Shockwave-Sound Blog and Articles
Dmitri Belichenko – Special Artist Feature

Dmitri Belichenko – Special Artist Feature

For a good few years now, Dmitri Belichenko has been a regular contributor of new music released by our label, Shockwave-Sound / Lynne Publishing. His music tends to be electronic, but with orchestral elements and use of sound design as part of the compositions and production. Often raw and unforgiving, his productions – some of which have an edge which lends itself perfectly to futuristic productions, science fiction, post-apocalyptic worlds, and others with a sense of awe, amazement and beauty, weaving images of wondrous nature scenes, amazing footage of natural beauty.

Dmitri is also a terrific producer of dance music. Dance floor thumpers with an urban edge and a deep, relentless groove.

We sat down in conversation with Dmitri to talk about music and life.

Dmitri Belichenko — I believe I’ve also seen it spelt as Dmytro Belichenko? — sounds to me like a name with a Russian background. Can you tell me a little bit about your background and your history? Have you always lived in Canada?

Dmitri Belichenko

Dmitri Belichenko

Actually, Dmytro is a Ukrainian spelling of my name. It can be spelt both ways, but in Canada, I prefer Dmitri, seems easier to pronounce. I was born in Lviv, Ukraine, a beautiful city with a rich history. My childhood was pretty average for a Ukrainian kid in a middle-class family. I had no idea that my life would change drastically when I turned 15 and my parents decided to immigrate to Canada. We left everything behind and came to Canada with two suitcases and no real prospects. When I started high school I was fortunate enough to find a part-time job as a dishwasher and that helped us pay rent and get by until my parents found jobs. Both my parents were engineers but it was really tough for them to find a job in that field. My mom ended up sewing for an alterations shop and my dad started painting houses and apartments. Eventually, my mom joined him and they started their own business. I worked with them from time to time but by then I already started DJ’ing in local clubs and was seriously considering music as my career of choice.

I guess you were just too young when you left Ukraine, to really have a good sense of the music scene there, but do you remember what music you were listening to back then, and do you think a seed of interest in music production was planted already in your childhood back in Ukraine?

Yes indeed, I started getting into music back in Ukraine, but not so much in childhood. Like most, I was more interested in Nintendo and hanging out with friends. The geeky, glued to the computer, addicted to music making behavior didn’t start until about 13 years old. In school, we shared music between friends and so I came across a few electronic artists like Cosmic Gate and Brooklyn Bounce. These really caught my ear, and from there I went on to seek out more artist and just became interested in electronic music in general. Growing up in Europe, trance and dance music was around all the time. You’d often catch ATB on the radio and so this was not unusual for kids my age to get into electronic music; not all wanted to start making their own however, haha. When I first started dabbling in music production these artists were my early inspiration.

At what time did music become important to you, and have you always known that you were going to be a music composer, or have you done any other work that’s been important to you?

When I lived in Ukraine I was planning on becoming a doctor or something relating to a medical field. I started attending an after-school program at the university that focused on biology and genetic research. I really enjoyed interning at the university genetic lab where I studied different microorganism cultures for antibiotic synthesis. I did get a chance to finish the program that could have helped me get into university, but by then we were already planning our move to Canada. To prepare for our immigration interview my parents bought our first computer. My dad wanted to learn some CAD software relating to his engineering, but for me, it was my first introduction to computer music. It was a very slow computer, a Pentium 1 with a whopping 133 MHz processor and 16 MB of ram and Windows 95. I remember this because it was quite a challenge to run anything on it. When I was around 14 years old I came across this very basic music making software called Dance eJay, it had a playlist type setup where you placed some pre-made loops that all fit together into a composition. It was pretty limited but I could chop the loops in all kinds of ways and still come up with some pretty cool (so I thought) sounding tunes. That’s when I really became interested in electronic music. Not long after that we were selling everything and preparing for our move to Canada so the old computer had to go too. Once we moved I was still considering a career in a medical field, but music started to take over my life. I attended my first underground rave at 16, and I fell in love with electronic music. Seeing DJ’s up in the booth commanding the crowd really made me want to do that too. I immediately started saving for my own set of turntables. Digital was not around then so I would spend any spare time digging through crates at the local record shop picking up my first records that I would eventually play at my first gig. I was still in high school when I started DJ’ing at raves and so it really shaped my taste in music. When I finished high school I decided to stay true to my passion and chose to go to an audio recording technology college.

