30 June 2023 · Mazda Stories
Moog And The Music Of Mazda
Blair Joscelyne is one of those people who’s never worked a day in his life, and yet still achieved a huge amount.
There’s a mixture of irrepressible joy and disbelief in his ever-present grin as he explains how he spent the early part of his career doing what he loves most - composing music - before one of his hobbies, messing around with cars and joking around with one of his best mates, led him to even bigger success via their YouTube channel, Mighty Car Mods, which now has more than 800 million views and is, officially, the biggest car show in Australian history.
Ask Blair to talk about this previous, pre-YouTube stardom life - the one where he was actually being paid for what he loves, composing music for commercials, and thus not really working at all - and you can tell he misses it, and remains immensely proud of what he achieved
One of Blair’s biggest successes was coming up with the iconic Zoom Zoom mnemonic, a successful piece of composing that led to him writing, and performing the music, for many Mazda TV advertisements shown around the world.
“I always wanted to be a film and TV composer, that was my dream. I didn’t want to be a rock star, I just wanted to make music that would go out on TV, and I would know that it was my music, but no one else would. I didn’t need to be out front, that’s all I wanted,” Blair, also known in the Mighty Car Mods world as “Moog” (like the synthesiser) explains.
“It all started from watching movies like Star Wars and Ghostbusters and The Goonies as a child and just falling in love with the idea of making music that was as filmic and epic as possible.
“I think a lot of people think music just appears by magic, but if you think about it, every computer game, every app, every on-hold system, TV commercials, TV shows - they all need original music, it’s everywhere.”
After working his way up composing music for everything from adult films to late-night SMS-service ads, Blair finally landed a job at a large music production agency called Nylon in Sydney, alongside four other full-time composers whose job it was to create and turn around pieces of music for brands at high speed in a hugely competitive environment.
“Writing music for products can be very challenging and I think it takes a very specific kind of personality to do it - people often say to me, ‘I wouldn’t be able to do that’, because some people want to spend a year or two working on an album, but usually we’d have a day, maybe six or eight hours, to put a piece of music together,” Blair recalled.
“So that would be getting a brief in the morning, then you’ve got until the end of the day to get that done, get the live players in to record it that afternoon, send it off, and the next day you’re doing it again.
“I found it exhilarating, I treated it very much as being a musical athlete. I was listening to as many different kinds of music as I could, learning new instruments, finding new sounds, trying different bits of software, and I just loved it. It was also very competitive, other companies are pitching on the work, and it’s your job to win it, and if you don’t win jobs, you’re out.”
It was while working at Nylon, in 2012, that a particular opportunity arrived. Mazda, which already had its famous, whispered “Zoom Zoom” wanted to turn it into a more musical mnemonic, or “an audio iconography”.
Blair, who already had a particular love for the brand thanks to cherished childhood days spent in a much-loved MX-5 with his father, leapt at the chance.
“I was the youngest of four kids, and that car only has two seats, so if I was in it, it was just the two of us, me and my Dad, and he loved music, so we’d always be listening to music, so I have a very strong emotional connection to that car,” he recalled.
“So when the Mazda brief came through, I just kept singing versions into my phone for a whole week, then when I felt I had it, I sang it to my wife, who’s a singer, and then asked her to sing it back to me the next day, and it was there in her head.
“So I rang my Dad, who’s definitely not a singer at all, and I did the same, and when I rang him the next day, he got the notes totally wrong, but he got the shape right, so I knew that even someone who wasn’t musical would at least be able to recall the landscape.
“So I went into work and played it, I got a male singer doing a rock version, I got a female to record a little acoustic, folky one, and we sent them off to Mazda.”
After a tense wait, a conference call was set up with Mazda HQ in Hiroshima, Japan. It turned out that they liked the music he’d written, but they wanted to know, what exactly did the notes mean?
“And I said, what’s Mazda about? It’s about a journey, it’s about going places, and every car journey begins with starting up the engine, giving it a little rev to check it out - that ZOOM, zoom, ZOOM! And then through the phone came this round of applause, and that was it, that mnemonic was in every single Mazda ad for the next two years, and I got to write all the music for the Mazda TV ads in Australia, it was amazing,” Blair recalls, with an even bigger grin than usual.
“It’s such a thrill when you see your music on TV. I think people orient their idea of musical success to really big film composers or rock stars or DJs, but sitting at home and hearing my music come on, music made with real passion, that was amazing.
“I remember at one stage I was at home and there was an ad break of five or six ads, and four of them were ads I’d done music for, including the Mazda ads, so it was like having a little jukebox on TV of music I’d done, and it was very exciting.”
These days, Blair is still composing music, but all of it is done for his own brand, Mighty Car Mods, a YouTube channel that he started with his mate, Marty Mulholland, as a bit of fun in 2007, back before people could actually make money that way, and when it took days just to upload one video on sludgy, slow internet.
As his side hobby of modifying Japanese cars, and goofing around, has taken over his working life, it’s also provided new and exciting opportunities to flex his musical muscles.
Blair and Marty recently travelled to Japan to pick up a mint Mazda RX-7 and visit the Mazda factory in Hiroshima, a trip they turned into a film called Turbos and Temples 3.
“That was a feature-length film that ran for 90 minutes, so a lot of my time was spent writing the original score for that so that film had three different singles that were released and over Christmas, when those songs came out on the iTunes electronics chart in Australia, they took the number one, two and three positions, so I was super proud of that,” Blair said.
"I still don’t consider Mighty Car Mods to be my job, I absolutely don’t identify as a YouTuber or an influencer, I still identify as a musician. It’s strange that my hobby of playing with cars has become the thing that I’m better known for, but I think my musical skills actually outweigh my automotive and mechanical skills.
“It’s funny that people think of music and cars as separate disciplines, but they’re both quite emotional pursuits. Personally, I think there’s nothing better than getting in a car that you love, putting the windows down, putting on some music that you love and heading out into the night. That’s my ultimate night out."