Tune Tools Transcript: Episode Two
Krysta Rayford (00:29):
Welcome to Tune Tools. Thanks for listening. This is made possible by Project Amplify, MacPhail Center for Music, and EMRA, Electronic Music Recording Arts. My name is Krysta Rayford, and, as always, I am your host.
Krysta Rayford (00:50):
For Episode Two of Tunetools, I was able to flip the script on someone who, once upon a time, interviewed me. Many years ago, John Nguyen was a very ambitious music student at St. Olaf College who interviewed me about my life as a performing and recording artist, and now John is a multi-faceted musician, songwriter, producer, and engineer who authentically stays in his lane by creating art that’s genuine to him. We spoke about his musical journey to here and now, and how Electronic Music Recording Arts have been an essential part of his path.
Krysta Rayford (01:36):
The department that I work with at MacPhail … EMRA, Electronic Music Recording Arts … it’s myself, um, Isaac Rohr, who’s our studio coordinator; Michael Cain, who’s our program director; and then Kenichi Thomas, who is our DJ instructor; and Barbara Cohen, who does film scoring.
John Nguyen (01:52):
Krysta Rayford (01:52):
So each one of us kind of has our own different corner, but, at MacPhail, I’ve been really doing a lot with songwriting and music production, as well as being a vocalist. So, with the podcast, I feel like part of this … or the audio series, we’re kind of calling it … is I wanted to also showcase, you know, being a bridge to the community with some of the different artists that I’ve worked with. And, specifically because you and I have had a very unique working relationship over the past few years, I think what’s been really cool for me as a musical educator is being able to see you and your career trajectory, um, your continuing education, but then also how you’ve evolved as an artist.
Krysta Rayford (02:31):
And so, for this episode specifically, we’re talking about, you know, modern music technique, uh, the, the, relationship between music and technology, but also, like, the intersection with education and creativity. And so, when I was thinking about who would be, you know, a more recent student who’s had a lot of different experience in music education, and I thought about you, John. So I just, you know, before I kind of get into the questions, how would you describe yourself to someone who asks you about music and who you are as an artist?
John Nguyen (03:05):
Yeah, I, you know, uh, that’s something I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about lately, trying to, thinking about opening a studio. I kind of describe myself now as, you know, a songwriter, producer, mix engineer, recording engineer, artist, kind of, kind of situation. Just taking, taking on all the different hats ’cause that, that’s something I found a lot of people just don’t understand is how many, how many different things you have to actually do in order to be doing, you know, modern, modern music production.
John Nguyen (03:34):
You’re not just the artist anymore. You’re also the recording engineer for your sessions. You’re also doing the production for yourself. You’re going in, and you’re fine-tuning everything, getting your mix just right. And so I, I like to list out everything that I do, because I, I feel like [inaudible 00:03:49], it helps to give people a better idea about everything that, that goes on behind the scenes.
Krysta Rayford (03:57):
That’s awesome, because I feel like, even getting to know you … I mean, I’ve known you as producer, songwriter, artist, but the other thing that’s been really cool about you is how you approach collaboration. Can you talk a little bit about what collaboration has meant to you, both as a producer and as an artist? And a songwriter, I guess, too.
John Nguyen (04:14):
Yeah. So, so collaboration is something, you know … Back, back when I first started doing music production back in 2012, I was, you know, just a little guy, still in junior high. It was, it was the byproduct of me wanting to be in a band, and none of my friends ever showing up to practice. So I started music production so I could be the one still doing all of the music stuff. And then, from there, it kind of grew. I started to meet a lot of people within the electronic music scene around Minneapolis. So that was kind of how it was for me, through, throughout, um, high school. I was, I was doing, uh, collaborations just online. I was working with a lot of people, and some of those people, uh, I’m still working with today.
John Nguyen (04:58):
Like I met a, a guy who’s closer to my age up in Canada, um, just online, and I’m, I’m helping him produce his debut album of this new, like, kind of pop/emo/rap kind of rap situation. It’s very, it’s a very interesting project, and I have enjoyed working on that. Moving into college, um, I met, I met a guy, Aaron Dillard, and he and I, we, we created a little hip-hop, rap group called GROUP, and we, we spent the next … Yeah, it was pretty much sophomore year of, uh, college, up until, you know, a year out. Um, I graduated 2020, so I had a little bit of a, a snafu with COVID kind of throwing a wrench in things, but him and I, uh, we, we made a bunch of songs together.
