Farrokh Shroff is Making Pop Music Smarter
Farrokh Shroff, former guitarist for pop/funk outfit Groove Gully, has more recently brought his talents stateside, to Red Gate Recorders out in Los Angeles, where he’s worked with innovative artists across a whole bunch of genres, as well as stitching together some records of his own, including a release set for later on in September.
His mission? To bring some of his favorite musical styles back into the mainstream. His futuristic blend of jazz, funk, and rock, is making waves and opening minds.
Farrokh had a chat with us to give an inside look at the upcoming album, and we also got around to talking about his feelings on L.A. and some of his favorite gear that helps him make arguably the grooviest tunes on the scene today.
How would you summarize your musical style in just a few sentences?
My musical efforts are divided into two genres, the first being pop-dance, and the second being a fusion of funk, rock, and jazz. My new album reflects these two genres as two sides of a record or cassette tape. Side A is pop music, catchy hooks, big drum sounds, and fun melodies. Side B is all about freedom of expression. There were no rules when writing these songs. The resulting sound was a fusion between rock and jazz.
What were your first impressions of the L.A. music scene when you moved here?
Initially, I was shocked at the amount of talented musicians and performance venues. I found myself working for Jammcard’s JammJam event within the first month of my stay in LA, which was incredible and, at the same time, incredibly intimidating. What I love about LA is that you have specific nights and venues for specific genres. For example, Monday is jazz night, Tuesday is emo night, Wednesday is underground electronic, etc.
Has that impression changed over time?
Getting to shake hands with some of my personal heros has made them seem more like human beings, albeit very talented human beings. And this made me realize that reaching their level of mastery is actually attainable, not just a dream. Over time I also realized that even though the music community is large, thanks to social media networking we are all able to be a part of a much larger conversation.
Do you have any specific goals in mind when you sit down to work on a new project?
If I am working on my own personal projects I prefer to let the music guide me. However, if I am commissioned to produce something like a pop-dance song, I find it best to lay out specific goals or to work using a reference track as a guide. It is a common practice in the music industry to choose an existing song as a road map to create your own piece of music.
Do you have any personal opinions about the increased reliance of the music industry on digital audio workstations?
I truly believe that it doesn’t matter where the sound comes from as long as it sounds pleasing to your target audience. Digital Audio Workstations, DAWs, have taken over as the primary recording tool, and it’s easy to see why. Anyone who has ever worked with tape knows that there is no undo button, and when working on a big project, that can mean some very expensive mistakes. I am a big fan of electronic producers who work solely ‘inside the box,’ on their computer. I also love the sound of rock bands recording straight to tape. However, my music is always a combination of programming and analog recording and processing. The reason? DAWs make editing and manipulating audio tracks incredibly easy while maintaining audio quality.
What are some changes you would like to see in the music industry as a whole?
The music industry is churning out so much material that yesterday’s biggest hits are quickly forgotten. I don’t know what exactly is missing from new releases, but little to none of them have stood the test of time. As a musician, there is no end to the learning process, and so I gravitate towards more complex styles of music like jazz, classical, or funk fusion. There was once a time when jazz was considered pop music. People would dance to swing bands that were playing some outrageous chords and solos. That complexity has been extracted from our pop music today. I guess what I hope for our future is that the general population expands their musical palette to include other genres. There are incredibly talented musicians out there who have dedicated their lives to music but who barely make a living off it because their music isn’t considered mainstream. There are Grammy winners who have to work day jobs!
Can you tell us about some of your favorite guitars? Do you tend to stay loyal to a particular make when it comes to guitars, or to amps and effects pedals?
My favorite guitar is a Fender Stratocaster that I have been playing for the past seven years. In terms of pedals, my go-to’s are the Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer, Pro Co Rat distortion, and the Boss Delay DD3 into a Marshall or Fender tube amp. That rig is perfect for pop, funk, blues, and jazz! Having said that, guitars are a tool to create sound just like an amp or a pedal and I am always looking to use the right tool for a specific sound. For example, I am a big fan of ESP and Ibanez guitars through a Mesa Boogie amp for metal music. It all depends on what sound you’re going for and what gear you have access to.
Can you tell us about some of the albums and artists that had a huge impact on your work?
As a child I was first exposed to rock music through Limp Bizkit & Linkin Park. I quickly moved onto bands like Alter Bridge, and System of a Down. At that point I was obsessed with the guitar and it’s amazing, versatile capabilities. By the time I started writing music I was heavily influenced by Pink Floyd. Since then, my tastes have changed considerably. My biggest influences nowadays include Chick Corea, Hiromi, Guthrie Govan, and Snarky puppy. All of them are variations of jazz-fusion with elements of blues, funk, and rock.
Have you enjoyed your experiences with Red Gate Recorders?
Red Gate Recorders was like a shot of adrenalin! Within my first month there I was recording with artists like ‘Montana Tucker’ and working live sound for Jammcard’s ‘JammJam’ event. The sudden increase in responsibilities meant removing any doubts and hesitations I may have had. There was just no time to think about it. I was thrown right into the deep end, and I’m grateful for that. Most of my upcoming album was recorded at Red Gate Recorders in their state-of-the-art recording facility, which was one of the most rewarding projects I have ever been a part of.
by Giorgio Chang