Conversing with The Freak Fandango Orchestra

tffo_logo

As I was preparing for my upcoming podcast series, “The Literary Elephant”, I went through hundreds of tracks on the Free Music Archive (FMA) looking for lead in and lead out music. Part of the issue was that I was open to all sorts of music and it was difficult to narrow down the choices to one or two upbeat, energetic tempo tracks.

But as soon as I heard the whimsical melodies of The Freak Fandango Orchestra, I knew that I would want to ask for permission to use their music. This band was formed in 2006 and they are from Barcelona (Spain).  To me, their music sounds like upbeat gypsy folk with a dark twist. One of their tracks I want to use, “Monkey Said” is about a conversation with a monkey who wants to be like humankind. Since 2007 they have been preforming many live concerts around Barcelona and played the New York Gypsy Festival 2011.

Their two EPs, “Love, Death And A Drunken Monkey” (2009) and “Tales Of A Dead Fish” (2011) are both distributed for free listening under Creative Commons License on Jamendo and FMA. They have been downloaded 540, 000 times! You’ll find yourself astonished by some of the melodies and wanting to dance along with them, as they are just so good.

FFO monkey

FFO fish

“We’ll Save the World!” is a new cd from this Balkan-punky Barcelona band and it is a crowd funding project on Verkami, a site similar to Kickstarter, but based in Barcelona. It is an all or nothing campaign and the time is set for 40 days of fundraising. The band has an awesome video for this project, so have a look and save the world with them!

The Freak Fandango Orchestra consists of seven musicians:
Armin – Trumpet & Voice
Xavi – Bass Guitar
David – Drums
Yuri The Blade – Guitar & Voice
Jordi – Violin
Noe – Accordion & Voice
Vitto – Saxophone

The Freak Fandango Orchestra was ok with me using their music for my podcast and was kind enough to let me do an interview with them as I was quite curious about this band and their fabulous music.

First, thank you for spending time answering this Q & A. Your music is fantastic! You definitely have me as a new fan! On FMA, The Freak Fandango Orchestra bio says it is a “multi-ethnic band from Barcelona (Spain).” Where is each band member’s background and how was the band created?

OK, maybe multi-ethnic is not really the best description of the band, but the band members are from all over Europe. Each person brought a little bit of their own culture and music taste to the band. There are people from Germany with East-European origins, from Switzerland, Italy and of course from different parts of Spain. We all met here in Barcelona. First it started as a jam session between friends and then more and more people joined us and we formed The Freak Fandango Orchestra.

I remember taking counterpoint music composing lessons and the teacher kept saying, “write what’s in your head!” Alas, I couldn’t do the translation from head to manuscript properly. Is it as simple as that? What kind of process is used to create the music? Or perhaps someone starts with a melody and people start giving ideas?

As a matter of fact 95% of the music is composed by the guitar player. He has the melodies in his head and then the band brings them to life. Normally he sings a melody and the violin player writes down the notes. Then we start all together with the arrangements; this is when we start to argue, fight and insult each other until it begins to sound good and we’re happy again. Sometimes it only takes a few hours until a song is finished and sometimes it takes forever. Also there are ideas that don’t work out and we have to bury them.

Two of the tracks – “Monkey Said” and “Requiem for a Fish” – what are the stories behind them?

Monkey Said, actually is a very old song. We played it already in the beginnings of the band. It got transformed several times. The actual version of this song, for example, is quite different from the version on our first record.

Requiem for A Fish was written only a few weeks before we went to the studio for our second CD. It started with an idea and it basically wrote itself. It was fun to play and so it got on the CD. Actually its by far our most popular song.

The artwork on your albums is colorful and delightful. Who is the artist?

Its our drummer who does all the artwork. He is a illustrator.

Many of your songs are in English, was it a group decision to do this? Do people already have individual projects in Spanish and wanted to reach a wider audience with English songs?

It just happened. Since most of the people are not originally from Spain it was like more natural to sing in English. Also it is easier to write a song with our music in English than in Spanish.

I admit I was surprised to find out that I could listen to your albums for free, but then again, with the internet being so open, even free music has tons of competition! On a practical note, I know making music, distributing, marketing, etc. costs money. Do you hope fans to support you via going to your concerts or purchasing merchandise? I guess I’m trying to understand the business model because for myself, as a writer, I really like to eat from time to time!

