What’s a BMX video without some good tunes? Beyond the riding and the filming, the most important part of a video is the music—it sets the tone and gets you hyped. Regardless of the riding, for a lot of people, the song can honestly make or break a video section. If a video part is going to have re-watchability status, the music has to work and be something people can actually tolerate listening to. With just about every video going straight to YouTube or iTunes, cleared music is part of the game. And unfortunately, finding a good song in the sea of cleared can be daunting. It’s not unheard of for editors to spend more time searching for music than the time it takes to actually edit the video. A few work arounds to cleared music typically involve paying money for usage rights or losing out on the monetization on YouTube. Another option is to make your own music, which is rarely done, because, well, making music is hard. Fortunately for Veesh, he’s been playing music well before he ever picked up a video camera. And he’s found himself in a unique position in the BMX media landscape, shooting, editing, and scoring the music tracks for a handful of videos—including numerous Cult videos as well as Vans and X Games Real BMX.
Interview / Photos: Jeff Zielinski
Tell us a little about your background with playing music… how you got your start, which instruments you play, etc…
My earliest memory of playing an instrument was around eight years old. My dad taught me a couple notes on the bass, but I didn’t actually get into learning an instrument until I was 11— which ended up being the drums. A couple years after that I started playing guitar. I played all three of those for a while and more recently I’ve been messing with piano.
Other than when composing music for BMX videos, how often do you play nowadays?
It’s not as easy to play much living in an apartment, so I’ve mostly been playing when I have to record something. I wish I could play more often, but I make sure to play guitar at least once a week. Although, growing up I played almost every day so I’d love to get in a few more sessions a week.
Every new endeavor is a learning experience, what was it like the first time you composed the music for a video? Which video was it? And how has the process changed since then?
Well, there were a lot of attempts before any music came out. Kilian Roth’s Vans Cali video was what I’d think of as the first song I composed for a video. I realized recently the videos I make songs for usually have two songs and this video is proof of that. The music I make now, I’ll play the drums even if it’s a beat style song, but in this video—and some other early stuff—I used some samples and played most of it on a synthesizer. Nowadays I have an electric kit and so I’ll record more drum, guitar, and bass stuff so that’s the biggest difference.
Is there a specific video that stands out to you as a favorite?
I really like how Sean Ricany’s X Games [Real BMX] video turned out. I really enjoyed making it and I think being able to switch it up and add a beat at the end worked out kinda cool.
Although there are some diamonds in the rough, cleared music tends to be kinda cringe worthy for the most part. Given your unique situation, what are your thoughts on cleared music?
Cleared music is the reason I even started making songs for videos. Sure, you can find stuff, but a lot of time I give the music a quick look and then I’ll look at the footage again, then decide if it’s something I should just make a song for. If I make a Cult video I could use two or three songs if I want. But when you do a video for a company that used a music library then I get one song. Sometimes I’ll find a good song, but I think if there was an intro then the song might flow better so in that case, I’ll add a short intro—something that’s not really a song, but it helps set a tone or lead into the video better. I’m stoked to get to work out my learning curve by making songs for actual projects and it’s even moved into me being hired to just make music for videos without doing the editing. I’d love to work on more stuff like that. Stuff that’s more collaborative.
We shot a photo where you’re holding up a piece of paper with some wave forms and “Cult x Vans Hawaii.” What is that?
After already laying out the video in some order I start to look at the energy on the screen and then get a feel for what the rhythms and the highs and lows of the video are. As I watched the footage I drew a line wave thing that helped me visualize the different songs I’d need to make throughout the video. The first part is chill, then it builds, then it mellows again and by looking at that and watching the video I start thinking of different rhythms and melodies.
I’m assuming that some sort of footage timeline comes first, then you start to compose the music, or what? Can you explain the process a little?
Yeah that’s pretty much it. After already laying out the video in some order I start to look at the energy on the screen and then get a feel for the rhythms and the highs and lows of the video. Usually just by watching the video I start to see a tempo and I’ll set that tempo into a recording program and playing along—most of the time with guitar, but sometimes I’ll lay down just a drum track, then build everything off that drum track alone. Then I just go over it and keep putting down tracks and adding to the sound as it goes on. I’ve learned that I can add too much, especially after going back through these videos.
After I feel the song fits the video—mostly looking for pace of it—I’ll export and start editing and once I feel like it’s gonna work I go back to the song and finalize everything. Replay stuff or just E/Q—which to me feels a lot like color correcting. This is when it comes together and pretty much how I envisioned it. I definitely want to keep doing this—I see these videos as early work and I’m still trying to progress.
How much longer does it take you to turn around a video when you’re also creating the music?
If I’m making a “cleared” song—something I make because I don’t want to use the music library—I can make it in about a day, if it’s simple. But anything for Cult, X Games or like Dennis’ edit took weeks. I ended up treating the songs like actual edits.
How often do you edit to music that you didn’t create nowadays? And how does it compare to working with your original music?
I think 85% of the time I’m still editing to other song and I’d like to work in that way. The music I make for videos is manufactured for the video where as a song you find or love has a much different meaning to the video. I like just making music for videos just when it needs to be.
Music stuff aside, you’ve been staying busy shooting for Vans and Cult. Where have you been lately and what are you currently working on?
This year has definitely been a busy one. We’ve had a lot of Cult videos come out this year, and on top of that I was added to help film at Vans BMX Pro Cup events. That helped keep me busy and get me to Australia, Germany, and Mexico City. I also just got back from England and I went to Canada just before that, so almost every month I was somewhere else. That could be part of me not playing as much these days.
Anything else you want to mention or talk about it?
Thank you, Jeff, for letting talk about making music and the process. My family is the reason I even got into music, so it’s only right to thank them. And shout out to Robbie/Cult family.
Check out some of Veesh’s scored videos below…