Christof Straub is CEO, Head of Music and co-founder of Global Rockstar. He was the mastermind of the multi-platinum award winning Austrian folk duo Papermoon and experienced a successful twenty year career. Christof is in charge of all music production at Global Rockstar and follows the artists very closely.
How did you choose the six artists for Global Rockstar United?
We set some simple rules first. Six artists, each coming from a different continent: Europe, Africa, North America, South America, Asia and Oceania.
We were looking not just for performers but for composers too, artists who could put their contribution into the project, share experiences and include their diverse cultural backgrounds.
Other wishes were put on the table, but weren’t mandatory. Multi-instrumentalists, evenly distributed between men and women, a mix of up-and-coming and more experienced artists, different genres… we wanted to mix as much as possible. In the end, much easier, we followed our gut feeling and the mix came out perfect!
We have a huge pool of more than 20,000 registered artists on Global Rockstar as we speak. We decided to look for artists that participated in last year’s contest and that reduced the number of the possible candidates to a “mere” 12,000. And of course every person at Global Rockstar has his favorites. We started from that.
Rocker Jhanniel, from Argentina, is the winner of Global Rockstar 2014 and represents South America. He’s a rising star in South America, he shares a meaningful message of spirituality and is full of power.
We invited singer-songwriter Katie Thompson, who landed 6th place in the finals of Global Rockstar 2014, to represent Oceania. She’s young but already a pillar of the singer-songwriter community in her home country, New Zealand.
For North America, we have Murray Yates from Canada. Murray is lead singer and mastermind of Forty Foot Echo and they landed the 3rd place in the Canadian national pre-selection last year.
For Europe, Christian Rabb from Sweden, guitarist and mastermind of No Sleep for Lucy. The band landed second place in the Swedish pre-selection of Global Rockstar 2014.
Both Murray and Chris are experienced musicians but also producers, with a superb understanding of the North American and European markets respectively. We were lucky to get them onboard.
To represent Africa we asked world music singer and composer Syssi Mananga from Congo. Her mixed heritage makes her a perfect fit for Global Rockstar United. Last year she won the pre-selection in her home country.
From Asia we invited A Yeon, tiny but powerful drummer from South Korea. Her pop-band Bebop was second in the national pre-selection last year. Also, A Yeon is an Instagram celebrity in her home country and has a very different career path compared to the others. An interesting point of view to stir things up!
With A Yeon we also made a risky decision that turned out perfectly fine: to include an artist who doesn’t speak English. A translator assisted A Yeon for the whole time in studio. We were all a bit antsy at first, but we soon realized that music is really a common language, not just a claim.
How much input did you give the artist?
Not too much, to tell the truth. I just tried to be the guide. We sent everybody two drum loops in different tempos that were meant for the artists to get the general idea. All Global Rockstar United artists are co-writers of To the Moon and of course co-owners of the rights – they literally have their face on it! It was important that everybody agreed on what we’re doing here. It would have been quite unfair, and also pointless, to come to Vienna first to discover that the genre of the Global Rockstar United song disgusts you!
How much freedom did the artist have?
All the freedom! (laughts) We started working on the artists’ feedback based on the first drum loop and quickly developed a song with the potential to be number one, sometime mid-afternoon on the first day. There was so much creativity in the room that day, that the artists felt they should write a second song to develop all their ideas and have more choices. They kept jamming, discussing and composing into the small hours that night. The next day we had two demos of two excellent songs at disposal and didn’t know which one to produce.
The music business is not exactly the most democratic place – like on a boat there is always someone in charge who can put his foot down and overrule the others. Not with Global Rockstar United. We made the impossible happen and decided to put it up for votes! We involved everybody, the six artists, all people involved in the music production, but also everybody in the Global Rockstar United team, cameramen, translator, editor, marketing, media… you know what? The second song won by acclamation!
What did Global Rockstar supply as support?
Besides the organization and logistic of flights, taxis and hotel, we had a recording studio to ourselves with enough space for the six artists to work together, but also in small groups or even alone and undisturbed for some time. We chose the gosh! Audio studio not only on the basis of its fine technical equipment and big space but mainly because it is not in a cellar – like most sound studios are – but on the second floor of a building full of daylight. Most of the artists had brutal jet-lag to overcome quickly, sunlight was crucial.
We also had a co-producer and arranger, responsible for the music production – legendary Christian Knollmüller – and one sound technician at our disposal for the whole time. A crew of Illuminati film followed the music making at the studio for the making-of documentary and shot the music video on the last day. After the Global Rockstar United artists left Vienna we had a rough mix to master and all the video footage to be cut for the music video, the TV commercials and the making-of documentary. The Sunshine mastering and Illuminati film teams worked on it professionally and fast.
In six days from jamming/composing to recording a rough mix. What are the challenges for a production like Global Rockstar United, which has to be finished at top speed?
It is six days if you count the day of departure, in reality the music production and the video shoot were accomplished in just five days, four for the music and one for the video!
To tell the truth, a tight deadline is a very good thing! Of course we had a huge workload and we worked well into the night/early morning a couple of times… at the end everybody was so exhausted! But I know musicians and I know music production; we discussed planning a free day between finishing the rough mix and the video making, but do you know what would have happened? We would have worked through the “free day” as hard as usual!
Music production is indeed that kind of activity that fills up the whole time at disposal.
Is Global Rockstar United a one-time project or do you already have plans for the future?
At the beginning we started as a one-time project and discussed how, under the right conditions, this could be a test-run to make Global Rockstar United a yearly appointment.
After meeting everybody and spending days making music together and sharing experiences we think we created something bigger than a yearly appointment. This extreme mix of people, talent and ideas was such a fertile environment to create music that nobody of us, artists and team, is willing to give up!
What I can tell you now is that Global Rockstar United doesn’t end with the release of To the Moon, we’re still all in contact sharing ideas and already working on a new song.
What does Global Rockstar United mean for you, personally?
During this creative journey I realized something essential for both my professional and personal life. This whole project was based on the idea of a world without borders, of global understanding through music. Before the Global Rockstar artists arrived in Vienna it may have sounded a bit artificial on paper, but the project turned out to be exactly how we imagined it: a journey full of love and respect together with people from all over the world! It was kind of magical – we were living the message we wanted to send out.
Everything we do in our whole life is about love and respect. We should definitely keep spreading this message through Global Rockstar United!