Celebrity Interview of Steve Bach, accordionist at "ZAIA" show Cirque du Soleil at Macau.
Marco Cinaglia, product manager of Roland Europe, participated at the introduction of the new V-Accordion FR-7X during the Coupe Mondiale held in New Zealand in August 2009.
Taking advantage of the return trip, Marco has made a stop in Macau where he met the famous musician Steve Bach and where he attended the show "ZAIA" Cirque du Soleil and made a Celebrity Interview with Steve Bach.
Q: Where were you born?
A: New York City. I lived there until the age of 4 and then moved with my family to Long Island, New York. After a few years I moved to Los Angeles. Currently I am living in Macau, China.
Q: When and why did you start playing the accordion?
A: My older sister was taking lessons when I was 5 years old. She showed me how to play some songs and I became quite interested. At 6 I began studying with a teacher.
Q: Who was your favourite teacher?
A: My favourite accordion teacher was Ray Rizzo from East Meadow, New York. He is a wonderful teacher and accordionist. He taught me not only traditional accordion but also introduced me to jazz and improvising.
Q: Have you ever participated in any contest?
A: Yes, when I was younger, I competed for about 8 years in New York and for a time held the title of New York Jazz Accordion champion.
Q: Besides the accordion, have you had any other musical education?
A: At the age of 16 I decided to learn the piano. At that time Universities were not accepting the accordion as a "real" instrument. I began studying piano and was accepted as a composition major at The Crane School of Music at State University of New York at Potsdam.
I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Theory and Composition. Afterwards I lived in New York City for a few years and studied jazz concentrating mainly on piano and synthesizers.
Q: What was your first performance in public?
A: My very first accordion teacher used to have his students perform at schools and charity events. I was probably 7 years old at my first public performance. By the time I was 15, I was playing regularly in a band at weddings and other social functions.
Q: What kind of music did you play?
A: Mainly jazz and classical.
Q: When did you become a professional musician?
A: Well, my first professional paid performance was at a Sweet 16 party when I was 14 years old. (laughs) The trio consisted of drums, accordion and guitar. The gig paid $15!
Basically since my teens I've always made my living through music whether playing, composing, accompanying, recording, or teaching.
Q: How did you reach Cirque du Soleil in Macau?
A: In 2003 Cirque du Soleil Casting was in Los Angeles interviewing potential Music Directors (also known as Bandleaders). A friend recommended me for an interview and I went down and talked and played for the casting department for about an hour.
We all hit it off quite well. Over the next few years there were some offers to participate as a keyboardist and accordionist but the timing wasn't quite right.
Then in 2006 we began negotiating for the Macau show. It seemed a good fit for me and my wife and daughter so I signed on. Rehearsals in Montreal started in 2007 and I have been here in Macau since March of 2008.
Q: Tell us a little more about this show?
A: Zaia is a wonderful, exciting yet highly spiritual show. There are 75 artists performing in a very large, beautifully designed theatre. Here, let me quote from the Zaia website:
"ZAIA is the dream of a young girl who journeys into space on a strange, yet familiar voyage of self-discovery. As she travels, she encounters the beauty of humanity and eventually brings it back with her to share with the inhabitants of earth".
Q: Tell us about the musicians you work with in Zaia?
A:We have a very wonderful and talented band handpicked by Violaine Corradi, the composer.
Conrad Askland - Keyboards and Assistant Bandleader
Olivier Milchberg - plucked strings and flute
Maria Andersson - vocalist
Rose Winebrenner - vocals and melodica
Eduard Harutyunyan - Percussion
Jay Elfenbein - bowed strings including Bass and Treble Violin
Racheal Cogan - recorders
Darrin Johnson - drums
Q: You mentioned the composer of Zaia didn't realize you played accordion at first?
A: That's right! You know the truth is, at first, I wasn't really sure what to do about an accordion at all. Violaine had written a beautiful score with many accordion parts, but she hired me as the bandleader to conduct and play keyboards and expected the accordion parts to be played as samples!
When she realized that I was not just a keyboard player but also an accordionist she was thrilled! She encouraged me to get a good instrument and play the parts on it, which is what I now do with the Roland FR-2.
Q: How did you hear about the digital V-Accordion designed by Roland?
A: I had been reading about the V-Accordion for some years in publications. Then a couple of years ago I had the opportunity to hear and play one when a Roland specialist visited a show I was working on. The instrument was fantastic! However I was focused only on piano at the time so I put off getting one.
After arriving here at Cirque du Soleil I became interested once again in the V-Accordion. A friend suggested I get in contact with Mr. Luigi Bruti, who is the Marketing Director of Roland Europe. I am very pleased to have Marco Cinaglia, the V-Accordion product manager for Roland Europe, here with me in Macau to see our show and hear the FR-2 in action!
Q: How was the transition from the digital acoustic accordion?
A: It took a bit of time to get used to the difference in the way the bellows work, but now after a few months I feel quite comfortable and I am able to really get a good sound and feel from the instrument. I did not even bring an acoustic accordion here to Macau. The humidity is such that I felt the maintenance required would be quite a problem here.
The FR2 is lightweight and that really helps me in performance. I have to switch quickly between keyboards and accordion 3 or 4 times during the show. The FR2 is featured on 5 songs and I play in the window of the musician's booth and also out on the balcony where the audience can look up and see me playing and interacting with the other musicians.
Q: Have you abandoned the acoustic accordion?
A: Not permanently but you will not see me play anything but the FR2 here in Macau for a while! (laughs)
Q: Have you done any recording with the FR2?
A: Yes, Cirque has just released the soundtrack album of Zaia. It is being sold worldwide and also available on Itunes and Amazon.com.
I used the FR2 quite a bit in the recording. It was wonderful to be able to pick the right virtual sound specifically for each song. I am quite impressed with the flexibility the instrument offers. I plan on getting an FR5 or 7 soon to have access to more features and the larger keyboard.
Q: Can you tell us more about your recording and playing career?
A: Well I've been very fortunate to have played and recorded with some wonderful and talented artists over the years. They include Stanley Clarke, Sergio Mendez, Kitaro, Andy Williams, Robby Krieger of the Doors, and many others. As a leader I have recorded 7 CDs. Some are out of print but you can find most of them on Amazon or Ebay. We are in the process of getting them on Itunes as well. The playing is primarily multi-keyboard but accordion is featured as well.
Q: Where can we find out more about your current projects?
A: We are currently updating my info at http://stevebach.com/ which should be available soon.
Solo artist recordings as multi-keyboardist and accordion player.
Now and Then, Valley Vue Records
City Magic, Valley Vue Records
Nice Moves, Valley Vue Records
More Than a Dream, Soundwings
Zero Gravity, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs
Holiday, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs
Child's Play, Eagle Record
Editor: You can read more about the manufacturing of the Roland accordions
A Roland is Born in Italy