Keyboardist and producer Sven Martin has worked with everyone from Liz Phair to the Russian pop duo t.A.T.u. These days he's touring with Jonathan Davis of Korn in support of his solo album Black Labyrinth.

NAME: Sven Martin

HOMETOWN: Wülfrath near Düsseldorf, Germany. I now live in Los Angeles, CA.

MUSICAL TRAINING: I had a classical piano teacher coming to our family home from age eight to 19. He also started trained my musical ear early after I showed more interest in playing to songs on the radio. After that, I went to the Robert Schumann Conservatory in Düsseldorf for three years to study audio and video Engineering and classical piano, plus all kinds of music theory and ear training.

FIRST GIGS: My first band experiences were in the local church band at age 13, which took me around the country at a young age. Then my first band Darius, a prog and cover band, started playing locally, released two CDs and later ended up opening up on tour for Canadian legend Saga in Holland and Belgium.

MUSICAL INFLUENCES: I went through many phases, from all 80s pop and rock (the first concert I saw in 83 was Nena's 99 Red Balloons), Depeche Mode, Duran Duran and many others. The cool thingabout the 80s was that everything sounded different from each other and that was totally okay. And you had all these legends, like Queen and Elton John that are just timeless. Then later my prog phase: Marillion and Dream Theater, which were big influences on my band at the time. By the time I moved to Los Angeles, I mostly lost my interest in prog and was listening to simpler stuff like U2, Coldplay, Muse and tons of electronic infused music like Massive Attack, Kaskade and Daft Punk. Plus, I always love a good pop song!

WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: Spotify is usually shuffling some great new indie pop picks for me. Jonathan Davis’ new album is amazing and actually right up my alley. 

MY BIG BREAK: Landing the gig as music director and keyboardist for t.A.T.u. was definitely what got me out into the world. I was working for them from their international break in 2002 all the way until they separated in 2009. That gig took me around the world many times. We had really memorable TV performances such as the MTV Movie Awards in 2003, and crazy gigs in the most remote parts of the planet. I still work with Lena Katina, one of the girls, on her solo career.


LATEST PROJECTS: Recently I have done a lot of music library cues and TV re-recording mixing work before getting on this tour with Jonathan.

FAVORITE KEYBOARDS AND WHY? All incarnations of the Access Virus synth have been amazing. They have never let me down in all the years of touring and are super flexible. Up to 16 parts of virtual analog goodness. For pianos I’ve always been a Yamaha guy. I love their action and sounds. Currently playing a Mox8, which is the best performance/weight/price ratio you can get. I don’t understand why the big manufacturers keep making their flagship synths so much bigger in size. There really is no point of all that extra weight and bulk. I lugged too many of those around for too many years but no more. My current live rig also features a Moog Sub37 which I love and the new Arturia Keylab Essential61 controller, which plays amazing and is super flexible and easy to use. They really nailed it, I think. Oh, and my very first synth, a Yamaha CS01 is still a main staple in my arsenal!

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? Next up will be my wedding this summer, which I’m super excited about! My soon-to-be wife has been extremely supportive of me taking this gig and going on tour. After that, I’m hoping to find a good balance between the studio and stage.

ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION: Persistence and dedication are really important. Try out as many things as you can and never stop learning. Many things are easier today - YouTube is the best classroom, gear is cheaper and soft synths give you access to all the sounds in the world. But having some simple gear you can get your hands on is something really inspiring that can lay the groundwork. Get a simple analog polysynth to understand how they work. Then you can apply that to any other synth or plug-in out there.

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