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Interviews   

Anthony Vincent (Ten Second Songs) in twenty questions


Aside from Anthony Vincent’s sudden success and unquestionable vocal talent – both of which tend to draw attention –, it was mostly curiosity that drove us to contact him. For Ten Second Songs has led us to ask ourselves unusual questions: How does he do that? How does one “compose” such a sequence of styles? How does one learn to sing in so many different ways? And, most importantly, how is it possible to genuinely love both Britney Spears and Kataklysm? Given all these musical contradictions (which include a few guilty pleasures) and the various professional hats Anthony wears, where does his true musical personality lie?

The following interview will let you discover the man who made mainstream magazines (sometimes even people magazines) talk about Cannibal Corpse without even meaning to. A man who doesn’t hide the fact that he misses the excitement and feeling of danger that some bands used to inspire in the 70s, 80s and 90s, despite the growing presence of provocative content in today’s music.

« I have fun when I’m sitting down and figuring out a style that I’m not 100% familiar with. »

Radio Metal: You’re mostly known for songs you’re covering in 20 different styles, but Ten Second Songs is also about creating personalized songs and jingles. Can you tell us more about this business?

Anthony Vincent: Ten Second Songs started off as a custom songs business and I came up with the name, Ten Second Songs. I was on a website, flavor.com, were I was pretty much selling songs of 10 seconds, any style you want, for 5 bucks. That’s how it started. It started off that way then it escalated into other things and when I went to go promote my services on Youtube, it just happened to be Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” which blew up and it set my Youtube account on a whole other path. The brand Ten Second Songs isn’t even there anymore, I haven’t really been doing custom songs under Ten Second Songs anymore. If you go to my website, tensecondsongs.com, I’ve got a new website that I launched, called thesongfor.me. I’m taking request but honestly a lot of what I’ve been doing lately is strictly content creation. Because of the success of the 20 styles covers, people wanted to see more of them and stuff like that. I have a subscriber base on Youtube close to a 1 million people now, that’s a high demand. Content creation is my main focus now.

Are you alone in this business or is there someone helping you?

For Ten Second Songs, for all the production work I’m completely by myself, except for the last song, “Thriller”, obviously. I actually filmed that one, I did all the recording stuff here, but I filmed it at the Youtube space in Manhattan; there is a new Youtube studio in Manhattan now. But for the most part, everything I do is completely done by myself. I’ve got a team of people obviously, the studio right here in Port Chester is actually something that I built alone with my cofounders and my business partners. And we’ve had this studio facility pretty much since 2009. The main focus has been internet broadcasting, video streaming, audio production, all that stuff. And Ten Second Songs just happens to be one of many projects under the umbrella of the studio here. I’ve got people who help me out with things like coordinating business, but as far as production, it’s completely me.

And do you also do the instrumental part of the videos?

Yes.

Did you study music? Where the hell did you learn to sing like Frank Sinatra and Devin Townsend at the same time?

[Chuckles] Well, some people will argue that I don’t sound exactly like Devin Townsend. I’ll put it this way: I’ve always been listening to a variety of music. From day one, I was raised in different types of music and obviously I’ve got into rock in the 90s, alternative rock, I was listening to Nirvana and all that stuff from the grunge movement. Then I got into metal. Because I’ve been raised from a young age to have such a wide music taste, once I got to listen to the harder stuff, I still had all that other stuff that I was into as well as my influences. Just being raised first and foremost on a wide range of music, that will set you off on that path as it is, because you’re just familiar with so many different styles off the bat.

The other part to that is just trial and error. Throughout the years, when I started to make music and audio production, I tried different things. Friends of mine that were song writers and producers said: “Hey, can you do an r’n’b voice?” And I was: “You know what? I’ve never done an r’n’b voice before. You know what? I’m gonna try it!” I ended up trying it, I focused to get it right, and that came rolling. It’s just experience, just trying things. It just happened that when I tried things, I was actually good at a lot of them and good enough to develop them. But then again, last year or so, I started getting into really studying the voice and really pushing the limits. I found a great program, a vocal teacher, Ken Tamplin who actually worked with many big acts and a lot of his students have been joining the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and so on and so forth. I mean, I’ve really put a lot of work into my craft and that’s really just what you’ve got to do. There is just no secret to it. It’s a wide range, trying new things and putting a lot of work in your craft.

How did you get the idea of doing this covers in 20 different styles?

Because I had the custom songs business, I wanted to showcase kind of a commercial on YouTube of the many production styles I can do in one shot, so that people could learn about my business through that. That’s why I came up with a pop song in 20 styles which just blew up. I didn’t think it was going to get 4 million views in a week and leave me with a hundred thousands of subscribers. That’s what the first video did. It’s been a wild ride, I do say so to myself.

How do you pick a song? Do you pick a song not knowing how you will cover it or do you pick a song because you already have some ideas?

Usually it’s just something that I know would work. If I listen to a song that has a long intro and is kind of like scattered words throughout the song and doesn’t have much of a vocal presence, it probably won’t work for a 20 styles cover. It just hit me. I usually listen to a song and I feel like: “Alright, that would work!” I don’t know how it’s going to work, I don’t have all figured out in my head before I actually get to it, but I just know it’s going to be an easy time for me.

And do you have some examples of artists that you tried and maybe failed to impersonate?

I’ve never decided completely on an artist that I just quit on because I couldn’t get it. That hasn’t happened yet. In the planning process, I’ve gone through so many different revisions in the list where I felt that certain styles would work better than others. Well, actually, you’re a metal magazine, you know the Cannibal Corpse part? I replaced Death. I actually had a Chuck Schuldiner style, I did a Death style and I replaced it with Cannibal Corpse. Chuck pretty much started the whole extreme death metal style, all the death metal heads and death metal artists looked at him as the founder. His voice was really high pitched and screamy. I’ve done a similar kind of voice before so I wanted to showcase another kind of approach which is more guttural. And it wasn’t because I couldn’t do it, it’s just because I thought it would be better for the theme. To be honest I don’t have a lot of experience and it was funny to have Cannibal Corpse in the mix next to Oingo Boingo. People Magazine shared it, they shared a content that had a piece of Cannibal Corpse…

« Most people who consume music these days don’t know what good music is, they’re shown a certain standard of music and they think that what they’re shown is actually good. »

We can hear you impersonating Eminem, Kataklysm, Devin Townsend, Enya, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Katy Perry, Linkin Park… Are all these artists that you’re impersonating, artists that you like and that you’ve been influenced by? Or did you do these covers just because “it was working”?

I can give you the one video that showcases all of my favorite artists, my guilty and non-guilty pleasures – I don’t think there is any guilty pleasures, personally I like everything. “Dark Horse” will showcase pretty much everything I’m into in one shot. It’s got Sinatra, it’s got Michael Jackson, it’s got Queen… I consider Freddy Mercury and M.J. as the greatest performers of all time. Their vocal abilities are what I look up to as a vocalist. But then again, I think that Phil Anselmo from Pantera is one of the greatest metal vocalists that has ever lived, as the frontman that he is, and the power that he puts into his music. And then of course you have Frank Sinatra and all those artists. Obviously I don’t listen to Enya in my free time, I don’t go and put on a Gregorian chant and listen to it to relax. If I’m going to put an artist in there, it’s because I have some kind of respect for them in some way. Even if I’m not listening to them all the time, I do have a respect for everyone that I put in there because I know it will be seen by at least a million people, at least by a million pairs of eyes. So in my eyes it’s like: “I wanna show up this band for the millions of people that are going to see this”.

Since you are doing a lot of styles in the same song, people can discover new styles. I saw on your Facebook page that recently a little girl discovered Pantera through one of your videos. That’s great because there are twenty very different styles and people don’t know all of them. Do you actually see this as a great way to discover new songs and new styles?

Yeah, that’s one comment that I saw, she was like: “I just started listening to Pantera!” Yeah, you absolutely should! If you want to listen to it, you may like it, you may not, but at least you should give it a chance. You’re not getting a variety of music in the mainstream, obviously not. In fact, pop music is just “pop” because it’s popular; most people forget what pop music stands for. It’s the abbreviation for popular, anything can be pop. The Beatles were pop, they’re one of the greatest rock bands of all time. The most influential bands of all time were considered pop. Nowadays you just equate pop to Katy Perry. You know what? Now it’s oversaturated bullshit, it’s not necessarily pop music. It’s pop only because it’s popular and it’s shoved down people’s throats. I think people deserve a chance to get to explore other genres and decide for what themselves what they feel is good.

Is your work a way for you to say that there isn’t just one way to play a song or a melody?

Absolutely. At first my intention was to promote my business and now my intentions are to show that there are different ways that a song can be heard and that there’s nothing wrong with liking different things. You shouldn’t be afraid of what you don’t understand. Just because someone is growling doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just a way of expressing a song, there is really nothing else to it.

