Tina Guo is a cellist from Los Angeles California, who stretches the boundaries of the instrument that is primarily associated with classical music. With amazing versatility, Tina will take the sultry sounds of the cello to a new level in many genres of music. Throughout her blossoming career, she has played: classical, rock, pop, metal, electronic, and now "new age" music... there are no limits. Tina has just teamed up with pianist Peter Kater to produce a new CD of improvised music titled, "Inner Passion". The wonderful blend of piano and cello will put you in a relaxed and meditative state. As Tina explains, "It was kind of a first meeting, and communication between two people. It is a little less about fireworks and more of an internal meditative process.". I recently talked with Tina about the new album and her career.
R.V.B. - Hi Tina. How are you today.
T.G. - I'm good today. How are you?
R.V.B. - I'm doing good. We finally got out of our little cold spell. How is it on your side?
T.G. - Very nice actually.
R.V.B. - Congratulations on your new album coming out with Peter Kater... "Inner Passion".
T.G. - Thank you very much.
R.V.B. - I understand that most of the album was improvised with not much collaboration... was that the first time you've done something like that?
T.G. - It's the first time I've done anything like that in a recorded setting with another artist.
R.V.B. - With the cello being more of a color instrument... did Peter set the mood of the song, and you kind of embellish along as the song got started?
T.G. - Yeah, I think because the piano is able to play 10 notes at time, as opposed to the cello, where you are a lot more limited. It was basically improvised, but we did say "Ok, let's try something in kind of an Asian mode, in the key of D"... something like that. We would talk about the song before we started it. There are some songs where I started first and there's some songs where he started. The entire session was shot on video as well as audio, so you will be able to see the process.
R.V.B. - I did see one of the promo video's.
R.V.B. - How did you come up with the name "Inner Passion"?
T.G. - We were just trying to come up with names and I came out with "Inner Passion", and Peter said "Ok, I like it". (Haha) I've never really released an album in the New Age genre. Peter doesn't really like to classify it like that. He say's "Call it Contemporary Instrumental". It was kind of a first meeting, and communication between two people. It is a little less about fireworks and more of an internal meditative process. There's a passion within, that is not always fully expressed in an outwardly way. That's how I thought of "Inner Passion".
R.V.B. - How did you meet Peter, and how did you get hooked up with him for this album?
T.G. - He messaged me on Facebook a lot. (Hahaha) At first I didn't know who he was, so I didn't answer him. I was like "OK, I don't know who this guy is". I get a lot of random messages sometimes. Then my husband's parents came to visit us, and we went on a vacation. It was very serendipitous actually... we went to the Navajo Nation, and on our way back... I really love to listen to Spa radio... I was arguing with my husband back and forth because he really doesn't like New Age music. He was like "I'm going to fall asleep... I have to drive." We agreed that we would listen to it for a half an hour and then switch to his station. As I was listening, this really beautiful piano song came on. I looked down at the Sirius screen and it said "Peter Kater". I'm like wait??? "Is that the guy that's been Facebooking me?". (Hahaha) I went back to the message of Facebook and I wrote him back. "I'm in the car and your music just came on and it was beautiful... let's get together". We got together for lunch by where I live, and over lunch we decided to make an album... that was it. It was really fast and random.
R.V.B. - That's great... sometimes that's how things happen in life.
R.V.B. - You've been real busy recently. You just finished an acoustic tour with Joe Bonamassa, and you've performed all over the world in one way or another. How was your experience at Carnegie Hall?
T.G. - It was fun... it was great. It was the last two shows of the tour with Joe. It was a really short tour. We were only out for around three weeks. We rehearsed for five days. We didn't have any music. (Haha) It was the same kind of situation... we just kind of figured it out. Before the very first show, we were rehearsing in that first venue... which was nice... to get used to the hall. We started the tour and by the time we got to Carnegie Hall, we knew what we were doing. That was a bonus. (Haha) It was really fun but we did get stuck in that snow apocalypse. We were walking out of the stage door after the last show, and we saw the snow falling... we thought "Oh no, we're not going to get out." I was stranded there for 4 days, and I was late for my next tour, but everything worked out. (Hahaha) It was so beautiful though.
R.V.B. - You never know with the winter in New York. Anything can happen. I gather you don't get to see the snow that often, being a West Coaster'.
T.G. - No, not that often. I have traveled to some places with snow. I didn't really go outside after it started snowing. It was very pretty to look outside and watch it. The snow was blowing left to right. It was nice being forced to stay in the hotel and chill out for a few days. I had some great food and practiced a little bit.
R.V.B. - Did you get to go out on the town a little bit?
T.G. - I'm kind of granny at heart... naturally. (Hahaha) I usually tend not to go out if I don't have to. I think I stayed in the hotel for the entire 4 days. (Hahaha) I got to catch up on some stuff on the computer. There were still places delivering food in the blizzard, so I had some good food.
R.V.B. - I see that you have a lot of touring plans this upcoming year.
T.G. - Yeah, it's going to be fun. Tomorrow I'm going to North Carolina to do a clinic and a concert. There is around 150 students that have signed up for that. First I do that, then I come back to LA for less than a day. The I go to Colorado to start a tour with Peter... the record release tour. That goes on for a couple of weeks. Then I will have a couple of weeks off. Then I go to Europe to rehearse for a couple of weeks before we go on a three month tour with Hans Zimmer. It will be an arena tour all around Europe and that will be a lot of fun. I'm super excited about that.
R.V.B. - In all of the world travels that you've had so far, are there any concerts that you've had that really stand out in your mind?
T.G. - Of course all of them... except for the ones where I don't get nervous. I usually get nervous before every performance... which is a good thing... because it means you care. There has been some situations where I'm not nervous... that's not good. It usually means that I'm bored or I don't really care what I'm doing. I've been very lucky that I've had so many random experiences that have played in. I toured with the Cirque Du Soliel's "Michael Jackson - "The Immortal" Tour for over 2 tears. I think we did over 400 shows. That was a really exciting experience... touring all around the world with acrobats and dancers. Every genre of music and every type of show has its own uniqueness... its own unique energy. It's difficult to compare something like playing at The Grammys last week with Justin Bieber and Skrillex, to playing a classical concerto concert. It's a completely different world. I try not to compare... I generally love all of them.
R.V.B. - I see that you seem to enjoy trying things out... like Cirque Du Soliel is completely different than playing with the San Diego Symphony, or Joe Bonamassa. That's three totally different situations. It's good that you're diversified like that.
T.G. - I think the only genre of music that I don't play that much is country. I did play with Carrie Underwood, but I think for me... country music is not a good type of music to play. I do love to experiment and learn. I collaborate with different artists, and I pick things up and try to understand, and learn how the feel of the music is and how everything works. I really enjoy that process. I have really been into metal for a long time... I really love metal. Recently, for the last couple of weeks, I started getting a little more into electronic music. I'm really into exploring that right now. I don't know too much about that genre of music at all. Of course, classical is where I came from and the type of music that I play with Peter... whatever you want to call it "New Age" or "Contemporary Instrumental"... it's still in the same area as classical music. It's different, but it's one core group.
R.V.B. - You came from a musical family with your mother being a violinist and your father being a world class cellist Do you every collaborate with them?
T.G. - I used to play in a trio with my parents when I was a kid. I haven't done any collaborations with them after I started my professional career. They're full time music teachers in San Diego and they're super busy. They do their concerts with their 100's of students. They have been able to come out to some of the shows. They're going to come see Peter and I at Encinitas which is near where they live. They're also going to go to Europe for a week, when I'm there with Hans.
R.V.B. - How do your parents feel about your career path so far?
T.G. - When I grew up, they were super, super, super, conservative. They were very closed on other types of music. It was their backround and their upbringing of growing up in communist China. We're all a product of our environment... and how we're raised. When I first dropped out of college... I had a full scholarship to USC for classical cello... I was there for three years from 2004 to 2007... I dropped out because I started performing a lot, and I was missing classes. It was either I go to school or I perform. I also had to make money... obviously. I had to work. I decided to leave school and focus on my career. They were really, really mad about that. So them... coming from a very traditional backround... were saying "Why don't you just finish school and get a job in an orchestra". For a lot of classical musicians, that is a goal... and where their passion is about... and that's what they love... for me, it's not really my thing. I really wouldn't want to do that. We just had some differences in ideas of what I would do. It wasn't until I got the contract with Cirque... back in 2011... I think they finally realized I knew what I was doing.
R.V.B. - Not to worry about you anymore?
T.G. - Yeah, to lecture me. Technically I was an employee of a big company. I had a contract and I had health insurance. They're freelance music teachers, and they never had that. When I got that contract, they were like "Oh ok". (Hahaha) Now I'm self employed... technically. Things are fine and things are good.
R.V.B. - You mentioned electronic music, I see you're a co-founder of a production company.
T.G. - I started a production company with my husband, who I met a few years ago in the circus. We met in Italy, where he was living and working at the time. He was a commercial director before. He was actually directing commercials for Tic Tacs. (Hahaha) He has always done kind of trailer or epic music. It has a lot of repeated string notes and a certain type of vibe that works well in production music. Production music is music that is usually written first, before the movie or the commercial. Peter does this as well. Usually you do it through a company or you can do it yourself. We go through APM, which is distributed by Sony. It's their production music area. They basically give music supervisors and people who are responsible for placing music into things like ad campaigns... they do everything from YouTube videos... to TV spots... to movie trailers. The great thing about it is, you get to write whatever you want. You're not writing something to fit something, you're just writing whatever you want. They take the music and they place it into certain spots. That's what the production music is. It's the business side of getting songs placed.
R.V.B. - I sampled one of your husband's songs that you played the cello on. I don't know if his album is different than production music but it did have an electronic based feel.
T.G. - He's more electronically based in what he does. It's not the same as the production company music that is used for a specific purpose. What we found so far with the music placement, is as of right now in the scene, we have a lot more stuff placed in Ray's type of music... the electronic stuff than from my acoustically based stuff.
R.V.B. - Good luck with the new album. Good luck with your career. You sound like a real busy person and busy is good... you're relentless. You're a go-getter and things happen for go-getters.
T.G. - Thank you so much... I appreciate it.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
This interview may not be reproduced in any part or form without permission from this site.
For more information on Tina Guo visit her websites www.tinaguo.com & https://heartsofspacerecords.bandcamp.com/album/inner-passion
Thanks to Angie Rivera @ Valley Entertainment Inc.
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