Eleni Nota Speaks on Being in All-Female Metal Band

Elenia in the studio

Eleni Nota is a drummer who has a burning passion for making the most out of her music. Dabbling in genres such as metal, electronic, and hip-hop Nota is a renaissance woman of her craft. In this segment, I talked to Nota about her all-female band Nervosa, the music scene in Greece, how the pandemic affected her creativity, and much more.

JM: Before we dive into the creative force that you are, set the stage for those who don’t know you! Who are you? Where are you from? What is it you do?

EN: My name is Eleni Nota and I’m a drummer based in Athens, Greece. I mostly play metal music but I love experimenting with pop, electronic, hip-hop, trap, and basically all music genres.

JM: Wow, Greece!? That is so dope! How has Greece shaped your overall creative process?

EN: I think what has changed my creative process the most is moving to Athens. I grew up on an island so my upbringing was relatively quiet. I moved to Athens, which is the capital of Greece, at the age of 18 to study in a university, and saying that I had a cultural shock is an understatement. Athens has this huge urban and industrial character that I completely love. The street art, the theatres, the small underground gigs with local hardcore and electro bands, the comic book conventions. Everything has changed the way I view music and art in general. I also love the sound of the city. Even while I’m writing these words, I hear people outside my house hanging out at coffee shops, I hear car engines, people playing music. So I basically hear life happening 24/7. And I want to translate this 24/7 “noise” into music. That’s why I love experimenting with anything that produces sound. From my drums to my octapad, to basically every surface that I can hit to create sounds. If I wasn’t living in the most crowded, multi-cultural city of Greece, I definitely wouldn’t have developed this creative process and this view of art.

JM: A lot of notable artists and philosophers have come from Greece so it only makes sense that it is a hub of endless creative inspiration. Who are some notable musicians coming out of Greece you’d recommend to us?

EN: That’s a tough one. Even though Greece is a small country, it was a vast music scene. I would recommend Sofia Sarri, Mother of Millions, Murder That Sound, Oceandvst, Ayrenn, Villagers of Ioannina City, Above Us The Waves, and Manos J Kouris just to name a few.

JM: I’ll have to check these artists out! It’s impossible to not notice you’re in a legendary woman-led Metal band, Nervosa! How did you girls meet?

EN: Nervosa is an all-female metal band that was founded in Brazil with a currently multi-ethnic line-up. In April 2020 the singer/bassist and the drummer left the band and the only remaining member, guitarist Prika Amaral, started looking for new members. While she was looking for a drummer, she came across one of my drum covers on YouTube and she sent me an email to audition. This happened while we were on lockdown due to Covid-19 so my audition happened through a video call. Eventually, I got the job and now the band has a line-up with members from Brazil, Italy, Spain, and Greece. The funny thing is that, due to the long quarantine, we managed to meet each other in person many months later, just in time to record our album “Perpetual Chaos”.

JM: Sounds like one big happy family is you ask me – I love it. How would you describe the sound and vision for Nervosa for those interested in checking you out?

EN: Our sound is based on thrash, death, and black metal but with a more modern approach in the overall production. The main theme of our songs is injustice and the dark side of human nature. We speak of religious oppression, corrupt politicians, animal abuse, depression and suicidal thoughts, betrayal, and the aftermath of war. Apart from speaking our truth through our music, one of our main goals is to inspire women to pick up an instrument and follow their dreams. The metal music industry still remains male-dominated and women often face criticism and insults when they join bands and go on stage. We want to help change that by proving that four women can form a band, play thrash metal on big stages, and basically have a career equal to the ones of male metal musicians.

JM: I’m sure there’s plenty but can you recall a crazy moment that happened during one of your shows?

EN: I haven’t had the chance yet to play many shows with Nervosa unfortunately, because I joined the band right in the middle of the pandemic. We played our first five shows only a month ago. So, for now, I don’t have any crazy stage stories with the girls but I have an after-show funny experience. We did this show in Romania, and afterward, we were chilling at the bar of the hotel we were staying at. While being there, we were hearing loud noises and music coming from inside the hotel and many people, all of them well-dressed, were coming and going. Our bassist went to ask what kind of event is happening and a few minutes later she came back and she told us that it’s a baby’s baptism party and that they actually invited us! So we crashed the party, still wearing our stage clothes, and just started dancing randomly among strangers. We eventually became friends with everyone at that party and we stayed there dancing until the morning. The DJ even played Rammstein and System of a Down at some point to please us. It was a super cool aftershow random party!

JM: [Laughs] That is hilarious and so random! Glad to hear the DJ at least gave you something to dance to. How did you handle the pandemic in terms of your creative process? Do you find it inspired you more or less?

EN: In the beginning, I was feeling uninspired, to be honest. It was difficult to accept that I had to stay inside, without the opportunity to work and meet other musicians. But, as time went by, I started getting used to it. I eventually joined Nervosa, I worked on our new album and, after its release, there was so much work to do with its promotion and everything, that I was too busy to think of the outside world. I think Nervosa and our album, “Perpetual Chaos”, saved my mental health during the quarantine. Having a project to work on gave me purpose and made me feel like life hadn’t stopped. After we finished the album, I was inspired to keep creating music. I started recording drum ideas and experimenting with new music. I think that in 2020 and 2021 I’ve made more progress as a musician than in the previous 10 years altogether. And I think that this happened because I had the time and mental clarity to get out of my comfort zone and dive into new musical areas.

JM: Well I am glad to hear that you didn’t give up and kept pushing in the face of adversary. We need artists like you girls to keep breaking the boundaries. The pandemic really took a toll on creatives so kudos to you. Drums are an important aspect of any band or artist’s arsenal. What do you think makes the drums the heart of a song?

EN: Drums make people dance and I think this is what makes them the heart of the song. If you show a basic rhythm to a child, they will instantly understand it and start clapping according to the rhythm. It’s really impressive. This means that all humans have a sense of rhythm inside them. If a person with zero musical knowledge hears a drummer play, he will probably not understand the fills and every little cymbal, but he’ll be able to pick up the groove of the kick and the snare. And this will make him dance and feel the song to its core.

Rehearsal shot

JM: Truer words have never been spoken. That’s an interestingly unique perspective. Regarding the artistry of drums, when did you know you wanted to be a drummer?

EN: I knew I wanted to be a drummer when I first listened to Slipknot at around the age of 10. I started playing drums at the age of 12 but, for a couple of years, I was really lazy, to be honest. I was too addicted to gaming when I was in school so I would rarely pick up my drumsticks back then. At the age of 16, I realized that I wanted to take drumming seriously. I had grown tired of sitting in front of a screen all day and I started playing music more and more. I also formed a band with some friends from school and playing gigs became my new addiction. After that, pursuing music as a career was like a one-way road for me.

JM: Ah yes, the lazy creative. I’m sure we can all attest to that. It’s hard to bring ideas to life sometimes with all of the distractions. You also teach drum lessons as well as being in a Metal band. What words do you have for anyone that is wanting to pick up an instrument for the first time?

EN: Always have a goal in mind. Learning an instrument is hard and, in the beginning, you have to practice stuff that seems boring and useless. But they’re never useless. For example, it’s frustrating to dream of playing Slipknot songs on the drums but instead of that, you’re practicing paradiddles on the snare drum at 50 BPM because your teacher says so. But the thing is that, in order to nail the blast beats and the crazy drum parts that all these famous drummers play, you have to master those paradiddles on the snare first. So, it’s important to always have a goal in mind. This goal may change all the time. If you’re a beginner drummer, it can be to reach the level to play one of your favorite songs. After you master that, your goal can be to join a band and play your first gigs. And then it can be to do your first recording and the list goes on… If you always have a goal in mind, you will feel that the effort to get there is worth it. Otherwise, it’s really easy to lose your drive and start thinking of quitting.

JM: Well I’m glad you listened to your teacher and stuck to it. Practice often seems monotonous but now look at you! What can we expect from you in your solo ventures moving forward in 2021 and beyond!

EN: I just started being active again on YouTube after a year-long break, so you can expect many drum videos. I have many drum covers scheduled but I also have some original material in the making. I’m also working as a session drummer with quite a few artists so you can expect a lot of new music that has my drumming contribution. And, in 2022, I have my first big tours with Nervosa and I’ll definitely release some behind-the-scenes action from these travels.

JM: I’m looking forward to it. Where can the people reach you to find out more about you?

EN: Feel free to hit me up on Instagram at @eleninotadrums! And, if you want to see some more drum action, you can check out my YouTube channel which is again Eleni Nota Drums. If you want to listen to my band, Nervosa, you can stream our music on all streaming platforms.

Thanks so much to Unify Collective for this cool chat. Your work is really inspiring. I can’t wait to see more!

Producer and Artist Strange Strains on Keeping Things Strange

Mario “Strange Strains” Hernandez is a hip-hop artist and producer based out of Pomona, CA. I got a chance to chop it up with Strange on the origins of his family-orientated hip-hop group Murder Van, his inspiration with Elektron drum machines, solo explorations, and much more!

JM: Before we dive in, introduce yourself and tell everyone what it is you do

SS: What’s up, my name is Mario a.k.a. StrangeStrains.

I am a music producer, rapper, and visual artist.

I am also the US product specialist for the Swedish electronic instrument company, Elektron Music Machines.

JM: A busy man! I gotta know, how did you come up with your name StrangeStrains? Very unique.

SS:

Haha, yes.

Well, I really like alliteration, especially when I started writing raps. 

Strange in his natural habitat.

