Category Archives: Musicians

DIVERSITY IS A GUITARIST’S BEST FRIEND

 

Indian born guitarist Nipun Nair is a music purist…when it comes to being a great musician but not about the genre he is playing. Consider his latest work on Anthony Cruz’s premier major release “Cosas Del Destino”. Cruz is riding the wave of Latin pop artists whose ever increasing fan base is steadily taking over major radio and popular concert tours (Nair’s guitar work can be heard on the first single “Me Vuelas La Cabeza” currently in major rotation in New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and many other markets). The songs are catchy and the musicianship is top grade. All of Nipun’s influences combine in a way that lifts the songs and supports the vocals. It’s no wonder that Tushar Menon (music journalist for Prog Magazine, Rolling Stone, and other music publications) referred to Nair’s playing as, “that elusive combination of technical and enjoyable. There is much in his music to satisfy seasoned musicians as well as excite non-musicians.”  Top level music production and great recorded performances, combined with Cruz’s matinee good looks are a steady move towards a Hollywood ending; seemingly a world away from Nipun’s early success in India with his band Public Issue. Public Issue garners its identity from the world of rock and funk. Bordering on soulful and even progressive rock at times, the band started out as undergrad friends who wanted to play as a hobby. The group was as surprised as anyone when they immediately started winning competitions and fans, playing to crowds of 5,000 or more. Tours and television performances on music channels like VHI and Channel [v] followed. Press fast forward just a short amount of time and Nipun has travelled to the U.S. and, within days he was contacted to perform in a band, one of whose vocalists happens to be Anthony Cruz. Not only did Anthony take notice of Nair’s abilities, but the creative team behind him did so as well. This team includes Deborah Corday, Randy Phillips, and Rafael Esparza Ruiz (cumulatively they have worked with; Toni Braxton, Rod Stewart, Ricky Martin, Santana, Justin Timberlake, Prince, and many others). Their recognition of the guitarist’s talent and their desire to have him involved is quite an achievement in itself. The weight of the moment is not lost to Nipun who tells, “I was in disbelief at how I was able to come so far so soon. It felt like the moment I stepped into the country things started to happen. Now Anthony’s music is playing on all the Latin radio stations in the country; the songs for which I recorded guitars. The feeling is overwhelming and incredible.” Anthony Cruz 2

Some of the most successful artists in today’s music market are those who are the most diverse. Modern artists use their association with well known products and services (Apple, Kia, etc.) to jump start a new career or give new life to former glory years. Placement is as valid an avenue for artists as radio, possibly even more so due to the ubiquitous nature of music in our society. Many advertising agencies recognize this and employ contemporary artists as composers to create a sound canvas; artists like Nipun Nair. Nipun has enjoyed a successful career as a music composer with Rubecon Creative Solutions in India. Nair has created numerous scores for Rubecon’s campaigns which aired on major television networks (Zee TV, Star Plus, Channel V, etc) and in large cinemas like SPI Cinemas. Massive audiences were exposed to his work. Rubecon’s Alexander Zachariah confirms, “Not only did Nipun prove to be crucial to the success of the productions we did for our clients, but he also proved to be an integral part of the success of our agency.” Nipun has put these skills to use here in the U.S. working with Barbara Cohen to compose music for Dunkin Donuts and Hewlett Packard. Award-winning composer Luis Guerra is the founder of Terremoto Productions Inc., an audio production company that has compositions in feature films like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Tina Fey), Fallen Angel (CBS), and countless commercial campaigns for companies such as Honda, Samsung, and others. Guerra hopes to make use of Nair’s abilities creating music for projects with Mountain Dew, Disney Channel, and building the Terremoto Music Library.

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For 2015’s Dreaming is a Private Thing, Nair was given a multitude of challenges. Filmmakers Alan Sardana and AJ Smith needed a score which would resemble and reinforce their film’s topic of corporal and electronic existence. They needed a modern sound with a sense of humanity. The film is based on the story by legendary science fiction writer Isaac Asimov and has a cast of three characters; Eli Lee (played by Leo Lee [Swordfish, The Replacement Killers, Contact]) the world’s last filmmaker and Sam’s creator, Sam (Dan Mousseau) the android/camera, and Samantha (Susie Park [Spider-Man 2, Miracle on 34th Street, The Chaos Factor]) the lead actress in Eli and Sam’s films. Due to the small size of the film’s cast, the score needed to become the fourth member of the ensemble, enabling the audience to further connect with the characters. Nipun’s score achieved this as well as complementing the characters. At times the music is dreamy and digital and yet, intermittently introduces overtly analog and “human” traits. Vacillating between man and machine was a goal the score achieved…all within three days! Nair reveals, “Short on time for submission to festivals, he [AJ Smith] would send me scene after scene and I was writing and recording as quick as possible. I’d watch the scene and compose something to capture the feel of it…but I didn’t have time to think about it. I was going on instinct and first impressions. It was exciting but a little crazy as well. I was happy that AJ and Alan were excited about the score. Dreaming…went on to be screened at the Toronto Short Film Festival as well as a win [for Best Production Design] at the Ryerson University Film Festival in Canada.” RED Bean Can

In addition to composing for film, Nair has been a part of creating music for live theater for years. As any actor can tell you, the two are similar but very different animals at the same time. For many years, Nipun worked with The Little Theater and its founder (award winning director and playwright) Aysha Rau. The theater, which focuses on fostering the creativity of underprivileged children, has received worldwide acclaim for productions like The R.E.D.Bean Can which has toured internationally. The R.E.D. Bean Can was selected out of sixty productions from all over the world to be performed at the 22nd International Children and Young Adults Theater Festival in IRAN. This production was Nair’s most recent compositional offering to The Little Theater. Founder Aysha Rau comments on his work, “I am floored by Nipun’s ingenuity as a composer. He brings a sense of freshness to his work that galvanizes the theater time and time again through his original compositions. It is because of his talent and dedication that our productions have been immensely successful and garnered significant press coverage.” Nair has composed the music for countless productions at The Little Theater; one of the most popular is the annual Christmas Pantomime which has attracted sponsors including; Coca Cola, Ford, and Citibank, to name just a few.

Nipun has also used his skill as a composer in live theater to benefit the Theater of Will in southern California. This non-profit arts and education company is supported by LADWP and performs musicals about water conservation. Award winning author/playwright/actor/director and president of Theater of Will, Willard Simms, confirms, “As his diverse array of achievements clearly indicates, Nipun Nair is among the most elite composers and performing musicians working in the field today.” The success did not come as an easy happenstance for the India born composer. Nair emphasizes, “The Water Wizard shows and the concert series posed specific challenges as a musician. You are trying to educate kids through music in a way that is fresh, stimulating and entertaining…but in a not too obviously educational way. The key is great lyrics and catchy melodies. Having a charismatic stage presence really helps when you are performing for an audience of hundreds.” It seems that Nipun will soon be performing for crowds of thousands (or more) again alongside Anthony Cruz; that charisma on stage will come in quite handy.Nipun solo 3

Nathaniel James — From The Weeknd to Full Time!

The music industry is an ever­changing force, with new artists popping up and powerful legends lost, all the while a tempo being kept by those masterminds behind the scenes. Nathaniel James is one of the prominent tempo­keepers of modern music, and his deep and soulful relationship to music is as dynamic as the industry itself.

At the ripe age of 3, James’ father put him at the piano keys, not much later seeing this young prodigy playing “On the Hill Far Away” at the local church. Like most brilliant minds, an obstacle got in the way — and for Nathaniel James the hurdles were the struggles of adolescence. James’ passion for music never left, and was powerfully reignited when he was 16 years old and a friend invited him to play at a church. It was back at the church that James’ passion was sparked, and stayed aflame.

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Nathaniel James, who has toured and performed with renowned superstars such as The Weeknd, began playing music when he was just 3 years old. 

“It’s what I am,” says Nathaniel James, who has since worked with notable artists including touring as the keyboardist for The Weeknd, and playing alongside powerhouses like Kaya Stewart & YouTube sensation Leroy Sanchez. James acts as the co­arranger and musical director for many of the artists he works alongside, bringing a vast knowledge of both traditional and contemporary musical styles to the table, which allows him to share a rare versatility. James prides himself on fostering a warm and comfortable working environment where the collaborators are able to flow and organically create together.

