Hey Zak and Jordan! Congratulations on winning the Grand Prize in our Lights “Toes” remix contest. How did you two meet and get started with Chomstars?
Zak Kazanski: Well we both go to school at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. It must have been fate that brought us so far from home. Jordan is from LA. and my family is from Tampa. I was working on my degree in sound design and pop culture there, Jordan was studying computer science, and it was a while before we actually crossed paths. One random Friday night I was up late working on a track for NBA 2k12 in my studio (aka my tiny dorm room). Jordan was actually with a girl in the room across from me, but he accidentally wandered into my studio instead. He saw me producing, and being a producer himself he couldn’t resist sitting down. I had predominantly been working on hip hop until that point, whereas he had only done dance music, but our creative drive, similar technical skill, and complimentary senses of humor brought us and our music together immediately, so he just blew off the girl and we got to work. She was not happy the next day, but Chomstars was born then and there. I’m pretty sure Jordan’s found a couple new girls since then anyway haha.
So how did you two stumble upon Indaba Music?
Jordan Hewitt:Well like Dirty Z said, he and I never really produced together until recently, The Toes remix was actually our third track we’ve ever worked on as Chomstars. For our second track, we knew we wanted to do a remix, and I had heard there are a lot of good contests online that could help us get our foot in the door. We eventually stumbled upon a couple blogs, talked to some of our producer friends, and they were all saying Indaba is the go-to place for remix contests. We quickly found the Lights Over Paris – I’m Not a Gangsta contest and started throwing some ideas around to see if it was worth entering. Then we came to the awesome realization that you can enter three contests for free anyway, so we signed up and never looked back. Still have our fingers crossed about winning that one, but I’m stoked about the way our entry turned out regardless!
That’s great! How did you go about remixing?
Jordan Hewitt: We let the original song inspire our approach for each remix we do. Lights is an amazing artist, and it was an honor to have the opportunity to work on one of her songs (she is pretty cute too). She has a beautiful voice, and the euphoric lyrics were the reason we chose this contest in the first place, so the goal for us was to make sure they really sparkle in our remix. All the music was supposed to just be a comfy bed for the vocals to rest on, while still transforming the track into something hands-in-the-air club worthy. It’s great having someone else in the studio that you can bounce these ideas off and receive ideas from. Watching our different inputs meld together into something worth listening to is magical. Plus it always seems like Zak is itching to get his hands on the keyboard and mouse right when I need a break.
Zak Kazanski: I’m itching the entire time, chommy! As for gear, we have a little bedroom studio with a couple of KRK monitors, an MPK49, an SM57, an AKG 414, some digidesign hardware and a beast of a computer running FL Studio and Pro Tools. Everything was in-the-box, we designed our sounds with a bunch of soft synths like Massive and Sylenth1. Hardware would be awesome to have in the future, but it doesn’t really fit in the budget of a college kid. And regardless, solid production and sound design skills will outweigh expensive hardware any day.
When we had a good rough draft of the song we posted it to the audio forum Gearslutz, and they responded positively. That forum has a myriad of very talented and established artists active in its threads, so their praise of the Toes draft really got us hyped. We even got some awesome feedback from the “Godfather of House Music” himself, Marshall Jefferson. He said he “really liked the track” and gave us some tips to adjust the arrangement a bit. Needless to say we took his advice and his compliments to heart. It was a humbling and inspiring experience.
What do you have planned for 2012?
Zak Kazanski: Our main focus is going to be finishing up our first EP “Hide Yo House.” We have been working hard to lock down our signature sound and bring some fresh and exciting concepts into our music. I don’t want to give away too many details, but we’ve concocted some new and crazy sounding applications for a vocoder that I doubt anyone has heard before. Anyway, keep an eye out for that on our EP this summer. We are really looking forward to that magic moment when our music gets heard in a club. Actually we’ve got word some of our work has been dropped by our friend DJ Wix in a few clubs out in LA already, which is incredible. So we’ve been feeling the love on the west coast and plan on heading out there to continue producing and finding great music once we are done with college.
Jordan Hewitt: That reminds me that we also are working on our DJ skills. Our focus has been predominantly on production, but we need to be able to put an unforgettable set together as well. And of course we can’t forget about more remix opportunities. Besides being addicting, they are one of the best ways to get our names out there and maybe even win some cool gear in the process. Aside from that there’s a bunch of other stuff for us to do such as finishing our website, getting our EP in the hands of some labels, and shooting a few music videos. There are a lot of talented and established individuals here at RPI and in our network that we want to get involved with for all this.
Sounds very exciting. We’re so glad that you two have joined our community. Congratulations again from our whole staff!
Zak Kazanski: Well we couldn’t be more thankful that Indaba exists. It’s an exciting and useful community for new and experienced producers alike. Even though we are new to the community we have felt a lot of support here – even from our competition – so that is very encouraging. Then of course a big, BIG, thank you goes to Lights, she’s a very talented and generous musician. I know she has to be a very hard working and intelligent individual as well to put together her own label to distribute her own music; so having her enjoy our music is a prize in itself. Being released by her label is one of the biggest things that has happened for us so far, and the money will help us really put some crazy sounds into our first EP.
Jordan Hewitt: For me the real reward is getting our name out there, attracting some new listeners, and eventually helping people lose their minds on the dance floor. We have a long way to go, but we are very focused on developing our craft, and with the help of Indaba we are well on our way. Keep your eyes and ears open for more from us soon here at Indaba, on our SoundCloud, and soon on our website. Thanks again for the opportunity.