Nicole Russin-McFarland is an incredible multi-talented person. She’s a film director, music composer, journalist, model and more! During her tender youth art was coursing in her veins. She spent her childhood studying classical music and today she’s well prepared as to pleasantly surprise everybody with her art. Last year, the world first heard her compositions with the release of The Eyes of Old Texas soundtrack, so if you want to discover more about Nicole and her interesting life please read this interview.
1 – You’re very well known for your classical music compositions. Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
I love all kinds of film scores, whether they are traditional (Hans Zimmer) or experimental (The Social Network by Trent Reznor). Because none of us are ever perfect, you can never stop learning. Sometimes, I’ll listen to a particular century of classical music on the radio. It just depends. When I was in school and taking lessons, I had to play Rachmaninoff a lot, so I’m kind of sick of his work! LOL! Though I now love working with crazy chromatics, which I have a lot of saved up on themes I want to use.
2 – Tell us a little about your composing style/method.
I love chromatics for some reason. Also lately, when I’ve been doing themes for a particular film project goal I have in mind and doing really rough drafts, I’ve been fascinated by themes that start and end on the same note. Of course, because our first movie uses “The Eyes of Texas” – that’s how it’s called The Eyes of Old Texas, for the old song – I didn’t have much room to play with. But on the track “I Know What to Do,” I proudly made it really evil with lots of brass. Usually, the song is this really sweet and happy school theme song. I’m glad I got to make it angry for once.
3 – What’s your favorite and least favorite movie soundtrack?
I just love Gladiator’s score. It was one of the first ones I bought, and ironically, with an Eminem album and I want to say Christina Aguilera. That goes to show you how eclectic I am. Some of it almost sounds like it could’ve been out of a 1940’s or 1950’s drama. And then we have that really amazing theme that isn’t really in the movie a lot but plays when Maximus just confronted Commodus in the arena. When you remember a theme that much, you know someone’s done an outstanding job. I mention Hans Zimmer at times, so let’s have some backstory on him. Remember Pharrell doing both of the Despicable Me soundtracks? Pharrell actually did more than the “Happy” tune. He did a lot of the music, and Hans Zimmer was his boss on those films.
Alexandre Desplat is pretty much the other standard gentleman when it comes to great film scores. I advise people to check him out.
As far as least favorite film score, I don’t like those generic scores that fade into the background you usually hear on romantic comedies. Or any comedy. Throw in random clarinet here because Ryan Reynolds needs to break up. Stuff like that. A good score makes you remember the music as much as the movie.
4 – Have you only made soundtracks for animated/cartoon films? Why you love this movie genre so much?
No. Animation just happens to be what we are starting out with. I as a film director want to eventually branch out of that to doing both animation and live action. I have a lot of ideas, but due to the way filmmaking works, you don’t one day come out with your masterpiece as your first film. Nobody will watch it. You need to be established first – and that’s why I chose animation with my film’s co-executive producer because we both love animation, but at the moment, we also both have side occupations we’re trying to work on. He’s a celebrity chef and NYC restauranteur in addition to being a rocker. His rock band was the first professionally touring metal band in China. Meanwhile, I’m trying to get the books side of Lucky Pineapple Books + Films heavily established so I can have a bigger staff of people running things in the near future while I work on my movies. And, I’m currently animating this film…MYSELF. I have a lot to take on before I move onto scoring live action.
5 – Did you feel ready to call yourself a music composer after the release of ‘The Eyes of Old Texas’ soundtrack?
Of course! You are a composer when you release your first work to the world professionally. I would’ve loved to have called myself a composer when I was 11 to 12 though. Technically, I enjoyed composing then, and some of the themes I want to use in my future film scores are from that time period of my life. When you write a good theme, or at least a theme that sticks in your head for that long, it’s all how you do the rest. You really only need the theme. What you do with it can range from any kind of sound or emotion. You’ll see this a lot if you look at some of your favorite films. Indiana Jones is a great example of this my teacher made us study for our homework assignment. I guess unlike everyone else, I was paying attention in class! We had to play that and see how the same theme changes. The other day, I rematched the movies on TV as they had a marathon and I saw, “Yeah! That’s true!” The theme shifts around the whole movie beautifully, but it’s the same theme. You do so much with a simple basic theme.
6 – Are you currently working on a new movie soundtrack? Please let us know something fresh about it.
I have things saved on my computer and iPad I want to work with, but because I’m not done yet with finishing The Eyes of Old Texas – in both the animation process which is hard, and in how we’ve recently filmed backgrounds locally in Peru, Argentina, Chile, and are hitting Brazil – I want to focus on finishing the movie for now. As I said, the main importance is completing the themes, anyway. When the time comes to use them, I will be fine as I have the basics down.
