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Audiobus is the app that makes the rest of your setup better.

Ask the Artist: @JoyceRoadStudios

@JoyceRoadStudios was hesitant to participate since he's a professional Opera Singer and we're not. But I suggested he just tell stories and he replied:

I will assume people understand that being an opera singer is like being a singing actor in full costume and makeup, singing in amplified over a full orchestra, 3-4 hour shows, and memorizing 500 page score in 5 different languages

OK... a few new tidbits there I didn't consider. I did know it's a full time job maintaining a voice that can produce that much sound acoustically but didn't think about the language or memory requirements so new information, right?

I’m not a typical opera singer in the sense that I’m just a dude who loves beer and happens to sing. I’ve toured with bands and have been accustomed to sleeping in beer soaked vans, yet I’ve also dined with royalty, sang for Obama and the CIA, all 9 justices, worked with people like Philip Glass and John De Lancie, so let me put this all together for you and we can go from there. Thank you for the opportunity.

He sketched a musical bio to show he hedged his bets so Covid-19 has totally destroyed his
sources of income. He has other skills as well:

I was singing since the age of 2. I would always sing from my grandmother’s window and the passersby wanted to know who the lovely soprano was.

In 1992 when I was 9 we immigrated to San Francisco from the defunct Soviet Union. I learned to speak English by watching Saved by the Bell and Batman cartoons. Always sang lead soprano in middle school choir. By 7th grade I was already 6’2” with a beard and bleached tips. I looked like the camp counselor in class photos.

All the pre-teen years were spent collecting records and listening to grunge, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Ice-T, and Whitney Houston.

By the time I was 12-13 my friend and I had a garage set up with a drum set, guitar/bass amps and SM 57s, and we started rocking out. I got my first guitar, an Epiphone LP copy.

In my first two years of playing guitar I spent 11 hours a day playing along with the radio until my fingers fell off. As a singer I always had a good ear so this way I learned to play guitar and figure out any song. Getting around the board and figuring out chords replaced technique and scales. So I became primarily an electric rhythm guitarist using only picks.

Joined my first rock band at 14 as lead singer and rhythm guitarist, it was called First World Menace. The drummer’s dad had a home studio in Berkeley so every Friday after school I’d take BART there for band practice. During practice breaks they’d all smoke cigs in the yard but I’d play drums instead. Then we would roll a fatty and go out for burritos. We played a bunch of local shows and AIDS benefit concerts and recorded a 5 song cassette demo. Just being able to play guitar and sing at the same time was formative.

Around 1998 I started recording my friend’s bands. I got one of those tall wheeled rack mount travel cases and filled it up with Furman preamps, EQs, mixers, signal processors etc... Got some SM57s/58s and a newly released Røde NT1, recorded everything in Cakewalk Pro Audio.

I saw pictures of Jeff Buckley and Chris Cornell playing Les Paul customs, so I worked two summer jobs and traded in my Epiphone copy, Aria Pro hollowbody, Line 6 Pod, and some cash, for a 1957 historic reissue black beauty. Around this time I also got a Mesa Boogie Trem-O-Verb 2x12 combo. Played the national anthem at the school rally with a rusty penny, having lost my picks. The tremolo effect with harmonics from the penny was rad. I also got the TC Electronics Chorus/Modulator/Flanger pedal and it became part of me and my sound.

Right before college I was juggling pitching on a baseball team, singing and acting in my first musical, playing in local bands. Played noise pop festival in Dolores Park. One of my teachers said I had a strong voice and should try classical music. I discovered Erlkönig and was hooked. We also went on a vacation to England where I saw performances of Peter Grimes, Prokofiev’s R&J, and Dvořák Cello Concerto. Started taking voice lessons with a local Bass. Also started getting into Gabber, Trance, and groups like Boards of Canada and Air.

Decided I wanted to be a music major, but was already enrolled to go to UC Santa Cruz. Figured I’d make the best of it, but it was better than I could have ever hoped.

Performed in my first opera as a freshman, a small role in a 90 minute one-act with no break called Gianni Schichhi. It was the most challenging thing I had ever done on my life, sweat pouring down my whole body. I decided this is exactly what I want to do with my life.

