An electronic artist from California called Ember Fx topped the charts at KWCW 90.5 FM, the Whitman-run radio station, recently. The KWCW community has warmly received his new album Lights & Action.
Photo contributed by Michael Berns
Michael Berns got his musical start at an early age; when he was seven years old, he received a toy microphone as a gift and loved it. He would set himself up on the landing of the staircase in his family’s home and perform for everybody.
“Music was something I wanted to do since I was younger,” he said.
Berns took voice and piano lessons and would perform at his school’s talent shows — anything that got him close to music and performing. But when he was a teenager, Berns realized that all he was doing was playing other peoples’ music, and what he really wanted to do was to write and perform his own.
“I really had an epiphany that I could create my own music,” said Berns.
He started taking songwriting lessons from a very influential teacher, a woman he described as the “Mr. Miyagi of songwriting.” Playing endless minor and major chords and different chord progressions was his own wax-on, wax-off training sequence. Then one day, much like the film’s protagonist, he realized that he could actually use his skills to fulfill his dreams.
Photo by Allie Felt
Berns was drawn to electronic music through his love of synthesizers. Over the years he’s amassed quite a collection of vintage synths, and the natural next step from having a bunch of them laying around was to figure out a way to use them. For most of his music, Berns uses a SidStation, which is a kind of synth that uses an old-fashioned chip originally installed in 8-bit Commodore 64 computers.
Working with drummer and engineer Matt Starr, Berns has been making music mainly for the joy of making music and connecting with people through music. His main musical influence appeared to be The Postal Service (one of the original projects of Death Cab for Cutie’s lead singer), along with various other British bands. Berns recalled that in his youth, he would often purchase issues of Q Magazine, which would come with a CD sampler of up-and-coming British pop bands, such as Depeche Mode or Supergrass.
The name of his group originated from a childhood nickname. A teacher he had in high school had a heavy southern drawl, so whenever she would call on him as “M. Berns,” it would come out sounding something like “Ember,” which eventually took shape as the name of his musical project.
Recording an album isn’t something that happens overnight. Berns cited the fact that it took him years of studying and vocal training to get to where he is today. Making music takes hard work, time and perseverance, but if you can work hard enough, you can get to where you want to be.
- The Pioneer, 9/19/2013