Tina Guo Interview
By: Dennis M. Kelly
DK: Good day Tina. Thank you very much for taking the time to interview with us here today! It is quite an honor. How are you doing today?
TG: I’m doing wonderful, thank you so much! In San Diego with my parents for the Thanksgiving holiday, I have a week off from tour!
DK: That is good, glad to see in all that you do, that you still make time with your family. Wow. Where do I begin? You have so much great talent in so many creative areas and are involved in so much; it is amazing you can keep it all together. How do you manage?
TG: I love to keep busy and to multitask… I’m also obsessive with finishing everything I start, I really love it! I love to make music, I love to do business, I love to create, I love to be running around like mad!
DK: And I bet on your week off you are still as busy as you normally are, aren’t you?
TG: Haha! Well, work and play are the same for me, and I’m so grateful for that… yes for the week off, I had a few meetings, some recording sessions including one for a new Playstation game JOURNEY with my friend composer Austin Wintory, and a show at Hollywood club Bar Sinister.
DK: So, you’ve just released your new album entitled “The Journey” on October 18th, how does it feel for you now that it has been released?
TG: It feels wonderful, I’m so happy it’s out and available to share.
DK: Can you tell me how this album differs from “Autumn Winds?”
TG: THE JOURNEY is a multi-genre album with everything from traditional classical such as Chopin, to original new-age/fusion pieces of mine, as well as electronica, metal, and industrial. It’s a full scope of my musical expression, and I didn’t try to limit myself to particular genres because all of it is me. They are all my babies and come from a different part of my being that in its entirety constitutes my whole as a soul and as an artist.
DK: Are the pieces on “The Journey” related or connected in some fashion to be consistent with a theme?
TG: All of the music on the album, as well as all the music I create, is inspired by my life… adventures… love… heartbreak… pain… often a lot of pain… in the liner notes, each song as a short explanation/background description.
DK: How long did it take for you to do this project?
TG: The music was recorded over a period of a couple years randomly, but 70% was done in the last 6 months… after I broke up with my ex-fiance… I was in a very high inspiration/pain level and that fueled many sleepless nights of recording and writing.
DK: I am very sorry to hear that Tina, relationships are hard and I’ve had my share of difficult times too. It is good that you were able to take this dark time in your life and channel it into a positive result. The album itself is a great work and I can tell a lot of your spirit went into it, but a number of other people were involved in this album as well, like Christine Utomo, whose piano work in “Introduction & Polonaise Brillante” just blew me away. How did you come to choose this piece and what does it mean to you?
TG: Christine is absolutely amazing! I toured Indonesia with her, doing a charity concert tour to raise money for a Buddhist Temple in Medan two winters ago. After the end of the tour, we stopped in Singapore to record two tracks, Piazzolla’s Grand Tango and Chopin’s Introduction and Polonaise for her solo album and my solo album. Chopin’s piece in THE JOURNEY was the first song that my college cello professor and mentor, Eleonore Shoenfeld taught to me.
DK: Being that you were introduced to Classical music at a very young age, in all that you’ve learned and observed, would you say that there has been an evolution in the Classical music genre over the years? Or has it stayed the same?
TG: Yes, both my parents are classical musicians. I think that Classical music is beautiful in that it is a preservation of an art form, almost a living, breathing museum piece. We have different interpretations and new rebirths, but still within confined boundaries, which is interesting in that as classical artists, we can explore how to move within these walls.
I’m not completely sure on outside matters, regarding musical politics, etc., but classical music has never been “mainstream,” it originated in the courts, in high society, and I think it’s great when artists and classical music societies and groups make an effort to bring the music to a more mainstream audience.
DK: Would you say that Classical music could use some infusion of new perceptions and influences or is it fine exactly the way it is?
TG: I think everything can benefit from new life and fresh perspective; however it’s also important to respect tradition, especially in this sense. I don’t like to “cheapen” classical music by trying to keep my different genres of musical expression as separate as possible.
DK: Do you believe there needs to be more crossing over from more artists and stigmas and genre limitations need to be dropped in music? How would you feel it could be done?
TG: I think all artists should do as they are driven to do by their passion. Art is liquid, art is energy, art is not over-intellectual pondering of what should be or not be. Personally I think blazing new paths is a beautiful thing, and of course like in any genre of music, old or new, there is bad music and good music.
I think it’s more about the quality (which is to be determined by… general audience? Ability for a large number of people to connect to your art/communication abilities?) rather than what kind or of what genre/label.
DK: What would be your overall philosophy be when it comes to your career and likewise what is your philosophy in your personal life?
TG: For me, my soul is my art, my heart is love, my mind is all business. I know it’s rare to be both passionate and wild yet at the same time analytical and meticulous with business/career management, but I really think artists can benefit from effort put into the technical side of things as well as the musical.
My personal philosophy is to be the best person overall that I can be, to improve in every way possible, to leave something beautiful behind… musically, artistically, (I also love photography/digital art!) and to leave behind love… people you’ve connected with and affected in a positive way… perhaps some babies one day… haha!
DK: Yes, these days more than ever, artists need to be as versed as possible to help ensure their success, the more they know the better. Well, I think it is safe to say you’ve already created some beautiful works of art; truly amazing, Tina.
