Welcome to our interview page where we aim to interview those in the worldwide music industry as well as those involved in music in Malta
Interviews on this page:
Alexandra Alden – June 2020
Royals – September 2019
David Stark – Songlink International June 2019
Dutch Based Alexandra Alden Interview
RR: Hi Alexandra. Where are you originally from in Malta and what is your British heritage as noted in your biography?
AA: I am originally from the town called Swieqi which is in the north of the island. My British heritage stems from my father’s side. My great great grandfather was English and that’s where the surname ‘Alden’ comes from. On that side of the family there are also the surnames Crockford and Storagc which are also English. I speak English as a first language and this is where it all stems from. At the age of two, my family moved to a small town on the outskirts of Munich in Germany where I then spent 7 years of my childhood.
RR: Was the Curious Child EP recorded in Malta and if so, who was the producer?
AA: It was recorded in Malta indeed – in my friend and musician Jimmy Bartolo’s garage and apartment. Mark McRae is the producer. He’s really great at what he does and he actually gave me an incredible deal as well. He must have taken some pity on me, being a young kid with big dreams and working as a waitress to have it produced professionally. I was so incredibly happy with the result and we ended up having two number one singles on the Maltese charts too!
RR: Jimmy is a great guy and Malta Music Export are helping him with his new record label that he is setting up in 2020. There appears to be a long break between your Curious Child EP when you were 16 and the album Wild Honey at 25. What were you doing in those 9 years?
AA: I was just living life and exploring music, really. Obviously a lot happens in 9 years especially at that age. I moved to the Netherlands, began studying music and delved deeper into the world of jazz music and toyed with open tunings on the acoustic guitar. In the mean time, I also sang in Maltese for Queen Beatrice of the Netherlands at a Humanitarian Awards ceremony where a Maltese organisation was given an award. I won the JongQuiteQuiet Songwriting Award in Delft, the Ad Van Meurs Most Beautiful song prize with ‘Darling’ . I also got sick in the first year of my study with mononucleosis and was bed ridden for a month or so and then had to take time off school – I forced myself to get back to work a bit too soon too though probably. But I pushed and got my degree in music in 2018 at the Codarts Conservatory of Rotterdam.
RR: Did you feel it was inevitable you had to leave Malta to propel your career forward?
AA: Malta, being the small yet beautiful island that it is, felt limited at the time. I definitely think there are more opportunities for the arts nowadays. I really wanted to throw myself in at the deep end and see what kind of art would come out of it. I was always a bit adventurous and the big wide world was calling to me and I wanted to explore it – thinking about it, it may have something to do with the fact that I was never settled in one place as a child.
RR: Why were you living in Tutzing in Germany?
AA: My dad had a great job opportunity there so we all packed up and left Malta to move there and I used to speak German fluently. When I moved back to Malta I focused more on learning Maltese and had no opportunities to practice German at all so that language has disappeared…Although now that I am learning Dutch I find it much easier because of my background in German.
RR: Your album ‘Wild Honey’ I see is out on vinyl which I am pleased about. Was this a record company idea or was this instigated by yourself?
AA: My producers Hanyo Van Oosterom and Ocki Klootwijk are music veterans in the Netherlands. They got me in touch with MARS Worldwide themselves and I was signed on. They work mainly on the distribution of my music in the Benelux area.
RR: You mention improvising over the melody lines as a child to songs on the radio. Do you think this had a profound effect on your songwriting at a later date? The reason I ask is that before I became a songwriter I would find as many instrumental songs by pop artists as I could and write my own lyrics and melody to the musical accompaniment and found initially that my vocal melody would follow the main instrument in a song. So I learnt in a way a self taught guide of how to meander away from the main instrument to produce a new vocal melody within a song. I’m looking for a parallel to this because you are the only person i’ve ever known who has mentioned improvising as a child.
AA: Oh wow that’s really cool! Yeah I think kids are generally incredibly creative, pure beings. I think it’s the structures that keep society somewhat functioning that can take its toll on a creative mind. You know in your heart, I think, when something feels good and feels right. It’s a sort of ‘absolute’ feeling…It’s a bit hard to put into words sometimes but I guess when you’re singing and improvising you really get in touch with this inner ‘absoluteness’. As kids we usually can distinguish these things much quicker- a child doesn’t know how to lie at first…they learn from others how to do that. Sounds like music and writing melodies had an impact on you too. Lovely!
