keyboards tagged posts
Feature Friday is among us again, folks! This week is a special week for me because I have the honor of featuring my older brother, Victor. In my PSYCH class on Wednesday, my professor stated that it is quite possible for a parent to have a favorite child. Well, I have a favorite sibling. I love all of my siblings equally, but it was always something about Victor that made me take to him more.
We grew up in Blumberg Projects, and I can remember so many days where my brother would sit on our porch under the yellow awning and draw. I remember watching him and saying "I wanna do that, too". I remember Saturday mornings he would wake me up early and bring me into his room. He had posters of almost every cartoon and video game you could imagine: Mega Man, Metroid, Mario Brothers, Transformers, Sonic, ThunderCats. And he had this old air hockey table that he converted into his space to draw on. He would sit me down, give me some of his sketch pad paper, point to something on his wall and say "Draw that." When I started out, I was heavey handed; dark lines in my sketches that left a residue behind no matter how hard I erased. He would say, "What are you doing? Man..." and then throw the paper in the trash and hold my hand to show me how to sketch lightly so the dark residue wouldn't be left behind whenever I needed to erase. I used to get frustrated because my work didn't look like his. But he would still tell me that my drawings were good and encourage me to keep going. I remember the first AWESOME sketch I did was of Mario jumping in the air with the mushroom power up in his hand and it looked JUST LIKE HIS POSTER!! (It was a little slanted lol but my talent had advanced far beyond that of a typical 8 year old) From then on, I kept drawing. If he drew something, I would sneak a look into his sketch pad when he wasn't around and try to draw it too. Not recognizing my talent, I stopped drawing because my work didn't look like his. It was almost as good as his, but not quite, so I stopped, not realizing my brother had been drawing longer than I had been alive, so of course his work would be better than mine. I didn't get it then. But I get it now.
To me, this blog post is the most inspirational and informative that I've done so far. I only wish that my brother and I could have spoken so the conversation could be recorded like my previous posts, because I know without a shadow of a doubt that the conversation would have been what a lot of people need to hear. Though my brother is very busy, he was kind enough to do the Q&A via email, as well as send me links to the music that he's done and samples of his art work.
Yani: How old were you when you knew for certain that drawing was something you wanted to indulge in?
Victor: I started when I was 7 or 8 years old. My father was teaching my brother how to illustrate and I was watching from a few feet away. Unfortunately, our household was typically dysfunctional and the times when my father wasn't there I'd look at his old sketchbooks. My father inspired me to learn to draw even though he never taught me anything first hand.
Yani: Where would you say your creativity comes from?
Victor: My creativity comes from the world around me and sometimes, it comes from what the world could be as opposed to what it is. It also comes from the desire to master one's craft. Many artists are struggling to find their own immortality. They want to be commended for their work while they're still alive and praised for it long after they're dead. My focus on these ideas were heavy in past, to a lesser extent, they still apply. But these days, my creativity is definitely fueled more by the desire to master the craft. The more I learn, the more I want to learn.
Yani: What inspired you to pursue animation in college?
Victor: I used to love Japanese Animation. That was a definite inspiration. I always believed that Animation was the next logical step after comic book illustration and video games design. But Animation wasn't mainstream during those times as it is today. It was a niche field of study and only a few schools offered courses for it. Fortunately, University of the Arts (UArts), here in Philadelphia, offers a four year degree in Animation so I jumped on the opportunity. By comparison, I also had the option to attend The Art Institute for Animation, but UArts offered so much more; not just in terms of the course study, but in terms of the university as a whole. So my choice was clear. The negative of pursuing Animation in college is I almost completely lost my love for Japanese Animation. Understand, Animation students are making their own animated shorts in class. Creating the characters, the concepts, the motion...the whole process, using some of the same tools that are standard in industry. Once you learn how to do this and learn it well, it becomes very easy to see the lack of quality in many anime. It was an eye opening experience.
Yani: What are some of your favorite software programs to use for graphic design and why?
Victor: I use many industry standards that one would expect; Adobe CS series of creative applications, Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign etc, are the tools that many firms use by default. There's not too much a person can't do using these tools. But the applications are cost prohibitive for the average artist/designer to own independently. So, for less extensive work, I use Sketchbook Pro, Photoshop Touch, Google Docs and Polaris on Android tablets. I also use Pixlr Editor, Sumo Paint, Google Docs and Harmony on Chrome OS. There's also a level of convenience of being able to work directly from my tablet as opposed to carrying a cumbersome laptop and extra power supplies. I've learned that sometimes it's better to not reveal which tools were used to create a piece. A high quality product that was created using software that's not industry standard will sometimes be viewed negatively. I've met those that believe that the technology is the end all-be all of a person's talent as opposed to understanding true talent being used in combination with the technology. A horrible product doesn't suddenly become excellent because it was made using a $3,000 creative suite. Skilled designers can still create great work without the $3,000 creative suite.
Yani: When did you begin to develop your musical talents?
Victor: I was very lucky growing up. My family lived in a bad part of Philadelphia. But it was during a time when there were many opportunities for kids to participate in after school activities. In the mid 80's, Ms. Virginia Lam was a teacher at my elementary school, John F. Reynolds in North Philadelphia. She produced musical productions and plays starring local kids. These productions taught kids many of the fundamentals of music production. It caused the spark so to speak, as the productions became big media covered affairs after a time. As with most things, these productions ultimately came to an end. But the spark was still there.