Oh, we do make some money with our music even if its free. For example we make money selling licenses for commercials, websites or stuff like that. We release under creative commons license Attribution-ShareAlike which means you can use our music for free but you have to respect some limitations. Now if someone wants to use it beyond these limitations they have to pay (or ask us nicely). This is where a big part of our money comes from. The biggest part, however, comes from our live-concerts. Putting our music out for free means we get a bigger audience and that means playing gigs gets easier.

Another part of our income is from donations. A lot of people who likes or music decides to pay for it, not because they have to, but because they want to. That’s quite cool.

And as you know, we started a crowd funding campaign to cover the costs for our third CD. As it turns out it is working really well!

Making money while being an artist is not easy. That’s why we all have other jobs to pay for rent and food. It would be nice to make a living out of music but on the other hand, this way we don’t have to obsess us too much about the money and can just make music.

What are the big dreams for this band? Does it include travelling to different cities in the world?

We’re quite happy the way that things are right now. I mean, you always want more, get more audience, be more famous, earn more money, that I think is quite human; but we are real good at the moment with our band. We have an audience when we play live, our music is listened to all over the world and we even got our new album financed by our fans and friends so there is not much left to ask. It would be nice though to play more international shows.

OK, one thing I really hope for is to be there in like 20 years, still playing music, still having fun and still having an audience who wants to listen to what we do. I guess that would really be a great thing.

Once again, thank you again for spending some time with me!

Readers, please have a look on Verkami for The Freak Fandango Orchestra’s We’ll Save the World cd project…I had to support them in saving the world, someone has to do this dirty job!   As mentioned in their video, their music will lift up our spirits from brainless shadows and broken spirits!

Introducing Sammuel Bowden, the creator of Twisted Eden

Recently I posted some tips on Kickstarters on Google+ and was contacted by Sammuel Bowden, a talented writer and artist from Bronx, NY. He just recently started a project called Twisted Eden, which is an innovative take on the traditional graphic novel format. His kickstarter just started for this book.  The video is pretty slick and artwork super unique; I’ll let him explain his revolutionary ideas, which are quite exciting as I love reading graphic novels!

Twisted Eden Cover 1

Hi Sammuel, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. Can you introduce yourself and let us know a little bit about your background? Your artwork is quite unique (similar to air brush styles), did you have any art training or is it a natural talent you possess?

Lol, not to sound cocky, but it’s a natural talent. I have been drawing since I was seven years old, but I always wanted to take art classes to perfect my style! Natural talent is one thing, but professional training is another for the fact that it is a lot more technical.

The title of your kickstarter is “It’s not just a Graphic Novel, It’s a new Beginning!” and you mention that the difference between your book and the traditionally published graphic novel is the fact that it is a “True Hybrid Book”. Can you explain a little bit about what this means? How did you come up with this?

I’m a very analytical person. Whenever I watch a good movie, show, or read a good book, I ask myself two questions:

What makes me like this show/book so much?

What elements do all the things that I like have in common?

Asking those questions over and over again, had given me an idea. That Idea was to blend in as many elements as possible to make the “ultimate” story. Originally, I wanted to make an anime series, but not having any knowledge or networks in animation…I knew it would be impossible at that stage. So, Instead of an animated series, I wrote the plot to a book series and kept my drawn characters.

I always loved shows with a narrator, so I thought that it would be a good fit to make my book a First Person Narrative. But, making my book a written novel took away some good scenes that I had imagined for an anime series. Certain things are just better told through a sequence of art panels, where you can actually see the action.

So, wanting to keep my highly detailed writing, I decided to make a way to merge comic and narrative together! Then, as I played around with words and formats, and displayed my Half-Novel/Half-Graphic novel story to my friends. I realized that I may have the next big thing.

People who prefer words read my book for it’s writing while appreciating the art, but comic lovers enjoyed my book in reverse to the novel lovers. Also, kids who hated reading books would read the long pages of my story just to find out why two characters were fighting in a comic strip. Not a single person has disliked my content.

I felt like I accomplished my goal in blending in all elements of a good story. But, more importantly, I was able to combine two separate worlds of story telling together (Hence the name True Hybrid Book).

On your website you talk a little bit more about Twisted Eden and that you had actually thought about this story and its characters for a long time. How did you come up with this story?

Well…being born in the 90’s made me appreciate Anime in a big way. Seeing shows with intense action like Dragon Ball Z is one of the things that kept me drawing at a young age. But, as I got older and became more analytical, I knew that I needed something more than a basic story with big fights.

When I first made my story, I noticed that my characters didn’t have enough internal conflicts to make them relatable. So, I went back to the drawing board and started giving each character an internal conflict. That’s when I thought of the classic “memory loss” idea for my main character. A person trying to uncover their lost memory always added that “mystery” element to the book that most people love!

