Featured Artist DOMi
SEQUENTIAL INTERVIEW – DOMi
Keyboardist Domi Louna is the youngest woman sponsored by the world’s top keyboard innovators, and graduated from Berklee College of Music under a full Presidential Scholarship in 2020.
Collaborating with drummer JD Beck, their sound is a future-sonic meeting of jazz, hip-hop breakbeats, luscious synth harms, and up-tempo virtuosity. The duo have become one of the internet’s viral addictions, attracting interest from people all over the world.
DOMi & JD have performed with Thundercat, Anderson .Paak, Eric Andre, Jon Bap, MonoNeon, Louis Cole and many others. Their virtuosic live show has been seen at Newport Jazz Festival, Brixton Academy opening for Cinematic Orchestra, Blue Note NYC presented by Robert Glasper featuring MonoNeon to The Root’s Annual Picnic. Celebrated as one of the most exciting young forces to the future-sonic-jazz movement, DOMi & JD Beck are soon to release their first debut album in 2021.
We chatted with Domi about how she uses Sequential instruments in her music:
How did you first get started with music? Was it nature or nurture for you: Were you a self-starter or was it something that you grew into?
Both my parents love music and listen to a lot of records. Even though they aren’t musicians and don’t play anything, they had a Yamaha Clavinova from the 90’s and a small drum set and introduced me and my brother to these instruments around age 3, as well as major jazz records from Keith Jarrett, Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis, Pat Metheny… They would make us practice a lot. I would practice piano while my brother was practicing drums and vice versa, as well as 4 hands playing. They specifically initiated us to both jazz and classical music at the same time so we would learn how to improvise and read music, which allowed our brains to develop a lot of freedom and creativity.
It seems that some musicians have a sort of “eureka” moment in their early years where the light bulb comes on and they realize “This is what I need to be doing.” Do you recall anything like that for you?
I was too young to even realize what was going on. I just never stopped ! I genuinely never asked myself if I should do something else, I just kept going, it was super natural.
Tell us about your first synth.
I got the Prophet X in 2018 after doing a little demo for Sequential, and that was my first real synth! Before that, I would only play piano and keyboards (I had a Nord Electro 3). I got into synthesis in 2016 and that was life changing and allowed me to be way more creative while writing music.
Do you usually design your own sounds? If so, how do you approach that? Do you have a process?
I started designing my own sounds in 2016 using Omnisphere, Keyscape, and Massive and a dumb little MIDI keyboard. At first I would just mess around by modifying presets, then I would build sounds from scratch and reproduce patches I’d hear on records I loved.
What kind of things get you excited about an instrument?
When I try a new instrument, I want it to be efficient and fat sounding. The presets have to be good already so I know what I’m dealing with. And I don’t want to spend 30 minutes trying to find the tuning button! And this is what I really love about the Prophet-10. Although there is an infinity of possibilities, it’s easy to find something I can play right away. I love any synthesizer that has character: fat but clear bass sounds, beautiful strings/flute patches, vintage Wurlitzer/Rhodes sounds.
When you get a musical idea how do you go about developing it? Can you give us an example?
When JD Beck and I were writing our first album, we had two ways of developing an idea: we would record the basic idea with our phones to not forget it, then come back to it and start writing more to it and arranging it by playing it over and over. Another way of doing it would be on a plane or in a hotel room or wherever and we would both lay down separate ideas on our computers. I would open Sibelius and start writing down what I hear in my head and make a full chart of it, then extract the MIDI out and put it in Ableton to arrange/orchestrate the tune with JD and exchange ideas.
Do you have certain musical ideals? Certain things that you strive for?
Yes. I want to make instrumental music, jazz, and improvisation come back to a bigger audience and have an important place in today’s music. It should not be considered “music for musicians” but regular music that people could listen to anywhere, like back when jazz was the most popular music in the U.S. I don’t think going for “easy-listening music” is the way to go, because as artists we should go for what we love and what we want to hear. I don’t care if I write a tune with 34 chords then another one with 4 chords. Complexity doesn’t mean inaccessible or hard, because chords are colors to me and I want to hear more music with character, emotions, and colors in them.
Generally speaking, are you happier in the studio or on stage?
For me, one doesn’t go without the other. I can’t go on stage without spending time in the studio beforehand (a home studio or just a bedroom, it doesn’t need to be Abbey Road) to write, practice and explore sounds. At the end of the day, the feeling of an audience reacting to live music is still the most powerful thing to me.
What are you listening to these days?
It changes all the time, but right now: Bud Powell, Chick Corea, Bartok, Q-Tip, Debussy, Thundercat, Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, Madlib, NxWorries, Brad Mehldau, Earth Wind & Fire…
What kinds of things inspire you, musically or otherwise. Has this changed much over time?
I’ve always been attracted to powerful feelings in music, such as crazy, big, colorful chords with beautiful voice leading, fast tempos, and deep melodies.
Do you have a musical bucket list?
I want JD Beck and I to go as deep as possible in our duo project. And deep means exploring things that haven’t been explored before, and writing the most insane music that I’m going to have to practice so hard because it’s really hard to play. I just want to challenge myself and never stagnate or be bored with what I’m doing. Writing, touring, playing a bunch…
What made you choose Sequential instruments?
The efficiency of the synth and the analog sounds that are so recognizable. Sequential has its own sound but still can be used in any circumstance, or style of music.
How are you using the Prophet-10?
By plugging it in and turning it on. (laughs) But seriously, I use it mainly for bass sounds as my duo with JD doesn’t have a bass player. But also for pads and textures. They’re just so beautiful. I’m not a huge fan of the lead sound for soloing in general as it became a cliche for every keyboard player but I’m still looking for a sound that fits me.
What’s one of your favorite things about it?
The fatness of every single sound. It’s huge. “That’s what she said.” (laughs)
Any interesting tricks or techniques you’d like to share?
Eh, I’m not that good.