Following the conclusion of the ‘Missing Keys’ competition, we had the pleasure of engaging in a conversation with the winner, Thilo Eichhorn, to discuss his musical background, creative process, and more.
As we celebrate the amazing victory of Thilo in our recent competition, it’s important to recognise the countless talented individuals who made this event a true spectacle. We were blown away by the overwhelming response of nearly 1,500 submissions, and it was an honour to witness such an incredible showcase of creativity and skill.
Join us in congratulating our runners-up, Gael Benyamin, Massimo Rumiano, Chris Vella, Janis Theurer, Andrew Veres, Darren Tate, Kell Bailey, Jonas Saersten, Max Bonifacio, Arsenal Beats, Atholl Ransome, Jeanne Auger, Jordan Marquez, L One, Sam Johnson, Seán Marsh, Sherif Asfour, Aphelion, and Gonzalo Llanes.
Without further ado, let us take a moment to experience Thilo’s winning composition.
Rhodes: Can you tell us a bit about your background in music? How did you get started, and what inspires your creativity?
Thilo: I’m a music producer, composer and sound artist based in Mannheim, Germany. My father was a saxophone player, and free jazz was the soundtrack of my childhood. At university, I studied music with a classical focus, but I’ve always played drums and keyboards in rock/pop bands.
Over time I’ve come to integrate more digital sound design, analogue synthesisers and modular gear into my work. I like to take a playful and experimental approach to using these technologies.
In most cases, electronic music is very much characterised by repetitive elements. While I tend to use a lot of these loop structures, I definitely see myself in the tradition of classical composers – creating music that evolves linearly over time.
Artists like James Blake (!), Caribou and Thom Yorke are huge inspirations for me. However, my favourite thing to do is make music for film. I really enjoy how the interaction with the visuals opens up a lot of opportunities and even freedom in the creation of music.
Rhodes: What was your creative process like when producing the winning soundtrack for ‘Missing Keys’? Did you encounter any challenges along the way, and how did you overcome them?
Thilo: The challenge was to use music to support the existing elements – the lyrics and the imagery – as best as possible. But at the same time, I wanted to give the music an independent quality and its own personality.
As it turns out, that’s a fine line to walk. Quickly I realised the music tended to compete with the spoken words, so I had to craft the tension curve carefully. For example, the lyrics start with a question that draws the listener right into the action. That’s why I felt the beginning of the track barely needed any music at all. Only after the track progressed and a certain monotony arose due to James’ mantra-like speech rhythm did I start introducing new elements.
Once on the track, everything came together very naturally. I had a lot of fun!
Rhodes: What were your favourite features of the Rhodes V8 plugin, and how did you use them in your winning track?
Thilo: The sound itself was my favourite feature. There is a warm quality in the Rhodes’ middle range, which for me, is unrivalled by any other instrument. The plugin captures that remarkably well. Since I wanted to bring out this characteristic clearly, I limited myself to simple but strong harmonies. In my opinion, it doesn’t take much to unleash the magic of a Rhodes, as long as the basic sound is right.
Of course, this is just one of many ways to showcase the versatility of a Rhodes piano. But from a producer’s perspective, I just love the way this warm sound pulls the whole thing together and builds such a unique atmosphere.
Rhodes: What are your plans for the bespoke Rhodes MK8 piano that you won as part of the competition? Will it become a staple in your music-making setup?
Thilo: It definitely will. While I really like the sound of the plugin, I’m very much into hardware and love having all controls at my fingertips. Being able to craft a sound by hand is an immediate source of inspiration for me, even more, if that sound is physically resonating right in front of me. There are instruments that create such an atmosphere when you play them. It’s like you’re interacting with a distinct personality (sometimes, I also give them names).
Moreover, I adore good build quality. Sometimes you’ve got a product where its sheer presence is enough for you to feel the passion and attention to detail of the people who made it. These kinds of things motivate me to apply the same attitude to my own work. From everything I’ve heard about the MK8, it certainly belongs in this category.
Rhodes: What advice would you give to other musicians looking to participate in similar competitions in the future?
Thilo: For me, this contest was another lesson in how following your first instincts is the best way to go.
When it comes to competition, you might worry about what the client or the jury expects, what the other contestants will do, and so on. But that shouldn’t be your concern. If you go against your intuition, who benefits? Your work certainly won’t.
Winning a competition like this also requires some luck, which you can’t force. If you have created a beautiful piece of music that speaks to you, then you have already won something for yourself. No matter what the jury decides.
Rhodes: What are your plans for the future? Are you open to collaborations and requests?
Thilo: These days I’m working on my first solo record. I’ve been a musician in very different contexts, but to work entirely on my own is something completely new to me. I feel like it is helping me define who I really am as an artist. It’s a thrilling process, and I am curious to see where it will take me.
Yes, I really enjoy collaborating with others and working for clients can often spark my creativity as well. So I’m open to any kind of project as long as I can bring my own signature to it. Just hit me up!
We appreciate you taking the time to read this fascinating Q&A with Thilo Eichhorn and hope you found his approach to music production and thoughts on the Rhodes V8 plugin to be both informative and inspiring.
We want to again express our gratitude to all the other participants in the ‘Missing Keys’ competition. We received many incredible entries, and appreciate the level of creativity and dedication from everyone involved.
Contact Thilo via Instagram or email: