written by Simona Atias
Born in Lebanon, grew up in Dubai, and has been living in Montreal since the age of 16, Karl Wolf has made a household name for himself Internationally this year with the success of his remake of “Africa”. En route from one city to another, MVRemix was privileged enough to catch up with Karl for a little Q & A.
MVRemix: Tell us about your latest album Nightlife. It was released on November 17th correct?
Karl Wolf: Yes. It was released on the 17th, and it was my first studio album. I had a lot of people help me with the production because I’ve been touring for the longest time, so my producers would send me tracks, and I would write the songs, and then send it back to them. The cool thing about this album is that the first part is all up-tempo, you can play them in the clubs or before you go out at night, and the second half is deeper. It talks about the issues of the world and where I’m from; I always touch on my culture. Actually, Yalla Habibi is the first single on the top forty in Canada to be titled that way. I’m always trying to just bridge that gap between East and West, and that’s my ultimate goal. I’m not trying to educate people, but I do want them to know that there is other stuff out there than CNN that just tells you about how bad a certain culture is, so I think that’s part of my goal as a Lebanese Canadian.
MVRemix: And it’s interesting that you mention that. I understand that you came to Montreal in your teens, and I being from Montreal myself, am aware of the past violence and tension that has taken place in that city over the wars in the middle east. How do you feel about that happening in a city you’ve come to embrace as your own?
Karl Wolf: It’s part of life you know. When my parents and I left Lebanon, there has been a lot of conflict as well, and as much as you hate it, you get used to it, as it’s a part of life. Lebanon has been a part of war and turmoil and political instability for the longest time and that’s where I was born. I came to Canada when I was sixteen. What I dislike is that the news broadcasts tend to give out a lot of false information sometimes, and it creates a lot of ignorance about that part of the world, and people just make up their minds based on that information, and it’s good for me to do things like this and to educate the young kids of the future and show them that there are ways of doing things peacefully. I have to do my part, and if I can even make a small difference, imagine what others can do.
MVRemix: Absolutely. So with that in mind, what process do you go through when you are first inspired to write a song or compile an album, and how does it all come to fruition?
Karl Wolf: I do a lot of soul searching when I write music, I basically lock myself up, I have a beautiful place that’s high up, on the twentieth floor, I have my studio and my piano, and I have a beautiful view that really inspires me. It helps me think outside the box, and it helps me feel like the world is so much bigger than just the studio I’m in. Then I start off with the piano or other instruments or sometimes I just work with a beat, and I play the bass, I play the guitar, and once I get the melody down, I start working with the lyrics – which can make the song become larger than life, and you want music to be open and beautiful and spacious, and you have to talk about what you feel in there.
MVRemix: And you’ve also been collaborating a lot, I know you have another single coming out with Culture, what has it been like working with him, and traveling with him?
Karl Wolf: Yeah, well, were such good friends. You know, you have to work with the people who you like, and who you get along with, and it’s all about working with good people, and not who the most famous person is or whatever. So with culture, were always going to be making hits together – that single will actually be shot in the Bahamas this summer. And I keep people like that close to me, their good friends, and they’re talented.
MVRemix: You’ve also been performing with Aikon a lot, what is that relationship like?
Karl Wolf: Yeah, Aikon is good. I don’t know what he’s been up to lately, but I don’t bug him, I know he’s busy. And that’s my style, and it’s why I think I get respect in the industry, because I just do my own thing and I don’t bother anybody. But Aikon is a great guy, we’ve known each other for three years, we’ve done at least fourteen shows together.
MVRemix: So you say you have been traveling all over the world recently. Describe some of the best experiences you’ve had and in what cities they took place.
Karl Wolf: Well, Japan was pretty crazy, I’ve never been there before, and it’s interesting to be in a place where you go to the airport and everybody knows you and is greeting you. You know, fame is a weird thing. I’m still getting adjusted to it, and having people knowing who I am, even when I walk around in Montreal – I mean, sometimes I forget. I think people around the world are so similar. Everybody loves to party, and no matter where I go it’s the same thing. Music really brings people together, as cheesy as it sounds. You know what, if George Bush was a musician or a singer, I think America would have been in a different situation than they are now. I mean, look at Bill Clinton with the saxophone. I think he was amazing.
MVRemix: So how do you feel about Obama then?
Karl Wolf: What do I think of Obama? I love Obama!
MVRemix: He’s fantastic isn’t he?
Karl Wolf: He is fantastic! You know why? Because he is so passionate. His body language speaks for itself. I think he’s a great people’s person.
MVRemix: So then what about the worst or hardest place you’ve performed in?
Karl Wolf: Some of the hardest places have been in the Middle East like in Israel and Palestine. It was tough to see the segregation over there. That whole area is so… what’s the word for it, it’s a kind of unrest.
MVRemix: No doubt. Karl, tell us about the first time you’ve performed in front of a large crowd and how it felt. And With your recent success, how does that compare to performing now?