I wanted to come up with a name that had that in it.

Going off of how my music sounds, it wasn’t normal, so Strange was something I wanted to incorporate.

And Strains came immediately after thinking of Strange. Fit perfect.

JM: It really does! Rolls right off the tongue. Speaking about how your music sounds, who/what are some influences that helped build the foundation for your unique sound?

SS:

There’s a lot of influences, and I feel like it’s constantly changing.

I would say it started with my family having very different tastes in music. This exposed me to classic rock and roll, hip hop, and everything in between.

Some of my favorite artists and producers that constantly inspire me are Madlib, Atmosphere, Damon Albarn (Gorillaz), Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix.

Oh man, too many to name.

JM: It’s hard to gauge influence sometimes because as artists we’re always trying to improve and grow so I understand. How has Elektron played a role in your journey as an artist?

SS:

Yes definitely, couldn’t have put it any better.

Great question, it really has expanded my music palette by introducing me to a lot of new sounds and experiences.

The machines themselves have changed the way I think about making music.

Allowing me to approach it in a different way than I normally would’ve.

JM: Oh I bet man! Their gear is crazy and definitely has changed the way music is made today so good shit on getting in with them. What do you think is the most important aspect of growth and exploration as an artist?

SS:

Thanks, I’m super grateful to be on the Elektron team.

I think allowing yourself to have fun, but also focusing on the things that get you excited and tapping into that.

Being yourself, unapologetically.

JM: Well said man I couldn’t agree more. Let’s talk about your group Murder Van. You guys are all so versatile and unique, how’d you guys meet and form Murder Van?

SS:

Thank you. Man, that’s my Family.

The Murder Van family is in full effect.

Literally, all the members of MurderVan are related. My brother, my two cousins, and myself.

JM: Woah, I had no idea. That’s fuck dope! What inspired you guys to come together and form the group?

SS: We would always chill together, telling each other about music, movies all that. We also all made music individually, so it was the right thing to do when the time came around.

JM: That’s dope man. You gotta stick together with common creative minds to keep the juices and inspiration flowing. Do you think we’ll get Strange Strange beat tape or solo project in the future?

SS:

Most definitely, currently, we are focusing on solo projects. Ben0rr tape coming, then me and my brother IdeAlone got an EP.

I am working on a live set that will eventually turn into a beat tape.

JM: Well I know we’re all looking forward to that my friend. Your beats are on some other shit. As we wrap up, what can we expect from Murder Van and yourself for the remainder of 2021? Also, where can fans reach you at?

SS:

Thanks man, truly appreciate it!

Look out for some more solo projects from the Van. Also working on more visuals to go with our music.

Feel free to shoot me a DM on Instagram at StrangeStrains. Also, go stream our music on all streaming platforms. MurderVan, StrangeStrains, Ben0rr, IdeAlone.

Thank you for the dope talk and great questions man!

Check out more of Strange Strains work at the links below:

Instagram

Bandcamp

Murder Van

Rendall Mercado On Fueling Creativity, Benefits of Patreon, and Freelance

Rendall Mercado is a graphic designer based in San Diego, CA. In this segment of “The Creatives”, I got a chance to talk with San Diegan graphic designer about creative energy, freelance, electrical boxes, Patreon, and much more. He also played an integral role in the designing of the Unify Collective globe!

JM: Ren, brother bear, thank you for your time! Before we dive in, introduce yourself and talk a bit about your craft. 

RM: My name is Ren and I am currently a Freelance Graphic Artist and Illustrator based in San Diego. I dabble in a lot of projects that include embroidery designs, sticker making, and coming up soon rugs!! Currently, sticker designing is my favorite haha. I currently run a Patreon that focuses on sticker designs! we’re about to wrap up our current season of stickers check them out at patreon.com/wrenmarket!

JM: Speaking about your range of projects, I can’t help but notice you’re always on a creative roll! Whether you’re creating holiday-themed cards, stickers/drawings of a character you’ve made up, or designing accessories. What is the inspiration behind all of this creativity? 

RM: Great question! Simple/likable designs and things that I find cool/fun. Most of the time I think of a concept and think, “where can this be best applied?”. 

In the case of my recent character ‘Egg Person’, this little being was conceptualized by a collage project that I’ve done with a group of students at work (I also work in childcare haha). Another Design that is coming up soon is our ‘Seafood’ hat, which was simply inspired by neon lights from a seafood market, plus my love for all things seafood haha!

JM: Yes! I love it! Very cool how the kids help you with your inspiration for new characters. How do you channel your creative energy? Is there a routine you find yourself in or does it just come to you naturally the and gears start grinding?

