You wouldn’t guess it – especially when listening to “Uebok,” a song sung in Russian that’s been viewed nearly two million times on YouTube – but Apashe lives and works in Montréal. It’s in his Mile End studio that he composed Renaissance, an orchestral/electro album recorded in Prague with a 65-piece orchestra.

ApasheJohn De Buck, a.k.a. Apashe, is a special case. Born in Belgium, his Francophone parents chose to enroll him in a Dutch-language school, and the now-trilingual producer completed a degree in electro-acoustic music at Concordia University before his career exploded. To this day, he’s written music for ad campaigns by Budweiser, Adidas, and Samsung. Famous franchises such as Marvel and Fast and Furious have also availed themselves of his services.

We meet with him in the office of his record label, Kannibalen Records, also home to Black Tiger Sex Machine. It turns out De Buck is the antithesis of his music, which is full of abrupt drops, intense buildups, and frenetic crescendos. The man is calm and affable.

The secret of his success? Following his instinct. “My team and I work in a very organic way,” he says. “We create music, we put it on the internet, and we wait and see. It grew very naturally, to be honest, we never really tried to push things. But we’ve now gotten to a point where the projects we get are huge!”

Huge? The word could hardly be more appropriate. SOCAN members who see and hear their sheet music played by a horde of seasoned musicians in Prague’s Dvořák Hall are few and far between. After seducing the dubstep world and ad agencies, Apashe was chosen for a substantial subsidy, the first of his career.

“Up to this point, I’ve always been 100% independent,” he says. “We were so used to doing things on our own that now, if someone gives us the financial means, we’re like ‘Yo! Let’s go all out!’ Without FACTOR’s help, I wouldn’t have had the chance to work with the orchestra. I owe them that.”

We already knew he had a knack for epic, opera-like creations. But this time around, he’s not re-mixing a Mozart concerto. It’s his own creations. “I listened to a lot of classical music when I grew up, all the great composers,” says Apashe. “Now I’m exploring the lesser-known composers. I listened to a lot of movie soundtracks, and they’re generally classically-trained composers who work with orchestras. People like Daniel Hoffman, Philip Glass, or even Hans Zimmer… People always tell me I make cinematic music, but the thing is, when I try to do something else, I just can’t.”

Apashe’s love of strings, and especially sacred music, has been well-known for a long time. He also loves foreboding and heavily treated choirs, to add another level of intensity to his music. “I’m not sure exactly where that comes from, it’s quite strange,” he says. “I just love grandiose and supernatural sounds. Just like bass music! It’s heavy and immense, like classical music. That’s why I want to bring them together.”

This penchant from dramatic sounds doesn’t mean he can’t flirt with hip-hop, such as when he collaborates with Instasamka. Their collaboration might have seemed improbable at first, but it was unavoidable. “I wanted someone to rap in Russian over the melody of ‘The Little Birch Tree,’ a very popular folk song in Eastern Europe,” Apashe explains. “I asked my contacts over there, and she [Intasamka] was highly recommended. They told me she’s more of a comedian and influencer, but that she had just dropped a kick-ass album. I listened to it and thought it was perfect. I wrote to her manager and he told me she knew my 2014 track ‘No Twerk.’ She said yes right away, and within a week everything was done.”

The video, which was filmed between his appearance at the Sziget Festival in Budapest and à concert in Nizhny Novgorod, is articulated around Russian stereotypes. A ride on a tank, bare-chested hunting (à la Vladimir Putin), a face-to-face with a bear… The images that play over “Uebok” allow Apashe to add a touch of humour and self-deprecation. Clearly, aspiring to excellence hasn’t gone to his head.

 



If the current situation makes everyone wish for simpler times, P’tit Belliveau already had both feet firmly planted in an era of calm, a place where life is simple. His first album, Greatest Hits Vol. 1, talks about rural life and paints vignettes of a worry-free daily existence.

P'tit Belliveau The album was done almost a year ago and I worked in construction when I wrote those songs,” says P’tit Belliveau. “A lot of the album is about my life in La Baie-Sainte-Marie. I talk about nature, living simply and about work.”

Jonah Guimond, as he’s known generally, talks about where he lives like you and I would talk about a friend. La Baie-Sainte-Marie, in Nova Scotia, is renowned for its tight-knit, almost entirely Francophone Acadian community, where musical rituals are central. “The fact that I sing exactly like we talk here is a side effect that I like, but it’s not intentional,” he says. If you ask about his linguistic roots, he’ll tell you he’s “acadjonne.” “I’m proud to expose people to that, and I use subtitles so that people can understand,” Guimond says. “It’s a happy result. Besides, I don’t know how I could speak any other way. I can’t write an album in Québécois, or in so-called international French.”

Music is second nature to him, but it’s a communal nature. “Everyone plays music where I’m from,” he says. ”People always have a guitar or a piano in their closet. My step-dad and his family are really into bluegrass. People are usually turned off by their parents’ music when they’re young. So I turned to electric guitars, producing and beat-making,’ he remembers, adding that it was when his grandfather gave him a banjo that he allowed himself to embrace his familial roots.