The Weeknd’s acclaimed drummer, Ricky Lewis, raves about the young and hungry talent. “I initially met Nate on a gig we did together when we were much younger and then reconnected in our twenties through some mutual musician friends. The next time we would get the chance to play together was for The Weeknd’s European and American tour in 2012. He had just over a week to learn the set with our arrangements, different transitions and recreate all the patches before our headlining show for the Primavera Festival in Barcelona, and he killed it.”

 

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Of music, Nathaniel James says it best: “It’s what I am.”

As a pianist, composer, keyboardist, and bassist, Nathaniel James has managed to travel throughout his native country of Canada, and throughout the United States, France, Germany, Barcelona, England, and Amsterdam. As a freelancer, he is not tied down to any single artist, and is constantly excited about fostering new relationships. So much so that he’s recently launched his very own hosted show entitled “Living Room Session,” where he facilitates filmed sessions with artists performing cover songs. This YouTube series is proof of James’ proactive nature. The young and passionate musician saw a need for a platform allowing artists to put a face to their music, and for the audience to meet their favorite singer/band through a low­key performance and video segment.

“One of the greatest guys I know, even outside of being an amazing musician,” raves Ledaris Jones (The Weeknd’s keyboardist/bassist). “Something to for sure appreciate! You can count on him showing up knowing the material and carrying himself in a respectable manner. He’s also a good hang, which is super important when you’re spending months at a time with the same people on the road.”

James recently started his own production company, providing music for all facets of music, from in­studio recordings to live performances. And some upcoming gigs including playing alongside artist Snoh Aalegra, as well as performing in Maui, Big Bear, and New York, among many other locations abroad, alongside a some high profile production companies.

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Nathaniel James (right) performed at Lollalapooza with Grammy Award winning artist, The Weeknd (center), whose 2015 hit, “Can’t Feel my Face,” peaked at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and Canadian Hot 100 charts.

Nathaniel James carries a heart filled with desire, and an extensive catalogue of compositions — including commercial music from jingles, to film cues, to radio theme arrangements. As for the future, James is beyond excited to grow his YouTube series and continue fostering relationships with top artists worldwide. He aspires to great heights — writing hit songs with superstars, and one day planning to open his own music institution whereby he can equip musicians with degrees and diplomas — the tools he feels are necessary for working musicians to attain. “Sometimes you have to sacrifice going on a tour to pursue education. I want to help students study music a s they play, and gear the institution towards working musicians, giving them education as a backup, as a supplement. This will ultimately allow musicians to continue working past just touring or working gig to gig.”

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Mastery on keys and piano are chief among the sensational talents of musician Nathaniel James.

“When you watch Nate play you can see how much he truly loves music. His discipline and respect for his craft not only make him easy to work with, they make him reliable as well,” Ricky Lewis adds warmly.

Nathaniel James is a young and multi­talented musician with a solid resume, but an even sturdier purpose. With his heart in the right place, it is only a matter of time before all of James’ dreams come true.

For more information and to check out the music of Nathaniel James, visit:

https://www.instagram.com/nathanielwjames

 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6GLQ­jv5ruR9Tl6Z1vVSEA

http://www.nathanielwjames.com

Ze Gran Zeft puts France’s Hip Hop Rock Scene on the Map!

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ZGZ’s Da Kid (right), Boots and Sideman (right) shot by Marie Gimenes

France is certainly known for its cuisine, high fashion, and romantic allure. However, throughout music history the country has never been at the forefront of producing great rock music until now: rock band Ze Gran Zeft is looking to change all that and in a big way.

Compared to bands such as Limp Bizkit, The Prodigy, and Cypress Hill, ZGZ (as they are more commonly referred to by fans) consists of singer, guitarist, and principal songwriter Boots, bass player Sideman, and Da Kid on drums.

Hailing from Toulon in the South East of France, the band was formed in 2009 at a band contest when Da Kid met Boots and the rest, as they say, was history.

Da Kid recalls how well they clicked right away saying, “Total chemistry, we have a lot of influences, and that makes ZGZ’s richness, and it’s been like that from the beginning. It’s been 6 years since we started working together and it’s still the same craziness!”

Shortly after their formation, musical impresario Charles “Kallaghan” Massabo was brought into the picture in order to help put a grasp on their still raw and edgy sound. With his keen ear, Massabo molded ZGZ into an exciting and energetic band with much more cohesion. Kallaghan’s vision and big brother-like presence has given the band a much more focused approach to making music.

“We work as a “rock band” but with a “hip hop” approach – the beat/instrumentals are made first, then I would write some hooks keeping the best one to build a powerful chorus. The inspiration/recording/writing process stays the same for us, we create a vibe, we just fool around until we reach the positive vibe to create and record a track. And basically that is what ZGZ is made of,” says Boots.

ZGZ’s first two EP’s were “Watch the Crown” and “Crunked Vizion” which were both released in 2013. The sound for both albums is wild and rambunctious, perfect for youthful party goers, and very reminiscent of American singer Andrew WK.

According to Boots, “I usually write lyrics about stuff that amuses me, like partying with friends, having a good time, and most of all: SEX. We like the 80’s vibe before grunge came out with all their penis problems haha…But we are also huge fans of 90’s music and that paradox is ZGZ’s main direction: the crossover. We’re just a bunch of kids that love to fool around and annoy elder people.”

After releasing the hit single ‘Spaceman’ in September, which features Falling In Reverse’s former lead guitarist and vocalist Jacky C. Vincent, the band released their next single ‘#Millennial Kids’ featuring Mopreme Shakur, Tupac’s older brother, on Dec. 3. The song pays tribute to the generation of 20 and 30 something’s that grew up on Super Nintendo, Baywatch and everything in between that made it so great to grow up in the Millennial era.

Their first full-length album entitled “JOI” is set to be released in 2016.

You can check out the video for their new single ‘#Millenial Kids’ below, as well as buy some of their past tracks and albums through iTunes.

 

Q & A with Swedish Bassist Martin Fredriksson!

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Bassist Martin Fredriksson shot by Irving Ong 

 

The bass stylings of musician Martin Fredriksson have taken him around the world and has led him to play sold out shows with a range of bands and artists that span practically every genre, with each new project only further proving Fredriksson’s unparalleled versatility as a leading bassist in the industry. While he is still in his early 20s, Fredriksson has attained more success over the last 10 years than many musicians manage to accomplish over the course of a lifetime.

He currently serves as the bassist in Malloy band with band leader Michael Sims, Anduze band, singer/songwriter SuVi Suresh’s band and the band of Kendall Lake. He is also the bassist for the band Dream Alive alongside drummer David Meyer, who also happens to be the drummer in Frank Ocean’s band and previously played with John Mayer.

Fredriksson also played bass in the band Radiorelics, which has received incredible international attention, most notably for their song ‘Jack Daniels,’ which remained on the Billboard Hot Singles Sales Chart for the majority of 2014 making it to No. 9. In addition to being played on more that a 115 radio stations, ‘Jack Daniels’ also made it No. 23 on the National Airplay Top 50 Rock Chart. The band continues and has since changed their name to Mary’s Mischief.

As a bassist Fredriksson is known for his shocking versatility and magnetic stage presence, which have been a huge factor in him becoming the sought after musician that he is today. From the more psychedelic, melodic rock style of the band Dream Alive to SuVi’s sultry R & B sound, Fredriksson’s talent on bass is never ending.

In 2012 he also played bass on stage for Laura Warshauer, who was chosen by BMI and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame to be the recipient of the first ever (Buddy) Holly Prize, at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago.

Fredriksson has earned an impressive list of accolades for his skills on bass; in fact, he was given the Musicianship Scholarship for the Bass program at Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles in 2011.

You can check out Martin Fredriksson rocking out on bass with the band Dream Alive in the video below:

 

To find out more about this incredibly talented international musician make sure to check out our interview below!

 

Where are you from?

MF: From Nyköping In Sweden, 1 hour trip Stockholm. A great town to grow up in as a future musician because it’s a city filled with a lot of bands and young musicians.

