Sapphire Dreams." Focusing on your softer side, the album was filled with gorgeous ballads and melodies. Have you ever considered revisiting this theme?
Lasar: Oh yes, I'm working on a solo piano collection at the moment. This is an interesting genre for me because I really get to focus on the melodies and not so much on the production and all the ear candy. Tends to bring out the more classical side in me. Definitely more of these to come in the near future.
MD: Considering your heavy use of computers and technology your music has wonderful warmth to it. That said, have you ever toyed with the thought of a fully organic orchestrated album?
Lasar: This is something I've always wanted to do. As much as I like the technology and gadgets, I'm very fond of acoustic sound. It just has a very raw human side which is challenging to duplicate on the computer. I have been sampling instruments and sound effects since the early 80's and seen its many stages, and had many musicians in the studio. A creative contribution in any form has a real life value which can inspire; this is what means the world to me.
MD: In utter contrast to "Sapphire Dreams," the same year you hooked up with former Whitesnake/Thin Lizzy metal guitarist John Sykes and produced and performed on his blistering rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" that appeared on the Merry Axemas album. You also appeared on his solo album Nuclear Cowboy released in the year 2000. How did this partnership transpire?
Lasar: John Sykes is a brilliant songwriter/producer/guitarist. He seems to always come up with something for the take, deciding which one to choose was always the problem; they were all really good and very different from each other. Often I would take his tracks and make two songs from them. He continues to tour with Thin Lizzy. Some day we may collaborate on a cool collection of wild guitar driven tunes like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". Funny, he pulled out his special "one string guitar" for that song, and ripped into the strangest licks I'd ever heard, combining notes and extreme whammy-bar bending. I just let him take play all over the master and used much of it on the final. I'm sure we'll do more in the future.
This would not be the last time that you would merge with the rock genre as you also collaborated with Hurricane/Foreigner vocalist Kelly Hansen on your 2001 solo album Karma. This brilliant album included everything but the kitchen sink that mixed a multitude of genres and sub genres yet resulted in cohesive and focused effort. Where did the inspiration come from?
Lasar: When you've been collecting sound for so long, you have a vast library of usable sounds that are not necessarily used on an everyday cd production. For example, it is not very often that I get to use killer whales and dolphin sounds, or Zulu chanting and jumping sounds, or Tibetan gongs and horns. So I created a concept where I could use all these strange and interesting sounds. The first in this concept is "Karma," done in a 10 day stretch in somewhat of a programming trance. Took me a month to recover after recording that cd. Boy, the concentration level was intense. What was interesting, is when you combine world instruments and sound effects in tandem, it tends to conjure up all kinds of emotions. I'll definitely be revisiting this concept.
MD: After the release of "Karma" you quickly followed up this effort with probably one of the best Christmas albums of all time "Christmas From Mars." With the exception of "Panorama 11:04" in 2003 it appears that 2002 thru 2005 reflected a much unfocused musical experimentation period for you. Was this purely a musical exploration or was this art imitating life?
Lasar: Good question. Yes, "Art imitating life" is the answer. At times life can become very complex, and it takes some clever prioritization to complete an entire cd. Also, making these recordings require 100% concentration and focus. Meanwhile, outside of the virtual orchestra world, life goes on and needs attention. Like anything we do, we adapt and apply. I guess what I'm saying is, there are long periods that require more focus on family and less on work. The creativity and inspiration is still there but slightly fragmented.
MD: That said, 2006 represented the year you signed with Gemini Sun Records after so many years away from Real Music and instead via your own label. As you previously stated “you can put your store on the [internet] super-highway and sell whatever you desire worldwide”. Why did you make the return to a recording label?
Lasar: Nicholas Gunn (owner of Gemini Sun) and I were both signed to Real Music in the 90's. Nicholas is very familiar with the New Age culture and understands the business. As you know, I like to record and release music of all types. Gemini Sun is a good home for my more classic New Age recordings such as "Karma" and "Yosemite-Valley Of The Giants."
MD: Your first project with Gemini Sun Records was "Yosemite-Valley Of The Giants." It reflected a return to paying tribute to the nation's National Parks that you previously explored on your 1996 effort "The Music of Olympic National Park." "Yosemite-Valley Of The Giants" was much more colorful and structured than its predecessor. Does this reflect the musical tribute you were playing to or perhaps a reflection of where you were at the time as an artist and a person?
Lasar: I've been synchronizing nature and music for many years. This started, as a good friend of mine and Australian documentary film maker Jim Frazier introduced me to the sounds of nature and asked me to work on his documentaries. I used his nature sounds in the score. To me "sound" is all the same thing, everything has a vibration but resonate in our minds differently according to our experiences. "The Music of Olympic National Park" was the first time I was able to share this technique to the general music listening audience. So, in effect I put all the bells and whistles in. "Yosemite-Valley Of The Giants" was more focused on the melodies but still kept the original nature synchronous.
MD: The year 2007 you not only released the experimental smooth jazz offering "At The End Of The Day" but it also included another Christmas album in collaboration with vocalist Cadence who also arranges and writes with you. How did this musical partnership come about?
Lasar: I watched Cadence sing and perform many times in a local church choir in Westwood Los Angeles. The sound was beautiful and filled the church with warmth. We started writing basic songs together, I liked the choral essence in her writing and wondered how it would sound with multiple vocal recordings. We tested this concept on the Christmas cd "A Star Is Born" and were impressed by the final effect.
MD: I understand that the collaboration was so successful that you are currently in the creative process of recording Cadence's first solo effort "Candy Apple Lane." Care to give us an update?
Lasar: Yes, all went as planned. This year (08) you'll see the debut release of the Cadence DVD (music and photos). Cadence and I worked on this DVD for 18 months. We recorded over 50,000 vocals to create this lush choral sound. The DVD is accompanied by an assortment of nature photos I've collected on my life journeys.
MD: At the same time you are also completing your own new recording. How is that
Lasar: I'm always in the process of making music, it's my passion. I'm currently
finishing another "11th Hour" CD "11.05 Revival." This will be the 5th in the "11th Hour" series. This concept gives me the chance to explore sound and technology in a dramatic sense. It is the exploration of dramatic compositions versus inspirational compositions with current electronica sounds. Next, I will start work on a solo piano cd. I've also had many requests for another "Karma" world music cd, so I might start another one of those.
MD: Is Mars Lasar your given name and if not where does it come from?
Lasar: Mars comes from eating Mars Bars in high school :o) The name became so common amongst friends and family that it became my primary name.
MD: Finally what are the current short term plans for Mars Lasar?
Lasar: The short term plan is to keep releasing music and enjoy life :o) As for the long term, who knows.... That's what's wonderful about it. Life is an exploration, and our infinite imagination creates our creations.