Tag Archives: Music Producer

Working at Both Ends of the Spectrum: Acclaimed Music Producer Dragi Ivanov

Deondre Jones (ShotsbyDre)
Producer and engineer Dragi Ivanov shot by Deondre Jones

Dragi Ivanov has long been known as a producer aware of how to tailor his skills to a musician’s needs, while bringing his own sense of practical artistry to any track he produces.

As the producer of Terrell Hines’ hit song ‘$3.99 (model1)’ Ivanov’s seasoned skill as a recording engineer proved imperative to capturing the song’s crisp sound quality. His ability to expertly wear many hats was reflected in how he wrote, produced, recorded and mixed the song for one of music’s most promising artists today.

Hines, who is also in the hugely popular band Wake Child, attested to the critical role Ivanov played in shaping the song’s sound from its inception and how they both wanted to create something that was compelling from the get-go.

Hines says, “As creatives we were pushing the envelope, so we started gathering our ideas and organizing them and Dragi produced, mixed and mastered…3.99.”

Hines further points to the collaborative nature of the song-making process, and the respect Ivanov grants the artists he works with and to the listeners of their music.

“We both love music and are intrigued by sound so we wanted to see if we could get music out in a way not normal to the ears but relatable to the ears spreading positive informative messages to society.”

Ivanov echoes Hines’ assertion that each of the cognoscenti wished to make a song that was edgy and create a new standard of music.

“Both of us always wanted to push the envelope and just create something that is crazy and innovative,” Ivanov explains. “We just wanted to make something that we hadn’t done before and that was exciting for us, we didn’t set out to do anything specific we just wanted to see what we can do and how well we can do it.”

It’s clear that Ivanov achieved his goal of producing a song that was edgy and compelling in a really subversive way, a rarity in a crowded market where every other producer is trying to push musicians to make a statement.

With Ivanov though, he’s the real deal. Combined with Hines’ writing, with it’s biblical references that are simultaneously respectful of spirituality but not condescendingly preachy to a listener, the producer and artist break new ground. The result is an edgy and compelling rap track that offers an incisive social commentary on the way unbridled greed has compromised the moral fabric of humanity, detailing the extreme lengths people go to for things worth $3.99. Listening to the song itself on an instinctual level leaves a listener conscious of a darkness, an effect countered with hip beats that get the body moving in a manner reminiscent of Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ but with an even more potent punch.    

Elaborating on the uniqueness of Ivanov’s approach, highlighting how the man is as interested in the process of making the music as the end result, Hines says, “Working with Dragi is therapeutic,” Hines astutely claims. “He can form any color and structure through music. When it comes to music and just sound in general he definitely has his own unique aesthetic.”

Adding his crucial creative input and mastery as a producer into the mix, Ivanov played a key role in the song’s composition, of course bouncing the ideas back and forth with Hines while producing, recording and mixing the song. He explains, “Everything you hear from the drums and bass, to the synths and the pads as well as the guitar parts and the way the whole song sounds is what I did. I created all the interesting sound design elements such as the clicky percussion parts, 808 bass, the menacing synthesizers, sound effects and vocal effects and treatment is what I did as part of the production process.”

The uniqueness of Ivanov’s skills as a music producer are reflected in the imaginative ways Hines describes Ivanov’s approach, pointing to a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that effectively highlights the Macedonian native’s creative magic.

For instance, the song invokes Black church and gospel music style through the use of organs and tambourines, grounding it in a sense of history that is both culturally specific, and universally resonant.

In a more obvious reflection of Ivanov’s significant success within his field, it also helps to understand that the musicians Ivanov works with always enjoy a loyal and fervent fan base, ensuring that his songs reaches huge numbers of ardent listeners around the world. That, and his producing skills have equally come to be known within the industry as a secret weapon which can make an artist’s career.

Hines additionally points to the adaptability of Ivanov’s specialized skill-set as a producer who can jump between genres while also maintaining the artist’s sensibility and integrity.

“Dragi understands music from many different perspectives. He also knows what he is doing on the production side whether it is production or mastering, which I could trust him to execute every time creatively and professionally.”  

The most obvious manifestation of Ivanov’s versatility is in the work he’s done with the band Wake Child. The incredibly popular Californian group, frequently known for invoking psychedelic 60s sounds with their own unique millennial bent, clearly owe some of their success to the producing prowess of Ivanov.  

For the track ‘Hangup Blues,’ Ivanov talks about how he and the band “wanted to make a seemingly Lo-Fi sounding record but also have it be epic.”

The product is a filmic and moving track which has received over 60,000 streams on online and been promoted by multiple blogs and Spotify playlists. It’s clear that fans of Wake Child and Ivanov recognize how the song manages to expertly use vocals and guitars in a symbiotic manner that builds towards a rough and tumble crescendo that grabs a listener by the collar and pulls them into a collective, and at once, individual experience.

In essence, it proves how Ivanov – who produced, recorded and mixed the song for Wake Child – tells a story with music in a way that only the most celebrated and iconic music producers are able.

He speaks with authority with the how the song is constructed, indicative of how Ivanov is deeply connected to helping produce music that tells a story and effects emotional change within a listener.

“The song starts very small with only a Rhodes piano and vocals it eventually builds up to the first chorus which is very interesting because the relationships between the instruments change in a way that the chorus feels a lot bigger than the actual verse.”

