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.
As a musician, Alex Stewart knew that performing never intrigued him. Instead, it was the avenues of music that didn’t involve a stage. With a passion for television and the movies, he found himself drawn to the power of a score and its ability to alter the emotions of a scene. He realized at only 16 years old that he wanted to be a part of the aspect of movie magic and has never looked back. He is now a celebrated composer with countless esteemed projects on his decorated resume, and as the masses enjoy his work, he knows this is what he was destined to be doing.
Stewart has made quite a name for himself in his home of Australia and in the United States, composing for hit shows like Paradise Hotel, The Contender, and The Curse of Civil War Gold, and films like Cosmic Fling. He knows how to entertain through his music, and how to tell a story. Composing for reality television requires a unique touch, as it is real people’s lives you are conveying through each note. He executes such a large task with perfection with every project he takes on.
“I believe that a piece of music is only as good as its fundamental idea. If your melody, chord progression, or original idea is bad, then there is no way the piece can be good. I often spend the most time working on just the idea because it’s easy to build the piece if the idea is good. Badly written music can easily ruin a project,” said Stewart.
Music is an essential part of the experience when watching any film or television show, and Stewart knows this well. On Fox’s acclaimed reboot of the reality show Temptation Island, Stewart knew that his score was of the utmost importance to keep audiences engaged.
In this social experiment, four couples at a crossroad in their relationship put their love to the test by giving “single life” a try. On the Hawaiian island of Maui, they’ll take a break from each other while living in separate houses with sexy singles to discover if there is another partner with whom they are more compatible. In the end, will the couples leave together? Will they leave with one of the island’s “tempters”? Or will they break up and go home alone? Whatever the outcome, there is plenty of drama along the way.
“As we watch the events and drama that unfolds, it raises questions that many people might not normally ask themselves about their own relationships, both intimate and not intimate. Some of the people in this show rediscover a love and value in their partner, and others realize that maybe they’re better off taking different paths. It’s important for us to question why we choose to have certain people in our lives so we, as individuals, can thrive and not let others stand in the way of us getting to where we want to be,” said Stewart.
Stewart works with the immensely popular music production company Burnett Music Group on the show, who constantly reach out to the composer for contract work, knowing he is one of the best. Burnett was looking for a modern pop style sound with elements of tropical music that underscored the drama. This presented a fun challenge for Stewart, as these are two styles of music that do not typically go together. Therefore, a lot of the music he wrote for the show is electronic, but with instruments that make one think of the beach, like ukulele, steel pan, bongos, and conch shell. They were also looking for a vast range of emotions, everything from deep sadness, to upbeat dancing music, and Stewart delivered. His music captured the show very well, letting the audience be taken away with the cast to the tropical island through the sound, and also amplifying the emotions in each scene.
“I liked the challenge of combining modern pop with tropical/island sounds in various emotions and energy levels. But outside of that, I really liked working with the other people on the project. Everyone involved was an awesome person and easy to work with. I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to get better at writing quickly. Sometimes I struggle with getting things done fast, so I used this project to practice getting music written and mixed within a day. I always enjoy challenging myself,” he said.
Temptation Island premiered on the USA Network on January 15th, 2019. It was a weekly episodic show that ran for 11 episodes, with extremely high ratings. For Stewart, that success is secondary, as he just likes to make music that audiences enjoy listening to.
“It feels nice to know that I was able to be a part of a show that so many people enjoy. It was a great project to contribute to. Seeing all the ads and hearing people talk about it online has been awesome and I’m certainly happy that most of the reviews and talk around this show has been positive. I look forward to the chance to work on another season,” he concluded.
Always a musician, Canada’s Michael Shlafman found himself drawn into the world of composing and orchestrating for film and television because of its limitless possibilities. There are almost no creative boundaries when working in the medium outside of what is dictated by the needs of the project. He can go from working on a score that features a jazz trio one day to a symphony orchestra the next, and that is what excites him; he simply aims to make authentic and sincere music, with endless flexibility and an eagerness and willingness to always be learning and growing.
“I like to think that my style of composing is whatever it needs to be for a given project – after all, that’s what I love so much about working in this medium in the first place. Though I really love to write music that combines traditional acoustic instruments with electronic elements such as recorded and manipulated sound effects, synthesizers, etc. into a hybrid sound that blends sound design with more traditional styles of music,” he said.
