In this brief Q&A multi-talented lyricist and filmmaker, Torben shares his relationship with artistry, the benefits of being independent and the importance of remaining committed to your passion.
Achickwitbeatz: Who is Torben?
Torben: When I am at my best, I am a maker. Torben is a family name, dating back to my great-grandfather, so it also is a reminder for me to continue a legacy paved by inspiring men before me. Lately, I've mostly been working on documentaries and music. I'd like to think that my underlying desire to create can be translated into any project and that I would add to whatever room I find myself in. I take creation a bit seriously (probably too seriously) and feel out of sorts if any days lapse without working on one project or another.
Achickwitbeatz: When did you discover your artistic side and that you needed it to be a part of your life?
Torben: I think for me it was less of a discovery and more of an environment I was born into. My parents are both artists and my earliest memories involve sitting in the theater watching dress rehearsals. We would often drive home critiquing the performance we'd seen and, as you got older, your opinions began to carry more weight. The question was always "what TYPE of artist are you going to be?" My parents were probably surprised when my brother Anagram and I refused to participate in theater and instead spent hours upon hours working on hip-hop songs. Growing up, art was always something I did for enjoyment. It replaced sports in early high school and my dedication was serious. I went home every day and saturated my life with music and writing. I barely made it through high school because my mind was elsewhere. It wasn't until I was about 24 that my crush on art grew into a real relationship that includes all of the inherent struggles of trying to make a living and the frequent downs of making. It was then that I realized, despite the disadvantages, I was going to keep working and trying to improve my craft in various areas. When you pass the idea of thinking of creating as strictly enjoyable, and instead begin thinking of it as a rewarding struggle, you've entered into a new relationship beyond a hobby.
Achickwitbeatz: What would you say is the most rewarding thing about being an independent artist?
Torben: As an independent artist you have the freedom to completely control creative decisions. Your decisions have consequences, but the ups and downs are all received and interpreted by you. You can bring things out into the world directly and gather feedback from audiences. You are also often in charge of your time management and the way you present your ideas through various platforms.
Achickwitbeatz: What would you say is the biggest challenge for independent artists to overcome?
Torben: Indifference. There are many other challenges, typically related to resources and exposure, but I personally feel like there is always the looming presence of indifference. It can be difficult to know how to best engage the right niches and find the audiences who will respond enthusiastically to your work. Perceived or real indifference is particularly dangerous because it feeds on the insecurities you already possess and can kill your motivation to continue. I think, at some point, something deeper than instant audience gratification has to drive you, because it can take a really long time for others to see value in what you make. With some exceptions, when you look at the biographies of most artists, it took them a lot of years of creating in the dark before others gained interested in them. We sometimes forget that many of our favorite artists never achieved "success" in their lifetime. An artist I admire once said that there is always an "art coefficient" -- an unknown variable that your work is up against. You never know what "x" will be and you have to weather the times when, for one reason or another, it is indifference. There are a lot of people working hard and getting their work out. You are one of them and your work matters, but you cannot control the reception of your creative endeavors. Most independent creators are up against indifference, not haters.
Achickwitbeatz: What are 5 skills/attributes that would place an artist on your top 10 list?
Torben: 1. Honesty
4. A respect for the tradition and where they fit in
Achickwitbeatz: Conversely, what are 5 attributes that would place an artist at the very bottom of your list?
Torben: 1. Contrivance
4. Unwarranted ego
5. No personality in the work
Achickwitbeatz: If you could offer any piece of advice to multi-talented artists, what would it be?
Torben: Even if you are involved in a lot of difference projects, try to dedicatedly focus your work on one at a time. I work best and make the most progress when I force myself to immerse myself in the task at-hand. I personally think it's fine to spread yourself out into different projects that feed you in unique ways, but when you do, you'll notice quickly that it's hard not to feel fragmented. I studied Integrated Studies in school and one of my main takeaways is that you can focus multiple areas in service of one goal, but not without mindful and deliberate effort. I personally think my works gets much more interesting when I integrate my different influences, so it's worth the discipline. Everyone will tell you to put more work and time into becoming great at one thing, and maybe they are right, but I've never been able to do that because I look at working in different mediums like eating from different food groups.
Achickwitbeatz: What's next on the horizon for Torben?
Torben: I have a lot of exciting work on the horizon. I am excited to announce that my old group M.E.D. (Mental Elastic Dynasty) is reuniting for an upcoming EP. We are already in the process and I'm excited to soon begin sharing some new music with our fans. I am also currently working on a number of documentary projects. A documentary I am co-producing entitled "Street Fighting Man" that follows three Detroit men fighting to build something lasting for themselves and future generations (http://www.streetfightingmanthemovie.com/) is on its way to audiences soon. I am also working on short documentary collaborations in SLC, where I live, and could possibly release up to five new movies in 2014. Finally, I am working on an upcoming feature covering both sides of the marriage equality debate in Utah. Other than that, each day I'm just trying to push the boulder up the mountain, little by little, in hopes that all of the work is leading to further recognition and sustainability.
Achickwitbeatz: How can people connect with you to stay current with what you have in the works?
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