Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wynn Smith: Composer Kuandohan

Wynn Smith is a well-seasoned composer, who also happens to be the twin brother of Hill Smith, from the previous interview. His inspiration comes from many places and his style has developed deeply in only four years of composing. Wynn's latest release on YouTube, called "Sweating the Desert," is a song that very much reminds me of the style of music I have enjoyed and maybe even been addicted to lately - with an upbeat twist! Basically, I call this stuff desert travel or town music in video games. It reminds me a lot of White Knight Chronicles and Baten Kaitos. I even made a town theme, "Springtide," that has the slower feel to this style of music. But, because "Sweating the Desert" is more upbeat, I would have to say that it would fit better as travel music. When I interviewed Wynn, this is what he had to say:

1) Tell us about yourself:

My name is Wynn Smith, I'm 17, I live in Jacksonville, Florida, USA, but was born in Beaumont, Texas.
We are currently homeschooled, and are working to get into college!
My username was something I made up a long time ago, probably when I was around 11, because my previous username was not a very good choice. I liked Tae-Kwan-Do when I was younger, or just the idea of it, I saw a Tae-Kwan-Do training facility, and thought "Kuando" and I put "han" at the end, I got confused with the honorific "San", and thought they said "Han" in Japan, but I kept it anyway.
I love composing any type of music, in any genre, I'll even experiment, collaborate, work on any project, no matter what it is, big budget to little budget, ask and you will recieve our work! Depending on what it is, for a fee of course.
I'm also working on becoming an Actor/Voice Actor, I'm very outgoing, and can speak in front of a crowd, so I thought it would be sensible to at least try and work in that profession.
Among other things, being a composer is mainly where my heart is set.
I also play any instrument you can find, but a piano would be the main generic choice.
2) About how many songs have you and your brother composed? Do you usually work together on projects, or do you do solo compositions as well?

My brother and I have composed countless pieces, could be around 1,000 as of the beginning, around 4 years ago.
Definitelly over 24 Hours of pure music if you were to listen to all of it.
My brother and I are actually becoming more and more prolific by the month, the more work we do, the faster you get.
My brother and I are also collaborating more frequently than before.
We used to just do pieces alone, and then we would each listen to the tracks. Now we are working together, mainly when it's on a project, like a film, game, TV, anime, ect.
The thing I like about us is that my brother and I, in my opinion, both have completely different styles of composing, so when we collaborate, it becomes something very different. But we compose so much work, it takes too long to collaborate on every piece, but when we can, we do it!
You'll see the results soon enough, over 90% of our work has not gone past the ears of my brother and I.
3) Why did you start the Extemporaneous Project?
Mainly, because we believe no idea should ever get thrown away, we've heard, and seen people write down ideas, didn't like them at the time, and threw them away, erased them. That just bugs me so much that people do that, especially when I've written a piece I didn't like very much at the time, but after a couple days, I relistened to it, and I liked it!
Don't feel down about what you write or anything like that, just write, and what comes out, comes out, it's what was meant to be!
If the director tells you to take something out of a piece your composing for a project, even if it's a small riff, keep it and make a piece based off of it, even if it's ambient, or just a small 1:00 composition, it can still be something amazing to someone. :D
This project was also created for ideas most people would think would be too experimental for "Normal" albums, per-se.
It's also based on the idea of creating music, at basically lightning speed, composing 3 minute compositions in 30 minutes is possible, just write and don't worry about what it is.
4) Who do you admire as a musician and composer?

