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INTERVIEW: The Insomniax

06 February 2009


In a world of Goliath producers like Timbaland and RedOne, the producer to cook up your songs can really make or break a new artist. We all know that just because you have a huge name producer backing you up doesn't mean you'll get a hot track. However -- if you get the chance to work with the Insomniax, you can rest easy that you will get a great song in return.

The Chicago-based Insomniax, made up of Emile Ghantous and Erik Nelson, are criminally under the radar, but maybe that's what makes them so special. Their tracks aren't overexposed, but every song they produce comes out incredible. I first heard about them a few years back when they were working on solo material with Jessica Castellanos, of Soluna fame (who I just can't say enough good things about), and was amazed by their track record. Their most well known track is "Get It Poppin'", a track they wrote and produced for pop/r&b stunner JoJo for her sophomore release, that was featured as a bonus cut on the Wal-Mart edition of the album.

Their hard work is not going unnoticed in the industry, as their number of collaborations with heavy hitters (aforementioned JoJo & Bobby Valentino, as well as Frankie J and Boyz II (freakin') Men) countered with up and comers (Motown's girl group JADA, Interscope's Jordyn Taylor, Def Jam's Velvet Angels and several others) continues to grow by the day.

I was lucky enough to have Emile answer some questions for me to get to know them a bit better. Count yourself as cool, because you got to hear about the next big producer FIRST! :) Emile was full of cool insight into the production process, shouts out to JoJo, laments the prevelance of autotone in this current scene, and assures us that JADA is the next big thing...Check out their MySpace here. Thanks to Emile and the Insomniax for taking some time to talk to us! We appreciate it , sir- - and can't wait to hear the rest of the good stuff ya'll are cooking up!

>>>You've worked with a ton of amazing artists, including JoJo, Bobby Valentino, Jada and so many others. Who are you working with currently? Do we have some tracks to look forward to?

We currently working with Frankie J, Mishon, Jordyn Taylor, Velvet Angels, I-15, Ralph Tresvant of New Edition, LeMarvin and many other new artists. Our schedule is pretty booked for the next few months.

>>>How did you first get together?/How did you discover your love for music?
Well, we met back in '94. Erik was the owner of a local recording studio and I (Emile) was a local up and coming music producer. I was doing tracks for local rappers and I was renting Erik's studio so that I could get the songs recorded. I really wanted to get into doing more r&b/pop songs but I wasn't that good of a player. I was a better programmer and writer. Well, during one session, Erik asked if he could add a part he was hearing to one of the songs I was recording. The name of the song was called "In The Groove" and it was being a sung by a local singer named Danny Gillette. Erik added the keyboard melody to the hook and we all loved it. I then started having Erik add keyboard parts and guitar to the songs I was producing . We weren't officially partners at the time because I was still paying him to add his parts and to rent the studio. To make a long story short, I moved to Chicago in 2000 to go to Columbia College and I hooked up with a guy who was working the Willa Ford album at Lava/Atlantic Records. He heard some of the songs I had and said he wanted to have us work with her. Well, I called Erik and I told him about the opportunity and he said that he didn't wanna get paid per hour to add his parts, he would rather get production and publishing for his work. We then decided to partner up. At the time, I had another partner that I was working with but we eventually let him go because it was always Erik and I working around the clock at the studio. In the beginning, we both worked regular jobs and couldn't really afford to meet up that often because we lived 2 hours apart (still do). So we would work like once every couple weeks for a day and we would work starting at like 7 or 8 am until 5 am then next day. It was crazy but that's what we did.

>>>What does your name signify/stand for? Why did you decide on this name?
Well, we came up with the name THE INSOMNIAX because we would never sleep! LOL. I remember one Saturday night our boy Marlon called us at 4am and we answered the studio phone and said "mannnnnn i knew you guys would still be up! Ya'll are some damn insomniacs!" I think that's really when we decided to start using the name even though Erik takes credit for it! hahahahah We ended up changing the spelling of it a few years later.

>>>What three adjectives best describe your production style? Do you have any production "trademarks"?
Well, I would say our sound is described as feel good music. We like to use big sounds that mix well. I think every producer and writer has their trademarks but we do our best to keep the listener guessing.