RM: Sometimes I get lucky and it comes naturally and I just run it, other times I have to sit down and really hammer out and perfect it. It’s part of the workflow honestly, but it’s work that I really don’t mind doing. Not to toot my horn, but I feel like I’m constantly filled with creative energy haha! granted it’s things that I find creative, but it helps me be on my toes artistically. I enjoy a lot of entertainment media such as videogames, art, and movies so that also helps on the creative energy charge.

JM: The energy flows through you, man! In terms of that, tell me about the electrical boxes! I see you painting them all over the place. How’d that project come about? 

RM: So my girlfriend got in contact with a local artist/art teacher that works closely with the Mira Mesa Town Council to help paint some electrical boxes around the city!

Electric Boxes Ren has painted over in Mira Mesa, CA.
Electric boxes Ren has painted over in Mira Mesa, CA.

I would’ve gotten around to it sooner, but covid happened so that set me back a bit, but I’m glad that we got the ball rolling and I’m looking forward to painting more electrical boxes!

JM: They definitely add character to the places they’re in! Speaking of character, you’ve played a huge role in the creation of Unify Collective by helping me come up with the signature globe logo. What was something about the process of creating the globe that drove you in the direction you went?

RM: I think it was during the development process, and you mentioned something about your music being able to be worldwide. I thought of a globe, which led to a brain blast moment of a vinyl record being put in place of a globe thus giving us the final result of Unify Collective!

JM: Good times man, good times! I still have those drafts you gave me for the Perspectives of the Illusion cover when we met up at the coffee shop. Speaking of brands, without our community we wouldn’t be anything. What do you think is the most important aspect of community within the creative sphere of things? 

Rough sketch of the Perspectives of the Illusion cover art.

I think the most important part of a community is the people within the community itself! It’s the people who are in that community that can carry you to make you who you are as an artist. Sure being famous has that upside of great exposure, but in my opinion what really makes it is the people that actually know and care for your craft as an artist. It’s also not just receiving yourself, it’s def also supporting others in your community. That support is there in all directions! Teamwork makes the dream work!

JM: Do you think it’s true that most artists like us struggle daily especially in terms of freelance? 

RM: I think it’s true! You and I Noticed that creativity tends to get shelved for cookie cutter 9-5’s and money. We were both fortunate enough to be able to dabble in both a stable income gig and explore our creative side. But venturing into creativity is volatile even when there are so many avenues for income it’s always a struggle. You and I are the business and we gotta do everything ourselves. (Generally speaking). 

JM: I totally agree, man. That shit is scary. How has Patreon helped you with the struggle? What about your freelance work? 

RM: Patreon helped me by keeping the focus on my craft as an illustrator! Haha without it I’d feel like I’ll be lost with my artistic self. In regards to freelance work, I’ve been picking up some jobs here ‘n there so I’d say it’s pretty steady!

JM: For fellow designers out there who are scrambling for work, how do you go about finding work as a freelance designer?

RM: It definitely varies, but for me, my services get passed around via word of mouth! On top of being relatively consistent with posting art, which kinda serves as a menu to potential clients to see if they dig my style. So to my fellow artists out there, post often and take a few jobs cause I’m sure if you do that, you’ll get passed down word of mouth within your community and you’ll be receiving some jobs, which in turn will strengthen your craft and maybe get you more noticed!

Check out more of Ren’s work in the links below:

Click here to subscribe to Ren’s Patreon

Instagram

Seji Gaerlan Talks Dance Clique, PRSPCTV Zine, and the Importance of Community

The man himself

In this segment of “The Creatives”, I chopped it up with a fellow colleague of mine, Seji Gaerlan, who played a big hand in Unify Collective getting local press over the last few years. In the interview, we discuss his dance company Syde Project, the annual magazine PRSPCTV, and what the future holds for him and his multiple avenues of creation.

JM: Seji, thanks so much for your time brother. I appreciate it. How have you been holding up during this pandemic and what’ve you been working on?

SG: Hey! I’ve been doing pretty good! I’ve been taking advantage of this pandemic to try to do more creative stuff with my dance company, my brand, and overall collaborative projects. Right now, I’m working on an upcoming dance showcase/art expo with my dance company that’ll happen hopefully in late May.

JM: Elaborate more on all of that! What’s your dance company, brand, and showcase/art expo all about?

.The dance crew Syde Project in their element

SG: My dance company, the Syde Project is a competitive/commercial company from the Inland Empire. We’ve competed in various competitions like Press Play and Maxt Out and have gone on choreography showcases like Loose Cannons. As a crew, we aim to establish our names throughout the SoCal dance community. As individuals within the crew, we use the Syde Project as a platform for each one of us to get booked for jobs commercially. We’ve worked with artists Elijvh Perkins, and UK rap artists like TTxRaph on their music videos and we aim to do more.

PRSPCTV Stickers

PRSPCTV is a multi-dimensional platform that features different creatives around the area. Just like Unify Collective, PRSPCTV aims for a community for artists to collaborate on various projects that can be shown in our art expo. In it, we invite dancers, choreographers, music artists, filmmakers, and more. On top of this event, we also publish a magazine annually called the PRSPCTV mag. It’s a space where we do profiles of different creatives around the community.

JM: Wow man, you’ve got quite the lineup of activities going on. I’m glad to see you and your crew still pushing through during these unprecedented times. What inspired you to create something like PRSPCTV?

SG: Thank you! And what inspired me to create PRSPCTV. When I started doing photography, I saw this Youtube channel called the Creator Class where they do features of different photographers, and I thought to myself, “wow, that’s really dope!” Then while watching these videos I came across a feature on Eric Veloso, a photographer, and the creative director of Street Dreams Magazine, a feature magazine for different photographers around North America. 

That’s when the idea of starting my own photo magazine came to mind where I just put some of my favorite work as a photographer to put into a magazine, I never really intended to show it. I just keep it as a collection to see what I’ve been doing over the years. Then after that, I got a little bit into streetwear, where I realized that there’s an actual culture and community in the scene out of just dressing up in cool clothing.

In streetwear, there’s also street culture where you can see various artists doing stuff, from video projects to clothing designs, music, hair cuts, etc. and I fell in love with the push of collaboration with these different artists. Then I realized that there’s not a whole of that going on here in the IE, for the most part, all the artists who are trying to do things are aiming to go to LA, but never wanted to make something out here in the Inland Empire, so that’s when the idea of the PRSPCTV mag came out, where I look for different artists to see what the little community in here is up to.

In here, I’ve met some dope individuals who are heavily underappreciated in the industry, the Tukes film crew, who also hosts their own art expo, music artists who are trying to make it, choreographers, and photographers.

JM: Very respectable. Your vision definitely correlates with ours over here at Unify. Also, being from the IE myself, there isn’t much going on in so it’s that cool you’re trying to bring something different to the scene. I was honored to be featured in the second volume of the PRSPCTV magazine. You’ve been there for us over here by always trying to get us local press and exposure. With that being said, what is it about the culture here at Unify Collective that makes you want to keep getting our name out there? 

SG: Thanks! And one main thing that I really like about Unify Collective is its genuinity. You keep it real when doing your art, and you try to do what makes you, you. I also love its organic approach in terms of putting your stuff out there, from approaching other upcoming artists into making something dope, to having a close relationship with your audience and whatnot. That’s the type of grind that I love showcasing.

JM: In a way, that’s what we’re both doing, with the DIY ethos implemented in our creative communities. Why do you think the community is such a strong aspect of any brand’s foundation? 

SG: Community is the life and soul of a brand. That’s honestly it.

JM: Word. I definitely agree because that’s whose fuckin’ with you and whose not — forget the rest. I’ve noticed on your Instagram that you’re heavy into the dance scene and you’ve even mentioned it earlier. Talk to me about the Syde Project and how the group came about. 

SG: Yessir! The Syde Project actually just started when I went to a gig to perform at a country club in Fullerton. When I got the gig, I told my friend who referred me that I have a team even though I really didn’t have one. So right after talking to my friend, I immediately started calling some of my dancer friends from Palomar College to do this gig — and that is how the Syde Project started. 

I honestly thought it was just a one-time thing. But I truly enjoyed the process of creating the set. After the gig, I decided to find more dancers from the Inland Empire to actually start an actual crew under the name. I first just asked my friend Jaki who’s been dancing with me for a long time now. She has done a duet performance with me at a choreography showcase in Orange County. Then after that, I scouted some people from the Riverside area, from two people, it grew to seven, then we competed at a competition at El Camino high school called Press Play, then performed at another choreography showcase.

The Syde Project dance crew.

In 2019, we decided to hold auditions for the team. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting any people to show up. Then I was surprised that over 20 people came in and I was just overwhelmed. We took in some members and we came about 21 members strong. Then we competed in our first big competition called Maxt Out in LA. Right after that, we started prepping for World of Dance. Also, another competition was called Ultimate Brawl, but then the pandemic hit, so we had to go on a hiatus. 

Late 2020 though, some rappers from the UK hit us up to dance for a music video to one of their songs “Move Like Dis”. It was then my good friend, Elijvh Perkins, who also booked us to produce another music video for his song “Juice”. Now we’re doing more collaborative projects and whatnot until the competition season starts back up again.

JM: What an origin story! It’s crazy how things just pan out the way they do and then BOOM! you have a team of people you get to share the passion of the craft you’re so dedicated to. They almost become like family in a way. What are some of the collaborative projects you guys have in the works? 

SG: And as of this immediate future, we’re doing a big-budget concept video this late March, choreographed by my co-director, Jaki. Then in May, we’re having a dance showcase/art expo with other teams around the area as well. And lastly, I’m going to produce another video project right after that as well.

