Featured Artist Interview: Tina Guo
Incredibly talented Tina Guo packs a hard punch of talent, musical poetry, organic sex appeal, and the allure of a unique aesthetic. She’s scored several popular video games, major motion pictures, national television commercials and performed in an array of songs your subconscious surely knows better than you do. The musical prodigy took time for us to get to know her in the midst of, being newly-weds with her business partner, staying busy in the studio, and filming a new music video. Here she gives us insight on her humble origins, the amazing products of her accomplishments, along with a peek into what we can expect in the future.
Valencia: Tell us about your early musical influences. Any genres or band you feel informed your eclectic fusion of style?
Tina Guo: The very first albums I sneaked into the house as a child were Guns n Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, Antichrist Superstar by Marilyn Manson and a CD by Daft Punk that didn’t work after the first 2 tracks- I say sneaked because I wasn’t supposed to be listening to anything but classical music! My parents were very strict- they’re both classical musicians, music teachers, and they’re also Asian… so you can imagine I’m sure how serious this classical-music-only thing was.
V: You have an undergraduate’s degree in Metaphysics. What made you decide to go into this field of study and how has it impacted your career and who you are today?
TG: I’ve always been interested in seeking a broader understanding of our reality… while I was on tour with the Cirque du Soleil in the Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL Tour for the past 2 years from June 2011-2013, there was a lot of down time during travel and before/after shows, so it was the perfect opportunity to really go in depth with studying the world’s religions and spiritual history, as well as researching and obsessing over experiments in the area of quantum mechanics- where spirituality meets science and consciousness. As far as impacting my career, I tend to think of everything as one, everything interconnected- so everything impacts everything- degrees, relationships, the weather, etc. “Career,” in the business sense, and music/art can oftentimes seem like complete opposites. True, music/art is my expression and purpose of my existence, while my career is the construct which has been built around it to help bring my music to audiences… but a career in music is also very much a business, and I would say I’m as much a businesswoman as I am an artist. I also got a degree in investing and studied some other subjects while on the road in addition to Metaphysics… I try to be as varied and well rounded as possible- I guess it reflects in my musical expression as well- my favorite genres to play being classical and industrial metal, and the fusion of the two. I always thought of myself as a pretty open minded person but studying Metaphysics has also really reminded me to be even more so, as anything is possible, even things that seem to be completely contradictory. The very nature of our universe is a duality and a mystery, and anything is possible in its tapestry of complexities.
V: Your work on games such as Journey, Diablo III and Call of Duty: Black Ops II is exceptional and adds a unique, classic and somewhat ethereal flair to certain aspects of these games. Tell us about how it was to record these scores, considering the opposing nature of Journey vs. Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
TG: What I love most about what I do is the collaboration and sharing of creative energy- I love to work with different artists, composers, musicians- and try to learn and integrate a little bit of something from everyone I encounter. I love to add and infuse to a growing musical “child” with my instrument and hearing the end result. When I actually play music, I don’t “think” as much as “feel”… everything is an emotion channeled that is then translated into music. Journey was a zen, peaceful, ethereal soul-oriented journey through a mystical land and the scenes I recorded for Call of Duty were visceral, brutal, and very body-oriented. It was amazing to work with Austin Wintory for the score of Journey and lots of adrenaline pumping fun to work with Jack Wall for Call of Duty! I tend to be a very dramatic person (bless my husband for being able to put up with me!) and feel every emotion to the extreme- thankfully, that helps me translate and play different genres/feelings of music pretty easily as everything comes out naturally. If I’ve felt the emotion, I can channel it and communicate it through music. IV: What was it like branching out to recording scores in the gaming industry? How does it differ from performing scores for major motion pictures? TG: Honestly, scoring a video game is much like scoring a movie, although there are extended sections for game play, battle scenes, etc., maybe more opportunity for music to be a focal point as opposed to underscore. However, I still find it the same- just as it’s the same for me if I’m performing a classical concert, a metal show, or recording on an album with a rock band or a rapper- in the end, all music is music. IV: Have you had the pleasure of playing any games that you’ve recorded scores for? And if so—what was it like hearing your music while playing them? TG: Eeeeppp actually no, although I do have two original songs of mine, FORBIDDEN CITY and QUEEN BEE that are available to download for Rockband that I’ve been curious to try… I doubt I would be even able to pass the beginner level… I’ve seen videos on youtube of people playing the songs though and it’s really fun to be able to see that!
V: “Queen Bee” has been an incredible success for you, gaining renowned popularity worldwide. What was it like filming the metal music video upon the initial release of “Queen Bee”?
TG: Thank you! The video actually came about because I was tired of people not taking me seriously when I told them that I played “metal on the cello.” Usually I was met with looks varying between confusion and pity, haha! I had a vision of the sound and the look, and was lucky enough to work with an amazing director and production team from KNR productions that was able to capture everything and bring it to life on film… in the middle breakdown scene, I wanted to have 100 male extras covered in gold body paint like myself, a la Matrix style, crawling over each other to symbolize the worker bees crawling around the Queen in the hive. I quickly realized it was a bit over my budget (I had already emptied my savings to fund the video!) but I think the general idea was captured nevertheless It was an amazing day and I really loved filming the video after so many months of production and planning!
IV: Tell us about the Cambiare Guo cello and the journey towards its creation.
TG: The Cambiare GUO Electric Cello is my custom line of Electric Cellos made by Cambiare. They’re a boutique American company based in New Jersey, and approached me to endorse their original model. A year later after many meetings, measuring and trial playing sessions, and concept instruments being shipped back and forth across the country, we had the cello finished. It comes in red, white, blue, silver, purple, or black and with your choice of 3 “metal” style wing designs (the wings are interchangeable.) You can see more about the cello here.
V: Do you feel that being a woman, at times particularly a woman of Chinese decent has contributed to, or at any point hindered your successes?
TG: Being a young woman with a certain image can both help and hinder, but I’ve found that the look does help sell a product, and I’ve been lucky to have my physical appearance in addition to my 8-hours a day of practicing from the age of 7 to help contribute towards my “product” or brand.
V: Congratulations on your new marriage! I’d love to hear more about your music production company MG Morabito-Guo Music. How did the concept come about?
TG: Thank you! I met Ray in Italy while I was on tour and he contacted me to hire me to play on an album of Trailer Music that he was writing- one thing led to another, and our first coffee meeting to discuss music turned into a dinner date… and I texted my mother that night to tell her I had met my husband . We started a music production company together because we had been naturally writing music and songs for each other as love notes, creating parts and taking turns adding to them, and found that we have an amazing musical chemistry in addition to the other chemistries that can be found between people in love. Naturally, we decided to continue writing. For our Wedding, Ray wrote some pretty epic cinematic-style music for the ceremony, and I provided the music for the prelude. Those scores will be released as “The Diamond Wedding Collection” in album format soon. Our debut Trailer Music album “Event Horizon” was released this fall.
V: What are some upcoming projects that you’re excited about that you’d like to share with us? TG: I keep my website www.tinaguo.com updated with upcoming concerts and projects, as well as my official facebook page www.facebook.com/tinaguomusic . There are some upcoming TV and Video Game scores in the cue, as well as the release of a custom sample library and upcoming albums for both myself and with MG Music. Thank you!
See my original interview with Tina at SugarGamers.com