At the same time as majoring in voice I was playing lead guitar in a local noise goth band. It was very abrasive music that was both tightly rhythmic and often free of tonality and time signature, kind of like free jazz or a grungy jam band gone really really wrong. We signed to a small label and recorded 3 albums and toured the country 3 separate times, mostly excelling in alienating our audience and sleeping in every roach infested warehouse imaginable. One of our band members was a sax player who also played percussion along with the drummer, and he would find junk yards in every city we played in and haul pieces into the club to bang on. We all wore custom sewn outfits. When I was rehearsing opera in costume my band would show up and borrow all the crazy costumes and props, run around the corner and take promo shots for the band.

Singing opera was going well for me, so I quit the band and went to grad school at Indiana University in 2006. After that I got a job at the National Opera in DC, where I have logged almost 150 performances to date. So began my career as a self-employed opera singer, going from city to city, and living out of a suitcase. I have worked internationally with some of the most famous orchestras and symphonies. I’ve worked personally with people like Philip Glass, John De Lancie, Rossy de Palma, Michael Tilson Thomas, and many more. I’ve sung for the CIA at Langley, for all 9 Supreme Court Justices, and for the Obamas. I’ve performed the National Anthem for the Giants and Nationals. I’ve had a busy and varied career in music for over a decade that has been financially stable and has brought me to far off places for 10 months out of the year, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

As a self-employed contract worker, life on the road got lonely and repetitive, despite getting to be a singing actor for a living. So in my free time on the road I was either searching for local craft beer and making friends with brewers, or composing songs or ringtones in GarageBand. I even started a small venture where I would send people a 20 part questionnaire, and then I’d compose a one of a kind ringtone specifically for them.

I have written so many songs, beats, and ambient tracks over the years starting in my teens, and I’ve been waiting for years to have some time to get back to them and to my roots. Last year I started really getting into mobile music production and iOS. With the pandemic hitting the world this past winter, I suddenly found myself indefinitely unemployed with over a year’s worth of contracts cancelled or postponed. It was truly bad timing because it was about to be my most successful year both professionally and financially. So with all my newfound “free time”, a wife and toddler at home, I decided to build my home studio and get back in the game with gear both old and new. One thing I was certain about though is that it had to be mobile and iOS, so I got a new iPad and started learning apps and researching production techniques with the hope of equipping myself in the best way possible. I figured I could produce at home and on the road. Throughout this process I discovered the Audiobus forum, first as a long time observer and recently as a participant. Any question I had, any opinion I needed, any research I needed fleshed out, the forum already had all the answers archived. It became obvious that this was the community to be a part of, and even though my wallet has taken a hit with all these apps, I have become a full fledged music production machine and one man band. Currently I’m recording 2 full length albums, indie ballads I’ve composed over the years, and ambient instrumental music with both midi and audio. I’m learning so much along the way, and I thank you all.

Any Questions?

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Comments

  • When the @LinearLineman finishes his "Black Live Matter" Opera would you consider taking a role in black face? (I'm just trying to poke the bear, here).

  • edited September 14

    Yeah, can we hear some stuff? @McD, he could sing the mad ANTIFA with Asberger’s role.
    I thought Lou Gossett Jr for the resurrected ghost of Fred Douglas, and, of a Course, Jon Voight as the Trumpernick.

  • Awesome! favorite ambient artist ? do you incorporate opera into ambient?

  • @LinearLineman said:
    Yeah, can we hear some stuff?

    I'm waiting to see if @JoyceRoadStudios is black. Sometimes you just have to ask.

    There's no way you're BLM Opera will ever be performed in a venue capable of paying
    Union Wages since int would require the Patronage of the powerful elite that tend to favor
    Wagner for his political "correctness". (More bear poking, folks.)

    I do wonder how opener singers are paid since learning a role must require hours and hours
    of prep and most are probably absorbed by the performer out of love of the arts... another
    form of Patronage with the artists pitching in to make an art work. Ballet has similar financial
    patterns with someone dedicating their life to the art.

    Basketball is different since the rubes will pay ridiculous prices for a decent seat.

  • edited September 14

    @shinyisshiny said:
    Awesome! favorite ambient artist ? do you incorporate opera into ambient?

    I like the usual stuff, not completely ambient I guess, Boards of Canada, Sleep by Dopesmoker, Julianna Barwick, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Animal Collective, Aphex Twin, DJ Shadow, etc... I incorporate some baroque, classical, atonal harmony, some fugal motifs, but nothing downright operatic. The grand scale of an orchestral score appeals to me, so it can be an influence on the cacophony and the sonic texture...