RR: Your sound observed by others is very much in the style of Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell which I don’t disagree with but I also found elements of The Lilac Time, Virginia Astley, Stina Nordenstam and David Sylvian. I don’t even know if you are aware of any of these artists but who are you influenced by?
AA: The above are some very good examples indeed. Classic rock bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin also had a profound impact on me as a kid. They have this feeling in their music that’s larger than life. I guess that’s the soul of rock music really. It’s powerful. I also really love jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Doris Day.
RR: Are you playing live on tours or just the odd gig from time to time?
AA: I’ve played a few tours- mainly solo tours in Scandinavia. We’re actually planning something for later this year/early next year in the Netherlands through my booker too with the release of some new music. I play somewhere every other weekend usually when Coronavirus isn’t about.
RR: You played 12 shows in 10 days in the Frisian Islands for something called Horizontoer. Can you give us more information on what Horizontoer is and how it works?
AA: Horizontoer is a travelling music and theatre festival. It’s a fleet of authentic sailing ships full of musical and theatrical talent and floods the islands of Harlingen, Texel, Terschelling, Vlieland and Ameland. For ten days the Wadden Islands are a stage for the established and up-and-coming talent that sails with Horizontoer. It takes place annually in August, but is made possible throughout the year by all the volunteers who are working hard to make the festival possible. Horizontoer has been an event in which music, sailing, nature, culture and theater come together for 27 years.
RR: I see that you were working on Songbird Sessions live at the Storeroom. Can you give us more information on this?
AA: The Storeroom Sessions are a concept I dreamt up for the Maltese music scene – to provide a space for songwriters to perform their songs in front of an appreciative, listening audience. Each session hosts one to two featured acts from Malta or beyond. I based the idea on an open mic in Copenhagen called the Copenhagen Listening Room where people just spent the whole evening listening to live, original music. All performers performed for free but in return they received a live video of their performance to use for promotion. At songbird, each performer who signs up performs for a maximum of 10 minutes. I host the night and perform a couple of my own tunes too.
RR: You are working on your second full album. Will you be working with the same group of Dutch musicians that were on the first album and can you give us an inkling of when we might expect a release date?
AA: It’s too soon to say but an album is definitely being worked on. Whether it is full length or an EP length isn’t determined yet either. I think you might hear something a little different this time round, but you’ll definitely be hearing some fingerpicking tunes too!
Maltese Band Royals Interview
In September MME interviewed Dylan Debono from the upcoming Maltese band Royals and found out more about the band.
MME: Who are in Royals and can you tell us a little bit more about yourselves and the story behind Royals?
Dylan Debono: Hello! Yes, of course. Royals is actually a Duo, made up of myself (Dylan Debono) and Marius Abela. It’s been a year since the formation of this project officially and so far we’ve released three singles!
We’ve known each other for a long time, as we met in Medical School. Yep, we’re both Doctors by profession. We’re good friends, with a lot of stories and adventures. We share a deep passion for music production and songwriting and we have been dabbling in that ever since we met. We discovered very early on that we complement each other when it comes to song writing. We have a very synergistic relationship when it comes to creating song, and this is what Royals is all about.
We tried forming a band several times, until we decided it was best to remain as a duo, and focus on the songwriting and production. We’re both very happy with that decision. We started sending our demos to several producers and different studios around the Island. We received an email, from a man named David Vella, who is an established producer, running Temple Studios in Malta. He told us he enjoyed our songs and saw a lot of potential in our songwriting. He encouraged us to find our own style and gave us specific tips to improve our craft. He has been our producer ever since.
MME: You have a new single out. What is it called? Who wrote and produced it? Finally who did the video?
DD: The single is called ‘Day and Night’ and as all Royals songs it was written by myself and Marius. Our ideas get so intertwined during the songwriting process that it’s very difficult to recall exactly who came up with what. It feels like it’s a 50/50 partnership. We understand what the other person wants to say. We open up to each other about personal situations and this makes writing the lyrics a process which is very flowing. Of course, we don’t always write the lyrics based on personal experiences!
The song is produced by David Vella. His input into the vibe of the track as you hear it on the record is vital. The man is a genius. He is also a very good vocal coach haha! I’ve never had any form of singing lessons, and Dave’s coaching, while in the studio doing my vocals, has been the source of my continuing improvement. David was also the source of the idea for the video and he was very much involved in the whole process.
