Get in the Christmas mood with James Mustafa

Christmas time is here, but if you’re not feeling the vibe, don’t despair. James Mustafa is here for you, acting as the true spirit of Christmas. In fact, there’s a whole band of James Mustafas playing no less than 19 instruments – and supported by Kieran Rafferty on drums and Nick Kyritsis on guitar, because James Mustafa can play piano, trumpet, trombone, sousaphone, a whole range of reeds and bass, but no guitar, apparently.

Anyway, without further ado, watch this video now, it will make you happy.

Why did you want to do such a video?

In the past, I’ve had the occasional commission where the employers have wanted to hear my arrangement (or parts of it) before hitting the studio or rehearsal. I’ve always complied and used MIDI in order to give them a demo, but as all of us know, it’s not even close to being the same as real musicians. After I had received yet another horn section arranging job, I decided to start investigating recording gear, knowing that if I organise myself properly, I would be able to record rough demos at home. My good friend Niko Schauble (of Pughouse Studios) recommended the various gear and soon I was off! One thing led to another and before I knew it, I had overdubbed an entire big band track, and I guess, here we are!

What was the process like?

The process was incredibly rewarding but equally challenging. I was divided into four parts, arranging the music, recording the music, videoing the footage and finally, bringing it all together into a single film. I began the recording and arranging job simultaneously, something I’ve never really done before. I just started recording whatever I thought sounded good, adding whatever instrument I wanted along the way. Eventually, I realised this was going to be best suited to a big band (with a few woodwind doubles) and began notating arrangement and the recording alongside it. The biggest challenge through all of this was learning how to operate Logic Pro and use all the recording gear, something I was completely new to.
The third and fourth parts were particularly tricky. I was completely new to video software, editing, and filming, so I had to learn a lot in a short period of time. Thankfully, YouTube is everyone’s best friend and encouraged me to purchase Adobe Premiere Pro as well as how to use it. The remaining time was spent constantly filming and replaying all the instruments and parts. Overall, I think this whole process was around 50 hours.

You’re playing all the instruments, except for the guitar and drums; why did you pick Kieran Rafferty and Nick Kyritsis for these parts?
Kieran Rafferty has been one of my closest buddies for years now. Not only is he a kickass and versatile musician, but he’s also one of the groomsmen at my wedding, so easy choice there! Nick is a superb guitarist who I’ve had the pleasure of making music with since our time at Monash University together. Ultimately, I wanted players that understood how I made music, were great large ensemble players/readers and would embrace the unusual task of recording to a pre-recorded big band.

What is your idea of Merry Little Christmas?
That’s the hardest question out of the lot! I guess to me it involves good people, friends, family all coming together to be together, usually over some amazing food, some drinks, and prezzie or two!


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