Masaki Araya, the Midwestern-born and bred Asian-American artist, loves to wear many hats when it comes to professionally creative works. The EMMY® Award-nominee has solely and collaboratively involved behind the scenes in various media including but not limited to: Music, TV, film, theatre, live sound, radio, audio documentary, podcast, and an array of written and artistic publications. He continues building a creative legacy people could look back on.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
The genres I write are literally everywhere. I love to get my hands on any genre I could no matter how short or long the music is. Aside from the five singles released under Masaki Araya, I also have a wide range of genres composed for a Chicago music library company, Whoz The Boss.
Who are your main musical influences?
Like everyone else, I started out listening to musical artists and/ or bands. My mom owned Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Doris Day, but even owned some of her country’s music in a form of Enka. For the most part, it was mainly from my older brother’s LPs, 45s, cassette tapes, and CD collection. The music ranged from The Beatles, David Bowie, Prince, Blondie, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Luther Vandross, ABBA, U2, Wilson Phillips, New Order, Duran Duran, Billy Joel, etc. and an assortment of J-Pop artists as well. Whatever he didn’t have, my twin brother filled in the missing areas which were mostly Motown, Stax/ Volt, Atlantic, and other soul artists from other labels.
By listening to some of everything they had and others I discovered on TV and radio, I started to form my own collection of music. While there are artists that I love from the start like Luther and The B-52’s, most involved were songwriter and/ or producer-driven rather than artist-driven collections. I had everyone from the music of Quincy Jones, David Foster, Diane Warren, Babyface, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Burt Bacharach, Stevie Wonder, Rod Temperton, Jerry Goldsmith, Pharrell Williams, and other music creators.
While these creators were instrumental in the musical journey, it was the teachings of my high school choir teacher, John Gans, and college music theory, history, and piano professor, Isabelle Bélance-King that opened my eyes to the world of music. I will admit as a student back then, it was a lot of information to take in, but it was well worth it.
Are you creative in other disciplines?
Yes. I can’t speak for anyone else, but like the genres of music I write, staying in one lane is absolutely boring. This is why we see musical acts venturing into different opportunities, including acting, fashion, and other careers outside of music.
In the past decade, I was involved in a film, a television series, theatre, live classical recordings, audio documentary, and have several written and artistic works in various publications. Thanks to Andrew Twiss, I even have an Emmy nomination under my belt!
Last year, I worked on three episodes of Dean Productions Theatre Company’s first season theatre podcast, Premiere The Play (Per, Touch The Moon, and In Lieu). Rebecca Lynne, the Artistic Director, brought in some talents, including Carl Weintraub (Beverly Hills Cop, Rescuer’s Down Under, Air Force One), Skip Pipo (the senator in Megan Thee Stallion’s “Thot S — t”), among other various talented crew and cast.
Would you have any advice for would-be artists or songwriters wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Know the business as equally as the creative side of music. Digital distribution, for example, doing everything for you, in theory, may sound very good for you because you don’t have to worry about or lift a finger on any of the endless amounts of paperwork.
It’s going to work against you in the long run because you don’t know what it is that they’re doing. When you get signed to a label or music publishing, you won’t know how to do that different paperwork. Imagine if you end up running your own label and/ or music publishing. Artists and songwriters failing to know the business side of music are watching themselves burn alive from an out-of-body point of view.
Many beginners believe that it’s okay to put out half-decent worked music but what they fail to realize is that your first impression may be your last. You’re not taking your artistry seriously if you don’t take your craft of creation seriously from beginning to the end of the process.
If the audio and creative quality of your music can’t compete with other musicians, regardless if they are established or not, that are putting out high-quality art, then all you’re doing is giving your space away to someone else that is supposed to be yours.
We’ve been there and done it. Heed our advice. There is no need to repeat history by following the foolish novice footsteps of artists when all you do is do better than we have. Today’s generation has a bevy of information with a touch of their fingertips.
With the vast amount of free software these days at your disposal, there is simply no excuse. You do not need a state-of-the-art facility, hardware, and software to create a body of work. If you could come up with great stuff with what you have, then coming up with stuff when you upgrade to bigger things would be no different.
What’s next for you?
Some sound work in a form of a short film for Peter Johnson’s Detective Media, as well as a couple of episodes of season 2 of Premiere The Play. There are some other music and audio projects in the works that haven’t been lifted off the ground yet that I hope will come to fruition in the future. We’ll see.
Do you sing in the shower? What songs?
Songs I know by heart because you have to give a performance for people who happened to hear you from their vents! Sometimes it depends on the mood or if there’s an artist or band I’ve been listening to currently. Luther Vandross, Vanessa Williams, Earth Wind & Fire, Babyface, Nat King Cole, The Commodores, The Temptations, Chicago, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, just to name a few.
What would be a good theme song for your life?
To be honest, I don’t know. Growing up, I always saw my life as a television series with ever-changing theme songs practically every day and added over the years– The original Beverly Hills 90210 (second season), A Different World (second season/ occasionally final season), original Melrose Place (first season), Smallville, Star Trek: The Next Generation/ Star Trek: Deep Space Nine/ Star Trek: Voyager/ Star Trek: First Contact (motion picture opening music), etc.
What was the last TV series you watched on TV?
Literally on TV? It would have to be Smallville, but the last TV series overall? I’d say Star Trek: Deep Space Nine after binge-watching the third season of Star Trek: Discovery and I regret not being a fan of DS9 from the get-go when it first aired. It is by far the best Star Trek series and one of the pioneers of serialized series that we see today.
As a kid were you ever frightened of a monster under the bed or in the cupboard?
The short answer is no, but here’s the long answer: television scared the hell out of me though. Several scenes from movies The Omen and its sequel, Damien: Omen II, and the original Night of the Living Dead. What also scared me is a lot of the 80s TV announcements, promos, and ads.
Right before heading to bed, one of the syndicated networks paid a brief tribute to Ted Knight right before they started playing M*A*S*H. I will never forget Jim Barton’s announcement with a photo of the late actor: “We will always remember Ted Knight.” The combination of the chosen photo of the deceased and the creepy voice-over artist equally made it haunting to this day.
There was another time during the middle of the night when my older brother woke up to watch, I believe, Princess Diana’s wedding but the TV stations either had the off-the-air rainbow display or had some sort of ad. I remember him flipping on the VHF/ UHF knobs until he stopped at an ad of a missing Black child on the TV screen. Missing children have always been scary to me since the Adam Walsh case. To this day, I always wondered if they ever found the Black kid.
I remember laying in bed not able to sleep right away in the bedroom and overhearing a male Frontline announcer, on TV in the living room, mentioning that their host, Jessica Savitch, died in a car crash.
One last thing, one year during the 80s, WFLD had a voiceless bumper that made a “ding” sound for each flame on the candle of the menorah and then displayed Happy Hannukah after it finished. It was super creepy, to say the least. I hope every one of your readers had a good laugh at these tidbits!
OTHER MUSIC (Composition/ Beats):
Whoz The Boss Music Library Company-
Soundcloud (Covers produced for other singers)-
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