My main character’s loss of memory was a good way for me to give him more depth while giving the story an unpredictable plot. In total, I believe it took me around three years to put everything together. Lol, I think I just realized that I sacrificed hanging out with friends in High School and college for this book…sheesh!

Can you explain why you chose to name your book Twisted Eden? Without spoilers can you hint on how it fits into the story line?

Well, most of us know about the classic story of the Garden of Eden from the Bible. So, I wanted to make a fiction book that “twisted” the story of human’s origin. In the Garden of Eden, there were two trees that wasn’t to be touched. One granted man the power of Knowledge while the other Granted man the gift of life.

Twisted Eden is a Fictional of how things probably could have been if Adam ate from one Tree, while Eve ate from the other…

There are different realms in Twisted Eden with two sets of beings – humans and the Dominants, who govern humankind from within the shadows. What kind of creatures are these Dominants and why do they need to rule in secret? Do they have super powers?

You can picture Dominants as Angels. They are in the form of “Man”, have influence over Humanity, and have wings and cool powers. Some are good, some are evil, but the plot isn’t so simple. What is percieved as good and bad is through the eyes of the beholder… You’ll see these conflicts of Morales versus Circumstances a lot in Twisted Eden.

In your book excerpt you start off with a young Prince from another Realm. Is this Prince human or a Dominant? Will there be lots of twists and turns in this story? Lots of fighting?

The Prince is a Dominant, so he has those cool wings and powers. Yes, there will be lots of twists and turns in the story. I purposely wrote the plot to make a person think something is going to happen when it doesn’t. And yes…there will be lots and lots of fighting! Not as much in the first issue though, because I want to paint the picture before things start exploding!

Let’s talk a little bit about Fusion Book Publishing, is this your own company? Was it difficult setting this up?

Yes! I Found Fusion Book Publishing to help beginner Authors for free! I love helping people, but I favor self publishers since we have a good reputation of producing bad stuff…(thankfully that’s changing) It was really hard to get the ball rolling at first, but it’s finally getting some momentum! The main blog is at http://sammuelbowden.blogspot.com/. The home page shows what’s new while the Free Help page connects you to the Facebook community where you can contact me for help.

What do you hope to do in the future with Fusion Book Publishing as you grow bigger?

I want it to be a second chance for Authors! Everyone has the power to make a good book, but just need guidance on how. I want Fusion Book Publishing to grow to help as many people as possible to do what they love to do. I also want it to serve as a place where readers and fans can reach out directly to the industry to express what they want.

It’s been great learning all about your Twisted Eden project and I hope that it takes off as some of these ideas really captured my imagination! Tackling a new take on a traditional format of anything is a courageous task! Please have a look at his website and send in some support to his kickstarter!

Reflections On My First Radio Interview

Until I met my husband, I never listened much to the radio.  His family are huge fans of CBC radio and grew up with this station always on in the house.  My family has Chinese television on all the time instead.

Looking for different ways of promoting my Kickstarter campaign, I stumbled across Dr. Wright, a crowd funding guru who has a web tv and radio website.  She offered to do a quick interview with me for her radio podcast and I jumped at the chance.  There was no equipment to set up, which was nice and all I had to do was call into her LA radio station.  She had mentioned a few questions in her email so I wrote up answers for those, but in general I wasn’t sure what to expect!

It was a good experience overall as I learned a lot about what I didn’t know.  Such as how to answer questions properly when the host improvises.  I was really nervous, so that did not help things as I stumbled across my words like a drunken sailor.  In general now I know that I have to think harder about what messages I want to convey for my book, including themes, unique characteristics, cultural matters, etc.  My friend was surprised at all this.  “You wrote the damn thing, you should know everything!” He admonished.

Microphone, Microphone Stand, Karaoke, Speech, Mic

Writing is such a solitary, introverted activity that it feels odd to suddenly switch on an extrovert personality in order to explain what the heck you created.  As well, growing up in an Asian culture, tooting your horn is a bad thing and you never want to draw attention to yourself because you will appear to be a narcissist.  So generally, I find talking about my work and myself in a positive light hard to do as I grew up learning to do the opposite.  My husband says I’m the worst salesperson in the world as he listens to me degrade myself after receiving any good comments on my work.  He’s trying to train me to say “thank you” and not continue on to say anything bad afterwards, but it’s going to take a lot of effort on my part.

Here is the interview for those still interested, hopefully I’ll do better next time!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wrightplacepodcast/2013/11/15/dr-wright-speaks-with-jf-garrard