Alumni Spotlight: Conan Karpinski “CON THE ARTIST”

Posted: Dec 1, 2023

Alumni Spotlight: Conan Karpinski “CON THE ARTIST”

Composer, songwriter and graduate of the CFC’s Slaight Music Residency, Conan Karpinski, hails from South Africa and currently resides in Vancouver, BC. Conan’s ability to navigate diverse audio landscapes has allowed him to effortlessly shift from collaborating with full orchestras to energizing nightclub audiences from across Canada to Europe. Conan is known for adopting various creative personas, including the experimental pop artist, CON THE ARTIST, and serving as the lead songwriter and front man for the Canadian rock band Soul Push. The evolution of his creative expressions has captivated industry folks, sparking interest and deserving attention.

In addition to his success as a musical artist, Conan has ventured into creating original music for TV and film. His songwriting can be heard on popular shows such as The Order (Netflix), Good Trouble (ABC Family), Story Of A Girl (Lifetime), and Family Law (THE CW). In addition to his TV credits, Conan has also scored a handful of films that saw premieres at the iconic Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles (Ataraxia), Vancouver International Film Festival and London Independent Film Festival (Terror Forming), and screenings at the Harvard University Arts Museum and Honolulu Museum of Arts (Portraits from a Fire). In 2022, Conan won the LEO Award for “Best Musical Score in a Feature Film” for his work in the award-wining film Portraits From A Fire directed by Trevor Mack.

Recently, Conan showcased his original music piece, THE LOOK at the CFC Industry Showcase, which took place this November. We caught up with Conan to learn more about his musical journey and what fans and industry folks can expect to see from the multi-talented artist in 2024. Read on in the spotlight below.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the screen industry? How did you get your start?

I was the front man and songwriter of a rock band called Soul Push for many years. I was touring and playing shows across Canada and the UK. I had originally gone to film school for directing & scriptwriting but left it all behind because my band was seeing some success. Trevor Mack was a director and a fan of my band, and he reached out to me asking if I’d like to compose music for his feature film. I had never done anything like it before, and didn’t know what I was doing. I suppose he didn’t know anyone who could do it either, so we were sort of in the dark together, but at least we had each other. I scored the film with my bandmate Andrew Dixon and fell in love with the process. I soon realized that I had a knack for it, and became obsessed with wanting to get better. I’ve always loved film and never thought that I could combine my love for film and music together, so it was sort of a full circle moment coming back to film.

How do you balance staying true to your artistic vision while also adapting to industry trends?

I think adapting is the nature of art. Artists make art that comments on the times they live in. Picasso commented on the early 20th century with canvas, Punk in the 90s was very anti-establishment using distortion pedals, & so many artists these days are getting big off of their TikTok videos. My point being that none of them were sacrificing their art for trends. We make art that is current to our timeline using the tools around us, it might be different than the years before us but it’s our time and this is where our art exists. So I think that using trends is part of the process now, I don’t shy away from it.

This year, you released your new single Life of the Party. How does this new release and sound differ from your previous work?

Life of the Party is my first solo track. It’s a lot more fun and forgiving. I think with previous work, like my band, I took things too seriously and with CON THE ARTIST I am just having fun with wonky beats and tongue and cheek lyrics.

Can you describe your creative process when creating new music?

It’s really different every time. Sometimes it starts on the guitar, sometimes as an iPhone voice note, and sometimes I sit down in a room with another talented artist and have a conversation, and we create something. Lately it’s been lyric driven. I used to think that it was all about a cool beat, but you need a cool beat and a good story to go along with it.

How did your experience as a resident in the 2023 Slaight Family Music Lab influence your artistic development?

At the start of January 2023, I had never read or written a musical note, it was all foreign to me. By the end of 2023, I have written for and recorded with Orchestras in Greece and Prague. Through Jamie Hopkins and John Herberman at the CFC, I learned how to read and write music notation for orchestras, and now have a new approach and love for music. I think this year was the most formative and knowledgeable year of my life. I’m a completely different musician than I was 12 months ago.

How do you feel the program prepared you for the challenges and opportunities in the music and screen industry?

I think we covered a lot of different industry roles and situations through the CFC, so I believe it helped us prepare for various personalities and individuals we may cross paths with in the future. I think knowing how other roles play into your job is important, and it helps you have a better language when working with others on such a tight timeline.

You recently showcased your original music piece at the CFC Industry Showcase called THE LOOK. Tell us, how do you strike a balance between enhancing the emotional impact of a film and not overpowering the narrative with music?

Luckily this one was all music. It was made for music, so there was no dialogue to get in the way etc., by design. However, in any other case I always think it’s the story first. I went to Vancouver Film School for scriptwriting as story has always been my first love, and music is just another tool to help tell that story. I don’t approach a project thinking of the music until I understand the emotional beats first. Believe it or not I talked myself out of a job last week because I encouraged the director to not have music in their short film, because it simply didn’t need it. I don’t recommend this if you’re looking to eat every night, but if you care about the project then it’s easy to know when you’re needed and when you’re not from scene to scene.

Are there specific genres or themes in film that you find particularly inspiring or enjoyable to compose for?

I have never done a dystopian film but I think that would be epic. Right now I’m loving the themes of technology either enhancing or ruining our current world. Do we adapt with it, or do we move away from it? I think there are interesting conversations to be had there. Musically too, because you can take a classic instrument like the violin, pair it with a pulsing synth and now you have something contradicting… but perhaps beautiful.

What can we look forward to from you in 2024?

Well 2024 is set up to be a big one so far. I have some shows coming up as CON THE ARTIST, a feature documentary I’m currently composing for, and a move to Toronto. I’m becoming an East Coast baby! But for sure loads more CON THE ARTIST music.

What advice would you give to aspiring creators?

Just do you and have fun with it. It sounds cliché, but I only started seeing success when I started taking myself less seriously, so I’m going to keep doing that. Don’t get me wrong, you should take every project you work on seriously, but just don’t take yourself seriously. Have fun with it. We’re lucky that we get to do what we do.

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