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Archive for March, 2009

How To Produce Music For A 500 lb Rapper

March 27th, 2009 No comments
Quang Ly and rapper Might Bestruck

Quang Ly and rapper Might Bestruck

BESTRUCK – AROUND DA WORLD
When I was asked to produced Bestruck (real name Brian Forte), I was very excited. I engineered and produced a variety of different genres before but a solid hip hop project seemed to eluded me for a very long time. FYI, no one got shot while making this album. Always a plus in my book.

I’ve always loved groove based melodic music and it was hard to find hip hop music I really enjoyed in all aspects commercially and artistically without sounding gimmicky. Hip hop music that is well, musical, colourful, and tasteful. This was my chance to take hip hop to the next level and explore new elements and challenges on my own terms.

By the way, Bestruck also headlined a show at the Trocadero Theater in Philadelphia. The live performance is also in the Around Da World – EP.

Here’s a brief story behind each song.


Bestruck - Around Da World
AROUND DA WORLD
This is probably the most accessible and well produced track of all. I absolutely love it and it really shows my European music influenced beats. The drum track is essentially drum and bass but it originally had a too staccato mechanical feel. So adding the constant arpeggiators through a high pass filter gave it more momentum without sounding too bottom heavy. It was also my chance to add screaming guitar riffs that really gives it intensity and dynamics. The airplane sample at the end really does give it an “international” effect symbolic of the song. No, I won’t tell you which 80s record the sample was lifted from. 😉

YOU FEATURING MICHAEL BRAXTON
This is another one of my favorites. Originally it was a track no artist wanted but I always knew it had potential. Bestruck’s lyrics and delivery flowed well. A great catchy hook along side next Braxton family crooner Michael Braxton (Toni Braxton’s brother). Additional vocal arrangements by my good friend David Fenton. We must have recorded 25 vocal tracks layered and mixed together for the chorus for harmony. My little cousin Trang added the laugh track in the beginning and end of the song which added a more personal dimension. I always try to involve friends and family in something I love doing and felt it was perfect. I think this is the only song Bestruck did NOT have any disaggreements with me on (laughs).

MOMMY CAN’T ALWAYS

This was a crowd pleaser at the Trocadero show. The song was written in memory of Bestruck’s late mother. I love his lyrics because they really do inspire people from all backgrounds to live up. You may notice the resemblance in the beat with 50 Cent’s In Da Club. No, it wasn’t a sample. It just turned out that way. The chorus part was actually Bestruck himself and not a girl. His voice was pitch shift using an MPC drum sampler. For the live show, we did have R&B singer Michaelle Taylor sing it and she killed it! Check out the clip on the Amazon MP3 music player.

STOMP
This song was heavily influenced by my love for the NEPTUNES/N.E.R.D and Recoil (Alan Wilder ex Depeche Mode). I performed the drums and congas at Gamble and Huff studios and later tweaked, chopped, and reprocessed them in my lab. Strange note: you may think drums are loud instruments and thus easy to record but it must have taken 4 hours to get right. I was in the moment playing and when I heard the playback, it sounded like someone hitting cardboard paper.

BEAT IT UP FEATURING ASHANTI
My first track with Bestruck. It sounds a bit strange and electronic to me in an endearing way. Very different. Bestruck’s girlfriend Ashanti did some vocals on the track. I thought she was very sweet and nice. And then when she went into the vocal booth, a whole new raunchy side came out. It raised some eye brows in the control room. Frankly, when I first started arranging, I didn’t even know how know the number of bars (measures) or how to slice beats together.

INSTRUMENTAL LUST
I really liked this song but couldn’t find the right rapper on it so I just released it as an instrumental. I think it has some nice breaks and textures in there.

Some people find it unusual that I am very proud of finishing a hip hop album apart from my Delta Dreams moniker. However, it is something that I always wanted to do for a very long time. I think it turned out well and crosses musical and racial boundaries.I am also grateful I worked with some good people: Bestruck, Sean (Bestruck’s manager), David Abraham (friend), Pascal Volberg (engineer).

