NTHNG Profiles: The Theorist / by Bernard Manarin

Foreword by Bernard Manarin
I always wanted the brand, NTHNG, to be about the clothes and the culture.  I personally grew up in an era that defined itself on "show and prove".  Originality, artistry, individuality and authenticity above all.  You worked for everything you got and in return hoped that it would somehow pay off dividends in the end.  In a world filled with fast fashion and trend hopping, the team here at NTHNG wish to return to those roots.  We're trying not to be bound by an aesthetic, but by what we as a team feel is quality.  We create what we like, never straying from our own personal style and interests and in turn we want to create a culture around the idea that not all who wander are lost, but are merely waiting for their opportunity to have their voices heard.  It's never about one person.  But the people who inspire you and help bring about a change.  Life is a marathon, not a race.  If we want to create change, the blocks we build with and the people we surround ourselves with will be the greatest indicator of what we're trying to accomplish as a whole.  That said, we here at NTHNG are proud to introduce to you a new segment of the blog called "Profiles".  Here we sit down with those who influence us; creatives and entrepreneurs, peers and friends, and talk to them to give you a little insight as to who they are as individuals, their drive and passion for their work and show more than anything that they too are human like the rest of the world.  

For our first of many "Profiles" to come, we introduce to you The Theorist.  This gentleman is the musician responsible for composing all the music for our video lookbooks and is an up and coming producer in his own right, travelling the world and known for his piano covers to his many YouTube subscribers.

As added content, with the collaborative efforts from our team, the guys over at Notion Blvd, and The Theorist, we also present The Theorist's musical presentation of the "Elegy" composition in its entirety from our Elegy video lookbook.  On behalf of the team here at NTHNG, thank you for your support and for following us through our journey.    


Interview by Jaz Panaguiton
Photos by Derek C. Hui

Jaz Panaguiton: When did you start playing piano and how did you begin covering songs.

The Theorist: I started playing piano when I was 5, my parents put me through lessons.  Was classically trained. Playing for 21 years now. 

At the time I had a crush on a girl and asked me to play ‘circles by mariah carey’.  that was my first ever cover. every since then I started getting more followers from there I began doing more covers from more requests.

JP: How did the name The Theorist come about.

TT: I was working in the studio with an artist at the time and at the time I was going to metal works where i was taking a course in audio production.  I brought my theory homework with me and one of the guys noticed what I was working on, he called me over by “yo theorist”. After a little while some of the other guys started calling me The Theorist so it kind of stuck from there. 

JP: When you create a cover, describe the process...

TT: The process starts with me finding a song that I like. I noticed on a lot of piano artists’ channels mostly covering popular songs like Taylor Swift/Katy Perry, pop icons in general but I’m definitely not into that type of genre.  I gravitate more towards indie.  Another thing worth mentioning was when the weekend first came out.  I was the first one to cover his songs on the piano, and thats when my youtube channel blew up. 

I would listen to the song I chose to cover about 10 times. I start having this arrangement in my head forming, then i reinterpret it in my own way of playing the song.  Then put 2 mic’s on the piano and start playing till I find which arrangement works best to record and mix.  I shoot the video soon after that.

JP: Back to your cover work, what are some covers that people may recognize from you online?

TT: The Weeknd ones definitely.  After posting my covers of his songs, that's what sparked a lot of interest in my channel.  Ever since he started in 2011, I only had 5000 subscribers and back then he had a very small following and since he’s been growing I felt like I was growing with him, figuratively speaking of course. 

JP: How has The Weeknd’s music effected you? 

TT: At the time I was really into house music, I mean, I was into RnB back then but I grew out of it.  but when The Weekend came about, I felt inspired to do RnB again.  

JP: We’ve touched on covers but another component of you being a musician is producing and composing original works. Can you talk about this step in your music career?

TT: Since I’ve had that trip to Los Angeles, I feel I've come back refreshed and taken a new side of producing original works.  Before when I was doing production work, it felt like I was just copying other artists.  Back then I did a lot of covers of The Weeknd’s music, a lot of dark and melancholy sounds and everyone thought I was this saddest kid in the world. 

Lately I've touched on sampling. I met with another artist on one of my trips who was amazing at sampling.  Especially vocal sampling and it inspired me to start sampling vocals for my own original tracks.  I feel like its important to have words that convey the message of the song clearly to the listener. 

JP: In terms of sampling since you’re getting into it, how much does it influence you and how does it affect your song production?

TT: Sometimes its not words but more so the melody and the rhythm of how the words are said that catch my attention when I make music.  The music I find is really organic now. I dont really follow trends and I find myself very selective in the indie music that I cover and inspire from. As an indie artist myself, its important to have that support system from the very beginning so I make an effort to support other indie artists either from the city or abroad. 

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JP: Has it been easier being classically trained. 

TT: It helps a lot because of theory.  In classical theres a lot of theory education that helps with chord progressions and finding out quicker how a song is being played.  I think jazz theory would've been more beneficial because of its freedom.

JP: During your trips to LA. how can you describe dealing with record labels and artists alike.

TT: You better be prepared.  Before Christmas when I went down I only brought with me my Weeknd covers and not my original songs I’ve been working on.  They liked it but they said it wouldn't get any airplay on the radio and such because of how slow it was.  So I went back to Toronto driven to impress them.  I produced some new songs with a new inspiration and when I went back to LA they loved it. 

JP: Do you find it important to have an image and a unique character that people will see?

TT: Its very important.  Everything has to be organic.  If people like my work then they either follow me or not.  I don’t ask people to go out of their way to follow me.  I rather be true to myself as opposed to fake. 

JP: Do you have a team? 

TT: I do, I don’t consider it a team solely on music but we do other creative work that makes the team... it.  Theres a photographer who is always by my side, we have a web designer and a creative copywriter as well. 

JP: Fashion and music share a similar relationship.  How do you keep your viewers and         listeners interested and wanting more?

TT: The people on my YouTube channel know my taste in music.  Some of them will suggest a particular song that they think would suit me or if they want it covered.  Some of the suggestions are actually very close to what I would have in mind for my next cover which is by coincidence. 

JP: What's the biggest highlight in your career so far? 

TT: There are so many to mention.  One has been a shoutout from Kendrick Lamar.  Also quitting my "9 to 5" and pursuing music as a full time career.  With that I was able to visit LA and that whole experience changed me.  It made me more driven to work on my music.  I was a guy who partied a lot but now I don’t really hang out as much, I keep focused.

JP: Did you have to rearrange life pretty much?

TT: Ya, quite a bit.  As bad as this my sound I didn't have time for people as much.  People needed to understand that this industry is a cut throat environment and to stay relevant, you have to be on the ball.  

JP: What can we expect from The Theorist in 2015?

TT: I’ll be releasing a lot of original work also an EP under a label that I cant really talk about but stay tuned.