Yes, to become a parent is definitely one of the greatest challenges anyone can undertake. I am a parent of two great children with my wife and they have enriched our life so much already. Our son is six and daughter will be turning three on Monday the 28th.
>We’ve thought about getting her started with piano now too in the light of how you started. She is much more interested in music than our son is, but that is fine too, our son has an analytical mind and we’re encouraging him in other areas. From the looks of how busy you are though with all your great projects, I think you’ve got a lot ahead of you before you venture into parenthood.
TG: Oh thank you! I actually had my hair shaved on one side already before, but it grew out a bit. I suggested to Cirque that for the tour, for my character, to have it kept shaved for dramatic effect. I love it! I love it on guys too! :D
DK: I had something similar 20+ years ago and it was inspired by a member of a Metal band called Voivod, it was a bold thing for me to have tried and the only time in my life that I’ve done anything like that actually. I think these days, hair styles are much more universally accepted, no matter what it is.
Mohawks are not really so Punk as they used to symbolize back in the day, and I guess that is a good thing for allowing people to freely express themselves in their outward appearance, how could it not be, right?
How personally involved are you with the specifics of your career? Do you let management handle details or do you want more direct involvement?
TG: I’m currently the overseer of my own career. For my mainstream overall career, I’ve always been self managed. No one works harder for you than you. I had a very particular vision and I’m also very… well… bullheaded about things… and I like to be in control.
For classical, I have a classical agent that books my solo engagements, but in everything else- other genres, film/tv scoring work, etc., my own record label, my businesses/products/merchandise partnerships etc., are all self managed under the umbrella of Guo Industries which I’m CEO of. I have an awesome team that I’m in the middle of building, and AM open to a bigger company to step in and help now that things are starting to get to the level where handling it all myself will become unmanageable soon!
DK: I bet. As I said before, I can’t imagine how you’ve been able to do it all as it is. But it is good you’re open to it and finding the right people to lift some of the burdens you’ve been shouldering. What have been some life lessons you’ve learned about the music industry and how much difference would you say there is between the genres (from an industry perspective)?
TG: I think this is a general rule about life, and I believe it 1000%. Manifest. Everything can be done if you want it badly enough. Focus, work hard, work harder than anyone else. Make sure you excel to the maximum potential that you have within yourself, and when you get there, be happy, be content, but keep going. Never stop.
You can never reach an “end.” Those who become satisfied or give up too easily won’t get there. I think there is room for everyone, but only if you prove to the universe and to yourself, and project powerful energy towards your goals. Be nice, be kind, be on time, be trustworthy, be a good person.
DK: I think it is good to have many levels of goals, too. Shoot for each goal that will lead you to your inevitable final goal and what you’ve ultimately wanted to achieve. You have created Guo Industries, tell me more about it, please…
TG: Basically, it’s my company under which all of my activities are branched. It’s also my record label.
DK: Ah, usually you don’t see an artist creating their own company and/or label until much later in their career, I think it will probably save you a lot of hassles doing it the way you are, very wise decision indeed!
As far as your merchandising, I love the Tina Guo guitar picks and feel that more artists should be marketing themselves in this same fashion. Will you be adding more to your shop over time yet?
TG: Thank you! Coffin Case, one of the companies I endorse (their pedalboards and the Coffin Case Blood Drive, an awesome dark distortion pedal) has picks with the Coffin Girls, brand models, and I loved the idea! Yes, I have a new Luxury line of Rosin for all stringed instruments that just debuted today in partnership with Magic Rosin.
They are collectible, with different designs, including self portraits, and glitter, and steam punk metal things, etc. I’m now working on some goth/industrial/metal designs. You can see them here: http://www.magicrosin.com/tinaguo.html
DK: What is far more exciting than guitar picks though, is your own line of electric cellos. How did you come to want to design your own cello?
TG: The Cambiare GUO Electric Cello is made by Cambiare, a boutique company based in New Jersey. They contacted me about a partnership and for over a period of a year we worked on the design of the instrument. I play it in my current tour with the Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour by Cirque du Soleil. You can see it here: http://www.thecambiare.com/The-GUO-cello.php
DK: What were the hurdles you faced in designing and testing the prototypes?
TG: A lot of the body design, also the height and thickness of the fingerboard, and of course the stand-up way that I play the instrument… we created a very long endpin with a carbon fiber removable end-pin housing. The cello can also be played strapped onto the body so you can be mobile and move around if you wish.
DK: Sounds quite awesome and the design looks great, I’d say your hard work has really paid off! As you mentioned before, you also have a new line of Rosin in two formulas out, how do they differ from what has already been on the market?
TG: The rosin is hand made in America, and contains highly purified and modified tree resins with no other ingredients or fillers. It offers great grip/resistance while still maintaining a clean sound. It’s also clear and comes in all types of fun designs! Designer Rosin…
DK: Some celebrities come out with perfume, you come out with Rosin… What kind of responses have you received with the cello and Rosin? Are they turning heads and making people realize that there can be something different for them?
TG: I sure hope so!
