When Linkin Park teamed up with MySpace and IndabaMusic for the Linkin Park Featuring You remix contest concerning their new lead single, fans and musicians jumped at the opportunity of a lifetime to be featured on an album from one of the biggest and most relevant bands of the 21st century. For many, the idea of having the band hear their interpretations of "The Catalyst" was good enough reason to enter. For Czeslaw Sakowski of Swidnica, Poland, creating and manipulating music was more than just a hobby, it was "a way of life"; a means of expression that he had been pursuing since a very young age. After becoming inspired by the stems of "The Catalyst", Czeslaw, better known as the aspiring musician NoBraiN, entered the competition during its later stages and wound up finishing all the way down at 1417th place out of 2300 entries. The placement left NoBraiN well off the radar of those of us following the leaderboards of the contest, making him a surprising choice when Mike announced him as a winner at the contest's end. It turns out the competition wasn't a popularity contest after all, and NoBraiN's robotic, electronic remix fit the vein of what the band was trying to accomplish with A Thousand Suns. We sat down with NoBraiN to discuss him, his music, his submission, and his experiences working with Linkin Park.
Read the interview after the jump!
01: Firstly, congrats on winning the Linkin Park Featuring You contest! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thanks a lot!
As some of you may know my name is Czeslaw Sakowski and I am 26 years young ;-] I live in Poland in a small town called Swidnica. And as you may expect the last couple of weeks were absolutely surprising. I guess I have found myself in an unpredictable situation. Even now when I think about it seems so surreal but in a good dreamy kind of way.
02: How did you become a fan of Linkin Park? What is your favorite album and track by the band?
To some of you it may be a surprise but I am not a fan of Linkin Park. But then again do you have to be one to enjoy their music? I really respect them for what they have achieved and what is more important I respect them for what they are doing now. Their shift in looking at music and in making music is great in my opinion. Moreover I do not have a favorite album – it can change with “ A Thousand Suns” though.
As for the favorite tracks: Cure For The Itch / Session, Faint, Bleed It Out
03: When did you start making music? Are you a serious musician or is this just a hobby?
It all began when I was 7. I received a Casio keyboard and I played it like crazy, I even made “my first album” . But in the end the keyboard did not survive my “creativity”, in other words I destroyed it. Of course at that point I did not know what kind of an impact this situation had on me. Years have passed and the possibility of creating sounds, controlling them and putting them all together became more than a hobby, it is a way of life.
04: What other bands do you listen to? Are there any musicians that inspire you when making music?
Two words – Aphex Twin – he inspired me the most. I remember when I first watched Windowlicker and to be honest after that nothing was the same. I was shocked that in 1999 something so futuristic was made. Even today when you listen to this it sounds even better. Everything in that track is just awesome.
Of course I do not only listen to Aphex Twin , just to give you a taste here are some examples: Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Hey, Moderat, Mogwai , Hans Zimmer, Muchy and many more. So overall this is a mix of many sounds, of course when I was growing up I went through several music phases (Warp, postrock, breakbeat/dNb, rock ect).
Thanks to that I know that focusing only on one genre of music is just pointless because there is so much great music around you.
Some times when I surf the net it really amazes me how many talented people are out there.
05: Describe your decision to enter the contest. Did you have confidence in your musical abilities?
When it comes to remixing I do it from time to time. The decision to make a remix comes suddenly I just feel like it and that is all. When I found out that myspace and indabamusic were having Linkin Park Featuring You contest I entered it immediately because at that time I just felt like remixing.
Before uploading my remix I hesitated though, because there were so many of them already. But it is better to try than to regret not trying.
06: Describe how you went about making your winning entry. Did you map out an idea in your head or just start trying different effects?
The thing that triggered my idea was this electro drum loop provided by the band in the stems. Immediately I knew that I wanted to make a dynamic track with sudden unexpected changes, glitches and other effects. Generally when I make a remix I always try to put the artist in a totally new environment; an environment in which he or she would never go. For me that is one of the principles of remixing.
07: When you submitted your entry, did you believe it could win?
