Güttinger has just released a new EP, entitled The Magician, which follows up his 2017 debut self-titled. It’s an exalting concept album inspired by the major arcana of tarot practice, telling a story in five chapters based on the cards’ interpreted meaning; in this case, it depicts a narrative arc that leads “from pride and love to despair and vengeance.”
In this interview, we talk about the context behind the writing and recording process of The Magician, as well as the infatuating online-experience he created to accompany the release.
Comments from the Curating-Editor
Of the single, “The Hanged Man,” we said it “reaches new heights in Güttinger’s industrial pop, blending his signature contemplative atmospherics with more brooding, cinematic and gutturally-textured synthesized beats… [making you feel] the simultaneous constricting and unbounding of swelling sonic-passion.”
That can be said about the entire five-song record, the EP is incredibly dynamic and mind-expanding, both in well-defined layering and its evolution into more robust and rounded production quality without ever losing its authenticity and ease–-highly indicative of Sam Kittinger’s (Güttinger) time at Berklee College of Music, Valencia, where he studied music production and wrote The Magician as his master’s program thesis.
The entire EP is immersive in it’s use of thoughtful texture; it’s a great display of intriguing art-pop with an accessible-ease, cinematic and refreshing as it works to build soundscapes you’ll want to explore over and over again. Our favorite track off the record, “The Tower,” showcases Güttinger’s many strengths, including his deep lyrical turn-of-phrase that amplifies both the narrative and relatable existential themes, and a soulful genre-blending synth-development that keeps you encapsulated in your own reflective, nostalgic, and emotional thought. The album is magnificent.
What about tarot inspired you to write a concept album about it’s major arcana? Are there any other sources of influences you explore with “The Magician” EP?
I’ve created narrative-based work before and found it really helps me to focus my sound and lyrical content down. My friend Naomi (who appears as The Magician in promotional materials and “The Hanged Man” video) is all about tarot and modern witchcraft–she was the one that drew my attention to the amount of content could be pulled from the tarot, and I was immediately drawn to the storytelling aspect that the cards create based on what’s drawn. I was also interested in challenging myself to break out of typical song structures and allow more complexity to my compositions, so I really wanted to play with time signatures and weird modes.
How has your master’s program in Valencia, Spain influenced you? How have you grown since your self-titled? Has the change in location impacted your writing process?
WOW well, I think this past year has been invaluable to me as a musician. I mean, beyond the classes—where I received more technical experience than I have self-producing for the past, like, 8 years—I was challenged by the friends I made and peers I had in my program, who all came from diverse styles and experiences. Their support and help really made the year in my program worthwhile. I can say that if I hadn’t taken this year to study production, I wouldn’t have been able to even conceptualize ‘The Magician’ or any of the work I’m doing now.
Tell about the narrative arc of this record. What themes and concepts are you exploring? What can fans expect?
It should be obvious the tarot is what grounds the entire narrative arc. Each track uses archetypes from the major arcana to build this continual narrative. The story I’ve created is about the pride of one person; how even if they can create something beautiful, they’ve kind of doomed themselves by thinking themselves better than. Sonically, it’s electronic-heavy, but because of my network of peers, I’ve been able to explore more cinematic additions to my work, including strings and horns. Expect lots of brooding!
Your last album touched on personal themes, are there any personal stories within this concept album? How would you describe the mindset you were in while writing and recording this EP?
Over the course of the year, I really began identifying with The Magician. I mean, the card in the tarot represents creation and capability right-side up, and pride and deceit if reversed. I think as creatives, it’s easy to find meaning in that—we strive to keep creating and to make work we’re proud of, but not to let that pride get in the way of our work or how we present it to people. On the side of personal stories, it was so cathartic to make this work in 1 year, especially having the vision of these characters brought to life in the video for The Hanged Man. I just really felt those creative juices flowing throughout the year—I started writing and recording a few months before most of my peers, which I now realize there would’ve been no way I could’ve finished this project if I hadn’t started when I did.
Consistently, your visuals always display and enhance your music in a very defined and interesting point of view. Everything always works together so well in solidifying your vision. Tell us about the visuals of “The Magician” and your video for “The Hanged Man.” How did you transform the tarot from cards to your music video and album graphics?
I’m actually a graphic designer by profession when I’m not making music, so I think visuals have a very symbiotic relationship to my music. I knew I wanted a video component to this EP. I’ve never made a proper music video, and I knew I couldn’t be the one to do it; it would’ve taken ages and I would have second-guessed myself every step. I met David Gaspar, a local filmmaker, through an acquaintance, and we hit it off right away. He completely understood the vision I wanted to create, and it felt so good to be able to hand that off to him and run with it and make it his own in a lot of ways. I also felt so lucky to have my friend Naomi in the video, she absolutely nails the performance and knows how to work in front of a camera.
Along those lines, you’re creating an online experience to accompany the release. Can you describe what you envisioned for that and what we can expect? Did you use it a way to display your other forms of creative release?
Yeah, being a graphic and web designer gives me a slight advantage with my music in that I can build these customized experiences for my music, something I think isn’t really being done enough online. I really wanted this online experience to tell the story more forthright, while letting those who didn’t care as much the option to just skip around to different tracks. It’s being used more as a tool to share the broader story than an archive of the EP, and I hope it keeps people around long enough to dive into these characters.
How important do you think multimedia experiences and creating these digital engagements is for the rising artist? How does it work to connect fans with their favorite artists in new ways?
I think the music industry is still very much on the outside of using the web and digital experiences as platforms to engage audiences. People are so used to Soundcloud links, Youtube videos, and streaming platforms that it may be a bit difficult to get them to sit down and enjoy an entire conceptual experience, but I think there’s so much to be gained from going that extra mile and providing something unique. It gives listeners further insight into the creative process and indulge in larger universes that the artist creates.
What are you most excited for fans to hear and see with this release?
I’d be excited to have them listen at all hahaha. I just hope they see how much love went into this project and keeps them intrigued by whatever I decide to do next.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been keeping up with writing, and even have a couple singles about ready. Who knows when those will surface, but I’m really excited to just keep going and that my creative energy hasn’t run out yet!