Interview with J2
Producer and composer J2 is known for his work with international artists including Shakira, but also for his trailer-oriented reworks of famous songs such as Johnny Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave”, and his recent collaboration with the trailer music company Chroma. Placements include advertising campaigns for Django Unchained, Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 1, Far Cry 4, and many more.
TMN: Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into music production, and into trailer music?
J2: I started my career as a DJ in England. My first break came in 2002 when I won Ministry of Sounds DJ Idol competition that is one of Europe leading night clubs and record labels. Through this I got the opportunity to tour and play alongside and open up for DJ’s such as David Guetta, Tiesto and Paul Oakenfold to name a few. When I used to DJ I would often hear something missing in the records I played and this led me into music production and remixing. Doing this I was introduced to West One Music who were a new production library company. They liked my music and production and had me write and produced a complete album for them. Many doors opened up for me and I did more work for other production music library companies. I was also producing and remixing dance pop tracks and had the opportunity to remixed many UK established pop artists.
Cut the long story short, I got the opportunity to come New York and work out of Sony Studio’s creating and remixing songs for established artists and labels. In 2008 I took a leap of faith and followed my dream and move to the big city (New York) with my wife and two kids. In 2009 I was introduced to BMG who really liked a lot of my music as it had an epic sound and asked me to rework some classic songs ie, Blondie “One Way” and Johnny Cash “Aint No Grave” for trailer music. I never really knew what trailer music was back then but realised there was a market for it and was quickly drawn in. My next big opportunity came when Quentin Tarantino loved my remix of Johnny Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave” and it was used as the lead trailer for the movie Django Unchained and also in the movie. This really opened doors for me as a composer and I ended up doing more with BMG and carving my sound and landing more great trailers.
TMN: You have released solo albums to the public, particularly the Iconic Series Vol. 01 and 02, two compilations of trailer-oriented remixes of famous pop/rock songs. What lead you to produce this style of music?
J2: In 2012 I signed my first publishing deal with Universal Music after landing Shakira’s World Cup Fifa 2014 single. I was later introduced to the film and TV department who were fans of all my work. I had done some great project with BMG and suggested the concept to Universal to allow me to take huge songs that they published and rework them like epic movie trailers with my sound. They loved and backed the idea. I worked with Gary Miller VP Film and TV Music creative who helped with song suggestions and guided me through Universal’s huge catalogue. Once the songs hit the industry they made a great impact and have been used in various shows, TV, movie, video game trailers, promos and advertising campaigns. The demand for my music started to increase and so did my fanbase so I decided put together The Iconic Series so everyone could have the opportunity to experience and appreciate my music.
TMN: You have also worked several times with Chroma Music. How was your collaboration with Lucas Vidal, with whom you co-composed two albums, J2/LV and Playing With Fire ?
J2: My collaboration with Chroma and Lucas Vidal has been amazing. Playing with Fire was our first collaboration which we learned a lot from each other and through this a duo was formed. Lucas is a genius and a great talent. We work so well together and complement each others styles. His orchestral roots and movie scoring background and my pop urban, electronic and epic sound fused together makes J2/LV.
TMN: It must have been an exciting experience to write Playing With Fire and Immortal, two solo albums of orchestra-oriented trailer music, also released through Chroma. What was the creative process behind these albums?
J2: Playing with Fire was my first solo project I did with Chroma. I had around 20 tracks that Chris Ramsdell and Steve Dzialowski, who are owners of Chroma, wanted for my sound and album. Chris is also head of creative and really knows what he wants and understands the trailer music sound and has it down to a science. We really carved and shaped the album. Chris brough in Lucas whose orchestral arrangements added a great edge to complement my sound. We ended up with nine cues that one of which was the lead original song called “Playing with Fire” featuring Casey Hensley.
Immortal is my second solo release and third album for Chroma. I wanted to create cues with songs and also step away from the association of covers and let the industry know that I also do original songs. I spent around four months creating around 15-20 cues with my team. We spent an additional two months fine tuning six cues. We switched out a lot of the programmed drums and guitars to live ones and also vocals samples by bringing in vocalists with different ethnicities to give it that epic feel. I then shaped the four songs and found the right vocalist that fitted the project that created Immortal.
TMN: What are your favorite placements so far?
J2: I’m grateful and feel blessed for all my placements but if I had to choose a few I would say The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 1 “Burn” World Trailer. That’s a cue me and Lucas did, called “Blueshift” on the J2/LV album.
I’d also say Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” cover from The Iconic Series Vol. 01, that was featured on Grey’s Anatomy on a montage edition. Shakira’s World Cup single “La La La Brazil 2014” which I co-wrote and produced. My rework of “I Will Survive” that’s also on my Iconic Series. It made the trailer for the Far Cry 4 video game. I had people hitting me up from all over the world letting me know how much they loved my music. I learned that the gaming world has some real die hard fans! And finally while watching the Super Bowl 2014 my song “Sweet Little Lies” from the Iconic Series Vol. 02 aired on the commercial for Allegiance, the new show on NBC, I had no idea that it had made it, that really was a sweet surprise.
TMN: What do you think of the current state of trailer music and its growing popularity among the public?
J2: I’m definitely excited with the increased popularity among the public as composers/producers like me are starting to break through and also new companies like Chroma bringing fresh new music to the industry. I also think popularity is building as there are a lot more songs being used in trailers in an epic way so it gives the audience something to latch on to and remember.
TMN: Do you have particular plans for the future?
J2: I’m looking forward to doing more with Chroma and also will be starting on J2/LV Part 2 that will be released in the summer. I’m also working on a number of pop projects through Universal and a number of mainstream artist projects. I will also be releasing my final installment of the Iconic Series Vol. 03 next month as I’ll be moving away from covers to focus on original songs that will still have my epic pop sound.
TMN: Anything else you would like to share with us?
J2: I would like to thank Trailer Music News and Mayhem Entertainment PR for this Q & A. I would also like let everyone know that however big or small never give up on your dreams. With hard work and perseverance you can achieve success. And I always welcome the opportunity for new collaborations. Thank you.