A Road Semester

IMG_2705 (1)IMG_2842Lebanon is a small cozy beautiful country. It’s also very corrupt and chaotic unfortunately.

So I packed a bag and booked a ticket for about a month, to go help out at Zuhair Murad’s Paris Fashion Show in January, pass by London a bit to see friends, and end up in NY for two weeks.

It’s now been three months that I left my small room (and my guitar, mind you), and I changed my ticket back about two times maybe. I’ve also not been staying put in the same place for more than 10 days. My friends have been more than helpful and welcoming, as some of you know, Lebanese people are known for their hospitality, refusing I’d take a place of my own.

I’m waiting for my flight out to North Carolina to visit my cousin. And I thought I hadn’t written here in a while and my freelance illustrations can wait a good 20 min, while I give this an update, just to not forget the beginning of my 2016.

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I’ve learned a bit more about lights in NY at le Poisson Rouge, allowing me to know what the next step would be on this particular road. I’ve been learning about music production too, giving me more insight on what I use in my daily work on stage, whether it’s about mics and cables or amplitude and frequency (and all those fancy technical words). I’ve been also working on my graphic skills, landing some clients here in NY, remembering my student years with branding and layouts…

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IMG_4930Thanks to Amy from the alt-J crew, I was able to join Boschi events as a production assistant and work on Three Dot Dash’s Just Peace Summit, a wonderful initiative by Nile Rodgers’ We Are Family Foundation. They basically round up 30 teenagers from around the world who have initiated projects that help bring peace to their communities.
We’ve also launched the Black Howl website. Black Howl is a community of freelancers, whose goal is to round up our clients under the same hub and keep the freelancers free. Make sure to check it out, and if you’d be so kind to show your support on all our social media platforms.

 

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It hasn’t been all work and no play though. We’ve seen Coeur de Pirate, and she’s even more mesmerizing live than on her records. My good friend Jason, and Jack even got me backstage at the Foals and Cage the Elephant concert in Rochester in March. It’s been so long since I’ve seen great rock, and a crowd that is that crazy. I’ve passed by Miami, saw the amazing Wynwood walls. If you ever go to that side of the world, make sure you try the alligator bites at Kush, and go to Space on saturday nights.

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“February Made Me Shiver” – Part 2

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 5.10.14 PMApart from all the production I had going on since February, which you can read about in part 1, I worked on some illustration again.
It was nice to take some projects that weren’t that corporate and where I could draw the way I liked something the clients would also appreciate.

Nineteen 84 called up, and we worked together on an illustration for a new Cadillac model they were bringing in.
I had to do it in a day or so, and draw the car as a quick model sketch.

On another hand, I was asked by a friend to draw something about a book she’s been writing which is very personal.
I won’t reveal the meaning behind it all, but I can say it’s about struggle.
This illustration only took 30 minutes to do, but I had to sit down in front of the paper for at least an hour or two before knowing how I’ll throw the ink on the canvas to do justice to what she asked of me. I wanted to do justice to the emotions she had for this.

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I also worked after that on something a bit less artistic, although it is a challenge in itself to find the right minimal images to suit big corporate business ideas: Visualizing.
I have been introduced to this technique by Carl from Coach Inc. Carl is a group coach and a consultant, who asks me to illustrate his meetings and corporate focus groups.
I unfortunately have nothing to show you on this one as the projects are confidential to respect the clients’ privacy, but on the next one, I’ll make sure to take a few snaps.

CAiro MLAnd one of my favorite jobs is touring with Mashrou’ Leila.
We went to Cairo again to play in the music tent.
This time was a bit different, as it was my second time in Cairo with them: I noticed some things about the egyptians I didn’t realize before: Cairo people, you know every word to every song, even the “3 minutes” that was released one week before the concert! You even sang louder than Hamed.
And egyptian teenage girls, I can’t even get over the fact of how high over a fence you can jump!

Dubai came next. The good thing about Dubai was reconnecting with friends. I got to see Rob from Delta Sound, crazy Isha, my lovely Sherine and many others. We got to meet some pretty cool ones too, including Steph, who took care of us royally!

The nice thing about having friends in a country where you tour, is that they make it feel like a vacation. Between the parties, the big group lunches, and the fact that we were walking around as a big pack, Dubai was amazing with the band.
To be a bit more serious and stick to the work: We opened the Dubai Design District, with John Newman in the line up too. The stage was huge, the sound was wicked, the VJs did an amazing job on the screens, I even saw Hamed turning around at some points to just watch the visuals flying behind him. But the most fun part of it all was the soundcheck in the sandstorm.

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The tricky thing about these 2 weeks with Leila was prepping for Beirut at the beginning of the week, flying to Dubai, then getting back to play in our home country, where things weren’t as ready as we had hoped and prayed for.
But in the end, the concert and the crowd’s energy was wonderful! The animations on the 360 degrees’ venue was something very trippy to experience to the sounds of Leila.
There’s also the factor of watching the band’s vibe before and after the concert when they play in the town they started in.

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Right after rocking it out with the band, partying after these awesome two weeks, I had to jump in directly with 4 hours of sleep to join my team at Sound of Music.
It was the first project I was doing with Clapping Hands and 2U2C, and the first theater/musical show I was producing.
Sound of Music made me realize the difference between a concert production and a theater one.
I always said it’s cool to have people from abroad who are always on the road, doing the same job as you, come in for a couple of days when you’re working on a concert, teach you a few tricks, have a couple of drinks, bond for a day or two and then leave. People you’ll never see again.
However, the first days of April were something different. You get to work with the same people, the same production team for about 10 days. Even more on other projects.

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So cheers to Guy who taught me a lot. To manage a team that big with changes and urges that occur every minute… I gotta hand it to him, he has the patience of a saint.
And to Steve who turned out to be a big brother, one of those decent ones. To Jamie “Thor”, my stage left partner. That left that was always more fun. To the rest of the crew and cast who were funny as hell wherever. And as much as I enjoyed working with this funny english team, I am extremely proud of the team I brought in for this gig. Especially that the previous team bailed out, and I had to get people at the last minute.
Luana, you were a rock. Ranwa and Maggie, I have never had funnier bosses. Chiara, Alex, Souheil, Lary and Gerard, I gotta hand it to you, if it weren’t for the calm ones in the team, this would’ve been crazy over the top!

So this was February, March and a bit of April.
Right before another tour with Mashrou’ Leila.

 

From the Netherlands to Belgium

epica 2epica 3During Byblos International Festival, you see a lot of crews and people from different styles and different countries come in. You meet them, work with them and sometimes take a few drinks at the end (when you’re not passed out after work).
What I’ve realized is that all these people are nice. Whether they’re screaming death and scary lyrics into the mic, or just cursing at the public. The act differs but the heart is always there.
Epica’s band and crew were heart-warming people.

 

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I was actually pleasantly suprised at the music the guitarist Isaac was playing during soundcheck and rehearsal: sweet soft beautiful acoustic tunes…
And then, four hours later he was screaming in the mic and banging his head hard with the crowd.

Two days later we’re prepping for Stromae’s concert.
It has just sold out. The show will be huge, but also very hard for us. We have to make sure security measures are studied and respected.

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And the small whisper at the end: illustration surprise coming up. I’m keeping my word to myself.

 

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And So It Goes On

Coming back from Paris straight to work. Taking back the Byblos Festival rhythm.
We welcomed back Yanni and his crew this year. Awesome people to work with. Learned a lot from them this year as I did last year.
The concert was amazing as expected.

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Then Massive Attack dropped in. Wow. The concert was mind blowing, maybe a bit more on a personal note. The messages, music, involvement of the artist…

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The crew was also superb. Took the load out a step further organizing the boxes in the truck, because of a massive load of equipment for that gig. The interns learned a lot too, on stage and in the pit with the crowd.
Even with a few setbacks, we managed to pull it off. The band was down to earth, and even opened up the backstage to some fans, taking pictures, giving autographs and lots of memories to be shared down the line. They opened up their backstage area to the volunteers of the palestinian camps which they visited the day before.

I have been looking at options to get out of Lebanon and explore more, as the situation here doesn’t help the industry and puts out a lot of limits on our jobs.

Next up tonight: Epica.

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But a small whisper on the side… a new resolution I have to make sure I keep: draw more.
Always (almost) did it for myself, and that should return.

Loop The Summer

Last week I got a call from my old boss, JC, to work on Byblos Festival‘s production again with the Buzz team. And of course, I can’t turn that down. The team is nice and the line up is amazing: Beirut, Massive Attack, Stromae, Lang Lang, Yanni (coming back this year – one of the coolest crews I worked with, so can’t wait to see them again), Epica, Marcel Khalifé, Mulatu Astatke, Ibrahim Maalouf and Guy Manoukian.
Delta Sound are on the job again too, and I got Edith and Georgy on it this time as my help with Savio and Roy. July and August will be good.

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But first thing first, I’m finishing up the last deal I’ve got with Eduvation schools for the kids’ illustrations this month. And finalizing some details on my surprise projects I’ve been keeping from you for so long.

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And here’s a small reminder of 4 a Cause‘s two years anniversary we had with a lot of our supporters and generous artists at B018.

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For The Kids

Being a freelancer means choosing the projects you work on, the hours you work on, the remuneration you work for and the style you work in.

Apart from the nightlife, nature and the NGO projects I’m doing, I am mostly an illustrator.
I’ve taken a new deal on: School books (and Ipad applications, let’s face it… it’s 2014).

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So, social studies, french and english stories and a whole lot for different grades. About 50 illustrations to be done in about a month and a half.
The schedule’s been tight, but I’m happy having an opportunity to explore the children’s style of illustration that I could offer.
The clients like them so far, which is what I was worried about most. Apart from sticking to the deadlines.

It’s been hectic but exciting on the other projects, all will be revealed on here soon.