Do you experiment a lot with different music styles and genres, or do you tend to stick to a particular genre?

Originally I would only produce electronic music. I enjoyed listening to all kinds of music, but I felt like I wasn’t musically savvy enough at the time to explore composing other styles. Growing up, my dad introduced me to rock music, AC/DC, Metallica, Led Zeppelin and so on. Hip-hop was on the rise during my high school years so I listened to quite a bit of that also. Oddly enough, I also enjoyed classical and orchestral music. I loved movie soundtracks too. The first Matrix movie had just come out and I remember the soundtrack by Rob Dougan called “clubbed to death” was absolutely amazing as it combined orchestral and electronic elements which were pretty forward-thinking at the time. I think that’s why I like to experiment with combining different genres in my music also. Nowadays I tend to experiment even more since I’m getting comfortable writing more complex movements and understanding how to speak through music.

As a music composer myself, I find sometimes that I’m listening to a piece of music that really inspires me and I start out thinking “I’d like to try to make something like that”, but when I actually start to produce my own piece, it actually ends up taking its own direction and developing into something quite different from what I had in mind when I started. How does this compare to your creative process?

I do also get inspired by the music I listen to. Often times you do have to simply let the music write itself. Sometimes I have different versions of the same idea, branches of sorts, saved and then I keep shaping whatever one I feel like the track calls for most. I write a lot of electronic music, so I have a lot of concepts of small grooves or melodies that I come back to and develop further. I get inspired by the sounds of my synths. I love to just play around with different waveforms and effects until I make something worth saving. Every once in a while, when the inspiration strikes, I just sit down and make a track from start to finish. Sometimes I have nothing to show at the end of the day but I still feel like I learned something, or tried something new, so it’s never a day wasted.

I’ve seen your name connected with the artist name “Klone Z” or “KloneZ” – can you tell me about this, and what is this artist? Is it just another name for Dmitri Belichenko?

Well, “KloneZ” was my DJ name at first, before I started releasing any of my own music. I kept this name as my alias for my electronic music. It was actually a name that my friend and I came up with back in Ukraine, it was what we called ourselves when we collaborated on our first attempts at music production. We were both the same height (6’7”) which is pretty tall, so we’d always stick out in a crowd. People would say that we’re like clones and so that turned into “KloneZ”. Before I started releasing any tunes I asked my buddy if he didn’t mind me using this name as my alias. I wouldn’t say it’s just another name for Dmitri Belichenko, as KloneZ has been used mostly for my electronic music and is also my DJ name.

Do you always work alone and produce your music by yourself? Or do you sometimes collaborate with other musicians and try to create something together?

I like to collaborate with different artists, I think it brings out a great variety to anyone’s sound. It’s easy to get stale and fall back on the production techniques you know and feel most comfortable with. I feel like collaborating with different artists helps me find more angles to attack the music production from, and learn new skills. I’ve never actually sat down with someone to produce a track together however, I collaborate online with artists from all over the world. So for me, it’s still a solitary experience but the creative aspect of it does feel collaborative as we bounce different ideas back and forth to create our tune.

We already know that you compose and produce music for stock music libraries such as Shockwave-Sound.com, but have you also made bespoke music especially for a film, game or other media, where you actually composed music specifically for the project?