Is this also a way for you to say that we have to be more open minded? That there is beauty and talent in every style?

Absolutely.

Do you think it could be possible to reproduce the Ten Second Songs concept live? Have you considered that?

In the way that I do it, I wouldn’t know. I’m sure there is a way and that down the line there would be something like that happening, possibly. But in the way that it’s done, going through 20 styles, all in one song… Think about it man, I don’t have original material, what am I going to do? Go on tour and play covers? I got a band. My band is called Set The Charge. We’re a rock band but we’re kind of experimenting with things, conceptualizing things that may be very appealing to the Ten Second Songs fan base – I’ll put it that way. I’m not going to give away too much of that. I think in the future people will be pleasantly surprised by the live experience that will eventually be brought to the stage. I hope to keep that going, that feel, the feel that Ten Second Songs is portraying right now.

Wouldn’t you be unhappy to have one band with only one style and that’s it?

I can’t deny that there’s this part of me that wants to go off and just do everything. I have fun when I’m sitting down and figuring out a style that I’m not 100% familiar with, because it’s the most natural thing in the world to play a rock song. I can play rock all day, but I’m actually taking it like: “Alright, let me do that and figure it out in big bands style”. Then I got to go through all the instruments, I got to go through midi, I got to do this… Maybe we’ll even get to the point where I’m hiring live musicians. Now I’m making all arrangements on my own. It’s just fun for me because it’s a challenge and for me at least it’s my way to feel most alive, to put myself in challenging situations. It’s sort of gratifying because there is so much more content to put out there, so much more for people to enjoy and to digest. That’s just me.

A lot of people say that doing cover songs isn’t actually creating, but I completely disagree with that. I think that doing a cover song is creating because you have to make an homage to the artist, create an atmosphere and in your case you have to recreate the song with another style. What do you think of that?

People who think that making a cover is not creating obviously only think of that in terms of writing; obviously you’re not writing the songs. If people knew the kind of work that was put into these videos, they probably would have a different perspective. All I can tell you is that a lot of work is put into these three weeks span of time for these productions: in the planning of the styles, in the thinking of the arrangements and how it’s going to work, and actually doing it. It’s a lot of work and it does take as much if not more energy to do one of the Ten Second Songs videos as it takes to do an original song in one style. And it’s because of the amount of work put into it that it is successful. That’s the reason why, since I put out the first video, it’s been covered by so much media, because people recognize the work that has been put into it.

And maybe working on a cover is even more difficult than writing a song because when you write a song, you’re writing spontaneously while when you work on a cover song, you have to get out of your comfort zone and what you can do to go into another artist’s mind. Do you agree with that?

Yes, I think so. I think it really depends on the kind of writer you are because sometimes writing a good song can take forever, especially if you’re a perfectionist. But if you are a good song writer, sometimes the best songs come spontaneously to you, so there may not be as much work involved. As for cover songs, it really depends on what kind of version you’re doing. If you are a cover band and you’re just playing the song as the artist played it, all you’ve got to do is learn a song. There’s no effort in that. If you’re actually taking a song and remaking it, like a lot of stuff that I do, then it’s going to take a lot of effort to do that and to do an arrangement, especially if you’re thinking about what it would be like in another artist’s style. You’ve got to get in the mind of that artist and in the mind of 19 other artists after that.

« If you want to listen to it, you may like it, you may not, but at least you should give it a chance »

Most of the artists that you impersonate – like Michael Jackson or Ozzy Osbourne – work a lot on the visual side of their music. And when I look at your videos with your band Set The Charge, it has this shock rock feel and it really seems that the visual side of things is very important to you. Did you grew up watching Kiss or Alice Cooper shows? Would you like to reproduce that type of gigantic shows with Set the Charge?

