Producer Serge Turnier, who goes by the moniker Power Surge, has his ears to the streets. Singer Olivier Duret can attest to that. Duret first met the beatmaker while they were attending the same school. The up-and-coming producer was already making a name for himself. “That’s around the time he started doing music with [a musical group named] SUAVE, so I knew he had skills,” says Duret. The singer was to see those skills manifest when the producer dropped by his house one day. Duret recalls, “He told me he had a beat if I was interested. [He] made me listen to it, and that’s how “Toi et Moi” came about.”
“Toi et Moi” (You and Me)—the track Duret refers to—is an uptempo ballad, whose frenetic beat matched the tumultuous love story line of the song.
In working with Duret, Power Surge’s approach was simple. Says Duret: “As a producer, he is very energetic. He also lets you do your own thing while taking your ideas and suggestions into consideration. I think he is very talented as a producer—very versatile. He is able to mix different styles together, while keeping it in the same genre. Very original.”
Like other producers who’ve amassed considerable clout, Power Surge has formed his own record label, Power Surge Music Group. Check out what he had to say during his interview with Kreyolicious.
Kreyolicious: Would you mind introducing yourself?
I am a music producer and executive in the Haitian music industry. I have produced artists ranging from Michael Benjamin, T-Vice, JPerry, to DJ Khaled, Ace Hood, Flo Rida and others. I initially started my producer’s career in Miami, Florida, but now I reside in Haiti where I have my family, a business and a private recording studio.
Power Surge chilling out with singer JPerry in his second home—the recording studio!
Kreyolicious: Were you one of those kids who received guitars, and singer kits, or those mini-pianos or keyboards as gifts growing up?
My dad had a little keyboard at home and that’s where it all started for me. I was three years old and I was re-producing stuff I heard on the radio on that little keyboard. My aunt was a piano teacher and one day she saw me doing that. I was only playing with two or three fingers and very slowly. But I was still playing melodies that I heard on the radio. Immediately my aunt asked my mom if she could [give] me piano lessons. My mom agreed and then I started playing the piano. The thing is, I never really liked classical music. So, I lost interest in the lessons really quick. I couldn’t understand the concept of replaying someone’s music, either it be the greats like Mozart, Beethoven or Chopin, when I can actually just create my own. So, I stopped taking lessons and started writing my own music around the age of twelve.
Kreyolicious: What’s it like being in the music business?
It sucks. [Laughter] I honestly think I’m going to retire pretty soon. I’m so burnt out. I’m tired. People judge me without knowing me. Plus, there’s no loyalty in the game. People I have worked with for years have betrayed me for peanuts. Everybody has their own agenda and they are willing to cut throats in order to get their piece of the pie. Other people have approached me to help them produce their records, even though they had no money to pay me. I accepted to help them and in the middle of the project they decide to go with a different producer—or they have a different vision—as if all the work I was doing did not even matter. I should’ve charged them since day one, but then they will say I am not supporting the up-and-coming artists. [Laughter] Thank God, music is not the only thing that puts food on my table. I would have been on the streets. Anyways, this is just to say that as a producer in the Haitian music industry, there is no real money. In the international market, yes there is—if you have a good lawyer, a good manager—and of course good music—you will be fine.
Power Surge with singer Olivier Duret. Photo by Karizma via HaitianBeatz.
Kreyolicious: Did your parents feel some type of way about your being in the business?
In the beginning of my career—which was about 13 years ago—my parents were skeptical because I was young. They didn’t think I knew what I wanted, even though I was already being very successful. I started a band in high school, and by the time I was 15 years old, I had already performed with all the big groups in the Haitian music industry: T-Vice, Sweet Micky, Djakout. I even opened up for Beenie Man when he came to Haiti. Of course, I wasn’t doing it for the money at the time; I was only a kid. But our determination and passion made us one of the best bands in Haiti at the time. Long story short, my parents supported me in my decisions, but of course, wanted me to take the safe route and get a degree in something other than music and get a secure job. I understand now what they meant because I have a kid of my own. But at the end of the day, the fact is that I made it work and now I’m grateful to the Lord that I am in a position to be able to provide for my family–which ultimately is what matters.