BeatPlanetMadness game

BeatPlanetMadness game

Writing for Shockwave-Sound has opened many doors for me. I wrote music for several short films and a TV show called EdgeFactor, I also did a few indie video games. I’m actually working on one now where the music is a big part of the game. The game is called BeatPlanetMadness (BPM) and is in beta testing (not sure if this will be the official name once it’s released). It’s being designed by an indie game studio “Dog eat Dog games” and is a pretty clever twist on an arcade shooter where you have to time your shots with music in order to pull off special abilities. The better you do in the game the more layers of music are added to the soundtrack. All the enemies and abilities are also adding to the soundtrack as little bits of melodies so it actually ends up being quite a fulsome sound as you progress through the game. All of the game’s sound effects and music is created by me, so I’m pretty excited about this project. Other than that I always have media projects and tv commercials to work on, which keep my days pretty interesting.

 

So, having your music represented at Shockwave-Sound.com has actually led to clients contacting you personally with requests for writing custom-made soundtracks for them? Has this happened on other occasions as well, in addition to this VIVO game?

Shockwave-Sound.com is a great platform for releasing my music. Since I started with Shockwave-Sound I had my music used in a number of video game trailers, movie trailers as well as in-game music, and soundtracks in tv shows and films. Sometimes videographers, after finding my music on Shockwave-Sound.com, will contact me for custom soundtracks in their multimedia projects. From there it helped me build my portfolio of custom work. I feel like releasing my music at Shockwave-Sound helps it find its way in all sorts of projects.

Can you tell us something about your recording setup, e.g. main pieces of hardware and software that you use for your composing and recording sessions?

I run a Windows-based workstation, with a Lexicon audio interface. Most of my music is created in the box, but recently I started adding a few hardware synths to broaden my sound a bit. I love using the Arturia’s MicroBrute analogue synth for my bass, it’s been my go-to staple. There’s no way to save presets on it, so you get to be quite creative with it every time you start manipulating waveforms. I recently got a Microkorg XL, I like the way it sounds, and I really dig the software editor that comes with it, so it’s been a great synth for leads and pads. These are not expensive top shelf synths, but since I did everything in software before I decided to start small and see how it would shape my sound. I mostly write in FL Studio, I’ve been using this software since I was about 15 years old so I’m very comfortable in it. I use a lot of EastWest sample libraries, especially love their pianos. My latest addition is the Xfer Serum soft synth, I absolutely love this thing. It’s a wavetable synth so I’ve been creating my own wavetables using MicroBrute and it’s really sounding quite phat.

What are your favourite artists for when you just want to listen to good music?

I’ve been into Hard Dance and Hardstyle since my early electronic music days. I used to listen to a lot of artists in that genre, Scott Project, ASYS, Headhunterz, and I still do listen to their stuff. I also love Deadmau5 productions, his sound is really quite clean and tight, I just saw him live in concert with his cube 2.1 visuals which was pretty sweet. Noisia also has incredible sound design and production quality, so I listen to them quite a bit. I also enjoy softer electronic music like Kaskade and Bonobo. I started digging into a bit of techno, so anything out on Drumcode which is a Swedish techno label is likely to end up on my playlist. Besides electronic music, I also enjoy alternative like Ben Howard, or hip-hop like the Living Legends. I listen to trailer music too, Two Steps from Hell, Really Slow Motion, have some pretty epic tracks so these are often good for my morning workouts.

So you use the mornings to work out? What sort of stuff do you do for exercise, and do you feel exercising and staying in shape physically helps you in your creative process as well, for writing music?

I think it’s a great way to start my day. It does clear my head and I feel energized and ready to work. I usually go through my 20-30 minute morning routine and have a few minutes of silence before I get in the studio. I think it does help me get into a good mindset. Sitting at the computer desk all day does have its dangers, so some activity in the morning helps me feel better mentally and physically.

Round-up of latest CD collections of royalty-free music

Another month or so has passed since we last did a write-up of our latest collections of royalty-free music and stock music, so here’s another little update from us. Among other new albums, we have a beautiful new album of royalty-free String Quartet performances of Mozart music.