I would like to bring excitement back to music in general. I would really like to write good rock’n’roll songs obviously. Rock is my first love and always will be, with metal. That’s what I’ve been into for years. I remember when I was growing up, I remember being so infatuated and just completely inspired by some of the videos I would see on MTV, how cool they looked. They were abstract and they were kind of cool. I don’t know how to describe it, there was this 90s look. It’s gone now; there really isn’t anything cool and exciting happening, at least to me. I feel that a lot of what’s popular now, especially with artist like Nicki Minaj, it’s just like the line between music and pornography is kind of blurred even more. So you have people over-exploiting everybody and that whole expressive cool edge, that anti-establishment that is kind of just against authority, like this really cool rebellious thing that you could feel in the 90s just isn’t there. And it’s not necessarily like an anarchist thing, it’s not like going against the government. It’s just like thinking for yourself, free thinking, thinking out of the box, just having an open mind. We’re just narrow-minded. I think most people who consume music these days don’t know what good music is, they’re shown a certain standard of music and they think that what they’re shown is actually good, they basically judge everything to that standard. So even when they hear a vocal that is so unbelievably amazing for great reasons, whether it’s because he’s an incredible vocalist or whatever, it may not even sound as good to most of these kids because it’s not over-processed, and over-processed sound is what they are used to, they think that’s good. So there is a whole lot of shit man. To go back to your question, I just want to bring excitement. I want to show that there is a wide range of thing you could listen to. You should give everything a chance because there is a good number of styles and artists that have a large fan base, that may not be as large as some of your pop stars, but they have a fan base for a reason! And you should probably tune in to why they have a fan base.

Your band, Set The Charge, was formed in 2005 and is releasing its first EP only this year. Why this long?

Because Set the Charge was always a project that I’ve tried to get off the ground. It was just my brother and I. My brother is the drummer, I’m the vocalist and the guitar. I’ve written the main songs since the start. It wasn’t even a band. I couldn’t really consider it as a band until recently because we acquired our bassist and second guitar only recently and it’s the first time we are really a full unit. It has just been a studio project of mine and, back when I was just trying to figure out our whole thing, we were putting out videos on YouTube, trying to get attention that way, doing cover songs of popular songs but in our own style. And that got a little bit of attention but there’s nothing really innovative about doing cover songs of popular artists in a rock style. I mean, you see that all the time on YouTube. But it got a good amount of attention and the reason why it took so long is because of the other things going on here in the studio. Like I said, we run an internet TV broadcast network, I do a live show every Tuesday and Thursday nights, sometimes it goes on Monday nights and it’s a live video stream, it’s pretty much the studio you can see right now. It’s called Zenlive.tv it’s a live broadcasting, and sometimes that got in the way. We’ve got so many projects here in the studio in New York that certain projects don’t get worked on. It’s hard to develop them all at the same time. So when Ten Second Songs blew up, that’s when I thought: “Man, we’ve got to put that band together. Look at what’s happening! You’ve got Ten Second Songs blowing up, which is essentially me. I’m the voice of Ten Second Songs.” So while building the Ten Second Songs fan base I thought it was time to put that band on the road. That’s why it took so long. We needed something to kick us in the ass.

Do you plan to tour for this first EP? Whether it’s in the US only or maybe outside the US?

I’d love to tour, but I don’t have any answers because I don’t know what’s going to happen after we release it, I don’t know what’s in the chords for us. I know that there are things that we are planning to do with the band as far as content releasing on Youtube. There are a lot of people anticipating a rap God cover, like Eminem. I did this whole poll on tensecondsongs.com like: “Hey you want my band to cover a rap God?” And there was 8,000 people who said yes. So I got that, and there’s a lot of shit going on. The way I see it is that these things will happen on due time and I promise you that we’re not going to play only in the US. I can totally see us making the rounds.

Do you already have some ideas for the next song that you will cover with Ten Second Songs?

There are some things that I have in mind, there are a lot of stuff that I’ve got planned but I never give any update away because I just love the element of surprise. I like saying: “Hey I’m working on something” And then two weeks later: “Hey guess what, tomorrow it’s coming!” I can tell that there’s a lot of exciting stuff in the works.

Do you have some sort of fan request system for these covers?

Well, I do have one right now on my website, tensecondsongs.com, there are polls where you get to vote for your favorite artist among the styles that I use. Because sometimes what I do, and I’ve done this in the past, is that I take the fans’ favorite video, whatever song they like the best, and I take the fans’ favorite artist, whatever artist they like the best, and I do a one style interpretation of that one artist and that one song. And I did that with “Dark Horse”. I did “Dark Horse” in the style of Type O Negative and I also did “Dark Horse” in the style of System Of A Down because System was a fans’ favorite artist. Actually it wasn’t even included in the “Dark Horse” 20 Styles cover, but because it was “Dark Horse” as the favorite video and System as the favorite artist, they ended up in a one style interpretation of the video. That’s what I’ve done in the past, going forward using request of songs but I’ve got some cool stuff that I’ll put out, as far as interaction with the fans on my website that’ll start soon.

Interview conducted by phone 3rd, november 2014 by Philippe Sliwa.
Retranscription and traduction: Mariane Monin.

Ten Seconds Songs official YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/TenSecondSongs.



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