Interview with Joe Atlan (Jose Aranda)

  • Who are you, Joe Atlan or José Manuel Aranda? Who is who?
Joe Atlan is more a marketing decision I made. I really like Internet and selling stuff on the Internet since I found out Edgar´s video, a Mexican boy who was quite famous when he came out on YouTube. I made a version of “The Lord of the Rings” with that video, and I got 300,000 visits within few time. It was then when I discovered the power of YouTube: how you could do something and, suddenly, a lot of people could watch it... Everybody! Since that moment I started “exploring” that world. There are many Josés, and also Arandas. All the domains were chosen… standing out is very difficult on the Internet. I wanted a name that was easy to pronounce in English, short and easy to remember, as well as not very different from mine. With my music, what do I want to transmit? Joy, significance, fight, gratitude and nature (in Spanish: Alegría, Transcendencia, Lucha, Agradecimiento and Naturaleza): so then you get ATLAN. Furthermore, I´ve always liked the aesthetic from Atlantis, I identify myself and it inspires me. In my daily life I obviously prefer to be called José.
  • But people recognize you more as Joe Atlan rather than as José Aranda.
Yes, overall abroad, but not in Spain! Because of “Hablo en Serio” I am José. When I am in Madrid and somebody stops me in the streets say “hey, you are the one from the videos, you are José”.
  • So many people recognize you?
Yes, yes, yes, but because of “Hablo en Serio”. Because of Joe Atlan just one or two persons ever recognized me since it got viral and we reached more than a million visits. We went to Madrid, we got phone calls from ATRESMEDIA, 13TV, Cuatro and La Sexta, that interviewed us. So well, we took the chance to record a video and eberybody recognized us, especially in Ciudad Universitaria.
  • I can picture you son in “El Hormiguero” doing silly things with Pablo Motos.
You know what? They offered us to have a section in the programm “Ciento y la Madre”, with Patricia Conde, but we didn´t have time to collaborate.
  • Wow, I didn´t know it. I have been researching on the Internet and I think people know you more abroad than in Spain; in fact, you have an English webpage at Wikipedia, but not one in Spanish.
Now I don´t know, because of “Hablo en Serio”, but before yes. Several people told me about Wikipedia, and it would be somebody that knows me who did it.
  • It surprised me, you don´t look for projects anymore, they look for you.
Yes, but one is always trying to look for more. There were times in which people contacted me more often. There are periods of inactivity when you can´t record many videos, and you disappear again, so you always have to remain active.
  • You said before… what came earlier, YouTube or the music? The chicken or the egg?
Hmm, well, nearly at the same time. My dad enrolled me into music when I was 10 years old, I didn´t really like it, but you had to do activities and so on. I discovered music with the music group Rhapsody, and then is when I related music with Tolkien´s world, because I have always been a bit nerd for this stuff. In an abstract way, because while reading Tolkien´s books I saw things that I couldn´t describe, but I loved them. It was like limitless imagination. Music is more abstract, you don´t see a thing, you just listen. I discovered the power of the music at the age of 16, I played with the piano we had at home, even without piano lessons. It was during that same period when I discovered Edgar´s video, but the first time that I uploaded music was when I started attending to university, back in 2007. I signed up for a concert without having any composition, and what I did was playing some improvisation which I sometimes played, and people really liked it. Then I uploaded it to YouTube. I loved the possibility that my father, family, friends, could watch it, people commented it... just like with Edgar´s video! I kept on uploading videos and, step by step, I got hooked on that.
  • You like so much Tolkien´s mithology, you have been with Gandalf! With Pepe Mediavilla.
Yes, even though I wasn´t personally with him, he texted me once. I think previously I had added him on Facebook or “liked” his webpage, because I have always liked him. Then he told me that he had seen my piano videos, that they had moved him and that he would like to recite poetry with my music. He sent me some poems that he recited. I composed a piano piece for one of them and I published it on YouTube. Later he texted me to say that he got excited, that he loved it, and he said: “thank you, you are going to make me famous” (laughter). I don´t know if he was fooling me, but for how he sounded I know he didn´t. He keeps on, without me, with a channel. 
  • What he says is truth, because nowadays new generations really follow YouTube, social networks, the YouTubers...
