Tag Archives: Musician Interview

Kurt Szul blows away City of Los Angeles for Italian Heritage Day

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Kurt Szul

Kurt Szul is a firm believer that in this life, “you get back what you put in.” Working in a field as cutthroat and unpredictable as the music industry, he understands the reality of this motto better than most. Not only does he know the level of dedication and hard work required to stay on top of his competition, he makes it look effortless. His success is largely based on his unprecedented drive; however, it is perhaps his versatility that has earned him a profound reputation amongst some of the best artists in the world.

Szul’s background in jazz music allowed him to master other genres with ease; however, his talents extend far beyond his natural affinity for composing and playing music. He is also a seasoned businessman with a wide range of experience managing and promoting bands. He has an aptitude for preparing music, organizing musicians, rehearsing bands, creating concepts for projects, and ensuring that any band he manages are well prepared to exceed their goals. Beyond managing bands, Szul can be credited with inventing, pioneering, and co-building one of the first and only Nine String Guitars at the young age of 18.

In 2015, Szul shared his talents with Los Angeles’ Italian community when he performed at Los Angeles City Hall Chambers Ceremony for their Italian Heritage Day. The city’s primary contact when looking for an artist, Janet DeMay, was tasked with securing a band to play at the event. Given her prominence in the Italian community, she was determined to acquire a seasoned professional to ensure that Italian Heritage Day was equipped with the highest quality performance possible. DeMay was already aware of Szul’s reputation in the industry and knew that he would be the perfect addition to the event. When she approached him about the possibility of having him perform for the city of Los Angeles, Szul couldn’t resist saying yes.

Szul, who has ample experience performing for high calibre events, knew of the hard work that would need to go into preparing Italian Heritage Day and took careful consideration to guarantee that the session would be a hit. For Szul, opportunities like performing at the Los Angeles City Hall Chambers Ceremony are what motivated him to become an artist and a band manager in the first place. He was both honored and humbled by the experience and eager to make sure that the city would be left speechless when the band were finished.

“Before the performance, I felt excited that I was bringing session musicians that I handpicked, prepared, and organized for such a prestigious event. I felt confident that the band would flawlessly perform the music that I had prepared and that it would be appreciated for this special day. I helped the band prepare in such a way that when we talked over the music and set up, we were able to play exactly as planned and it was very satisfying seeing the crowd enjoy it as much as they did. People loved it and kept moving closer to watch us play. After we finished playing, people kept approaching us to express what our music meant to them and to offer us future work,” said Szul.

Szul’s successes at Italian Heritage Day continued to grow even after the band’s performance. In addition to the verbal feedback that the band received, DeMay went on to receive a Certificate of Recognition honouring the band’s contribution to the event. The entire Los Angeles City Council, including the Honorable Mayor Eric Garcetti and councilman Joe Buscaino of the 15th district, who were also impressed by the quality of the performance. Naturally, DeMay was ecstatic by the event’s reception and knows that its success is a reflection of Szul’s artistry.

“I hand-picked Kurt to perform at the Los Angeles City Hall Chambers Ceremony kicking off Italian Heritage Month because of his ability to perform authentic Italian Jazz music from Native Italian Composers, an ability that is not found among musicians in the Los Angeles area. Because of his early classical piano training and his years of experience playing a variety of Jazz music, he is able to meld two disciplines and traditions into one seamlessly. He has a unique ability that suited our needs perfectly and he is a valuable member of the extended Italian community,” told DeMay.

Szul prides himself on the feedback he receives from any project he completes and continues to labor his efforts toward creating new opportunities to do what he loves wherever and whenever he can. When his competition is fierce, he stays grounded by the knowledge that he is willing to persevere where many other artists would give up. Quitting isn’t an option for Szul and his vast amount of experience has allowed him to find stability in what he does. He puts one hundred per cent of himself behind every project that he works on and in return, he receives one hundred per cent satisfaction from his achievements.

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Drummer Ivan Copelli remains humble in his rise to fame

When hard rock musician, Ivan Copelli, began drumming as a young child, he had no idea of the impact it would have on the rest of his life. For the Brazilian-native, it was all about tending to the passion inside him and exploring himself through his music. The now wildly successful artist is used to other aspiring professional musicians asking him for the secrets to his success, but for Copelli, it is simple. He understands that regardless of whether or not you can be classed as a “good” musician or a “bad” one, you owe it to yourself to just keep playing.

As he earned success in his career, after playing with the hit Brazilian band Motores, he learned the true value of remaining true to yourself and to your original sound. He has mastered the ability to market himself effectively and ensure that he doesn’t allow major companies or record labels to take advantage of his purity as an artist. His art is his business and he works tirelessly to grow it wherever possible. He also recognizes that today, with the power of the internet, it is easier than ever before to educate yourself and keep yourself busy. There is no excuse to give up on what you love to do most.

After achieving a series of accomplishments with Motores, including winning MTV Rally’s fierce competition in 2007, Copelli was approached by another up-and-coming Brazilian band, Kiara Rocks. He was familiar with the band’s sound and had attended their shows on several occasions. The band’s lead singer, Cadu Pelegrini, was eager to work with Copelli when he heard that he had left Motores. He wanted a drummer that would attract the attention of a larger audience and to boost the band’s visibility in the industry. Fortunately, Copelli’s work with Motores positioned him well above other drummers of his kind and Pelegrini knew that his contributions to Kiara Rocks would be invaluable. Copelli jumped at the opportunity to lend his talents to the band and it was the beginning of something new and exciting for his already esteemed career.

What Copelli ended up enjoying most about playing with Kiara Rocks, however, was touring around the world and being able to share the band’s music to new audiences in new areas on a daily basis. “For the three years that I played with them, we spent most of our weekends on tour, playing in different cities and states, making new friends, and growing our fan base. We were very close as a band. We didn’t even need to look at each other when we were on stage to know what everyone was doing. We were so connected,” said Copelli.

Copelli’s ability to not only adapt himself to the style of the band he is playing with, but to enhance their sound is what makes him such a highly sought after addition to every project he is asked to work on. After Kiara Rocks appeared on the successful Brazilian web series, Showlivre.com, producer Clemente Nascimento realized just how intangible Copelli’s skills are.

“Across his time with the group, he provided expertise as a top tier drummer. He also appeared in a number of the band’s virally popular music videos. Specifically, in his role as the drummer for the band, he kept the rhythm solid and consistent and while his work does not overshadow the tones of his fellow musicians, anyone who listens to their music notices the harmonious coordination between his drumming and the bass to create a tight rhythm section. He is absolutely vital to any band he collaborates with, more so than most drummers in his field. His contributions Kiara Rocks highlight both his prowess as a drummer, as well as the impact his music had on the band’s incomparable success,” recalled Nascimento.

With Copelli’s rising success, came unexplored territory. When his first single with Kiara Rocks received over 300,000 views on YouTube, he started to see the impact that his music had on the band’s presence in a new light. He could see the difference they were making in the field of rock music on an unfamiliar scale and he was humbled by the recognition they were receiving. All of a sudden, he found himself encountering excited fans in the street, screaming at him and honking their horns. He still gets shivers down his spine when he thinks about it and he credits this success as being the to motivator driving him to create new sounds and bring even more high-quality music to the shelves for his followers.

In fact, it was during his time playing with Kiara Rocks that Copelli experienced one of the major highlights of his career. Being a die-hard rock music fan, Copelli had the distinct pleasure of working with Guns n’ Roses’ drummer, Matt Sorum. Sorum produced what Copelli considers to be one of the most important albums for the Brazilian rock music scene in years. Copelli played his heart out and to little surprise, the band’s fans were immediately addicted. Seeing his work come to life for his fans is just one of the many reasons he continues to play and produce music for a living.

So what does Copelli have in store for hard rock music fans around the world? He has a few projects in the works. Ultimately, however, he hopes to re-connect with some of the artists he has worked with in the past, as well as with new artists, in order to create unique new sounds and albums that his fans will thank him for.

