Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Vanszi

Artwork for ‘Euphorbia.’ Courtesy of Little Star PR.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Vanszi – the musical project of Baltimore-based multi-instrumentalist and electronic music producer Michael Hooper – dropped his last album ‘Euphorbia’ in June 2020, but it’s music proven timeless.

With a signature sound that blends folk music with hip-hop sampling techniques and minimalist classical compositions, ‘Euphorbia’ showcases what Vanszi does best – tell abstract stories through sound.

‘Euphorbia’ in particular, focuses on themes of harmony and humility, as it was inspired by folk artist Annie Hooper and the 1555 execution of Bishop John Hooper for the crime of marriage.

The Music Bugle had the opportunity to talk with Vanszi about ‘Euphorbia’ and more.

Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your album ‘Euphorbia’?

Vanszi – It was pretty much a rodeo. I had some battles to fight inside my head during the whole process, but that was the point of the album anyways. Musically, it was a blast. I don’t do too much outside of making music these days. I originally had about 19 tracks for the album, but I felt like some needed some more time in the barrel. I was focused on the world around me and the trials that I’ve been through in comparison to what the world was going through. Our problems are small in comparison to how some people in the world have it.

Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your type of music? 

Vanszi – It brings human error into what is mainly an all-digital sound. I like the idea of bringing something organic into a genre that is based around samplers, synthesizers and circuitry.  

Music Bugle – How would you describe Baltimore to someone who has never been there before?

Vanszi – It’s more than “it’s like The Wire.” Yeah, of course it kind of is, but whatever, whatever – there’s plenty of corruption everywhere you go. If you really want to get a feel of Baltimore – put on John Waters’ ‘Pink Flamingos’ or ‘Cry Baby.’ On top of that, you’ve got places like Pfefferkorn’s Coffee, which is like if caffeine put on velvet chapstick and kissed you on the cheek.

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?

Vanszi – Son Lux’s new album, “Tomorrows II’ and Bright Eyes’ new album, ‘Down In The Weeds Where The World Once Was’ have been treating me right. Devendra Banhart’s latest has me dancing my socks off. There’s also this YouTube channel called “Soulhawk” that has an insane amount of old soul records that I’ve been really into.

Music Bugle – Which of the songs on ‘Euphorbia’ were the hardest to write?

Vanszi – I think I must have written the title track, “Euphorbia” about four times, each sounding totally different than the last. I really wanted to do it justice. What I felt I had to say required me to find humility and discard any self-consciousness that I had calcified over the years.

Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder for a musician, generally speaking? 

Vanszi – Well, on one hand, it makes networking as a musician/producer a lot easier. I’ve been with this collective of producers called The Fearless Few for a while now. We do monthly production challenges with an 180-minute time limit and that helps us find new ways to approach writing tracks. On the other hand, if you’re not willing to sacrifice time to marketing yourself – you’re going to get smooshed by everyone else trying to get their name out there.  

Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Vanszi – I was kind of self-isolated working on music all the time before all of this, anyways, but what I’ve come to grieve is not being able to see people smile when I’m out in public as much. I was hoping for a trip over to London to play some shows, but the uncertainty of when any of that is possible is kind of hard to see through the wool.

Music Bugle – Where do you go when you feel the need to escape? 

Vanszi – Since COVID-19 started, there’s not really any place I can go to escape. Sometimes, I’ll go to visit my grandparents’ graves. Other times, I’ll just throw on BBC Radio and pretend I’m not in this studio space.

Music Bugle – Away from music, what’s something people might be surprised to know about you? 

Vanszi – Hugh Latimer Dryden – the guy who convinced John F. Kennedy to get to the Moon before the Soviets is a relative through marriage.

Music Bugle – How would you define the year 2020?

Vanszi – Much, much more than metaphor. 

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