Vocalist Billy Trudel is not as famous as the musicians that he has worked with – but that might change soon. A longtime veteran of the music industry, he has shared the stage with Billy Joel, Bonnie Raitt, Phil Collins, and Sting. However, he is perhaps best known as singing back-up for Elton John as a member of Warpipes. Along with Tony Rader and Bruce Watson, Trudel co-founded Smaktones, a company that specializes in original, witty ringtones that have roots in fairly twisted imaginations. Titles such as “Dying Emo” and “I Hate This Ring” unveil the demented humor that is instilled in capturing the cliches of popular musical genres.
Is there an art to creating ringtones?
There is an art to creating any form of music. Most of the process is already swimming around in your head. Then it’s creating the session, adding the tracks we need to build the song. It usually starts with a beat, then we add from there what it is we need. It all depends on what style of music we are going after.
What comes first – the song or selecting a genre?
In the beginning, we wrote down all the different genres we needed. Then we started the creative process of writing the songs. I think the first one we did was a pop track, so you have to think what is pop music. Fun, light, uplifting. So having that in mind, that is your starting point in writing the song. In our modern rock genre, we had more diversity, so we could think a little more out of the box. Being edgy, aggressive with the music, and a little more creative with the lyrics.
Describe the process of producing ringtones. Do all of you brainstorm ideas first?
Producing a ringtone of original music is like recording a mini-track or a short film instead of a feature – where your have three to six minutes to tell a story you only have 30 seconds or less in a ringtone. So each track has to have all the personality in it you would have in writing a full three to six-minute song. Production is treated the same way you would create a full song. It all depends on the style of the music. Then there is the process of taking all that information and getting it to fit in a file that can be sent to your cell phone. Music files are very large and would never be able to covert to a cell phone. So when making your recording session an MP3 file, you have to convert it to be able to send it to a cell phone. That is a production in itself.
What celebrities are involved thus far?
Valarie Pettiford who is a multi-talented actress of the stage, film and television has come in to lend a hand. She is an incredible vocalist and has given us some great tracks for our ringtones. Essence Atkins, who co-stars with Valarie on a hit sitcom called Half and Half, has been in the studio with us. She is featured in our funnytones section as well as our Latin section. Kojo Obeng is one of the best hip-hop artists I have heard in a long time. Kojo can rap on any beat we throw at him. And then there’s Raymond Delbario who is know best for his skills as a dancer/chorographer from Broadway to MTV. He has come in to lend his voice on our Latin section. A real talent. We are talking with many artists but when dealing with managers, agents and labels, it’s better we don’t discuss who they are at this moment.
Creatively speaking, how does it feel going from writing music to ringtones?
Creatively, writing original music for a ringtone is still writing music. Last week I was in a restaurant and my cell phone went off. I have the laughing munchkin as my ring (you can find that in our funny section), and the entire restaurant turned and looked at me, and started laughing. It was a great feeling to get that kind of response. As a songwriter, when you sit down to write about something, you hope that the listeners will feel something from what you have written. These ringtones have personalities of their own and our intention is to have our ringtones stick out from the crowd. We hope that this will give each person that has one of our ringtones, their own personality so they stick out in the crowd.