John Nguyen (05:45):
We were doing the, the writing. I was doing a lot of the, like, the actual music, the bed of everything, all of the production. I was doing all that while he was doing the lyrics, uh, and we recorded our songs. We got some, some playback on, like, The Current. Uh, we got to do some cool shows, played for people like No Name and [Smino 00:06:06] and stuff, so that was, that was super cool. And so I feel like, now, where, where I’m at … I did my masters at Berkeley, and that was … That, I wouldn’t say it’s, like, fully lonely, but it’s a different, it’s a different sense to be learning where everybody is in different parts of the United States and the world, you know?
John Nguyen (06:25):
Uh, and now I’m in a place, again, where I’m looking to just, you know, meet more people and work with people more, find some more clients so that I can, I can do some actual production for people, but maybe also help with songwriting. It’s kinda, it’s kinda all up in the air. I don’t like to set strict boundaries on it, because, if you do that, then you don’t get all the opportunities you wanna have. And that’s the segue, so …
Krysta Rayford (06:50):
Thanks for that, John, because I feel like what is really cool even in your answers is that intersectionality of, you know, you have this lens as producer, but you also have this lens as an artist and as a songwriter. And, you know, correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve also instructed and taught other people.
John Nguyen (07:05):
Krysta Rayford (07:06):
Um, for you, as an artist, do you feel that there is a shift in the way you use these tools as an educator versus as an artist or as a producer, or the way that you kind of use your creativity? Is there more technique, or is it more fl- free flowing? Or does it kind of go back and forth for you?
John Nguyen (07:25):
So I’ve also done some, some teaching, uh, you know. I, I grew up. I, I learned how to play piano. I’m classically trained in piano, but, even before that, I was, I was in church choirs, school choirs, doing, doing all of that. And I, I feel like, the way that I started, it was so o- the, the people who I had support me on learning how to do music, to start with, were so supportive and open that, when I started transitioning more into being, like, an artist and a producer, I, I approached it with the same kind of energy that I was presented with growing up.
John Nguyen (07:58):
And so, you know, there’s, there’s been a few times now where I’ve worked with, with somebody. Uh, I was, I was hired on to do some production for them, and we ended up … I d- it’s, it’s always … I feel like any moment in the studio or just working with somebody, you, you can just learn so much, just by, by being in the right place at the right time. And so I, I always, I always like to spread what I know with people. Like, like I was saying, my, my friend up in Canada, he’s … He didn’t go to school for any music production stuff like I did, but we, we have conversations every week where he just says, “I just feel like I learned so much more about, you know, a specific tool” or something where he, he wouldn’t have been able to, to necessarily know that’s how you could use a tool in that way.
John Nguyen (08:45):
Or I have taught music production lessons specifically, and it’s always so exciting to me to see all the people who have these ideas in their heads, and I feel like I am, I am there as their teacher to teach them how to use the tools to be able to transfer what is in their head into the computer as seamlessly as possible. So it’s more … I’m not necessarily going to be teaching them, like, every nitty-gritty little thing. If they want to learn, I’ll tell them, but it’s more, “How can I generally help this person translate what’s in their head into the computer so that they can be happy with what they’re making?”
Krysta Rayford (09:25):
I love how you describe that, John, because, even for myself, as, as someone instructing music production, that is really how I look at things, too. It’s like, how can I kind of be a guide to help that person articulate or communicate that thought, you know?
John Nguyen (09:39):
Krysta Rayford (09:39):
And make it tangible. That’s awesome. Do you feel like, you know, going back to now being in elementary school … like going back to being a kid … what was your first interaction or exposure with music, and how did that influence you to wanna be where you’re at today?
John Nguyen (09:55):
I always, I always tell people the, a funny story. Yeah, so my first … Apparently, according to what my parents said, my favorite song as a child was Meet Virginia by Train, and I would sing it all the time. Um, I don’t remember. But, moving into elementary school, I went to a private Catholic School, and we had weekly masses (laughs). And we had to knee- uh, being Catholic, you have to kneel during some parts, but my knees have always hurt when I bent them. And I saw the choir didn’t have to kneel. They would be able to just stand through the entire thing, singing, and so, as a first grader, I was like, “You know what? I don’t like kneeling. Let’s see what we can do about that.” So I joined the choir (laughs). And so I was, I was up there singing every week at the, the weekly masses.