How and when did you get into music?

MF: My parents bought a bass and a guitar as Christmas gifts for my sister and I when I was about 10 years old. I took the bass and have never let it go since.

In Sweden we have public music schools that offers all children the opportunity to learn to play instruments or sing at a very low cost. I started as early as possible, at 10.

My bass teacher probably saw my interest in music and some of my skills as he let me sit in and accompany his guitar students during their lessons. About two days a week I went directly from school to the music school for these extra sessions. The students I accompanied were often much older than myself, which gave me a lot of challenges as a new musician. During these sessions I learned a lot about how to be alert and really play for and with other people. Sometimes I’d complain that the time I spent at the music school was so short; and my teacher would then joke that there were no other students that spent as much time as I did there.

My first band, The Junk, was initiated by my bass teacher. He waited until I was 12 years old and then he asked me and some of the most talented students in the music school to meet and form a rock band.

From then on it’s been moving on in a good pace with a lot of different music and artists.

How many instruments do you play and how long have you been playing each?

MF: I play a little bit of upright bass and I have started to play some piano at home just for joy. I also took weekly solo singing classes at the local school of music for 2.5 years. I have just been practicing as background singer in bands on stage.

What did music do for you?

MF: Music has been a big part of my life from the start, both by listening and practicing the bass and learning to play songs by ear. I get very calm and concentrated when playing which really only happens during those times. When I had to do school work at home I often took breaks just to play for a short time so that I’d be able to continue with the school work again.

When I was 16 I was chosen as a young “successful” musician to be presented in a poster together with about 100 other people with different backgrounds and ages from my home municipality. There was a quote from the interview on the poster at the exhibition that said: “Life flows when you play, everything will be alright!”

That is still my experience. I am always very comfortable when I am rehearsing and performing on stage, pretty much anytime I get to hold my bass.

Why are you passionate about playing music?

MF: I love to feel the vibes while performing with other professional musicians. It’s just a very passionate flow and it is also very satisfying to see the response of the crowd, audience and band members.

Also arranging music together with a band and feeling that we have created something great together is very satisfying.

Who are some of your music influences, and how have they influenced you?

MF: My first big influence was a blues musician, Memphis Gold; and my first concert was a big blues festival in Sweden where he was playing. We were walking around and he caught sight of me because I was so young I guess. He gave me this record, so what could I do? I just had to play the bass along to all the songs on the record; and since then I have always loved playing blues.

Then there was a time of admiring Iron Maiden and other bands that played melodic hard rock. It was also a big challenge to learn to play their songs. Another big influence I’ve had for many years has been Eric Clapton. From there on I’ve found a bunch of other musicians that have influenced me in a lot of different ways.

How would you describe your personal music style?

MF: I love to play many different genres, but I guess my heart right now belongs to soul, funk and blues. A very important part when I am involved in arranging is that the songs is very melodic and also has variations in melody and strength. I like to play very melodic and love to improvise, in the settled frames of course. I really like to have a strong connection with the drummer I’m playing with because that creates a strong backbone for the rest of the band. I’m very fond of playing very rhythmical bass lines that are kind of at a crossroad between the drums and melody.

Which bands and or projects have you played in?

MF: I play in a lot of bands and for many artists. I’m a part of the bands of Suvi Suresh, Malloy, Anduze and Kendall Lake as well as the groups Dream Alive and Mary’s Mischief (formerly Radiorelics).

Some other bands/artists/musicians I have played with are guitarist Johann Frank who was supported by Phil Collins and is currently touring the world with Engelbert Humperdinck, Major Myjah, who is signed to Warner Brothers, Jasmine Villegas, and in 2012 I performed with Laura Warshauer at Lollapalooza. Some other artists are Caitlin McGrath, Tore Bojsten, Mimi Rom, Cody Sky, Jennie Tran and Q’orianka Kilcher. I have recently recorded eight songs for a Japanese hip hop artist called Daichi.

Have you released any music videos with any of the groups you’ve played with?

MF: I’ve done several music videos with the band Dream Alive for the songs ‘Don’t Say No,’ ‘Waiting So Long,’ and ‘Drifting Away’ all of which were made by veteran film producer Irving Ong who’s produced several Hollywood film including Heartbreakers starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sigourney Weaver. We also released a video for the song ‘See You Tonight,’ which was created by Fred Teng. We’ve also been working on some live performace videos shot live in studio with the singer/songwriter SuVi.
What are the challenges of being a professional musician?

MF: The constant stress and pressure to always be well prepared and ready for anything. Last minute changings happens all the time. And there are no certainties or guarantees in the music business; it’s all up to you.

What do you think separates you from other musicians?

MF: Coming from Sweden it is not easy to express this, but I am often told that I contribute to a very tight, steady and powerful rhythm section and that I have a significant powerful tone when I play. That in combination with a melodic and sensitive way of playing is perhaps what I contribute with in a band.

People also tells me that it really looks as if I enjoy acting on stage, which I really do. I always want to be prepared before the shows so that I can concentrate on the collaboration with the singer and the other musicians and feel comfortable improvising my bass playing.

How do you feel when you’re playing on stage? Was it something you had to get used to, or were you immediately comfortable in front of the crowd?

MF: I think people can see that I love what I do, sometimes I just lean back, close my eyes and enjoy the moment, and thereafter, enjoy the moment by being very active on stage. I have had this longing to play on stage from the start.

I have been performing frequently since the age of 13, and feel very comfortable in my bass playing. Therefore I can be very relaxed on stage and just enjoy the flow and the feedback from people in the crowd.

Aside from playing music in the bands you play with, do you write any of the music or lyrics?

MF: I write songs as a co-writer in several of my bands. It is very inspiring getting in a very creative feeling and then hear the complete song. I started to write songs together with my first band at the age of 12.

Can you tell us about some of your upcoming releases?

MF: The band Dream Alive will release a new video soon. It supports the title song of our latest CD, “Drifting Away.” The CD has got great reviews, which is very promising for the future. We are now discussion the dates for a tour in India to Chennai. It will be in the beginning of next year, but the dates have not been decided yet.

What are your plans for the future?

MF: My plans for the near future is to continue to play in professional bands and collect as much experience as possible by doing this. I have had great luck being asked to join bands with very professional and well-known musicians, who I had only read about before. It has been very inspiring and motivating to have been accepted by my fellow musicians.

All parts of being a musician is great; writing songs, rehearsing, recording in studios, playing in venues and touring.

What do you hope to achieve in your career as a musician?

MF: As nearly all musicians, I hope I will be able to work as a musician and earn my living by doing that. Then of course I hope that I will have the possibility to develop my skills as a bass player and keep the love of music going. And of course it would be great if I could get another hit-song with a band. We had a Billboard hit with the band Radiorelics in 2014 called ‘Jack Daniels.’

Have you won any awards for your work? Can you tell me about them?

MF: I got the bass scholarship for bassist when I enrolled at Musicians Institute. When I was 12 years old I, together with some friends from school, started a band and we worked really hard composing and rehearsing. We won the Culture Prize from a magazine called Frotté when I was 13. Our first real gig was at the castle of Nyköping in front of a big audience, when we got the prize.

Two of our songs were voted in on a regional radio station’s top list (Top 5) when I was 14 or 15 years old. It was very exciting the first time we were on the chart as the whole class was listening together in the class room.

Why is music your passion and chosen profession?

MF: It has been a dream since the early teenage years. I immediately felt that music and playing bass was something I immediately could relate to. It just feels meant to be so I’ll keep doing what I love most.

 

 

An Interview with Juno Award Winning Music Producer Siegfried Meier!

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Producer Siegfried Meier at Beach Road Studios shot by Rob Boyce

Siegfried Meier is an internationally acclaimed music producer, audio engineer, mixer and musician who’s been doting his unparalleled talents upon the music industry for nearly three decades. While he first became enthralled with the magic of audio recording at a time when most of his peers were still learning to walk and memorize their ABC’s, it wasn’t until he hit high school that he actually started recording projects professionally. But, the instant love he developed for mixing and recording when he first discovered that he could create his own versions of the songs he heard on the radio using a tape recorder at the age of 2 was the initial step that led him towards the successful career he has today.