The humble manner with which Ivanov explains how his personable nature lends him an advantage when dealing with different musicians is equally interesting and endearing.

“Another thing is [because I’m an] introvert I don’t necessarily talk too much and I am very sensitive to situations that I know how to stay away or step in when I need to and that way I am able to meet people feel comfortable in the studio and give their best performance.”

“Hangup Blues” consequently manages to be romantic and solemn at the same, echoing a deeply felt sense of love that is truly poetic. When the song hits a beat change half-way through, it shifts a listener into an aural experience that really affecting.

Producing the song itself represented a significant challenge, which Ivanov embraced with gusto

“This project was different because it was the first project where I had to produce a full band,” Ivanov clarifies.

“[I] usually work with only an artist and my job is to create the music behind the artist, whereas with this project I had to learn how to step away from being a the musician and focus on more technical and managerial side of things.”

In closing remarks, Ivanov adeptly sums up the authentic approach to his work that highlights his genuine and specialized creative spirit.

“For me I would say is that I want the music to be exciting and feel effortless.”

 

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Music Producer Lhast is genius behind hit song “Do You No Wrong”

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Rafael “Lhast” Alves

Rafael Alves has always known music was his passion. Even when he was just a child, the beat of a song was more captivating to him than a fairy tale. At a young age, he began playing piano, knowing that he was destined to create music in his future. Now, that is exactly what he is doing. Known as Lhast in his home country of Portugal and around the world, he is one of his country’s most in demand music producers.

Throughout his esteemed career, Lhast has worked on several chart-topping songs. His work on Diogo Picarra’s hit song “Historia” received a gold record for its sales, and the song itself has over seven million views on YouTube alone. A similar pattern followed on the songs “Tarzan” by Regula and “As Coisas” by Valas, who was actually nominated for Best New Artist at the New Era Awards because of the success of the song. Many thanks Lhast’s producing skills on their success. The artist Dillaz, who worked with Lhast on the popular song “Arena” believes that the producer is one of a kind.

“Besides the great knowledge and technical ability Rafael has, working with him is a very freeing process, where creativity is encouraged to the max. I feel he brings out the best in me and encourages me to try some things that wouldn’t be a part of my normal process. Besides that, the communication is always very open and I feel we can address any issue very easily with no major complication,” said Dillaz. “I think he’s knowledgeable about the whole song making process, and has a sense of simplicity and open mindedness in the song making process that make him a few steps ahead of the rest. Also, he seems to find the compositions that fit not only me, but many artists. I think he can tune his vibe to the artist he’s working with, and that makes him very versatile.”

Despite all of the aforementioned success, the highlight of Lhast’s formidable career was working on the song “Do You No Wrong” by Richie Campbell. Initially, he just wanted to work on the song as an opportunity to work with Richie Campbell, but he did not expect the vast success that would come from the collaboration.

Since its release on May 4 of last year, “Do You No Wrong” received a Platinum Record Award for over 15,000. It was nominated for a Portuguese Golden Globe and was performed at the award ceremony earlier this year. It still plays on the radio frequently in Portugal, and Lhast never gets tired of hearing it.

“I felt great the first time I heard it on the radio. It was amazing to hear it there. I’ve had songs play there before but this one played was different. It felt really good that a lot of people were enjoying hearing my music,” said Lhast.

The song was an idea of Lhast, who had already created the instrumental for the track with Campbell in mind. The two have known each other for many years but had never collaborated. Lhast is known for his work in hip hop and R&B, whereas Campbell is more of a reggae singer. Initially, working together with such different styles never occurred to them. However, when Lhast created the music for what he wanted to be a love song, he thought of Campbell. Campbell immediately became captivated by Lhast’s work, and wrote all of the lyrics in a short time. Once this was done, the two started to work together on the arrangement and technical aspects, wanting to make the best possible track. They even discussed how the song would be released and how they would make the video.

After finally having the opportunity to work with his friends after many years, everyone made the most of it. The success of the song was just the cherry on top to a great experience for Lhast. They were all able to work together seamlessly. The understood each other’s experience and valued their input. Working on the song was a relaxing project and a good time. Overall, for the music producer, the song meant a lot more than just a simple project. It changed all of their lives, especially his.

“This song was really an amazing moment. Everyone seems to love the song; kids love it, my mother loves it, all my family enjoyed the song and that was a really good moment for me. I have always done music that people in my age group related to, but to have a song touch so many people in different spectrum was really just amazing,” he said.

Needless to say, without Lhast’s producing talents “Do You No Wrong” could never have achieved what it did. The track was his idea, with his instrumental being the basic concept. Without him, there would be no song at all.

Now, the producer is working on many more tracks that will appeal to all ages. Listeners not just in Portugal have the opportunity to listen to his sound, and it is highly encouraged. He is truly one of the best, and any looking to follow in his footsteps should know that it is not only talent, but hard work that makes him extraordinary.

“You have to enjoy the process. Work every day, and have people around you that are in the same mindset, and if possible, in the same area. Understand everything takes time, but you should learn to cherish the small victories, they will keep you going. I think a lot of producers feel they need to work towards a big break, but I think you’re always working for small breaks and that’s what keeps you moving. Once you get to that one ‘big break’ it won’t look so big because you know the work you have put to it, so it’s just another reward for your consistency,” he concluded.