Dimash World Dombyra and opera vocals - premiere of Dimash's new...

Dombyra and opera vocals – premiere of Dimash’s new track ‘Smoke’. Interview with music producer Dmytro Gordon

Dimash World Dombyra and opera vocals - premiere of Dimash's new track 'Smoke'. Interview...

Dombyra and opera vocals – premiere of Dimash’s new track ‘Smoke’. Interview with music producer Dmytro Gordon

On April 26, Dimash Qudaibergen’s new track “Smoke” was released on world music platforms. The composer of the new work is Dimash himself, the author of the text was Candice Kelly in co-authorship with Dmytro Gordon.

Dimash Qudaibergen has repeatedly said that music has no borders, nationalities and distances. Dimash’s new compositions once again confirm this truth. The work “Smoke”, as well as “When I’ve got you” released a month ago, is the fruit of joint work of Kazakhstani composer Dimash Qudaibergen, author of the text Candice Kelly and music producer Dmytro Gordon from the USA.

On the day of premiere of the new track, DimashNews editorial staff talked to Dmytro Gordon about the new song and collaboration with Dimash Qudaibergen.

Dombyra and opera vocals - premiere of Dimash's new track 'Smoke'. Interview with music producer Dmytro Gordon

DN: Dmytro, For 8 years, you have worked alongside Walter Afanasieff at his company WallyWorld as the lead orchestrator and arranger, and the two of you have also been writing music for films.

What are the similarities, and what are the differences between producing music for renowned artists in the US and working with Dimash?

DG: I would say that Dimash is much more open to experiments than any other artist I have had the pleasure of working with thus far. When it is an established artist with an existing fan base, they and their label are usually very careful when it comes to trying new styles, new singing techniques, or anything that might confuse or scare off their core audience. And that makes sense, but the catch is that their repertoire becomes stagnant after a while. 

Dimash is the bravest artist that I know as of today: he respects and deeply cares about his Dears, but he is not afraid to try new things, which he proves again and again, including his latest releases. On a personal level, our collaboration has also stemmed into friendship, for which I am forever grateful. It’s much more genuine and fun to create music as friends, rather than just collaborators. Ask the Beatles.

DN: You met Dimash in 2017 and fate has brought you together again in 2023. Have you been following the creative work of the Kazakh musician over the past years? Which songs do you remember the most? Which ones best suit your perception?

DG: Of course, I was following his journey with great interest over the last 6 years! I remember his participation in World’s Best, the premieres of the music videos for «Akkuym» and «Across Endless Dimensions», his collaborations with Krutoy. His videos kept popping up in different places, and each time I was completely blown away by his insane talent. 

But what was even more impressive is the growth of Dimash as an artist, as a musician. There are three songs that hold a special place in my heart: «S.O.S.» – the first one I’ve heard, that same day Walter and I met him in 2017, «Stranger» – the most impressive in terms of his vocal abilities, and «The story of one sky» – my absolute favorite, the one that brought light onto Dimash’s talent as a composer, and revealed him as a deep thinker and a genuine human being. 

DG: How did the work on new songs begin? Using the new track «Smoke» as an example, please tell us how everything happened. From the initial idea to the final chord.

We met at Walter Afanasieff’s studio, and naturally hit it off. Dimash had some new musical ideas he wanted to try out, and they resonated with me. I guess my take on these ideas has resonated with him as well.

Dimash had already had a vocal melody for the verses; he sang it to me in real time, and I was looking for the right sounds to support it with. We have previously discussed how this track needs to be electronic, modern, and different from the beautiful crossovers that he had done before. 

We were also talking about how much of a powerful tool a vocalise can be, since anyone can hum a melody that has no words, regardless of what language one speaks. So, he made a deliberate choice to come up with a vocalise for the chorus, and created this beautiful and broad melody we hear now. 

I think it might have been a couple of days since that initial session, in which I took these ideas home and sat on the arrangement a little, coming up with other synth parts, harmonies, and the overall timbral design. 

Next time we met I played it for Dimash. He then asked me to play it again, and then again. We both got so hooked on this song! It was almost hypnotic, a real earworm. 

That day we added some more elements to the composition, and Dimash told me that he is hearing a dombra part in there, and that he would like to try it out. 

«You brought a dombra with you to LA», I asked. To which he replied: «Every true Kazakh has to have a dombra at their home». So, he brought the dombra to the studio next time, and composed the parts for it. 

We’ve invited Candice over for our next session and played the demo for her. Candice started to work on the lyrics, but Dimash had to go back to Kazakhstan, so further work on the song continued from across the continents. After the lyrics were approved, Dimash recorded his vocals and sent them over to me, so I could finish up the production and send it out for mixing and mastering, which happened in London.

