Crying baby keeping you awake at night? Try a children’s lullaby version of your favorite artist by Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star. The lullaby cover of The Black Keys marks the 100th album release for Roma Music Group’s specialty titles.
Twilight fans will be eager to know that there is an album for each of the movies. Old school horror fans may be more interested in the Rocky Horror Picture Show album. Soundtracks for Glee and Grease are covered, and there is a special album for fans of sci-fi.
Whether you’re a fan of Duran Duran, Depeche Mode or The Smiths from the 80’s, or are more of a fan of Zac Brown Band, Jason Aldean or Taylor Smith, there’s a cover for you. Jam bands, such as Phish, Wilco, Dave Matthews and Widespread Panic are featured, but there are also covers of more alternative bands like Linkin Park, Nirvana, Fall Out Boy, The Killers, Sublime, The White Stripes and Radiohead. Cozy up with a lullaby version of Pink, Abba, Lady Gaga, David Bowie, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters.
There are even covers of metal bands. One might be surprised to think that songs by the likes of Slayer, Metallica, Pantera and Avenged Sevenfold would lull their little ones to sleep, but the slowed down versions are relaxing enough for meditation. Shake up yoga class by bringing Incubus or Prince for shavasana.
With 100 albums released and tons more on the horizon, I caught up with Paul Modiano to discuss the concept behind Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star. He explained why it is easier to do a cover of Snoop Dogg than to cover Lil Wayne. From his favorite places in the world to his favorite flavor of yogurt, I picked Paul’s brain to get some insight into the lullaby music scene.
Author Marisa Williams: What do you consider to be your hometown, and is that where you live now?
Paul Modiano: I live in a part of Los Angeles that is called The South Bay which is located just south of LAX. I call Redondo Beach, CA, home.
Marisa: How did you get started in music? Did you come from a musical family? What were your biggest musical influences?
Paul: I grew up in a neighborhood that was filled with really great musicians. I also had two brothers, eight and ten years older than me, that had great taste in music. These two things prompted me to get involved in music at a very early age. My biggest influences are David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, and Lou Reed. But, before we go any further, I think it’s important to be clear that I am not the musician who creates the music of Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star. I have producers, some graduates of MIT & Berkeley colleges, who play all of the instruments you hear on our albums.
Marisa: What instruments do you play, and how old were you when you learned to play them?
Paul: I play guitar and can trigger a variety of sounds via my midi controlled, Logic operated, recording software. I was 13 when I took my first guitar lesson, but after a dozen or so classes I stopped. Since then I’ve relied on my ears to guide me up and down the neck and across the keys.
Marisa: How do you go about creating music? What comes first for
you: drums, guitars, vocals or something else? Has the creative process changed for you over the years at all?
Paul: Our sound, like most recordings, is built from the rhythms up. Most of what you hear are midi instrument triggered by keyboards. That said, there are no guitars or vocals. Our recipe for our sound has been constant from the beginning.
Marisa: What was the inspiration for creating children’s versions of songs, and how did you get started in that particular genre?
Paul: I had heard several different companies doing these over the years. I thought it was cute, and it had a certain novelty aspect to it, but for a high fidelity music fan like myself, I thought I could offer something with a little more substance. Let’s face it, while our music is very soothing to a child, this is really for the parents.
That’s why we get so many notes that fans use our music for yoga and general relaxation, in addition to soothing their children. Also, I felt most of these lines were overpriced which is why my TTLRS is priced at $7.99 on iTunes and even less at Amazon.com.
Marisa: Do you have a set list of musicians that are used, or does it depend on the project?
Paul: As I mentioned we use a few musicians that record each album by themselves. They’ve graduated from top music schools, understand musical theory, read and write music, and play a variety of instruments. Additionally, some have a resume of film and TV scores they’ve written.
Marisa: Does it seem unreal to be hitting the 100 mark, and did you see yourself reaching this point when you first started the creative process?
Paul: Our goal from the very beginning was to release a large body of music quickly. With 100 titles in our catalog, there are now multiple titles for any genre of music you may be a fan. 100 titles is just the beginning, we are currently recording one album a week.
Marisa: What’s the coolest thing about your latest project?
Paul: The coolest thing about the Black Keys project is that they are a band that built their sound around a lost genre of American music that really deserves the attention it is getting. Very few people know about the roots of this genre, and it is very cool that kids are discovering acts like Richard Berry, The Sonics, and a whole host of sixties Garage Rock acts. Even cooler is that their popularity is so large that it makes sense for me to release an album of lullaby versions of their music.
Marisa: How do you decide which albums or artists to cover?
Paul: A few factors are involved. One, it’s important that the act translates well to the process. Equally important is that their fans will be excited to hear it. Our goal is to create a catalog that includes something for everyone. With the addition of our Miles Davis/Kind of Blue lullaby in February of 2013, I think we’re doing a pretty good job.