>>>What type of music did you grew up with? Has it helped influence you?
Erik grew up on pop/rock. Groups like Van Halen and Journey were a big influence. I grew up on rnb/pop/hip hop. My favorite group was New Edition and I bought every single r&b album that came out from 1988-current. I have over 10,000 albums, cd's, and tapes in my collection. Being that we listened to differnet things growing up always keeps our production interesting because neither one of us ever really hear the same parts. We just do what we do and it somehow seems to work.

>>>Currently, you produce a lot of urban/pop music. Do you have any interest in brancing out into other genres? Of course. We are both fans of alternative rock and country and we are currently branching out into that as well.

>>>What's your favorite song you've recorded so far, and why?
Well, it's hard to pick a favorite when you have hundreds. LOL. We did a song on Frankie J called "You Ain't Missing A Thing" and that is always gonna be one of our favorites. It's not out yet but that one always sticks in our head. We also love "Kiss and Tell" that we did on JADA. We honestly wrote and produced that entire track in about 30 minutes and then cut all of the vocals within about 30 minutes. It was the first time we ever did a record like that and we ended up listening to the song all night long and dancing like fools in the studio.

>>>Which artist provided the most memorable studio experience? Why?
Well, we would both agree that working with JoJo (the pic at the right is of the guys with JoJo in the middle) was incredible! She was 14 at the time and we had never worked with a singer like here before. I mean, she is the real deal. She was the 2nd major artist we had worked with and she really made it hard for us to go back and work with singers who weren't that good. We were used to working with singers who would do a hundred takes and still not get it. We did 3 songs with her during two 8 hour blocks and she made them sound incredible! She is one singer who never needs autotune LOL. Wusssssuuuupppppppppp Joannaaaaaaaa????? U ARE THE TRUTH! We miss u! But we have worked with a lot of incredible singers like Jon B, Bobby Valentino, Boyz II Men, Das and Castro from I-15, LeMarvin, and our new favorite group in the world JADA. Those girls are the truth and we have become the closest with them.

>>>What is the process like in the studio?
Let's just say it's a long one. Anytime you hear someone say that they did a beat in 5 minutes they are pretty much full of it. We're sure they did the LOOP in 5 minutes but tracking the song, arranging the song, vocal producting, and writing the song take time. Of course, some songs come really fast like "Kiss and Tell" , but the process takes a while. I mean, mixing the song usually can take a whole day or so.

>>>Say an artist wants to work with you. What would they have to do to get together and cook up a hot track?
All they would have to do is hit us up. We treat all artists the same. Weather they are an A List artist or an upcoming act, we do our best to treat them all the same and give them the best songs we can come up with at the time.

>>>In a perfect world, who would you absolutely KILL to work with? Why?
Steve Perry from Journey because he had one of the greatest voices of all time. Prince because he is an icon. And of course, Michael Jackson!

>>>What current artist that you haven't worked with has really blown you away recently? Ne-Yo, Lenka, Adele, Justin Timberlake, and Robin Thicke.

>>>What do you think of the current trend pointing toward respect for the producer and the songwriter (the fame of Timbaland, RedOne, Dr. Luke, etc.)?
Those guys are great producers and have been it for a long time. They each bring something special to their records. As producers, it's always good to find producers/songwriters/ and songs that inspire you to make something new. I mean, we all need some kind of inspiration in order to create.

>>>What do you think is the biggest problem in the music industry right now? AUTOTUNE! AUTOTUNE! AUTOTUNE! And yes...we use it! It's become the industry standard. Everything on the radio sounds the exact same. You can't tell one artist apart from the other. Everyone thinks that they are now a singer LOL. This generation isn't listening to singers like Boyz II Men who could sing their asses off. They are learning how to sing by listening to current records that are 100 percent autotuned. Soon people won't even use melodies anymore. It's sad!

>>>Message to the fans?
No one can dream your dream for you. This music business will eat you alive if you don't have the heart for it. If it's something that you really want, then go out and get it. It may not happen over night but don't give up. Keep grinding! Build relationships with as many people as you can and stay in touch with them. The industry is very small and everyone knows everyone! And of course....thanks for your support and your love over the last few years! We have alot of great work coming out soon that we hope you love!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

!I love JoJo and I hope she does more stuff this year havent seen much of her lately, I have heard Jada they are great and I love that song Kiss and Tell I hope its on their upcoming album!
To the Insomniax guys great job with them!

Matt Mariner said...

The Insomniax and Jada are incredibly talented! Definetly check out their music - It's hot. Especially when they work together!

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