Dombyra and opera vocals - premiere of Dimash's new track 'Smoke'. Interview with music producer Dmytro Gordon

DN: «Smoke» and When I’ve got you» are two compositions in different styles, with new «tasty» details from Dimash as a composer and as a performer. Fans of the artist caught and savored every musical phrase. What is similar, and what is different for you in these songs and in working on them?

DG: In terms of both the music and the working process ¬– they are completely different. The only common thing is that it’s still Dimash, and the fact that they were created by the same team of musicians.

«When I’ve got you»  is more traditional, both as a composition and in terms of production. It’s a contemporary song, but it pays homage to the popular genres of the 20th century: blues, jazz, r&b, rock. It is also very romantic in nature, with plenty of melismas in the vocal melody, harmonic tensions, thick textures, and an overall maximalist production. 

Smoke, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of that. It’s fully modern, even experimental in certain aspects. Yes, it has an operatic vocalise in the choruses, but the context in which we hear it makes it impossible to put it in a genre box. It’s also minimalistic and open when it comes to the vocal melodies, the harmonic content, and the instrumental textures (though it is not simplistic, and Dimash’s unique vocal abilities still shine through). Every musical decision within Smoke is super precise: take one thing away, and the song falls apart. Add one more element – and it becomes oversaturated. That’s how I would describe it.

DN: The author of the lyrics for «Smoke» and «When I’ve got you» is Candice Kelly, with whom you have been working together for some time. You were connected by the project «Only Saints». How many projects have you worked on together? How was the joint work Dimash’s songs coming along? Does music production require «tweaking» the lyrics or vice versa? What was the framework?

DG: I’ve known Candice since 2021. We have met through a common friend and collaborator Anthony Pepi, and have created «Only Saints» as cinematic pop writers’ team, with primary focus on music for visual media. I’d say we have created over 25 songs together so far. To be quite honest, Candice is one of the best lyricists I know, so naturally I suggested her to Dimash as a potential candidate for the new songs. 

They hit it off quite well from the very first meeting, and after Candice created the initial drafts for «When I’ve got you»  – both Dimash and I got fully confident that she was the right fit. Aside from being an incredibly talented author, she is also very flexible, fast, and easy to work with. There are situations when a lyricist is making the best decision for what they are trying to convey in a song with words, but as a result the musical consistency can suffer: too many words make a melody less singable, and not enough syllables might make it less exciting and less articulate. 

Candice was kind enough to be open to my input as someone who was overseeing all the musical elements of the song and how well they are co-existing, so I got to change several words and phrases to make sure that the melody created by Dimash lives up to its highest potential, and that the song is as ear-friendly to the listener as it can be.

Dombyra and opera vocals - premiere of Dimash's new track 'Smoke'. Interview with music producer Dmytro Gordon

DN: Some years ago at a press-conference Dimash was asked what the new song will be called, to which he answered – «Version number 578». How many conditional versions of «Smoke» and «When I’ve got you» were there in the creation process? Or is it such an endless and pleasant process that you don’t want to interrupt?

DG: This is funny! So relatable though… It’s impossible to accurately count the number of versions, as music is a breathing organism that keeps evolving while you’re working on it. However, I can tell you the number of exported demo versions for each one. The difference between each versuon is usually minimal, but it is gradual. 

There were 10 exports of «When I’ve got you», plus 4 versions of the mix. And then there were 14 exports of Smoke, plus 10 versions of the mix. 

Interestingly enough, «Smoke» took me personally more than twice as long to produce than «When I’ve got you». It has much fewer instruments than «When I’ve got you», but because of how front and center everything is, every production choice becomes twice as critical, requiring more concentration, precision and effort. Also, electronic instruments usually take longer to commit to, and I spent extra time adjusting each sound to make it unique for the track.

DN: There’s no doubt that your joint collaboration with Candice and Dimash has brought great results – fans of the artist in different countries of the world have perfectly accepted the new compositions. Are there any plans for more new works in such a talented company?

DG: Thank you for the kind words! It is such a pleasure and an incredible privilege to work with Dimash, who I truly consider to be one of the best musicians of the humankind. 

And to then receive all the love and gratitude of his fan base feels just heavenly. I am so grateful to everyone who supported these new releases, and who took the risk with us to open their hearts and ears to the new, unfamiliar sides of Dimash. As for the new works – I don’t want to spoil any surprises just yet. But to quote a classic: «Soon!»

COMPOSER: Dimash Qudaibergen
LYRICISTS: Candice Kelly, Dmytro Gordon
PRODUCERS: Dimash Qudaibergen, Dmytro Gordon
DOMBRA: Dimash Qudaibergen
MIXER: Mike Horner
MASTERED BY: Dick Beetham
PUBLISHER: DimashAli Creative Center LLP

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