These blogs don’t feature all the new music we’ve released in the past month, they only feature the CD-collections. Many of the tracks we release actually never get included on a CD-collection. We release a large number of new tracks every week. Occasionally we take some tracks and put them together on a CD-collection as well.

Classical Chamber Strings, Vol. 3:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/royalty-free-music-collection/771/classical-chamber-strings-vol-3 – A stunning collection of elegant, graceful String Quartet pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed live in studio by the Allegro String Quartet. A 100% live music project – no samples, no computers.

Classical Piano Favorites, Vol. 7: Chopin

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/royalty-free-music-collection/767/classical-piano-favorites-vol-7-chopin: 20 beautiful solo piano tracks by Frederic Chopin, with an emphasis on some of his most lyrical and graceful pieces. Performed live in studio by concert pianist Želimir Panić.

Acoustic Trails, Vol. 7:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/royalty-free-music-collection/768/acoustic-trails-vol-7 – Natural, organic, free-flowing and earthy music tracks with a sense of easy and carefree days. Acoustic instruments and transparent productions.

Ambient Pop, Vol. 4:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/stock-music-collection/769/ambient-pop-vol-4 – Touching and heartening, light and easy productions with a real feel for hope, personal stories and the human condition. Great music for use with real people, real lives, real stories.

Feelgood Trax, Vol. 22:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/royalty-free-music-collection/770/feelgood-trax-vol-22 – Fun, happy and feel-good music tracks that will bring an uplifting, hopeful and joyful feel to your productions, videos, presentations.

Timeless Elegance, Vol. 1:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/stock-music-collection/772/timeless-elegance-vol-1 – These tracks are built on contemporary/modern instruments but in a combination with classical music influences and instrumentation such as piano and string sections. The music brings a sense of effortless grace, class and style to many types of productions and presentations.

We hope you’ll find some of our new music to be of interest for your media projects.

Please remember to “Like” our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/swsound/. And if you have any questions, issues, suggestions etc., please get in touch with us through the Contact page on our site. We are here and always happy to hear from you. All the best from all of us at Shockwave-Sound.

Free sound effects pages back by popular demand

Back in the good old days, when our site Shockwave-Sound.com had the “old style” look and feel, and about half as much content as we have on the site now, we used to have a selection of “Free sound effects” pages. It wasn’t really anything very fancy, just a bunch of pages from which users could download sound effect files completely free of charge.

We re-designed and did a complete overhaul of the website in October 2015 and the new-look site had a more focused approach, with less clutter and more straight to the point, with high-quality sound effects and royalty-free music that we wished to focus on.

Turns out that people are missing those old free sound effects pages. Having received numerous calls for their return, we’ve listened and finally got them back. Here they are.

Just a reminder – the sounds available on these free sound effects pages are of varying quality levels, some good, some pretty bad. We didn’t make the sounds. We just gathered them and described them for you. We also cannot grant any license for them, other than strictly personal / home use. If you want sound effects of consistently high quality and with a real license to use them in your own productions, then be sure to buy the professional level sound effects which you can find by searching or browsing from our main home page.

We currently have the following pages of completely free sound effects:

We hope you’ll find some use, or just some pleasure or amusement out of these sounds. Remember — home use only. No license granted for these.

 

New royalty-free music round-up

We are always busy with music projects and we tend not to post a new blog post every time we release new stock music here at Shockwave-Sound because we’d be constantly posting blog posts. So here’s a re-cap of our latest CD-collections of production music and royalty-free music. We hope you’ll enjoy our latest releases!

Latin Daze, Vol. 1:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/stock-music-collection/760/latin-daze-vol-1 : A fun, funky and tongue-in-cheek take on the entertainment world’s representation of modern Latin music culture. In Hollywood and light entertainment TV, reality shows etc., Latin Americans are often portrayed as sneaky or edgy characters, related in one way or another to illegal activities. These silly stereotypes often manifest themselves in music with various Latin elements such as Cumbia, Bolero and Reggaeton.

