Author Archives: Jon Hammer

10 Questions With Etienne Sin

Etienne Sin is a name that most metal fans know; not only is the 23 year old New Yorker an extremely talented singer and screamer with a large range, but he also runs his own record label, The Sin Circle Records. Sin has not only released multiple music videos and albums/EPs, but he also supports other artists and sets up tours with them; as if that wasn’t enough, he sells his own how to scream/how to write metal songs DVDs for beginners. I had the opportunity to interview Sin and ask him a few questions:


 

1. Your voice is ridiculously good. How did you learn to sing? Are you self taught, or did you take any formal vocal lessons?

I’ve been a tailored musician since I was a child; on all of the instruments. I started with piano and eventually learned the rest. I took vocal training for 3 years from multiple teachers. Before that, I was a horrible singer. I came out of the box listening to a lot of Metal and Death Metal. I was rather good at harsh screaming vocals when I started, but I was a terrible clean vocalist. I was naturally good at screams, for whatever reason, probably all of the Metal I listened to. I started that when I was 15 and I started singing at 16.

2. Why did you learn how to scream, and what was the learning process like?

As a 15 year old, I just did stuff. When you’re a teenager, sometimes, you don’t really think about things. You just do them. Once I started going to vocal lessons, things became much clearer. With my music background, such as music theory, knowing the basics of melody and rhythm, vocals came very easy afterwards. It was a natural progression for me.

I started to take my music career seriously around 18, when I realized I wanted more out of life than just growing up and making money.

3. For those who don’t know, you run your own record label, The Sin Circle Records. What was it like to start that, and how has managing it been?

It’s been a tough journey. The business part of the music industry is definitely not for everyone. Everything for me is a natural progression, from learning my instruments, to starting my businesses. I feel like I’m built for being a business oriented artist. I wouldn’t be able to keep my music career afloat without the business end of it. We live in a capitalistic environment and if you don’t adapt, you’ll fade away quickly. A lot of rockers and aspiring rockstars don’t really grasp this concept, especially when they are younger.

The hardest part of starting it up is learning the business. It’s all crunching numbers, talking to industry people, and setting yourself up as a powerhouse of new talent. It’s all strategy; a great man once said “If I had 8 hours to cut down a tree, I would spend 6 hours sharpening my axe.” The most exciting part would be the pride you get from getting good feedback from that talent.

Managing it is just as difficult as getting it off the ground. Once you have some buzz going for your musicians and artists, the idea now is to keep that going, all the while taking care of each one of their needs such as product releases and touring. The industries job list is getting shorter, so I believe the labels have to do more for their artists instead of throwing money at them so they can hire other people can do it. However, there are always levels to this business.

By the end of the year (2014,) we plan on having a full 8 artist roster. “Full” meaning the limit that we can properly maintain without sinking because of our own weight.

4. You work with a few people in your covers, specifically Desdemona and Danny Disastr. How did you meet them, and what’s your chemistry like with both of them (musically)?

Danny reached out to me when I was still forming The Sin Circle Records. Shortly after it’s formation, I would say about 6 months after I made the label official, he expressed his interest in becoming a bigger artist and working with me. He sent me some Live Like Glass demos and I really loved the lyrical and melodic content. Soon after, they came to New York and the rest is history. I can honestly say that Live Like Glass is a perfect example of our successes, as of right now. They were an unknown act and now due to both of our efforts, they are skyrocketing. Musically, I really love working with those guys. Danny’s writing skill is something I’m a fan of and they are a group of fun dudes, so it’s a pleasure.

As for Desdemona, I met her through my girlfriend. She’s an old friend of her’s, so that one was easy. I had expressed my interest in raising an artist from the ground up, working with someone with a very specific skill set. Desdemona and I talked for a long while before realizing her potential and we just put in the work! As far as musically and in the studio, we have a producer/artist workflow. I create all of the instrumentals and melodies and she works on the lyrics and her voice.

5. You’re probably one of the best known screamers on Youtube. What drew you to start putting up covers on Youtube, and when you started, did you find support from the community, or pushback?