Something that separates Meier from most other producers and engineers is the fact that he is, above all, a musician. In the early 90s, when he was still in his teens, he cofounded the melodic rock/punk band Curtis. Meier has gone on to release six albums with Curtis since the band’s inception over 20 years ago, all of which he mixed, mastered, engineered and produced in addition to playing guitar, piano and serving as the band’s lead vocalist.

In 2006 Meier started Beach Road Studios, but the vision for the now incredibly well known recording studio was one that he had brewing a decade prior to when it first opened its doors to the public. Over the years he has recorded a plethora of bands and artists across practically every genre including Kittie, Thine Eyes Bleed, Woods of Ypres, Baptized in Blood, Dayna Manning, Painted Faces, Slouch, Gag Order and many more.

Meier’s vast experience as a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and vocalist has been a major factor in the success of many of the bands that he has recorded and produced over the years, as he is able to easily jump in and play additional instruments when needed during the recording process.

When it comes to the metal and punk genres, Meier has left an indelible mark on the industry with his skill; and, in 2013 the album “Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light,” which he produced and engineered for the band Woods of Ypres took home the Juno Award, the equivalent of a Grammy in the US, for Best Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year.

To find out more about how Siegfried Meier got to where he is today, some of his early influences and his plans for the future, make sure to check out our interview below. You can also find out more about him and the long list of projects he’s recorded and produced over the years through his website: http://www.siegfriedmeier.com/

Where are you from?

SM: I was born in Oberviechtach, Bavaria, Germany and moved to Canada when I was 5. I grew up in Goderich, Ontario, Canada on the same 220-acre family farm where Beach Road Studios now resides. Growing up, I was the one that was always interested in music – creating it, recording it, pretending I had new bands that I was in and creating album artwork for said “fake” bands. My mom was a huge fan of the Beatles when she was younger, having bought all the German versions of their singles back home, but didn’t really expose me to any of it because by the time I came around the focus was on the farm and raising 4 kids while my father was working construction in Berlin during the week as well as the farm on weekends – sadly leisure time came few and far between in those days. Being the youngest, and 5 years behind my next brother, having a babysitter to take care of me while my mother did the daily chores wasn’t always an option. To prevent me from getting killed on the farm while she was working, my mother would keep me in a locked, but safe, room in the house with toys to keep me occupied– yes, it sounds awful by today’s standards but times were different back then! My father had given me a tape recorder to play with by the age of 2, and even though it probably wasn’t the safest thing to be tinkering with (220v in Europe of course haha), pressing the buttons and recording my voice along with music off the radio became my favorite way to pass the time. My life would be forever be changed.

How and when did you get into music?

SM: Having moved to Canada in 1983, the first 3 music videos I was exposed to were Van Halen’s ‘Jump,’ Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’…it instantly changed my life since all I’d ever really heard were Bavarian polka songs on German radio. Growing up I tinkered with playing synth and keyboards and always created fake bands that “made it” and toured around the world. It wasn’t until my early teens that I started to focus solely on guitar and recording/producing as a profession. I started to play in local bands at age 13 and focused on my first serious band Curtis by my mid teens – we released a few records, and I began my production career by recording all of our albums. It didn’t take long before I realized that by making records with bands that we shared the stage with that I could afford to buy more equipment to build up the studio. While our band is still together and making music to this day, for me the focus shifted quickly to producing for a living early on. I attended The Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology for Production and Engineering by age 21, and the rest is history!

What did music do for you when you discovered you were able to communicate through it?

SM: Music literally saved my life early on. Times were tough during the financial brutalness that was the 1980s and living on a farm when interest rates were high, and drought was ravaging the only income our family had. I would sing and create songs and melodies to keep myself occupied, and it often made me forget how bad things seemed at the time. As a teen, and going through the things teenagers do, music became the thing that got you through the day – the reward for putting up with what appeared to be general social unfairness. I listened to music when I went to bed every night at a very young age, and it would always put me in a relaxing, conscious state while I dreamt of what the next day would bring. It really was what got me from one moment of my life to the next, and continues to do so.

How many instruments do you play and how long have you been playing each?

SM: Guitar would be my longest running instrument – 25 years. I’ve played piano and keys for well over 30 years, but would hardly say I’m an accomplished player – I hear the melodies in my head and with the aid of Pro Tools and MIDI am able to create what I need (strings, piano, synths etc.). I’ve been drumming for over 25 years, and have been programming drums for well over 25 years. I’ve played bass for as long as I’ve played guitar, and often provide bass playing services on many projects I produce. I sing backup vocals on nearly every album I produce these days, and I am a vocalist as well in my own music and projects.

Which was your first? And which one do you currently get the most enjoyment out of it?

SM: Keyboards/piano would be my first, but I never became a prolific player beyond hearing what needs to be there and where a song needs to go. Guitar is certainly my main instrument, and the one I get the most enjoyment out of. I’m by no means a shredder– I’ve always focused on songwriting and chord voicings. An infinite amount of feelings and emotions can be created with a voice and a few guitar chords, it’s pretty incredible.

What was one of the first projects that you engineered for another artist?

SM: When I first started acquiring gear, having a space to record in wasn’t always available to me. While it was fine to record our own music in our bedrooms, it wasn’t always an answer when it came time to start working with other clients. In those days, I’d often take a small Mackie mixer, a 1/4” 8 track reel to reel and a case of mics and stands to the bands spaces to get the job done. One of my first was a band that was considering using my services, but wanted me to show them what I was capable of before they committed. So I dragged all my gear to their country home and we tracked the band live off the floor in their barn! I ran a long snake out to a desk I had sitting outside, and it was a nice and sunny day so there were no worries of the elements damaging any equipment. They loved the outcome of our demo so much that I got the record, which I ended up producing in a friend’s home where I later had the studio temporarily setup. 

How has your approach to engineering changed since you first began?

SM: Incidentally, much of my approach really hasn’t. Being a musician first and doing so much work with my own band, I understand that the artist always comes first. You shouldn’t have to make it too complicated to capture a good source – it comes from the hands, heart and mind first, and when you have a great sounding room and a good instrument, it’s easy!! However, having this amazing facility these days has made things a little more complicated. I prefer to keep a lot of instruments and gear permanently set up and wired in at all times, so it’s very quick to lay down parts and keeps the artist in a creative mind. But I’d say the options available to us these days in the studio don’t necessarily make for better sounding music, but they do allow me to have certain effects and sounds ready to go for the artist, and being quick on the draw is what’s important when you’re dealing with outside clients.

When did you start producing music?

SM: I started producing our own bands music early on in my mid teens (Curtis). Our first studio experience with an engineer really changed my outlook on music, and it made me realize that the other side of the glass was more exciting. The technical side of things has always fascinated me, and my father used to manufacture and customize all sorts of machinery on the farm – it’s what gave me my interest in mechanical and electronic devices. Having always been a computer fanatic from an early age, once I realized that the music, the electronic and computer worlds could all work together, it became my trifecta of nerd awesomeness! 

How does producing tie all of your talents together?

SM: Being a musician first, I’m able to get into the mind of the artist better than someone with just a technical background. So many bands have chosen to make records with me because of that. They know that I treat them the same way that I’d expect to be treated if I were the artist. A good producer is someone that is well rounded, and doesn’t necessarily cater to the band member that plays their instrument of choice – you can often hear the producers that are drummers or guitar players only, as those elements are in the forefront while others take a backseat. But I understand that the song is king, and whatever element is telling the story needs to be treated with the utmost importance. 

When did you open Beach Road Studios?

SM: We broke ground on Beach Road in May of 2006, although the idea of it went back at least a decade prior. The studio was built with the help of family and friends, and I enlisted the help of the singer of a band I had produced an EP for, Robbie McCowan of Chasing Mercury. We worked out a wonderful barter deal where I would produce the bands forthcoming album, put them up here and take care of all costs, and he would build the studio for me, a nearly 3000 sq ft structure from scratch and from the ground up until completion – a process that took several years to finish. Robbie was an incredible guitar player and songwriter, and while I had never seen any of his work before in person, I wholeheartedly based his carpentry skills on his musical ability alone!! And, my gut feeling was the right one — Robbie proved to be one of the most talented guys I’ve ever met in my life, both in the studio and in working on one!

