Some thoughts

In a few days, IN FLUX will be released. It’s an album I’ve been working on for more than a year, simultaneously while finalizing my first album World 1-2. Ever since I started Brave Wave (then Koopa Soundworks) I haven’t had a day of rest. I’m not complaining—I just want to say something, so bear with me. I haven’t had a day of rest and had always worked on the label, in one way or another. Daily emails, daily translations (to the Japanese musicians), generally just doing my job as a director and the guy who runs the label.

So it’s easy to lose perspective and just be totally consumed with this. But now I look back at how this little thing grew, and is growing, and I’m really thankful for everyone who lend a hand and pushed us to where we are now. The musicians who pour their hearts and souls into their creations, the kind friends who buy our music and support us, the writers who find what we do interesting enough to write about. Family, friends, everyone. I will still have a lot of work after IN FLUX (a bunch of albums I’m working on) but nothing that needs my immediate, day-to-day attention the way IN FLUX was, and I’m going to appreciate that. I will try to not initiate any new albums and just develop the few I have slowly. I will try to appreciate everything we do here and the fact that I’m making good stuff with good people for the benefit of good friends. Ain’t that the best feeling in the world? Seriously. I also have a game idea that may need to be taken to the next level. And of course, most importantly, learn Japanese.

If you ever supported the work I do, thank you. It’s really hard to not lose focus, and so easy to succumb to depression, but I have high hopes in Brave Wave. I hope I can realize them all.

A brave endeavor

Brave Wave has been officially incorporated. It’s a Japanese company now. Phew. Unbelievable.

I still remember the first time I contacted Alex about helping me on the first album. I had finally found Keiji Yamagishi on Facebook, and I wanted to talk with him extensively and interview him for the website. He’s a composer that no one knows much about, even though he composed some of gaming’s most memorable soundtracks—Ninja Gaiden, Tecmo Bowl, Captain Tsubasa, Radia Senki. And so I asked Alex if he could direct me to someone that would help me in translating these questions and answers, and in my mind, that would be it—I wouldn’t need more help. But then, I found Manami Matsumae and proposed to her the idea of World 1-2, and, to my surprise, she agreed. In fact, her track on the album was her first-ever work for a non-Japanese person. (So does Keiji’s.)

As you could tell, Alex decided to help with my Japanese affairs. At that time, there wasn’t much to be excited about. I mean, World 1-2 was merely an idea, and I was unknown to English-speaking people, as my work only resided on the Arabic side of the Internet. So when Alex decided to help me, I don’t think any of us expected this small little thing to boom like this. And as days went by, he went from being a translator to someone more involved—he urged me to attend TGS and meet the composers; he headed all my meetings in Japan and helped pave the bridge of understanding between me and them; and he took interest in doing things I wasn’t paying attention to like printing business cards and help with the upcoming Bit Summit MMXIV.

The creative side of things doesn’t interest Alex much, but that’s a gross underestimation of the work he’s been doing for me.  I’m good at making albums and talking to composers and just making a ruckus, while Alex is good at maintaining an ongoing relationship with the Japanese composers and help tidy things up when it comes to “business” in general. And I absolutely loathe “business”, but that was the logical step for Brave Wave. It gives more credibility to us when we work with composers, and it’s one more step into realizing a childhood dream of mine. I think I was lucky in that I had a good friend who was willing to run the business side of things while I can keep focusing on the thing I enjoy the most: making music with other friends.

You always need a public image for a company, and that has been me all the time, but the people who are supporting me—Alex with the business side of things, Marco with the technical side of music, Manami and Keiji with their advice, Stemage and Eirik Suhrke with their support—are the reason I’m able to put this whole thing together. It’s a sexier story to let you think that I’m the sole person responsible for this, but I’m not. Brave Wave wouldn’t have been as good as it is now if not for those who gave me their time and energy to help me get one step closer to fulfilling what I have in mind.  I’m grateful for this gift.

Alex is taking care of business development for the company in Japan and acts as the CEO; I can’t be that as I’m not a resident of the country. I’m the president and sole shareholder, as well as my expected job of being the creative director (a la making music and albums). Manami and Keiji, while not registered employees, work with me as contractors on a per-album basis, either as advisors or co-directors, as well as their regular job of composing. Marco supervises all the releases and ensure they’re up to bar with our standards, as well as mix tracks when needed (as a contractor as well). It’s a 2-man company, but the operational team is in fact 5. And here’s a piece of trivia: Marco came up with the name Brave Wave, helped me finalize the visual identity (that was done by Cory Schmitz), and assisted me in directing our upcoming album IN FLUX.

I’m fortunate to have these good friends with me. I look forward to our work for this year.

Super Music Bros.

I had a pleasant time with Andrew Webster from The Verge talking about World 1-2 and Koopa Soundworks.

A few friends wondered about this:

Taher says he has so much material, in fact, that he’ll be putting out a second compilation later this summer.

As Andrew reports in the article, World 1-2 started as a small EP. However, the transition to a 20-track album didn’t happen immediately — I wanted to make a huge album with up to 40 tracks first. I kept adding more material and hiring additional artists until I realized it was a terrible idea. Who wants to listen to a 40-track album? Most people simply lack such capacity; we — at least I — don’t have the patience to stomach that much content. It took a lot of time for M83’s “Hurry Up” to click with me, and that’s a 22-track album. So I made a relatively smaller album in comparison, which is what we have now in the form of World 1-2, and I plan to make the followup (tentatively titled Encore) even smaller. I actually have more shelved tracks even when excluding Encore.

It’s important we remind ourselves to never make anything just for the sake of making it. “40-track album for $10!” sounds marketable and catchy, but is it really engrossing? In most cases, no, and I have a hard time believing anyone would be able to make it so. Even if all the tracks are enjoyable, it simply won’t sink in. It’ll be that huge album I’ll revisit thoroughly one day instead of that cool album I had fun listening to.

One lesson I learned from the making of World 1-2 is to always, always, always be receptive to change.

The next album, Encore, is shaping up quite nicely. I’m still refining hard edges here and there, but what we have so far is satisfying. Yes, it has a Mega Man remix — and from a (newly formed) jazz band, helmed by Andi Bissig! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: World 1-2 is coming in less than a week, and I’m looking forward to that! May is going to be an exciting month.

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