The mix of artists you see in the pictures of Global Rockstar United and on the cover of To the Moon is quite fascinating — age, gender, skin color, attitude… it looks so cool that it may seem staged.
Only when we received the official press pictures from the agency did we realize a slight similarity with the old ad campaign of an Italian clothing brand! It is important to remember that Syssi, Katie, A Yeon, Murray, Jhanniel and Christian are not models we put in front of the camera for their pretty faces. They wrote music and lyrics and they co-own the copyright of To the Moon.
How could these people work together from day one? They speak a total of six different mother tongues, not everybody is super fluent in English and one even needs a translator. They are all talented performers, creative composers and multi-instrumentals. We had six talented singers, three guitars, two keyboard players, two drummers… and so on. To decide who should record what for To the Moon alone was a task that could have generated furious discussions. Their individual music genres are very different, but to everybody’s astonishment each artists role slipped into place smoothly.
The truth is these people were so different from each other that differences made no difference at all. They were forced to bond on differences. The only thing they had in common was music. So they were forced to bond on music.
To the Moon is a fascinating co-operation. The artists managed to both focus on their own strengths and to find the courage to try something new. Think of Christian and Murray, pouring their experience into it and taking the lead over most of the arrangement. Think of guitar-player Christian recording bass guitar. Think of Katie, who expressed her singer-songwriter talent in the lyrics and watched over everybody’s pronunciation in the voice-booth. It took Syssi awhile to convince our resident grammar-nazi that “Dream it up!” is not a grammar mistake but a poetic license. Think of Jhanniel, the only one who could play the wah-wah pedal effect. But think also of A Yeon rapping for the first time, think of Katie teaching Syssi a new technique in order for her to reach higher notes with her voice. These were not people fighting for a spot in the limelight; they were artists working collectively towards a common goal.
Decision-making was also unbelievable within the Global Rockstar United team. On the second day we had two different songs ready to be developed and we had to choose one over the other. Of course some hearts were more into one and some more into the other, still it took us a few seconds to agree unanimously on the second one. Not the catchy one, but the song where everybody’s strength could flourish.
Once everybody left Vienna, we still worked remotely together to finish the mix. Again, we had two people working on two different versions — Knolli in Vienna and Christian in Stockholm each with their own supporters. On Wednesday morning we decided we would hold a vote via email the very next day to finally choose one mix. You know what happened? By early evening Christian and Knolli had merged the two mixes together, magically highlighting the respective strengths. We all cheered and no voting was needed. We must underline that this is not how music making normally works with big teams!
We all learned a lot by simply chatting together. It was the first time in Europe for most of them, after all. Did you know that there are no pigeons in New Zealand? (At least not the small ones that infest Vienna and all European cities). We explained to Katie that they are a pest, rats with wings, but still she got all excited each time she saw them, to everybody else’s amusement.
Once we discussed how different mixing and mastering sound in Europe compared to in the USA. Syssi was amazed at this. She told us how in Africa you don’t give your music to a producer in order for him/her to adapt it to some specific market/sound… that would be considered betraying your music! She then realized how exporting an African production as it is to Europe would work at the most in a niche, namely targeting African expatriates. And the reverse is also true. We learned that in Congo nobody does playback, maybe it’s because of the availability of technical equipment, but mostly cultural: both the artist and the audience would call it cheating.
We all realized you cannot approach a foreign market without a deep understanding, not only of hard facts about music production and distribution, but also of the music culture that lies behind it.
The artists’ fan bases may be surprised by To the Moon, as it is quite different compared to the music they usually make. In some cases a lot different. Katie reflected on this aspect the last day on her way to the airport. Her initial concern soon gave place to the realization that they didn’t come all the way to the other end of the world to write the same song they could have composed in a backyard in Christchurch or a condo in Vancouver. To the Moon could only happen in Vienna, thank to love, respect and six fantastic people with their hearts in the right place.
Global Rockstar United doesn’t end with the release of To the Moon on Sept. 16. Some intercontinental music co-operations are about to happen. Some lifelong friendships were created. Some skeptical hard-core-science-fans are taking up yoga next fall, some lazy social media users are pulling themselves together and paying more attention. Foreign language skills are being polished. New vibes are in the air.
In times like these, when crossing borders and defending borders seems to be the only thing that matters worldwide, we believe our message is even more important. Global Rockstar United demonstrates that we can reduce the concept of borders to what it really means: imaginary lines drawn on an imaginary representation of the world we all live in. Together.