How has your career changed since you opened your own recording studio?

SM: Having our own dedicated facility has certainly opened up what I can offer to other clients. Before Beach Road, I was still working out of a small apartment, and tracking the loud instruments like drums in commercial studios. But, I lost out on a lot of records because my schedule and space weren’t ideal to the creation and vision of the artist. These days, all I do are produce and engineer music, and my clients know that I’m ready to go 24/7. By providing a secluded place in the country where the artist can live and stay during the creation of their masterpiece, I’ve not only set myself apart from nearly everyone making records these days, I’ve also created a vibe and atmosphere that aren’t easily attained. Most artists feel instantly at home when they walk in and see 40 guitars on the wall, a stack of amps ready to go and all these other instruments patched in prepared to create music. The studio has also given us press and notoriety that wasn’t available previously. For a while, the studio was getting so famous that people had heard of Beach Road without knowing who I even was!

Can you tell us about some of the projects you’ve produced and engineered and how approached the project?

SM: The band Kittie was looking to detract from their previous record and wanted something more stripped down, aggressive and back to their roots; and they approached me to produce “In The Black” in 2008. They loved the idea of doing the record in a secluded space like Beach Road. It was the first album I produced on my own for the band, and I definitely had to prove myself to them, regardless of the fact that we had a previous working relationship.

Thine Eyes Bleed was hot off one of the biggest world tours of the year, and signed to New York metal label The End Records. I’d known the singer and guitarist for some time, and they approached me about producing their next record here at Beach Road. I knew they were snowballing as a band, and that it would be an incredible opportunity for me. The bass player was the brother of the singer of Slayer, and his massive resume and experience certainly intimidated me at first. Once he understood that I was on his team, and only wanted to make an amazing album with them, things certainly started to move along well. The band wanted a pretty stripped down thrash record, that was heavy and full of life. I produced the record the way we used to on tape – capturing real, natural performances instead of the standard cookie cutter Pro Tool’ed method that was becoming so common in 2007.

Blue Skies At War approached me to produce a collection of songs live off the floor for them in late 2002. They were quite a popular emo/punk rock band in the early 2000s, and I was stoked to be working with them. At the time, I was still working as an assistant at a commercial recording studio, so while I was happy to be getting any of my own production work, there wasn’t always time. These guys were definitely on my radar, so after some discussion with the band I was finally able to get them to come in for a few days…and we tracked FAST. Because of budget constraints, the band only had 3 days to record and mix 9 songs. One specific song caught the attention of label owner Brian Hetherman of Curve Music, and he expressed interest in working further with the band. The song was the only super catchy, radio friendly song the band had, and while it was still in development when we started working on it, I created and sang a number of background vocal hooks that became the focus of the song. Curve put some more money into the project, and it allowed me the time to edit and remix the entire record for commercial release. The album did well, with said song ‘Last Call’ getting radio play on every major station across Canada. The band did a number of tours before calling it quits. The singer started a new side project called Machete Avenue, and I produced their first record and 2nd EP.

I’d worked with singer Nick Harris on a solo acoustic side project before he joined 4 other tech/punk rock/space rock dudes in the band Seconds To Go. I produced an EP for the band that quickly gained the attention of Face To Face singer Trever Keith at Vagrant Records. The label expressed interest in the band, and I produced a few more EP’s for them before they took off to do the record for Vagrant unfortunately. A few years later, the band came back to me to do a few new singles that they were releasing independetly. These turned into a few more songs and eventually a full-length album that was released in 2006 on Trever’s label Antagonist Records and Pop Culture Records. The band toured long and hard for many years, and was on the big Face To Face/My Chemical Romance tour in 2004.

I had lived in the same town in my teens as The Salads’ singer Darren Dumas, and the band expressed interest in working at the commercial studio I was at in the early 2000s. I was the assistant engineer and Pro Tools engineer on their “Fold A To B” record that did quite well in Canada, winning the band a CASBY Award and landing a deal with Labatt’s Brewery for their song ‘Get Loose.’ The song became the runaway hit of the summer of 2003, and people still recognize the song from commercials to this day. The track was also featured on the soundtrack for Eurotrip as the closing credits song. In 2009, after I’d built Beach Road, the band approached me to help produce their forthcoming album “Music Every Day.” Budget was a concern as always, since the band was now independent, so I provided as much as I could to the record with the band filling in the gaps in their own home studio, tracking some guitars and vocals. Their bass player currently plays in famous Canadian rock band I Mother Earth.

What makes you want to work with an artist?

SM: First and foremost, their music. Talent certainly plays a huge role in there as well, but it’s important to me that a first meeting proves how we gel and generally get along together. If I’m to put up an artist or band for several weeks at a time in my private space, and spend days upon days with them creating something very dear to their heart, we need to establish that we have a connection together. I’m not really at a point where a manager dictates what artist would be “good for my career,” and I hope to always have the freedom to choose who I work with.

How much musical input do you have when producing a project for an artist?

SM: It generally varies from project to project. Some, I’m simply capturing the performance and delivering the desired product. Others, I’m being asked to play drums, bass, guitars and sing backup vocals!! We usually establish very early on in the meeting stages exactly what my role will be, and it feels great to be able to provide all these services to a very personal project for others.

Who have been a few of your favorite artists or groups to produce over the years and why?

SM: I started working with the girls in the band Kittie at a young age. I was the assistant engineer on their 2nd record “Oracle” that was produced by Gggarth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rise Against). It was a pivotal moment in my life as it was my first time working with such a legendary producer. Years later, after I built Beach Road, the lead singer/writer of Kittie, Morgan Lander, came to sing backups on a record I was producing for the metal band Thine Eyes Bleed. She loved the studio and we instantly rekindled our old friendship. The girls have gone on to have me produce 2 full lengths for them and several singles (one for a David Bowie tribute record out on Cleopatra Records and one for a Runaways tribute record), and we’ve all become the best of friends. Our sessions are an absolute riot and it hardly ever feels like we’re actually doing work.

Robbie McCowan, the singer and main writer of the band Chasing Mercury is the guy that built Beach Road for me. The year after the studio was built, we got to work on their first full-length album. The band is a great mix of tech/prog/punk, similar to Propagandhi, and wrote some incredibly catchy songs. A year after the release of the album, Robbie landed a deal with a video company and the songs were licensed to a snowboarding DVD that has been in regular rotation on TV. Robbie and the band were clearly very close to my heart, and he’s become one of my closest friends.

Thine Eyes Bleed was a band that was on my radar for a while. They were a Canadian thrash metal band that had just finished the Unholy Alliance Tour in 2006 with Slayer, Lamb of God and Mastodon. I knew the singer of the band, Justin Wolfe, from previous bands around the area, as well as their guitar player Jeff Phillips, who toured and teched with Kittie for a short while. The bass player John Araya is the brother of Slayer singer Tom Araya, and the band was definitely doing some amazing things. After running into Justin in a club, they expressed interest in checking out the new studio we’d just finished building. The idea of recording in a secluded area really interested the entire band, and after coming to see the place, they were sold on having me produce the record. I produced the followup to this album as well, and Tom Araya was a guest vocalist on it – a pretty cool moment in my life to have to opportunity to work with him!

I got the record for the band Woods of Ypres through Morgan Lander of Kittie, who recommended me for their upcoming record. I knew the history of the band, and that they’d put out quite a few records. From the first few chords that we tracked for the album, I knew it was going to be something quite unique and special. I only spent a short 2 weeks working with the band, but the experience will never be forgotten. The album went on to win a Juno Award a year after David Gold passed away. I continue to work with the other half of WOY, Joel Violette, in his other side project Thrawsunblat, and I’ve co-produced, edited and mixed the last 2 records for them.

Breaching Vista was a local band that contacted me early on in their career to produce an EP, and I went on to produce their full length “Vera City.” We spent the better part of a year making the record and the guys and I became very close. The record sold a decent amount for an indie band in Canada, but they landed gigs with Mariana’s Trench, Theory of a Deadman, Econoline Crush, Hedley, Jack’s Mannequin, Our Lady Peace, The Arkells and many others. Definitely one of the hardest working bands I know.