On youtube, I’d definitely have to agree. I worked hard at that shit! Haha. But as far as the whole scene, there are still so many people I look up to, so I’d have to humble myself there. Vocalists like Phil Bozeman from WhiteChapel still make me look like shit, haha!

You always feel a pushback at first. People don’t like change. When I came onto the scene, I was different and strange. No one wanted to listen. I kept it up the pressure and people started paying attention to my workflow and confidence. I started because I studied marketing and I still do study marketing. I realized the potential of taking your career into your own hands and YouTube is the perfect medium for that.

6. You’ve been on tour before, and you’re currently booking future tours. What’s the experience like for you and those you tour with?

I hate booking tours, the worst of the industry shows when you’re doing that. But it’s all about building relationships with people and weaving around the jokers and egoists. If I’m on a tour however, you’d bet your ass that I have a hand in it in a major way. I’m all about getting things done, with speed and determination.

Otherwise, the actual tour is real fun. It’s tiring, especially if you have a long set every night. You have to pace yourself, which I have a hard time doing. Sometimes I also have a bit too much to drink and I blow my voice. So I’m still working on becoming a better live performer. The best thing for me is actually meeting the people and supporters of the music.

7. You can play every instrument in a standard rock/metal band; what other music groups influenced you to learn the instruments?

Screams, it was Carcass and Arch Enemy. Also bands like Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth. I loved the insanity that both of those bands inspired back when I was a teenager. I also really like clean vocals; it was A Skylit Drive pretty much hands down. I listened to power metal, but no one’s vocals quite hit me like 2007-2008 A Skylit Drive. I’m a huge fan of both of their lead vocalists, I never got into that “battle” on which one was better or anything. I have a ton of respect for both, so much to the point where I’ve worked with them on many occasions. I still listen to those records for inspiration today.

 

For guitar and bass, I’m heavily influenced by Carcass and their earlier works. Oh and a band from Poland called Decapitated. Those guys are absolutely insane.

 

As for Drums, I almost exclusively listened to technical death metal bands. Fast double bass, blast-beats and interdependence is my shit! Of course, I’m not nearly as fast as those guys are, but I still am very inspired by them.

8. Some of your most viewed covers are non-metal songs made heavy. Other than metal bands, what do you like to listen to in your spare time?

I actually don’t listen to metal for fun, or hardcore. I’m surrounded by it every day. There won’t be anything new or groundbreaking made from listening to everything within the genre. New things are brought about by listening elsewhere. If I’m listening to Metal or Hardcore I’m working on it. Of course, I keep my ear to the ground when new stuff comes out. I’m very tactical when it comes to Metal and Hardcore.

 

I listen to a lot of hip-hop, rap, and dance music right now. I also live in New York, you don’t live here and not listen to Hip-Hop. And if you do your best to avoid it, it’s not like your not hearing it somewhere. It engulfs the culture here and I really enjoy it.

9. How do you feel about TV shows like “American Idol”, “X Factor”, and “The Voice” as a way for musicians to get known? Have you ever considered auditioning for a show like that?

No, I don’t participate in that sort of thing. If I’m involved in something like that, I’m running it. That is putting your music career in someone elses hands, particularly 3 judges. I don’t like authority or judges. I’m all about taking shit into your own hands.

10. Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?

Take stuff into your own hands. Don’t rely on anyone you don’t trust 100% with your future. If you have a team, make sure they are all on board with your dream and vision. Remember that the chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.


You can find Etienne Sin’s YouTube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/etiennesin

All of Etienne Sin’s upcoming projects can be found here: www.etiennesin.com

10 Questions With Ryan Strain

Ryan Strain is a vocalist who specializes in distorted, screaming vocals — though he has a killer singing voice, too. Raised in Garner, North Carolina bustraint currently residing in Portland, Oregon, Strain’s 8+ years of vocal experience is clear: his YouTube covers range from the guttural screams of Job For A Cowboy to the southern swoon of Elvis Presley. Not only does his YouTube channel have over 19,500 subscribers and 1.7 million views, but multiple bands have shared his covers via social media due to their professionalism and accuracy. I follow Ryan’s work and wanted to reach out to him to ask about vocals, music, and the YouTube community as a whole.

