Friday, May 7, 2010

Chaos + Music = Our World, An Interview With DJ Galvanization

So, trance music.
Alright, that's sent a few of you running into the hills.
What? No, it's not techno.
Techno is not trance.
Techno is something that plays NTS NTS NTS NTS CHTSSS NTS NTS NTS NTS on loop for about 5 minutes and calls it a song.
Trance is just...beautiful.

And I say this as a Born-Again metalhead.

So why I am I raving about trance when I'm usually raving about how cool Brownsville is?

Well...I figure I got tired of beating the old dead horse, and a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to catch up with my friend DJ Galvanization, who had been working on his first CD for a couple of years now. He informed me that he had just recently released "Lucid", his first album. The album is now available for sale through Amazon (clicking on the link takes you to the product page) and iTunes, and I thought it'd be great to interview him, because I find that he's a very interesting character who is not your average DJ, and because, of course, he's Rio Grande Valley-born and Brownsville-raised :)

To listen to some of his music, you can visit DJ Galvanization's official Myspace page.

I'll be reviewing the CD in detail later, but if you want to check it out already, here is a 50 word review:

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"“Lucid” makes you feel sound. It is a beautiful soundscape resembling the love-child of Kenji Yamamoto (of Metroid fame) and DJ Tiesto. With it you can feel yourself playing a futuristic videogame, dancing with a loved one, traveling through space, or all of the above at the same time.”

What can I tell you about DJ Galvanization?
DJ Galvanization not only shatters the typical DJ archetype, but grounds the shards of that archetype into a fine dust which is then sprinkled liberally throughout the CD.
He is not someone you'd see behind the DJ booth at a club, much less at a club itself.
If you'd spent time with him you'd quickly learn that he's a family guy, a traditional, straight-edge, churchgoing and God-loving individual who is comfortable with his world and enjoys helping people. He is very affable and easily approachable, and though he knows how to have fun, he's very serious when it comes time to study.
(or as some have argued, the complete opposite of yours truly)
He is also a geek. This man is the authority on synthesizers, trance music and anything Metroid-related. He considers himself a Smash Brothers virtuoso (a claim that's been challenged time and time again by his friends and fellow San Antonio Spurs fans), and when he gets a chance to, he'll tell you all about the benefits and awesomeness of nuclear power.
He's quite the character, definitely.

Without further ado, here's the interview:

EAGLEHEART: Your Lucid CD just came out after years in the making. How does it feel?
DJ GALVANIZATION: It feels absolutely amazing, Eagleheart. Like this anvil has finally been lifted off my shoulders. Honestly, if it weren't for the fans that have kept up with my music through MySpace and YouTube, I'd still have the album sitting on my shelf. I received a good amount of requests for SELLING what I already have versus working on more music they couldn't buy. I listened and this album is the result. Now that it's out, I can work on the new tracks without worrying about selling anymore.

EAGLEHEART: Can you tell us how the CD-making process was?
DJ GALVANIZATION: Strenuous, to say the least. I had the 5 songs sitting on my shelf and computer for a while. I would always find things I wanted to add to the songs so I hesitated to sell them just yet. For example, Resonance is actually the 3rd version of the original and I love how it turned out. Speed of Dark is a 1st and only version but it took a lot of editing and it was my first dabble at guitar. But when the constant requests came in, I put a lot of effort into perfecting all the songs for the fans. I spent some money paying a sound engineer to master the tracks so that they sound with the quality a commercial track would. I figured, if people are going to buy my music, they better get the bang for their buck, so I made the songs a good length and mastered them as well. A lot of effort went into the artwork, editing the tracks, the mastering process and the distribution.

EAGLEHEART: What inspired you to become DJ Galvanization, and where did you get the name?
DJ GALVANIZATION: I decided to start making music when I started learning to play piano at age 16. I took classes for the sole purpose of obtaining enough skill to create my own pieces with the right technique. I wanted to be a part of the vast network of musicians that created so much of the music I know and love. I wanted to contribute to it. I already had ideas in my head but I needed the skills to develop my own music. Eventually, at age 17 I got a synthesizer after learning piano for a few months and I got the hang of the system and before I knew it, I had many ideas for songs in my head that I was translating into tangible sound for all to hear. I love many songs but sometimes you hear music and there is just something missing. Something you would have changed here, another thing there, and that is more or less what started the idea for becoming a DJ/producer. I told myself, "If you cannot find the songs that speak to you, make them yourself!" And my close friends pushed me into introducing myself and playing at a talent show. That is truly when my DJ days were born.

The Galvanization name was derived from an offhand conversation that took place that day at a close friend's house between that friend (Pabs), another close friend (Mike) and myself. Fully aware of my then recent dabbling in the electronic music realm, they were joking and toying with the idea that when someone heard my music, they'd become "Galvanized" (since my last name is Galvan). They described it as the process of being overwhelmed with powerful sounds (contrary to the true definition of the galvanization process). Since I provide these sounds, they found it fitting that I be called DJ Galvanization. They also coined the phrase, "You've just been Galvanized". It sounded catchy and they pushed me to the name so I went with it.

EAGLEHEART: Which artists have been the most influential in your work?

Armin van Buuren, Tiesto, Darude, Above & Beyond, Paul van Dyk, Paul Oakenfold, and many classical/orchestral pieces I'd heard over the years. I didn't necessarily pick up sounds from them, not beats, but rather techniques and ideas for making the music more "professional" sounding. They were my teachers even though they don't even know it yet.