I started working the band The Dunes when I was working briefly with a Canadian Producer Manager. I’d heard about them for a while, and their music was really picking up momentum. My manager had them do a couple demos here with me in the fall of 2007, and the band was hooked. We ended up doing a full length together in 2008 that went on to do quite well in Canada. The first single was featured in the soundtrack for the movie Limitless starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.

You’ve produced A LOT of great work for punk and metal bands over the years, can you tell us why these are some of the most challenging styles to produce?

SM: The records can certainly be technically challenging, especially with such aggressive music and often tricks and special techniques have to be employed to capture the desired result. But, with such aggressive music often times comes a certain attitude as well, and it’s as difficult clicking and jiving with the artists as it is capturing their hard work. With a full band, there are so many personalities and opinions that need to be dealt with and addressed, and it can definitely be trying at the best of times. However, approaching it all with a cool head and a willingness to work hard helps in a big way. When the artist knows that you’re on their side, and not simply there to tear it apart and make it your own, they truly do trust you. When I make decisions, I make them a part of it – it’s their record, and they ultimately sign off on any decisions made. But, I make them understand that they have to pick and choose their battles. 

How do you manage to achieve such clarity and definition in the work you produce for metal and punk bands without losing the heaviness of their sound?

SM: I feel it’s important to stay true to the artist. I’m very much a performance based producer since I’m a musician myself, so I make sure to get full takes of the artist. I feel this has a much more realistic vibe and really captures the essence of what the artist is going for, without losing the heaviness that they’re accustomed to hearing in a live situation. That being said, I employ lots of various vintage analog and digital equipment that is really geared towards sounding a certain way – let’s call some of them one trick ponies – that are set up and ready to patch in when I need them. Also, not bloating a production certainly helps maintain the clarity and making certain elements sound smaller in the mix are sometimes necessary – not every guitar part needs to be huge, thick and heavy! You have to pick and choose which parts need to be excessively thick based on the song and structure of the track.

Who are some of your music influences, and how have they influenced you?

SM: Because of what I was exposed to growing up, my influences are so wide…everything from Fleetwood Mac to Ric Ocasek (The Cars) and The Carpenters to Nirvana and Face To Face…listening to the top 40 pop records of the 80s and being a taping kid (cassette tapes recording music off the radio), I grew up loving the over-the-top productions of that decade – and often the production was better than the songs!! Madonna and Blondie to Jimmy Eat World and Refused…in the end, the song is king. The melodies and the beat. I learned early on that drums and vocals are such a huge part of any successful production that it’s key to get those in the face of the listener. They are what speak to the average person that knows nothing about music production. Everyone has a voice, and everyone dances to a beat – if they can feel and relate to those things, then you essentially have the makings of a hit.

As a musician, do you have a personal music style that you prefer to play?

SM: I grew up listening to top 40 pop hits of the 80s, but having older siblings exposed me to the heavier and harder acts. In the 90s, Nirvana and punk rock completely changed the landscape, and it was a very influential time for many – myself included. While my musical tastes have certainly developed over the years, I’m still most definitely attracted to any catchy, hooky tunes that generally have an aggressive edge to them. I love all types of distortion, and I find such a harmonic bliss in adding it to any source. I suppose having such a wide variety of influences has helped my career as a producer, and I’m comfortable jumping from doing a metal record to a country album the next day.

What awards have been the most exciting so far?

SM: We were nominated for Best Metal/Hard Rock Album of The Year for the Woods of Ypres album “Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light” at the 2013 Juno Awards, which we went on to win. It’s my first win, and definitely the most unexpected. The band was a Canadian underground Doom Metal band that had been slaving away for over 10 years before I did their last record. The singer/main writer and frontman David Gold sadly passed away just before the album was released, and it’s made it a pretty difficult record to even listen to anymore.

What do you think separates you from other music producers?

SM: My ability to see the end result even at the earliest phone recording demo stages certainly sets me apart from most. Patience, organization and an undying dedication to the projects are a given for any successful producer, but certainly being a musician and understanding the wants and needs of fellow musicians makes me stand out.

 

Can you tell me everything about any upcoming projects/ tours/ releases/ collaborations?

SM: Kittie will be releasing a new documentary/book next summer. While I’m not directly involved in the creation of it, they did film a good chunk here at Beach Road with me. The girls are also planning on recording their next album with me here next summer, presumably to coincide with the release of this. It could be their last album as a band, as they’ve hinted to in the past…but that’s to be decided as of yet!

I just finished producing a record for this hardworking Christian rock band, Anthem For Today, which won a Covenant award (Christian version of the Juno’s) and have been nominated for several others. The record will be released in spring 2016.

I’ve been working on a record for Zealot’s Desire for nearly 2 years, the band is a mix of prog rock and metal. The album plays like a classic, timeless work of art and feels as fresh being released today as it would have been in the 70’s.

Tallan MD is an incredibly unique punk/glam/pop album from the grunge rock band Slouch, which is fronted by singer/songwriter Tallan Byram. I’ve actually produced a few records for the remaining members. They all grew up together and by colliding their styles (Tallan was a huge fan of Madonna and anything 80s pop), we’ve made a crazy record that sounds like it was stretched across 4 decades. Everything from The Beach Boys and Madonna, to Nirvana and Mudhoney.

Static Prevails is a pop punk band from Ontario that is releasing their new record in the spring of 2016. Two members of the band are currently touring with Walk Off The Earth as monitor, guitar and drum techs. The record is a pretty hard-hitting melodic powerhouse of an album, and with their connections in the industry we hope to land a deal soon.

What do you hope to achieve in your career as a music producer?

SM: I love finding and developing new talent. I thoroughly enjoy working with someone that still has that spark and excitement in their heart, and music really does move one’s soul. At the end of the day, knowing that anything I’ve worked on has changed someone’s life in a positive way is enough of a goal for me.

Why is music your passion and chosen profession?

SM: Being self-employed is one of the best things in life. Choosing your own schedules, and deciding which projects I want to work on and contribute to have been incredibly fulfilling. Music is the reason I’ve been able to do that, and it really is an amazing healing tool. Being around so many young musicians has certainly continued to make me feel young as well!

 

 

 

 

Born to Perform: Actor & Musician Evan Williams

Evan Williams
                                        Evan Williams shot by Elodie Cabrera

Hailing from Alberta, Canada, Evan Williams is a born entertainer whose astonishing talents have taken him around the world and back several times over. As a musician, he has gained the attention of Oscar-winners. As a stage actor he’s been in some of the best-known productions in the business. And as an actor on television and film he’s become an audience favorite for viewers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Williams recalls, “I got into acting through music, which was my first passion and continues to be a vital part of my life. I was a middle kid and always a bit of a clown, so I found myself comfortable on the stage at a young age. I sang in a choir as a kid, and when the opportunity to participate in musical theatre came my way I jumped at it and have never really looked back.”

Although his career began on stage, it has evolved to encompass virtually all aspects of performance. In the 2014 comedy Ride, directed by and starring Academy Award-winner Helen Hunt, Williams plays a surfer named Brad who meets Hunt’s character when she travels to California to find her son Angelo who dropped out of school to pursue the carefree surfer lifestyle. The film also stars Luke Wilson (Idiocracy, The Royal Tenenbaums) as Hunt’s surf instructor and love interest Ian.

“I’m always after the roles that scare me for one reason or another. I think these are the ones that an actor will do his best work on, because it becomes personal,” admits Williams. “I was attracted to Helen Hunt’s indie film ‘Ride’ because I knew I’d have to surf in the film.”

Williams, a lifelong musician, also wrote and performed the song “I’m Not Waiting” which Hunt selected to be used in the soundtrack for the film. This is by no means the only time his diverse skill set and talent as a musician were put to use in film though. In addition to playing the leading role of Mark Robertson in the film On Strike for Christmas, Williams’ original composition “You’re My Joy, Merry Christmas” was also chosen to be included on the film’s soundtrack.