1. What band, or vocalist, influenced you to start practicing vocals?
Honestly, from the time I was a child singing gospel music in my bedroom, I knew I wanted to be a singer. When I got older, Linkin Park and AFI were the first bands I ever heard that used screaming vocals. I had never heard them before, and it interested me. Then someone showed me The Devil Wears Prada. I instantly fell in love with the power and the intensity screaming could expel. It was at that moment that I knew what I wanted to do. So, I’d have to thank Mike Hranica, really, for initially inspiring me to learn screaming. Obviously though, my musical tastes and my vocal styles have changed, so I’d have to really credit the vocalists who shaped me to be who I am now – Amazing frontmen like Anders Friden, Bjorn Strid, Christian Alvestam, and Roy Khan.
2. As a vocalist who also sings and screams in multiple styles, I’m always interested to know the answer to these two questions: Why did you learn how to scream, and what was the learning process like?
Well, like I said, I fell in love with the passion of it. I loved the raw emotion that could be channeled through it, not to mention I just loved the way it sounded. I’ve always been the guy who mimicked other people and did voices, so learning to scream was a lot like just doing impressions of other vocalists I heard. That’s really how I learned over the years. I would listen to a new band, and if I liked the vocals, I would practice until I could do what they did. Eventually, I had enough sounds and voices under my belt to truly develop my own style.
3. With the digital age allowing for anyone to release any content they want, there are numerous options for DIY musicians. What equipment (physical and digital) do you use to record and process your material?
Well, my setup isn’t anything special. I didn’t pick this equipment. They’re items that were given to me. So obviously, if I had the money, I would invest in a better setup. But for those interested, I use a Shure SM58 microphone plugged into a Europower PMP2000 mixer, which hooks directly into my computer and records into Reaper.
4. Obviously, you’re a vocalist who puts up both covers and originals on Youtube. What drew you to start putting up covers on Youtube, and when you started, did you find support from the community, or pushback?
It’s funny actually. My first cover that made it to Youtube wasn’t really meant to be a showcase of my vocals. I made the video as kind of a demonstration of what I thought people on Youtube SHOULD do when they do vocal covers. I used to watch a lot of covers, and I saw a lot of kids just sitting there looking bored, not taking any pride in what they were doing, and I thought “Who would want this kid as their frontman?”. So I made a video for my original cover of Born of Osiris’ “Brace Legs”. I did everything I wanted to see. I used the best recording quality I could use at the time, and actually acted like a front-man on camera. I jumped around, headbanged, and did exactly what I would do on stage. I kept doing it because it was a huge learning experience for me. Initially, the support from the community was great. It pushed me to keep doing more and more. I can say, I’ve never felt any pushback from the community and the love and support from my ever-growing fanbase has been increasingly incredible. There’s always the occasional jerk, but their comments aren’t based off of true hate or dislike; just misunderstanding. I appreciate every listener!
5. How do you see Youtube influencing the music community, specifically the metal scene as a whole?
Youtube has definitely become a great place to seek out aspiring musicians. In the old days, bands had to put up ads and posters and hold auditions to find other musicians. Nowadays, you can just make a quick search on Youtube and find tons of talented people just waiting for their opportunity to break through.
6. As someone who is interested in vocal science, nothing bothers me more than seeing “How To Scream” videos on Youtube that are entirely wrong (ironically, your tutorial is one of the few good ones I’ve seen, which is how I found out about your channel); what is your biggest music pet peeve?
I think just what you said. Most of the “how to scream” videos out there are videos that were made by a kid who just learned how to scream yesterday. That’s not really my biggest pet peeve though. My biggest pet peeve is people who can’t differentiate between “talent” and “genre that I like”. Fans of mine will listen to a Whitechapel cover of mine and say “YEAH THIS IS SO GOOD YOU’RE AMAZING”, then I do a song in which I do the best singing I’ve ever done and use my real talents, and the same guy will say “This sucks. This style is shit”. It’s like, are you a fan of me or just some of the songs I cover? True music lovers can recognize all musical talent regardless of the genre.
7. Is music something you want to do for a living, or is it just a hobby?
Well, obviously I would WANT to do it as a living, but just like any other art, it’s hard to translate it into real money. It’s going to have to remain a hobby for a long time until it can somehow pay my bills.
8. You have an interesting variety of covers on your Youtube channel, ranging from Job For A Cowboy’s “Constitutional Masturbation” to Aladdin’s “A Whole New World.” When you’re not listening to metal, what’s on your playlist?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Tech N9ne lately and 50’s music like Elvis, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra. I’ve also been listening to the classical station a lot lately.
9. What is one song you wish you could’ve written, and why?
Oh man, that’s an interesting question. I would have to say Devin Townsend’s “Kingdom” because I think that’s one of the greatest songs of all time.
10. Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?
Don’t make what others want, because you’ll never please everyone. Don’t do what others are doing just to steal their fanbase. Do what you want to do and don’t be afraid of what others will say or how popular it will be. It’s not about the fame and glory, but about your own satisfaction as a musician. The day you start making music you don’t like just to be popular is the day you cease to be a real musician at all.