Karl Wolf: Well the first time I’ve performed ever on stage was in college, and I did a talent show. And I froze. My voice just froze. I had tea and honey, but my voice disappeared on me, it was so embarrassing. But in time it got better, with practice. You got to love the business. It takes a lot to get up on stage and perform. And you need to have thick skin to be up there, and entertain and inspire people. Today I can perform in front of twenty thousand people, and it’s nothing. I think it’s even scarier to perform in front of ten people than twenty thousand believe it or not.
MVRemix: That’s probably because you see their reaction more.
Karl Wolf: Exactly. And it’s all about the vibe. As a performer you have to be able to start up the vibe. It’s like fuel. And once you start it, you transfer that energy on to the audience, and then they transfer it back to you and we play off each other. But you have to be the one to start it, because an audience can really be hard on you, and if your not confident enough, they can eat you alive. And you have to be up there, delivering with passion and conviction.
MVRemix: What would you say your future looks like?
Karl Wolf: Well, the near future looks very good. We’re shooting my next video in a few days, and it’s a boxing film so I’m training right now to really be the part. The song is called Hurting, it’s on the nightlife album. And it’s great because I’m playing my own part, so it’s an acting part. And I’m always going to direct my own videos, because I don’t feel like anyone can replicate what I feel better than myself because I wrote the song. Long term goals, is for Lone Wolfe Entertainment to be established as a company and have a few artists signed and succeeding around the world. Just like they had done for my career, I would do for someone else’s career.
MVRemix: So you’re training for boxing! If you could fight any celebrity, who would you fight and why?
Karl Wolf: I don’t know, a celeb, well I have someone in mind, but I’m not going to say it. For whomever that knows me and is reading, they would know who it is.
MVRemix: And for whoever knows you, do they think you would win the match?
Karl Wolf: Well whomever knows me would knows that it’s what’s in my heart and my mind and that I can win any fight.
MVRemix: And in terms of the acting you mentioned earlier, I heard you were writing a script?
Karl Wolf: Yep. I just wrote a thriller script, and I just got asked to do two movies, I can’t say what, but one is a major blockbuster, it’s a sequel to something massive, I’m going to read that script, and there’s also another script, and I’m going to get into acting sooner or later.
MVRemix: I don’t suppose we can get a quick synopsis of your script could we?
Karl Wolf: Ah, I would rather not. But it’s one of those Tarrantino style psychological thrillers, where things start to make sense only at the end kind of things….
MVRemix: Interesting! So would be your dream person to collaborate with?
Karl Wolf: Dream person? Well it would be Michael Jackson, but you know…
MVRemix: Sadly, yes. How did you feel about that day?
Karl Wolf: It was very hard. It’s funny because my mom told me that when I was a kid, I was glued to the screen watching the Thriller video, and the making of it, and when he passed away I was actually editing my Carerra video, so it kind of came full circle for me. He was the one who got me interested in being a performer and making videos, and it felt symbolic for me because I was living my dream when he passed. It was a very sad day, but it was a sign for me. It was kind of saying that, his time ended, and your time is beginning.
MVRemix: On that subject, how important do you feel an artist’s image should be in the industry? Do you think the media goes too far sometimes?
Karl Wolf: Well, we live in a very visual media age these days. People want to see bad and good things that happen to people. The star system that we created is beneficial for the artist and also negative. You just have to do your best, and be responsible and be aware that people are watching you, and it’s just better to not be careless. Some stars never have anything bad said about them. We choose this life, and you don’t become a star easily, and no celebrity can say that they hate the publicity, because they worked hard to get where they are, and it comes with what we do and our responsibility.
MVRemix: So with the holidays coming up, how do you plan on spending them?
Karl Wolf: Oh my god, you don’t understand, We’ve been so busy right now, since Jan 1st, 2009. You know, the last album went triple platinum, and I’m busy with tours until the 23rd of December. I can’t wait. And then on the 23rd I go to Dubai, where I see my family every year for the holidays, I’m going to spend six days there. Even my record company in Arabia wanted me to do signing, but I said: “ I love you guys, but I don’t want to talk business for six days”.
MVRemix: And you stay in shape with such a busy schedule, and with all the holiday eating?
Karl Wolf: Well here’s the thing. I always do push-ups on the road. It works out your arms, your abs, your chest, everything. You don’t need a gym. But with my mom feeding me so much turkey over the holidays, I mean, she kills me with it, she always tells me I’m too thin, but I need to tell her that I need to be fit for camera.
MVRemix: And you are indeed! The ladies love you! So tell us, what do you look for in a woman Karl?
Karl Wolf: I look for someone who is caring, sweet, and unpretentious. Some who is smart and not jealous, and who understands what I do and that females will always be around, it’s part of what I do, but just not to be jealous. And physically, well, I don’t know, I think that you can find beauty in someone for who they are, it’s their personality, but also someone who takes good care of themselves, I wouldn’t mind a girl with a sick body.
MVRemix: Before we go, do you have a message for your fans?
Karl Wolf: Yes. Thank-you for supporting me, everybody in Canada. You guys are awesome. I love you guys, and I really want to say, Hurting is my favorite song on the album, go on Itunes, download it, whatever you got to do. Thanks for supporting my music; I’ll keep making videos! And I’m really doing something deeper this time, enough of this fluff and pop stuff.