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CRYPTOLOGIC: Jason Crosby On His Artistic Evolution and Epic New Solo Album!

CRYPTOLOGIC: Jason Crosby On His Artistic Evolution and Epic New Solo Album!

Jason Crosby – Photo by Jay Blakesberg

Jason Crosby is a musician’s musician. His perfect pitch was discovered when he picked up his first violin at 2 years old. Immersing himself in classical music, he became a professional piano player at a young age, and would go on to learn guitar, viola, French horn, and trumpet, touring with the Long Island Youth Orchestra to China, Russia, Australia, and Cuba. He soon expanded his musical horizons from Classical to Jazz, Funk, Rock, and Latin, before becoming a fixture in the Jam Band scene playing with Susan Tedeschi Band and Robert Randolph and the Family Band, then later The Allman Brothers, members of The Grateful Dead, and the Meters. Over the past few years, he has toured with Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, Pete Seeger, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Dave Matthews, and Jackie Greene, in addition to sharing the stage with BB King and the Rolling Stones. Along with his impressive touring resume, Jason has played on over 40 recorded albums.

In 2009, Crosby stepped away from his gig as a highly sought after sideman to get off the road and decompress. It was a risky move to walk away from the safety and security of his career as one of music’s most in-demand sidemen, but Crosby’s decision to experience a different kind of life helped plant the seeds that now, nearly a decade later, have blossomed into his exceptionally beautiful debut album, ‘Cryptologic.’ The project began to take flight when Crosby met Blue Rose Music founder Joe Poletto, it felt like a sign from the universe that the time had arrived to take the plunge and record this long-awaited album. Crosby headed into the studio with producer/engineer Karl Derfler (Tom Waits, Dave Matthews) for two whirlwind sessions, each capturing a different side of his musical personality. The first, conducted in the spring of 2016, featured Crosby playing roughly a dozen different instruments, deliberately crafting each song from the ground up by himself with an ambient, compellingly visual quality. The second session, a more raw and reckless affair that went down just a few months later, tapped into the wild and collaborative spirit of rock and roll that’s always flowed through Crosby’s veins, as he captured a new batch of songs (co-written with Tim Bluhm) live in the studio with Golden State stalwarts The Mother Hips as his backing band. With the album, Crosby digs deep, painting vivid portraits of characters on the hunt for redemption and renewal. Richly cinematic and enchantingly playful, ‘Cryptologic’ reveals Crosby to be not only an unparalleled instrumentalist, but also a supremely talented songwriter.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Jason Crosby to discuss his life in music, his evolution as an artist and the making of his unique solo album, ‘Cryptologic,’ which will be released on September 29th, 2017 by Blue Rose Music

You have built your life around music. How did the journey get started in the musical sense?

I started violin when I was 2 years old, shortly before my 3rd birthday, doing the Suzuki method with a 1/16th sized violin, group lessons, and whatnot. Then I started playing piano about 18 months later, when I was 4 years old. That is my first memory actually, being with my Mom and pulling up to my piano teacher’s house. I basically auditioned for my piano teacher, who was an amazing Russian woman named Tonya Lechtman. There is a big Russian community in Sea Cliff in Long Island where I grew up and she was well known as being a concert pianist that studied and taught at the Moscow Conservatory. I came highly recommended as a 4 year old! [laughs] I actually auditioned for her and she was my only piano teacher. She taught me for 13 years from the ages of 4 to 17.

What went into finding your creative voice as a young artist?

It took awhile. My childhood upbringing in music was mainly in classical. It wasn’t until after high school that I started to jam with people and play with others in something other than a large orchestra or chamber music setting. I feel like I started coming into my own in my late teens and it has been an ongoing process ever since!

You mentioned the classical part of your musical upbringing, but who were some of the other influences you looked to early on?

Well, I my first concert was Pink Floyd in 1987! I discovered Pink Floyd and prog rock band’s like YES and RUSH through my older brothers. I think I first discovered those bands when I was around 11 or 12 years old. In 1990, I went to boarding school for one year and Blues Traveler came to our school and Phish came to a neighboring school. It was in ’90 that I discovered the scene that I’m now in! I remember the first God Street Wine show that I attended, which I think was Christmas of 1990, the evening of December 25th, 1990. I saw them at The Wetlands. I watched them and I thought, “Not only do I really want to do this, but I think I actually can!” I could hear what was going on and in my head I was participating! [laughs] I remember really having dreams about playing with God Street Wine. I remember the following year, my senior year in high school, I would have dreams about playing with them! The dream would go that I was in my middle school auditorium watching God Street Wine and towards the end, they would say, “Ok, now we’re going to call up Jason Crosby and he’s going to play a couple of songs with us!” Then I would daydream about it again in class! [laughs] I would write down the different names of their songs and I had a bunch of cassette bootlegs. Ironically, I ended up playing with God Street Wine in their latter day versions and it was them who brought me to California and gave me the intro to Bob [Weir] and Phil [Lesh]. I guess dreams do come true in a literal sense! [laughs]

You’ve played with some amazing musicians through the years. Who has had the biggest influence on you creatively?

There has been a big influence from the Southeastern scene. There are guys like Oteil [Burbridge], The Aquarium Rescue Unit, and all the people Colonel Bruce [Hampton] brought together. I’m actually here in Atlanta now rehearing with Jimmy Herring and The Invisible Whip for our upcoming tour with John McLaughlin. I would say that Oteil was the first one to really influence me in my playing and getting deeper both harmonically and rhythmically. He was the first person to say, “Hey, man! You should do a solo record!” He really pushed me to do my own thing, so I have to give a lot of the credit to Oteil. It’s amazing that we are both doing The Grateful Dead gigs. Oteil called me a couple of Halloween’s ago when Dead and Company was playing at The Garden and I was playing with Phil. I guess there was some article in the paper and he didn’t even realize I was on that particular gig. He was like, “Man, remember when we were in the band and now were are playing New York City with different members of The Grateful Dead on the same night!” [laughs] The guys down here really influenced me a lot in my formative years and my 20s. Obviously, the crew in California has been a big influence on me in the last 5 years as well.

Let’s talk about your new record, ‘Cryptologic.’ What got the ball rolling on this project?

I had a batch of tunes which I wrote in my last years in New York and upon moving to California. I always had a concept of making a record where I played most of the instruments and created a soundscape for these songs using different instruments than just the standard rock band setup. It never came to fruition in the first couple of years I was in California because I was busy establishing myself in my career as a sideman. I met Joe Poletto, who is from Blue Rose Music, which is an artist collective out of Sonoma, California. Blue Rose Music is also a charity foundation that gives money to underprivileged kids for scholarships for pre-school. I was doing these Blue Rose events that he would have, long before he had a label. He and I became friends and he asked me about what else I had outside of the sideman world, so I played him some tunes. He was the real encouragement in making this happen. He gave me the support, time and connections to make it all happen. He introduced me to Karl Derfler, who produced the record. Karl is amazing and he has worked with Tom Waits and Dave Matthews. He truly is fantastic! I really have to give credit to Blue Rose for making the record come to fruition. What we ended up doing was using half the tunes from the batch that I had and then I wrote another 5 or 6 tunes. Four of those were with Tim Bluhm and we recorded those with The Mother Hips as the band. The record is kind of half of what my original vision was and then half of The Mother Hips, which really turned out to be the perfect way to do it. I think it blends nicely!

Tell us a little about your songwriting process for the record. How did it all come together?

Surprisingly, for some, I don’t write the songs on the piano. Other than “Final Step,” which I wrote on ukulele, everything was written on guitar. I’m not the greatest guitar player but I can get around the acoustic guitar! [laughs] I think that is part of what inspires me to write, at least the musical part of it, in that I’m still exploring the instrument. I’m still trying to figure out the guitar. As I’m playing, I will find some sort of chord that is unique to me or something i think is cool. I will start there and then branch out. It’s been a useful tool for me. I think in the next writing batch I’m going to do, I’m going to force myself to write on the piano because I haven’t done it! [laughs] These songs start on guitar and from tune to tune, they had a different curve of how long they took to create. For example, “Final Step,” I wrote in Hawaii on the ukulele. The words and music were 99% complete within a night. It took a half hour or an hour to write it. It just came to me and I love songs like those but others took a little time to develop. The tunes with Tim were great! We did some duo gigs in Hawaii and did a little excursion to a beach house for 4 or 5 days. We just sat there with a couple of acoustics and brainstormed. We wrote 4 tunes, which we finished back in California. There was one riff in the song “Gambler’s Conceit,” which I had the riff for that and Tim said, “Man, that sounds like a Mother Hips tune!” I said, “Well, maybe we should get the Mother Hips to record it!” [laughs] He said, “Ya know what? We should just get them to record the whole batch!” Which was great! [laughs] For me, it was really cool to record with a band that is a band. I mean, you can get 4 of the greatest musicians in the world in a room but if they’ve never played together, there is something missing. There is something to playing with a group of guys who have rehearsed, gigged, recorded and played together for years and years. It’s a unit. I was really lucky to have them!