Tracks of Inspiration, Vol. 10:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/stock-music-collection/761/tracks-of-inspiration-vol-10 : A set of 11 inspirational tracks, combining influences from pop music, easy listening and classical / cinematic / orchestral music, these tracks have an uplifting and motivational feel. They go well with stories of every day heroes, building communities and relationships. Great for corporate films also, as these tracks promote a sense of green values, eco-friendly choices and a better future.

Gut Busters, Vol. 19:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/stock-music-collection/762/gut-busters-vol-19 : Strap yourself down and get ready for being knocked out! Here’s another collection of hard punching, gut busting, deep down grooving, fiery hard rock tracks. These tracks are fantastic for any high impact, action-filled footage such as high energy sports, fights and chases, etc.

Gut Busters, Vol. 20:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/stock-music-collection/763/gut-busters-vol-20 : …And there’s more where that came from. Vol. 20 of our Gut Busters series feature another 11 powerful, thumping, taking-no-prisoners, fast and fiery heavy metal tracks, made to rip up your productions and add punch and power. Another excellent collection of tracks for use with sports, motor sports, wild stunts, ‘jackass’ type video clips and more.

Reflections, Vol. 5:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/stock-music-collection/764/reflections-vol-5 : A collection of tender, fragile, thoughtful and reflective tracks. These tracks go well with media of beauty and elegance; whether it be commercials / advertising, films & drama, or nature and landscapes. Often understated and with an emphasis on touch and elegance, these tracks will bring warmth and emotion to your media projects.

Cinematic Themes, Vol. 10:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/stock-music-collection/765/cinematic-themes-vol-10 : These “big sky” productions carry that sense of awe and amazement that is often required by productions featuring natural wonders, fantastic events, and larger-than-life scenes of wonderment. These tracks will go well in scenes of grandeur, majestic beauty and epic events.

Massive Impact, Vol. 16:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/stock-music-collection/766/massive-impact-vol-16 : Another collection of 10 epic trailer tracks; these majestic and glorious tracks will go well with dramatic trailers, fantasy worlds, heroes and villains, super dramatic footage etc. As a series of stock music / production music tracks go, these tend to feature orchestra, choir and big, booming percussion. Some of the tracks follow a traditional “cinematic trailer” type structure, with a tense build-up, then an epic, climax part, and finally a thoughtful, reflective, melancholic end part.

We hope that these new tracks and album releases will be of help to you in finding the right royalty-free music for your next media project, whether it be a video game, a film, TV commercial, infomercial or just a YouTube video. Remember that, as always with our albums, if you only need one track or one file, you don’t need to license the whole album. You can just license that one individual track. Search for it by track title and you’ll find it.

That’s it from us, for this time. Thanks for reading!

Special artist feature: Abbas Premjee

Special artist feature: Abbas Premjee

For the past few years, among the many different artists from all over the world who regularly supply music for publishing via Shockwave-Sound, Abbas Premjee has been one of the more prolific and active ones. He has composed many great tracks of stock music for Shockwave-Sound. I was intrigued by the varied musical output and some of the interesting sounds and moods that Abbas creates with his many different instruments, so I took the opportunity to catch up with Abbas and have a nice conversation with him about music and life in general.

Leaving the actual music aside for the moment, who is Abbas Premjee and what’s your story? Have you always lived in Irvine, California?

Abbas Premjee, aged 18

First of all, thank you for this opportunity to tell you my story. I was born in Karachi, Pakistan. My Father was an entrepreneur and had several businesses which were quite successful. He was a self-made man and it was assumed that my brother and I would take over his responsibilities for which we were being carefully groomed. Fate, however, had different plans for me. Ever since I can remember, music and sound have fascinated me and any kind of musical sound would have a great emotional effect on me. Growing up in Pakistan was not the same as growing up anywhere else. This was the time in the early 80’s, martial law had been enforced and Islamization was on the rise. Needless to say, finding musical instruments, supplies or instruction was close to impossible. For me, however, this just made it more exciting. Just to remind our younger readers, at that time in the world, there was no internet and information was prized and hard to come across. For this reason, I was mostly self-taught and learned by ear and through some books. However, I now believe that this has worked to my advantage. I spent many hours trying to decipher the chords and solos from my early influences which were filled with whatever Western music I could get my hands upon. Thankfully, there were some wonderful artists I was also exposed to through my cousin, who had studied in the US. Amongst these was Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Steely Dan and others that I still listen to today.

