Artist Spotlight: Carmen Rizzo

The Virtual Ornaments of An Innovator

Producer, mixer, remixer, writer & artist Carmen Rizzo

By Randy Alberts

Carmen Rizzo

Typically there’s room for doubt when someone claims that a new product has changed their life. Yeah, right. But when that someone is one of today’s best, busiest producer-musician-remixers around who helped forge an entirely new Grammy category, and their product rave is about a musical instrument—their favorite synthesizer—who’s to doubt it?

“Oh yes, Rapture has absolutely changed my life in how I make records,” says Carmen Rizzo, who four years ago led the way in creating NARAS’ new Grammy Award category for Best Electronic Album. “My life is all about making records and, really, I just can’t work without Rapture anymore. Every time I use it to come up with a sound I think, ‘Wow, I would’ve never come up with that sound without Rapture!’ Rapture opens up your mind to new things you just would’ve never thought of without it.”

Carrying the torch for electronic music with the help of BT, Crystal Method’s Ken Jordan and others was but one gem in Rizzo’s prodigious creative vein of music, concert, radio, t.v. and film sound achievements. Himself a two-time Grammy nominee, the short version of Carmen’s credits list reads like a who’s who of diverse talents and idioms: Coldplay, Alanis Morissette, Cirque du Soleil, Seal, Ryuichi Sakamoto, k.d. Lang, Pete Townshend and acclaimed British director Michael Apted (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Gorillas In The Mist). Rizzo scored his first film soundtrack, The Power of the Game, for Apted’s documentary about the German soccer team’s 2006 World Cup win; released two critically-adored solo albums of his own (The Lost Art of the Idle Moment and the new Ornament of An Impostor); co-founded, produces and frequently tours with the world beat/electronic fusion band Niyaz and, currently, is among many pursuits DJ-ing a radio set heard by 14 million listeners each month on the highly influential KEXP.org/Seattle.

“I’d like to think that people come to me for something different, for something unique,” says Carmen. “The Cakewalk synths definitely make that easier for me to accomplish.”

Within Sight of the Hollywood Sign

A husband and father who donates 10% of his new album’s sales to a different charity each month, Rizzo owns and produces, writes, mixes and remixes in his Studio 775. There’s a close-up view of the intersecting street signs of Hollywood & Vine right outside his workspace window.

Carmen Rizzo on the Streets

“Be it audio plug-ins for EQ, compression and effects or virtual instruments, every producer and musician has their favorite go-to tools they use on everything they do,” he says. “Rapture is one of those tools for me. It’s there no matter where I’m creating music. On the road with my portable laptop rig or at the audio workstation here at Studio 775, honestly, Rapture is in pretty much everything I do.”

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Carmen Rizzo

Artist Spotlight: Danny Byrd

Producer Danny Byrd swears by the sound of Cakewalk:

“Their Instruments have as much unique character as the best vintage synths!”

By Buzz Owen

Danny Byrd has been stamping his mark on the Drum & Bass scene for over a decade now. Regarded as a pioneer of Soulful and Vocal Liquid Funk, Danny’s blending of upfront and retro-inspired sounds has led him to try many of the hundreds of soft synths out there in his search for sounds that can cut through in his busy productions – a search that stopped with the discovery of Cakewalk’s sonic armory…

“I used both Rapture and Dimension Pro a hell of a lot when recording my new album [Supersized]. In fact, the Cakewalk instruments were essential to the writing of my album. These days a lot of digital music sounds the same, so it’s important to add a different sound. And this is what Cakewalk instruments do for me – they add another dimension.”

“Rapture is just amazing for evolving textures and pads, especially all the tempo-locked patches. Just one example would be how I’d often find myself playing a high, sustained note on Rapture, and using this sound to fill up the breakdowns. Rapture has such an amazingly rich and warm sound. Another great touch is the limiter they’ve put on the output for when you’re really twisting up some nasty bass lines.”

“And the effects that you get in Rapture really add to its quality, as do the step-programmable LFOs. For me, this is the key to its constant use in all my productions. Another great feature is the stock presets that come with it – they are so useable right out of the box, so you can just get playing immediately if you don’t want to delve in deep right away.”

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Artist Spotlight: Malik Williams

Wearing the Many Hats of a Busy Synthesist

Songwriter, engineer, actor, and film & t.v. music producer Malik Williams

By Randy Alberts

If some commercial jingle writers’ first gigs were in garage bands, fewer still of those went on to also write and produce music for film, reality t.v., the Web and hip-hop, pop, dance, rap, R&B and rock artists. It takes a lot of control room savvy and musical chops to wear that many hats. But from this even smaller group of first-call music and audio professionals, there may be just one—Malik Williams—who can say they’ve written a song for a movie in which they’ve also starred.

“Yeah, I’m a real Hollywood kind of guy,” jokes the 41-year-old Williams, a Bostonian since birth who values his role as father and family man over his Sunset Boulevard connections. “What I mean is that I feel real comfortable in front of the camera doing these bit parts. It’s not really something that I’m pursuing as a career. I’ve just stumbled upon this acting thing, but so far it’s been a positive stumble.”

Malik Williams plays a convincing cop with Donnie Brasco star Robert Miano on the set of Boston Girls

Malik’s song contribution and bit part as a cop in Boston Girls, a “dark horror comedy” film released this year, are two recent entries to an impressive credits list. His unique balance of old and new school music writing and production skills have been tapped for a host of song and album (Charlotte Church, Bobby Brown, Elton John, Mya, Britney Spears, Danity Kane, Tyrese, Earth Wind & Fire), feature film (Sony Pictures, Miramax, Disney, Lionsgate, Stage 6 Films) and television (CBS, ABC, MTV, VH1, TruTV, Showtime, HBO, E!, Bravo) productions. If you’ve seen Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Tila Tequila’s A Shot At Love, Pimp My Ride, Cribs and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew or happened upon some of his various ad spots running on numerous channels, chances are you’ve heard some of Malik’s music, too.

“When you think of all the types of projects I work on—film, t.v. shows, ad jingles and hip-hop, pop and rap albums,” says Williams, “you’ll see my music and audio production tastes are all over the place.”

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Artist Spotlight: Trev Wilkins

Trev Wilkins and Scadge Productions:

Rely on the sound of Cakewalk’s SONAR:

“It’s the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of our studio!”

The best recording studios are those that get results, and to do that the engineers need to understand exactly what the client wants. And what better way to understand what’s required than to have had a career that spans almost every possible stage of the music creation process?

For Trev Wilkins, owner and engineer of Telford-based Scadge Productions, the last 25 years have seen him take on all manner of roles in the industry – from running recording studios, touring as both a musician and engineer, authoring books and producing videos to order.

It’s this wealth of real-world experience that’s made Scadge Productions the first choice of production venue for clients who need guaranteed results. “We have to be very flexible in our approach here at Scadge,” Trev says. “We’re recording a choir one day, then we’ll have a video interview the next, perhaps a rock band in the day after that. Consequently we can’t afford to spend time fiddling around with anything in the studio, especially the software. We need to guarantee that we can get the job done and cover any eventuality quickly and with total confidence – and that’s where SONAR shines through – we rely on it as the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of our studio!”

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Trev Wilkins