My Other Life…

Here’s a newly posted hidden track from “Phase 3” which was posted about a week ago. Check the previous post for more info on that…

In an alternate reality, I actually walk and talk among living, breathing people. It’s really not that different from this reality, but one thing is drastically different: I have a career there. I know, scary. What’s worse, I sometimes have to pretend to have a functioning adult brain… “WTF?” You may be asking yourself, questioning the fabric of space and time and it’s many folds and wrinkles…

The essential bit here is that I am somehow being sent to the studios of some of the biggest artists and producers in the music industry to train them on some of the best software on the market. I’ve trained a lot of big people, from 1/2 of LMFAO to Duran Duran, Atrak to Zedd, and many more. So I’m going to start conveying these other-worldly, and infinitely inspiring experiences along here. They deserve documentation and this is a part of what I am and what I am becoming. Naturally, some things cannot be repeated when dealing with some of the biggest artists in the world… A lot of money relies on secrets, hype and perception. But I will try to give a glimpse into how these people affect my experience as an artist and how they inspire me, often in completely unsuspected ways.

I will go back in time over the last few months in the coming weeks, but while it is fresh in my head, I will begin with last week, when I had the pleasure of training 2 separate, but equally astonishing talents: Harmony and Cliff Martinez.

Harmony was on Tuesday and is one of the more prolific R&B producers today. He produced Mary J Blige’s long overdue Grammy-winning album, “Growing Pains” which set off his career, leading him to work with virtually every headlining R&B act today. All of those same names and more adorned his dry-erase board of current projects, speaking to his staying power 5 years on. From his continued success, Harmony has built a beautiful studio complex where he conducts every stage of the song writing/production process.

The studio I was lead into was beautiful, immaculately finished, and decorated with instruments and artwork that inspire Harmony. There was a vocal booth attached, and I felt very at home. I snapped this quick image on Instagram…

After our training, Harmony was kind enough to bestow some priceless advice to me, explaining some of the hits and misses in his career. Main thing, “get a manager!” He also explained how now with some success, he can control more of the process, finding the people who he works best with. This affords him the ability to write, produce, record, mix and master entire songs in under 24 hours. The value to a label, having a finished product as opposed to a beat or instrumental, is incomparable. After some more words of wisdom, Harmony showed me the A studio (where one of his next hits was being engineered) which was at least 3 times the size of the earlier room, my head was swimming. One of the best parts of these trainings is the unexpected advice and wisdom that I am able to benefit from, and Harmony was so genuinely giving of his. It’s no mystery why people like him, and continue to go back and work with him.

In the later half of last week, I drove to the mountains above Malibu to work with Film Scoring legend, fellow Ohio native and recent Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Cliff Martinez. Steven Soderberg’s go-to composer since the beginning of his career, Cliff got his start in the early punk scene in LA, most notably as a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Cliff eventually landed his first film scoring gig working for PeeWee’s Playhouse (one of the most influential and my most beloved tv shows of my childhood) making “music out of fart noises” as he told me. He mentioned an old Tibetan horn that he used, which he said produced “the perfect balance of tonality and flatulence.”

Cliff, like some of the other artists I have trained, is living what many of us reclusive music producers would consider an ideal life. He works at home, allowing him to avoid the LA driving experience (perhaps the most sought after job perk in LA) and he has converted much of his home into a working studio/performance space. He can roll out of bed in the morning, have a coffee and be making sound in 2 minutes. What more can we ask for?! I’ve worked hard to attain that lifestyle, myself.

While updating and installing software, we talked at length about the creative process, how he likes to work versus how he often HAS to work and producing while traveling. He told me about a recent talk he gave at SXSW about a film he had just completed in a hotel room using his mobile studio setup, which consisted of a 17-inch MacBookPro, some so-so headphones and mini-keyboard… If that doesn’t give hope to aspiring film composers, I don’t know what will…

Even better, Cliff is an avid steel drum player, one of my favorite instruments. He had two rooms of steel pans, bass and tenor, and maybe more that I simply did not see. Color me jealous. Of course, his favorite instrument, the Baschet Cristal, resides in his living room, prominently displayed, and eminently ready to be performed and recorded. This video, about the making of the soundtrack for Drive, shows Cliff in his living room surrounded by his instruments. He reminded me of two of my biggest professional influences and role models who are both from southern Ohio also, my Aunt Rachel Martin and her son, my Uncle Tom Martin, and this video gives the viewer a glance into his very likable personality.

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