P’tit Belliveau wanted to release his album this spring, one year exactly after being a contestant in the Les Francouvertes competition. No matter what the situation is, he doesn’t subscribe to “what ifs.” “I didn’t want to make people wait,” he says. “Anything has the potential to become an opportunity, or a loss. We had a plan, we need to change the plan. We could have considered only the negative aspects, and tell ourselves we wouldn’t have live shows, but people have a lot of time to listen to music right now. I wasn’t going to sit with my head between my hands. I already have ideas for what’s next. It’s my first album, so I don’t have any standards for what’s normal.”

For Guimond, music comes first, in life as in songwriting. “I’ll write the whole instrumental track first and even use an instrument to sub for my voice, and then I’ll work on the lyrics, one line at a time,” he says. “I rarely write lyrics without music. Generally, I’ll listen to the beat over, and over, and over again, and then I write the lyrics.” The only time he wrote outside of his comfort zone, which is to say to a finished instrumental, was during a song camp in Tadoussac, and the results were “L’eau entre mes doigts” and “Moosehorn Lake.”

For Guimond, who now lives in Moncton, New Brunswick, this period of self-isolation isn’t so bad. “When I’m at home, I’m in my studio anyways, working on my stuff at any time,” he says. “My life really isn’t that different from what it was this winter. It’s same-old, same-old for me. Just an extra-long winter.”

And why start one’s career with a Greatest Hits? “I thought it was funny,” he says, while pointing out that the eclectic nature of this collection of songs is akin to a greatest hits album. P’tit Belliveau isn’t afraid of going in different directions with equal energy. “Before this project I was doing electro and hip-hop,” he says. “Right now I only do beats to keep my juices flowing, and I only keep the more refined ones.” What will come next remains nebulous. “Maybe a folkier vibe,” he says. “I have no idea if it’s good or bad, but that’s what sounds good to me right now.”

In the current, quiet chaos of unprecedented days, Jonah hopes his music has soothing powers. “I can’t imagine being stuck in an apartment in Montréal and only longing to be in the forest,” he admits, while specifying that the ultimate goal of his project was to take people out in nature, but musically.

“I hope people will find a bit of comfort and forget about their stress,” he says. “If you’re sad and you’re able to remember that we can go back to simpler things, hopefully we can imagine ourselves in some other place that makes sense.”



After Steve Waxman graduated from NYU in 1982, with a screenwriting and acting degree, he stumbled into the music business. It was the tail end of the recession. Waxman took a Madison Avenue gig as an errand boy for Aucoin Management (KISS, Billy Idol). Two hours into his first day on the job, he knew he belonged in this business.

Nearly four decades later (the last 27 in publicity, promotion and marketing at Warner Music Canada) Waxman uses his talents and experiences today to help artists discover their story with his recently launched business: I.M. Steve Waxman. Just like landing that first job with Aucoin, finding this new calling at 60 was a “happy accident.” The epiphany came after many coffee conversations. He stresses his service is not a consultancy; rather, he offers entertainment career guidance.

“You need to define the narrative first”

Waxman is a storyteller with a curious mind, and a conversation with him is a lesson in listening. He rambles from one anecdote to another. Each sentence starts with, “Did I ever tell you about the time…?” From stories of dressing up in KISS’ outfits in Aucoin’s warehouse along the Hudson River to launching Scott Helman’s career, what emerges is this: Waxman knows his narrative. The value of an authentic story, well told, pairs with the most important lesson Bill Aucoin taught him: we’re all facilitators.

“If the artist has a vision, it’s our job to make sure they succeed at their vision, but so many artists don’t even know who they are,” Waxman explains. “They want to put themselves in the hands of the ‘experts’ and let the ‘experts’ guide them. Bill taught me to do it a different way. You need to sit together and figure out how we can get out of you what your vision is, but you need to define the narrative first. Sometimes you just need an unbiased third party to ask all the right questions until you figure it out, but it has to come from you.”

Once an artist has a clear vision and a compelling story, Waxman works with them to determine what steps to take next, and what actions make the most sense at that particular stage in their career, by asking the right questions. Do they need a manager? What about a publicist? Just because you made a record or uploaded some songs to Spotify, Waxman says, this alone is not a story. You need something that defines you or your band, and makes you stand out.

“My goal is to help as many artists as I can get into a position where they can successfully take the next step, whatever that is,” he says. “From getting out onstage to finding a manager or agent. Your best friends are always going to be wowed by what you do. You need an unbiased truthsayer if you’re going to take your career seriously.”

Connect with Steve to learn more about how he can help you navigate your career and define your narrative: https://www.imstevewaxman.com/

Steve’s Top Five Tips

  1. Set goals. A lot of times people don’t set goals, or they set goals that are too big, like ‘We want to fill an arena one day.’ That’s a big goal that’s hard to get to, unless you have a whole bunch of smaller goals you can achieve first.”
  2. “Ask questions like, ‘What makes you special?’ Define your narrative and start to create your unique story. Then, figure out how to get this story out to the world.”
  3. Be original. Chasing what’s on the radio, or someone else’s sound, is pointless.”
  4. Develop your live experience. People often don’t think about that enough. What are you doing to entertain your fans? Envision what your greatest performance looks like, then scale it back to what you can afford. Keep that vision in your head, so when people see you perform, it always looks bigger.”
  5. Get social. Create content online that’s consistent, and matches your narrative and vision. Many artists fear social media; they think you have to be everything to everybody, all the time. Instead, you need to strategize and plan.”