The videographer was Neo Borg Bonnaci. He’s a 19 year old kid, who wishes to do this kind of work full time. He’s responsible for some music videos of a few local hip-hop acts such as Caro. The editing was done by Alistair Abela, who is a musician and is also qualified in video editing. He works with David at Temple Studio, helping with recording and production. He also has his own band called The Velts.
A big chunk of the video is the dancing. The choreography was done by Cheryl Lofreda and Luke Brincat. They are amazing! They both run their own dance schools. They worked together on the choreography for 2 days and We’re really proud of it.
MME: Who are your influences?
Both me and Marius have a wide variety of musical influences and listen to a several different styles of music including Pop, Indie, rock, Hip/Hop, RNB, Punk, Dance Music and club music. As teenagers we both loved Blink 182! Maybe you can still hear a bit of that somewhere in our songs. However, through the years our styles and preferences have evolved. Today you can say our style is Acoustic Pop music.
We both love Pop music so much. There’s something about making Pop music that gets us excited. There’s an art, a science and a craft that takes time to learn, both in the songwriting and production. We are suckers for catchy melodies, a good beat and rhythm that people can vibe to, hooks that get stuck in your brain and all sorts of interesting things in the production. All in a song of 3 minutes! We find the challenge of writing good, interesting Pop songs a huge motivator for us that keeps us going.
We’re always listening to new stuff that’s coming out and analysing, taking a little bit of this, a little bit of that. We also are greatly influenced by classic Pop songwriters such as Lennon/McCartney, The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, Michael Jackson etc We try to give our tracks a bit of a vintage/retro vibe, which you can definitely hear on the new track.
Our style as I said is Acoustic/folk Pop. Our main influences would be Ed Sheeren, Mike Posner, Shawn Mendez, MAGIC!, James Arthur, George Ezra, Joy Vance, Passenger, The Script, Train, Mily Chance, Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, The Chainsmokers , Maroon 5, Oasis and The Weeknd. However, there so much!
MME: Are you receiving any help or funding from anyone in Malta?
DD: Nope! Everything is self financed. We try and cut even with the costs, from the money we make playing gigs.
MME: Are you playing Live in Malta or abroad too?
DD: We play live locally on a regular basis. We play small acoustic gigs as a duo or trio regularly at pubs, private parties etc. We also play a few weddings. We played at the Marsovin Wine Festival in Malta, which is a huge event. We also played at Beerfest on the 2nd of August. That is another huge event for local music in Malta. We love playing acoustic gigs, however we also frequently get in session musicians when we have events that require a more complete band set up. The frequent change in line ups, keeps things very interesting! We haven’t played abroad yet, but we would love to!
MME: What are your aims for the next year and is there an album in the pipe line?
DD: Yes! You’ve hit the nail on the head. We are currently in the songwriting/production process working on our anticipated debut album! The plan is to get it ready in the next 12 months.
‘Day and Night’ was the first single from the album! There will be more to come, before the release of the album. One can expect a style of the album which is similar to that of the single. We want this album to be representative of what Royals is all about. We want to create a good Pop album. The album already has a name! But won’t reveal that for now! We are very much influenced by Pop artists who give value to the actual album as a package and an art form in its own right, rather than just putting out singles.
Think of Charlie Puth’s ‘Voice Notes’, or The Weeknds ‘Starboy’, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Divide’ Album, Elton John’s ‘Yellow Brick Road’ Album, Lana Del Rey’s ‘Born to Die’, Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’, Supertramp’s ‘Breakfast in America’, Coldplay’s ‘Mylo Xylo’ or The Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’.
We want to follow in these legends footsteps and create something that we’re proud of and that our fans love.
David Stark Interview
Richard caught up with one of the most well known figures in the music industry David Stark in Cannes in France in June.
David is one of the unsung heroes of the music industry and a lovely guy to boot. He started his well known worldwide song pitching magazine Songlink International 25 years ago and has enjoyed hits with classics such as Genie In A Bottle for Christine Aguelera. As a regular visitor to Malta, David has seen many changes in the Music Industry and discusses Malta, Eurovision and Music Festivals with Richard.
Richard Rogers: Lovely to see you David, what are your links to Malta?
David Stark: Hi Richard. Well I got involved with the World Association of Festivals known as WAFA who basically took over the previous major song festival in Malta. The guy that ran the worldwide festival organisation Professor Moreno used to come over to Malta every year but sadly that festival doesn’t really happen anymore in Malta but was ironically viewed very well outside of Malta. Through him I got involved in the festival in the 90s and it was a great group of people coming together and putting on festivals and competitions and I was always on the jury in places like Romania and Malta and all sorts of places. It was a very friendly organisation.
