Tina Guo has developed a fascinating performing career as a solo classical cellist, rock/metal/fusion electric cellist, and acclaimed recording artist known for her distinctive sound in major motion picture and television scores. Tina recently recorded solo cello for John Legend, performed with the Foo Fighters, shot a music video with Kelly Clarkson, played on the soundtrack for Hancock, Inception, Battle: Los Angeles, Clash of the Titans, Predators, The Fast and the Furious, and on the TV shows Family Guy, American Dad, King of the Hill, among many others. Read below for the full Q&A…
Your music is definitely unique, and I can honestly say I haven’t heard anything like it. What attracted you to clashing classical instruments with a metal sound and were you surprised by the result?
Tina: Thank you! Growing up as a classical musician with classical music teachers as parents, and Chinese ones at that, I was surrounded by only traditional music. Somehow, I always had a bit of an obsession with “the dark side.” I managed to sneak 3 albums into the house in middle school, and they were Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar, given to me to borrow by one of the goth kids in 6th grade, Guns n Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, and a CD by Daft Punk that only had 2 working tracks. Until I went to University in Los Angeles at USC, that was about the extent of my popular music knowledge outside of European Art Music. I also heard of Apocalyptica and was curious about their use of Cellos to do cover songs in a rock style. While I was in college, I dated an electric guitar player who was in a metal band, and after hearing his band play and watching them live at a show on the Sunset strip, I was inspired to really start exploring playing metal on the electric cello to sound like a guitar.
Why do you think it translates so well to film and video games?
Tina: You know, I’m not quite sure but I do love that film and video is like a giant playground for all types of music, everyone, every genre, every instrument is a possibility, depending on the context- I love that freedom! I don’t know of another medium where so many types of audio and visual art can be combined into one wonderful world.
What kind of impact did living out of hotels for an extended period of time give to your new album and how it shaped you as an artist?
Tina: Being on tour and living out of a suitcase around the world for 2 years really gave me time to work on myself as a person, and on my music- sometimes in times of utter silence comes clarity- clarity that’s hard to have when you have normal life awaiting your attention as well. I wrote “Eternity” while I was on the road, and recorded some live musicians in Los Angeles, as well as remotely. It was an interior journey of exploring different styles of music that I could create and combine, and my first real concentration on writing in a more cinematic style with orchestral instruments, full brass sections, giant drum armies, etc.
Why did you choose to be homeless? Was this in experiment in creativity or do you just work better on the road?
Tina: [Laughs] Well I was technically homeless because I sold everything when I left LA for tour with the Cirque du Soleil back in 2011, living out of one hotel to the next while we played over 350 shows in a row.
Does the Cello still have a strong following of young musicians? How do you convince a new generation of youths of the importance of creativity, the expressions of deeper meaning, and the strength of the musical traditions from which you come ?
Tina: I do think so! Anything can have a following if it’s presented in an intriguing way. I think the best way to express the important of creativity, artistic expression, and complete naked openness into the exploration of extreme emotion- passion, fury, despair, resurrection, ecstasy, love… is to do my best to live it. There is a balance of maintaining integrity in the older traditions, like playing classical music in the “proper” way, with the craft fine tuned over hundreds of years, and also remembering to breathe new life into everything we do- and if appropriate, creating new paths without fear of judgement or failure- you never know what could be done if one is constantly living in fear of what others may think. Don’t be scared! Especially not when it comes to your own development as a being in every way. We all tend to be afraid to be the odd one out… but in the end, we all are unique and will be judged in one way or another no matter what our actions are, so we may as well as throw caution to the wind and pursue our dreams. If the result is not as we hoped, at least we’ve learned from that adventure, and we know it’s time to explore a different route. For me the path has been one of constant reinvention, but at the same time maintaining a solid footing. More literally, I’ve explored into other genres of music and expression, looking to manifest the extremes in video and audio, but also at the same time continuing to maintain and build my chops as a traditional cellist.
What are some of your favorite Asian films or Anime?
What can people look forward from you in terms of musical projects, tours and Cirque du Soleil shows?
Tina: I recently started a new production company that provides original music of all genres with my husband Ray Armando Morabito called MG Music. I’m doing some scoring for projects in addition to continuing to record as a cellist and erhuist!
Tell us a bit about ‘Event Horizon”, what it’s like working with your husband, and what fans can expect?
Tina: Working musically with Ray is an amazing experience, and his epic and emotional but mainstream cinematic style of writing balances out my sometimes erratic genre-jumping sound. We write songs separately as well as in collaboration- sometimes with my compositions he will add additional orchestration and programming, and for him I perform live vocals and cellos of course.
Out of all the Hollywood films you’ve been a part of, what has been your favorite Score? Possible playing with Hans Zimmer in Inception, Iron Man 2, Public Enemies, etc?
Tina: Every movie I’ve been lucky enough to play on has had its own unique place, but actually my favorite is from Amalia, a Portuguese movie scored by Nuno Malo that I performed the main theme for- it’s in a much more classical style with the Budapest Symphony and Classical:
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