Welcome back to another edition of Point Blank Student Success. This month we spoke to Charlie Kelly about his recent work on Kele Okereke’s Leave to Remain, Laura Brehm about her huge releases with Monstercat as well as her new record label, and Jaden Thompson about his recently announced Fabric residency. We compile these every month showcasing students that have studied with us for any length of time at any of our locations: London, Los Angeles, Ibiza, Mumbai, and Online. Read on below to learn about these musician’s previous experiences at Point Blank and the exciting projects they have in the pipeline.
Charlie Kelly (Kele Okereke Collaborator) – Music Production & Sound Engineering Diploma
Point Blank alumni Charlie Kelly studied the Music Production & Sound Engineering Diploma with us in London. He has a knack for creating his own remixes and recently worked on Kele Okereke’s ‘Leave to Remain’ project co-producing some of the sounds involved. Below learn about how his work with Okereke and his exciting upcoming projects.
You recently worked on Kele Okereke’s album and play, Leave to Remain – congratulations! What’s the story here? How did the opportunity arise?
Thanks very much! The project with Kele came about through PBR, a label I had released a remix on. He was looking for someone to co-produce some tracks and mix the whole Leave to Remain album, as well as adapt the record for the stage. He heard my tracks, sent me the album, and we went from there.
Was it a challenge working on a project like this or were your skills quite easily transferable?
This was the first time I’d worked on a whole album so the volume of 16 tracks was certainly different! Much of the work was introducing electronic elements to the West African highlife sounds of the material. This process of re-working tracks was something I’d done before through remixes and other projects. Working with The Lyric theatre as the album was adapted to the stage was something completely new. It was pretty surreal seeing the album come to life with new arrangements, actors, live musicians, narrative, and choreography. It felt like a truly collaborative process.
Can you tell me how you discovered Point Blank?
I was teaching myself production and Point Blank’s FFL and other YouTube content became fairly religious viewing. A friend then did a course and recommended it. I wanted to learn more about the mixing and engineering side so decided to take the plunge.
Were there any things in particular that really stood out in your memory from studying here – this could be a technique you learned? A module? A lecturer?
Getting involved with remix competitions and other events outside the main course was how I started getting tracks released so that’s definitely a highlight. From a practical point of view, I took the most away from the mixing and sound design modules. The almost round the clock access to studios fitted with great gear was a plus too. Being surrounded by like-minded people and connecting with tutors from varying music backgrounds made for a creative atmosphere and opens up lots of opportunities within the industry.
Did you make use of any other skills you learned on your Point Blank course for the Leave to Remain project?
Everything I learnt about mixing came into play as well as building synth patches and delving deeper into sound design. As a general overview, my workflow improved whilst at Point Blank meaning I could approach projects logically with defined stages as a production grows and the mix develops. I was also able to quickly define the mix processes needed to achieve the sound I was after as well as amend things speedily based on Kele’s feedback in mixing sessions.
Have there been any instances of collaborating with other students from Point Blank?
I did some production collaboration soon after finishing and I’m still in touch with people from my course. It’s great to keep up with what people are getting up to, whether it’s releasing records, starting labels or throwing parties around London. Most of the collaboration I’ve done through Point Blank is through connections made with tutors and other staff.
What’s in the pipeline?
I have a remix coming out in June through Carly Foxx’s Love Story Recordings. I’m also working on some additional productions in a collaborative project which should see a release in the summer. I’m trying something new with a remix of an artist who writes predominantly modern classical music which should be interesting. Kele is looking to tour his new solo material which I may get involved with in a live capacity. I did a remix for Fred P due for release on his new label Private Society, hopefully later this year. I’m also putting together separate EPs of original material which will hopefully see the light of day soon!
Laura Brehm (Monstercat / NCS / Liquicity) – Music Production & DJ Diploma
28-year-old Laura Brehm is steadily becoming a force to be reckoned with in the electronic music scene. She’s released tracks with the likes of Monstercat, NCS, Liquicity and Universal Records and has racked up millions of plays on Spotify alone. She recently started her own record label, Electric Bird Records, to start releasing her signature sound. Find out more about her journey below.
We saw you’ve released tracks with the likes of Monstercat, NCS, Liquicity and Universal – that’s great! How did you hook up with these labels?
It started back in 2012 when I posted a few of my singer/songwriter tracks on SoundCloud. A producer releasing with Monstercat heard my voice and decided to send me an instrumental of his to sing on. I wrote/recorded the vocal and then Monstercat wanted to sign it! I then started releasing with producers under NCS & Liquicity a few years later and then Universal came about after I had collaborated with TheFatRat. So, long story short, it started because I decided to put my songs out there, and like a domino effect, I began working with more and more producers who happened to be on these labels.
We noticed that you’ve started your own record label, Electric Bird Records – congratulations! Could you tell us a little bit about how this came together / the ideas and focus behind the imprint?