John Nguyen (10:43):
And then, you know, it turned into the person who was the choir director for the, the school choir, she also did the piano lessons, so she turned into my, um, piano teacher. And so kind of … It’s always been something that has been around and present in my life. Like, my mom, uh, she has a music degree. My dad, he plays, plays guitar. And so it’s, it’s just always been around, and the opportunities have just always been available to me to do something music. You know, I wasn’t able to do band or anything, uh, as a kid, because the instruments were too expensive. But I could do, I could do, um, choirs and stuff, and that’s something now, for me, that I’m, I’m realizing even more that music production is a, is a means for people who don’t have the funding to be able to buy a band instrument for their kid or anything like that.
John Nguyen (11:34):
You know, can’t buy the orchestra equipment. You probably already have a computer. Can you get, you know, a free program like Audacity or something affordable like Reaper on your computer. You can, you can still take part in music. It, it isn’t gonna be a monetary barrier that’s gonna be stopping you now. And so that’s something I’ve been, I’ve been really kind of passionate about, being able to help people see that music isn’t, you know … Everybody thinks of music like as an ethereal. It’s up, it’s up here, where you’re, you need to have the training to be able to do it, but that’s not necessarily true. Anybody, anybody with a computer is able to do music production. Anybody with a voice can sing.
John Nguyen (12:17):
You know, it’s … I think the parallels between the voice and the music production, just being able to get so freely into it are … There’s a lot of similarities there.
Krysta Rayford (12:28):
Well, I’m glad that you touched on it, too, about the access, because I think that is the one of the things, when I’ve been even trying to travel around and talk to other educators or even to other students about being to produce with a laptop and just starting there and, like you said, finding that basic, you know, [inaudible 00:12:46] or, or software. For you, John, what was your introduction to digital audio workstations, and, like, what was that like for you? What is GarageBand? Was it Audacity? Do you remember the first time you opened up, like, a project sessions and just started, like, toying away at it? What was that like for?
John Nguyen (13:04):
Yeah, so I think the first time that I started recording songs … I don’t know what year it was, but I, I wasn’t very old. It was, it was … It’s something I had been interested in, because, um, a- funnily enough, you know, the first, one of the first cognizant memories of me being, like, “Wow, listen to music,” uh, older than just, like, being a child, it was, um, Fireflies by Owl City, and it was even crazier to me that it was somebody who was, like, within the state that I lived in. It was somebody, you know, just out, out in Hollywood or something making a song. It was a guy, and it, it sounded like his parents’ basement, making songs, and the whole world heard it.
John Nguyen (13:47):
And so that was when … You know, the first song I think I ever tried to do, it was a cover of Fireflies in Audacity (laughs). And that was, you know … It was good, but I, I, was putting the effort (laughs) forth, and I just kept doing it. Eventually, I got, um … Skrillex released music. That was a big turning for me into electronic music. I really enjoyed … It, the sounds were just so weird. It was so different that I was like, “You can, you can do this now,” and so I got … I found online a version of FL Studio, and that’s, that’s what I used. And, even today, I still use FL Studio. I, I think of all the different, like, digital audio workstations as different tools. And FL Studio being the first one I used is what I’m always gonna be comfortable in.
John Nguyen (14:38):
I go back into it. That’s what I use for my songwriting. Uh, once it evolves from there, I’ll move into different, different digital audio workstations, but, you know, FL Studio, I was able to do so much. That was, you know … Up until the past three years ago, that was all I was using. And now, now, I know about the other tools, and so I’m using that, but the first time opening FL Studio …
John Nguyen (15:04):
I remember I went to my friend’s … Will’s … house, and he was like, “Yeah, I’m on this …” It was, he was on (laughs) like a Minecraft team. And he was like, “Do you wanna make a theme song for our, my Minecraft team?” And I was like, “Yeah,” and so I spent like an hour over at his house, and I made this little theme song for his Minecraft team. I didn’t realize how long it was, because the FL Studio counter was in bars, and I was like, “This is only 32 seconds long. That’s not long enough.” And so I just (laughs) copied and pasted everything again (laughs), and I ended up with like an actually six-minute-long song. But that was, that was the first, like, full song I made without using any, like, traditional instruments. I was using all the software synthesizers, everything, inside FL Studio, and it was …
John Nguyen (15:50):
I think that, you know, that initial kick, and then, from there, I just, I just took off. I kept making song after song after song. And, all through high school, it was, it was the same thing.