Throughout his esteemed career, Shlafman has become an internationally sought-after composer and orchestrator. Millions around the world have heard his work, whether in the multi-million dollar movie Pet Sematary (orchestrator) or the television shows LARPs: The Series (composer) and Best. Worst. Weekend. Ever. (additional music). He has also worked on several acclaimed documentaries, like La Guerra, My Indiana Muse, Botero, and more, knowing just how music can enhance the genre though it needs to be done with a little more care and respect than may be required for a fictional story.
“I think there’s a really interesting distinction to be made between working on documentaries versus working in fiction, especially regarding the music. For starters, documentaries are real. They’re about real people/events, and as such they require a slightly different treatment that is perhaps more careful and respectful. When you’re working on a movie based on a fictional story, of course you still need to be tasteful and respectful, but the characters in the film are never going to watch it. I feel that there’s a lot of pressure to do right by the subjects of a documentary, as there should be. You can’t just throw any music over some painful moment of someone’s life that was caught on camera as though it were a soap opera, it needs to be handled delicately,” said Shlafman.
Music can be a very manipulative tool in documentaries if not used responsibly, and Shlafman always makes sure to do the film’s subject justice when he works. Music changes how an audience reacts emotionally to a piece of film, and for a documentary, where the filmmaker’s job is to present fact and truth as cleanly as possible, music can sometimes be too leading. Shlafman makes sure not to taint the story through the music and does his best to help the director present a perspective as unbiased as possible.
“Music can also really help with the pacing of documentaries. No matter how interesting the subject is, sitting through over an hour of interviews or ‘talking heads’ can get tiresome, and music can help make it feel faster,” he said
David Bertok’s score for Botero, which Shlafman orchestrated,is a perfect example of how a score can set the pace of a documentary. The film is a poetic documentary profile of Colombian artist Fernando Botero and provides a behind-the-scenes chronicle of the life and art of this painter and sculptor – the world’s most recognized living artist.
“I wanted to work on Botero because it’s a very engaging and thrilling story about a world-renowned artist, Fernando Botero. I think it’s important to share these stories so that they’re not forgotten and so that their legacy lives on,” he said.
As an orchestrator on the film, Shlafman played a pivotal role in the post-production process. When a composer creates a mockup on a computer, it is designed to sound as convincing and realistic as possible. The issue then lies in translating that data to a piece of paper that a musician can perform from and achieving a better version of the intended sound through the use of professional musicians with decades of experience. That translation is at the crux of what an orchestrator does, and his role with this project was to help take the data from the mockups and create scores that could be read by the musicians, fulfilling the composer’s vision of the score. In the end, they had a live string orchestra, and with Shlafman’s dedicated work, it turned out beautifully.
These thoughts were echoed by critics, as Botero went on to win several awards at festivals all around the world. Shlafman is proud to have been part of the film, especially one that tells the story of such an iconic artist.
“It’s always a good feeling to know that something you worked on was successful, and even more so when you really believe in the importance of the story. I think it’s important to honor great artists, and this is an excellent way to help preserve Botero’s legacy,” he concluded.
There is no greater feeling in the world for Samuel Lam than to hear his music played by other musicians. As a film composer, this is something he gets to experience on a regular basis, and why he loves what he does so much. Every musician adds their own personality into his music and interprets it differently in their own ways, and he believes that is the true artistry to his role, and every day he gets to work with musicians from all over the world.
Throughout his esteemed career, Lam has shown why he is such a renowned composer and orchestrator in China. With celebrated projects like Crazy Alien, Who Lives My Life?, Delay of Game, and more under his belt, he has continuously shown the world what he is capable of, and he has many more plans to keep doing so. He is currently working on several exciting new projects, including Paramount’s Playing with Fire, starring John Cena, Judy Greer and Keegan-Michael Key.
Lam’s new film My Ex-Girlfriend is a Shovel will be having its official world premiere later this month at the Palm Springs International Shortfest on June 21st, 2019. It is also an Official Selection in numerous film festivals, such as the Montana Film Festival, Calgary International Film Festival, Reel Shorts Film Festival, Creative Artist Agency Moebius 3, and the Bogotá Short Film Festival so far, with many more expected to come later this year.
“I am really glad that this film can reach out to so many audiences. It is a truly unique story, and I hope the audience will not only have a good laugh, but also be moved by the story. That is the real reward,” said Lam.
My Ex-Girlfriend Is a Shovel tells the compelling story of a woman named Coral after her girlfriend of three years breaks up with her. Coral soon realizes that her ex wasn’t actually a person, but was in fact a shovel. Ultimately, Coral must confront her shovel ex- girlfriend to be able to move on.
After Lam read the script, he was immediately interested and touched by it. The heart of the story is very relatable, and the director had his own unique way to tell the story.
“It is a story about a woman who is in love with a shovel, but the more honest answer is this is a film about the way we remember our exes, and the way we objectify the people who we loved and who have hurt us. So even though it is a comedy, it has an emotionally relatable side as well,” said Lam.
My Ex-Girlfriend is a Shovel obviously tells a very unique story, using an extreme and comedic way to portray the hardship of getting over a devastating breakup. The choice of music greatly affected the emotion and meaning conveyed by different scenes.
Dezi Gallegos, the director, had a very clear voice in his mind. Together, Lam and Gallegos spotted the film, which had already been filled with temporary music. They discussed the concept behind the film, and Lam pushed for the music to have a serious tone, even for the comedic parts, and maintain an indie feel within the score. For example, during a comedic montage sequence in the project, which is showing the memories of the main character with her girlfriend “Shovel”, instead of scoring the scene with comedy music, Lam took this scene very seriously, and scored the montage with a beautiful piano solo. As a result, not only do audiences have a good laugh during the screening because of the contrast, but they also have a bittersweet feeling from the momentous scene.
“Nothing makes me happier than writing music for an interesting story. It is a very fun collaboration, and the director gave me a lot of freedom on the music. My favorite part is seeing the reaction of the audience during the screening,” said Lam.
My Ex-Girlfriend is a Shovel perfectly captures what Lam is capable of as a composer, and is a can’t miss.
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.
China’s Youjia Qian sees herself as a very perceptual person. She has always been extremely immersed in music and words. As an art director and stylist, she has the ability to take those things and create a visual for them. Through her work, she combines her original style with the needs and wants of those she collaborates with, turning out masterpieces over and over again.
Qian is best known for her work on a number of acclaimed music videos. These include “Devil in California” by Burna Boy, “Death Wish” by DeathbyRomy, and several hits for Gab3, including “Talking to Me” and “Hollywood Angel” featuring BEXEY. She is one of the leaders in her industry in both her home country and abroad and has no plans on slowing down.
“I think being an art director enables me to effectively communicate what I want to express in my heart and show the more profound feelings in the form of a visual. I want to present what I have seen and what I have learned and experienced through my work,” she said.
Just last year, Qian collaborated with hip hop artist Roy Woods on one of her most renowned projects to date. The music video for the artist’s hit “Say Less” has amassed over four million views on YouTube alone since its debut in November. It was issued WMG (Warner Bros Label); UBEM, Sony ATV Publishing and CAMERA and four other brands.
“Roy Woods is an artist that I truly admire. I started hearing more about him in the music industry after he signed a contract with Drake. There are so many personal emotions in his music and I also feel that I could feel something that he wants to express in his music. Many of my young friends like his music,” said Qian.
Qian was brought onto the project thanks to her good professional relationship with Gab3, who directed the video. Qian has worked on several of Gab3’s music videos, and he knew she was just the right person to help make Roy Woods’ video a hit. The teamwork between the three artists led the video to enormous success.
“It is so exciting that everybody likes our work and I also hope to collaborate with all kinds of artists again in the future. I hope to continue to reach a wide range of audiences and have my work impact many people.,” said Qian.
As the song “Say Less” is filled with emotion, Qian used that to set the tone for the entire music video. To prepare for the shoot, she spent most of her time listening to the song and all of Roy Woods’ music, to understand just what type of artist he is and what he wanted to express in the song. She decided after her research on a color tone of red. The actors in the music video are filtered by this, and it creates a specific mood that fits right in with the song. Gab3 supported her decision and worked closely with Qian during the shoot.