  • Favorite operatic role? and the iconic performance of that role?

  • @McD said:

    @LinearLineman said:
    Yeah, can we hear some stuff?

    I'm waiting to see if @JoyceRoadStudios is black. Sometimes you just have to ask.

    There's no way you're BLM Opera will ever be performed in a venue capable of paying
    Union Wages since int would require the Patronage of the powerful elite that tend to favor
    Wagner for his political "correctness". (More bear poking, folks.)

    I do wonder how opener singers are paid since learning a role must require hours and hours
    of prep and most are probably absorbed by the performer out of love of the arts... another
    form of Patronage with the artists pitching in to make an art work. Ballet has similar financial
    patterns with someone dedicating their life to the art.

    Basketball is different since the rubes will pay ridiculous prices for a decent seat.

    As a bass-baritone I get to sing a lot of villains, racists, and rapists. I even created the role of Governor George Wallace in Philip Glass’ opera Appomattox. No I’m not black, I’m a Russian-American immigrant who happens to have no accent, so I perform lots of English rep on top of the usual Italian, French, German etc...

    In America artists get paid per performance, and at the top level the fees are great. But we put in our own time and prep, pay for our own coaches, and rehearse for weeks or a month without pay. We can break our leg the day before opening night and not get paid a cent. We also don’t get health insurance. Some companies pay for your housing and airfare, some don’t and it’s part of your fee. In places like Germany, there’s a Fest system, so an artist will belong to one company for however many decades and get a modest salary and perform all year at that house. In America it’s all of us traveling around singing at different places...

  • @LinearLineman said:
    Yeah, can we hear some stuff? @McD, he could sing the mad ANTIFA with Asberger’s role.
    I thought Lou Gossett Jr for the resurrected ghost of Fred Douglas, and, of a Course, Jon Voight as the Trumpernick.

    https://www.youtube.com/user/bogdanovoce

    Orchestra unions don’t allow artists to release their performances singing, so you take what you
    can get. I actually have a dvd of a German opera
    coming out and a CD an Italian opera, but on
    YouTube it’s a bunch of selections I’ve been able to collect over the years.

    Lou is a great singer btw..

  • edited September 15

    I would never ever sing in black face, but I have sung the Toreador Escamillo and Aida’s father Amonasro, and they do put tan make up on you. if you think about it, all those famous operas like Marriage of Figaro or Barber of Seville or Carmen are taking place in Spain, and not with white people. Plenty of companies are programming operas that deal with themes and issues rich white donors may find uncomfortable, but lots of times it’s these same donors trying to get these works programmed.

  • @JoyceRoadStudios said:
    I’m a Russian-American immigrant who happens to have no accent

    Another immigrant taking jobs away from unqualified 'muricans.
    "Break a leg'. (My ancestors are from Finland, and (probably) Ireland or Scotland).
    Not a single Native American in the mix. People crossing the southern border for work
    have more of a moral claim on the "Homeland" than I do. (Poke that bear too).

    You should consider going on "Americas Got Talent". Thanks to open borders and incentives
    for immigration to stimulate the economy and provide resourceful, talented candidates.
    The best thing about a Meritocracy is that only the cream (and assorted assholes) can rise.
    Some work the system and some "play" it.

  • @McD said:
    Favorite operatic role? and the iconic performance of that role?

    Scarpia in Tosca, the ultimate villain, but he’s actually a police chief and a really good detective, though perverse and corrupt. The best thing about playing villains is that they don’t really know they’re villains. Filmed versions of Tosca with Titto Gobbi or Sherrill Milnes come to mind. Act 2 Of Tosca is better than any phycological crime thriller...

  • @JoyceRoadStudios said:
    Scarpia in Tosca,

    Let's see if I can find a streaming performance for free or reasonably priced.
    Anything to insure the artists don't see a penny from my interest. If they did
    I'd have to pay well over $100 for the cultural improvements. I'll have to have subtitles.
    Having a copy of the score helps.

    Google translate from Italian just takes all the fun out of it.

  • @McD said:

    @JoyceRoadStudios said:
    I’m a Russian-American immigrant who happens to have no accent

    Another immigrant taking jobs away from unqualified 'muricans.
    "Break a leg'. (My ancestors are from Finland, and (probably) Ireland or Scotland).
    Not a single Native American in the mix. People crossing the southern border for work
    have more of a moral claim on the "Homeland" than I do. (Poke that bear too).

