In November 2020, Max Guan ’22 released “Awakened,” a drill hip-hop track. According to Guan, the song was intended to evoke different emotional responses for each listener, whether it be sadness, trauma, or regret. The song’s elements are similar to those used in Guan’s first EP, which will be released in late January.
“There will be a bit of melancholy and maybe even regret. Yet, at the same time, it might include some hopeful elements. The reason behind this was really the 2020–2021 transition, because 2020 has been awful, and in 2021, we’re all striving to be more optimistic. For this first EP, the guitar is very well-known and also an accurate representation of this feeling, so that is its theme,” said Guan.
After listening to “The Search” by NF two years ago, Guan shifted from only listening to hip hop and EDM on the radio to experimenting with music creation first-hand. Initially starting with trial and error on GarageBand, he eventually advanced to producing music using the software Logic, mainly focusing on creating music from subdivisions of popular genres, such as drill and trap.
“I try to understand what our generation would interpret as more appealing music. I’m not necessarily trying to make music that sounds like the rest, but rather taking inspiration from the general trend and trying to branch out from the current industry,” said Guan.
According to Guan, he has often dedicated over twenty hours per week to improving his music, producing a collection of hundreds of tracks from which he is selecting songs for his first EP. Unlike other musicians who incorporate already existing music samples, Guan values originality in his work and hopes to create music that has context and progression.
“I don’t use samples, because I hate the idea of using what other people made and changing it. Obviously, you can tweak it and make it your own, but I don’t like that idea. I like to make my own stuff 100 percent,” said Guan.
With a mindset of exploring different styles of music, Guan has been experimenting with a combination of classical orchestral strings and contemporary elements, and he has used synthesizer piano in several of his new songs. However, no matter which instruments he chooses, Guan is best at creating rhythm-driven music, according to Jack Warren ’22, fellow musician and a friend of Guan’s.
“One of the most important things about songwriting, especially if you are composing a full arrangement, is the rhythm. The drums and baseline are so important. [Guan] has a really good foundation for rhythm, and he has a really good grasp on crafting those super groovy rhythm sections,” said Warren.
Guan and Warren recently co-founded the Music Production Club at Andover, where the two strive to foster an educational community for those interested in producing. Guan encouraged students of all music backgrounds to try out producing their own music, emphasizing the need for self-reflection.
“Once you acquire those basic skills, trying to make it sound like your own is the hardest step of all because you really want to be unique and stand out. Make stuff that other people like, but that you like first. That’s the most important. Understand your own self-identity and why you want to be a music producer, and put that into your actual music,” said Guan.