Interview with Mbachi Halle
Music2Deal: Mbachi, please tell us something about you and how you came up with the idea of making music.
Mbachi Halle: I was born in a record complex in Cameroon, Bel-Pen Studios, a family firm with Recording studios, rehearsal facilities and a Label. We literally lived music and recording as most artists my father signed lived with us. Mics, recording equipment and instruments were my “lego”, so to speak. There was always music and recording going on around at almost all times of the day. I started recording professionally at age 12, the same age at which I started playing piano, Bass and writing songs. Three years later, I had my first tapes on the market. It was mostly instrumental, remixes and covers. At about 17 my father travelled professionally and I was head of the company for about 3 years till I travelled to Germany for studies. Though I decided to stop music and get into something “more solid” after traveling to Germany, the music apparently denied to be stopped by me. Just a year in Germany, I was already operating my own small studio. The whole thing just kept on growing and since 2002 it has been my profession.
Music2Deal: Which famous musicians did you learn from? Who influenced you?
Mbachi Halle: With me, it all began with Modern Jazz by greats like Bob James, Earl Klugh, Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Kenny G, Grover Washington Jr. and the like. I got interested in pop only much later at about age 14. I listened intensively to Stevie Wonder, Kassav (Founders of Zouk), Frankie Vincent, Michael Jackson, Beatles, Lionel Richie, George Michael, Tina Turner, Toni Braxton and a lot of African music with my greatest influence being my father. I have always been absolutely mad about music. Possibly hard to believe but I repeated a class in school because all I could do during the final exams was listen to Elton John’s song “Sacrifice”. I made about 20 different remixes of that song at that time. These days I learn a lot from people like Robert Robinson, John Mayer, Alicia Keys, The Fray, Five for Fighting and many Urban/Pop acts from the USA and the Queen’s land.
Music2Deal: Where do you get your inspiration from when you are writing a song?
Mbachi Halle: My main composing instrument is the Keyboard, though composing with Bass is really great. I either just play and cut what I liked while I played or often, I hear a line in my head which doesn’t let me loose until I record it.
Many times, while I record musical ideas and riffs or melodies, it is like the “idea” already tells what to write about. It may start with a single line. If the words match with the melody and I still like it after a few days, I work on it till I have a at least 2 verses and a Chorus. For me, creating is not always just this energy burst with a great song happening at once. I have had this experience a couple of times though but not very often. It is more often a very conscious process built around working on a beginning idea I fall in love with.
Music2Deal: You have over 20 years of experience in the music industry. What are the most valuable lessons you learned during all these years?
Mbachi Halle: 1. It is always about the song first. Get the best equipment you can possibly get but before that, it is always possible to make the monster killer song with what you have.
2. There are no secret methods and tricks to be kept to yourself because you think if you share them you would be less important or so. If you don’t want to stay foolish, share all the knowledge you have when you are asked.
3. To me, True great musicality, that is being able to consistently make great songs is one of the most complex things in the world. I believe it takes minimum the 10000 hour rule of constant conscious practise before u really start understanding what you are doing.
Music2Deal: If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
Mbachi Halle: I would love to create many more possibilities for young and struggling artists to be supported and developed.
Music2Deal: If you wouldn’t have started working in the music industry, which profession would you possibly pursue now?
Mbachi Halle: I have to tell you this story. I was sent to Germany from Cameroon to study Electrical Engineering or medicine. Something solid. My great desire and secret plan was to become an airline pilot. I tried to get into flight school in 1999 and they wanted twelve thousand Deutsch Mark from me for a private pilot license which I did not have, unfortunately. 1 year later, I had transformed my room in the student hostel into a recording studio and later on found that I had spent exactly twelve thousand Deutsch Mark I had gathered from student jobs to build my studio. As you can see, even with limited consciousness I had already fallen into recording without really knowing what I was doing. When I look back, what I can express the most is Gratitude. I would never have functioned properly in the aviation industry as an airline pilot. I still love aviation but I will pursue it as a dear hobby but my first love shall always be records and recording.
Music2Deal: Do you have a good advice for somebody who wants to be a successful part of the music industry?
Mbachi Halle: I haven’t mastered it at all yet but it stays one of my greatest desires. Eat, drink and burn absolutely for your art then:
Get rid of your ego. Kill it. Destroy it. Eliminate it. If you can. It is the only enemy you ever had. The only enemy you would ever have. You ego makes you forget the song and think its about you. It gets you terribly hurt when people don’t have your taste, or tell you your songwriting pen is not yet as stable as it should be, or that your mix doesn’t bring the speakers to life yet. Hardly does anyone have any need to hurt you. What would it benefit him? Sometimes people don’t understand what you are about when they critique you. Still listen carefully and take it. Ask what they mean exactly before you discard it. This sounds hard but I find it to be the best and probably the only way to be efficient in this industry for a long time.
Listen to Mbachis music here.
Interviewed by Sara Shirazi