    You should consider going on "Americas Got Talent". Thanks to open borders and incentives
    for immigration to stimulate the economy and provide resourceful, talented candidates.
    The best thing about a Meritocracy is that only the cream (and assorted assholes) can rise.
    Some work the system and some "play" it.

    Lol, America’s Got Talent has no talent, except sensationalized ratings. Opera is my job, and it’s a craft. The thing that draws me to it every day is the acting part, the therapy and catharsis, playing characters on stage. The fact that I sing is a bonus.

    The big difference with classical music vs other types is that we have the score and that’s the Bible, we are supposed to be perfect interpreters, there’s no room for a wrong note or rhythm or vowel. A conductor will yell at you if your Italian O vowel is too dark or if your triplets aren’t accented properly, and so on. So there’s zero room for error and very little room for improv. We get to shape the text and color our voice and generally have to be perfect to the score and also never crack etc... with other live music you have what you have, you deliver it night to night how you want it, and if people don’t like it then fuck them, it’s your music not some idolized dead dude’s from hundreds of years ago...

  • Wonderful talent, Aleksey. Amazing to find you here. So sorry your year was destroyed. Do you sing anything less lofty?

  • @JoyceRoadStudios where’s the subscribe button?

    Did you ever sing in Rabbit...I mean Barber of Seville?

    Would you be interested in lending some vocals to a sci fi soundtrack project for some Latin choirs (total hobby project, not professional...yet)?

  • @mjcouche said:
    @JoyceRoadStudios where’s the subscribe button?

    Did you ever sing in Rabbit...I mean Barber of Seville?

    Would you be interested in lending some vocals to a sci fi soundtrack project for some Latin choirs (total hobby project, not professional...yet)?

    I’m down to collab any time, putting vocals down on a Flo track this week actually.

    I have a website and a great manager in NYC, but opera is super niche so my YouTube clips have like 15 subscribers. It’s really just a reference for prospective companies to hear me.

  • @LinearLineman said:
    Wonderful talent, Aleksey. Amazing to find you here. So sorry your year was destroyed. Do you sing anything less lofty?

    I sing all styles, I’m trained after all!

  • @McD said:

    @JoyceRoadStudios said:
    Scarpia in Tosca,

    Let's see if I can find a streaming performance for free or reasonably priced.
    Anything to insure the artists don't see a penny from my interest. If they did
    I'd have to pay well over $100 for the cultural improvements. I'll have to have subtitles.
    Having a copy of the score helps.

    Google translate from Italian just takes all the fun out of it.

    You’re welcome... this is opera...

  • I found a nice video and recording of Tosca but no subtitles... which singer is Scarpia?
    Post a "time" for one of his better solos.

  • edited September 15

    @LinearLineman Really like your tracks that I’ve been listening to, some remind of Gershwin or other greats such as Ives. Do you like Terrence Blanchard? He’s written a few operas recently, I’m into it.

  • @McD said:
    I found a nice video and recording of Tosca but no subtitles... which singer is Scarpia?
    Post a "time" for one of his better solos.

    Yes these are fantastic artists, Jonas Kaufman is the best tenor alive today, he’s a German. And the Scarpia is Bryn Terfel, he is amazing. He enters 30 minutes in and carries the rest of the show until he’s stabbed to death. You can find one of his big solos at 41:30. Remember everyone sings completely unamplified trying to carry over that orchestra, so the mics and videos are just capturing the hall rather than amplifying. They would sound further away if you were sitting in the back of the hall though.

  • @McD said:
    I found a nice video and recording of Tosca but no subtitles... which singer is Scarpia?
    Post a "time" for one of his better solos.

    The female lead needs to be auto-tuned. Pitch, bitch.

  • @McD said:

    @McD said:
    I found a nice video and recording of Tosca but no subtitles... which singer is Scarpia?
    Post a "time" for one of his better solos.

    The female lead needs to be auto-tuned. Pitch, bitch.

    Wow! You’re catty just like the opera forums...

  • Your is much better... pitch and subtitles solved.

