Interview: Gillian Baci Is Making Music On His Own Terms

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Gillian Baci prefers to make music on his own terms. In his words, “when it is music for Gillian Baci, it must be what Gillian wants.” He describes his music as “philosophical pop music”. Gillian Baci, christened Gilbert Bassey is a pop artiste, filmmaker and writer. Like many artistes, Gillian Baci started as a chorister at a very young age. He officially launched his music career in 2016 with Fool’s Gold. After a long hiatus, the pop artiste returned this year with 2 singles, an EP and unreleased music galore. Gillian Baci’s latest offering, Fired up was released in September. In this slightly edited interview, which concentrates largely on his music, Gillian Baci sheds light on his music lifestyle and passions.

Where does this interview find you? Is there music playing in your head? Fill us in.

I just got back from the supermarket. It’s been a somewhat slow day. Ayra Star’s Rush has been stuck in my head for a bit. It is such a tune—the chorus is really catchy. I recall listening to the snippet before the song was released and I sensed it would be big.

What song gets you instantly out of a bad mood or one song you are loving more these days?

Unfortunately, no song has that power. If I’m in a bad mood, I’m in it. Unless, it’s a bad mood induced by just waking up. For that, my pop ‘Heaven’ playlist does the trick.

How would you describe the kind of music you make? 

Philosophical pop music or music for the thinking human.

Growing up, was music always a big part of your life? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?

Generally, my memory is shit so my earliest musical memory is me being in the children’s choir. I was probably 5 years old then. Although my mum was in the choir, I think she may have put me there as soon as I could make melodies.

When it comes to consuming music, I have always enjoyed listening to pop music for as long as I can remember. I recall buying CDs on my way home from boarding school and my siblings and I would learn the lyrics and sing along. Sometimes, we also created choreography to the music. One time, we recreated a Jennifer Lopez dance sequence from her If You Wanna Be With Me music video or live performance. I think we also made one for Usher and Celine Dion.

As an artist, what part of the creation process would you say you thrive the most?

It’s difficult to say, to be honest. Sometimes, I think I’m great with melodies, especially the pop type. However, my lyrics have always gotten good reviews. So I guess it is fair to say the songwriting process (melody and lyrics).

Tell us a bit about how Fired Up came together?

Firstly, I discovered a cool pop instrumental on YouTube and loaded it up on my digital audio workstation. I spent some time creating melodies. I chose the strongest for the different parts of the song and began to write. Once I was satisfied with the words, I recorded a rough demo and sent it out to a few of my friend-fans for some feedback. I then sent the rough demo to my producer in Argentina, Jeza to make an original beat. We went back and forth a few times before settling on the beat we have now. I recorded the song and then sent it off to my engineer in Czechia, Romuald. We also went back and forth a few times before settling on the fourth version of the mix.

One fun fact is, most of my songs follow this pattern. I like working this way as the structure is manageable and leaves a lot of room for the song to evolve. It can happen in days, weeks, or months. Another fun fact is Fired Up was recorded over a year ago. It just wasn’t chosen for the Sweet Serenity EP released in April.

Do you have plans to push the songs even more, let’s say make a video?

There is already a video now. You should definitely watch it because it’s my best performing video till date, as far as engagement goes—I’ve been called a Ukrainian Prince and Brazilian Angel in the comments (I’m half joking).

Are you currently in the studio working on more music?

I am always working on new music because my studio is in my house. All I need to do is find an instrumental I like and the process begins anew. It takes me roughly 3 hours to start and complete the songwriting process. Some songs naturally take longer than others, occasionally spilling over into days. Sometimes, I have to slow myself down because it has created a bit of a problem—I have over 40 unreleased songs. By the time I release a single or project, I’ve listened to it over a hundred times. It sounds like a lot until you realize some songs have been ready for nearly 2 years and others, 10 years. How I make it make sense is to go in phases. Right now, I’m in the flying phase which is primarily characterized by positivity and white outfits. Up next is falling and it will come with its own vibe. I would tell you the next 3-4 phases but that would take the fun out of it.

What do you look for in collaborations?

It is hard to answer this question honestly because I’m not interested in collaboration at the moment. It’s not because I am opposed to it but because the process of negotiating the collaboration (not exactly the payment or terms, just the effort of reaching out and making the connection) is so stressful to me because it runs up against a character trait that is sometimes a weakness—I like to be on my own and do things on my own. Also, because of my song making process, I end up finishing a song and putting myself in a position where to feature someone, I have to delete a verse. I’m still childish enough to not be able to choose and so I keep the status quo. But I believe this will change in the near future. However, I’m open to being featured because then, I’m not the one doing the reaching out.

What do you hope fans take away from your music?

Since I’m currently operating in phases, what fans will take will depend on the phase we’re in. For the flying phase, I hope they take away peace of mind acquired through interaction with the positive side of life—joy, strength, faith, resilience. For the falling phase, I still hope they take away peace of mind, but this time acquired through interaction with the negative side of life—pain, fear, depression, etc.

We would love to know more about your other interests.

I sort of have a lot. I’m also a writer and filmmaker. My last film project as writer, director, and producer, Ananze and the Zipman was licensed by Amazon Prime so you can watch it now if you want. It’s about a female Nigerian ‘superhero’ who wants to bring Justice to the corrupt political elite. I have filmmaking degrees from Pan Atlantic University and New York Film Academy. As a writer, I’ve written 3 novels although none has been published. The most interesting of my other interests has to be web3, also known to the general populace as crypto. I wrote a book last year on Polkadot, a blockchain that connects other blockchains. Currently, I work with RMRK, an NFT company building the most advanced NFT protocol in the world with NFTs that can own other NFTs, change based on conditions, have multiple resources, and several other cool stuff. Given how new this industry is, there are few people I can geek out about this with.

In terms of your artistry, do you think your approach this year is any different than you did last year?

That’s very easy to answer. Yes, because I wasn’t in music last year. I only returned in January from a 7-year hiatus.

 In what aspect would you say you’ve experienced the most artistic growth since your debut?

Most of the growth hasn’t been artistic but it has been on the management side, particularly marketing. I’ve learnt a lot now that I didn’t know in January and so I’m hella excited to see how much more there is to learn.

What’s most important to you when making a song?

Two things come to mind. One, that I make a song I want and not try to pander to anyone. There’s nothing I despise more than trying to make a song for a certain kind of person. It’s different if that is the job because I can do it even in my sleep. But when it is music for Gillian Baci, it must be what Gillian wants. The funny part is that Gillian ends up making songs in different genres but it must be on his own terms.

And two, it matters to me that a song has meaning. I know it is often said that people don’t listen to lyrics and all that, but I’m obsessed with meaning. I believe life is inherently meaningless and so the only way to infuse meaning to it is for the human organism to do so using the great powers of its consciousness. The loss of meaning quickly leads to a loss of the self. Is it any wonder many people are dealing with mental health issues?

Where would you say your heart lies musically?

In the land of meaning and in pop. I love pop because it is the one genre that can morph into anything. Given that I hate being or sounding one-dimensional for too long, it’s the perfect genre for me. I intend to mix it with any other genre I’m feeling.

What are you most excited about in the near future? picture what your career looks like in 5 years from now. What do you see?

I see all the fun I’ve had with the music I’m making. To me, this is all a game — one of business, music, creativity, marketing, performing, etc. This doesn’t mean I don’t take it seriously because I do. I think life is a game. I call it the infinite game because in it there are other games—life, social, business, emotional, ambition, life and all others. I insist on seeing it as a game because it reminds me not to take any of it too seriously, for in the end, all that is won is lost—life, fame, glory, money, houses, cars. If you lose sight of this primordial fact, you will lose yourself in the chase of illusions. It’s supposed to be fun even when you’re suffering, play.

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