Monday, February 21, 2011

Q&A with Alex Nackman (PART 1)

Having reviewed Alex Nackman's newest CD a number of weeks ago I wanted to dive in a bit further. Thankfully Alex was nice enough to have a little e-mail Q&A session. Here's what transpired.

EZ: Your sound has evolved over the years, personally I hear a lot of U2, early Coldplay, and even Radiohead in this new album that makes it so unique from previous work. What were your actual influences this go ‘round and what were you striving for?

AN: My influences have always been drawn from a lot of British and European bands. I've always been attracted to the tension in much of that sound. It's a combination of dramatically pensive, slightly melancholy tones. I had started to really get into British New Wave and bands from the mid-late 80's. New Order, Duran Duran, Joy Division, early U2 were all influential. On the contemporary side, I've always been fond of the band Doves, a band from Manchester, UK. I think all of those bands are slightly infused in the new record.

EZ: I've been listening to your music for 5+ years now and can hear the maturity and sometimes large leaps you've taken from record to record; how would you describe the evolution of your sound over that period of time?

AN: It's hard for me to describe my own evolution because it tends to be better observed by an outsider. However, I can say that I began this pursuit much more in the singer/songwriter vein just as John Mayer, Jason Mraz, and Howie Day were gaining large-scale popularity around 2002, but things certainly have taken a more serious and more cinematic turn as the years have progressed. I've gone more electric and have experimented with more electronica, which has shifted my sound more towards alternative. However, things have a way becoming cyclical. I wouldn't be surprised if my motivations start edging back towards acoustic styles or folk influences. Iron & Wine and Mark Kozelek are still two of my favorite acoustic artists and I'm constantly influenced by who I'm listening to.

EZ: In that regard, it seems you got heavy into the drum machines and electronic fx, how did that start? Clear picture or just noodling?

AN: In the early demos, it was more noodling, but these songs have really had a good year to sit and marinate. So, by the time I entered my studio with fixed melodies and lyrics, my ideas for the drums, percussion, and electronic programming were pretty fixed. That being said, there is always an element of improv in the studio. I may hit a wrong key or a wrong note that actually sounds cooler than my intended note. The "mistake" ends up being the keeper.

EZ: Kind of in the same thought bubble...who came up with some of the drum loops and percussion rhythms?

AN: I actually wrote everything, but I also had a fair amount of natural acoustic drums on the record as well. It's mixed between the electronic sound for a blend that lies somewhere in between. I played some drums myself (first-time ever!) and my good friend Justin King, a great musician from Oregon, also performed some drums on the new record.

EZ: Yes, I've met Justin when he opened for you way back when. Very talented guy. Switching gears, Where would you say you are in your career?

AN: I'm not quite sure. I'm happy, I can say that much. I'm content with my music. I think we all would love to be one step ahead of where we are. I've got a new record that feels right. It feels organic. It feels hand-made, which gives me a lot of satisfaction. I'm focused more on getting the music into the hands of listeners, and less on "industry-stuff." But, there are always ups and downs and I've learned to keep a thick skin in this pursuit. I know whatever great things are happening today, might not be so great tomorrow, and vice versa. So, I push ahead.

EZ: Absolutely. What are your goals for 2011?

AN: I think my goals are really to keep my following, increase listeners who "get" what I do, and really hone in on grassroots promotion. I've been much more pro-active in my street team. I want people to hear the record and say, "I know what he means." I want people to see me as honest and sincere.

EZ: What about touring plans?

AN: Working on touring plans. Right now, I've got some scattered dates planned in the northeast, west coast, and the UK. Still working on things at this point.

EZ: I know you took a bit more time between records this time around; explain the process of making this record. (I know it’s probably a long answer)

AN: I sort of touched on this in a previous answer but I began this record 2 years ago. Some of these songs have been sitting and developing for a long time. I decided to really make sure these songs had long-term strength. I wanted to still like them in 6 months, 8 months, 10 months, etc. I ended up with 30 new songs in contention for the album, but I gave them all 6 months or more before I began to record them for real. By the time I sat down to really get the final tracks, the songs had definitely changed from where they had begun when I first wrote them. In addition, I still really liked the songs. That litmus test made me feel good about what I was doing and gave me a bit more assurance that the music had at least the potential to stick around for awhile with listeners. I didn't want to make an ephemeral record. I always think the song I wrote today is the best song in the world. Then, I listen to it tomorrow and I think it's just ok. I didn't want that with this record. Once I had the music developed, I sat in my home studio in Brooklyn and literally played every single part. I did fly to Oregon to work with Justin King for a week, but 85% of the record was recorded in Brooklyn. The remainder was worked on in a cabin up in New Hampshire. I locked myself way for 10 days with a roaring fire, a snowstorm, a case of red wine, and all my recording gear. It was one of the most rewarding weeks I've experienced. I recorded 4 songs and felt like I had cleared my head. The record was finished by October of 2010.

Check out Part 2 of the Q&A for a detailed rundown of the songs on This Revolution