Interview: Kyle Etges

Today we’re joined by Kyle Etges. Kyle is a phenomenal musician who specializes in quite a few styles. He’s a saxophonist who plays with the band Contraband. He’s a composer (some of his music can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/kyle-etges-463890162). Kyle is an incredibly passionate and dedicated musician, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a saxophonist, educator, composer, and bandleader. I have been playing music professionally for the past 12 years in the Denver area, and have been writing music for probably even longer. I’ve led or helped lead 6 bands in that time, and I’ve written several pieces for all of them, particularly my Afrobeat band- Contraband. I also work for commission, and have arranged music for a few funk bands in the area, as well as a handful of guest entertainers with Celebrity Cruises.

If I had to characterize my writing, it would be an eclectic mix of jazz, funk, and reggae with a touch of classical. I like writing large through-composed works that leave a lot of room for improvisational interpretation from my band members.

What inspires you?

Oh boy… it’s different every week, it seems like. Right now I really like Snarky Puppy, and have been trying to emulate their sound in my writing. I’ve also been incorporating some hip hop elements into my music as of late, and have been checking out a lot of Hiatus Kaiyote, D’Angelo, Kendrick Lamar, and Brotherly. I really like music that grooves hard and gets people dancing, and I especially like Snarky Puppy’s (namely their primary composer, Michael League’s) ability to transition and weave through several different grooves in one tune.

I’m also heavily inspired by a jazz composer named Maria Schneider, especially when it comes to writing in solos. Many composers will just have a soloist play with the drums and bass, maybe with a few backgrounds thrown in. But Maria Schneider always paints these beautiful tapestries of sound that take the soloist and listener on a journey on their own. It’s something I’m still trying to master in my own writing, but I’m already pretty good at nerding out about it.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I knew I wanted to do something in art since I was very young. I loved visual art when I was a kid, and I also got into theater from a young age. Music sort of took a side seat until I was 12, when I began listening to jazz and decided I wanted to pursue that full time. I think I was attracted to the idea of jazz more than the music. I like the image of being in a smoky club at three in the morning, surrounded by my friends calling out tunes to play. It all has a romantic quality to it, and I’ve been fortunate enough to experience that on multiple occasions.

As for writing music specifically, I think video games probably played the biggest hand in my interest. I was raised on Nintendo, and grew up listening to pieces by Koji Kondo. I’ve been told some of my pieces sound like overworld themes from a Zelda game, and I can’t say I’m surprised. I still get goosebumps when I put in Twilight Princess

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Hmm… I kind of do, but it’s difficult to explain. Do you ever have a tune stuck in your head, but you’re not sure what it is or where it came from? I get those all the time, and naturally as a composer I eventually get to thinking, “is this a song already, or did I make this up?” I had this one a few years ago that was driving me nuts, and it became an inside joke amongst the band that it was every/any song. We started throwing this little melody into our solos, and eventually I started throwing it into my pieces.

I’ll try and upload a picture of it, but in solfedge it would be do-me-sol-^do-te-sol-me-fa-sol do-me-le-sol-me-do-re-me. I know it shows it’s face in 3-4 of my pieces. I guess I should make it more of a thing!

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

One of the biggest lessons I had to learn -or perhaps am still learning- is to foster discipline for your art. Many people are inspired to make art, and some of those people are even motivated enough to go through with it and create something beautiful. But I believe a true master is marked by daily regimen and improvement, even in the absence of motivation. In short … to truly master something, practice it every day, even if you don’t want to. Between inspiration and daily discipline, discipline always wins- hands down. It’s the only way to ensure growth improvement in your craft. No matter what, you always need to strive to be greater. Keep going!

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as Panromantic Demisexual, but usually I just say Asexual for simplicity’s sake.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

If there has been any prejudice, I haven’t heard about it directly. There are of course many musicians who don’t understand what it is, particularly musicians I met when working on a cruise ship. For most people, it’s a simple matter of educating them on the subject.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

My asexuality is a recent self-revelation, and a big part of my self-acceptance was upon meeting another asexual, with whom I proceeded to get into a queerplatonic relationship. For that reason, many people think my asexuality is a choice for the benefit of my partner (now fiancé!). It’s true that she played a huge role in helping me realize and accept this aspect of myself, but the truth is it’s always been a part of my life, and it’s dictated all of my past romantic relationships. Still, many people still tell us that our relationship ‘isn’t fair to me’ or in one case ‘is a waste of my penis’ (I really hate the guy who said that one). However, the truth is I’m happier than ever to be in a relationship that finally makes sense to me!

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What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

No matter how weird or different you feel, there’s at least one person out there who feels the same way. You are probably not as special as you think you are, and that’s not a bad thing! Find like-minded people and connect with them. I would not recommend trying to fit in by doing things you don’t want to do. I did that for an embarrassingly long time, so take it from me- it doesn’t work out!

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Follow my Facebook page for now: facebook.com/etgesmusic. You’ll hopefully see some information soon about my website launching!

Contraband can be found at contrabandco.com or facebook.com/contrabandco

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Thank you, Kyle, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

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