On Strike for Christmas is a heartwarming family movie about Joy Robertson, played by Daphne Zuniga (Melrose Place, Spaceballs), who becomes fed up with her family when they refuse to help her prepare for the holiday festivities. Williams plays the role of Joy’s son Mark in the holiday classic.

This year, Williams played the lead role of Rodney in Fishing Naked. The film follows four friends on a camping trip playing pranks, causing mischief and generally wreaking havoc. After the group’s antics threaten the welfare of a local creature, the group tries to set things right with one last trick.

In his early days, Williams played Oliver in the theatre production of Shakespeare’s classic As You Like It. The play follows a noble girl as she escapes her uncle’s court, after the exile of her lover by his older brother, Oliver. The girl is then banished as well following a dramatic change of leadership. As You Like It, one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, examines the contrast between life for nobles and commoners in the 15th century.

In a production of the classic Broadway musical Guys and Dolls, Williams played the lead role of Sky Masterson, a gambling man on a mission to win the heart of a young girl whose dedication to her religion keep her from taking him seriously. The two ultimately fall in love, with her resolved to reform him into a proper gentleman.

Williams also recently wrapped production on Jay Lee’s film Gutter Slut, a social satire comedy horror film where he plays the role of Cooter, a mentally unstable hillbilly whose strict religious views are contradicted by his uncontrollable lust and violent acts. The actor also stars in the upcoming film Cannonball where he plays the role of Ian. Directed by Katherine Barrell, Cannonball revolves around a young woman who, on the night of her 30th birthday, struggles to move on from her past.

Williams says that the film “is an examination of the nature of endings, of relationships, of plans, and of ideas, of the push and pull of will and remorse.”

He adds, “It was a very personal and moving project to shoot, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”

A master of anything involving a stage, a microphone or a camera, Williams has already won the hearts of fans everywhere; and as he lands starring role after starring role in exciting new projects, it is obvious that audiences will continue to find him an omnipresent figure in entertainment with no end in sight.

Composer Daniel Raijman Speaks to International Audiences Through Powerful Film Scores

Daniel Raijman
                                                  Film composer and guitarist Daniel Raijman shot by Fernando Stein

Guitarist and composer Daniel Raijman spent his youth growing up in Buenos Aires, the cultural hub of Argentina, has been playing music for most of his life. At age 8 he began playing piano, at 11 he picked up guitar, and at 17 he started attending the Buenos Aires School of Music where he would go on to receive a Bachelor of Music in Performance, Specializing in Guitar.

Heavily and eclectically influenced by Argentine tango, Pat Metheny and John Williams, Raijman has a hugely varied background of experience and style that he applies to his work as both a guitarist and film composer.

After touring Argentina and Uruguay for four years up until 2009, Raijman began working with Rosario Barreto, producing Barreto’s debut album Imagem Imortal. It was the first of many such projects he would work on in the following years.

Raijman, who studied film and television orchestration at the prestigious Berklee College of Music and graduated from the UCLA Extension Film Scoring Program, got his first job in Los Angeles working on An Opening to Closure. Raijman composed the soundtrack for the film, on which he also played guitar. A romantic drama, the film follows two ex-lovers who find themselves revisiting their painful past after a dinner party with mutual friends.

“There is a love scene in which there is passion but at the same time, sadness and regret. I decided to match the groove of their breathing to an electric guitar rock solo, along with programmed synths,” he said. “I increased the distortion and the effects of the guitar, and the music grows in intensity until there is clearly a feeling of sadness and loneliness. Then, by keeping the groove and letting the guitar fade out, the motif is introduced with a piano solo.”

One of his most moving projects to date, 8 Seconds: Humane Decision Making in the IDF, required Raijman to compose three different styles of backing music to match the changing mood and subject of the film. An eye-opening documentary, the film tells the story, from multiple perspectives, of the ethical training of Israeli Defense Force soldiers fighting Hamas and other threats to national survival, and the life-or-death decisions they must make on a regular basis.

“Composing three completely different cues to match the different part of the film was challenging… One of the cues had to represent the military part of the story, so it had to be very intense and fast,” said Raijman, explaining in depth the intense planning and research involved in setting the mood for the film.

“The next cue had to correlate with Israel and the authentic sounds that come from the music of the country… [so] I used a lot of Middle Eastern percussion and woodwinds like Duduk, and composed the melody around the Phrygian major 3rd mode, which is always related to Jewish music. For the last cue, I had to compose music that matched the soldiers’ feelings. I accomplished this using a lot of strings accompanied by Middle Eastern percussion played at a slow rhythm. I truly loved working on this documentary.”

In addition to scoring, Raijman also played guitar for the film, which was an official selection at the 2015 USC School of Social Work Film Festival.

The musical genius also arranged the composition for director Zack Wu’s Violet, about a young man in a new town, love at first sight, and the idea that things can often be far from what they appear, especially to someone blinded by love.

“Composing wall-to-wall music for this film with only a few days to deliver was a bit of a challenge but a great experience for me,” Raijman said. “When you see the film, you can tell from the beginning that the music is telling the story and that something isn’t right between the couple.”

When a composer does his or her job well, the audience should be able to feel the movie through the score, so much so that even with their eyes closed, they can still hear the plot, the relationships between the characters, and the anxiety in the action. Raijman has shown himself to be a natural and a consummate professional with a talent for organically conveying the filmmakers’ emotional intent through his music. He is currently working on several upcoming projects, including a solo album featuring some of his stirring instrumental music.

Composer Vincent L. Pratte Uses Music to Communicate Abstract Emotions

Vincent L. Pratte
      Composer Vincent L. Pratte shot by Marie-Ève Labadie

Canadian born film composer Vincent L. Pratte creates dynamic and thematically rich film scores that will enthrall any audience with their musical diversity and depth.

A musician who began scoring orchestra pieces in high school, Pratte is a composer who doesn’t mind going outside his comfort zones and trying new and unique methodologies. In college Pratte came to the conclusion that, “music and especially composition was not monolithic, and that there was room to do whatever he could imagine”.

Pratte believes that in films, the music is there to add emotional, dramatic or narrative layers to a scene, but not to overwhelm it. It is through this meticulous and complex process that Vincent L. Pratte is able to stand apart from other film composers as someone whose music is truly original and highly sought after.

Pratte says, “I do try to pay attention to things beyond the narrative, like editing choices, camera angles, and lighting… In the end, I think that those elements will have an impact on my musical choices as well.”

Demon Gate, a horror film revolving around demonic possession, beautifully demonstrates Pratte’s style of composition. The film’s score showcases an open ended musical structure that features a wide array of musical styles to achieve a deeply dramatic tone. Pratte is a composer who feels a film’s score can make the viewer feel visceral in ways that the visual medium cannot– a point that is driven home by the haunting score found in Demon Gate.

The film Eleanora: The Forgotten Princess, which is a cross between a musical, a period piece and a fantasy film, features a riveting score by Pratte that serves as an exploration of the character’s inner motivations. This super natural tale of revenge and jealousy sports a composition that embodies the weight of a much larger thematic piece without overwhelming the narrative.

“Although we often tend to think of film music in terms of dramatic end epic themes, so much of the work of a film composer is actually about how to subtly complement a scene,” admits Pratte.

Pratte’s score for Foos Your Daddy, a coming of age comedy, creates a brilliant texture reminiscent of large-scale gladiator-style films, which perfectly accompanies the film’s “absurdist touch,” as Pratte puts it. In the film, which was directed by Luke Patton, a father and son indulge in one last foosball game before the son heads off to college. Pratte’s score is a testament to his brilliance as a composer who fully understands how to create music that sets the tone for each scene.

As the film progresses the intensity of the score expands exponentially. Whereas the film starts out with a “coming-of-age… indie rock vibe,” as the foosball match unfolds the composer uses music to create an air of high stakes, big action, and emotional transitions.

Pratte has composed for a lengthy list of films across virtually every genre, but he admits that his favorite medium to compose for is animation because of the freedom and intensity it allows.

His poetically melodic score for Eloise, Little Dreamer gave the tale of a young girl, who is separated from her sister in the big city, a multi-layered emotional resonance. The film was most recently awarded the Best International Animated Film at the New York International Film Festival.