Yes, YouTubers are like a new kind of celebrity. They are normal people, they have a close contact, they see the feedback of the audience right away, and they are totally connected. But it isn´t only that, they can be someone else´s references’. Mostly for children.
  • Don´t you feel funny being a reference?
The truth is for the moment I don´t feel like a reference, although I would like to become a good reference indeed. It is not my goal, it is an ambition. The goal is doing things properly. Besides, I always had an academic passion for music. Because there are many things from music that, in my opinion, aren´t said yet, at least in everyday’s life nobody could know them. To confuse music that is composed to dance with the one that is composed to listen is, in my opinion, a serious mistake. People don´t know how to listen to music anymore, nor notice a music story. They expect to have background music for when they are doing other things, and that is also radio´s fault. I´m writing a book, for a long time, but I don´t know... it is very philosophical and academic. About art, the responsibility of the artist and what kind of attitude a musician should have, about not deciding a genre before composing... Because there are things that are very important, and those change people without they notice it, for better or worse. For example, when you watch junk TV, people are sometimes aware that it is rubbish, so this is why it is less dangerous. I think by being so explicit it is less dangerous, maybe it is not. But when one listens to bad music it also affects him as a person but nobody realizes it. I have the ambition to change that, and not only doing music but also writing about it.
  • For the moment you are going to Berklee, after three of four years trying to go there.
I want to do things during my stay in Berklee. I´ve already studied a degree, I´ve been in London, two years at home... I don´t want just to study, but use it as a springboard to do projects while I study. I want to compose soundtracks, which is what I´m going to study, although I have to learn a lot, but I think that is what fits the most with the kind of music I want to compose. Especially for videogames, you have more freedom as a composer. A film is always orientated to a couple of themes that are somehow repeated the whole time, with some modifications, but in the end there is only one song. In total it´s one hour and a half or two hours. A videogame lasts 60 or 70 hours, you go through different settings... and that let you create a whole musical universe with an own energy and identity. Maybe you don´t earn so much money, although now more and more, but it is a field that I love.
  • Any composer that you admire?
Yes. Videogames composer, especially Jeremy Soule, who composed the soundtrack of “Guild Wars 2” and “Skyrim”. His music is full of newness and I love it. Regarding cinema composers, I´m a true fan of John Williams. Also of Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, James Horner...
  • And once you have finished studying in Berklee, do you want to create videogame soundtracks in Spain or abroad?
I don´t know if the Spanish videogame industry is active. Well, neither cinema industry. I don´t really know about that, in that sense I´m still a kid (laughter).
  • You work on your music, your videos, your things…
The thing is that I have no idea of anything. I still have to learn a lot (laughter). I´m never going to leave the Internet, but that doesn´t let you compose soundtracks. For that you have to be in a videogame, in a producer company... I wouldn´t care where. What I care about is the specific project. If there is a good videogame being developed in Spain, what I don´t think is an easy thing... not only because it should be good, but also because I´m very picky. I would like to do something whose atmosphere I feel identified with. I don´t have any favourite place.
  • Well, you say you know nothing about the industry, but now you are going to Madrid to film with Borja Cobeaga.
Yes, but I didn´t know who he was until some weeks ago (laughter). It was thanks to the joke videos. I´m going to film with him and a lot more of people who I don´t know who they are. And I didn´t prepare a thing, because I was very busy with all about Berklee (laughter).
  • I have been told that is a cookie commercial that is going to be impressive.
I trust Borja to get something pretty funny. Although some marketing directors propose ideas that aren´t funny at all, ideas that people wouldn´t like.
  • You think that people like more Internet, social networks and its feedback than traditional commercials.
I think that a guy who uploads videos on YouTube or frequently publishes content is much better a Community Manager, or whatever the name is, than any guy that works now, which normally belongs to company administration. They are people that make their agencies lose potential money. I´ve been in advertising agencies, Mondelez and some more, I´ve had meetings with people from marketing and they have studied company administration, they were just suggesting terrible ideas for the commercials. I think that the younger people that publish content in the Internet are able to produce things that people like much more. You learn a lot with that.
  • To conclude: is there someone you would like to especially thank for this opportunity (going to Berklee)? And for these years on YouTube?
My family, because I didn´t earn any money since I started my degree (laughter), and yet they have supported me. It is a privilege that not everybody has.
Carlos Nieto López
Translation: Pilar Colomo