EAGLEHEART: What song means the most to you in "Lucid"

I'm gonna have to say Moment of Lucidity. That song started it all. It was the gateway and catalyst to all the songs that came after it so it will always have special meaning for me. Without that song, there would be no other songs to speak of.


Prior to you becoming DJ Galvanization, you were part of the short-lived rock group Five Days From Friday. Did your time there affect you in any way as DJ Galvanization?


Yes, sadly 5DFF was short-lived and I loved being a part of it. Of course it affected me! I learned a lot on my own before joining 5DFF but I picked up a few things while involved with the band. First of all, I had a blast. But I also learned the importance of synchronization since other people are dependent on your timing when striking keys so that taught me an entire discipline. I couldn't randomly change tempo as I saw fit anymore (unless it was planned) so that was a very good thing to learn and employ later on. Also, by watching our drummer, I picked up visually how different sounds were generated with different pieces throughout the drum set. This helped me develop the drum loops for my music more accurately. I learn from everyone and everything everywhere I go and from the strangest circumstances. A simple bird chirping instigated a song idea for me one time, so you never know.


Have any commercial ventures or clubs been interested in hiring you? Are there plans for you to play at any venue in the near future?


Well, back when I was in high school, I was invited to play at several local clubs but I was underage and the parents didn't agree with the club scene exposure just yet. I've played at several parties and events in the past. As of now, there are no plans for playing at any venue since I'm concentrating on college. But if a good opportunity presents itself, I just might take it!


You're known for equating this world with chaos and music. Could you explain a little bit more about this philosophical equation and how it relates to your music?


The equation goes:

Our World - Music = Chaos

so it doesn't take a math major to see that

Chaos + Music = Our World.

What I mean by this is the fact that music is the bridge that connects our insanity with our inner sanity to keep them in check. We already are in an insane world full of things that stress us out and make us want to lose it. But in the background, music has always been there to help you keep it together and brighten your day. You take that away, and you can expect Chaos to take over. Likewise, in the midst of Chaos, if you add some music, it will calm the mind and bring them back to sanity. We, as humans, CRAVE music. The mind begs for it. You can bet that back when humans first roamed the Earth, music didn't take too long to be invented. The human mind seeks constant stimulation and occupation and music provides just that. Music is not a supplement to life. Music is a requirement to life.

EAGLEHEART: Philosophy aside, what's an ordinary day in your life like?

t changes every semester because of college. Usually, upon waking (normally quite early), I finish any homework I was too tired to finish the night before. I dress up, have breakfast, go to classes, do some lab work. Lately, I've also spent a lot of time writing computer code for classes too. When the class day is over, I go home, have dinner, play the piano for a while to relax and work on new melodies to record on the synths later, and the rest of my day is usually filled with homework, plus all the daily chores and obligations and bills. On days when I have a lot of free time, I work on my music (which takes a very long time) and every now and then I indulge in video games. On weekends, I also participate in a local church choir, which is fun and it's nice to help out. Yes, there is just enough time for a social life.

EAGLEHEART: How do you balance it all?
Daily obligations are things we all have to do. And sometimes it is pretty difficult to handle so many things when we are limited to a 24 hour day. So, I have no choice but to optimize my time and rank according to importance. I learn from other people that I know are very busy and somehow keep a balance too. That's where the ranking idea came from (even though it seems pretty basic, we don't really do that). Family situations and obligations come first, school and work comes second (and that second one is a big one), and last comes music and hobbies. As much as I love music, that's what it is, a hobby. If I could live off of music, that'd be great, but most of us cannot, so family and school must come first. But if there comes a time when music can be used for a living for me, I'll take it. I'll have my degree as a backup and I'll let the music take control.

have been your greatest struggles so far when it comes to your music?

The most difficult thing for me sometimes is the frustration of trying to transform sounds in my mind into sounds in the physical world. I develop quite a few of the sounds I use in my music and I try to come as close as I can to replicating the sounds in my head. Usually, I'm quite happy with the end result but not before struggling with it for a good while. Another very difficult thing is recording. I have to play the song about 50 times to get it to be PERFECT and minimize editing. Also, sometimes I have to play a song (the newer ones) in "layers" instead of just one go since it's harder to control so many sounds. So I have to think very far ahead and see exactly what I have to do, so I have to play the layers at the correct time slots and get the perfect end result. It's very frustrating but the euphoria I get when I'm finished overshadows anything that happened before. It's well worth it.


What has been the most blessed moment you've had as DJ Galvanization?


because I've had so many. I've had the support of my family and friends, especially my family. Every time I complete a new song, I feel blessed that I had the capacity to do so. I thank God for that ability. There's no way I can name all the blessed moments I've had. A particularly nice one, though, was the day of the talent show at my high school because my family and friends were there to support me (even though my family had no idea what I was going to do in the talent show) and I had the most amazing acceptance from the crowd. It my first time on stage and you can bet I had a big case of stage fright. But the crowd acceptance helped me get through it. I feel especially blessed as we speak...because after almost 5 years, the album is finally released. And the album was only released because FANS asked me to do it, so I feel all the more blessed. The fans keep the artist going.

EAGLEHEART: Any final words?

I'd like to thank my family, who has been and will always be there, for their support. And, of course, my close friends, who were there from the get go. They know who they are. Also, I cannot overemphasize how important the fans are to me. Their support will allow the continuation of music to come. I strive to improve in every new track and yet make it unique to the other songs so it keeps things interesting. The fans make it possible. I'll leave you with this thought:

The artist makes the music, but the fans make the artist.

If you're a local artist and would like to be featured in the RGV Leviathan, leave a comment with your contact information :)

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