John Doe, the animated story of a detective lost in a case he is unable to solve, features another strong score by Pratte, with the film’s lack of dialog making the score integral to providing the narrative for the twisted tale.

Although Vincent Pratte still enjoys composing orchestra pieces, his passion for blending the abstract nature of music with the more concrete artistic medium of film, is by all accounts his true calling. A film composer who, like a magician, has many tricks up his sleeve, Pratte is a dynamic musical talent whose compositions augment any project to which they are attached.

From Behind the Glass & On the Stage, Andrew Kesler is a Musical Swiss Army Knife

Andrew Kesler
                   Musician and Producer Andrew Kesler shot by Von Wong

Andrew Kesler’s multi-faceted skills as an instrumentalist, singer and engineer have undeniably made him a valuable asset to the Grammy Award winning producers (Al Schmitt, Tommy LiPuma) and independent artists (Milan Boronell, Justin Dunlop) he’s worked with.

The Canadian-born music producer has married art and science to become a virtual Swiss Army knife in the studio. He’s learned to play seven instruments, including bass, drums, guitar and piano, since he picked up his first, the ukulele, when he was two years old. But it’s been his ability to create music from concept to finished product that’s set him apart.

“Part of what makes me unique is my versatility and experience,” Kesler said. “I don’t think it is common to find someone who plays a lot of instruments proficiently, writes, arranges and engineers music.”

Kesler’s worked with some of the industry’s top producers such as 21-time Grammy Award winner Schmitt (Quincy Jones, Steely Dan, Natalie Cole), three-time Grammy Award winner LiPuma (Miles Davis, Joe Sample, Barbra Streisand) and Grammy Award nominee Greg Wells (Adele, Katy Perry, Aerosmith).

Because of his reputation, Kesler was brought in to be the recording engineer for Al Schmitt in a session he was producing. After the session, Schmitt urged Kesler to move to Los Angeles, where he said his skills and personality would be a “breath of fresh air.”

The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native moved to L.A. in 2015 with an already impressive portfolio under his belt, and multiple projects underway. His work with some of North America’s brightest young talents has spanned across a wide variety of genres, ranging from classical to indie-pop.

His album “Dragon Suite” with Homzy/Kesler Duo partner Aline Homzy won Best Contemporary Classical Album at the Independent Music Awards in 2013. He played on Canadian singer-songwriter Justin Dunlop’s album “Black Bay Nocturnes,” which was nominated for a Hamilton Music Award in 2015. Kesler produced Montreal native Milan Boronell’s self-titled EP, which was released in February, and is currently working on the debut album of Mario José, who was featured on NBC’s hit show “The Sing-Off.”

Boronell, an accomplished singer, songwriter and guitarist, needed the skills of an experienced producer for his EP, so he called on Kesler. The pair spent countless hours together to ensure they were on the same page before production started.

“My approach when producing is to do whatever it takes to make sure the artist’s vision is realized,” Kesler said. “It’s never about adding my footprint to their music, but rather understanding who they are, what the message is and using my skills to present it loud and clear.”

Kesler used his talents as a producer and a musician to bring their concept to life. His chemistry with Boronell was so good that he played a vastly larger-than-normal role in the EP’s production. Not only did Kesler produce, but he also played instruments, hired additional musicians, arranged parts for strings and background vocals, engineered the recording sessions and mixed tracks.

“I wouldn’t normally suggest to an artist that I be the one to fill all these roles,” Kesler said. “However, Milan’s music resonated with me and he really liked my contributions, which lead to me shouldering most of the load.”

The deep musical bond he shared with Boronell was a great example of Kesler’s approach in the studio.

“To achieve my best work as a producer, I have to find something about the artist I can invest in. I have to develop a connection with them,” Kesler said. “If I think my skills can contribute to helping them create the music they hear in their head then to me that’s a perfect fit.”

The time he spent with Boronell in pre-production was typical of his workflow. But Kesler showed his flexibility when he produced Dunlop’s latest single “Into the Cold.”

Kesler wanted to capture the roots musician’s “creative vibe” rather than record a “perfect performance,” so they spent just thirty minutes playing through the parts and crafting the song’s arrangement before recording. A few hours later they had recorded the entire song, including the vocals, overdubs and beds.

“Because I know Justin’s style, I knew what kind of contributions I could make that would be fitting for his music,” Kesler said. “Knowing this we were able to achieve a ‘live off the floor’ feeling with nuanced performances and interaction. I try to bring this approach to the pop productions I do as well.”

Along with José’s debut album, Kesler is currently producing the second album for his a cappella jazz group Accent. The group will guest-speak at the EG Conference in Monterey, California in May, and is planning to tour Germany in November. He is also producing the sophomore album for his indie-pop group Holy Oker, which is planned for release in 2016.

DJ Kiraz, Bringing Female DJs into the Spotlight

Despite electronic dance music’s quantum leap in popularity in recent years, success for female DJs in the male-dominated industry has been scarce. But Swedish-born DJ Elin Ekdahl, known to most of the world as DJ Kiraz, has successfully carved a niche for herself in the EDM “boys club.”

EDM DJ
DJ Kiraz shot by Andy Thien

DJ Kiraz has played some of the biggest venues in the world such as ageHa in Tokyo and Exchange LA in Los Angeles. Though she’s established herself in the business, the well-travelled DJ is not content with her male counterparts dominating the dance music scene.

“I love seeing other female DJs killing it on stage,” Kiraz said. “I think we need to stick together and support each other more. We need to show that we can, and that we want to, be a part of it, too.”

Music has been a part of DJ Kiraz’ life for as long as she can remember. EDM became her favorite style of music when she was 13-years-old; but it wasn’t until she saw a female DJ take the stage at Club Atom in Tokyo that she wanted to learn the craft and become a DJ as well.

“I was so excited, as it was the first female DJ I had seen there,” Kiraz said. “However, her music selection was completely different from the club format, and she seemed to have a guy helping her out in the DJ booth.”

The experience filled her with determination. She recalled, “That’s when I knew I wanted to prove that girls are equally capable of being great DJs.”

Kiraz went back to Europe to learn the art of the club DJ. She studied under some of the most successful European DJs such as Swedish DJs Mikey Mic and Havin Zagross, and U.K. DJs John Taylor and Graeme Lloyd. Two years later she was on stage at the biggest clubs in Japan including Warehouse702, Club Asia and ageHa.

The gig at ageHa, Japan’s largest nightclub, took Kiraz’ career to new heights. The club’s 2,500-people main stage had been previously played by world-renowned DJs such as Armin van Buuren and Paul van Dyk. DJ Kiraz stood in their footsteps and shined.

“It was nerve wracking, but so much fun,” Kiraz said.

Kiraz has played all kinds of EDM from deep house to hardstyle. But trance has been her true passion.

“Trance makes me happy,” Kiraz said. “It makes sad. It gives me goosebumps. It makes me feel something.”

The loyalty to her joy has clearly served Kiraz well since her move to the U.S. She’s played alongside internationally renowned DJs Simon Patterson, Sean Tyas and Headhunterz at Exchange LA in the heart of Downtown L.A.’s thriving club scene.

The similarities between L.A. and Tokyo took DJ Kiraz by surprise.

“I was told that it would be so different and that I would need to change my style of DJing,” Kiraz said. “But honestly, if we are talking electronic music crowds, I don’t think that they are all that different. They all dance, they all rage and they all have a true passion for the music.”

Kiraz’ ability to heat up the dance floor all over the world has earned her a loyal fan base, too.

“There aren’t enough female DJs out there that can play the way that Elin can,” fan Kelly Sandgren said. “She really knows how to bring great energy to a set and I haven’t seen many other DJs, male or female, who can do it as well as she can.”

But DJ Kiraz’ gender has been just a small part of her story. Her time in the genre as both a fan and DJ, and her love of and loyalty to trance has earned her spots at major league clubs on both sides of the Pacific.

“My style of music is unique, especially for a female DJ,” Kiraz said. “I have a lot of experience in the industry, and I have been able to closely observe the evolution of electronic music from three completely opposite sides of the world for the last decade.”

Outside the club, DJ Kiraz has hosted her bi-monthly podcast on SoundCloud since October, 2013 at www.soundcloud.com/kiraz-1.