 


 

Ryan Strain’s YouTube channel can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/YamiRyan4509 and is currently involved with the following projects:

Sea of Trees: http://www.facebook.com/SeaOfTreesMusic

Digilis: https://www.facebook.com/DiligisBand

 

Haze – The American Scene Album Review by Jonathan Hammer

Though I respect all music, it’s sometimes difficult for me to branch out of screaming vocals and heavily distorted guitars – as a metal head, indie pop-rock music that all sounds the same usually just doesn’t do anything for me.

Then there’s The American Scene.

The American Scene’s latest work, Haze, comes out September 9 via Pure Noise Records, but an advanced promo copy has gotten me sucked into some relaxing indie that has memorable hooks and a simple-but-fun sounding song construction.

The album opens with its title track and sets the mood well: crunch guitars that have the clarity of a gorgeous clean tone, upbeat drums that follow pop rhythms but aren’t generic, bass lines that create an infrastructure of low end to make sure the mix isn’t too thin, and catchy vocals with just enough reverb and delay to make them stand out, all allow for The American Scene’s work to hold its own against other acts in the genre.

Darker, mellow songs like “Nails of Love” aren’t too common on the album, but offer a good break from the more upbeat songs that abound. As “Nails of Love” ends and transitions into “4th and Broadway”, an upbeat piece with more guitar presence, listeners can understand that the band has a whimsical play of dynamics with their instruments, as well as a writing process that leads to diverse works.

The album is also filled with lyrics that college students can relate to, such as the extremely catchy chorus of “Nails Of Love”, which is guaranteed to remind you of at least one person you’ve met before: “She doesn’t want to be in love/Doesn’t think it’s any fun/All her friends are getting high on the weekends/He doesn’t dance unless he’s drinking/But he’s been breaking it down”

With no song clocking in at over 4 minutes, and most of the 10 songs on the album being less than 3 and a half minutes, Haze offers listeners music that can stay on repeat because of how short and catchy each song is. Whether you’re looking for something to go for a run to, trying to find new study music, or simply just want to listen to a new band, watch out for Haze in the near future; The American Scene made a mark on my music listening habits, and I’m sure it will for you, too.

 

“Royal Blue”, the band’s single for the album, can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JQDKVHIxdY

You Ought To Know: Twenty-One Pilots

Vessel still has potential to grow popularity into 2014

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Album: Vessel

Released: January 8, 2013

Label: Fueled By Raman

By: Stephanie Griffin

It seems every time I have a new favorite artist, nobody knows who it is. I can say this about Twenty-One Pilots.  The musical duo from Ohio is Tyler Joseph on vocals and piano and Josh Dun on drums. They are not new to the music scene, but they can thank the Fueled by Ramen label for signing them to help get their big break. Their first album, Regional At Best (2011) introduced indie fans to the new artists, who grew popular while headlining shows and tours. But, Vessel, released January 8 of this year, is starting to give Twenty-One Pilots the exposure they deserve.
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CAPITAL CITIES- ONE OF THE BEST NEW ARTISTS OF 2013

 

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Artist: Capital Cities

Album: In A Tidal Wave of Mystery

Release Date: June 4, 2013

By: Stephanie Griffin

It took me seeing them live this past weekend to realize how awesome this band is. Capital Cities, whose top hit “Safe and Sound” is played on various radio stations, is definitely a new band to highlight before this year is over. Their debut album called In A Tidal Wave of Mystery, was released in the beginning of summer. The first single off the album, “Safe and Sound” became a top Summer favorite. Capital Cities is growing even more popular as they currently tour Fitz and the Tantrums this Fall. As a whole, In A Tidal Wave of Mystery is the ideal party album. What makes Capital Cities so unique is how they are able to bring an eighties pop feel in their songs, with the use of brass instruments and synthesizers. This combination just works, and every track brings its own little taste to their indie style.

Capital Cities is an indie electronic band out of Los Angeles. It first started as Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian, who began as jingle writers. Once the band was formed in 2010, they released some independent EP’s with their first single, “Safe and Sound” actually being one of their first recorded tracks. The newest members include bassist Manny Quintero, trumpeter Spencer Ludwig, guitarist Nick Merwin, and drummer Channing Holmes.

The album kicks off with their first single, “Safe and Sound.” Listening to the lyrics, the song can be interpreted for many different types of relationships: romantic, friendships, or even family. It’s a song about promising to be there for each other. As the lyrics say, “I could lift you up, I could show you what you wanna see and take you where you wanna be.”

Next on the album is “Patience Gets Us Nowhere Fast.” The song sounds happy though its lyrics are pretty sad. The song goes, “I want it all and nothing less, I want it all, I want the best for you, I’m telling you the truth.” Even though the lyrics portray some type of frustration with a relationship, the synthesizer in the background just makes you want to dance.

The third track is by far one of the best and hopefully a future single for Capital Cities. On tour, they open with “Kangaroo Court,” another fun dancing song. It’s one of those songs where the lyrics don’t make sense, but in this case- who cares. This song is best for its instrumental sound, like the amazing part with the trumpet before the bridge.

The party album continues with more electronic catchy songs. “I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo” is one of those songs with a one-line chorus that can easily get stuck in your head. “Farrah Fawcett Hair” is another dance song that features hip-hop artist, Andre 3000, where again, the lyrics don’t really make sense but it’s a cool song to listen to. Then you hear tracks like “Chartreuse” and “Origami” that sound for a second as if they are songs to open for a video game. But what Capital Cities does best is take this electronic pop sound and give it a little funk with the use of piano and brass instruments. Whatever they use, each song has its own feel so you get a little bit of everything: dance, pop, electronic, rock, indie.

Towards the end of the album, it seems like this dance party is coming to an end. Songs like “Lazy Lies” and “Tell Me How To Live” are rather slow and different from the beginning of the album. The lyrics are also kind of depressing. As the lyrics of “Lazy Lies” say, “Sick and tired, and you wanna see a change
But you don’t wanna change for me.” You are basically going to hear certain songs on the album where the lyrics may not make sense. But songs like “Lazy Lies” actually tell a story. This variety works though and can show us Capital Cities can do more than just upbeat dance songs. Though they weren’t my favorite songs on the album, the change in tone is something good to have. You don’t want every song sounding the same.

It is clear though Capital Cities does a good job with getting songs stuck in your head. You will be looking forward to the last two tracks on this album because they are catchy, cute, and fun. “Love Away” is almost the perfect song to end a romantic comedy with. In this case, it’s the best way to end In A Tidal Wave of Mysterybecause it is simple and cute. Anyone who listens to bands like the Fitz and the Tantrums, Miniature Tigers, Imagine Dragons, or Grouplove will definitely enjoy Capital Cities. Indie music nowadays is expanding to more subgenres like electronic, pop, dance, funk, and more. Capital Cities has a little bit of everything to offer on In a Tidal Wave of Mystery. They can continue their music career safely and soundly, as they become one of the best new artists this year.