Bassist Yasutaka Nomura talks Smokey Lenses’ new highly-anticipated album

Yastuaka Nomura is lucky enough to love what he does. There is no “back to work grind” that so many face on a Sunday night for him, or dull days filled with no real feeling of accomplishment. His job gives him joy, a sense of purpose, and adrenaline rushes. That is the life of a professional musician.

Having worked with several bands, such as Mammoth, Squanky Kong, and Voodoo Kungfu, Nomura has worked on a wide variety of genres for a professional musician. He enjoys this, not wanting to pigeon-hole himself into one specific type of music. The guitarist and bassist is recognized for his undeniable versatility and talent, which is why when the Indie Rock/Alternative band Smokey Lenses was looking for a bassist, he knew he had to be a part of it.

“I wanted to work with Smokey Lenses because I liked the songs, but also because the music they play is something I usually don’t get to play, even though I always liked listening to that kind of music and I always wanted to play it with a band with original material. I was very excited when they asked me to play in the band,” said Nomura. “I usually don’t get to play the kind of music that Smokes Lenses plays so I was inspired to do a completely different musical approach than I usually do in my other projects. I was definitely a new challenge for me.”

Initially, Nomura had heard the band was looking for a new bass player for their album recording through his friend Aliyar Kinik, the drummer of Nomura’s band Mammoth. The band’s drummer needed a substitute and Kinik was filling in. He mentioned to the band that he new a good bassist, and after hearing Nomura, they knew they had to have him.

“Recording the album was great. We recorded total of 12 songs and I’m happy with all of them. The songs were already great before arranging but I think the work of the band is making the songs sound even better. I can’t wait for the album to be released and to listen to it,” said Nomura.

When recording the album, they did all the basic tracks live at once, with everyone in the same room. This is not a common way of recording. Because of using this style, the tracks have a lot of energy and organic feeling, according to Nomura. Recording like this allows there to be more energy, with better dynamics and conversation between each band member, just like a live show.

“It was awesome. I barely knew the band members at first but we got along very quickly. Everyone in the band was very easy to work with and fun people. We always had a great time at the recording sessions. I cannot wait to work with them again,” said Nomura.

The album is expected to be released later this summer, which is highly-anticipated due to the release of the first single Candle Glow, which was released May of last year. The single received positive reviews and was featured by popular music blogs like Speak Into My Good Eye, That New Jam, and Revolution Tunes.

Candle Glow is definitely one of my favorite songs from this album. It has a nice catchy melody and lyrics. I’m really happy with the recording too,” said Nomura. “The success it has seen since being released is great. We started off the album recording with this song. It was the first time I could even play with the band since our schedule didn’t match before the first recording session, but I think we were already locked in at the first session.”

As a guitarist and bassist, Nomura typically plays progressive rock, metal, funk, R&B, jazz, and fusion. He says progressive rock and metal require a lot of technique, with the sense of odd meters and solid timing. Funk and R&B require a nice 16th note time feel and a good sense of call. Jazz and Fusion require great skill with improvisation, nice swing, 16th note feel, pocket and of course sophisticated technique. The music that Smokey Lenses plays is far different from these genres. It doesn’t require either an amazing technique or the skill of improvisation but a good time feel/pocket on mostly 8th note beat, importantly the skill to stay on the groove and not overplay, technically speaking. Many musicians so familiar with other genres would have found themselves overplaying and not staying on the groove, which would interfere with the vocal melody. This was not the case for Nomura. He even tried to sing on everything he played on bass. His adaptability was appreciated by the band, who may not have been able to make the album or see the success that they say with Candle Glow without Nomura.

“Yasutaka is very professional and easy to work with. The work process went smoothly and he produced exceptional results. Yasutaka is a professional musician, so he understands the importance of being excellent at his craft and has a dense knowledge of music theory. He is respectful, focused, observant and learns extremely quickly,” said Singer and Guitarist Adam Oberst.

With talent like this, there is no doubt Nomura will continue to come through our speakers for years to come. Listen to Nomura’s work and Smokey Lenses’ song Candle Glow here.

Check out Nomura’s YouTube, Instagram, and Soundcloud to hear more.

Q & A with Swedish Bassist Martin Fredriksson!

Irving Ong
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.