Which songs came easiest and which presented more of a challenge?

“Final Step” was probably the easiest to nail down, along with “One of Those Places,” which I had been playing live and was the oldest song of the batch. Other tunes like “Was I Ever There” and “Suffered A Fool,” which I wrote with Tim, got me a little bit out of my comfort zone, not only lyrically but with the range. “Gambler’s Conceit” was a challenge as well. I didn’t think that I could sing that high. Tim told me that I could! [laughs] I kept trying and then eventually I could! I worked on it and worked on it and between the vocal coaching and working with Tim and Karl, I increased my vocal range by a whole step! I’m very thankful for that!

How did you originally cross paths with The Mother Hips?

I met Tim first. He had a couple of bands. One was Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers and then there was Brokedown In Bakersfield. That was the first time I met Tim. Brokedown In Bakersfield was a combination of members of ALO, The Mother Hips and The Gramblers. I remember that night well. Tim and I were hanging out and talking. We said, “We need to stay connected.” And we did! For the first year or so, I would see Tim, Greg and the guys and say, “Oh, Greg’s playing with Phil Lesh and Friends tonight…” or “Oh, Tim’s playing with Phil tonight…” Or “oh, I’m sitting in with The Gramblers tonight!” [laughs] It took a little bit before it was “Hey, you should come play with Mother Hips.” I guess it was maybe about a year ago when I started doing gigs with them. I did their Christmas run last year and I did the Hipnic this year and I’m going to do the Christmas run again. It’s been new but I love that band! I’m a fan! When I’m in my car or traveling, it’s definitely one of the top 5 or 10 groups that I’ll put on and listen to their entire catalog.

While this album is new to us, you’ve lived with it for a little while now. Looking back on the process, what were the biggest challenges you faced?

For me, the biggest challenge on this record was singing. I did two earlier instrumental records, so I had experience making records, experience writing songs and experience writing songs with lyrics. The second solo record I made had Susan Tedeschi and other guest singers on it but this new record was basically my debut of writing, singing and performing all of these different instruments. I think the biggest challenge was getting a vocal that I really liked and one that Karl liked! [laughs] I was up for the challenge! I saw a vocal coach for a little bit and did the reps. Being around great singers like Tim and Greg from The Mother Hips, Jackie Greene and Elliott Peck, who sings harmonies on it, really helped get me to the point where I was happy with the vocal.

Jason Crosby – Photo by Jay Blakesberg

Stanley Mouse did the album artwork for the record. How did that come about and what is the significance of the title of the album?

Stanley is awesome! I’ve known him since I’ve moved to California. He is obviously a man around the scene and has done a lot of artwork for the various artists I’ve worked with like Jackie Greene, Moonalice and others. Stanley has an office and showroom in Sonoma County, not far from the Blue Rose office. Joe and Stanley became friends and when I would meet with Joe, we would go visit Stanley and hang out. That went on for awhile before we made this record. He was the obvious choice to call upon for the album artwork. It was tough deciding what artwork to choose because everything he sent me was just brilliant! It’s very appropriate for the music, I think. I love Stanley! As far as the album title, “Cryptologic,” it came from the song “Was I Ever There.” That was one of the tunes I wrote with Tim in Hawaii. It doesn’t have much of a literal meaning but “Cryptologic” comes from there. It’s about some sort of psychedelic sea captain who’s trapped in the 4th dimension. [laughs] Out of all of the songs, I think it has the most imagery in a trippy sense. It started with Tim and I wanting to write a shuffle. We were messing around with these shuffle grooves and we didn’t have any lyrics yet. Tim was staring out at the Pacific Ocean and said, “I’ve been thinking about this line — When the light is right and I squint my eyes, I can almost get there. I remember the half-sun fog and the Cryptologic’s Captain’s Log.” That is pretty much where we started, the very first two lines. It was like, “Yeah! Ok! That’s a new direction for this record!” [laughs] I really like that song, so it was a good tune to pull from to get the album title!

