Sound Designer Spotlight: Zhivko Nikolaev (Mystix)
This time we are proud and happy to introduce one of our most prominent talents, Zhivko Nikolaev a.k.a. Mystix on our blog! He has been keeping up an incredibly consistent and professional work ethic that has taken him a long way. Now we got a chance to hear more from the man who has participated in close to ninety productions on Audiodraft so far. There’s definitely a lot to learn for everyone of us from the grittyness and artistic hunger Zhivko has.
1) First, could you tell us something about your background. Where are you from? How did you start creating music?
I’m born, raised and currently living in Shumen, Bulgaria. I’m 24 years old, I’ve been creating music for about 10 years and I’m currently working as a clinical trials coordinator.
When I was a kid, a friend of mine introduced me to FL Studio, but I didn’t really take interest in it right away. A few years later I got into rock music and I stayed hungry for quite some time so I could save money for a second-hand electric guitar. As soon as I had it, I started learning with everything I could find online. For some time I kept trying to form a band, but quickly dropped that idea. At some point it occurred to me that maybe I can use FL Studio to accompany my “compositions” with some drums and maybe a bass line, so I started learning that as well. Playing with the new software slowly substituted video games, TV and other time killing activities and opened my eyes for more than just rock music. When I started getting good I contacted several local hip-hop artists and collaborated on a few albums. I always sensed that working with others never brought me the satisfaction I needed, I always wanted to do my own thing and then I discovered Audiodraft.
My wife, which was my new girlfriend at the time, showed me an article about how Nokia held a music contest for recreating their ringtone. I registered immediately and started working on every possible open contest. Of course I didn’t win any of the first few contests that I participated in, but I kept going because I loved the crazy challenges. I worked as a bartender at the time, but the place got closed, and I suddenly had even more time to work on my music for Audiodraft. This is when I actually started to grow my music-making skills, and soon I started winning.
2) What’s your work environment like? Is it a home studio? Furthermore, what kind of software and hardware are you using for music production, and do you play any instruments?
Yes, it is a home studio, so much of a home studio that it is half of our living room. I still keep using Fruity Loops, I got so used to it that I even downgraded after the latest update. Various plugins that I keep experimenting with and then dumping, nothing really sticks for more than two months. The hardware is two studio monitors and an interface – all M-Audio, and this is it. I’m a modest guy and and old-school FL-er, never really felt the need for a real keyboard. I started self-learning the piano when I was younger, but dropped it really quick, but I kept playing the guitar for a long time. I haven’t touched that guitar in a while but I always wish I had some more free time to play.
3) What is your favorite music genre? (We know this is a tricky one!)
It’s not that tricky for me. I keep saying that every genre has it’s good songs and bad songs and I love all good music, no matter what you call it, but the thing that really moves me is blues.
4) Who are your key influencers? Can you name any producers, bands or musicians who have inspired you the most?
I started taking real interest in music after a friend played me Linkin Park’s album “Meteora”, that grew into other 90’s rock bands, and then all the rest. I was a big Hendrix fan for quite some time and I’m still admiring Slash, these guys made me get that guitar. A guy that truly inspires me is Albert Scott (Klayton/Celldweller). I listened to all his work really closely and I learned a thing or two.
5) What’s your process in writing and composing a new song? How do you start something from scratch?
This first thing would be to get some inspiration – listen to the references from a contest’s brief, or listen to a really good song. That would always set the bar high enough. I try to get myself in the mood for what’s about to happen.
6) I can see you have participated in 87 (!!) Audiodraft contests and won 20 of those. These are very impressive numbers. Where does this perseverance to keep working towards your goals come from? And do you have any advice for other musicians regarding creating a career in music?
I actually participated in many, many more than that but I guess that’s a lot too. You know how when you don’t have a job you apply to thousands of places, a few call you but their offers really suck and then suddenly the right place with the right offer calls to invite you to an interview? You get there and you see all the other people waiting in the hall for the same interview, for the same position you grew to like so much and you up your game because you want that job, you want to show these guys that you’re better, even if you’re actually not. It’s like that – if you want something really bad, you find a way to do it, if you can’t do it, then somebody wanted it more than you, no biggie. Motivation works, but the competition is key.
My advice to everyone who is starting now would be to mainly keep your eyes wide open for opportunities. Practicing and improving comes second. Audiodraft brings many great opportunities to both young and experienced composers and designers and really gives you chance to stand out.
7) Would you like to say something to the AudioDraft community?
I’d like to wish everyone good luck in their work and I’d like to thank the team for growing Audiodraft into this big, beautiful thing that it is.