7 – What do you love most about what you are currently doing?
My mind gets really bored by knowing what will happen next. For my mind to be happy, I have to train it like I’m doing puzzles. What that means is I have zero tolerance for doing the same thing over and over again. Of course, making a movie and composing classical music does involve some repetition, but nowhere near what most “regular” jobs involve.
For example, journalism I did not related to food or cinema. When I wrote about divorce and depressing relationship articles ages ago for one place I did journalism for, I hated it. Not only was it so awful to interview people about depressing subject matter, it felt like the same thing nonstop. I really wasn’t using my brain. I was sitting there taking notes and rewriting what people said about horrible things happening to them. Later on, I did this again, but the subject changed to stuff like, “Someone wants to take away my apartment.” Or people suing someone. I currently once in a while do food or film related journalism, at least interviewing someone in fashion, but because those people talk more about positive topics and creativity involved, and often business, I’m more interested. So not all journalism is bad and deadly.
8 – Have you ever being criticised for being a female music composer?
I’ve never had criticism about my gender with the job, but I have dealt with lots of sexist comments. I always explain it like this to people. When a young boy says he wants to direct movies, people give him a camera and how to book. When a girl says the same thing, they ask her to be an actress. Which is what happened to me all the time from 11 up to 27 until I, for lack of a better gesture, began speaking my mind when people told me to do. I’m not opposed to acting. If ever Will Ferrell called me up to be in Zoolander 3, I would love it. I love being funny and telling jokes. But acting is a choice someone makes. People often are really disrespectful when you express your interest in making movies or composing music. They ask you, “Why?” But men or young boys don’t get the why question. And, the other thing is, when I say what I want to film or compose, people have other suggestions for me. A women’s themed film CAN be good, like In Her Shoes, or it could be a disaster like most of them out there. And that’s what people generally, especially women, suggest I make. As far as music, women also like soft, dainty songs that don’t really have any particular strengths. Yet, I don’t.
9 – Which music composers or film directors would you like to collaborate with?
As far as music composers, James Horner died, so I can’t really collaborate with him. With my first soundtrack, we blended Brian Tsao’s rock music into chunks of it. I’d love to do that again with him forever…collaborate on film and music and see it sell big like a John Williams score! Or something putting classical over a shocking genre, like country or rap. Weird stuff like that always sounds good because it’s like how this horrible sounding fusion cuisine item on the menu may taste delicious! Being adventurous is the way to go! With film directors, I’m open to anybody who is serious about their work and blending music into it. The person doesn’t have to be famous. They can be an up and comer who’s made a few movies but wants to be the new Tim Burton, for example, and has that drive. Pedro Almodovar could be a fun gentleman to compose for though. He really uses music a lot in his work. And his work is crazy. I love that he defies standard genres. I’d say any DreamWorks cartoon too. I would jump for joy and dance in my room if DreamWorks Animation hired me to direct cartoons and compose the scores for them. I love Shrek so much and How to Train Your Dragon. The attitude!
10 – What are your future plans for 2016?
I want to do anything in my power in 2016 to make Lucky Pineapple Books + Films a force to reckon with. Everyone has to start from somewhere. And as I cannot rub in enough about my love of working for the “next Steven Spielberg” or whoever that “next” is, I hope people will see how I feel… when they look at me. Our culture is weird because we want all our actors to look unnaturally young and/or not to work with anyone over 30 for roles written for women in their 30s and 40s as Anne Hathaway has discussed, but we cling on the established film directors and composers. I love the guy, but honestly, at some point John Williams will no longer be with us. Nor with our favorite film directors. What do we have left? People who don’t know what to do anymore because most of their film directors of this generation 40 years old and under are taking the initiative of going on their own like these film directors did when they were young. It’s hard. I’m not denying that. But I’d love to establish myself on my company in that demeanor people had when they ran out and made the biggest movies they could at age 20-25. We don’t have that anymore. Nowadays, people lack drive.
Exclusive Interview: Jenna x On Debut Single “When The Party’s Over..”
Jenna x emerges in 2021 with “When The Party’s Over..” which is an incredible debut single that plays equally as well at the party, at the afterparty, or the next morning. Definitely, the best asset is her melodious singing voice. Scroll down and learn more in this exclusive interview.
1 — First of all, how would you describe your sound?
My sound is constantly evolving within Pop, but it’s more cinematic. I envision each of my songs as a scene from a film and try to capture everything that would be there—the temperature of the sunlight, the scent in the air, the city sounds, and the words that are being spoken.
2 — Why did you pick “When The Party’s Over..” as your debut single?