JM: I noticed that you had an alter-ego named YG Childish. What’s he like?

SG: So in the Krump community, Krumpers have alter egos or nicknames, and with those nicknames, they create fams. In fams, it has a kind of a fraternity-like way of hierarchy. You have the creator of the fam, then his littles and what not.

The creator of my fam’s name is Childish. I am one of his little homies. My rank in the fam is “Young” so I’m Young Childish, or YG childish for short.

JM: Nice! I can dig that. What closing words do you have for your fellow creatives who are stuck in their slumps, looking for a way out? 

SG: For my closing words, I would say don’t force the art. 

Dancers rehearsing for a showcase.

Interested in learning more? Click on the links below to discover more of Seji’s projects:

Website

The Syde Project Instagram

PRSPCTV Instagram

Dylan Baumgartner: A Man of Many Mediums

JM: As usual Dylan, let the people know the basics about ya before we dive in!

DB: My name is Dylan Baumgartner. I’m based out of Temecula, California. I am a writer, director, producer, editor, and musician. I make short films, music videos, books, comic books, and music.

JM: I remember going to one of your film premieres at the Temeku in Temecula, pretty sure it was Dynamica that was being released. How did you go about getting your films independently published?

DB: Yeah that was back in 2017 when theaters were still alive and well. I do remember seeing you there at the Dynamica premiere with Michael and if I’m not mistaken, Jake was there too. Thanks again for coming out! That was a fun premiere. It was also an expensive one for me. The budget for Dynamica ended up being around $3,000 out of pocket plus an overpriced theater rental while I was working a minimum wage job at Subway. But after premiering Nightwatchers at Temeku in 2018, I haven’t done a theater rental from them since and I probably won’t again anytime soon. The last short film I directed was premiered at the 2019 Elev8 Film Festival in Temecula at the Edwards Cinema.

JM: I totally feel you on paying out of pocket to make your dreams work. It’s discouraging when it doesn’t go your way, but we haven’t given up and that’s what matters! What is the hardest part about being a director/producer? I figure there’s a lot of sleepless nights and early mornings.

DB: In my opinion, there are a lot of challenging obstacles for an amateur filmmaker at my level. But the hardest thing that I’ve noticed for my self and my other filmmaker friends is finding people who are willing to help just for the sake of helping out. Not in it for a paycheck or some kind of glory. Just helping out someone who has a vision and willing to go broke for it. I think the art industry was built on people doing favors for one another. Like right now I’m helping out my friend Bailey Schoelen with his short film, CPU Messenger and he’s helping me with my short film, Me & You. Or like how I edited the Toxic Box video for you and now we are doing this interview.

JM: You know, it’s taken me some time to understand we do this creative shit in order to maintain our minds. Recognition and money are something that MIGHT come along. It’s especially hard trying to just find people who want to help for the sake of helping out your cause. I run into that a lot as well. So, with that being said, creating involves struggles, but what would you say is your biggest strength during the creative process of your content.

DB: I don’t like bragging about myself so I’ll keep this brief. I think it’s beneficial that I write, direct and edit most of my projects. It helps with maintaining the story and characters while also being able to reshape it as I go from the inception of the idea to the final product. 

JM: That’s how I feel with my music and with Unify Collective. I need to be fully involved in it, even if I don’t have the skillset to edit a video or graphic design I still am involved 100% of the entire project to make sure my vision comes to life. How would you classify your genre of cinematography? It looks like you deal with a lot of variety which is great!

DB: Thank you but I can’t take all the credit for the cinematography. I usually like to work with a cinematographer if I’m directing. At this level, I’m wearing multiple hats on set and it’s incredibly helpful to have a cinematographer handle the camera and lights. Plus, I get a different perspective on the script. There have been plenty of times where what the cinematographer comes up with on set is way better than what I had in my head or drawn in my storyboards.

JM: Multiple hats! That’s a good description. I often feel like the editor, producer, art direction, designer, etc. But I always let the creatives I work with have their freedom because they often come up with ideas that were completely different and end up better than what I originally had in mind. What is it about your style that sets you apart from the rest of the crowd?

DB: I think that when you start out as an artist you first need to find your voice. I’m still working on it and the way I’m going about it is tackling different platforms and genres of storytelling. My first project was a cerebral supernatural short film followed up with a train heist action drama. Just recently I published a western novella and I’m currently working on a comedy comic book, a multi-genre collaborative album, a murder mystery book, and a dark comedy breakup short film.
So for me it’s about seeing how I go about telling those stories and then being able to look back, find the common threads and then hone in on what works and strengthen what doesn’t.
 