Krysta Rayford (16:02):
Do you feel like, for you, John, because you have collaborated across so many different genres, um … For you, first and foremost, when you’re creating, have you thought of yourself as a genre-specific musician, or do you kind of shy away from that?
John Nguyen (16:18):
I always dislike the phrase, “Oh, you’re an EDM producer.” I didn’t like that, you know? It felt like there was a connotation with being in EDM, so I always call myself just, like, an electronic music producer, is what I said I was. Um, but now, I’ve I’ve worked across so many genres, I wouldn’t even say genre is something I’m thinking about on the forefront.
John Nguyen (16:39):
During songwriting, it has to be, because that’s a whole different thing. But, during production, I’m not thinking, “Oh, this is what you do in this genre, so you have to do that.” You know? I kind of leave that at the back of my mind until I hit mastering, where you have to, you have to get to more conformed to genre specifics for what people are listening for. But during the actual production and mixing, I feel like being able to have worked in so many genres, you get … There’s different tips and tricks from each genre that they, like, lean into, and all of them aren’t mutually exclusive to that genre. You can bring it across and do different sorts of things.
John Nguyen (17:15):
Like hip-hop, you know? You get, um, certain kinds of, like drumbeats and stuff for hip-hop. Some of that works really well if you throw it into, like, an electronic music context. And you can, like, just switch between things, and it’s not necessarily something somebody would think of, but does it sound cool? Does it sound good? Am I, am I enjoying making this? And that’s … You know, that’s, that’s as far as I would take, like, thinking about genres while I’m, like, making a song.
Krysta Rayford (18:02):
It’s interesting to hear kind of like the different worlds that you’ve been able to, to be a part of, and I wanted to bring, you know, your, your project for your masters with, with your EP, um, which I was blown away with because of how, um, non-genre specific … It was like an array or like a sampler of all the different strengths that you have. Do you wanna just really briefly about what, like, the inspiration was behind that, that project, and, and-
John Nguyen (18:29):
Krysta Rayford (18:30):
… what your kind of thoughts were after creating that?
John Nguyen (18:33):
Yeah. So, it’s, it’s very funny. So I, I went to school. I’ll, I’ll, I’ll go back. I went to school for music … vocal music education … at St. Olaf. I got my vocal music education degree. I … At that point, I was like, “I wanna teach music production,” and so I went to Berkeley online. I got the, the o- a master’s degree and one year for music production, so I have the masters in music production. And I did all that so I could teach music production at, like, a high level, at that, like, high understanding and know all the different things so I could teach well. ‘Cause I feel like, in order to teach well, you have to learn well, and so you have to just continue learning.
John Nguyen (19:11):
Um, but the, the masters EP was kind of a, a weird turning point for me, where I, I realized that, you know, as much as I, I like teaching, that I really wanted to continue doing the music too, you know? It’s not just gonna be the thing where I’m, you know, I, I sit back, “Yep, I, I’ve made songs too, and I’m gonna teach you.” It’s … It was, it was a point where I was like, “You know, this is something that I still, like, actively enjoy to do. I don’t wanna just stop doing it.” And so the EP was initially, uh, made for me to show all of the different things I could do, uh, and show that to a future student to show them, you know, “I … This is what I’ve been able to learn. This is what you, you could do, too. It’s …”
John Nguyen (19:58):
And I didn’t want it to be one of those … I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like, with teaching artists, there’s sometimes … The songs aren’t, you know … It’s, it’s not to say that they’re bad songs, but they have a certain, a gleam to them almost that isn’t the most, um, professional, and, you know, the, the saying, th- “For those who can’t do, they teach.” I don’t, I don’t think that necessarily has to be the truth, and so I wanted to make something that was very well done that I could showcase and be like, “You know, I am a, I’m gonna teach you, but these are the songs, and they’re v- well done songs.” And so I made the … The force for my EP, for … which was my master’s thesis … I had a pop song. I had, um, a pop-punk song. It was more punk rock kind of thing. I had, um, an el- like an experimental electronic song, and then I had, uh, an acoustic, like, songwriter’s song.
John Nguyen (20:56):
And they, they were all very different from each other, and I did that in order to show, you know, the range of what I could actually do. And, and kind of, you know, to myself, prove that I can, I can work well across all these. I’m not just doing one, okay, more so than the other. That was, that was a very unique, unique experience. A lot of my classmates, they all went single genre. I was the, I was one of the only ones that was doing, like, this big cross-genre project, which made it more difficult, I will say, but I, I enjoyed it. I, I liked writing all the different songs. I like being able to think about things in a different light because I was doing one thing in one song.
John Nguyen (21:36):
Like, in the acoustic song, uh, the way I recorded the guitar, it, uh, it helped influence the way I recorded the guitar in the experimental electronic song, and, you know, it, it was … They were all giving off of each other. And so I like to say I don’t have a genre, but there is definitely, like, a sonic style that all of my songs have that make them … You know, if you listen to it, and you’re like, “Yeah, you made that song.” And, if you listen to every one of my songs, even if they’re not in the same genre, you would think, “Yeah. John made that song.”
John Nguyen (22:08):
That’s kind of how the, the masters thesis EP went for me. It was proving to myself I could; realizing that I still wanted to do as much as I, I still teach people it; and just working in all these different areas, b- because why, why limit yourself, you know?
Krysta Rayford (22:27):
That’s awesome, John, and I think that’s what’s been really cool, too, is, for a lot of artists … And, and I think, learning music production, there can sometimes be this pressure for some listeners to wanna emulate, but that emulating sometimes borders on appropriating or just not sounding authentic. And I think what was so cool about that project was being able to, like, hear the you in every single track, um, and then authen- authenticity that I think just comes through you as an artist.
Krysta Rayford (22:57):
So I appreciate you speaking on that, because I think hearing you in the process of making it, versus now with hindsight, it’s really cool to also see, you know, how that project has impacted your lens. So that’s, that’s awesome.
Krysta Rayford (23:12):
I just kind of wanted to go back to, you know, your art and who you are as artist, too, John. So, just really quickly, how would you introduce yourself as an artist?
John Nguyen (23:23):
I’m John. I like to make all kinds of music. There’s probably something within my discography that you would enjoy listening to (laughs), because I’ve worked across so many different things. I go by NoxInBox. I also go, uh … I go by John Nox. NoxInBox, John Nox, those are the two names you’ll probably find me under.
Krysta Rayford (23:44):
Perfect. And then, you know, you really spoke on your, on your road to music education, but I also wanted to ask you, too, John, you know, where are you from? And specifically speaking about the Twin Cities, how have the Twin Cities been centered in your, in your musical journey, or how do you reflect the Twin Cities or Minnesota in your music?
John Nguyen (24:04):
Yeah, so I grew up in Crystal, Minnesota. I went, uh, to Osseo High School. Um, I was in that area kind of all growing up, uh, but I was also very close to, like, Minneapolis. And so the Minneapolis music scene, um, you know, between 2014 to like 2018, was … The electronic music community was a big part of where I was, like, meeting people and everything. But, even further back than that, growing up, I was in, you know, community choirs, uh, school choirs. My high school choir, we went all around, um, the Twin Cities. We would do a lot of different singing programs and stuff.
John Nguyen (24:46):
I am a big proponent that Minneapolis has a great music scene. People just need to know where to look. And so being to get it out there even more, being able to say that, “Hey, there is scene here.” Because I always feel like people end up leaving to go to, like, LA or New York if they fully want to do it, but you can do it here. There is a very rich and vibrant music community here.
Krysta Rayford (25:12):
Well, I wanted to ask you, too, John … I mean, you talked a little bit about, you know, the impact that learning FL Studio had on you.
John Nguyen (25:18):
Krysta Rayford (25:18):
What other DAWs have you used, and how have they impacted your workflow?
John Nguyen (25:23):
Yeah, so I, at this point, have used pretty much every commercial DAW except for Cubase. That’s the, the lone standing one, and I’ll probably get there at some point. Um, I, I like … FL Studio has been the main one. I’ll go through a quick list. Ableton, I love for doing live music stuff. I f- I think that the way that it’s li- out- uh, line, lined up for, like, creating a live show is super cool, so that’s what I’ve been using for live shows. Um, as of right now, I switch between Reaper and ProTools for mixing and mastering. Uh, I feel like the workflow for those are very well-suited to do mixing work and mastering work, just because of how it’s … Again, it’s how it’s laid out. It’s all just a tool. Um, Logic Pro is super cool, because it has the built-in, um, like, uh, surround sound mixing into it.