My brother, that's a start.
Anyone who can actually finish a project, I admire a lot, it shows that they have enough self confidence to complete something of their own work, even if it's not very good, it's still something completed, and sellable. So many people just give up on their work, even if it's something amazing. It's kind of sickening the self confidence of most people. I know it's how they're raised, and the people around them, but doing something you love is something that makes you feel better, it doesn't matter what crap anyone says out their mouth about it, do what you love. It's not about the fame, or the money, but it surely does help. :D Like money, obviously you need it to live and get better products, and fame, well, most people look at it the wrong way. You can use that to send a great message to people, and be a role model if you like. Be the inspiration for everyone else looking to do what they love as well, and I'm not just talking about composing. Tell them they can do anything they set their mind to. Even if you have no money and are being held down by some abusive force, something can happen, things are very unexpeceted in this world, and you never know who you can bump into, that's a good thing.
Now as to composers I love, that would be Yoko Kanno, for her ability to compose great BGM, and memorable Songs, not many people can do that the way she does.
Motoi Sakuraba, he's very redundant, but I love his style, and the sheer amount of work he does is inspirational in itself. Just look at his VGMDB profile, you'll be amazed, and that doesn't include his handheld games. My favorite soundtrack of his is Infinite Undiscovery, truly one of the most beautiful works I have listened to, along with Star Ocean: The Last Hope. I have many other recommendations of his, but those two are great starting points.
I enjoy listening to music in general, but I'm amazed at the amount of Japanese composers and songwriters I enjoy listening to.
I used to be very closed off to what I listened to back then (You don't really want to know.), but now I'm much more open minded. I used to not like listening to american songs, mainly because of their composition style, and depressing lyric nature. So after I ventured into the nostalgic realm of anime, and games, I really do like listening to bands like The Pillows, Suneohair, Avant-Garde Eyes, among others, so I thought, maybe I'm breaking that mold of not liking songs, maybe I was just naive.
But then I listened to the music I used to dislike, and guess what? I still don't like it.
I don't get it, its like Japan has this addictive aura that I can't get away from, the composers, the songwriters, the anime, the games, the artwork, the scenery, I love it all from Japan (That doesn't include its politics, this is strictly media).
Maybe it's because a lot of the things I enjoyed when I was younger were from Japan, I used to play games like Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart, Mario Party, ect. I used to watch anime like Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Inuyasha, FLCL, ect.. I guess all of the nostalgia has rubbed off on every medium from japan, and I just can't shake it. But hey, if you love it, then go for it! I have no complaints about it, it's just strange to me.
Other random inspirations are:
Kenji Kawi
Kohei Tanaka
Kow Otani
Tsuneo Imahori
Nobuo Uematsu
Yasunori Mitsuda
Yoko Shimomura
Jun Maeda and the crew from Key
and many, many others.
There are a lot of great composers out there, a lot more than you may think, the key to becoming more famous is, the more people you know, the more contacts you get, and kindness goes a long way, make sure you do great work all of the time, whether you're getting paid or not, when the directors you work with use you again and again, that's when the beauty comes.
Look at John Williams, Steven Spielberg uses him over and over again, that really helped John from being under the radar, to pretty much king.
Same thing with Nobuo, he was used by Hironobu Sakaguchi, over and over again.
Being friends really helps, get your work done fast, and don't be such a push over, and do what they tell you to, they will use you again when they like your work.
5) How do you believe passion is related to music?
It depends on how you think about passion.
Passion to me, is something you're compelled to do, like if you see someone in trouble, you're compelled to help them, however you can.
That's just one passion.
You can't make passion appear, it mainly comes when you realize how beautiful something really is, with no filters, no make-up, no fake persona, nothing, just true beauty.
Something where, it doesn't matter what people say, I have to do this, It's something I love, to the day I die, this is something I will always think about.
Very much like love.
This goes for any profession you feel this way over too, if any of you out there feel this way about anything, designing, fashion, becoming a doctor, lawyer, architect, artists, anything at all, forget whatever cereer you've been pursuing, and do your best to work with that one instead, go to school, get your degree, and if you need money to do that line of work, then get the other job, and support your dreams.
But this can get in the way of family, never lose sight of your family while doing this, never hurt someone to gain something, that's just wrong.
Do it to the best of your ability, never give up, always look on the positive side, and see it through, even when things look downhill, just keep looking ahead, and stay positive, sometimes, something unexpected happens, that's why you should never work alone, even if your working with someone who causes the problems, just let them go, forgive them, and move on.
And, like I said, always remember, never lose sight of the ones you love.
6) What inspires you in the music-making process?

Depends on if you mean during the composing process, or before.
Before composing, anything can inspire me.
But during the composition process, it's more like composing and just continuing the composition. I never know how long, or even how a piece is going to turn out. I can have an idea, but never truly know, especially if I leave and come back to it later.
Sometimes I do things I usually enjoy doing in pieces, that's why if you hear music by me, you can hear similarities, I also can get lazy and copy and paste sections. Especially when I want to end certain pieces.
7) Random thoughts:

When composing, it's better to do everything you need to do in your day, finish your work, hang with the family, listen to a couple soundtracks, view beautiful scenery, build some inspiration.
I'm all for being prolific, but it really is better to just sit down, feel comfortable, and write when you feel inspired, which will happen easily when you don't have to worry about anything. Feeling inspired can be anything, even if you're inspired by a prolific composer for just being prolific, work with that! Anything can inspire you!
Write in the morning, after you dream, or in the evening or night, after you've completed your work in the day.
You can't make beauty come, it just happens.

My thoughts on the interview:

You sound a lot like me. I make up names all the time, as I mentioned in your brother's interview. In fact, my wife and I name about half of our video game characters after possible made-up names for our kids. I also love to play any instrument I get my hands on, and help out with countless projects, for free even. Finally, I really wanted to be a kid actor when I was growing up, but decided somewhere along the way to change all interest to voice acting. However, I just moved away from Orlando upon finishing college and now, I haven't really had time to look into it in the Ft. Myers area.

That's really great to have a team setup to help each other determine what makes your songs sound the absolute best. In addition, your project sounds amazing, and I have talked to people that it has helped to gain more confidence in their work. I also hate it when music is thrown away, and, sadly, I had to throw away a few of my most unique pieces because I simply did not have enough memory to keep all of the file data... luckily, I still have those songs spread out somewhere in computers and flash drives :)

You should learn Japanese, especially if some of your favorite composers are from Japan. In the past few weeks, I have met people, both in my hometown and on YouTube, that know some very famous individuals who are at the top of the musical world. Keep searching and keep pursuing your dreams. You'll make it eventually, haha, and once I searched for composing and other jobs at Japan-based companies in America. They were hiring... if you know English and Japanese! Knowledge of your field of interest is good, but contacts definitely are the key. Why does this site exist? So people can gain friendships and contacts with others who have been all over the musical (and physical) world.

You also have some pretty good insight on how to have a joyful life. It doesn't mean sucky things won't happen. An example, my wife and I both lost our main jobs a week ago, but we are still happier than normal because we don't know what is in store for the future and didn't settle for doing doctor or lawyer or business majors in school just because people wanted them for us. We want to help people and make lots of music, and will just have to settle for a hard day's work right now until we can get better equipment or meet that person that offers us the "big job."

Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes I will literally say, "Today, I will be inspired to create a Waltz," and then I will sit down and play a song that starts writing itself in my head until it is memorized. Other times, I will hear a noise that triggers a random song. When I'm actually writing, I try to keep my songs unique and avoid excessive similarity (because I'm prone to it), but looping is a great way to end a song without having to think :)

For more of Wynn's music, visit his YouTube channel here.

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