StarGate, creator of Super Bowl anthem ‘Black and Yellow,’ to open L.A. music school
With the NFL season around the corner, production duo StarGate is bringing the same energy they poured into the Pittsburgh Steelers’ anthem “Black and Yellow” to music students in Los Angeles.
StarGate, made up of Norwegians Tor Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen, is opening the Los Angeles Academy for Artists and Music Production (LAAMP) this fall. The idea came out of the pandemic when, with touring and traveling stopped, many musicians were challenged to think outside the box.
“We’ve always believed in just giving back, and knowledge is the most valuable thing we have to transfer to the next generation,” Hermansen said. “So as we’ve been in this industry 20 years, we’ve learned a few lessons and there are certain things that we thought, ‘Man, I wish I knew this when we were starting out.’ It could have really given us a fast track to more results.
“The time just felt right during the pandemic to be, like, this is the time to actually do it because we had some extra time on our hands. We felt like if we don’t do it now, we’re never going to do it.”
Applications are open for the nine-month program that starts in October. LAAMP will be housed at StarGate’s 6,600-square-foot studio complex in Santa Monica with an option to take online courses. The in-person program costs nearly $35,000 and will bring 48 musical artists, songwriters and producers together with mentorship from industry veterans.
StarGate has made dozens of hits after gaining popularity in Europe and moving to New York in 2005. They went on to produce records for Ne-Yo and Rihanna, but one of their favorite moments was working with Wiz Khalifa on “Black and Yellow,” the anthem that served as the soundtrack for the Steelers’ run to Super Bowl XLV.
“We always wanted to work with a rapper, but we were never able to because our stuff in our music was naturally more melodic,” Hermansen said. “So just to be in the room with Wiz was a great experience when he started putting this hook down in the song, it was confirmation that, ‘Oh, wow, we have what it takes to work with a rapper and make a great record out of it.’”
Neither he nor Eriksen anticipated the enormity of the song. They both recalled their excitement at seeing Steelers fans waving Terrible Towels in the stands to the whirring beat and effortless hook.
“It’s just amazing to see when a song takes on a life of its own like that and becomes part of culture,” Eriksen said. “The most rewarding thing is to be at a big concert or sports arena and you hear your song being performed or played and you see people singing along and the response and what it does to the crowd. That is a very, very powerful feeling and what motivates you to keep creating.”
The Packers beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl that year. Green Bay was spurred on by the song as well because other rappers inserted lyrics for their own team colors into the StarGate soundscape. Longtime Cheesehead Lil Wayne gave Aaron Rodgers and company “Green and Yellow.”
If it was any consolation to the Steelers, Wiz Khalifa (who recently appeared as the Chameleon on “The Masked Singer,”) had his first No. 1 hit with “Black and Yellow” the week after the Super Bowl.
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StarGate is also known for Katy Perry‘s 12-time platinum “Firework,” which she used to close out her Super Bowl XLIX performance floating through the air surrounded by fireworks. It reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in December 2010 and became a national phenomenon because of its message of inclusivity and inspiration.
“That’s as good as it gets,” Eriksen said. “No. 1 on Billboard is kind of the peak and then also having a song in Super Bowl is also kind of as good as it gets.”
Despite not growing up with American football, Hermansen now roots for the New York Giants because of their success winning Super Bowl XLII when he and Eriksen were learning to call the U.S. home. He also roots for fellow Norwegian Mats Zuccarello, a winger for the Minnesota Wild who also began his career in the Big Apple.
“Sports and music have something in common where it’s really the main arena where you bring people together from different cultures, from different races, from different socioeconomic backgrounds,” Hermansen reflected. “It’s the great leveler because nobody cares where you’re from in sports and nobody cares where you’re from in music. It’s only about what you bring to the table.”
StarGate learned from Jay Z and his Roc Nation co-founder Tyron “Ty Ty” Smith about the power of remaining authentic to their sound, not compromising to try to fit into what they wanted to produce. Through LAAMP, they hope to use all of their lessons to encourage other artists to use their own voices.
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