John Nguyen (26:13):
And so I feel like Logic is one of the most powerful DAWs you can get your hands on, which is a double-edged sword, because it’s very intimidating at first. But, at the same time, you can do so much in it, once you figure it out. Uh, the other one that I, I like … It’s kind of the sleeper one, but Reason is super cool because you can actually do, like, plugging within your computer, so think, in a big studio, where you have to plug one thing into another thing in order to get your signal from your source … like the microphone … out into your computer. You can, you can do all of that. They have an interface that allows you to do that. It’s super cool.
John Nguyen (26:48):
The last, the last sleeper one I will just plug because I think it’s also another cool one. Studio One is very cool. It’s a little bit of a mix for me between FL Studio and, uh, ProTools and Reaper kind of thing. But, at the same time, it has special support for software, so you can do things in that, um, program that you can’t do in other programs just because it’s, it’s more, uh, new. It’s, it’s kind of on the cutting edge, I would say, of what, what people are doing.
Krysta Rayford (27:16):
One of the things that I’ve noticed when I’ve been in the schools is that students are already like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve, I’ve played with GarageBand,” or “Yeah, I play with Logic.”
John Nguyen (27:23):
Krysta Rayford (27:23):
Or … But then, a lot of, a lot of different instructors, who are sometimes music instructors, they will tell me that they feel overwhelmed, or that there is gap between like … a generational gap … and that they feel, “Oh, my gosh, I don’t know some of this software.” Um, do you have any thoughts or suggestions on that, um, for educators, on who may be intimidated by these software tools or, you know, what suggestions or advice do you have for them and how to, I guess, feel a little bit more comfortable and not feel like it’s so daunting to approach?
John Nguyen (27:54):
Yeah, I, I, I would agree. It definitely is daunting. I … There is a generational gap, like, between me and my younger brother, who is 15, he’s grown up with computers in a way that I didn’t. And so he’s able to move around a computer, you know, probably faster than me. Um, and so I can see how, you know, a, an, an older music educator … maybe not much older than me, even … would have see- look at this tool that this huge software program is and think, “Oh, that’s way too much. There’s, there’s too much.” I would say, honestly, don’t think that you need to know everything all at once. Just the best way to learn these kinds of tools is to hop in, maybe look at a tutorial project. I love tutorial projects. Growing up, I would be able to see how everything was routed around and work with them.
John Nguyen (28:44):
Look at the tutorial projects. Look at stuff on YouTube. YouTube, back when I was starting in music production, there wasn’t much anything in terms of, uh, tutorials, but now you can look up, like, a specific artist. How, how do they make a song? And you’ll find probably upwards of ten videos just to show you how to do that. And, in different DAWs. Um, the other I, I would say is, if you don’t feel great about one DAW, look at others, because there’s different workflows for all of them.
John Nguyen (29:14):
Some are better-suited for other things than others, and some are gonna be better suited for you than for others. And so don’t because … Because you had a bad experience with one, don’t limit yourself to just that one. There’s so many opportunities to learn more in different tools. A lot of people who don’t like Ableton fall into FL Studio and vice-versa. A lot of people who are, you know, having trouble with ProTools, they end up going to, like, Reaper, which is an amazing, affordable piece of software to use.
John Nguyen (29:43):
So keep an open mind. Look at the tutorial projects. Ask questions online, and just, just dive in. Don’t be afraid to switch between softwares.
Krysta Rayford (29:55):
I wanted to go back to even your goals as a musician-
John Nguyen (29:58):
Krysta Rayford (29:58):
… and as an artist. Have they shifted over time? Have they stayed the course, and what would you tell yourself now, to your younger self. Like, knowing what you know now, what would you tell John the, the, you know, anxious high school student who’s maybe dipping his toe in music? What would be some advice that you would give your younger self about this journey?
