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ON TOP OF THE WORLD: POINT BLANK

London’s Point Blank Music Learning Facility is setting up shop in LA...

Point Blank is about to open a new chapter in Los Angeles. DJ Mag touched base with founder Rob Cowan and new business partner and uber producer Jesse Rogg as they prepare to launch on a brand-new stage...

Tell us a little bit about Point Blank, what’s the history?
Rob: “I started off as a professional musician, I got into production and worked in a large commercial studio called Matrix with people like Sasha and more mainstream acts like D:Ream and M People. I learnt about production there and then set up my own studio in 1994, which was Point Blank. People were coming in for sessions and wanted to know how the studio worked, so in addition to their session, I was explaining the ins and outs of the studio.

That part of it grew and became what is known as Point Blank as it is today, it just started off with a very short weekend course and developed. We outgrew the studio and moved to Hoxton in about 2000, into purpose-built studios, and the courses have just grown and developed since then.”

Why have you decided to expand into America?
R: “I always liked the thought of it but essentially it came from a chance meeting. I wanted to expand into the States but it was a question of how we did it. LA felt like a really buzzing place and in fact the majority of our online students come from the West Coast, so we knew there was a big market there for what we do. I think meeting Jesse and him being someone I really like and really trust was the key factor that facilitated it.”

How did you guys meet?
Jesse: “I met Rob in January 2013 during one of his visits to the NAMM convention in LA. We were introduced and I invited him down to Mack Sennett Studios, which I had just re-opened at that time. When I first set out to find a creative space I always imagined there to be a strong music education aspect linked to it.”

R: “Yeah we really hit it off. We were talking about working together — he was going to create some video content for us, and he said he would love to open a school. I told him my idea of a place in LA and that was the seed, really.”

What is the vision for Point Blank in LA?
J: “The idea for Point Blank in Los Angeles is for students to be directly associated with one of the most vibrant and exciting creative communities in the world, in which they can immerse themselves and ideally explore the highest reaches of their creativity.”

R: “We’ve got the blueprint for Point Blank and what we do in London, so the idea is to replicate that in LA. We know how to run a school and make it successful, we have the format but you need somebody there on the ground that is part of the fabric and really well-connected. Someone to hold it together and head it up, and Jesse can do that. He knows the right people, is a hugely successful music producer as it is, he’s got a fantastic location and we can replicate what we have in the UK but also add a little bit more, it’s a different scene over there with new artists to work with.”

Point Blank is known for getting great artists involved, who have you got lined up for the US edition?
J: “We already have amazing people within the LA music scene including Jerome LOL, Daedelus, Tokimonsta, Two Fresh and many more of my friends who want to be a part of it. With my music production background we will make sure to get a lot of amazing producers through the door so our students can learn and be inspired by the best.”

Do you think the EDM explosion in the US has meant that a facility like Point Blank will be a welcome addition to the American dance music scene?
J: “More than the EDM explosion I think it's the accessibility to being able to actually create music in your home that's really propelled things further. In addition, LA is going through a major renaissance period in terms of music, culture, art, so most people (especially on the east side of LA where the school is located) are creatively-minded to a certain extent.

But yes in addition to this, the 'EDM' explosion has obviously made people pay a lot more attention to electronic music.”
R: “I think it’s been brilliant for us. We noticed from the online stats of our online school and seeing where our actual students come from, a lot of them are West Coast and I think at the heart of our decision was that there’s a market out there for us.

We’ve had successful students from the States, even people like Claude VonStroke taking our courses. The whole of the Dirtybird label took some of our online courses too, so we know it appeals wider than just entry level, it also works for those further up the ladder. We know there’s a demand there, and it’s growing. The EDM thing doesn’t look like it’s stopping any time in the near future, so I think it’s a good time for us.”

Tell us more about the facilities and the classes that will be on offer in LA...
R: “It’s going to be hosted in Jesse’s amazing Mack Sennett Studios in Silver Lake. It’s such a cool building. He does film shoots, video shoots, he hosts parties and after-parties, everyone who’s anyone has been there. We’re going to set up all the classes there.

Just being in that environment — with the quality of other artists using the studios — that will be of huge benefit to students. We’ll be teaching Ableton and Native Instrument production courses, we have a year-long Ableton Live course including the introduction module, sound design module and a mixing and performance module. We’ll also have a three-month introduction version, and weekend courses too. It’s really exciting.”

J: “I took over Mack Sennett Studios at the beginning of 2013. The studio is one of the longest-running sound stages in the country with loads of amazing Hollywood history, including everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Dr Dre and Martin Scorcese to David Lynch [coming through]… since re-opening our doors we've shot tons of commercials, photo shoots, TV shows and music videos including Robin Thicke and Pharrell's 'Blurred Lines', Rod Stewart, the Killers and many more plus hosted a large array of events (including Spike Jonze's Oscar after-party for his movie Her)

Any future plans for Point Blank?
R: “At the moment, I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew. We need to get the LA school just right. We’re always developing what we’re doing in London too — that’s the blueprint, so we need to make sure that it’s the best it can be, ensuring qualification levels are getting higher, and now we have LA to focus on. Anything beyond that is the future.”

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