1. What is your name and your profession(s)? My name is Justin Conway. Sound Designer and Professional Drummer.
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? I am Nigerian, Chinese, and European. Born in Manhattan, New York City. US Native.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry?
Both my parents are actually not musicians, but they enjoy and appreciate the craft.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. I guess my experience has been kind of a mixed bag, much like myself haha. Being a ton of different races, I was never really sure where I belonged. Black kids said I wasn’t black enough, white kids exclaimed how I wasn’t black, and people of all races never believed me when I said I was Chinese. As I have gotten older though, the ignorant people slowly showed themselves out and I am lucky enough to have built a pretty incredible community and network of quality friends. May have had to show my family photos a bit too much though just to get a point across haha.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? Very much so. But I feel I could learn a lot more about my heritages though, especially the Chinese side. Being multi racial, I take a lot of pride in all the different parts of the world my family is from. Especially in regards to food. Growing up, Grandpa made incredible fried rice, dumplings, and duck dishes. The flavors are just embedded in my head haha. I should call grandma.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? I’ve always loved music since I was a kid, but I did not start taking it seriously until I was around 9. I got accepted into Berklee College Music in 2007. Graduated with a degree in Electronic Production and Design (formerly Music Synthesis).
6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? I started really gravitating to all things drums when I was 9. I was watching an episode of Elmo’s world when I was babysitting my little brother, and that particular episode was about drums. There was a showcase of a bunch of kids playing all different types of percussion instruments, but the last kid was a 10 year old behind a kit. He layed out this FAT beat, and that was all I needed. When I told my parents all I wanted to do was to be a drummer, they just laughed haha. They really wanted to emphasize how difficult it would be to have music as a profession, and that I should always have a back up. While I understood where they were coming from, whatever they said was not going to phase me. They bought me this tiny lap electronic drum set with four pads the following christmas to humor me (or to shut me up, because it was all I talked about). Once I started getting proficient with it though, and excelling in all my music classes at school, they bought me my first drum set when I was 13, and since then the grind never stopped. Once my parents saw how passionate I was about music and drums, their views changed. I am incredibly fortunate to have full support from my whole family.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. Oh man, I have a few. I think the biggest one would probably be my old band, Pinn Panelle. We were an acoustic/electronic hybrid group, covering all types of electronic music, utilizing different technologies mixed with our acoustic instruments. I played as the drummer/sampler, using Ableton drum racks, a Roland Octapad, and drum triggers to create whatever soundscape a song called for. Two great albums recorded, more than a few viral videos released, and three very close friends I would do anything for. It was a blast while it lasted. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuunY8BTqNs I am also really proud to say I got picked up playing for two of my favorite artists, Andres and Amarionette since moving to LA. 8 months prior, I was just covering some of my favorite tracks from them in my parent’s basement, then all of a sudden I’m playing shows with Andres here in CA and live performing with Amarionette in Vegas. I was actually supposed to do a full US tour playing for both groups back in March 2020, but Covid said no haha. Hopefully that still goes through. Fingers crossed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ul8eh3jVGQ&t=740s
When I am not practicing or drumming, I sound design for Output’s Arcade, creating different presets for aspiring artists, beatmakers, and producers. That’s been a quality time and helps keep my sound design chops up. I’ve worked with a few different artists as well, helping singer songwriters record and develop ideas, but that is a muscle I haven’t fully flexed yet. Endorsement wise, currently, I work with Turkish Cymbals. Still working on sticks and drums though. Had a brief stint with Ableton as well, and working to get that back haha.
8. Describe to me your dream project. That’s actually a tough one because I have too many. I love creating video game music. Would be insane to get picked up doing something like that. Sound designing for a game, movie, or show would be pretty awesome too. I love performing and recording drums. Traveling the world through music in any capacity is the true dream I think.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? I am lucky enough to have never been discriminated against in any type of musical situation.
What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? Besides a racist comment from a keyboard warrior every now and then, I am also lucky enough to have not have dealt with too many obstacles worth mentioning. The worst moments really only occured in middle school and high school, when everyone is terrible at being a human anyway.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? Oh man, I have too many. I am super into video game music, so Nobuo Uamazu, Masashi Hamauzu, Yoko Shimomura, Yasunori Mitsuda just to name a few. Ryuichi Sakamoto is probably my favorite composer of all time. I do understand these artists aren’t necessarily AAPI, but they have played such a huge part in my upbringing, it’s hard not to mention them. Producer/artist wise, Giraffage, Shawn Wasabi, Joji, Rich Brian just off the top of my head. OH, band wise, Daphne Loves Derby and Covet are insanely good. All of these artists just hit the right chord for me. From exciting to engaging, to stupidly technical guitar riffs, to gut wrenching emotional music, they have helped me broaden my horizons in my own music making and performing.
10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? More recognition for sure, and I feel that it’s already well on its way. With incredible artists like Kenny Choi, Teppei Teranishi, Tim Henson, Yvette Young, and Deb Never (just to name a few) starting to pop up more and more, that is a pretty dope sign.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Stay humble. Stay consistent. Don’t stay on social media for too long, you will lose brain cells. Keep drumming.
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? Actually! Yeah I do have some cool stuff coming up. Unfortunately, I am not sure if I am at liberty to say. But plenty of drumming for sure.
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate.
Huge fan of beer, and all things beer. The brewing process, the different styles, the culture, literally everything. I have worked for several different breweries since college, and it kind of just placed itself as a hobby ever since.
14. Any final thoughts? Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? All I can say is thanks for having me. If any one needs a drummer or a drinking buddy, you know who to call. ALSO, can someone tell me where I can find quality Chinese food in the LA area? Excluding Din Tai Fung because I already had it haha.
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