Thanks for reading (and listening)!

Quang Ly.

BRANDING – What is in a Cybersquatted and Real name? Part 2

March 25th, 2009 1 comment
Quang at BET Urbanworld film screening for Lo

Quang Ly at BET Urbanworld film screening for Lo

This is the second part in my blog on dealing with my CyberSquatted name and why it’s so important to own your own domain name – especially if you’re an artist or involved with new media.

Why Should I Care About Obtaining www.quangly.com?
The reason is simple. I want to protect my brand and identity. Some security experts state that it is not a good idea to obtain a domain name with your first and last name in it since you’re publicizing some parts of your identity. My feeling on this is your name is public anyway. What’s important is the information in your WhoIs lookup which can indicate your real email, address, and phone number. WhoIs lists who the domain name belongs to, managed by, and contact information. When you register a domain name, you are asked to provide this information. If the domain is for a company, then the information should be public. However, if the domain is personal, then I highly suggest you protect it.

Branding: A simple concept, but very elusive to truly grasp.
The history of my music project is related to this story. I decided on my music project name Delta Dreams back when I was 16 years old. I felt strongly of the name as it was indicative of my musical vision. I collaborated with other singers (mostly female) and musicians at the time since I wasn’t a great singer nor could play all the instruments.  However, over the years, I did learn how to sing, play guitar, drums, and became more experienced with writing songs and production. I’ve always enjoyed collaborating with wonderful talent. However, I always found that they lacked the hunger to push and promote the music.  So I continued with Delta Dreams completely solo for several more years while releasing Before My Eyes and Selected Music for Films Vol1. Does a project name for a solo artist suitable? I think the answer really depends how far you want to take your art or passion and how much you plan on promoting.

Quang Ly Performing

Quang Ly Performing

In my case, I unexpectedly caught the acting the bug. The problem again now comes with promoting two different names: Delta Dreams and Quang Ly. A film that I work on cannot be credited as staring Delta Dreams. It just doesn’t make sense! I also had a hard time explaining to people all the things that I do and passionate about.  The problem that I had was that I lacked synergy! To be honest, I did not exactly know why I was so driven to obtain my domain. I just had a really strong gut feeling to do so. Once I did receive my name, I felt such strong creative energy flowing again.  I also didn’t expect to enjoy blogging that much! And of course, I understood the power of branding as a result rather than a cause!

Branding Is Synergy
Synergy is defined as “The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.” To promote myself as the Quang Ly brand, I can bring the film world to discover my music and the music world to discover my film projects. I can also introduce both sides to my hobby in photography. (I just bought the Nikon D90 DSLR camera and love it). Furthermore, I can also gather my different worlds together to promote social change such as charity that I’m involved in, politics, economics, or life in general. Not that I am an expert in any of those topics. But I would like to have the potential to do so in the future without being limited by a brand name.

The Anti-Brand
Here comes the challenge. There is the brand and then there is the anti-brand. Some names cannot simply cross over to other ventures because they have conflicting values. Here are some examples

  • NIKE and CONVERSE: Most people don’t realize this but Converse was bought Nike in 2003 for $305 million.  There are a lot of vegans, vegetarians, and hipsters who despise Nike because of their use of leather and rumored (a-hem) sweatshops. Nike exploits this ignorance by not confusing their customer’s values. By the way, Adidas owns Reebok.
  • KRAFT and ALTRIA (Phillip Morris): Kraft makes Oreos, Tang, cheese and other food products. It is actually owned by Atria (formerly name as Phillip Morris). Phillip Morris makes cigarrette brands like Marlboro, Parliament, and Virginia Slims. How do you think a mother would feel if she knew the cheese on her daughter’s sandwich was owned by a cigarratte company?