It was the exact type of sound and message that I wanted to release as my debut single. I also think that it’s a good representation of me as an artist because it’s a song that I really tried to be honest with myself about, as well as the other parts of myself that I am revealing, like my inner thoughts, emotions, and philosophies.
3 — Is this song based on a personal experience?
Yes! The party in my song is both literal and figurative—I, like anyone else, have gone to a party or a large gathering just to fill the emptiness I was feeling inside, only to leave with a greater sense of loneliness. I’ve also felt like I have nowhere to go emotionally, which is the figurative part of the song.
4 — What’s your favorite line from it? Why?
The entire chorus is my favorite part, especially the “will there be anyone to watch me die / someone just shows me how to cry” part. I think they really capture the essence of the song and are the parts where I am the most direct with what I want to say. The second half of the chorus is almost like a cry for help you can’t ever let out.
For me, they usually come together but for this song, the lyrics came first. I had a clear idea of what I wanted the song to be about lyrically and then used the melody to fill in the blanks.
6 — Given the situation the world is in at the moment, do you miss partying?
I’m not the type to usually enjoy large parties, but I do really miss gatherings with my closest friends. But who knows—by the time this is all over I might be dying to go to a huge party.
7 — What makes you different from other singers?
I like to think of my music as very visual—I always try to paint a picture with my music and focus on what the music is painting. Each sound is like a color I use to paint the song, and the way they are delivered are the brushstrokes.
I think I had a lot of phases where I was into different types of music and different artists. I grew up listening to singer-songwriters like Stevie Wonder and The Beatles. I was always fascinated with how brilliant and revolutionary their melodies and lyrics were. Later in my teens, I had A Great Big World’s albums on repeat. A part of me is also in love with classical composers, like Elgar and Rachmaninoff. The second movement of Elgar’s Serenade for Strings is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard.
9 — When you’re not at the studio, how do you usually spend your time?
Usually prepping for studio time! But if I’m not working on music, I’ll watch movies or binge a show. Right now I’m on season 4 of Criminal Minds, and it’s been sucking me in. I’ve also been really busy these days with my new release and everything that goes along with it, but I’ll still find time to video chat with my friends and listen to my favorite albums on repeat.
10 — What are your plans for the upcoming months?
Working! I have an EP coming out in February, so I’m prepping for the release and other music that I’ll release during this year. The upcoming EP is part two of the story of loneliness I started telling with “When The Party’s Over..” and the more colorful, visual part of the story, so I’ll be working a lot on perfecting that. I also hope to be wherever I can be with my music, doing whatever I can to express myself through it.
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Dar.Ra Talks Latest Single And Confirms New Album In 2021 — Interview
Following the release of his latest single “Rise Like The Sun” along with its proper EP, Dar.Ra also plans to drop a new album in 2021. ‘Ballads For The Down-Trodden’ has been confirmed to be out by the end of January. In this exclusive interview, the British artist talks about the recent single, the most important details on the upcoming album, but also his various side projects, which include his own radio show.
1 – Can you reveal to us the name of your upcoming album?
I have two new projects out, a single called “Rise Like The Sun” with 6 killer remixes. One from Columbia and one from Sri Lanka from a killer Producer called Vidula who did the “Lights” remix from the new kinda normal album.
I did the other mixes which have a tribal House feel and an Ambient 6 am Chill Out mix. All mixes have a Sunshine title, from UK Sunshine mix, Indian Sun mix to Australian, Indonesian, USA, and Columbian mix. It’s all about not being dictated too in your time here and “Rising Like The Sun” every day of your life.
The other project is more of an alias back vibe and is a compilation of slower more Ballad type songs that I have had released over the years. I am doing a radio show called The Kusha Deep Radio show which is going out around the world through various Radio outlets and I did this show which featured some of the laid-back tracks I’ve done and I thought it would make a great album of torchlight songs. The album is 12 tracks long and is titled ‘Ballads For The Down-Trodden’ and is out later this month.
I am also working on a new album of songs for the spring with a new single planned for the first quarter of the year release.
2 – Were there specific things that helped you get creative?
I’m always inspired by life, it’s hard not to be unless you shut off from what’s going on around you. Even in the middle of a global pandemic, I had two singles out “Stand Up For The Heroes”, “Rise Like The Sun” and the ‘Whisky n Honey’ EP plus two remixes out. I also started doing a new project which is now syndicated around the world called The Kusha Deep Radio Show, which started off playing tracks that I had out over the past 25 years.
I also started doing a TV show with a Washington DC-based journalist MJ Godfrey which is a cultural review show looking at things happening in the UK and the USA. I’ve also written the next album to follow up on 2019’s ‘New Kinda Normal’. If you stay open to ideas and let them flow it’s a natural vibe for staying creative.
