Artist Spotlight: Jeff Kaminskas

The art of creating music using original sounds, state of the art technology and a person’s own creative input is easier said then done. In this day and age some music fans assume that artists have life too easy. Some of this criticism is true and applies to your typical top-40 artists who are more about pushing and promoting an industry image as opposed to creating or performing the art of music. But, these opinions do not apply to everyone. Just ask 28-year old Jeff Kaminskas, who has been through it all and dealt with so much in the music business, simply so that he can say that he did it his way, created his sound and used his originality to stay true to himself.

Kaminskas will never be known as a “knock-off artist” re-using ideas that have already been sampled from music of the past (Black Eyed Peas – The Time [Dirty Bit], Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby) as originality flows through him unlike a number of artists in today’s industry.

Born in Scarborough, and known throughout parts of the music scene as DJ JePh, Kaminskas began his progress towards a successful music career at a young age. He attended piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music, which built into a love of all musical forms. He now considers his music talents to be a “Jeff of all trades” as he has experience playing piano, guitar and the drums while possessing the ability to deejay and create music using production talents that he learned as a graduate of the Sound and Audio program from the International Academy of Design and Technology. He also has experience in post-audio work and has even been hired by companies to do score work for television themes and commercials. You can listen to some of Kaminskas’ recent work by purchasing the “Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty” videogame for iPhone and iPad, available on iTunes or at the Apple Apps store.

From working with budding hip-hop artists to producing electronic music, from performing in the underground rave scene to writing music for everyday companies, Kaminskas has been through it all. He recently decided to sit down with me to discuss his experience in the music business, why he loves it, his highs and lows and so much more.

Everyone is interested in a career for one reason or another. Writing may ease a person’s mind, working construction may make a person feel like they really earned their pay through hard work and some people just do what they do for the love of it all. Kaminskas would probably fall into that latter category. I asked him when he became interested in the music business and what made him realize he was meant to go for it as a career, “Actually interested in the music business? I’d say maybe about 10 years now, before that it was really only to deejay as a hobby, as it was just plain fun!” described Kaminskas. “About the age of 14 I attended my first underground ‘rave’ like event, and my eyes were opened to an entirely other side of music and entertainment. After seeing the energy that the deejays there pushed on the crowd was the clincher. I wanted from that moment to be a deejay, and a few years after that, started making my own music to deejay at events.”

Jeff Kaminskas. Photo courtesy of United As 1 Promotions.

Jeff Kaminskas. Photo courtesy of United As 1 Promotions.

It was a lucky break that really gave Kaminskas the confidence he needed to break into the music scene on more of a professional level. He fell into some work for a television commercial, where he created the background music and he realized that he could actually make this into a career, with a lot of hard work. Kaminskas is certainly a hard worker. When he’s not creating music he helps pay the bills at home by taking odd jobs in fields such as landscaping, kitchen work, working with moving companies and more. He realizes that the music business is tough at times, but his love and desire will never die.

The hard working scientist of music needs tools to create his masterpieces. What kind of music laboratory does Kaminskas use to diligently work on his musical creations? “In the production process, I use Cubase 5, Propellerheads Reason, as well as a variety of plugins, and add-ons to each program, and that’s my workspace. As far as instruments go, I use two keyboards, an electric guitar, a bass guitar, and any other instruments I can get my hands on for the specific project.”

His hard work, mixed with technology, allows him to create pieces which may have crossed your ears without you even knowing it. His creations may not always get the recognition that they deserve, but once you watch him masterfully craft a piece of music you know he is for real. Does Kaminskas model his techniques after anyone? Who does he admire in the music business? “I love hearing the works of other musicians, because it’s a form of expression. Music is the highest form of art in my opinion. A few artists who have influenced me over the years are Pendulum. These guys brought a whole new ball game to the drum n bass world. Everyone had to step up their game to keep up to the huge, energetic, heavy hitting sound that these guys put out. As well, some others are a few buddies from the UK, Sounds Destructive (Trolley Snatcha & Doctor P), their energetic sound tore up dance floors worldwide, and they’re now tearing the dubstep world up.” As for a favourite song, “My all-time favourite song…that’s a hard one, there’s just so many! ‘Pendulum – Another Planet.’ The riffs in this song are so catchy; you’ll still hear it played out in the clubs. Over a decade old and it’s still killing dance floors!”

Kaminskas is a bit of a music guru in ways. Many artists have wondered how he achieves what he creates in a studio and he is always willing to tutor or mentor interested musicians, if they are willing to learn. He knows that music is interesting to so many and he is willing to pass on his knowledge, but what part of music does he find most interesting? “Honestly, the part of creating music that interests me the most is seeing other people’s reaction to the music itself. There is no better feeling than seeing a club full of people go off, because of something you created.”

It was a tune by the name of “Shake” by DJ JePh featuring the rapid, lyrical flow of General Levy that made me realize the absolute potential from Kaminskas and as time goes on, his work only gets better. What projects has Kaminskas been working on lately and where can you hear them? “The most recent work I did was on the “Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty” videogame for iPhone and iPad, currently out on iTunes and the Apple App Store. I’m currently working on putting up a website to showcase some of my work, but I’m not very good with that kind of thing, so it’s taking longer than expected. My computer makes music; it’s not so good with web pages!” Kaminskas does have an active Myspace account with music so check it out.

The business of music has always gotten the reputation of being cut-throat and Kaminskas knows this all too well. Luckily (if it can be phrased that way), he was involved in the underground rave scene as a deejay and as he puts it, “That industry will prepare anyone for getting into the actual mainstream, since the underground isn’t as cut-throat.” I asked him about some of the highs and lows of playing the music scene and what his thoughts were about it all, “Everyone has their highs and lows in this industry, and it just comes with the territory. I’ve had music ripped off, and sold, with no payment or recognition. Those would definitely be the low points I can think of. But, there’s always the upside, right? I’ve worked with quite a few international and established artists, some of whom influenced my work in a huge way when I first started, case in point, General Levy. His tune ‘Incredible’ (produced by M-Beat) was the most amazing song I’d ever heard, and also one of the first to get me listening to drum n bass, and electronic music as a whole. He actually found me on Myspace, and we started to chat. And after a few months, he asked if I’d like to do some work on his album… amazing! So I did three tracks for his album ‘Spirit & Faith.’ I’d never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be working with some of these people. It can almost be a dream come true, sometimes!” After catching his breath Jeff continued. “I had the opportunity to work with a reggae MC named Top Cat a few years back. While he was in the booth recording the vocals for our tune, I had a chance to sit down with the rest of the Congo Natty crew, who were in town to do a show at the old System Soundbar. They really just had some warnings about the music industry, how it could just destroy you if you let it. Big respect to those guys, amazing artists, and amazingly helpful talks that day.”

Jeff Kaminskas. Photo courtesy of Jeff Kaminskas' Myspace page.

Jeff Kaminskas. Photo courtesy of Jeff Kaminskas' Myspace page.

With an incredible assortment of music in his grasp, Kaminskas has certainly brought his talents to live shows or gigs in the past. Which performance stands out as his all-time favourite? “My favourite gig I’ve played. I’d have to split between two events. The first was deejaying at the final night of The Docks nightclub. The event was absolutely packed, and after our set started, our room packed even more. It was a sweatbox, and tune after tune of my own that I played made the crowd go crazier. It was just too energetic. Amazing times! The second event would have to be at a WEMF (World Electronic Music Festival) event a few years back. A few people had set up a ‘renegade stage’, and got me, and a local legend, Capital J, to deejay back to back. Once again, his music influenced me greatly, so this was another artist I had a huge deal of fun deejaying with.”

Kaminskas is taking time away from live gigs and focussing more on the mainstream music industry with the hope that more gigs similar to his work on Captain American will arise. Certainly he thinks the light looks brighter down that tunnel and I could not agree with him more. His experience and dedication to music, as well as his original sound should help him down the path of music greatness. Let’s see what the future holds for this talented artist and hope for the best.

The interview was closed out with Kaminskas jokingly thanking the author of this story, “Well, I’d like to thank MC Flybry, but no one’s seen him in years. Pick up that damn mic again homie! Besides (him), I’d like to thank anyone who’s ever supported me and told me to stick with it.”

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