At the age of 16, my parents sent me to the US to get a university education. I was enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering program at Loyola Marymount University. I decided to take a class in Jazz improvisation, I had no idea at that time what it meant. Through that class, I met other musicians and eventually understood the rudiments of jazz improvisation. I was also approached by other musicians to join their band as a guitarist. We did a lot of rock and roll and would occasionally travel up and down the California coast playing gigs. That was a really fun time for me. It was during my senior year in university that my life took a turn. I had decided to take an elective class in something which I did not understand at that time but sounded interesting. It was called “classical guitar”. I give credit to my teacher at that time. He was an inspirational figure for me and that first class with him is still fresh in my memory. He made me realize that I was just beginning a long and beautiful journey. I had no choice but to spend another year in University and declare a double major. A year later I graduated with a degree in Mechanical engineering and a degree in Music theory and composition.

My journey had just started and I had to continue. On the suggestion of one of my teachers, I applied for a Masters program at the University of Cincinnati Conservatory and was accepted. I was offered a scholarship and I was over the moon. I was flung headlong into an environment of the most amazing musicians I had ever seen. An environment full of history and academics all focused purely on music. I was very new to the classical music world compared to my peers, most of whom had been in this for many years. This was a glorious time of my life and was filled with many beautiful experiences such as playing in Masterclass for some of the top classical guitarists in the world such as Manuel Barrueco, Pepe Romero and others. I finally graduated from that reality in 1993 with a Masters degree in Classical guitar from SMU in Dallas, TX. My goal was to be a professional classical guitarist but fate had other plans in store for me.Around that time, I received a phone call from my father who asked me to return to Pakistan as he was getting old and needed help. I could have never refused him and so I returned to Pakistan at that time, a lost soul. I had all this music and knowledge inside me but was instead thrust into the business world.

Abbas Premjee in his first studio, in 2006

For ten long years, I tried to the best of my ability to help him. Eventually, my father passed away and the business collapsed. During these ten years, I hardly did any music and I was like a fish out of water. I was dying to get back in. The year was 1996 and the world had changed a lot during those years. Digital audio was in its infancy and I knew I wanted to get back into music but being ten years older I was looking at things from a business standpoint as well. I was now married and starting a family. I did not want a gigging/touring life anymore. I was looking for stability and having an engineering background as well, decided to invest in a music composition and production studio and teach myself all I could. At this time, I was still living in Pakistan but I could see that this was not the place I wanted to bring up my family and so in 2009, I sold my studio and returned to the United States. A year later my family also joined me and we moved to Irvine. I was desperately trying to find my place and spent the first couple of years teaching and playing classical guitar gigs at weddings and events, just trying to survive. Around this time, I started writing, just for fun and discovered that there was a royalty-free market for music and put a few tracks up. I saw a few sales and even though the returns were minuscule, I saw the potential If I had a lot more music. At that time, we were living in Little Rock, Arkansas. I decided I had to be bold and we made the decision to move to Irvine, California. I spent the next six years there and exposed myself to all the opportunities available. I discovered the phenomenon of production music, which I did not know existed. I attended as many events, conventions etc as I could and soon developed a network of publishers, agents etc. All the while, I was writing feverishly and in almost any genre I could. The only way of getting good at anything is to do it and the more you do it, the better you get at it. I used this logic and soon enough developed a sizable catalogue in many genres, including several that I was not very good at. I understood the values and priorities of production music but at the same time tried to retain my personal identity. Looking back, I can see that I was fortunate in that along the way, in my musical life, I had played many different genres including rock, pop, jazz and classical. I had also extensively studied Indian classical music, the ragas etc which had a profound impact on my musical vocabulary. After living in California for six years, and establishing a path ahead, I felt I could now move to any place and be able to work remotely. Over the summer we moved to Houston TX, to be closer to family and that is where I am currently living with my lovely family which consists of my lovely and wife, without whose support I would never have been able to come this far, and three beautiful kids.

