It’s a bright and beautiful, 72 degrees in San Francisco, and I ride my bike into the city to get fresh air. Aside from the gorgeous weather, today is a special treat because I get to hang with one of our Robin Ringtone winners: Niko Korolog.
We meet up at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he’s studying Technology and Applied Composition to learn how to drop beats better than Skrillex (okay, just kidding..sort of). After we make our way down a flight of stairs and past one of his classmates playing a classical guitar we arrive at a cramped studio where he creates mixes and works on his projects. The room is filled to the brim with equipment: a huge display, a ton of control panels that do who-knows-what, and stacks of keyboards.
Niko shares a pop song he’d been working on in his spare time. He’s been composing music since 2005 and is credited on eight short films, and four published video games - System Protocol One, Elemental Fury, Killah Whale, and WarSquared. His professor Dren McDonald, who created the original ringtone for Robin known as “Fillmore”, introduced him to Nextbit when we ran the Robin Ringtone Kickstarter Contest. Niko’s ringtone can be found under the name “Superluminal” in Robin’s settings. You can listen to it below:
For an hour or so, we go back and forth and I am just amazed at how talented Niko is. While he entertains me on the piano, he answers a few questions:
K: What was your inspiration for “Superluminal”?
N: Hm I think my inspiration was Dren's original bell sound, which got me thinking about the melodic patterns that church bells or clock tower bells do when they mark the hour, and created a melody based on what I thought a bell tower would sound like, using a very electronic sounding synthesizer. The rest... was kind of just generated by playing around with the samples and audio plugins, chopping things up and processing them until they sounded cool.
K: What role does technology play in your life?
N: Technology is an enabler and facilitator. It literally enables me to make music and the specific sounds I want. Without technology, I couldn’t do anything I wanted to do in terms of music.
K: What role does music play in your life?
N: I live in this alternate reality of music. I think about it all the time, how I can make it better. After school, I usually go home to relax and just make more music. It’s like I’m chasing that “Eureka moment” - like finding that great melody or rhythm.
K: What’s your favorite music genre?
N: I recently ripped a few of my dad’s records that include Motown and oldies, but I hate to admit that I listen to a lot of Top 40s. I also study video game and film soundtracks, but it's almost distracting to the plot sometimes because I'm always tuning into the orchestration, the chord progressions, changes in scenes, etc.
K: Okay, so if you were on a deserted island...Only three songs for the rest of your life. Go!
N: Oh gosh...I’m really into this Passion Pit song right now, I’ll Be Alright, because of the amazing drum programming.I would also bring Beach Boys’ God Only Knows, and The Beatles’ Penny Lane. But then again, maybe Beethoven’s 5th is something I’d be able to listen to over and over again.
K: How are you liking your Electric Robin?
N: The design - it’s so different. Also, the battery is so much better than my iPhone. Plus it’s Android, so there are a ton of apps. The fingerprint sensor is super fast too. It’s a great phone!
Here’s a video of Niko playing on the keyboard:
He invites his Associate Dean, MaryClare Brytzwa, to join us. She says, “My goal with the Conservatory is to create a program that marries the rigors of the traditional conservatory with the practicality of the real world. I love what Niko has done with Nextbit!” Though she admitted that she wants her students to define their own success, she hopes more of her students can create similar opportunities that he’s had, and realizes that Niko has truly set himself apart.
Niko’s passion, talent, and personality shine through, and “Superluminal” is a fantastic ringtone that we love hearing among the Robins at HQ. Huge thanks to him and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for accommodating me.
To learn more about Niko, check out the links below: