There’s that pristine moment at a show, when the music hums through you like a tuning fork; surging through your skull, reverberating down every pore, glimmering in each sweaty bead hovering along your body. There is no where else. Just the sound moving you like a marionette. Complete Bliss within a swirling Chaos.
Classically trained composer Greg Kuehn is a lucky man. Throughout his storied music career he’s enjoyed many such moments of Zen, starting in the 1980s Punk music scene playing keyboards for True Sounds of Liberty (TSOL).
Punk’s purity of purpose, clarity of intent, seeped deep into Greg’s creative ethos, becoming a hallmark for him both as a composer, and eventually as Founder/Creative Director of Peligro Music.
“It informs everything I do,” says Greg. “There’s an honesty to Punk rock.”
Greg’s path with Punk also landed him in several other bands, including a solid stint with Berlin. He even met his wife, Robin Frisbey, at a Punk show (thanks to an intro at The Cuckoo’s Nest by owner Jerry Roach). Their sons Max and Elvis now tour internationally with their own Punk band, FIDLAR.
Over the years, Greg found a niche creating original music for filmmakers and advertisers, starting with writer/director Rex Pickett’s 1988 indie “From Hollywood to Deadwood.”
Most recently, Greg’s been on a creative streak with director, Matt Ogens, with whom he most recently completed the score for “North.”
He and Matt also recently collaborated on “LA Louvre,” Matt’s short doc featured as SHOOTonline’s Top Spot of the Week.
Add to the mix Greg’s successful commercial composing for brands such as Ancestry.com, Gatorade, Amazon and Toyota.
Like many in our talented MAM Family, Greg credits his music career in part to his knack for picking up any musical style and painting for the client music “even better” than what’s floating through their head.
“I’ve done this long enough that I’ve gotten my head around a lot of different kinds of musical styles,” Greg explains. “That’s one of the job requirements: ‘Oh, cool. You need a string quartet thing. Well, I can do that.’”
He says the key is to have genuine, clear “creative conversations.”
“A lot of this gig is really knowing how to manage time, and how to deal with clients, talk to them.
“They’ll be like, ‘Just go for it’. ‘No. I want to know where we’re headed,” Greg explains. “I want to know the creative direction, and maybe suggest some things, listen to a few things, see what they have to say.”
He’s also a massive fan of Spotify.
“It’s so great!” laughs Greg. “It’s the easiest thing in the world to search music on — everyone has it. It’s a really quick reference tool — you can really go down the rabbit hole pretty quickly.”
He says it’s also ideal for when he needs to take a quick “music bath” before writing for a particular genre.
“Spotify is really good for getting your head around certain styles,” he explains. “The client will tell me ‘Listen to these three artists.’ I’ll listen to those artists for a quick second, pick a few tracks. It helps me figure out what is relevant for each one. How can we make it sound current?”
Greg gives the example of the amazing Rise Up as ONE concert on the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana this weekend. (Univision’s broadcast of the concert will be in Spanish, with English broadcast available on Univision’s Fusion channel Saturday at 7pm EDT: more details at concert’s website.)
The client needed promo music for the free community concert, which features Grammy-winning Columbian megastar Juanes. So Greg needed to dust off his Latin music chops. Fast.
Bonus points: the promos would be running on Univision, it had to sound legit.
“I found out on Friday, and I worked on Friday night on the theme that will be showing this Saturday,” says Greg. “I had to get it done, and through eight levels of approval.”
But even in a rush, you’ve got to tread carefully on unfamiliar ground.
“If you [compose] off the top of your head, and you don’t listen to a lot of Latin music, you’ll do something that sounds dated. I want to know what Latin artists are doing: I’m not listening to Latin music all the time. I just need to get that hat on right now and get to work.”
Greg adds that drilling down into a particular sound using Spotify also helps him swiftly focus on the task at hand.
“It’s hard for me to listen to lots and lots of music, because I’m doing music all day long,” he says. “When I dive in for reference stuff, I’ve gotta get it quick and take a quick music bath in a certain style, and give me ideas on what I can do, see what’s happening here, and make a little amalgamation of that certain vibe.”
He also finds mediation to be a great tool for tool for not getting lost at sea juggling multiple projects, deadlines and musical demands.
“Intuition definitely helps. If you’re fear-based and your always worried, fearful you not having work, it clouds your judgment,” says Greg, who meditates every day. “I feel pretty clear about stuff, and if I’m doing all that, I know my intuition is pretty good — I can follow my gut.”
He also is a huge proponent for sticking with “good people;” working with solid clients and friends who play with an open hand.
“Most stuff is not about me, but we want to make everything about ourselves. When people are weird, and you’re a normal person, no — it’s their problem. There’s something going on there. You’ve just got to keep your side of the street clean.
“Don’t get stressed out. Just figure out what works for you.”