That is a truly remarkable story and I guess it goes to show how people can end up in a place, and in a life, that they would never have imagined. I’m sure your story would make for a pretty good Autobiography sometime down the line. Did you ever think of writing about your story and your life’s journey?

I never really thought of that, but am open to the idea, especially if reading my story helps or inspires others.

You mentioned the situation in Pakistan in the early 80’s with Islamization and martial law coming in the way of your development as a musician – though, clearly, they did not succeed in keeping you down. Can you tell us a bit more about the plight of musicians and artists working under those circumstances and how they can overcome the obstacles in their way?

Abbas Premjee, 2015, Irvine California

Today the plight is not about access to information, like it was in those days, because today, with access to the internet, information is no longer a barrier. The real plight, as it also was back then, is poverty and class structures that don’t allow the poor to improve themselves. I was very fortunate that I came from a family where my parents could afford to send me to the United States for further studies. Today, in Pakistan, there is amazing talent and there are some accomplished musicians and bands but it is mostly Western or Bollywood influenced. The folk and classical music has suffered and, unfortunately, may be on the brink of extinction.

During the time you’ve been actively composing music, how would you say this art form changed and developed, for you personally – and in general?

Over the years of writing music, my writing has changed considerably. Before I was only trying to express as an artistic statement of some sort. I remember it always had to be profound. It was a lot more personal and I was a lot more possessive about my music and very closed to criticism. I changed a lot! I had to look at this very personal phenomenon through a business lens and that was very difficult initially, but the more I wrote, the easier it got. I developed an openness to criticism and started listening to a lot more different genres and started listening very critically to my own work and worked to overcome my weaknesses and I started to approach it more clinically. I am still doing that and I don’t think that process ever stops. You keep trying to improve the quality of your music and that is the fun of it. The beauty of this journey is the ever-changing terrain.

As a publisher and distributor of production music, I like to keep my ears open and listen out for what kind of music actually gets used in today’s productions, be it on TV, online or in other media, and it occurs to me that a lot of the music that works best in media is, for lack of a better term, “simple music”, with maybe just one or two instruments playing at any given time. However, the music that we receive for publishing often tends to be much more layered, with a lot more instruments playing on top of each other, and perhaps “overproduced”. Do you have thoughts on this, and do you ever set out to produce music with only one or two instruments playing?

Abbas playing electric guitar at a studio photo shoot in 2008

You’re absolutely right. Today we have a tendency to say a lot more than required, too many instruments and cluttered sounds etc. It is a lot more difficult to say something of importance in a few words. It requires elegance and eloquence, these things come after many years of trial and error. It reminds me of what I learned in Graduate school, that beauty is in subtlety. In today’s quantized and perfect world, much beauty has been lost. The production music industry has mostly newcomers and a few seasoned composers that think that way. I think it would be a real challenge to deliberately make an album with just two instruments, any two instruments and make it work in a production music setting. That may very well be my next project, thanks for the idea.

What are your favourite artists for when you just want to relax and listen to good music?

Aah, that has been one of the few drawbacks of this lifestyle. I rarely get a chance to just listen like it used to be. Before I would curl up with a favourite album/CD and do it just for the fun. Now, when I do have spare time, which is rarely, I like to give my ears a rest and let them refresh. I listen to a lot of music but a lot of it is for work-related research or the kids at home blasting their own tunes.

A quick search for Abbas Premjee on YouTube brings up a video in which you play an unusual instrument – the Mohan Veena – with a very beautiful sound. What is this instrument and how did you get into playing it?

