Monday, July 16, 2012

On Top Of The World With Terry Peake

Have you ever read an article about someone winning an award and thought to yourself, "Who are these people that win awards?", "Why did this person win this award?", "How do they choose these awards?" Well, I have thought these things many times. Sometimes I have even wondered, "Do these people deserve these awards, and are they really that amazing?" Basically, I am very skeptical of awards in general.
When I recently learned local composer, Ferndale resident, music instructor, rockstar and beard aficionado Terry Peake was being awarded the Kresge Foundation Fellowship Award, I had the opposite reaction. Terry is not only a friend but he is the mastermind behind the band Bahamut that my better half drums for. I have watched the development of Bahamut's "The Process" from start to finish and I know the time, hours, rehearsals, recording, setbacks and triumphs that have gone along with making this record. I know the talent it took for Terry to write this music and the time it took his fellow bands members to learn and play it.

I am proud to say that I have known Terry since the days he was writing Nipon songs with steel drums. I have watched him grow into a teacher for the future generation of musicians and I have watched him perform at countless venues across the city. Now I have the chance to ask him a few questions about this accomplishment, where he's been and where he is going. After the interview there is a preview of the future of Bahamut, make sure that you read and listen.  
Hip In Detroit- What made you decide to apply for this award? What process did you have to go through to apply? 

Terry- A friend recommended that I apply, and I'm glad she did. It's one of those opportunities you see, maybe you even think you deserve it, but you put it off and end up forgetting about it. I decided that putting the work into the submission was more than worth the potential reward, and I just put it in the back of mind and didn't get my hopes up.

One key part of the application process involves writing three statements:

1. The artist statement is about who you are, your current artistic focus, and what your goals are.
2. The community impact statement describes your role in the community, who you reach, who you have influence over, and essentially how the community is affected by your art.
3. The narrative statement describes what you intend on doing with the money, and what you expect to accomplish within the fellowship period.

The most important part of the application process is the work samples. This was difficult for me, because I wanted to show the judges that I have written modern classical, various forms of popular and progressive rock styles, and film music. I chose, however, to focus solely on the progressive metal I write for my band Bahamut. Applicants are allowed to submit five samples, each being less than two minutes, along with a brief write up on the details of each sample. Other than that, you are required to submit a bio and resume. The organization looks for artists who can demonstrate a track record of artistic excellence, so although my samples focused solely on Bahamut, my history as a local musician, as well as my accomplishments relating to my degree both played a huge roll in my being selected. 

Hip In Detroit- How did you find out that you won? What was your first reaction? Who was the first person that you told? 

Terry- I was woken up by a phone call in early June. I saw a 313 number, and just had a feeling about it. Something told me I needed to answer this call. I was completely shocked at the news, and while pretending that I wasn't half asleep, all I could tell them was that I was speechless. Perhaps the most difficult part was that I wasn't allowed to tell anyone until the official announcement was made later that month. Oddly enough, my boss was the first person I told, as I needed a day off with only a week's notice so that I could attend the orientation. 

Hip In Detroit- What is your background? I read that you studied music composition at Wayne State? How does that help you with what you do today? 

Terry- I started playing piano at age 9, taught myself to play guitar when I was 13, and by the time I was 16, I began performing with my first band, playing a set of my own compositions. By the time I was 18, the band (Nipon) had started to accrue a decent following, and began influencing others. At this time I also began my university studies in composition. For five and a half years I was a full time or over time music student, usually with at least seven music classes per semester. I was completely obsessed. My friends didn't see much of me in this time, as I was hell bent on becoming the greatest composer I could possibly be. After graduating with honors and participating in some notable performances and composer's concerts, I took a break from the academic world to pursue some progressive rock projects (Junecast and Bahamut) and employed myself as a private instructor. In the last year I have started to compose for film and I feel that it showcases my diverse abilities more than anything.

The experience I received from my degree program has made a huge impact on everything I do. It may not be the most applicable when playing popular styles, but it is still one of my life goals to write music that is successful both academically and commercially. 

Hip In Detroit- Tell me about Robot Academy Music. What is it? How did you start it? 

Terry- Robot Academy Music is essentially a company name for everything I do. It represents me as a composer, a producer, a performer for hire; it serves as record label name for my projects, and I am even an official publisher with ASCAP under this name. The origin of the name is a rather funny story. When Bahamut started rehearsing, we used to joke that we were "robots in training," due to the technical nature of the music. The joke was that we, the instrumentalists, were robots, and the vocalist was human; screaming, because we were torturing him with our dissonant riffs. At the time I spoke of my dream: to achieve such a following with my progressive rock projects, that I would have a substantial amount of people wanting to learn what I have to offer. Along with being a composer, producer, and performer, I would have a specialized academy that focuses on the highest musical standard possible: "The Robot Academy." I decided to use this for my company name, and although Robot Academy Music was essentially born when Nipon launched in 1996, the name didn't come about until last year. 

Hip In Detroit- How does it feel to know you were chosen out of over 450 applications? 

Terry- For years I would go in and out of being rather down on myself. It is tough to know that you are doing something worthwhile, to know you are upholding a certain level of artistic value in your music, with little or no "pat on the back." It gets discouraging, and productivity can fall. To say that finally achieving recognition feels amazing would be a huge understatement. I am eternally grateful to those at the Kresge Foundation and to the panel of judges who chose my submission. 

Hip In Detroit- What do u plan to do with the fellowship and the $25,000 award? 

Terry- Within the fellowship period I am aiming to get in at least 500 hours of composition/production. I am looking forward to a year of growth. As for the money, it will essentially allow me to live more comfortably for a year, which will in turn allow me to focus more on my art. I have plans for a new Bahamut EP and full length, an EP with a new project that will resemble Junecast, and possibly even a Nipon EP that will revisit some songs that I feel need to be redone, as well as some songs from that time that were never finished. I also hope to write some more modern classical pieces as I haven't written anything like that since graduating from Wayne State in 2003. 

Hip In Detroit- What does the future hold for Terry Peake?

At the moment I want to continue with Bahamut as my main project; there is so much I think the band has yet to achieve, and I am really excited about the new material in the works, as well as getting back in the game as far as playing shows and touring. On a more long term scale, I think film music is the most promising avenue for me, as it exercises my abilities more than anything I do, and has the most potential for financial success. In a few years I plan on continuing my education in a film scoring program, as well as pursuing a master’s degree in composition. From there, will I be a film composer? A professor? Both? Only time will tell.

As we said before, you can check out a preview of the future Bahamut music here!


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