You are a guy who has made a living from collaborating. What do you consider the keys to a fruitful collaboration?

I think it starts with being good people. That’s the key for me. Generally, when I get nervous it’s when I play with somebody for the first time. I’m not worrying about my playing or their playing. It’s more about what the vibe is like. Are we like-minded individuals? Are we going to get along when we’re not playing? The vibe to me is the most important thing! The key to collaboration is to collaborate with people that you like and truly vibe with. Luckily, I have a solid crew of people who are solid people. That to me is the key!

And that’s a beautiful thing! Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future?

In the immediate future, we’re going to put this record out and I’m going to do some shows. We sold out Terrapin Crossroads for the release on Friday, which is really exciting. We are also doing the Mill Valley Block Party on Sunday, which is always a great event. Blue Rose has a show where I’m playing in the round with Steve Earle, Joan Osborne, Anders Osborne, Steve Forbert and Jackie Greene. That is a thrill! Then I’ve got some dates with Phil Lesh and then the John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring tour! Of course, as I mentioned, we also have The Mother Hips Christmas shows and then New Year’s with Phil. That takes me through the rest of the year. Next year, I would expect a lot of stuff with Blue Rose. They’ve signed Jackie Greene and The Mother Hips. I’m one of their artists but I’m also a staff musician as well, where I’m playing on all of the records of the label’s artists. We will probably go out and tour on that as well! With that said, I hope to see me opening for Jackie, and Jackie and The Hips playing together and me opening those shows and playing with them. I would expect to see a lot of collaboration between the Blue Rose artists in 2018!

Jason Crosby – Photo by Jay Blakesberg

You’ve come a long way since your early years. How do you view your evolution as an artist?

My career has been so different as it has gone along. It’s been different styles of music that I’ve played and different instruments with the various bands. I’m here at my brother’s house right now and he just showed me a VHS copy of me playing on “The View” with The Blind Boys of Alabama. It transported me back a decade watching this with him right before I called you! [laughs] I feel like I’ve had this evolution but I have rarely focused on one thing for very long. I’m dedicated but I spent 5 years with Robert Randolph, a few years with The Blind Boys of Alabama and 4 years with Susan Tedeschi. Each time my roles would be different. One would be a B3 heavy gig, one would be a piano heavy gig or violin. With the John McLaughlin music, I’m shedding a lot of violin and it’s more in the jazz world. I feel like I’ve evolved as a whole. By that I mean my career arc and timeline has made me who I am. I’ve got a lot going on! [laughs]

You definitely serve as a big inspiration. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?

It goes back to what I said about collaboration. My advice is to be cool, to be open to playing with people you might not expect yourself having a chance to play with, doing it and being cool and respectful about it. You also have to be prepared! [laughs] I practiced a lot when I was a kid and I’ve been playing and working as a musician for the last 25 years. My practicing level has gone down along the way. My attitude was always, “Well, I practice on stage and in rehearsals.” Over the last year, I’ve really shifted my focus back to practicing and getting my craft together. It has really yielded some amazing results. So, I think a great lesson you can take away from my experience is that you are never too old to keep practicing and working!

Thanks so much for your time today, Jason. We are excited to help spread the word on this awesome album. I can’t wait to see where the journey takes you next!

Thank you so much, Jason! I appreciate the time!

Follow the continuing adventures of Jason Crosby via his official website at www.jasoncrosby.net. Connect with him through social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. ‘Cryptologic’ is available everywhere on September 29th, 2017 – Click here to buy the album!

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Exit Popularity Contest: APOP’s Stephan Groth On Revisiting His Electronic Roots

Exit Popularity Contest: APOP’s Stephan Groth On Revisiting His Electronic Roots

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Photo by Tarjei Krogh

Apoptygma Berzerk (APOP) was formed by Stephan Groth and Jon Erik Martinsen in 1989. Together they wrote several songs, including “Ashes To Ashes,” which was released in 1991 as a 12-inch single on the Norwegian label Tatra Productions. Their first two albums, “Soli Deo Gloria” and “7,” were a similar style of electropop and EBM. Their third, “Welcome To Earth,” avoided the dark themes of “7” for a lighter, less aggressive sound, and included a few experimental tracks. “Harmonizer” featured a softer, more synthpop direction, but their 2005 mainstream, indie rock album, “You And Me Against The World,” was a departure from the band’s traditional electronic synthpop and EBM roots, a rock exploration they continued into “Rocket Science.” Now, APOP’s upcoming compilation album “Exit Popularity Contest” promises to explore and reflect the depths of their ever-evolving sound.

Over the past several years, Stephan Groth has undertaken a journey back to where it all began as he explores his roots in electronic music. In 2016, APOP finally unleashed their new compilation album, “Exit Popularity Contest.” Exit Popularity Contest” reflects the band’s constant reinvention. Bringing instrumental music back into the spotlight, APOP founder Stephan Groth tapped into a rich seam of electronic pleasure, delivering a compilation of sound that will please a new generation and older aficionados alike. Always a musical chameleon, Groth pays homage to his roots through emulating the analogue soundscapes of innovators like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Klaus Schulze, and the driving motorik Krautrock rhythms of Neu!, Cluster and La Düsseldorf.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Stephan Gorth to discuss his passion for music, revisiting his roots in electronic music, his evolution as an artist and much more!

You’ve carved out an impressive career in the music industry. I want to go back to your early years. How did music first come into your life?

I grew up in a family where music was all around. My father was a rock musician, blues singer, guitarist and songwriter. My mom was a DJ. I was surrounded by music all of the time. It affected me and I ended up not liking any of the music they played. I grew up with pop music like the Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones but ended up not liking any of that. I don’t know if that came from being rebellious or whatever! [laughs] After I grew up, I started to like their music and I understand it now but back then, I just wanted to do anything but what they liked. That is how I got into electronic music!

Which artists had a big impact on you and what you do as an artist?

I grew up in the ‘80s, so a lot of the stuff at the time, like the electronic music coming from Germany and British stuff. There were bands like Duran Duran, OMD, Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk – that is stuff that I grew up with and was a very important component in me finding my own way and taste in music. In the ‘90s, I was also very much inspired by bands from America, bands like The Pixies, one of my all-time favorite bands. There was also The Velvet Underground which is very important for many musicians. I grew up with one leg in the electronic, new romantic, electro pop world and one leg in rock music, alternative, indie-pop music.

When did your focus on music go from a hobby to something you could do professionally?

Well, I took it quite seriously from the very start. As I mentioned, I grew up in a home where my father was a musician. He had a home studio there so I always had access to instruments. I would have synthesizers there, along with a 4-track tape recorder, guitars, effect pedals and microphones. I started to record stuff in his studio from the age of 13 or 14 years old. I was just doing it for fun and to make noise because I didn’t have any training or go to any music school to learn anything. I just kind of had to learn everything on my own. This was obviously before Google and YouTube, so I just had to learn it by myself! For me, it was a hobby and today it is still a hobby. I manage to make a living of it as well, which is great, but foremost it’s passion and a hobby. I love music and create sonic stuff, so I have been serious about it from the start!

Stephan Groth of Apoptygma Berzerk - Photo by Jan Ronald Stange

Stephan Groth of Apoptygma Berzerk – Photo by Jan Ronald Stange

You followed this passion and turned it into something wonderful. However, making it in music is no easy task. What are the keys to longevity in this day and age?

I have no idea. To me, it is about having fun. Things have to make sense for me and there has to be a purpose. If the sole purpose is to earn money, then you should probably find something else to do! I’m passionate about many things in life but I am the most passionate about music. I have to make music. I don’t know how to explain it. It was like I was put here to do music in a weird way. I would still make music if I didn’t make money from it. I think if you do something you are really passionate about, follow your heart and do stuff that you really love to do, then you can make it, no matter what your passion is. You’re probably not going to be a billionaire from it but, again, if that is the goal? What does it mean to be successful? I think I am very, very successful because to me success is not about becoming a millionaire. Success for me is to create albums and write music that means something to other people and to myself.

Where do you look for inspiration these days? Are you looking to any specific places?

Yeah. At the moment, electronic music is all over the place. There are so many new styles and directions that everything is a big mess. I started to look to my roots and I think a lot of people, at the moment, are doing just this. They are kind of confused because everything has gone totally wild, so we find ourselves going back to our roots. Everything goes in cycles, as with everything in life. Sometimes, you have to go back to figure out where things come from and to make sense of it all. That is what I have been doing for the last two or three years. I have been going back in time to find the building blocks of this kind of electronic music. It has taken me back to the early crowd rock sound from Germany and European music from the late ‘60s to early ‘80s.

Going back to those roots brought us to your latest album, “Exit Popularity Contest.” It is a little different from what we heard in the past. What inspired you to go in this direction?

I wanted to do something I had never done before. I wanted to do instrumental music and go back to my roots. I wanted to create something people did not expect me to do. I kind of wanted to have a break and start over again in a way. I was very disappointed at the time with how the record industry has been going lately with all the digital solutions. I am totally fine with downloads, streaming and digital audio, as long as it is a substitute for TV or radio. As a promotional, I totally get it and I’m totally cool with it. When it is a substitute for the real thing, like the vinyl album or the CD or whatever, then I am not fine with it because it is not the same thing. Streaming something and owning a piece of art is not the same. I set out on this mission, so to say, where I wanted to put out some real art — limited edition vinyls, hand-numbered and signed, in weird vinyl colors. I wanted to make limited editions to give something special to the fans and the many collectors of my music who want to have something exclusive and special. Normally, you will see bands give away a free MP3, like things that say, “Click here! Leave your email address and we will send you a free MP3 from the band.” That’s all nice and that’s all fine but the thing is your email address has way more worth than that MP3 ever will. It’s not really giving your fans anything, to be honest. It is collecting information and getting ahold of a lot of email addresses. That’s not giving anything to your fans. What I did was make an artwork that costs them 20 Euros or whatever it was but since this vinyl EP is so limited edition, only 500 copies were made, I can guarantee that record will never be worth less than what you paid for it. My idea was to have you invest with me and you can always sell this for more than what you paid for it, so it is an investment.

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How does “Exit Popularity Contest,” as a concept, fit in with what you have been doing over the past two or three years?

What I found out over the last few years, which I think I knew the whole time, was that my art form is creating albums. Yeah, I’m a songwriter. Yeah, I’m a vocalist. I play live now and then and I’m a musician to a certain extent but what I really am is an album producer. The album is my canvas. The music, lyrics and artwork all go hand in hand. That is what I really wanted to do on this record — make an album where there was a concept, a story and something interesting. Whoever buys this record will have something to really get into. If you invest time in this record, there is a lot to gain from it. I wanted to make something retro. This is an album that is supposed to be consumed like we consumed music 20 or 30 years ago.

The artwork only features me wearing a mask. There is no photo of me without the mask. I made up this story about a guy, which is autobiographical in a way. It is based on elements of my life and experiences over the last many years. It’s about the guy you see in the mask who walks away. He reinvents himself and is starting life all over again. He is exiting the popularity contest, so to speak. That is what I did in a way. I got so bored with the way we live today, with social media, where everything is a huge popularity contest. Success in art is being measured in the amount of likes you get when you post this or that. To me, that is something that makes no sense at all and I don’t think it is healthy for anyone at all. I wanted to break free from that, start over, do something totally different and try to connect with what I think is healthy and, at least for me, the right thing to do. This album is not the end of something, it’s the start of a new era for me. I am starting over again in a way. I guess you could say it is a big reset button for me. I am starting over again by going back to my roots! When you read the whole story of the guy in the mask, which you will read inside the cover art, there are a lot of similarities between the two of us and what we have experienced in our lives. Basically, this guy finds out the way to deal with stuff is to create his own reality and his own rules. Instead of playing in someone else’s game, he decides to set up his own and sets it up to win. That is more or less what I discovered in my own life. The music industry is so difficult now. Especially for new bands. If you are a new act, it is very difficult. I am privileged that I have my back catalog and I already have a fan base. I have been thinking about new bands starting up now. How are you going to have your income? If you are a European band and you want to go play in the United States, just getting the work permits costs a fortune. Who is going to pay that? Who is going to pay for your work visas or plane tickets? There is probably going to be some solution down the road but I cannot see how you can make it unless you are lucky, as I have been, with a back catalog and a crowd who is already interested in what I am up to. They will buy some concert tickets, T-shirts or CDs.

You mentioned this album serving as a new beginning. Where do you see yourself headed in the future musically? Any idea on where you are headed?

No, not really. That is the beauty of art! I’m always going where the art is leading me and I really don’t know. I do know that I am on the right track. I have found something here and I’m going to develop it and do what I feel is right. I will do my very best to not give into the pressure and the whole popularity contest. I don’t think I am going to enter that again. I’m going to be very true to myself and true to the fans by doing things I am 100% happy with and approve of being good art, instead of having the extra thought of if something will be popular here or there. I think making art is the key. It goes back to the very first question you asked me today about what is the key to success and to stay in the game — I think you have to make good art. That is what it’s about. If making good art is not the main goal, then I can’t see how things can work.

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Photo by Tarjei Krogh

What has been the biggest challenge of bringing this piece of art to life and to the masses?

It was a very long and difficult ride. I’ve been doing more or less everything on my own. I’ve, of course, had help from photographers, art designers and mastering engineers and so on but I have more or less been a part of every aspect of the album. Musically, I have done 99% of everything myself. I didn’t make any of the photography but I made demos and had tons of meetings with the photographer, Tarjei Krogh, to find a strong concept that would work. I was also out making photos with my iPhone making demos and showing them to him. So, I was a part of everything because I wanted this final product to be as much me as possible. I can understand that the album culture is not that popular these days because it is so much work. It’s insane! People who are not putting out records themselves, I don’t think understand how much work goes into producing an album. It’s madness! Especially if you look at the income part of it. I’ve had so many expenses and so much time spent on this and I am not going to make that money back. That is totally OK because, as I said, I’m not putting this out for financial gain. So much work, time and energy go into it. I haven’t even seen the final product at this point because it is still in production! I am very much looking forward to it and it’s going to be great to finally have that final product in my hands! I don’t regret anything! It has been hard work but I love it!

You created a tremendous body of work in your career. Looking back, how have you most evolved as an artist? Are there milestones in your development that stand out to you?

Some records have been more important than others. I don’t think that necessarily has anything to do with quality. It’s more of a timing issue and the luck of being at the right place at the right time. Overall, I feel they all had a good quality and I’m proud of everything I have done. If I listen to my really old records now, a lot of it isn’t that good to be honest. I am still proud of it in a way because going through and making those first albums led me to where I am now, so it is still very important stuff. For first and second albums, we were in the studio and had no idea what we were doing! We were just having fun and doing some weird music that we thought was really cool even though we didn’t really know what was going on. You can hear that and it has its own charm in a way! [laughs] I’m glad that we did so! Putting out the first album is the easy part of a career. Putting out the second is still pretty easy. When you start having all of these expectations and people start expecting you to do music in a certain style or this or that, that is when it gets tricky. The first and second album is when you can play and just have fun and everything is cool.

Photo by Tarjei Krogh

What is the best lesson we can take away from your journey as an artist?

The best lesson that can be taken from my journey is to take art seriously. I grew up in a time where pop music had an entertainment value but you also had a lot of art in pop music. I think the perfect pop band for me would be a band who has 50% entertainment and 50% art; bands like the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode. Bands like that have the perfect ratio of entertainment and art. It’s a great mix. I think over the past 10 years, things have been heading more and more away from art and more toward the flashy entertainment value. Bling, bling and big gold chains. You know what I mean. The entertainment is getting more and more popular while the art is not being taken that seriously anymore. I think that is a really, really bad development. I was privileged to grow up in a time where pop music was very, very good. I feel today’s pop music is not that good. It could be that I am just getting older. I don’t know. Maybe today’s pop music is great but I just don’t get it. I don’t think that is the case but it could be. For me, it is very important to know and understand why I like certain things. Why do I like Jean-Michel Jarre? Why do I like Kraftwerk? I recently watched the new series on Netflix, “Stranger Things.” When I hear the music, the whole soundtrack is exactly what I have been doing for the last three years. I liked the series and thought it was a good story as well but it is important for me to know why I like what I hear. I like it because they have used some of the same building blocks of electronic music as I have been inspired by. For example, it is very easy to hear “Tangerine Dream” all over the “Stranger Things” soundtrack. I think a reason why they did this is because they have also been going back to their roots in electronic music because they want something more. In order to find out who you are, you need to know your roots. That goes for music but it also works in other aspects of life. I don’t know if that answers your question.

It definitely does. Thanks so much for your time today! Keep up the great work and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes you!

Awesome! Thank you very much, