As an internationally sought-after motion designer, Xu combines her passions of animation and illustration to bring captivating and artistic graphics to various projects all over the world. She specializes in two-dimensional character animation, which involves bringing small characters to life on every project she embarks on. She begins by taking a script or basic description of the character and plays with lines, shapes, and color until she eventually has created an all new being. It is truly magical.
Xu had worked as an animator with many high-profile design and animation studios for countless renowned clients, including Apple, Samsung, T-Mobile, HBO, AirBnB, and more. However, one thing she loves about her job is that in addition to working on television shows, movies, commercials, and videos, she also gets to work on concerts for some of the world’s biggest stars.
“Pop music has always been one of my interests. I am a sucker for almost all the mainstream music. I love listening to music and I am usually stuck in one to two hours of traffic every day, so I pass the time by doing car karaoke while driving. It is exciting to get to work with well-known pop stars on their music videos and graphics projects,” she said.
Xu worked with Possible Inc., a leading design company, as one of the lead animators/compositors on the project. She worked closely with Creative Director Michael Figge to design, shoot, animate, and edit together 27 custom full-song scenics for artist Chris Brown’s European tour. The concept was to use different graphics elements and textures for each song to convey different moods to the fans at the concerts.
Each artist was assigned five songs and needed to create visual elements for the music videos first and combine those elements into After Effects software for compositing. Xu was responsible for “Don’t Judge Me”, “New Flame”, “Five More Hours”, “Ayo” and “Loyal”, some of Brown’s biggest hits. She combined visual elements for the songs and put them together onto one screen, making sure that all those elements were part of the same scene and matched with the themes of the music videos.
“I like Chris Brown’s music. It is thrilling to get to work on some animation and compositing for something you listen to every day. Also, I like doing composting work for music videos. It is amazing to see how visual elements synchronize with the beats, tempo, and the whole style of the music. For example, in the song “New Flame”, we created lots of different shapes and forms of flames for the song. It was fun to composite different shapes of fire to get the best result for the music videos,” said Xu.
Xu’s graphics were played in 15 different cities in Europe during the “One Hell of a Night Tour” including Munich, Paris, Hamburg, Oslo, and more. The tour and its animation received a lot of public attention and they delivered a successful sold out tour to the fans. For Xu, knowing so many around Europe saw her beautiful artwork is reward enough, because she simply loves doing what she does.
Being a motion graphics designer gives Rupa Rathod the opportunity to channel her vast creativity. While designing and creating LED screen content for pop tours, events, television performances, and awards shows, she has the freedom to create anything and everything while working with some of her musical idols. Each treatment differs from the last, and she is always challenged to interpret a client’s concept, something that she finds hugely fulfilling. For this English native, there’s nothing that can’t be achieved, and she enjoys all aspects of the journey; it’s a feeling of achievement that she doesn’t think will ever go away, and what keeps her constantly motivated.
“Combining the two passions I have; music and the creativity of motion graphics design was like taking two perfect past times and fusing them together. It seemed like a natural progression in my career, to channel my creativity as a motion graphics artist into music. I was determined to make this happen any way I could,” said Rathod.
Rathod started working for Blink in 2014, where she was employed as an editor initially focused on screens for music festivals. She pushed herself to prove her talent and was quickly given an opportunity to work on a high-profile tour with Robin Thicke. Since that time, her work in creating graphics for concerts has gone from strength to strength and is now well recognized and well respected at the top of the industry.
“My style of designing is always very much influenced by the music I’m working to, whether it’s a pop song, metal, drum and bass, indie, it all determines the style the content needs to be in.
I’m fascinated by light installations and lighting design which is always very sharp, bright and tightly timed to music, so everything I design always has that accuracy to beat responsiveness and the biggest moments in music always need to be visually bigger. I focus on making obvious moments in a track very obvious on screen and the ability to be able to do that is what I would define as my own style,” she said.
This past September, Rathod worked alongside Kylie Minogue for a second time on her most recent European tour, Golden. Rathod had previously worked with the pop icon on her “Kiss Me Once” Tour in 2014, and the two formed a close professional relationship when working on her Sleepwalker film.
Having turned 50 this year, Kylie’s new album channeled her country side, and “Golden” was released. The album was recorded mostly in Nashville, giving it a very authentic country feel and setting the tone for her new tour. The concept for this 2018 “Golden” Tour revolved around a journey from a desert landscape to Nashville, which would eventually all come together in a 70’s spaghetti Western style movie interpreted on stage with Kylie as the protagonist. Rathod was brought onto the team right away, creating content for the tour while Kylie promoted the album, and the motion graphics designer was extremely excited about the concept.
“I loved the conceptual idea of creating a 1970’s movie executed through the medium of a full multi-sensory concert and working with filmed content to create a cinematic visual was a beautiful piece of art,” said Rathod. “This tour was a completely new direction for Kylie and her dedicated team. It was a bold new move for everyone involved and to see it met with such positivity was gratifying.”
While working on the “Golden” tour, Rathod worked closely with Creative Director Rob Sinclair, who she has worked with on many projects throughout her career, including Kylie’s “Kiss Me Once” tour. Sinclair trusts Rathod’s ability to take his references and turn them into more graphical visual concepts. They understand each other’s styles and they work well developing them. For the “Golden” tour, there was a lot of filmed content, which is not often done; it adds a decadent touch and requires a large scale of planning. Rob and Kylie’s vision featured a lot of filmed content, which is what made the show so rich and so bespoke. It spoke for itself and helped to narrate the journey the audience were being taken on. The desert scenes at the beginning half of the show were filmed in California and Nevada deserts which was handled by Kylie’s longterm Video Producer, Tom Colbourne and the Blink team in Los Angeles. The second half of the show was shot in a London studio which was handled by Producer, Kirsten McFie and and Rupa in London. Rathod worked closely with Sinclair on the shoot, who was feeding his thoughts and notes to her on the day, which helped her get a sense of how it would sit in the show. She ended up working across all the content through the London post production and onsite rehearsals near Birmingham right up to opening night in Newcastle.
“This tour was an incredible experience to be a part of, not only because Kylie’s team remain wonderfully warm and welcoming, but also because Kylie herself has a huge amount of input into every aspect of her shows and she’s always so grateful to everyone involved. Her enthusiasm and excitement make all the hard work and devotion worthwhile. Kylie is genuinely just a very lovely artist who appreciates the hours of hard work and dedication that everyone puts into creating her shows with her,” said Rathod.
Having just wrapped up this latest tour, Rathod has a lot to look forward to. She recently won a prestigious award for her work on rock band The Killers’ most recent tour, and she has a lot more in the pipeline. She has worked hard to get where she is now, and for those looking to follow in her footsteps, she offers some wise words.
“For those looking to pursue a career in motion graphics, my advice to them would be to not be afraid of having your own style. It may take you a while to develop it, but you’ll have one and to have conviction in the work that you do, because if you don’t, no one else will,” she advised.
Nestled at the very back of a darkened stage, a band’s drummer is probably the most overlooked and least romanticized member in the band, and yet it remains that they are the most integral part of the entire act. Responsible for keeping the beat, a drummer must act as the metronome for the whole band while also generating magnetic charisma and displaying an original and refined technique to excite the audience. World renowned drummer Zhenya Prokopenko does just this – and he makes it all look easy.
Originally from Russia, Zhenya grew up with a deep love for music. As his studies in music became more refined, so did his love for the drums.
He explains, “The first thing you hear when you listen to any modern track is a drum beat. You just can’t miss it. It’s powerful, loud and beautiful to me.”
A student of Belgorod State College of Culture and Arts, Zhenya has studied privately under acclaimed sound producers, but attributes still some of his success to the simple element of rehearsal. “No one can practice instead of you,” Zhenya says. “The most effective training for your growth is daily practice.”
When most people think of Zhenya, they first think of his widespread success in Russia, particularly with his pop-punk band Velvet, which quickly became a household name in 2008 with their unforgettable hit songs ‘Follow You’ and ‘Beat the Drums!’. Velvet gained attention on the airwaves and by the summer of 2009 the band was in frequent rotation on every major radio station. Radioplay soon turned into televised concerts, and the bands popularity grew astronomically.
In fact, since its inception, Velvet has released three chart-topping studio albums, four unforgettable singles, a live concert album, and eight cinematic music videos. Two-time winners of the Golden Gramophone Award, Velvet was also awarded multiple times at the Song of the Year festival, and named as Best Pop Rock Band in Russia at FUZZ Awards in 2008 and again at the RU.TV Awards five years later.
While the success of the band can be deservingly attributed to each member, it is important to look at Zhenya, the backbone of the group, as a critical part of the equation. Not only a session member of the band, he is also is the band’s studio musician and the co-author of the rhythm section of the music. Zhenya brings a fire and energy so radiant that even the most aloof person in the crowd can be caught tapping their foot.
“The drummer should be the anchor of the band, the reliable reference for others, the most experienced member of the band,” Zhenya maintains. “The rest of the musicians have to depend on you for every aspect of the song– tempo, volume, expression, structure, energy. So, a good drummer is a team drummer who knows that. You need to be professional and willing to work hard. You need to leave your ego and selfishness aside, and put the music first.”
In Ukraine Zhenya also served as the drummer for singer and actress Valeria Kozlova’s solo project, Lera Lera. Kozlova put herself on the map drumming for the rock band Ranetki, which gained such popularity it became a TV series of the same name. Soon, she and her bandmates became idols to young girls across Russia, Ukraine and other ex-Soviet republics. In 2008, Kozlova received the People’s Prize of Ukraine, the Telesvezda, in the nomination Opening of the Year. She then went to form her own solo project, where she recruited the talents of Zhenya. With Zhenya on drums, they released their 2010 debut album “Give me a Sign”, which gained such notoriety that it was acknowledged as one of the best albums of the year and took 6th place at the Russian Top Awards and Kozlova was named Singer of the Year by the music TV channel RU.TV. As drummer and rhythm co-writer, Zhenya helped carry the band to remarkable success with his impeccable timing, brilliant technique, and impressive stamina.
Both Velvet and Lera Lera were undoubtedly lucky to have Zhenya backing them on the drums. His signature feel for the music combined with his identifiable groove sets drummer Zhenya aside from the rest. A truly diverse and technically studied professional, Zhenya could surely sit behind any drum set with almost any band of any style and create a memorable, natural and flawless beat.
While Zhenya is an incredibly intelligent and talented musician, his humble heart is quick to remind us that no one can be measured by his or her own talents alone. He offers the kind reminder, “You are not a person, you are part of something bigger, part of the team.”
With the music industry undergoing a major transformation over the last two decades, more and more artists and bands have been able to self-produce their albums and still attain a level of success that was previously reserved for those represented by major labels. In the same way that the relationships between major record labels and today’s musical acts have changed, so too have the roles of those working behind the scenes to make sure we hear an artist’s music.
Management coordinator Daria Khovanova of Tiki Rocket, who coordinates for the incredibly popular US band Allah-Las, is a key figure who organizes everything from upcoming shows to social media posts for the bands she coordinates. She not only utilizes her social media skills to ensure that we hear her artist’s music over others, but that their live shows run smoothly, plus a whole lot more of the day to day happenings that as an audience, we don’t get to see.
If you’re not familiar with the management coordinator title, imagine the work of a tour manager, production manager, booker and social media director all rolled into one and you’ll get an idea of what Daria does for Allah-Las and the other groups she works with.
“As an artist’s management coordinator you wear many hats, and that’s what I enjoy the most. There’s never a dull moment. I realized a long time ago that working in music I didn’t just want to be stuck in the office,” Daria explains. “Maintaining personal contact with the artist is of great importance to me, and something I think the artist appreciates also. At least the ones I’m working with. It’s important to be in it together, share adventures and grow a bond.”
Since she first came on board as Allah-Las’ management coordinator in 2017, Daria has booked and organized a rather impressive list of shows for the group, including the Marfa Myths Festival in Marfa, TX, their three-night residency at Lodge Room in Highland Park, CA, the Off the 405 show at the Getty Center and the Huichica East festival in New York earlier this year, as well as their performances at the 2017 Desert Daze festival and more. Earlier this month she organized the band’s performance during the Open Arts & Music Festival in Glendale during Glendale Tech Week, a “Spaceland Presents” event that partnered with the Downtown Glendale Association and LA County Arts.
For the Open Arts & Music festival Daria handled all the negotiations with show promoters, coordinated the schedules of the key band members and organized additional musicians, such as Tim Hill who played keys with Allah-Las during the show, and rented all of the specialty backline equipment i.e., the amps, lights and speakers. All of that, plus she organized the merch stand and made sure the band’s performance at the event was announced on all social media channels in order to draw the largest crowd possible. While she generally handles all of these things for the other shows the band plays, those taking place outside of their home state of California, like the Oh So Slow Festival in Bali, Indonesia that they played in May, require her to take on even more.
Daria says, “I step in as a tour manager and production manager when needed… arrange interviews, photoshoots, work on collabs with clothing brands, like Billabong x Reverberation Radio, and develop merch ideas. The list is diverse.”
With Allah-Las headlining many of the shows and festivals they play, there’s the understandable added pressure of putting on a flawless performance. With Daria working from behind the proverbial curtain and handling all of the details, the band can focus their energy on the music and the show, taking comfort in knowing that if any obstacle arises she’ll be there to take care of it.
“Since October of 2017, Daria has elevated our music ensemble with expert negotiation of agreements, effective communication with internal and external partners and organized coordination of domestic and international touring itineraries,” explains the members of Allah-Las. “We know we can count on her to look after all our interests and well-being no matter where our tours may take us. Her outstanding management skills have not only helped us meet our financial and creative goals, but also taught us to work more cohesive as a small business team.”
Though Daria’s job is pretty much non-stop all of the time, she loves what she does. If she didn’t, then being available 24-hours-a-day 7-days-a-week at the drop of a hat would get old quickly. Apart from the seemingly endless list of organizational aspects, a major part of her work as a management coordinator is being personable. Before ever meeting or speaking to the band, she’s often the first one the booking agents, venues and sponsors are in contact with, so making sure she represents the vibe of the band and creates a relationship that makes people want to keep working with them is imperative to their success.
Daria says being a strong management coordinator “[Is all about] being able to juggle a lot of things at once and prioritize, plus assertiveness and the ability to act as a mediator, when needed. A good sense of humor doesn’t go amiss either. It’s all about working with people.”
Aside from going on the road with the band and organizing their bookings, Daria has been hugely responsible for securing endorsement deals. Earlier this year she secured an endorsement for the band with Danish audio equipment manufacturer Ortofon, as well as one from music industry leader, Marshall.
Despite the need to be in constant communication with a large amount of people and the challenges that come along with managing multiple egos while ensuring that everything runs smoothly, Daria’s personal love for music and her relationship with Allah-Las make it all worthwhile at the end of the day.
“I feel grateful to be working with the people I like… [Allah Las] take you in, you become part of a family… there is a certain magic in being on the road with a close-knit group of best friends,” says Daria. “Driving through Texas to get to a festival in Marfa was so fun, and then seeing them live score a surf documentary starring themselves on a vacation in Mexico, ‘Self Discovery for Social Survival,’ was pretty magical.”
Today internationally recognized music producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee is best known for his work as a music producer on the BMI award-winning song ‘Que Los Mares No Se Enteren’ by Nico Farias, the multiple songs he’s produced for international artist Naïka, such as the world pop chart-topper ‘Ride,’ Lexxi Saal’s new single ‘Break a Bottle,’ Lauren Carnahan’s ‘Criminal,’ which has streamed over 600,000 times on Spotify, and more.
Etholm-Idsoee’s musical journey began back home in Oslo, Norway when he picked up the guitar at the age of 6. “This is when my rock star dream really started” he recalls. “At that time, I dreamt about playing in a band, touring the world just playing shows and making music on the go. I think somehow everyone that does music for a living has had that dream in one way or the other.”
Though he wouldn’t go on to become a ‘rock star’ in the traditional celebrity sense, that was a decision all his own. Instead he would become a major behind the scenes figure in the careers of many of today’s prominent artists.
By age 8 he was fully immersed in voice lessons, which he says he is now ‘extremely grateful for,’ and by age 10 he’d started teaching himself drums and bass, two instruments that fuelled his passion and led him to begin playing with rock bands in his youth.
Often times rehearsing in the basement of the local church, Etholm-Idsoee recalls during one heavy metal rehearsal in particular that, to the band’s surprise, the church priest casually walked in. “We all thought that we might be in trouble because of the nature of the music we were playing.” Rather than scolding the young musicians, the priest had something else in mind. “He came over to my drum kit and he looked at me and said ‘that looks fun, do you mind if I try?… He sat down behind the drum kit and to everyone’s surprise, started shredding like a god, no pun intended, which ended up in an amazing jam session with the priest. I quickly jumped on a guitar, and we ended up playing for hours.”
Etholm-Idsoee marks that experience as one that taught him to ‘never judge a book by its cover,’ a vital lesson to his work as a producer, and a good rule of thumb for us all.
But it wasn’t until the age of 12 that he got his first recording equipment, and that is when he began laying the groundwork for his career as a music producer. “When my cousin installed my first DAW, the software to produce and record music, that really sparked my interest in the craft of producing. This resulted with me starting to produce and arrange for every band that I was in.”
After playing gigs in Norway with several bands in his youth Etholm-Idsoee soon realized that, while he loved creating and playing music, the celebrity appeal of being a ‘rock star’ was not all that appealing to him.
“I never really had the urge to be a frontman,” explains Etholm-Idsoee. “I’ve always been interested in the recording and arranging aspects of music in many different genres… I’m a nerd, I love when I can sit down and make sounds and really geek out on the technical aspect of this type of work, something that never gets old for me at all.”
By that point he’d achieved an impressive skill level on multiple instruments and had several years of experience recording and producing for all of his own bands, so it came as no surprise when he was accepted to the highly competitive Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA., where he would go on to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Music Production and Engineering.
Whilst living in Boston, he was invited to work as a music producer on Nico Farias’ single ‘Que Los Mares No Se Enteren.’ With Farias already having the song written, Etholm-Idsoee and his co-producer Jason Strong came in and arranged the song and made additions to the melody. Earning Best Song of the Year from the 2015 Latin Billboard Awards and ranking No.1 on Guatemala’s iTunes chart, ‘Que Los Mares No Se Enteren’ was the first Latin pop song Etholm-Idsoee produced, and it quickly became a major international hit.
At around the same time that he began working with Farias, Etholm-Idsoee came on board as a lead music producer for the artist Naïka, who has since signed with Capitol Records/Universal Music Group.
Naïka says, “Peder and I have been working together for almost 3 years, and he has been a part of many of my projects. Our first release together was my first single ‘Ride,’ which has done extremely well, and led to me to my record deal with Universal Music Group. Since then, Peder has contributed to most of my upcoming singles that are to be released under UMG including ‘Serpentine,’ ‘Sleeping Pill,’ ‘Oh Mama’ and ‘Lose Control’.”
Taking the No.2 spot on Spotify’s Global Viral and US Viral charts, and being selected as one of the top 50 tracks on the Viral charts for more than 12 countries, Naïka’s not embellishing one bit when she says the single ‘Ride’ has done extremely well.
Earlier this month Naïka released the track ‘Serpentine,’ and like ‘Ride,’ music producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee played a pivotal role. Present from the very first session, Etholm-Idsoee created the bass riff in the chorus of ‘Serpentine’ using one of his synths, a key element that sets the dark and sexy mood of the track, and is the basis on which they built the rest of the song.
Amongst the many things that set him apart from other music producers in the U.S. is the fact that Etholm-Idsoee grew up in a different country. His Norwegian cultural background has not only had a huge impact on his musical influences and his approach to producing, but it has created an avenue for more creativity when it comes to working with artists in America.
“It has been such a pleasure having Peder by my side along the way,” Naïka explains. “Not only has his talent elevated my songs with his production skills, he has also helped me develop and define my artistry and my sound.”
Aside from being one of the lead producers for Naïka, he is also the music producer behind the rock band Migrant Motel, who’s newest single ‘Blue’ made it onto Spotify’s Rock Total playlist earlier this month. As Migrant Motel’s music producer since 2015, Etholm-Idsoee recorded and produced their debut album “Volume One,” which was released last year, and is currently working on the next releases, which are scheduled to drop later this year.
“I love being ‘the guy behind the glass’ working for the project. So producing for other artists is just right up my alley of what I like to do,” says Etholm-Idsoee. “I honestly just want to create music that provokes an emotion in people, either it is happiness you can share with your friends, being able to relax and enjoy the present, or helping a person through a tough time in his or her life, and I can keep doing that for the rest of my career, I would say that I have achieved my goal.”
When an artist releases a song to the public, people are often quick to judge whether or not they enjoy it. They take the song at face value, listen to it one or two times, and decide whether or not it is something they’d like to purchase or to play again. Regardless of whether or not they feel as though the song is a hit or not, they attribute its quality to the artist or band that released it. What they typically fail to consider are the teams behind these artists and how much hard work and dedication goes into bringing a track or an album to the public. It takes ensembles of skilled composers, songwriters, editors, and more to carefully piece together each and every aspect of the project. Potentially the most important of these roles lies in the caliber of the producer on the track, a job that Portuguese producer Rafael “Lhast” Alves knows better than most.
The role of a producer is intricate, and requires a well-developed, refined skill set to achieve success. Producers are responsible for a number of crucial roles such as brainstorming and gathering ideas for a project, finding ways to change or improve song arrangements, coaching artists during and outside of studio time, acquiring session musicians, leading and directing recording sessions, and much more. Essentially, producers are in charge of supervising the entire process of recording a song and ensuring that the artist or band that they are working with are more than content with the final product. Lhast, who has always been passionate about building a career out of his love for music, has spent his entire life learning how to master these skills and adapt them to every artist he works with. Throughout his time working as a producer, he has lent his talents to artists like Richie Campbell on his song “Do You No Wrong,” which received over 12 million views on YouTube, a Platinum Record Award for over 15,000 sales, as well as a nomination for a Portuguese Golden Globe. His reputable production style has also helped artists like Joao “Valas” Valido rise to fame. After Lhast both composed and produced Valas’ hit song, “As Coisas,” Valas was nominated for Up-And-Coming Artist at the New Era Awards and was the song that lead him to be signed by Portugal Universal. He is well versed in his art form and he is known for his ability to shed greatness upon the projects of the artists he works with.
In 2016, following the world-wide success of “Do You No Wrong,” Lhast was approached by Diogo Picarra to produce his song “Historia.” Knowing that Picarra was already a major artist in Portugal, Lhast knew that this would be a solid addition to his career. Picarra briefed Lhast on his vision for the song and Lhast was instantly confident that he was the best producer for the job. When artists approach him about a project, Lhast is always careful to ensure that he fully grasps the intentions of the artist but that he uses his own affinity for hit-making to refine the artist’s vision and target their intended audience strategically. He has a keen understanding of the industry and he takes great care to professionally propose any changes to the song arrangements that he sees fit. At the time that Picarra recruited Lhast, he already had the composition prepared. He was simply looking for a producer to take his groundwork on the single to the next level. Fortunately for Picarra, Lhast added his flare to the song’s elements and was likely the reason that Picarra went on to receive widespread recognition amongst fans and fellow artists alike.
“It was a very smooth process. Since Picarra already had the demo and composition for the song, I had the exciting task of adjusting these pieces to produce a five star, quality track. I suggested that we move the arrangement to draw attention in different areas and ironed out a lot of minor, yet important details. I also felt it necessary to record some other instruments on the track. In all, I wanted to make sure that the whole experience was sonically fresh and had great quality,” Lhast said.
High quality is exactly what the track had. 7 million YouTube views and a Gold Record for over 5,000 sales later, Picarra is still buzzing about what he and Lhast accomplished together. This, however, is not an unusual reaction for the artists that Lhast works with. His reputation has grown because of the way in which he conducts his work and his ability to guide his artists along the right path. Take Valas for instance. After years of working with Lhast on several different projects, he still finds himself impressed by his skills as a producer. He credits Lhast with his growth as an artist, and knows that he was instrumental to the success of his career so far.
“Rafael is a producer with great attention to detail and knowledge of the various listeners we try to target. Beyond that, I think he really stands out for his understanding of the public’s emotional response to a piece of work and how they will connect with it. He juggles the technical aspects of a song, as well as the emotional ones and the results are profound. I think he knows how to bring out the best in me and he is so incredibly in tune with what I’m trying to express through my music,” told Valas.
While artists find joy working with Lhast, his pleasure extends beyond that. He loves the open challenge that each new project presents and that there aren’t many rules regulating his creative mind. Despite the competition that surrounds him, he firmly believes that through hard work and persistence, great projects will find him. He sets his efforts toward perfecting his skill at any chance he gets and building discipline in the process. He is motivated every day and he truly loves what he does. He hopes that one day, he will be one of the greatest producers in the world. Maybe he will, or maybe his talents will steer him toward other great titles; however, one thing is for sure, he will stop at nothing to find out.
Venezuelan composer Carlos Felipe Silva was born a prodigy. He received his first music lessons when he was just 5 years old; by 7 he’d begun formally training in the violin. Silva took to it like a bird takes to flight, but a mind like his could never be restricted to a single instrument. In the young virtuoso’s head rang entire symphonies, and as he grew older it became clear what he was born to do.
“At 18, I had the opportunity to come to the States to attend the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan,” said Silva, recalling how music went from being his passion to his career. “It was during that time I realized how important music was to me. I knew from that moment on that I had to spend the rest of my life making music.”
Silva spent the next five years as a violinist with Venezuela’s world-renowned Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, led by world-renowned conductor and violinist Gustavo Dudamel, who has since become conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
“[After that], I got to study at my dream school — Berklee College of Music in Boston, the best place on earth to learn music,” Silva said. “I studied with world class instructors, and I was immersed in an environment that breathes music 24/7.”
By the time he earned his B.A. in Film Scoring from the ultra-exclusive Berklee College of Music, Silva already possessed more experience than many musicians gain in a lifetime. He immediately set out to prove his brilliance as a film composer, captivating audiences with his score for the 2015 thriller “Skye.” At the heart of the film is the titular Skye, a girl who is abducted for ransom by three of her male classmates. As the action intensifies and the plan goes south Skye finds herself walking the line between survival instinct and Stockholm Syndrome.
“‘Skye is a great thriller with fascinating turns. It shows the complexities of our society, and of how we react to life’s greatest challenges,” Silva said. “I wanted to create a score that could portray those complexities… In the first talk I had with the director we agreed upon a sonic landscape full of provocative elements and electronic pulses, with a lot of tension and suspense.”
Following the success of “Skye,” Silva didn’t waste a single second continuing his work. Within the year he had finished composing and recording his next masterstroke, “Clocks.”
“This piece and other cues were commissioned and produced by Moai Films, a production company based in L.A. I’d previously worked with them on the film ‘Matthew,’ and I developed a great relationship with Lukas Colombo, the head and creative mastermind behind Moai Films Productions,” Silva said. “It was an incredible opportunity to record and conduct a full orchestra… [who] brought the score to life, and we were all very satisfied with the results. The session was incredible, and I got to work with some of the best musicians in town.”
When writing “Clocks,” Silva drew his inspiration from the beating pulse of the sprawling cities he’d spent his life in, starting in Caracas, then Boston where he mastered his craft, and ultimately Los Angeles, where he currently spends each day creating and performing.
“‘Clocks’ was written to portray the intensity of modern lives in big cities, where we all strive to achieve our dreams, but forget about the simple things that make life meaningful,” he described soulfully. “We used a traditional instrumentation, where the trumpet has the main melody line which sits on top of a provocative string ostinato; the choir adds an emotional layer to whole composition.”
In a way, however, “Clocks” represents the exact opposite of who Silva is as a person. Though he’s led a metropolitan life, Silva has never been forced to choose between reaching his dreams and finding meaning in life. Through his music, he has captured both in equal measures. In that sense, Carlos Felipe Silva, the Venezuelan virtuoso, has discovered the true meaning of life.
“Music is everything in my life. It’s a gesture of love which must be shared with others. It’s an act of faith and spirituality, and it’s the best way for me to communicate,” he explained. “As Nietzsche said: ‘Without music, life would be a mistake.’’’
Ever since Ivan Copelli was a young boy, he has been bursting at the seams with creative talent. When his older brother played in his first band, Copelli would tag along for all of the group’s adventures, admiring their sound and the freedom they had to express themselves. It wasn’t until he turned 10 years old, however, when KISS performed in his hometown, that he realized that his life was pushing him to make music. He was consumed by this desire and he was ready to rock. From that night forward, his life changed forever and now, while others are out working to feed their families, Copelli is out working to feed his soul. He has a hunger within him that most aspiring professionals could only dream of having and it is what pushes him to exceed all expectations. He makes his living by simply living.
“As a musician, I get to immerse myself into many different manifestations of art and music. Especially live music. It is so magical. In developing myself as an artist, I get to collaborate with other artists and together, we get to build something really unique. The real gift, however, is getting to see the audience consuming my art. Watching them interact with the atmosphere I create and seeing them jump, scream, dance, vibrate, etc. It’s indescribable. We feed off of each other and it is such an amazing feeling. It makes me love being a musician,” said Copelli.
In 2004, a close friend of Copelli’s recommended that he audition to drum for a band called Motores. Unsure of whether or not the band would be the right fit for him, Copelli attended a few of their shows and found himself instantly drawn to their music. He was addicted to their energy and their authentic sound. Following a flawless audition, the band knew they needed Copelli’s talents to carry them to new heights and they immediately invited him to drum for them.
For the Brazilian drummer, this opportunity presented a new set of challenges. Motores was a punk rock band, and at the time, Copelli was used to playing pop/rock songs. Rather than letting this obstacle set him back, Copelli jumped at the opportunity use this new experience as an artistic challenge and he dove in head first. The benefits were mutual and while the band were able to share their punk rock knowledge with Copelli, he was able to adapt and to strengthen their music with his combination of experience and raw talent. That’s simply part of who he is as an artist. When he is presented with challenges, Copelli rises. He has a keen interest in expanding his musical knowledge wherever possible and does not limit him to specific genres or styles. It is this versatility that draws a vast array of audiences and other artists toward him.
In 2007, Motores was invited by MTV to take part in their hit reality television series, Rally MTV. Rally MTV is an eight-episode documentation of five original Latin American bands competing for international recognition, as well as the chance to film a music video to be aired on MTV networks across Latin America, Brazil and the United States. The competition was fierce and gained a lot of attention from rock music fans. After 21 days of filming in three different countries, Motores swept the competition and won the show, bringing the band a new level of fame and opportunity, a feat they wouldn’t likely have achieved without Copelli’s artistry.
When Brazilian entrepreneur and customer-focused development advocate, Paulo Ramos, worked with Motores, he experienced first-hand how invaluable talent like Copelli’s is for an, at the time, up-and-coming band. It became evident early on in Motores’ partnership with Ramos that the band’s success could be traced back to Copelli’s leading role.
“Motores has a full roster of supremely talented musicians and Ivan’s leading role as the drummer for the band makes him stand out as one of the most accomplished musicians in the Brazilian music industry. The combination of Ivan’s unprecedented skill, as well as his solid and consistent playing style made him a clear choice for the band, as he is able to repeatedly deliver top notch performances, whether it’s for the band’s albums, their live shows, or even their television performances. His pristine style of drumming not only expertly reflects the tone of the band as a whole, but also stamps their albums with his iconic style of drumming, creating a masterful blend of two truly excellent styles of music. It was inevitable that Ivan found his way to the spotlight based on his success with Motores and I am certain that his leading role in the band was influential for him in more ways than one,” told Ramos.
Winning the show meant wider international recognition for Motores and consequently, for Copelli, it opened several new doors for him to grow his presence in the industry. In fact, it was his great success with Motores that drove Kiara Rocks to seek his talents in 2010. With Kiara Rocks, Copelli recorded and released one of the biggest Brazilian rock albums in several years and he put his heart into the album in ways he hadn’t ever before. He was so inspired by this experience and overwhelmed with motivation to continue to bring excellent content to the realm of rock that he started his own band, Burlesca.
Having achieved such great success drumming in Brazil, Copelli is ready to take his talents all over the world. Whilst some drummers may be content with the milestones he has achieved, Copelli is always thirsty for more. It is not uncommon for him to be balancing several projects simultaneously and determining how best he can accommodate requests from other artists to lend his skill set. No matter which band he is playing for or which artists he is collaborating with, he is just fortunate to be able to do what he loves and to do it well. He aims to release as many records and work on as many albums with as many other musicians as he possibly can because for Copelli, music is who he is.
“It’s the only thing that has always stuck with me since I was a kid. It is the real me. It’s the magic that makes me feel complete every day,” concluded Copelli.
There are two types of people in the world: those that like to listen to music, and those that feel music. There is a distinct difference between the two, and only the latter will truly understand what that is. Kurt Szul is one of those people.
Originally from Calgary, Canada, Szul has become an international musical sensation in more ways than one. He has performed alongside some of the world’s most talented musicians, led bands, recorded on tracks that make their way to the top of the iTunes charts, taught students, composed music, scored films, and travelled the world sharing his talent. He is an iconic guitarist, with a passion for both music and his instrument that transcends into every note he plays.
“I appreciate that I am doing something that makes me happy daily. I love the freedom as I can create my own hours and do other things in life to create a good balance. I have also had the honor of playing with incredible, world-class musicians constantly. I play music on a high level which is fulfilling and I think touches the listener on a greater scale,” said Szul.
What is perhaps the most outstanding achievement of his extensive and esteemed career, however, does not come from actually playing the guitar, but rather, building one. Szul invented the 9-string-guitar, which later led to the creation of both the 7-string and 8-string guitars. All three are used around the world on a daily basis. He was 18-years-old at the time.
“Kurt’s skill on the 9-string-guitar has garnered interest at every show he performs with me. Great musicians have quizzed him on his style and the instrument, wondering how he plays with such ease and deftness. It’s always a treat to watch Kurt,” said Jay Jackson, the celebrated jazz vocalist and pianist.
Szul, recognized for his musicianship and contributions to the industry, was added as an artist to EMG’s huge list of product endorsers. He was given custom 9-string pickups and electronics, which were installed in his 9-string guitars, and giving an unbelievably amazing change in his tone and volume. Other artists include James Hetfield of Metallica, Steve Winwood, Lou Reed and Mike Inez of Alice in Chains.
At only 17, Szul began to become curious about different tunings that are possible on the guitar, which led to him becoming fascinated with symmetrical tunings, meaning that each string to string interval is the same going up. Such a fascination is not the norm for guitar players, and growing up in a small Canadian city, Szul had no knowledge of anyone ever experimenting in such a way.
“I just trusted myself and ran with it. The tuning I chose though had a limited range on a regular 6-string-guitar, so I went on a quest to see if building an extended range guitar was possible. I was met with a lot of resistance with purists along the way. I took the hard road and stuck to my guns. I ended up designing the prototype 9-string-guitar and built it,” said Szul.
Szul says took a leap of faith when he first started on this journey. Not many teenagers have the ambition or drive to create and develop a new instrument. He was aware that early guitars had a few variations. His invention was seen by other guitarists and musicians as an oddity, a revolutionary idea and a curiosity. He is consistently approached by others, wanting to understand his thought process and what he is doing. Originally, he was met with resistance, but now the musician community has accepted Szul’s unique design because of the high level that he brought it to. It is now a valid idea, and EMG recognized his hard work and dedication.
“Anything that is new and bold will encounter resistance at first. But times are definitely changing. I feel that over the years, my 9-strings and playing have received so much exposure that some of the big companies such as Ibanez and Schecter have started producing extended range guitars. These are mostly genre specific though and still use the standard tuning. Information, trading ideas and creation has never been so easy as it is now. People seem to be very open minded now to innovations. I feel that my invention helped pave the way to making the guitar world open up to new possibilities. I have only noticed this ripple effect taking place in the past five to ten years, from my idea decades ago,” he described.
While creating his instrument, the prototype needed constant modifications, ultimately getting rid of the kinks. Even now, years after he first created the 9-string, Szul is constantly tinkering with them to make them sound and play better. While doing this, he became an expert in string types and gauges, experimenting over the years with string gauge versus pitch, finding the optimal tension for each string based on his unique tuning.
“I have always felt that the standard tuning was great at some things but not at others. Experimenting on different tunings when I was a teenager gave me a glimpse of different possibilities. At the time, I wasn’t always sure where I was going with this but now that I have a long career between then and now, my risk paid off. The tuning makes perfect sense to me and has allowed me to play many things that are not possible with the conventional tuning.
Szul has also received an artist deal with Arturia, a major synthesizer and software company. Initially, he thought about patenting the 9-string, and was encouraged to do so throughout the years, but he wanted to share my experience and invention openly. He would encourage people to dream, plan, work and achieve like he did.
“I think that if we listened to the naysayers and our own inner voice (when it’s skeptical), we wouldn’t get what we all need to do to achieve happiness done,” he concluded.
The 9-string guitar far surpassed his expectations. Years ago, Szul read a statistic in Guitar Player Magazine that said only six per cent of musicians that start off in the field make a great career out of it. Now, he is in that top percentile, paving the way for new musicians to make it there as well.
When Jose Roman thinks of his childhood, growing up in Quito, Ecuador, he recalls being exposed to a great variety of different music genres, artists and styles. As far back as he can remember, his dad would play him classical music, from Bach to Chopin. His mother, a self-taught pianist, inspired him to try playing the electric organ in his house. Later, when his parents purchased an acoustic piano, Roman experienced for the first time, the sensation of falling in love. He knew, no matter where life took him, the piano would be his driving force, and now at 27 years old, this remains his truth.
Roman has become an internationally successful musician, gaining fame as a member of the rock band Daphne’s Roots. He has always been a strong composer, writing hit songs and catchy melodies. His keyboard skills are instantly identifiable on a track, and his classical roots are an evident source of inspiration, no matter what genre he is playing.
“As my musical background grew while I aged, I listened to more keyboard driven bands such as Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Queen and Dream Theater, just to name a few, the transition to play the keyboards was a given. My love for music was then solidified,” he said. “But now, I always try bending different flavours in my playing from my classical roots to blues, rock and even some electronic music.”
Despite his success with Daphne’s Roots, Roman’s versatility lends itself to all mediums, from accompanying individual artists, such as Sahandra Sundstrom’s Thinkin’ Out Loud, and even films. The 2016 drama 30 Days with My Brother, features an original song accompanied by Roman, as the producer Omar Mora, had heard the pianist’s previous work and knew he needed him to be a part of the music department.
“Once I heard how the concept of the song related to the movie, I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to make a top quality compelling work as a keyboardist. I realized that the style of the song was right on my ally. I was very inspired the whole time I was working on my keyboards part and I felt very comfortable doing it. I really liked the song so working on it was very pleasing and the keyboard arrangements came to me very naturally,” Roman described.
The song titled “Never Too Late” was written by Andrea Sandoval, the singer. When Roman started working on the track, the melody and basic structure were already taken care of, so his job was to enhance the harmony, write and perform all the keyboard parts. The song was mainly piano and vocals driven with some strings arrangement that Roman also wrote and recorded. It was vital to the film’s story and the film’s success.
“When I first heard about this movie I was immediately fascinated by how original and interesting the plot was. Then when I was asked to be part of the music department and record and arrange the keyboard part for the main song featured in the movie I was very excited. It was a no brainer for me since I love to collaborate with these amazing talents. When I heard the demo of the song and how it relates to the film I knew this was an amazing opportunity to create something memorable,” he said.
With a 92 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5-star rating on Fandango, 30 Days With my Brother has resonated with audiences. It tells the story of Alexis and Jonathan, two brothers from Puerto Rico that were separated after a terrible family tragedy. After 17 years, Alexis has become a doctor while Jonathan has become entangled with a dangerous group of people. One day, suddenly, Alexis packs up his things and moves to Los Angeles on a mission to reconnect with his long-lost brother. The two brothers meet and are forced to face their past, themselves and try to restore the bonds of brotherhood.
“It’s always satisfying to know that good movies are recognized and well received. It is particular rewarding to be part of such an extraordinary project that is highly celebrated. I always knew from the very beginning that 30 Days with My Brother was going to be a great success, since it has heart and top-quality production. I feel honoured to have been part of this project,” said Roman.
After premiering at the famous American Cinematheque’s historic Egyptian Theaterin Hollywood in April of last year, the film was picked up by AMC for national distribution across the United States. The song was essential for the film, and Roman’s contributions greatly affected the feeling, encapsulating the story and the struggles the brothers were going through. The song is piano driven, with intimate vocals. It has a memorable piano hook at the beginning, and a very sensitive keyboard interlude in the middle of the song.
“I believe that the balance between the vocals and piano accompaniment was essential for the song success within in the film. It is a very simple, but at the same time very touching piano ballad,” said Roman.
Producer and writer Omar Mora could not agree more. When he first heard the song, he was ecstatic, giving Roman the confidence to know that they had accomplished something special. Mora was so impressed, in fact, that he asked Roman to work alongside him once again on future projects.
“Jose is very easy to work with, and he is very professional,” said producer Omar Mora.
The next short film Mora is producing, titled White Orchid, is expected to premiere late this year. Audiences once again will be privy to Roman’s original music while watching that film. It is definitely something to look forward to.
International Entertainment, and the Talents that Leave us Buzzing….