An epic soundtrack musicians in Egypt? Here? That’s right, two of Egypt’s talented keyboardists: Karim Wassim and Hamza Jarkas joined to create Augmented Reality and give us some surprisingly amazing soundtracks for amazing stories. A little bit different of your usual rock and metal music.
Tell us about Augmented Reality. Who are you?
We are two guys who have passion for making expressive, emotional and epic movie soundtrack style music.
Our objective is to try to position ourselves as musicians who took this genre and introduce it in a different yet relevant way to appeal to the audience.
How did you two meet?
Hamza: Well, Karim was the new guy in our team at work, and at that time I wouldn’t have thought him to be someone who would be interested in creating the same style, not to mention making a musical project together.
Karim: Yeah, I joined Hamza’s team 3 years ago, and I was still adapting to the new people, until by chance when we were talking I discovered that he is a musician too – of course you know how rare it is to find an artist in corporate life 🙂 – it started with discussing music, going through sharing some tracks, jamming together until we launched Augmented Reality
When and how did you start playing your instruments?
Karim: Well, I can’t remember when exactly or how old I was when I got my first keyboard; I was very young. I remember I used to be the only kid in class who plays Piano and keyboards – Yes; I was this geek kid who escapes from the school’s playground and spend time in the music room. By the time I was 11 Years old I started learning Classic music, and I got more into Rock and Metal by the age of 18. I got into guitar for a little while, but I couldn’t resist enhancing my Piano/Keyboard skills.
Hamza: I think I was about 6 when I first got a keyboard and started experimenting on it. As I got more interested in music, I got into guitar, so I bought one. Finally, several months back I got super excited about drums, so I got me a little electronic drum set, I would consider myself able to keep a beat. So, here you go; piano, guitar and drums.
How did this idea start?
Well, because we have similar and different tastes in the same genre, we wanted to try jamming and composing together. This led us to start thinking about creating a two-man-project, dedicated to the movie soundtrack style music that we like. The idea was further enhanced by us wanting to link the music to the visual. We wanted to link the music to something you can see and experience.
By the time we started this project, we were able gather a huge amount of Virtual Studio Technology (VST) libraries, which were also a key in composing/producing such genre right at home.
When we thought of the name, it came to us by pure luck. But essentially, Augmented Reality reflects the real and unreal parts of our music; it’s basically like the AR technology. It’s about having the real world as your playground and the music is the augmentations that would enhance your perception of reality by giving it a taste of “epicness”.
So the basic idea is the contrast, between the emotional and the epic, the real and the imaginary.
Soundtracks, huh? How do you get your ideas of creating music? Give us some insights.
Hamza: I can get my inspirations from a scene I am imagining, other times it is something I have seen before, maybe in a movie, but the thing is, it’s always built on a visual idea that I have in my mind. Other times, the instruments and the sounds are the inspiration that would get me thinking of the music. Also, I have to mention…sometimes I am playing on the piano and I stumble on a nice tune, perhaps by luck but I can start working on this tune until I have a complete track.
Karim: I usually start by imagining/creating a story in my mind, then trying to give this story a deeper feeling and meaning by a melody – usually played by Piano or Strings – until it is further arranged and produced. Sometimes I start improvising with new sounds until I come up with a nice theme/melody, which makes me see an imaginary story.
Do you guys meet in one place so you can create music, or each in his place? How does the process go from having an idea in your head till it comes out on SoundCloud?
Well, yeah, sure. Sometimes we meet and put our brains together; maybe we start off by jamming a bit, improvising for a little while. Other times we have a specific idea that we want to translate into music. Other times we work each in his own haven. Right at home, alone, usually staying up late. It’s always a good time to make music.
So, the process is not an explicitly defined one, but essentially what happens is this. One of us comes up with a musical idea, maybe a riff, a progression or simply an idea about mixing. We talk about it, if we are both still interested after discussing the future form of the music; we take it to the next level.
We then start working on the track by making a sample, and then we keep listening to it, until we point out the direction we want to go into.
Sometimes we can start a sample, like for example a slow, emotional piano and strings piece, then we start changing it over and over until we end up with a full orchestral epic track that had us thinking about war and dragons!
If the sample still has our interest, we go on full blast to continue in the same direction until we complete the track.
Though, I wish it was as simple as we are describing it, but yeah… it’s not!
How long does it usually take to put together one of your tracks?
Karim: It really depends! Sometimes the idea is very simple and can be expressed with a Piano line with a mellow strings harmony like for example “What’s left behind” it was a recorded improvisation that was done in one hour! Sometimes ideas keep coming and I keep building more on the melody by selecting different sounds and harmonies, and the perfection side in me obsess about getting it done in the best way, and that might take me weeks. The only fact I’m sure of is that I always compose at night.