“We had really good communication as a team. I understood what Roy Woods wanted to express in his music, so I could create what he wanted visually, including the color and the switching of lens,” Qian described. “I like his music, which helped me to have a better understanding of his direction in the project. The people that I worked with on this project were great and I felt very comfortable with, which made the work that much more enjoyable.”
Check out the video for “Say Less” and admire Qian’s outstanding work.
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.
When watching your favorite movie, the score is what truly creates the emotion behind each scene. Check out videos on YouTube where iconic clips from films have different music in the background, completely changing the feeling you have when watching. As a composer, Min He sees her role in filmmaking as more than simply writing music. For the Chinese native, a score is a second layer of dialogue. Her notes strung together act as sentences in their own way, making you laugh or cry, and feel scared, happy, or suspenseful; she is a dramatist. This understanding of such nuances is what makes He so talented at what she does, and it is why she is so sought-after around the world.
“I wanted to be a professional composer because music is such a beautiful thing in my world. I wanted to be able to create any kind of music I felt like,” said He.
Although He is a classically trained composer, she has created a distinctive and unique sound that separates her from her peers. She composes in a hybrid style, combining tradional instruments with a synthesizer, and even designs her own sounds to feature in her compositions. Examples of this can be heard in her work for the popular iPhone game Pursuit of Life 2, and the films Princess Eun Hwa, and Snow. Her work on the animation film Ever Star lead to outstanding success, and resulted in the film being an Official Selection at the Official Selection- Northwest Animators Showcase, Animex Awards 2015, 10th Annual Children’s Film Festival Seattle 2015, Sarasota Film Festival, International Animation Festival CHILEMONOS 2015, Festimation Festival, The World Animation Celebration, and the Geneva International Film Festival.
“I had the immense pleasure working of working with Min on Ever Star. I like how delicate her music is, and all the melodies she composed are all from deep within her heart, it was so touching, and many audience members approached me after watching the film to ask to listen to more of Min’s music. Without Min’s beautiful music, my movie is nothing,” said Yawen Zheng, the animator and director of Ever Star.
This trend of captivating fans with her music occurs with every project the award-winning composer works on. On the film No Smoking (Jin Zhi Xi Yan, 禁止吸烟) He once again provided audiences the wonderful sense of escapism that comes from listening to her compositions. The film, directed by Xinwen Dong and Gang Wu, was an opportunity for He to work in one of her favorite genres: comedy.
The film premiered in January of 2014, and was released in theatres in China. It was extremely well-received, screening at the Shanghai Film Festival 2014 where the directors were nominated for the Asian New Talent Award. The film then went on to be broadcasted on the very popular Chinese television station CCTV-6 (China Central Channel). Now, it is on the famous live streaming service, 1905.com, where it holds a record of 1,750,000 views.
When the directors were looking for a composer to help bring their film to great success, they immediately thought of He and the esteemed reputation she holds not only in China, but internationally as well. She is not only a composer, but also an orchestrator, and knowing this, they approached her to work on the film. They had immense trust in her work ethic and music, and that faith was justified. Without her, the film could not have achieved what it did. Her music brought the audience into the world that the movie presents, and because this is a comedy, many funny scenes that make audience laugh out loud did so with He’s compositions. She tried to make funny sounding melodies to add a fun part to the movie, and she succeeded.
“I really like to explore new area of music style that I never touched and working with different instrumentalists and learning new instruments are very fun parts of music creation. Every time I delivered some cues to the directors, I not only got approval, but also praise. It was very satisfying,” she said.
The story of the film takes place in North West China, an exotic part of the country with beautiful natural scenery, and a different culture than the rest of the country. He wanted her music to represent the geography in the film. She extensively researched the area’s music, including their folk songs, and native instruments. The composer enjoys expanding her realm of knowledge, learning about new styles that she has never encountered before, keeping her humble. This research was fruitful, and her score truly transports audiences to the area of China. To find out more, however, He says you will have to watch the movie.
“I think the film is such a good story and everyone should see it,” she concluded.
Head to 1905.com to laugh out loud watching No Smoking and listen to He’s beautiful work.
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.
International Entertainment, and the Talents that Leave us Buzzing….