Behind the Title: Composer Tonalli Magana-Guzman

NAME: Tonalli Magana-Guzman (@tonallimagana)

COMPANY: Coatepec, Veracruz, Mexico’s Media Music Deli

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We write original music for motion pictures, commercials and video games.

Media Music Deli is a dream that came true two years ago after my wife and I — who had previously been writing concert music — decided to move to a beautiful rainforest with our little boy. Where better to raise a son and write music?

Just some background… before our son was born, as a side project to support our living expenses, we started brewing beer as the Penacho Brewing Co. Ten months after my wife gave birth I was selected for a workshop at IRCAM in Paris where I got my music played by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. After this trip and our little startup we were almost broke, so I decided to take a break from brewing and concert music. That’s when we made the 343-mile move from Morelia, Michoacán to Coatepec/Xalapa. The first year was really hard. The second year things started to get better… I just got my first licensing check!

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
CEO, Executive Producer and Composer

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Writing emails, looking for prospective clients and writing more emails! (LOL). Making phone calls, web design and graphic design. The first year I put in a lot of hours — I went to bed around 3:00am and only slept five hours a day. I did a lot of research and didn’t write a lot of music.

Now I am finally writing more music and my schedule looks more humane. I still have to put in a lot of hours for office stuff, but now it´s more geared toward engaging with clients and branding.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I guess people may be surprised about the fact that I do it all by myself most of the time. If you stay positive, creative and fearless for a certain period of time you will eventually nail it. Grit is the word that sums it up. Maybe one thing that would surprise people is the fact that when I am working I build up so much energy that when it’s time for lunch it’s hard for me to keep calm.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Writing and producing music is my favorite part. Opening a template for a new project session in my DAW — Logic Pro X mostly, but depending on the job I might use Ableton or Pro Tools — is one of my favorite moments. In general, I would say I really enjoy that first moment when you are presented with a problem and you fix it by being creative.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Not noticing low-value customers ahead of time, doing paperwork and not spending enough time with my son.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
When I grab my first cup of coffee and sneak into my son’s room to watch him sleep.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I really love my job, but I always wonder when I get this kind of question. I grew up in a small border town in Baja, California, and as a kid I used to hike all day. I dreamed of being an explorer.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I got started in music when I was 10 years old. I chose music as a profession when I was 17. I didn’t know back then I would be a composer/music producer. When I was eight I used to bug my mom because I wanted a cassette recorder. When I turned 19 my brother bought me a TASCAM PortaStudio 414 (a four-track cassette recorder). From that moment on I wanted to learn more about sound, so I started doing live sound and recording recitals while I was studying music.

Almost two years down the road I moved to Los Angeles to study as a recording engineer; later I studied film scoring. I logged a lot of internship hours when I was in LA. I was awarded with honors at UCLA and The Los Angeles Recording Workshop, which later become The Los Angeles Recording School.

I got to work with great engineers like Joe Chiccarelli while I worked for music producer Greg Wells. When I came out of UCLA´s film scoring program I started doing music for short films, but then I returned to Mexico to support my mom who was battling cancer.

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CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We just did a lot of work for Teleton-USA, and also provided music on the Reebok Reeboot project via McCann Mumbai, pictured above.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
It would be Nestle’s Mumbai Dabbawala film (#ShareYourGoodness), which is pictured below, out of McCann Mumbai. We finished the job with a couple of all-nighters, including the revisions, and an 11.5-hour time difference between Mexico and Mumbai. We took some calls around 4:00am, and in some cases we were lost in translation, but we managed to understand each other in the end. I was very surprised to find that the spot went viral on YouTube after just a few days.

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NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My computer, a good set of headphones and a coffee machine.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, SoundCloud and Facebook.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE FAST TURNAROUNDS IN TERMS OF DEADLINES?
Time is a key factor in this kind of work, so in most cases that is what dictates how the project gets delivered. Nonetheless, I always push to meet the client’s expectations. In general, I wish some of the projects themselves had less of a rush for delivery.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Whenever I am in a high-stress situation I remember some of my classes with Charles Bernstein where he used to talk about a “Pick a Panic” list that included terms like Starter-Panic: how do I begin this job!? Lord, I hate plunging into a tub of ice water; Job-Get-Panic: nobody out there loves me, and my agent uses phrases like “can’t get arrested”; or Job-Got-Panic: they want me! Now what do I do?!

I do de-stress when I have some free time with family. Me, my wife and my three-year-old like to cruise and grab a cup of coffee at the local deli.

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