Interview with music producers Arabian Prince, Fernando Garibay
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Music producers Arabian Prince, Fernando Garibay are coming to Dubai

Music producers Arabian Prince, Fernando Garibay are coming to Dubai

The producers share their passion for music, the creative process and their participation at the Future Blockchain Summit, which is taking place from October 15-18 at Dubai Harbour

Prince Garibay

Few people, even music fans, have heard of Arabian Prince or Fernando Garibay. However, the significance of bringing these two music producers together for the first time for a discussion about technology and the creative process cannot be overstated.

Despite being from two different generations, surprisingly they have much in common. Both grew up in South LA. Both transformed popular music at a very young age.

Prince is the forgotten member of the rap group N.W.A, the band that put out the first major Gangsta Rap, or Street Rap album, Straight Outta Compton. He is the founding member and producer of the debut albums that made household names out of Dr Dre, Ice Cube and Easy-E.

The album laid the groundwork from which all rap is derived. Not just in its format, but also its expression and attitude. If Straight Outta Compton came out today 35 years later, it would still sound fresh and hit the charts. It captured and defined an era that lives on.

The same goes for Lady Gaga’s first two albums produced by Garibay. He has written and produced five number one records and worked with countless artists over the past two decades. Most significantly, he is the Grammy Award-winning producer of Born This Way.

This year, Prince with Garibay will take part at Future Blockchain Summit happening October 15-18 at Dubai Harbour, alongside Expand North Star, and part of Gitex Global at DWTC.

Tell us about how you became a music producer and songwriter.

Garibay: I grew up listening to Swedish records. I was named after the ABBA song. My dad bought every single ABBA record.

I grew up understanding the world through pop music. ABBA laid the foundation; Swedes who synthesised the best of soul, Motown, rockabilly and jazz, and put it succinctly into a pre-chorus, chorus, pre-chorus and chorus model. That didn’t really exist up until then and was based on African American roots.

Equally, when I was in my early teens, there was this convergence in South Central. It’s 1989; I had inherited a four-track from a neighbour and was just putting music together on my own.

I would go to junior high, and it was N.W.A consistently. It was a very proud community. Dre, N.W.A and Prince were the unofficial ambassadors of Los Angeles at the time. Now they’re official ambassadors.

Around then there was a shift. From one day to the next it was N.W.A. Then it was Morrissey, The Smiths and Depeche Mode. It was a way to become closer to their true selves because music-makers are ultimately very sensitive and vulnerable.

But in the hood, you weren’t really allowed to talk about that. I decided then to dedicate the rest of my life to creating music that was able to break the barriers of how people viewed themselves.

Prince, introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background.

Prince: Willy Wonka in the building, one of the founding members of the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame group N.W.A, born and raised in Compton. I’ve been in this music space for 42 years and in the technology space equally long. I tell all the young kids out there I mentor that tech is everything. Tech is music, tech is fashion, tech is food. My whole life has been music and tech. That’s who I am. I’m just here to create and be an innovator.

What are your thoughts about technology and the creative process?

Prince: You can give everybody in the room the same tools. But unless you know what a hit sounds like, it doesn’t matter. No matter what tools or artificial intelligence (AI) you have, you still need people who understand what people want to listen to. You need people to dictate what technology will bring to it.

Garibay: Music is the oldest language known to humanity. It’s specifically the oldest non-linguistic language. To articulate music as a language, you must understand the very essence of what makes human feeling.

Synthetic intelligence can compute and structure information into patterns, but those patterns don’t reveal the sentient side, the emotional side. You need to understand how those patterns can create feeling.

We’ve been using AI since 2003 on a regular basis together with algorithmic intelligence like auto-tune and different plugins. Human curation is still required, and I don’t see that shifting anytime soon. Understand what moves the heart, and you can create music that moves the heart. That’s the ultimate framework for what makes a hit record.

Do you see technology becoming a barrier to creativity and expression?

Prince: I think it does. In Straight Out of Compton, or any other album, someone’s trying to tell a story. We lived that story every single day. AI can’t capture that. You’re not gonna get that feeling, that humanity from being frustrated that you can’t walk a block without being pulled over by the police. That’s something that technology or AI cannot convey; it cannot tell that story. As for the future, AI is just a frying pan or a spatula. It’s something to help. It’s something that gets you on that road. But even when you do use it, a lot ends up on the scrapheap because it’s just not who you are or what you want it to be.

How does technology impact the recording process and actual creativity? Fernando, what is it like stepping into your studio at the Garibay Institute?

Garibay: We work with a lot of world leaders who come in here, heads of state, C-Suites from high profile global financial institutions. They hear one song, or we create one song in front of them, and they’re in tears, because you can’t hide from yourself in here.

There’s nothing but you and this incredible wall of sound and experience. But to move the heart so profoundly, you must be able to understand how that’s done. Beyond this understanding, the rest is just tools, magnificent tools, sure, but you’re the instrument. When you understand that, you can articulate anything.

For example, Prince’s instinct and intuition informed his understanding to leverage technology for singular creativity. Being what’s considered a minority in this country means you get exposed to abundant trauma. Do the associated challenges and adversities make you more prolific? I think it does. Without a challenge there’s no real context, and humans need a reason to create.

It’s so difficult to predict what’s going to work or turn into a hit.

Garibay: Research conducted at the Garibay Institute has revealed that a successful hit is 10 per cent the quality of the content and 90 per cent due to the quality of distribution. Make sure you have the distribution model to scale it, or else nobody will hear that tree in the forest that wasn’t captured falling.

People don’t know what they want. You must show them. Or, more accurately, you must create a reality they have not yet perceived. Show me a part of me I never knew existed, and you have a hit. The way you create reality for people is to author a story that is genuine, that they can buy into, so it becomes their story. The story you’re telling, what you’re wearing, what your video is projecting, must be congruent with your message and identity.

Create that world to be so authentic they want to be like you, hang out with you, or want to have a romantic relationship with you. Hit all those marks and you have something. That’s N.W.A, Beatles, Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin. They created entire worlds. What N.W.A. and Prince did is create a reality different to the one where you’re risking your life and fighting off the bad guys. You listen to one song, and you’re immediately transported. Reality shifts, and it connects with audiences from the Middle America to Japan. When art, pop music, film, or any media scales, it’s because you have created an alternate reality for people.

So last year Gitex brought together Pink Floyd and N.W.A. This year, it’s going to be N.W.A and the producer of Lady Gaga. What can we expect?

Prince: We’ll come up with something bigger. Bigger and better!
Garibay: I grant the audience the power and authority to consider itself a songwriter and an artist. Without them telling me their history, I can see their soul. And we turn that story into a pop song. These songs are essentially stories in a musical form.

We synthesise it. It’s no different from having a world leader, or an industry leader, to Rihanna, Britney Spears. The idea is to be a true storyteller. You can do so much, especially when you’re able to extrapolate their story and witness people’s reaction. We do this live and turn the audience into a pop star!

Read: Here’s a glimpse at the Future Blockchain Summit ’s top disruptors

The writer is a senior manager at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).

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