RR: And who was running that in Malta?
DS: A man named Robert Cefai, a nice man. It was a shame the festival stopped in Malta. One of my other links to Malta was of course through yourself with Ira losco where we helped to find songs for her about ten years ago and found plenty. Some really fabulous songs we found by star songwriters like Ian Curnow and Phil Harding.
RR: Yeh I remember that, we did a lot of work and found some amazing songs for Ira from top level international songwriters with number 1 international hits but as far as I know they never used them. Why? I don’t know and that was a real shame as it should have been Ira’s big chance to become internationally famous.
DS: I know. In fact I think this years Eurovision and the Maltese entrant from Gozo did very well comparatively. I’m a great fan of Gozo and i always go to Ta Cenc. That is such a beautiful place and I think i’ve been there three times. Just a wonderful chill out place and I will certainly be back. In fact I need to get down to Malta at some point in the near future. With Songlink there is still a lot of emphasis on placing songs around Europe and worldwide and helping writers. After 25 years the magazine is still ticking over well and there’s always a demand for good songs and it used to be for a lot of the major artists but now it’s a lot harder as they’ve all got their own writer/producer teams.
RR: So all the more reason to subscribe to Songlink I guess otherwise how do songwriters get out there?
DS: True. In fact we recently had a success with Cliff Richard for his new album where they took one of our songs and I was very pleased with that as was the songwriter. They asked me to help find some songs for the album and I found what I thought was a superb bunch of tracks. I was delighted with that. The album was very good but I think it could have been better if they’d used all the songs I sent them. (Laughs). Cliff’s a legend still but other than that there are still a lot of independent artists all over the world needing songs and a lot of them don’t write so they need songs. Otherwise they might co-write and want to use outside songs so the requirement is still there and Songlink fits that gap just nicely whether that is in the UK, Germany, Malta, USA or Benelux. It really doesn’t matter we still need songs for artists worldwide and there are a lot of them out there and we give them the opportunity of working with major songwriter’s songs.
RR: Is the magazine still on paper as a special once a year or how does it work now?
DS: No, it’s 10 years since the magazine stopped and only because the printers I was using went bust back in 2009 and i’d only just sent them a cheque (Laughs) but it was OK. So I thought OK so now it’s time to just go and do an online version of the magazine which is what I do now and everything goes out by email and anyway everybody just wants their songleads to artists as quickly as possible. It means they can respond instantly rather than waiting for a paper magazine at the end of each month.
So I put out Songlink twice a month and if there’s anything urgent then additional emails and I put out Cuesheet which is for film, TV and sync stuff also twice a month so i’m still on deadlines the whole month. I have subscribers around the world and I have some very loyal clients. A guy called Brian Justice who you worked with Richard at IMN does all the work and research on Cuesheet and that’s fine as that’s his world and we get leads for film, television and also from advertising and advertising companies as well. He enjoys doing that and he’s very good at it. Subscribers want solid, reliable information and Brian’s been in the industry since the 70s so Cuesheet has that reliability kudos as does Songlink. I get some very nice testimonials from people saying what a good job we’re doing but it hasn’t changed in format for those 25 years except now everything goes via email.
The format is simple, people need to know who the artist is, a bit about them, the style of music and now links to see their songs online on their website and if people are serious about pitching i.e. sending songs and they do their research and listen to the artist then all should be great. That is still the most important point that people often miss is listening to what the artist is already doing and had hits with before or whatever. Biggest problem is people sending the wrong kind of stuff because they haven’t listened properly to the artist!
RR: (Laughs) Well from an A&R point of view mate I can agree with you 100%.
DS: Well you know that. You know that. I just had a meeting with a German guy who was representing the Turkish man that represented San Marino in Eurovision this year.
RR: The singer with the bald head in the white suit.
DS: Yep, that’s the one but anyway I thought he was great and had a wonderful style. San Marino is such a tiny country so they need artists that will stand out so now we’re looking for next years artist. Did you know the Turkish singer is a qualified dentist?
RR: I didn’t but thank you for that and for the chat.
DS: My pleasure.
For subscriptions to Songlink magazine and all other enquiries David can be contacted at email@example.com or view the website at www.songlink.com