The Quang Ly Brand
I admit I only understood this concept of Branding and Anti-Branding once I got quangly.com.  For me, quangly.com is really the ultimate platform and umbrella for all my passion, hobbies, and thoughts. It encompasses my YouTube channels, music on iTunes and Amazon MP3, Twitter, and the blog itself. Technology is changing so fast and difficult for people to keep up with. A good friend, David Abraham (who manages YouTube R&B Artist Redd Stylez) told me if you have a strong brand, you will supercede the changing of technology. People will find you. This is what I’m hoping to happen in the long term. Nothing happens over night. Furthermore, if you are an artist in the new media, it is important to have an official site to disperse authorized news and engagements.

This is Not Original
Branding a persona is not an original concept especially in the entertainment world. Examples include Will Smith and Jamie Foxx. Both are actors as well as artists.  They can leverage their passion in art and have it cross over to over mediums. Will Smith and his wife Jada Pincket Smith recently opened up a children’s school. I think this is a fabulous example of using branding for the greater good. Let’s not of course forget the amazing grace of Oprah! Donald Trump himself isn’t so much a  real estate mogul as much as he is a brand. Companies license the use of his name to put on their buildings, clothes, water, etc for a huge fee! Of course, all these people with strong brands do not have to reinvent the promotion wheel because all their ventures have synergy.

What I do find is that artists in the independent world have yet to understand this or perhaps I haven’t yet discovered enough of them. Maybe branding is not for them. Or maybe it’s a simple concept but very elusive to truly grasp.

Thank you for reading!
If you made it this far reading, I want to thank you. I tried to make it as brief as possible and it’s a bit of a read.

Quang Ly

Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler Are Law Abiding Citizens

March 17th, 2009 3 comments

I was driving home one afternoon when I got the call from one of my casting directors that I was going to be in the Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler new psychological action thriller Law Abiding Citizen shot in Philadelphia. I was so excited that I had to pull over.

My scene was the first day shooting in late January. It was so a freaking cold windy day at 15 degrees Fahrenheit. My long johns did not help either. It took the whole day to setup the cranes, cameras, and lighting equipment. Jamie Foxx had to walk out of City Hall and into a police car. That was pretty much it.

SYNOPSIS
Jamie Foxx plays a District Attorney who accepts a plea agreement with a murderer that slips through the legal system.  300 star Gerard Butler plays the vigilante out to seek revenge for his wife and daughter as well as the DA. However, Foxx’s character also has his own personal career agenda.

Law Abiding Citizen is directed by F. Gary Grey who did the excellent Italian Job. It was written by Kurt Wimmer, a Hollywood veteran known primarily for his journeyman script work (Sphere, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Recruit) but beloved by cult audiences for his underrated Christian Bale sci-fi flick Equilibrium. He also wrote and directed Ultraviolet. Wimmer has also been long-rumored to be the director of an upcoming film based on the hit video game Metal Gear Solid. I remember playing Metal Gear on the old Nintendo 16 bit.

Frank Darabont was initially set to direct Law Abiding Citizen but has stepped out for unknown reasons. He is a three-time Oscar nominee for such film classics as The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and the horror flick The Mist. Darabont has also been busy recently developing an updated film version of the Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451, which was going to star Tom Hanks until he dropped out earlier this year.

Saddle Up with Dick Wrangler & Injun Joe

March 17th, 2009 No comments

I was cast as a business man in the comedy/drama Saddle Up with Dick Wrangler & Injun Joe. Mickey Rooney has a cameo in the movie. It is an independent Ultra Low SAG film shot in Philadelphia. My scene involved  sitting on stage at an award ceremony in which the two lead characters were guests trying to sell a Sexual Enhancement drug for a pharmaceutical company.  I was on stage with 10 old white men. Yeah, I fitted in perfectly. We had to laugh on cue and then look at the blue screens in which they will overlay in post production.

SYNOPSIS
A has been Cowboy and Indian television duo struggle to make ends meet.

CAST

* Tony Devon ….  Dick Wrangler
* Peter Defeo …. Injun Joe
* John Wooten …. Parent
* Thomas J. McCarthy …. DrugCorp CEO
* Matthew Wolfe …. Leonard
* Tisha Tinsman …. Jason’s Mommy
* Ted Borodaeff …. Mun-Hee Parent
* Belito Garcia …. Mun-Hee Parent
* Rose Stefano …. Mama Ivankov
* Lee Farrell …. Jason
* Chad Kressler …. Carl
* Robert Gardner …. Young Dick Wrangler
* Brian Dean …. Chuck
* Michael Tamin Yurcaba …. TV Cowboy Outlaw 1
* Nicolas Torrens …. Young Injun Joe
* Joshua Luo …. Mun-Hee
* Eric Celius …. TV Cowboy Outlaw 2

* Director Todd Wolfe

* Producer Peter Defeo, Todd Wolfe

Via Saddle Up Movie

What is in a Cybersquatted and Real name? Part 1

March 13th, 2009 1 comment

I purchased my domain name quangly.com back in June of 2008 and it was quite an ordeal.  Here’s the story.

Part 1 – Cybersquatted
I have been wanting quangly.com for the past 15 years and every now and then I would check it to see if it was available. It was due to expire April 15, 2008 at midnight. That night a few minutes after it was available, I went to purchase it right away. But it turns out, a bot already took it immediately. I was sooooooo pissed! These bots look up in domain directories like Network Solutions to see what are popular queried domain names for purchase and availability through Search and WhoIs.

The next day, I receive an email from Ken Palm <ken@lbcdomaininsight.com> (obviously a fake name) offering to sell my name back to me.  He was able to look me up and find my email address because I left a digital foot print when searching for quangly.com but end up buying a different domain name like quanglyxxxx.com. The offer was a ridiculous $750 for my own name that they snatched up. I then Googled Ken Palm and found a bunch of other people going through the same issue and how they were able to get their domain back. A week later I received another email from Ken but now the offer was $450. This kept going on for a few weeks until Mr. Palm finally said to give him my best offer. Keep in mind that the phone numbers listed were unavailable. The transactions would have to be done on an unauthorized website.

Through out this ordeal, I had one goal in mind which is to get my domain. After all, it is my full name. At one point, I was going to hire a lawyer to find out who runs these controversial and possibly illegal automated domain name systems.

My domain finally went into what appears to be a legitimate auction. I Googled the auction on other sites and it appeared that other people were able to obtain their domain names. So I put in a bid of $75. A few weeks later, I received an email from SnapNames (where it was auctioned) stating “Congratulations, you have acquired quangly.com‏”. I said take that Ken Palm!

But wait, was Ken Palm actually doing me a favor?
I spoke to a representative of Network Solutions and he mentioned that the company used to deal with these auction houses but had a falling out. Network Solutions was also sued several times for similar types of operations so they outsourced it to other companies. Google Network Solutions lawsuits and you’ll see what I mean. According to the rep, these automated domain auctions actually prevent cybersquatting by keeping it out of the hands of hackers that snatch up domains without ever planning to use them. By putting it into an auction, the person who wins is usually the person it should really belong to. This begs the question, what if you should really own the domain name but can’t afford the price of the auction? I would recommend you contact a lawyer at this point because you would be SOL. Yeah, this whole domain name business is shady.


Rensil D’Silva’s film shooting in Philadelphia for Dharma Productions

March 12th, 2009 No comments
Director Rensil D'Silva

Director Rensil D'Silva

I was an extra on Rensil D’Silva’s new debute feature for Dharma Productions. It was a cold and long day shoot on Rensil D’Silva’s film as of yet still Untitled. It stars Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Vivek Oberoi. I can’t say much about the plot only that it’s a thriller.

The call was at 9am and we wrapped up at 4:30. The shot was on Arch Street in Philadelphia, PA between 4th and 6th streets. It had a lot of FBI cars running down the street. We also shot at different angle with a giant crane. The weather was crazy cold at 15 Fahrenheit and very windy.

Rensil D’Silva is best known for his  startling historically-challenged screenplay of Rang De Basant. Some of the other films that are in production at Dharma Productions currently are Wake Up Sid, Koochie Koochie Hota Hain and My Name is Khan.

During a break, I had a fortunate chance to speak with Rensil for a bit and I must say he is the nicest director I’ve worked with to date.

The expected release date is Fall 2009.