“One thing I love to do these days is to climb Monro’s (mountains) in Scotland with a few friends. It’s pretty hard going and I always vow that I will never do it again but once you witness the magnificent scenery of Scotland, it’s hard not to return. I just can’t walk for a few days afterwards!” – Jeff Bernstein @jeffxxb
JACQUELINE JAX: How did you get your start in music?
JEFF BERNSTEIN: Leaving school in 1983, I was lucky enough to be signed to Island Records with a band called White China. We toured extensively in our own right along others such as Big Country. I’ve never really looked back since then and I have been a member of various groups ever since on an extensive musical journey.
– Tell me about Sanctuary Hill.
“Sanctuary Hill” is quite a dark composition but also uplifting. I wrote the piece over a dark and cold winter. The idea was based on an individual finding peace within his or her own being and achieving happiness again. I guess a few of us can relate to that “soul repairing” process.
– Is there a music scene in your hometown?
In the early 80’s, Dunfermline was a hive of musical activity with virtually every pub and club supporting the local music scene. Live acts appeared most days of the week. That spirit seemed to die off in the late 80’s but has made a welcome return in recent years, which is great to see.
– Tell me about one fun thing you like to do in your town.
One thing I love to do these days is to climb Monro’s (mountains) in Scotland with a few friends. It’s pretty hard going and I always vow that I will never do it again but once you witness the magnificent scenery of Scotland, it’s hard not to return. I just can’t walk for a few days afterwards!
– What do you like about social media?
I love the interaction you can have with social media and the musicians you can listen to from all over the world sitting in your own home and not having to leave your seat!
-Have you found any challenges that you’ve had to overcome?
Probably one of the most enduring challenges I’ve had to overcome is catching up with the advancement of recording music and building my home studio. Hours of fun though but some real frustrations, all part of the rich tapestry of composing and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
– Why do you think it’s so hard for indie artists to break into the mainstream and gain a solid fan base?
The competition is huge, fierce and sometimes overwhelming especially as my tracks are instrumentals where the majority of music listeners demand a vocal track. My own feeling is to respond to people who take time to listen to your music and appreciate the content of what you are trying to achieve.
– Who is your favorite artist and how have they influenced you?
I’ve always been a huge fan of TV and movie scores. When I was 7 years old, I was at a friend’s house and the TV Theme for The Persuaders by John Barry played on the television. I remember the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and I was completely infatuated by how a piece of music could have such an effect on me. One of my regrets is never meeting John Barry but his music has had an everlasting effect on my life. John Barry is one of my favorites but I also spend a lot of time listening to other composers such as Ennio Morricone, Danny Elfman, and Thomas Newman.
– Every true artist has a creative journey they hope for, what is the legacy you want to leave? How do you want to be remembered for your music?
I just want listeners to feel what I feel when I’m composing, the excitement, the emotion and the journey throughout the track. I went to see Ennio Morricone in London in 2007 and I can honestly say it’s the first time music touched my soul. I ended up quite emotional by the end of the concert. If one of my tracks had that effect on other listeners, I would be extremely privileged and humbled by it.
– Artists who seek to make their art a career often face challenges that question their sense of purpose and creativity.. What is your experience with negative energy?
I’ve experienced negative energy from individuals in the past and decided many years ago that it was no longer necessary to have those people in my life. I simply don’t entertain those people anymore and my life has become brighter.
– How do you remove the monetary value as a means of influence over or judgment of your art?
I’ve never considered money influencing what I do and I never will, I would give it up if that happened. It would be fantastic if I composed for a living and had earnings from my passion, which would be the ultimate goal for me. I write instrumentals for TV and film in my own unique way, which I hope, helps me stand out from other instrumentalists out there.
– Do you find that there is too much emphasis on being current and trendy or is there a balance that you have found helpful in your artistic decisions?
That’s a great question!
I do believe that too much emphasis is put on musicians these days for a “quick fix”. Instead of learning and molding their art, they are thrust into the limelight through various media on TV such as X Factor for example where they are told what to do and how to perform instead of letting the artist flourish in their individual right and evolve into something unique. I feel for those individuals at the start of their careers being unable to develop and nurture themselves. It’s terrible to think that some of those very talented people will be disillusioned by the end of the process and give up.
– Are you religious?
I would say I’m more spiritual than religious. I got some very sound advice from my Mum when I was younger where she told me “as long as I was a good human being and didn’t hurt anyone, I wouldn’t go far wrong”. I still live by that rule.
Do you believe in fate?
I do believe in fate, I always have. Trying to sustain positivity is difficult when you watch the news and see some of the inflictions placed on fellow human beings. I always try and remain upbeat which helps in the creative process of writing music.
– What are you thankful for?
My health, my family, a roof over my head, friends, and the ability to create music.
– Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?
My dream would be to compose music for TV and Film and be involved in that process.
– Have you ever stepped back to look at the bigger picture of who you are and where you fit in this world?
Many times!! A big turning point for me was last year when I had a small health scare but luckily I was given the all clear. Now I believe life is for living and I took the first steps to self-employment and also spending more time composing my music. It’s a big world out there with plenty of adventures, it’s just up to you to go out there and grab it!
– In your opinion what is the best way for someone to discover what they are good at and or what will make them happy?
To go out and try things they may only dream about. It’s only the mind that stops you doing whatever you want to achieve.
– How do you handle conflict in your life? Think of a conflicting occurrence and describe how you coped or resolved it or how you couldn’t.
I’m not great at handling conflict unless I believe in something and need to fight for it. These days I tend to walk away from any conflict, life’s too short and better challenges lie ahead.
– What is your personal definition of success?
Happiness and contentment.
– Do you feel that you have limits to what you can do and achieve?
I’m 50 this year so I feel I’m getting older now. It would have been great if I were writing the music I am now when I was 30.
-If heaven exists what’s the first thing you would like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
“You were a good guy, helped people and didn’t hurt anyone, come on in”
I live in Scotland. Although I am no stranger to a musician’s life on the road, my passion has always been creating soundtracks and soundscapes for film. Currently #1 on the Reverbnation local music charts and ranking #6 nationally, I have just started fielding interest from reputable publishing companies. Music is long journey, it’s only the mind that stops you from achieving whatever you want to achieve. Sometimes you need to step into the darkness to experience the light…. (http://www.reverbnation.com/jeffbernstein4)