Hamza: Yes, exactly, I remember a time when I stayed up late, started to play the piano and after 3-4 hours I ended up with 3 piano pieces, all of which were one-shot….and that’s not me by the way. I usually take some time with the music.
But other times, it can take me days and weeks to reach a visual that would inspire me to make music. The technicalities of recording music can be done, one way or another, but the idea behind the music that is not as straight forward.
So basically, it depends on the idea. Coming up with the idea is the hardest part of making music-for me.
You’ve been doing some collaboration recently, such as writing stories for your music. Tell us how did you get this idea? And who did you collab with?
We have been very lucky to have friends and colleagues in the field that are collaborating with us in our project.
Malak El-Masry, a well-known, talented artist, painter, writer and a very close friend of ours. She did a couple of stories for our music that fit the tone, pace, action and drama of the track like “Ravaging” and “Solitude”. Also, our friend Pakinam El Banna who is currently working with us now to create visual paintings and photo-manipulations that would represent our music, so the listeners would experience the essence of our tracks.
We want the audience to listen to our music while reading the stories and staring at the pictures, all for the optimum experience of our music. And basically this is the idea of Augmented Reality, total immersion.
You have good amount of music on Soundtrack. Aren’t you thinking of doing an EP or an album?
Well, you know what…we are currently brainstorming whether we would go for a one-themed EP, or a variety of themes. For example, would the EP be all epic music, as if made for one movie? Or would it be a variety of emotional, epic, piano pieces that represents several themes of several movies.
What about a live session? You know, something acoustic in a studio or something?
Karim: Well, it has been always a dream to get AR to perform live, even if we included some backing tracks – because you only need a full orchestra for that hmm…wait…Why not? 😀
It really feels amazing when you see a live feedback from the audience. Our plan is, after the EP release, we would work on re-arranging our tracks and try to perform live by the help of some musicians. And we would definitely invite Rock Era to cover this.
Hamza: I really wish we would do so. Every time I think about it, I imagine us conducting an orchestra. As you know, our music is mainly huge epic orchestrations. But I think this would be a little bit difficult to do only with two guys. But maybe we can get several other musicians that would help us in bringing our music to life on stage, or in a studio somewhere, sometime in the future.
Would you collab with other musicians? If yes, who?
Hamza: Well, if I would to choose, I would go with a heavy rock band, I mean, mixing orchestral music with heavy rock music was always a fascination of mine. I would definitely do a collab with a heavy rock band.
Karim: There’s a lot of individual musicians who I would really love to collab with, but I’d rather prefer to start a collab with an already established band like MEDIC, not because I’m a member of this band, but because of how creative and talented they are in composing and introducing new mixtures. MEDIC’s diversified progressive approach will definitely give AR’s music an edge.
Who are your influences?
We would have to say Hans Zimmer, the guy has made everything from drama to light comedy to cartoon to sci-fi. He has made the most memorable orchestral riffs in Hollywood. We enjoy his music, the pace, the buildup; the punch his music packs is excellent.
Also, We can’t ignore E.S Posthumus. They were 2 brothers that made movie soundtrack style music together. I see them as a huge influence for Augmented Reality. They are simply brilliant. We would definitely recommend them to anyone who listens to music.
We are also influenced by “Two Steps From Hell“, they also follow in the footsteps of E.S Posthumus, but we would say they are similar, but still have their own flavor, also, they managed to play live with a full orchestra on several occasions…which is really inspiring and motivating for us.
What kind of gear do you use?
Hamza: Well, as far as midi controllers go, I use an M-Audio 32 mini and an M-Audio Air Mini 32 for keyboards and general midi uses.
For Live recording I use the Zoom H6. I also implement the iPad in my music in several ways. I have a Tanglewood acoustic guitar, a BC rich electric, rarely have I used them, but they definitely come in handy for some flavor, or spices in the music if you will.
I have used a Melodica in one of our tracks before, and I have some surprise instruments for future projects too, that I would not like to tell you about at the moment!
Karim: I have a Roland E-09 Keyboard, which I mainly use as a Midi controller when I’m performing live with other bands.
I also have a Roland Juno-D Synthesizer. I use an audio interface M-Audio Fast Track Pro so I can use the VST Libraries installed on the Laptop for recording and playing live as well.
What are your plans for the future?
We are looking to get more publicity, more feedback, and more exposure to the public audience.
We believe that this kind of music is not broadly appreciated nor listened to in Egypt and we want to change this.
In the future, we would like to approach this genre with live performances.
So, how about if you attend an AR concert at the opera house with a full orchestra, rock band and a hint of electronic music, all mashed up together with light shows that would make your night? That’s how we want to rock!