Thanks! I started this label because my solo music is not like the EDM fits under the labels mentioned above, nor is it pop, which is typically what major labels go for. My sound is a blend of folk, alternative, electronic, pop, and experimental so I built the label around the sound that I liked best. I figured that if I was going to self-release my songs I should make it a real business and give it a name. The idea is for EBR to develop alongside my career as an artist.
Could you tell me how you discovered Point Blank?
I have been focusing on the singing/songwriting aspect for so many years that I decided it was time for me to seriously learn DJ’ing, production, sound engineering, mixing and sound design etc. I did extensive research in order to find a school that was the most up-to-date with how the music industry is currently operating. The landscape changes so fast, and while traditional education in music is great, I was looking for something that could not only help me learn how to produce my own music, but it would connect to the EDM work I do as well. That’s when I found Point Blank!
Were there any things in particular that really stood out in your memory from studying here – this could be a technique you learned? A module? A lecturer? Something that has helped with building your career?
What has stood out to me the most is realizing how valuable it is to be in a classroom. Learning from the lecturer’s real-life experiences in the music industry and going through the process alongside other musicians was much more inspiring than sitting in my flat and watching YouTube tutorials. While that can work too, I think that being in that environment with the people I have met really made all the difference. Overall I have learned so much information and it’s already proving to be helpful in so many different ways.
Is there anything particularly important that you’ve learnt about the industry having been immersed in it for some time now?
I have learned to take everything in stride. The fast pace of the world and this industry just seems to increase all the time and I think it drives people to want a lot of instant gratification. So much music is being released every day and audiences quickly move on to the next releases. It’s hard to sustain a career and make a living but I think it’s important to keep your focus on quality rather than quantity. If you focus in on who you want to be as an artist and what you want to bring to the world because of it, it’s absolutely obtainable – but it’s going to take a lot of time. I have had many ups and downs in music so far and this past year I have slowed things down by taking time to learn and re-evaluate my direction. Taking more control over the fate of my career has been important. I have also learned to see any failures as lessons, and any downs as opportunities to restructure and set things up to go higher in the next steps.
What advice would you give to a Point Blank student aspiring to make it in the world of electronic music?
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, be proud of your musical taste, and just go for it. You’ll never know if you don’t give it 100%.
What’s in the pipeline?
I have a few more releases coming out on my label following the latest release “Make It”, a few more EDM releases on Monstercat and Liquicity, and then I will begin to release singles from my upcoming solo album starting this September with the full release due to drop before the end of this year. My new electronic/acoustic live set will follow.
Jaden Thompson (Fabric / Emerald City) – Music Production & Sound Engineering Diploma
Jaden Thompson is a DJ and Producer who studied Point Blank’s Music Production & Sound Engineering Diploma. Due to his shuffling percussive tracks, which have been championed by the likes of DJ Mag, and his ultra-tight DJ sets, he’s recently been snatched up by London’s legendary Fabric venue to play as a resident DJ. Find out more about this below.
We saw you’ve just been announced as a resident DJ at Fabric – that’s massive, congratulations! Can you tell us a bit about how this happened/what your residency entails?
Thank you! I still don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. I believe one of the promoters at Fabric had been scouting me for a while as I was approached for a show earlier this year. For me, this residency means a lot more than just an opportunity to play at the club regularly – there’s definitely a sense of family associated with the club, and that’s something I want to be a part of.
What can people expect to hear from your upcoming Fabric shows?
I aim to bring my unique sound to Fabric. I’ll be testing out a lot of new music throughout these shows for sure.
You recently released a new EP which was praised by DJ Mag. How did the new EP come together?
I did three originals and a collab with a wicked producer from Brazil called Dub Clap. Once I was happy with everything, I sent the demos to Jamie Jones.
The music you make has lots of intricate percussive rhythms and grooves. What inspires you / the music you make?
I listen to a lot of different types of music, so I guess the inspiration comes from various places. Artists like Kerri Chandler, Mr G, Derrick Carter and Paul Johnson have been highly influential throughout my style of production.
How did you hook up with Emerald City?
Recently I’ve been wanting to show a bit more variation throughout my music production, reflecting a range of influences, and not setting myself any barriers. As soon as I’ve finished my first 4 tracks with this new mindset, I sent them to Jamie, and he signed 3 of them. As you can imagine, I couldn’t be happier.
Could you tell me how you discovered Point Blank?
I’d been watching a lot of the PB tutorial videos when I first started making music, so I’d known about it for years.
Are there any things you learned with us that really stick in the memory? This could be a highlight of the course, an instructor, a certain assignment etc.
I learnt the most from the live performance module as it opened me up to the whole world of performing with Ableton Live. This is something I want to implement into my shows later on in my career.
What’s in the pipeline?
I plan on more releases this year on some cool labels that I’ve been following for a while. Fabric has given me a platform now to really spread my wings.
Successes such as these are common among our students and alumni. We can teach you how to DJ like the best of them at any of our schools. If you’d like to learn how to produce, then we can build your skills from the ground up with our range of degree programmes, including our BA (Hons) in Music Production and DJ Practice. For more information, you can contact us here.
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