  • edited September 15

    Something worth mentioning about opera singers: most of them live in a big city like NYC, Berlin, or London, in order to be close to auditions. Singers who live in other places have to travel on their own dime, sometimes for just one audition. Companies will most often roll through the big cities, or you can come directly to them for a house audition. Working singers who derive their primary or only income from this have a manager who books auditions and negotiates fees, for a commission (usually 10%). We also have a union that participates in collective bargaining with each individual company and offers certain protections. So singers will line up auditions for an opera that’s programmed several years away, and maybe get 1 job out of 15 auditions. Most of the time they don’t even know what they’re auditioning for or when it is, just a house audition where you show up in a suit, or jeans in my case because I don’t care, and sing like 2-4 arias. Sometimes you get a job because someone saw you perform live or a conductor will call you. The point is that we audition for jobs years away, staring at gaps in our schedule and landing one contract in ten auditions if we’re lucky. Meanwhile the rest of the time is spent memorizing scores, working on the craft, voice lessons or coachings etc... and if you’re a successful working singer as I’ve become in the past few years, then you just go from place to place and it’s a job and you’re a machine, but luckily it can also be a craft and a passion. The nerves and pressure are just secondary, they don’t even matter. People who play guitar or piano can have a cold or be hungover, but singers must be as healthy as possible because their body is their instrument, not just the voice but the whole body physically supports that vocal production. Luckily for me I don’t care about scarves or AC or smoke or whatever singers care about... for me it’s a balanced diet of sleep, water, coffee, beer, chicken fried steaks, and I’m good to go onstage anytime. Preparation is key, followed by sleep and hydration.

  • It looks like you modeled your Scarpia on the dating habits of the "ladies man" DJT.
    He's all hands. NSFW.

    The singing is spectacular. It's hard to imagine that sound coming out of a human over and over and over. It's surreal. And a lot like basketball... only a tiny percentage of those that want to can actually perform. Bravo.

  • I was going to ask if you can handle any of the tenor roles but then I noticed you actually have taken on a Bass assignment:

    "Carnegie Hall debut as Bass Soloist in Handel's 'Messiah'"

    "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"
    "Just down down an octave."

    How large is your range?

  • @McD said:

    It looks like you modeled your Scarpia on the dating habits of the "ladies man" DJT.
    He's all hands. NSFW.

    The singing is spectacular. It's hard to imagine that sound coming out of a human over and over and over. It's surreal. And a lot like basketball... only a tiny percentage of those that want to can actually perform. Bravo.

    That is extremely kind of you, thank you. That was actually my first ever performance of that role in 2016. Since then I’ve gone on to do productions in Arizona, DC, and Hawaii. They all happen with completely different directors, conductors, sets, costumes etc... different concepts to present the same thing, that’s the fun part. Next April I’m doing Tosca in Austin that will be filmed for drive in theaters.

    The thing about performing and presenting Trumpian characters like this is that these people exist in real life and in our societies. They’re not caricatures or cardboard villains, they’re real people that need to be given a voice, because that’s the only way to understand them. We can’t hide from villains or terrorists, we have to really see them to understand. Art can be great at achieving that.

  • @McD said:
    I was going to ask if you can handle any of the tenor roles but then I noticed you actually have taken on a Bass assignment:

    "Carnegie Hall debut as Bass Soloist in Handel's 'Messiah'"

    "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"
    "Just down down an octave."

    How large is your range?

    Operatically speaking, like in full supported voice, I’m comfortable singing low F# to high Ab, and that encompasses most of the bass, bass-baritone, and baritone range. Basses can go a third lower and tenors can go a third higher, give or take. Some bass parts just don’t go that low so I can sing them. Tenor parts just sit higher all the time and that’s why they have tenors for that.
    The meat of my baritone parts will mostly sit Bb-F known as the baritone passagio, and will shoot up for high notes or dip down for some stretches. it’s basically talking, story telling, and interpretation.

    Now for rock music or other styles it’s a whole different story. I can scream in full voice rock style all the way to high A above high C, and can hang out on high E flat as I want. I can also sing in falsetto and maintain there as needed. The hard part for a baritone is what I call the “Bon Jovi” range or the “Freddie Mercury” where they sing rock tenor Ab-C non stop. As for flipping above that into rock squeal and metal voice it’s actually easier. So to answer your question my pop voice is nothing like opera voice, I sound closer to George Michael or Chris Cornell than Isaac Hayes.

  • Only had time to get a quick skim through this, but it was fascinating. I'm curious if you have ever had problems with losing your voice etc over the years and if so how you resolved them. You mentioned beer etc, certainly I found, sadly, that hanging out in bars, drinking and shouting over loud music was a killer for my voice.

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