JM: I feel like I’m still trying to find my voice. I do feel more comfortable with my art than ever before so maybe that means I’m getting closer and closer to what it is I’m trying to become. Yet, being an artist we’re always evolving and trying to create something different than before. You have a big catalogue of self-directed and produced cinema under your belt. What’s your favorite one, if any?
The Creatives: Dylan
DB: For a long time my favorite was Nightwatchers because it was just so fun make. But I would say my last directed short film, Who, is my new favorite. The end product is something that everyone involved and myself are very proud of but the personal connection I had to the project was a very weird and wild experience that I won’t forget anytime soon.

JM: Was it hard to create or did you find it an easy process since you felt connected to it?

Artwork: Alicia Mutlu

DB: I think it’s really important to have a personal connection to what you are working on. For me, art is a form of therapy. 

JM: That’s what Unify Collective and my music are, therapy. So I completely understand where you’re coming from. Speaking of my music, what inspired you behind the “Toxic Box” promotional videos that you helped me out with? They came out so clean!

Artwork: Barep Bachtiar 

DB: Thank you and thanks for approaching me with the project. For the “Toxic Box” video, I was just trying to service the song and the artwork you gave me. I felt like there should be a sense of chaos. 

JM: And you did exactly that with these videos good sir so thank you! Well, with that being said, tell the people what’s coming up, what’s new, and where to reach you if they want some camerawork and/or promo stuff made!
 
DB: Right now I have a few new releases. I put out a music video for “The Message” by West of 33 and Pac_Man 29.
DB: I have a new western adventure book out titled Bone Orchard.

Artwork: Ian Wilkins

DB: Followed up by another book, Copy Cats in October.

DB: I’m also releasing a second issue of Fernello on Thanksgiving this year.

The Creatives: Dylan

DB: My music side project Slingshot is coming out with a 14 track album titled “Trapped in Oblivion” in November.

Artwork: Brandon Watkins

DB: And currently I am working on a new short film called “Me & You”.

The Creatives: Dylan
DB: I’m also finishing up a quick short for the My Rode Reel competition called Juggernaut. I wrote, directed, edited, and composed the music for it.
The Creatives: Dylan
DB: You can find all of this stuff on my Instagram @the_reel_dyl or @kalmiastuff
 
Thanks again for interviewing me and giving me a chance to talk about my projects.  

Michael Wolfe: The Man Behind the Prime Tunes

JM: Mikey! My boy! Before we dive in, give the readers some background information about you. Tell the people whats up!

MW: Whats up, I’m Michael Wolfe! I’m a 28 year old producer/mix engineer hailing from North Country San Diego! Besides helping my homies craft some prime tunes, I’m also really into motion pictures, attempting to write some screenplays, mind bending science, and cannabis.

JM: Ah, a man of many interests! I’m interested to know about your musical background as an artist. I remember talking to you once and you said you were in a metal band at one point in your life?

MW: Yeah, so I actually got my start playing metal back in the day, picked up the guitar when I was around 13, then joined my first serious local band when I was 16. Couple years after that, myself and my best friends formed our own metalcore band To Each His Own, which went on to tour the US for about 3 years consecutively, played SXSW all three years and made a bunch of friends and fans across the states. It was some of the best times, different city every day with your best friends, making music, causing a ruckus. But sadly after a good stint the metal scene started to die off and things had to come to and end. Luckily I was working on my production skills throughout those years and had gained a solid skill to embark on a new musical journey.


JM: Woah! That sounds like quite the journey there, Michael. You’ve experienced so much and you know what they say, “experience is the father of learning”. With that being said, tell us about your new label WolfeDen Productions and what it means to you.

MW: WolfeDen Productions aka WDP as we call it, is a collective vision started by myself and my producing partner/long time bestie, Caden of California, after TEHO disbanded. We were originally producing some short films and needed an easy moniker for the credits, thus WDP was born. It turned into a musical idea with the addition of a collaborator of ours Andrew Dyer and we released a Mixtape “Party at the WolfeDen”. We’ve all continued our musical journeys in different directions but the WDP ethos is still there to instill the passion of retaining artistic integrity in all of our lives endeavors. 
 

JM: WDP represent!!! It’s interesting how everything takes its course with this music shit man. What instruments do you play? What technology do you use to engineer and produce?

MW: I can play guitar and bass pretty decently, and I know my way around a piano, but I always like to say I know how to play the computer as well! I mainly work in Ableton for all of my production needs but then when it comes time for a vocal mix Im more than likely going to switch into Logic. I’ve just become more accustomed to working in it, and developing my workflow there. Some of my favorite VST’s are Xfer records SERUM, I love all of the Spitfire Audio orchestral suites, and pretty much everything Native Instruments makes.

The Creatives: Wolfe


JM: Well, with that all being said Mikey, what about producing and engineering other people’s tracks brings you the most joy? What about it brings you the most complications?

MW: For producing I really enjoy the aspect of getting a hollow guideline and then filling in the blanks with my personal taste while integrating the artists vision and passion into the final product.