If you decide to join a competition of any kind deep down inside you always hope to win otherwise what is the point of competing? Of course I was a realist. First of all, my remix was 1417th and that is not a good place to begin with. Second of all, I did not promote it in any way, because I actually never promote any of my stuff. So in the end the “down to earth” part of me thought that I do not stand a chance but the “dreamer” in me believed that this could be it.
08: After the contest closed, were you discouraged since your remix had not placed higher?
I do not pay attention to things like that otherwise I probably would have stopped making music a long time ago.
"Along with the interview I am sending you a couple of photos and an image (logo) I made for Mike. I gave it to him and Dave printed on a t-shirt in Berlin, to be exact I gave 6 of these t-shirts."
*When I talked with Mike over Skype he noticed a fan on my wall. You might even say that he liked it, so 3 days before the meeting in Berlin I decided to make an image of that fan, so me and my friend Horiso created a logo and then printed it on 7 black t-shirts – 6 for the band one for me.
09: Describe how Linkin Park's management contacted you. What did they say to get you into the chat?
I remember when I logged into my e-mail account I noticed that there are more e-mails in spam than usual, so I read them and it turned out that I am a potential winner. To be honest at first I thought it was a hoax, but Pamela from Creative Zing Promotion wrote a great e-mail which convinced me that it is as real as it can get. After I replayed everything started happening very quickly and it all led to my conversation with Nate and then with Mike and later I met Mike and Dave in Berlin.
10: What was it like speaking to Mike? Describe your emotions when you saw him pop onto the screen. Did you see it coming?
When Mike popped onto the screen I thought that it must be cold in LA because Mike is wearing a hat, kidding ;-].
First of all I did not expect to talk with Mike at all. So when he popped I had no idea what to say, I had this awful “emptiness” in my head. It is a horrible feeling, because you want to sound smart you want to say something logical, something that makes sense but in the end you end up sounding like… well… you know what I mean. To this day I do not remember exactly what I was saying, but when I watch the video I guess it was not publishable ;-]
But in Berlin it was a completely different story. I felt really relaxed and the conversation (which lasted over 45 minutes instead of the planned 15 minutes) with Dave and Mike went very well (in my opinion of course).
11: So, what happens next? Are the band flying you to Los Angeles or are you staying in Poland?
It is hard to say. I am unable to answer that question at this point.
12: Linkin Park are known to be pretty hands-on with everything they do. Did they suggest any changes to your remix or will it stay the same?
They did not suggest any changes and from what I know at this point it will stay the same.
13: How does it feel to be featured on a Linkin Park album? Your remix will be heard by millions of people, surely that's surreal!
Firstly, my remix will not appear on “A Thousand Suns” (maybe on an enhanced edition) and that does not surprise me. But I have contributed to the album in a different way. After the conversation on Skype Mike asked me If I could come up with ideas for particular parts of two songs [When They Come For Me & Jornada Del Muerto]. Of course I have replied “HELL YEAAAH!” (that was not exactly what I said but I definitely said it in my head! ;-])
So Mike created a session on indabamusic and uploaded the parts he wanted me to work on. At that point I was stressed out because I have never worked on a track in that kind of environment. Moreover the time given was very limited. And if that was not enough Mike told me that the things I create do not have to appear on the album because the band has their own view on how the album should sound.
I am going to be honest with you, at the beginning it was very difficult to deal with the stress. Every time I started doing something I could not forget what and for whom I was doing it (this is something I have never said before). What is more at that point I had my bathroom totally rebuild so all the noise made it even more difficult. But then when I was actually making various sounds the pressure went away and I was enjoying it a lot and in the end they have included my additions!
*When I was working on When They Come For Me & Jornada Del Muerto Mike told me that ONE of my ideas will be included. And in the end it was When They Come For Me.
So in the end not only my remix will be published but my additions will appear on “A Thousand Suns”.
Even now, when I am reliving all of it again, it seems so absolutely surreal.
*interview updates 9/3
We'd like to thank Czeslaw for taking the time to answer our questions! Be sure to check out his music and store at his website!