Joerg Kohring: Former Guitarist of Lifehouse Finding Success with SONAR and a Solo Music Career

We recently got a chance to sit down with Joerg Kohring who is an LA-based singer/songwriter/producer working out of Los Angeles.  Originally from Germany, Joerg found his current musical path originally playing guitar in the award winning band Lifehouse.  Since then, he has found success with his own LA-based band Orbit Monkey as well as his production work with other artists.  Orbit Monkey’s debut record “Are We Alive” came out in 2011 and the band gained many fans from the recordings.  Since then, the band recently released a follow-up EP titled “Born to be Kings” and has released another single/video titled “On Fire” which was recorded and produced completely in SONAR X3.

Joerg has also been busy writing and recording music for television right from his SONAR X3 production studio in back of his house in LA.  Most recently, he landed a good number of songs in the Young and the Restless and has also been heard on the show Hollywood Heights.  “The Young and the Restless placements were interesting and kind of shows how you never know where your fans will come from these days,” Joerg told us in his studio.  “When our songs first played on the show, people were reaching out to the producers asking who we were and how they could get the songs; after connecting some dots we were able to gain a lot of new fans from our music being played on that show.”

Besides utilizing SONAR X3 for his productions, Joerg also uses his 1965 Gibson Les Paul reissue on a lot of his recordings.  He prefers to keep his recording setup pretty simple in his production room, but relies heavily on an MXL Revelation tube mic for recording vocals, and also goes back and forth from a Bogner to a Vintage Fender Band Master for recording his guitars.

In addition to keeping busy with his band and writing music for television, Joerg has also been playing guitar live and recording with Lena Katina from t.A.T.u.  Her solo career has been getting a lot of attention, and Joerg is one of the supporting structures behind the scenes.  “It’s been a really fun project working with Lena.  We recorded a song that was placed in a Russian movie called Keep on Breathing and I have really enjoyed playing out live with her,” Joerg stated in passing conversation.  Here are some more questions Joerg answered for us:

CW Artist Relations: How did you first get your feet planted into the LA Music Scene?

Joerg Kohring: When I came to LA I met a couple of fantastic musicians which led to my first band here. We were called “Blend” and we had some amazing experiences learning all about the Hollywood roller-coaster ride. In the middle of that I joined “Lifehouse” as their lead guitar player and we toured for about a year with some incredible shows including Madison Square Garden and the Staples center. We also played at the winter-Olympics in Salt Lake City which was just mind-blowing (and really cold too…).

Aside from my own band Orbit Monkey, I am currently playing with Lena Katina from t.a.t.u. and we had some great shows last year in Russia and Germany.   We also wrote and recorded a song called Keep on Breathing as a relief effort song for Japan after the Tsunami disaster, and the Japanese people and fans were super appreciative.  Interestingly enough the song was later placed in a Russian movie.  I will also produce a couple of songs on her upcoming album here in my SONAR studio.

CW Artist Relations:  The tracks you create in SONAR sound like major label productions. What are a few things you have learned in the past from producing your own music?

Joerg Kohring: Generally speaking, a production can make or break a song, provided of course, that the song is decent. I find myself coming back to older songs where I feel the production doesn’t do the song justice, or the arrangement doesn’t reveal the songs full potential. I just re-worked a few older songs and the difference is staggering. So I guess no matter how long it takes sometimes, it will pay off in the end. That said, knowing when it’s time to let the bird fly is another thing to keep in mind 😉

More specifically, I feel that EQ-ing and compressing is where it all begins and where it all ends. Mixing with the EQ instead of the fader, subtracting is often better than adding, all that stuff you read a million times, but it takes time before you can really apply that. For example, take any kick drum and instead of adding frequencies you subtract all the boomy stuff that gets in the way of a nice thud and the cut. All of a sudden you get the sound that became so popular with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and still defines a good kick-drum sound in many genres. I use the pro-channel EQ for all this and I absolutely love it! As of lately, things are changing again in terms of production – in indie rock it’s all about distorting the kick like crazy and leaving it more boomy. Try the “Saturation Knob” combined with the “tube module” and it’s easy to get that sound 😉 Very interesting and super fun once you get the hang of it.

With guitars and vocals I really enjoy finding plug-ins that give you character and a more analog feel.  I have found some great success with the Nomad plugs that come with X3 for this sound.

CW Artist Relations:  What was the route for getting your music placed in TV shows?

Joerg Kohring:  Most of our placements are through song pitchers. In fact, it seems that a strong personal connection to the person pitching your music is super important.

In some cases, we wrote songs specifically for what the music supervisor was looking for. In others, they simply liked a specific song of ours that landed on their desk.

CW Artist Relations:  It seems like you know how to really get creative with “promoting” as an independent artist.  Tell us about some of your recent musical endeavors including the Valentine’s Day release.

Joerg Kohring:  I think it’s important to use any little incentive to create something and move forward. There are only so many opportunities we get, so I usually take it all the way, if time allows. Like with our song “Easy to Love” which all of a sudden got placed in an episode of “The Young and the Restless” in January, and fans of that show were inquiring where they can get that song. So I took that opportunity to finish some of our Singer/Songwriter love songs to put a Valentine’s Day release together. We also recorded a full band version of the song “Easy to Love” and that became the title track of the album. Additionally, we recorded an acoustic version of a song called “My Universe” from our previous album “Born to be Kings” to cross-promote those albums. Anyway, seems the Supervisor really liked it and there is a good chance for more placements. 

And of course, videos are very important. We shot a video for the song “On Fire” from the “Born to be Kings” album and it’s finally edited and ready to be released.

CW Artist Relations:  What are a few of your favorite new features in SONAR X3 that you are using and how do you use them?

Joerg Kohring:  First of all I really started using the ProChannel EQ a lot already in X1, so being able to open the EQ window and make it nice and big in X3 was certainly high on my wishlist 🙂 And the built in analyzer is just phenomenal! Then, the integration of Melodyne is fantastic. It is so easy and fast now to grab a vocal line or phrase and tune it real quick – all within the X3 docking window! It saves me so much time. Additive Drums is also a great addition to the pallet of instruments in SONAR. I really liked AD ever since it came out. 

And I think I just scratched the surface here, there is so much cool stuff to discover in SONAR. That is one thing that I love about the program – you can really use a ton of different features to make your own sound.  Like for example the use of Z3TA+ as an FX plug-in – not a lot of people know how sweet that thing sounds on tracks such as vocals.  I don’t know what it is, but there is something about the effects engine in Z3TA+ that just sounds amazing.  The ability to put effects directly on sound clips is great as well – it allows you to do some pretty creative things.

CW Artist Relations:  I have noticed that it sounds like some alternative guitar tunings in your songs – do you use alternate tunings and does this play into your sound?

Joerg Kohring:  Well, I change the guitar “setting” to whatever is best for the key of the song and the sound I am trying to achieve. If that means half step down and drop D or capo on the 7th fret on the acoustic, than that’s what it’s gonna be. But I rarely write like that. That happens in standard tuning most of the time. In other words, different tunings or the use of a capo is more of an arrangement tool for me.

CW Artist Relations:  Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions Joerg – we wish you all the best and will keep a close eye on your continued success.

Joerg Kohring:  My pleasure, thanks so much for having me here!