For mix engineering I love trimming the fat of a song (EQ wise) and finding subtle ways to sneak in some effect ear candy, while really just making sure the song is driving sonically and taking the listeners along for the ride. Nothing better than that first listen through and having all those ideas pop into your head.

JM: Producing/Mixing is definitely a process so that’s cool it doesn’t drive you mad after a while! What’s one of the most difficult factors of mixing and producing for you? How do you over come the obstacles?

MW: Some of the difficult factors in my producing life is that I love crafting the music and the melodies but keeping up with what plugins sound good or outdated sometimes escapes me especially with all these genres mixing together. I’m a sucker for some old school sounding synths, but a lot of the time they are not working for a mainstream pop or hip hop track. To overcome this obstacle I’ve found its all about experimentation and just testing out any and all ideas.

Theres many different variables in the mixing process that could be determined difficult but its all apart of the job. Most common fixes though are just cleaning up recordings that may not have been recorded on the best mic or have a lot of room noise, sometimes it gets rough working with a beat I don’t have stems for because I can envision the beat knocking harder or having more space, but then that also inspires me to get creative and solve the problem with the tools I do have available.

JM: Speaking of the mixing and engineering aspects of your music, how did you approach mixing down my track “Toxic Box” in particular?

MW: “Toxic Box” was an immensely fun track to mix due to the sheer energy that you brought on the vocal and performance. After first listen I started to think almost in terms of a metal song, that snarling vocal needed to be in your face, the drums and bass need to be monstrous underneath that, and then sprinkle in some cool reverses and delays to get some atmosphere going on. It was definitely a super collaborative process and you’re there every step of the way with precise notes that really, really help the process move and come together smoothly.

JM: You’re too kind good sir. You definitely have just as much talent for bringing my musician visions to life. Is there anything juicy you’re currently working on outside of Unify Collective music?

MW: As of right now I’m super excited to be working with you on the rest of your EP crafting some really cool genre bending songs, getting back to my metal roots, and as well as doing some freelance mixing and mastering while always keeping up work on my instrumentalism.

JM: Wrapping up this great interview my brother, tell the people where they can reach out to you for a mix, a riff, or a WolfeDen Production.

MW: Cruise through and say whats up on my instagram @_Mwolfe and if you wanna get super official check out my website wolfedenmusic.com

Thank you so much to the Unify Collective crew for always providing the best vibes and inspiration, even during these craziest of times I can always count on you guys to be pushing the boundary of creativity and really utilizing all of your passion. Excited to see what the future has in store.

Inzzla: Doing What Isn’t Being Done in Neo-Expressionism

JM: First things first, tell the people about yourself and where you’re from.

I: I’m Inzzla. I’m a 19 year old non-binary artist/musician from Madison, Wisconsin.

JM: Always good to put a face behind the name. What’s the story behind your art movement, Inzzla? And what’s its correlation to your art form? 

I: I started making art this way when I had an awakening of sorts around 5 years ago. I had this overwhelming feeling to create my own imagery. This was all also very connected to learning about the occult and becoming obsessed with alchemy. In turn, the art I started developing was very dark and vague, latent with my own subtle meanings.

JM: Art with vague and subtle meanings tends to convey a stronger message in my opinion so I totally understand. What would you classify your unique medium of art under, if any?

I: In the beginning I never really studied artists or movements, but learning about these now, I think I fit in slightly with neo-expressionism. Otherwise I just call it illustration, for lack of a better word.

JM: That’s cool and unique that you took a different approach to your art and just did what you felt needed to be done rather than studying all of the greats. What do you think is something about your art that sets you aside from the rest of the crowd?

I: I’m not entirely sure. When I look at other “dark artists” on the internet, I find that the best ones add a sense of humanity and emotion to their works. This is what I try to do.

JM: Well you definitely do a great job of conveying humanity and their complex emotions. How does your creative process work? Do you look toward inspirations of people, places, or things? Or is it mainly just off you initial inside feeling to create that drives your creative process?

I: My creative process is kind of chaotic. I mostly draw inspiration from my own intuition and twitches, but I also go outside of that. I like to study people and poses.

JM: Chaos often births the best creations and following your intuition is key to creation. How did you create the “COVID-28” artwork? What inspired you to draw it as you have and what does message behind it represent to you?

I: My art for “COVID-28” was made with standard pens and markers. I drew what I thought could look like the cover art of a single, and I started with the idea of exhaling a dragon, from how COVID is a respiratory disease. Other than that, that’s just the vibe I got from the song.

JM: And you did a great job at conveying that. I appreciate your time to answer these questions. Now let everyone know where they can reach you if they’re interested in getting some art from you!

I: I am the most present on my instagram, @inzzla. Right now I’m open to commissions as well as inquiries on buying existing artwork. I plan to start selling prints and such before the end of the year.