Growing up, I listened to the radio like everyone else. Hip hop, Pop and R&B were the standards. But I grew tired of most of it because it all started to sound the same, so I branched out and started listening to Rock, New Age, Jungle. I was looking for compositions that were different, sounded different, but still well thought out. I joined the school band while attending Robert Vaux Jr. High. There I learned to read music and I learned to perform on stage as second clarinet under Mr. Dubin. This helped strengthen my foundation. When I arrived in high school, I hit a wall. I still listened to music but I no longer played. Coming from a poor family, there was no money for instruments and there was no mental encouragement for the pursuit of music or art outside of school. Even though my father has a great love of music, he wasn't around. My mother didn't really understand the point of pursuing any of it, so I was on my own.In 1992 or 93, I heard Echoes Radio for the first time and I was awe-struck. Its exactly what I was looking for in terms of feel and library of sounds used to create. Echoes played alternative music that one would never hear on mainstream stations... Ambient, New Age, hard to describe music. Shortly thereafter, I was given an Amiga 500 computer for my birthday. Ahead of its time in terms of music production and graphics, I used it to explore digital sound in a way that wasn't possible on any other platform at the time and listened to Echoes in conjunction. This kept me going until I arrived at University of the Arts where the real fun began. In my freshman year, I met a student named John Bowles. We shared a lot of the same love for graphics, animation, computer technology, and gaming. We spent the next four years piecing together digital music equipment and sharing ideas. It was fantastic times. We came up with some excellent songs even though our gear was extremely limited. My first major purchase was a Boss DR-5 drum machine from 8th Street Music that I later used with a Korg - 05RW sound module through MIDI. I've been producing my own music ever since.
Yani: What music groups or bands influenced your own musical style?
Victor: I still have an appreciation for older Jazz, Blues, Rock, Funk, Soul from the 60's, 70's and 80's, but these days, my main influences would be Solar Fields, Vincent Diamante, Vince Dicola, Austin Wintory, Hans Zimmer, Graeme Revell, Clint Mansell, Yoko Kanno, Meshell Ndegeocello, Prince, Marcomé, Lisa Gerard, Dead Can Dance, Recoil, Future Sound of London, Themroc, Gein, Tripnotix and many others.
Yani: What are some of your favorite music instruments that you like to use when making music (ie: keyboards, drum machines etc)?
Victor: Currently, I'm having a love affair with the Roland Fantom G6. I bought it a little over a year ago and it is a truly amazing keyboard. My prior favorite was the Roland XP-50, which I still own. The XP series of keyboards have very steep learning curves but they were some of the best during their time. Using the Fantom G6 after using the XP can be a bit overwhelming at times because of the increased power and flexibility the board gives when playing parts, mixing, remixing and just from general use. It's so robust that I don't feel the need to use anything else really. It's not perfect of course, but if a person is struggling to get results with a Fantom, then they're just not trying.
Yani: Do you think creativity is lacking in todays music such as hip-hop and R&B?
Victor: Yes. Without a doubt. As I mentioned before, I stopped listening to Hip Hop and R&B on a regular basis many years ago because it just all started to sound the same; or worse, when producers would sample someone else's music while still claiming their song is original. I've never been a fan of sampling the way it's used in Hip-Hop and R&B. There's no skill in it. Sample weird sounds, unique sounds to be played later, but wholesale rip offs of other songs are pathetic. Even when it comes to remixes, the only exception to the rule is if a person's remix is better than the original. If a remix can't do the original justice, then what's the point? Rhymes aren't creatively written anymore on average. Hip-Hop used to be a creative outlet that featured well written verses and urban poetry that carried a message in a powerful way. Today, more often than not, it's a man or woman rambling about nonsense on the mic for an hour with a featured list that's as long as movie credits. In some cases, Hip-Hop doesn't even rhyme anymore, which is just sad.
Yani: Could you see yourself doing music for films, plays or cartoons?
Victor: Of course. If you look at some of my favorite artists, many of them have produced albums and soundtracks for films, animation and games. It allows for more creativity and freedom than doing the usual mainstream genre releases. Soundtracks have inspired me for many years.
Yani: For a young boy who is heavy into drawing, graphic design, music and animation but lacks resources and support, what advice would you give him?
Victor: Keep practicing and try to surround themselves with people of similar interest. They have to become strong enough to defend their craft against the "crabs in a barrel" scenario. Meaning, some people would rather destroy a person with talent than see them realize their potential and succeed. The saddest part about a lot of kids interested in these creative fields are, their parents/families have no interest or understanding of them. They refuse to take the time to learn enough to be supportive of their kids and simply leave them to their own devices. There's no nurturing or support, so a lot of kids will ultimately just give up. The logic being, "my own family doesn't care, so why should I?" Just as in the "crabs in a barrel" situation I mentioned, some families will even revel in a talented kid's failure. To see a young family member strive to excel is believed as making the other members of the family look bad because their parents gave up on their dreams or never had similar talent. Maybe the siblings aren't as talented or they just hate the attention the dedicated sibling receives. Whatever the reasoning, the result is the same, no support. The laws of comparison can be damning and the concept of families being more destructive and vile than enemies on the street still holds true in some cases.So a young boy or girl that has a strong interest in creative fields but has no support, has to develop the tenacity to continue to practice and learn despite the lack of support. Learn to do more with less. Find people of similar interest and be willing to learn as much as possible about their craft. When the support isn't there, these kids have to understand the importance of being self sufficient in gathering their own knowledge and inspiration. Depending on family or people that aren't supportive will only lead to disappointment and failure. Through it all, they have to practice. It's the only way to get better. There's no shortcut for this.I want to thank my brother Victor for allowing me to feature him on my blog, Philly Support Philly. To check out his music as well as his art work, click the links on the right side of the widget.This has been another Feature Friday brought to you by Anitbeet Productions and Philly Support Philly. Let's continue to support each other, uplift one another and keep Philly in a positive light. Thanks for reading! Have a safe, positive and productive weekend! PEACE!!Read More