John Nguyen (30:20):
If I, I were to go back and tell myself, I would say, “Do, do even more.” I had, I had endless opportunities when I was just growing up. One of the things … one of my crossroads … b- before, like, even getting out of high school, I, I could have gone to LA and interned at a record label. That could have been the path I took. Um, not to say that I should have done that. I feel like the path I took was a good one. But, you know, there were opportunities that I was like, “Oh, I don’t know if I wanna do that.” Just, just go and do it. Just, you … If people are presenting with things to do, do as much as you can, because you’re not gonna necessarily get a chance to do that much again.
John Nguyen (31:00):
Just always go 100% into what you think you like to do, you know? Maybe you find that you like to do something else just by doing that. I know, a lot of people, they end up … They start production, and then they do it for a while, and somebody comes to them. They’re like, “Hey, can you mix for me?” And then they’re like … They end up being, like, a mix engineer, because they found out they like doing that because they were doing production first. So always just, just go into it. There’s noth- there’s nothing stopping you from doing anything you wanna do.
Krysta Rayford (31:34):
What are your goals right now? Um, what are you looking forward to accomplishing, and what goals have you set for yourself right now?
John Nguyen (31:42):
I’m working on opening up a studio space. I wanna be able to get more artists in and recording. I feel like there’s a lot of untapped potential within Minneapolis, specifically. You know, Minneapolis-St. Paul. There’s so many people here who do music and are, are good at, like, writing songs, but they don’t know where to go.
John Nguyen (31:59):
And so I wanna open up a space. Uh, as of right now, I run the studio under the name MultiTools Studio, and I do lot of mixing, mastering, remote sessions for people. But I wanna be able to open up that physical space, to have people come in, ’cause there’s a difference. You know, I’ve, I’ve had it throughout my life where I, I’ve done stuff remotely with people, and I’ve done stuff together. The stuff in together that you’re doing with people, it’s just … It feels like how music should, in my mind, a lot more than just sitting behind your computer, working by yourself.
John Nguyen (32:31):
And so, right now, working to open up the studio, looking to work with more people, music production, mixing, mastering. Another thing I’m looking at, I’m trying to figure out how to do atmos and surround sound mixing. Uh, not necessarily just for music, but also for video games. That’s a big thing right now, and I feel like, you know, the sooner … I, I love to continue learning about things, and the sooner I can figure out how to do that, then I could teach somebody else how to do it. And, you know, it just … It all just chains into … One thing into the next.
Krysta Rayford (33:23):
The final question is, you know … The point behind this, this audio segment is really to show to people the importance of electronic music and recording arts. I think, kind of like what we talked about earlier, sometimes there is this lapse in understanding what that means. And so part of what you’ve contributed today, John, is you’ve put this umbrella over what electronic music recording arts has meant to you.
Krysta Rayford (33:48):
If you were to turn to somebody who goes, “You know what? I don’t understand the importance of this. Why is electronic music important? Why are the recording arts important?” what would you say to them?
John Nguyen (34:00):
First, you know, “Do you listen to music on any streaming platform ever?” If the answer is yes … I mean, even if the answer is no, you’re listening to it on vinyl, it’s touched, it’s touched digital equipment at one point or another in this (laughs). Like, at this point in time, you can’t do music without it. People don’t realize unless you’re just strictly choir, band, orchestra, you’re not listening to it recorded, you’re only going to see it live, uh, and, you know, it’s in an acoustic environment … there’s going to be some sort of electronic technology that has been developed, you know, at first maybe for studio, but has been translated into live sound.
John Nguyen (34:41):
All of that, it all, it all comes together, um, and there’s no way to avoid it these days. And so why … You’re doing a disservice to yourself and to, to the music when you don’t understand where, where it has come from. The better you can understand those process, uh, it opens up opportunities for you to find something new that you could enjoy doing. You know, some people really like to sit there, get nitty-gritty with all the sound design. That’s, that’s something that you can learn. You can learn how to, you know, patch stuff in a physical studio. Go to a studio, patch, like microphones into the patch bays and get it running into different effects.
John Nguyen (35:23):
Uh, that still goes into the computer, and you’re, you’re learning the skills of it there. Um, everything is transferrable, and nothing is in a vacuum anymore. So, the more you know about everything, I just feel, the better off you will be, especially when it comes to music stuff like this.
Krysta Rayford (35:39):
You’re listening to Tune Tools, made possible by MacPhail Center for Music and Project Amplify.
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