DK: I mean, you’ve really found your own niche and it is great to see you managing it so well. A person commented on your Facebook page and I must concur, “You can do no wrong.” With the levels of success you’ve achieved, would you also agree with that assessment?
TG: I just do the best that I can, I put all my heart, soul, and brain (most of the time :P ) into everything I do, and I hope it can benefit others in a good way, in a meaningful way.
DK: You have made some great music videos too, are you enjoying making them?
TG: I LOVE IT!!! So much fun to combine music with art, imagery, fashion, lighting, video, interaction, moving stories, moving feelings.
DK: How much time do you get to do your photography work and painting?
TG: Again, I’m a crazy multi-tasker. There are 24 hours in a day, that’s a LOT of time. As long as I don’t spend too much time on Facebook, and don’t oversleep, I’m good to go on doing everything I want to do… I try to map out my days/weeks at least a bit to help myself chart out what I want to accomplish and how I can reach those goals.
DK: That was what I was going to ask, on trying to keep it all together, I know I’d be forgetting a lot, but that is a whole other story in and of itself. When creating your art, do you allow the influences of music to inspire you while you create?
TG: No… it’s more a stream of consciousness, just like my compositions. It just comes… usually only when I’m inspired of course… sometimes things will reveal themselves to me as I’m creating it… I’m not sure where it’s going and then I’ll see. Other times, I hear or see the entire piece/image in my head and I try my best to recreate the waking dream/visualization.
DK: Do you audio or video record any of your rehearsal times at all?
TG: I have a ton of random videos, some professional music videos, other videos I filmed myself while practicing and rehearsing, they can all be seen at my youtube: www.youtube.com/demix500
DK: What kind of camera equipment do you use and have you found most effective in achieving the results you’ve been looking for?
TG: Honestly, I was using a $100 pink Casio from Walmart, with Lightroom to do the light painting and editing/digital painting… now I’m using a Canon Rebel t3i. Both have their qualities, but of course the Canon is much clearer if I want to go for that clear look! :D It’s more of what happens in post, for me, than in camera. I would consider myself a mixed media/digital artist more so than a traditional photographer.
DK: These days the post production tool are so powerful, you really can do a lot with images of varying quality levels and get some amazing results. Do you take on clients at specific times and if so, what is the best way for them to reach you?
TG: Yes, I take on clients for photos, for music, for recording, etc. Email is the best way to reach me!
DK: Do you write poetry while on the road at all?
TG: Yes I do, but I don’t sit down and force myself to create- whenever the inspiration hits, I will sit down and do/write/record/paint/photograph what comes.
DK: You sing on a few pieces on your album, “The Journey,” Have you had any vocal training at all?
TG: Barely… I was in choir for a year in middle school… I like to use my voice as an instrument… a texture.
DK: Between cello and vocals, which outlet has been most satisfying in expressing what is in your soul? Both instruments are most effective in communicating the emotion of the spirit and I am curious for you, what has worked best for you?
TG: All of it- however I’m most comfortable with cello just because it’s so engrained into my muscle memory that it has become a part of me. I can better express on cello than I can with words.
DK: As Madonna said in her song, “Bedtime Story,” “How can they (words) explain how I feel?” Words really do fail when it comes to expressing emotion. Music is really the universal language that transcends through it all. So, I pretty much had a feeling what your answer was going to be, but some performers have surprised me though too. Now, looking objectively at your life, out of all your talents, what would you say your greatest strength is?
TG: Focus. Strong determination/will. Strong desire. Passion. Being extreme. This can be very bad too sometimes, but you can’t get the high’s without the low extremes.
DK: LOL and I notice how easy it was for you to answer that question too! Since your albums are so much a part of you, what do you want listeners to take away from listening to your albums?
TG: Everyone should take what they take; I don’t want to give any preconceptions to the listeners. I do hope that they feel something inside. There are quite a few pieces of mine that should cause pain… heart pain.
DK: I see you’re currently on the Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour through the end of the year. Will you, or have you performed any shows yet in support of your albums as yet?
TG: Yes! During days off, I have been making appearances on TV, and doing shows… in the last couple weeks I did morning shows on NBC, ABC, and this week I have a show at Bar Sinister, a club in Hollywood.
DK: Do you have any dates planned after the start of 2012?
TG: The tour is actually going for 3 years, 2013 and 2014. I haven’t decided if I will continue with it and renew the contract, but I do LOVE being in the production- the show and the people… so we will see. I also am working on my new solo album at the same time, which will focus on the Industrial Metal.
DK: As mentioned earlier, would you consider touring with a Classical/Metal crossover band sometime in the future?
TG: Yes, but not crossover. Pure industrial metal. I want to keep the genres pure.
DK: Not that you don’t have enough on your plate already, but what can we expect from you in the coming months and do you have any final words you’d like to share with our readers?
TG: Everything is updated on my Official Facebook daily/hourly www.facebook.com/tinaguomusic you can see it there! Things come up last minute as well and I also love to communicate with fans and friends on there. For sure will be the tour with Cirque of course, as well as guest appearances along the path of the tour!
DK: Thank you so much for your time today, Tina. I cannot thank you enough!
TG: THANK YOU!!!!