Abbas Premjee playing Mohan Veena at a gig in Pakistan 2007

I first came across the Mohan Veena, at a friends place in Pakistan in 2005. I was musically at a point where I had recently gotten back into music after my 10-year hiatus and had started to write a little bit. I was in a mood to explore new sounds and ideas and this seemed like the perfect direction to take. To tell you a bit about this instrument, It is also called “Indian slide guitar”. It is fitted with 20 strings and played lap style with a metal slide. 12 of the strings are sympathetic strings and add a beautiful resonance to the instrument. By sympathetic I mean they are not struck but tuned to the notes of the raga being played and they vibrate sympathetically. Being a slide instrument it is capable of playing microtonally which allows the true essence of Indian classical music to come through. I bought the instrument on a trip to India and took instruction with Ustad Raees Khan, the renowned sitar maestro and gave me the opportunity to study the theory of Indian classical music. The theory of Indian classical music has been evolving for thousands of years and has a deep understanding of the connection between notes and human emotion. For a few years, that is all I did at that time. This music captured my spirit and gave me a totally new vision of the experience of music. I found here, a vocabulary of sounds and emotions that were totally alien to Western ears and I was very intrigued by the possibility of combining these sounds with jazz. This also led to my first commercial album release in Pakistan which was called “Elements” which you can listen to on my website and two more follow-up albums called “Crescent Moon” and “Symbiosis”. These three albums represent my efforts at finding a synthesis between Western jazz and Indian classical music. I hope to do more of this in the future sometime.

Do you play, or have you played in the past, any other unusual and exotic instruments?

As part of my efforts to constantly improve, I am always on the look for new and unusual instruments. I try to make an effort to use real instruments whenever possible, even if that means just a shaker! Real instruments add soul to the music. None of my other instruments can be considered exotic. I have many guitars, basses, ukuleles, mandolins and lots of percussion instruments which I have started to collect. I love instruments.

You seem to have a wide repertoire of styles and genres that you work in – is this a deliberate choice, and do you feel there are some styles of music in which you do your best work?

Abbas Premjee a recital of classical guitar with tabla and flute 2006

Growing up, I played and listened to many genres of music. However, after studying classical guitar and getting into classical music, a sort of musical snobbery came over me, as is often found with classical musicians. I had to make an effort to get over that and play other styles of music, this was essential and very liberating. Music has so many forms and in my opinion, the best things happen when you do not have any compartments or genres but freely use and borrow across styles and cultures. I love music in all its manifestations and I want to play and experience them all, from rock and jazz to classical and funk and across continents. So yes, it is a deliberate choice and production music allows that to happen.

Do you still actively play in any band, group or ensemble – live concerts, anything like that?

Live music has always been a part of my life but unfortunately, lately, that has not happened. I hope to change that in the near future and get involved with like-minded souls who like to explore new sounds.

Can you tell us something about your recording setup, e.g. main pieces of hardware and software that you use for your composing and recording sessions?

Here is my setup:

Front End
Neumann KM 183 stereo pair
Mojave audio MA 200
Shure SM 57
Focal monitors CMS 50
Millennia HV 3C
Grace audio 101
Interface Steinberg UR 28M

Software
Cubase 8.0
Nektar LX 88 key midi keyboard
Spitfire audio Albion, Woodwinds
East West Quantum leap Gold and Hollywood Brass
Spectrasonics Omnisphere, Trillian, Stylus RMX
Native Instruments Komplete, Session Horns and some others
U He Zebra 2
Alchemy
Addictive Drums
Many others

various guitars and amplifiers

At a gig in Los Angeles 2013

Here is the Abbas Premjee catalogue of royalty-free music / production music tracks composed for Shockwave-Sound.

Here’s a video of Abbas performing on the Mohan Veena instrument:

Abbas Premjee was interviewed by Bjorn Lynne, who is also the founder and manager of Lynne Publishing and Shockwave-Sound.com