It's All About The Music 
Interview By Bruce J. Maier

DGT: Levente, you have been a performing artist for a long time. At what age were you when you actually knew it was music more than anything else in this world that you had passion for.

I became exposed to music as a child when I opened the big cupboard and  in a mysterious box  and I found  my father’s old accordion.  Making it sound and playing melodies on it was a hilarious discovery for me. This was when I was around five years of age. In the meantime I also found a violin  at home which I learned to play as well. That was the moment my parents knew I needed musical education. At the age of seven I started to play the piano and  I advanced more than the average student for my age. I won practically every piano contest that I entered during those years. This was also the time when I discovered beat music which we could get only through the filter (of underground radio) of the iron curtain during the 80’s. My father’s drumsticks which he had used during his own college days found their way into my hands while I was studying at the University. Quite sure now that I had found my mission that I will be a drummer, but then again later it changed to saxophone and guitar and so on....

DGT: Tell us about your experience at the National Secondary School of Music in Budapest. How did that shape you and prepare you for what would lie ahead in your music education?

Secondary School and later College of Music led to my most rebellious times of my life. Although I learned all the facts and secrets about classical music and piano playing, somehow I was not able to fit in.  The more I had to follow the daily grid and educational “templates” the more I wanted to do something completely different. I was a really rebellious teenager, and that showed in playing music when I mixed classical music with jazz, played the sonatas and piano concertos freely, as improvisations and was expelled and taken back from high school three times…

DGT: Sometimes working with other musicians who perhaps play by ear and cannot read music may be frustrating yet you seemed to have managed quite well blending in with many artists. With your classical training was it at first difficult to make the transition to Pop music?

No, it was not at all. I was aware of the fact the in Pop, musicians do not read music and they have a different attitude towards music. On the other hand, thanks to the Hungarian music education that has a great deal of emphasis on playing and learning music by ear as well as reading the notes, I could easily find ways to make myself understand: I pre-played the tunes, prerecorded, edited and put together again as a conductor of my band. 

DGT: You have production credits for over 37 various albums and you have performed on the same stages and in shows with the biggest names in the business including Michael Jackson. What would you say were some of the greatest highlights of your achievements before you returned to this new solo endeavor?

As a singer and leader of my band “Hip Hop Boyz” I performed as a pre-act with great international names like Michael Jackson, Dr Alban,  Backstreet Boys, ‘N-sync, DJ Bobo or No Mercy. We filled sport stadiums and sold some 100 000 copies of albums.  The band was the regular main act at the most prestigious pop festival “Total Dance”. Apart from the musical success I am proud of our charity and educational projects. During these years I learned to appreciate the enthusiasm and learned to read the feedback of the audience. This experience lasts for a lifetime.

DGT: Some artists are more at home on stage than in the sterile and confining walls of the recording studio. Which do you prefer or are you equally at home in both environments?

 I experienced both environments and I enjoyed them for different reasons. In a studio there is room for the creative mind, it is like refining diamond in a workshop: first exploring the upper layer then discovering the inner essence of the product. Then building it from the inside step by step – this is a really exciting and creative process. But my real environment is being on stage as a performing artist where I can create and live the moment, the one and unrepeatable magic. I give my best under competitive circumstances, I might say, under a special pressure: to catch the audience’s attention for the moment and deliver the eternity at the same time.

DGT: What is your favorite Piano and do you own one of that kind?

Actually, I do not have a favorite Piano. Each tune, musical era or song requires a different sound. Piano factories create their products tailor made for artists or performing styles.  I would say I have my favorite sound, rather than a favorite piano. The sound is what I want to reveal to my audience at a concert.

DGT: How much do you practice and rehearse?

Basically, I spend all my day making music in one way or another: practicing, composing, arranging or just simply improvising. I can not measure it in hours or minutes. I have to admit though that in the past five years – since I returned to the piano as a soloist - I have been struggling with technical imperfections as I skipped 10 years of active piano playing so I spend more time with practice scales and etudes just to fall into the line with the required standard.

DGT: When you write music do you have a vision, an actual scene that you are attempting to depict, like say in your ‘Shanghai Serenade’ wherein certain sounds may evoke images?

Well, when I compose, the tunes come in an inexplicable way. I get into a certain state of mind when melodies and tunes flood my mind. I do not think in images or stories. The notes appear in front of me as they had already been written for me before. It is quite an incomprehensible feeling. Although, when composing Shanghai Serenade, I recalled impressions and memories from my journey to, Shanghai China. But only the spirit and not actual melody.

DGT: What is your “ reinterpretation of musical romanticism “ ?

All the values that were important in the 19th century during the romantic era have all disappeared by now. What I mean is the appreciation of living the moment, taking the time for the life itself, reconsideration of relationships, friendships, love and families. My aim is to bring back the real feeling of a  nice walk, a bouquet or a nice chat over a coffee or a tee. Living through these moments has disappeared from our life today. With my music I want to bring back this feeling in a way that people in the 21st century can understand and appreciate.

DGT: In Pop, Rock, Blues and Country music we musicians often have a complete Combo of partners who play music with us all the time. Do you have a set group of individuals who are part of your backing instrumentation such as the gentlemen who play Violin and Clarinet in your video Ismerik ?

I play with a 9-member chamber orchestra with a constant lineup. Recruiting the ‘Artofonic Chamber Orchestra” took me 3 years. Not only I managed to bring together the best and most experienced classical musicians in Hungary coming from the most prestigious symphonic orchestras who can live up to the highest expectations, but I also believe that I established a fellowship of men as well. Those excellent musicians can resonate to each other and not only listen but feel my thoughts and instructions. I think with session players I would not be able to achieve this high standard in chamber music.    

DGT: We know that Liszt ,Bach and other great composers made an everlasting contribution to our world and her people. In one hundred years what would you like to have left behind as your legacy?

LE: Well, I hope in ten years time I can answer this question!

DGT : There are so many distractions in life Levente. Were there ever times when you thought about doing something else besides music, and what was it what has kept you motivated and focused on where you want to go with your talent ?

LE:  Music played the main role in all my life. It might be in different forms: classical piano player, pop musician, producer or a composer, I always stayed focused with music. My distractions came from the fact that I had the chance to try everything in music that I was interested in. This is what has kept me motivated.

DGT : Levente it has been a pleasure getting to know you and your music. We hope to talk with you again in the near future. Is there anything that you would like to say to other new independent artists and songwriters that might help them to remain encouraged?

I believe I still belong to the musician in the need of encouragement. I hope that the hard work of the past five years will bring its payback and then I can honestly and wisely advise to everyone that hard work and talent will always have its reward! Always stay sincere and hold on to what you have started. But until my breakthrough I am just one of the many artists who wait for reinforcement that all the effort, time and energy is rewarding.  Thank you for the interview.

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