3 – Are you discovering new sounds on this new record?
I explore different sounds all the time, I’m getting known for merging styles and creating new hybrids like Rock Step a vibe that featured on the ‘New Kinda Normal’ album which mixed the elements of Rock and EDM together which you can feel on tracks like “Nightstepper,” “The Beat” and “Heart Shape Pill.” There’s also a genre called Gothic Soul which you can hear on tracks like “The Lights” and “Whisky n Honey.” I was feeling the Latin vibe on “Rise Like The Sun.”
I wanted something uplifting that holds no allegiance to what’s happening in the charts but has a classic Santana vibe mixed with that Gothic style vocal.
The actual record itself is truly global, the mixes and mastering were done all over the world, the drums recorded in Italy, the Horns in Portugal, the rest in the UK. I love that about the technology vibe that you can work with people everywhere now.
4 – How many tracks will there be on the album?
The album ‘Ballads For The Down-Trodden’ has 12 tracks and “Rise Like The Sun” single has 6 mixes on it. The new album will have around 12 tracks on it as well, value for money I say!
5 – What themes will the new album explore?
The new album has some wide themes such as loyalty on a track called “No Time For Tears” which has a cool Rock vibe about it. There’s a track about power struggles with relationships on “Don’t Make Me Beg.” There’s a track about migrants looking for a safe place to call home on “Renegade Serenade.” At the moment, it’s looking very love-oriented in one way or another.
6 – Did you collaborate with other artists?
I do work with other artists when the vibe is right. I’m doing a track with a producer called KDX in the UK, a Deep House kinda groove.
7 – What makes your latest single “Rise Like The Sun” special to listeners?
It’s honest, it’s real and it’s played with passion.
8 – What exciting projects can we expect from your label Kusha Deep Records?
All the above and more.
9 – Can you tell us more about your 2021 tour?
We were supposed to be doing a US tour last year, not sure how things will pan out this year but would be good to get out on the road again for a bit.
10 – The global pandemic forced the music industry to try innovative things. What do you think about private live zoom concerts?
I played Rock the Lockdown back in May and we had a few thousand people all rocking out to the set. I also did a US online tour in the summer which broadcast shows into the venues from my studio. I’ve been doing lots of interviews from Brazil to America, Australia, and the UK online which is ace as you don’t have to drive anywhere. Less hit on the climate and you can hit so many more people with a live stream if it’s set up properly.
Nothing will take the place of a jam in front of people, but I think the live stream is here to say alongside the live gig. I love technology though so it’s all good in my book. Be safe out there and looking forward to partying with you all soon!
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Quickfire Interview With: SOUNDQ
Hailing from Krakow, the cultural capital of Poland, Kuba Kubica aka SOUNDQ carries the flag of innovation when it comes to producing electronic music. The interview below is very clear and gives you a deep insight into his art. Scroll down to read his answers.
1 – You’ve been composing songs since…
Year 2000. The year when computer records got screwed by the two 0s was the year when I started programming a dodgy Korg workstation.
2 – You got involved in the music realm because…
I found it liberating not to have to depict anything. To be able to express what I feel without saying or drawing what it was.
3 – Your sound is…
As incomplete as I am. There’s always at least one element causing some imbalance. You’re never quite sure if it all won’t fall apart.
4 – Your biggest inspiration is…
I am most creative when I’m deadbeat and stressed out. So, in a way, pressure inspires me – or rather makes my creative juices flow faster.
5 – People should listen to your new track “Bad Lot” because…
It offers a glimpse into a complete world – fatalistic, sexy, and dangerous.
6 – If you want to know who SOUNDQ is, listen to the track…
“Bad Lot.” And if you’ve heard it already, give “This Heart” a spin.
7 –Your most memorable career moment so far has been…
Crossing the Ural Mountains in -30 degrees Celsius to play a death metal gig in Jekaterynburg.
8 – Your dream is…
Long forgotten the moment I wake up.
9 – Your next release is called…
“Disco Turista Antifascista.”
That’s a tough one. I’ll go with “My Kingdom” by Future Sound of London.
11 – Your favourite place to write songs is…
I love coming up with ideas when I’m traveling. Not a lot of occasions for that in 2020 though.
12 – If you weren’t an artist, you’d probably be…
An Instagram influencer pretending he’s a XIXth Century French flaneur. All dressed in epoch clothes doing product placement for travel gear and shit.
13 – You’ll only stop making music if…
I don’t think I have it in me to stop.
14 – In a few years, you want to be…
Able to go out without a mask, play gigs, laugh together with large groups of people. Travel to big cities and get lost wandering through them.
15 – What are you doing for the rest of the day?
It’s evening already, so I’m going to be busy writing music till late.
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