Marisa: Do you have any rap covers, or do you foresee covering an artist like Lil Wayne?
Paul: We did cover “Lose Yourself” by Enimem on our Lullaby Pop HitZzz 2 compilation. However, rap is difficult to do, because it is hard to recreate the vocal or rap part of the song. This goes back to us doing these in a faithful musical way. If we were to do a rap record, we would probably avoid Lil Wayne, and focus on West Coast stuff that has its roots in soulful funk. This genre would be easier to turn into a lullaby than some of the more wordy stuff. Doing Snoop’s Gin and Juice would be a lot easier than doing Lil Wayne’s No Worries.
Marisa: What is the hardest thing, or the most intense part, about the creative process for you?
Paul: Trying to determine how a band’s fan base will respond best to a title.
So far, we’ve received nothing but positive feedback.
Marisa: Best or worst music moment?
Paul: Best would be seeing David Bowie in 1974 at the Universal Amphitheater. Worst would be a New Years Eve concert at Long beach Arena with Styx and Kansas in 1978.
Marisa: What’s your favorite way to travel and why?
Paul: I like taking trains. Being from Los Angeles, you rarely find yourself on any type of train. I’ve found that traveling abroad seems most cinematic when on a train. I took a train from Stockholm to Leningrad once, and it was surreal to say the least.
Marisa: What’s your favorite place to travel to, and is there anywhere you have not been to that you would like to go to?
Paul: I really enjoyed Russia, with Northern England coming in a close 2nd. I found Preston, Wigan, and Liverpool to be fascinating. I’m sure the folks in London think less of those places, but I found the country life in the north very interesting. It’s like traveling back in time.
I would love to go to Tokyo during the Cherry Blossom Festival. I grew up in a part of Los Angeles that is predominantly Japanese, so not only is this a culture that I’m familiar with, it is also a culture I admire.
Marisa: What’s your biggest musical fantasy?
Paul: I would love to have access to a large orchestra and make symphonic pop like Scott Walker or the Tindersticks. I would also like to score a foreign film.
Marisa: If you were an unicorn, and you could be any color but white, what color would you be and why? Would you have any special powers?
Paul: Turquoise blue is a color that always appealed to me. I would be yellow. Combined, these two colors for be my way of showing love to my brother’s family, who have lived in Sweden for 25+ years. My special power would be to erase pain in people’s lives.
Marisa: If you were yogurt, would you be mixed fruit, fruit on the bottom, what flavor and why?
Paul: Fruit on the bottom, because I like to save the best for last. It would be peach flavored, because that’s my favorite flavor.
Marisa: Describe yourself as either a dog, a cat or a cartoon.
Paul: I’d have to be dog, since I spend so much time with my two dogs.
Marisa: Do you collect anything?
Paul: Vinyl records and guitars.
Marisa: Do you have any hidden talents or special skills?
Paul: I’m an incredibly good guesser. For instance, as you read this, you are in a hurry, because it’s close to dinnertime.
Marisa: What’s the most important thing to remember?
Paul: Your mother’s birthday.
Marisa: What’s your best aha! Moment?
Paul: When you witness a real random act of kindness and realize that is what life is all about.
Marisa: If you were not doing music, what would you be doing?
Marisa: What are three things you value the most?
Paul: Besides the obviously important things like health, family, and wife, I would say a fine timepiece, a clean car, and a mom and pop restaurant that serves some sort of ethnic food at a place like you see on Diner, Drive-in’s and Dives.
Marisa: Any advice for musicians starting out?
Paul: Don’t expect to make any money and spend more money on cool clothes than musical gear. Oh! Trust everyone, but cut the deck.
Marisa: Where can people find your music?
Paul: We are on every digital platform in the world. We are available as paid downloads, streaming services and subscriptions services. We are also available as physical CD’s at Amazon only. They have a very cool service where they keep our artwork and audio files on their hard drives and only press CD’s when someone orders one. We do our best to think green.
Marisa: Closing thoughts and additional comments?
Paul: I would ask that anyone interested in music for their children consider our line. We are confident that sharing music that you love with your child is a very rewarding experience. Additionally, I get a lot of email from parents who enjoy the music to help them sleep or for doing yoga too. I think our $7.99 price lets everyone know that we can respect that times are tough and that we are very much aware that affordable products are important in these times. Lastly, we make annual contributions to charities that are helping children and women who are abused. Each year, as our business grows, our contributions to these charities grow as well. I am very proud to say that I think our Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star line is affordable, high in quality, sensitive to the environment, an generous to charities that could use a little more attention.
For more information on Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star, visit www.ttlrs.com, and for more information on The Crown Jewel Club, which helps to keep girls out of gangs, visit www.crownjewelclub.org.
Marisa Williams is the author of 100 books. She earned her Master’s in Writing at the Johns Hopkins University. For more on Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz and www.wix.com/thorisaz/photography.