Kreyolicious: And how do they feel about it now?
They are really happy and proud of my accomplishments.
Kreyolicious: To budding producers, would you advise them to start out as part of a production team. The history of music certainly has given weight to that option. Lamont-Dozier-Holland to Babyface and L.A. Reid, to Missy Elliott and Timberland?
Well, being a part of a team is always a good thing, but I wouldn’t let that stop any producer from pursuing their dream. In this day and age, it’s hard to find reliable and loyal people to be a part of your team. My suggestion to up-and-coming producers is to just work at bettering their craft no matter who’s with them or not. Just be the best at what you’re doing and keep working no matter what. Being a part of a team is great when everyone is on the same page. When people on your team are lazy or just don’t have the same vision as you, it will slow you down—or worst—actually break your career.
Kreyolicious: When you’re coming up with a new track, what usually takes shape first…the melody for said track, or actual lyrics?
I usually grab my keyboard, pick a sound that I like and just start messing around with melodies until I find something that grabs me. And I build the rest of the song around that.
Kreyolicious: Between creating lyrics and coming up with a melody, which comes easier to you?
Coming with a melody.
With Fat Joe, one of the many rappers the producer has worked with.
Kreyolicious: Say someone has just graduated high school, and producing artists and acts is very part of their plan. What’s the best way to get started?
Well, first is knowing what producing is. Understand what it is that you will be doing as a producer with the artists. Then, figuring out what are the best gears to have in order to make it work. And then, just start working.
Kreyolicious: Out of all the tracks you’ve produced, which one means the most to you?
I have two tracks that I produced that mean a lot to me. The first is “Do it” featuring Flo Rida. It was the first time I produced a song with a chart topping artist. It was one of my goals as a producer, then when it happened, it meant a lot to me. The 2nd song is “Toi et Moi” by T-Vice. This song is by far the most popular song I have in the Haitian music industry and it means a lot to me because when I sent it to the T-Vice guys, I wasn’t sure that they would have picked the song to work with because it was so different then all the stuff they were doing. I’m glad they were open-minded enough to do so. My whole approach was that I wanted to produce a song for T-Vice with a new sound in order to reach different target markets. It worked out really well because “Toi et Moi” is one of the biggest records on the radio in Guadeloupe, Martinique and France.
Kreyolicious: Can you give me an example of a time when an artist requested to work with you, and how you went about it?
When people reach out to me to work on a song, I usually ask them what their budget is first. Depending on their reaction, then I know how serious they are. And I don’t ask for the budget because I need to make money. I ask for the budget because producing a successful song needs a budget. Either its for promo, recording, production, video, graphics, marketing, etc… A lot of people think that the music industry is all about making music. It’s not. It’s a full-blown business. Making music is the easy and fun part. The other very important part is to make it become a hit record on the streets and the radio, then translating the popularity of the record into capital.
I thought about it. Maybe I’ll do a producer’s album and feature on a few songs. But it’s only in the back of my head. Nothing concrete yet. We will see.
Kreyolicious: What records and artists have influenced you the most?
My influences are definitely Timbaland and Ansyto Mercier.
Kreyolicious: What do you like about them?
I love their style.
Kreyolicious: How do you discern an artist who has talent from one who doesn’t?
I usually ask them if they have any previous work. And I listen to their stuff, ask them a few questions about their process in the studio—if they write their own stuff, etc… And usually just take it from there.
Kreyolicious: What else can your fans expect from you in the future?
Honestly, I have no idea what my future in music is looking like. I haven’t been active lately. I got contacted by a few people I worked with in the past because they are now working on their new projects. That’s about it. Like I said, I think I’m on my way out. We will see how it plays out.
[Photo Credit: All photos (unless otherwise stated) were retrieved from social media accounts with permission of subject]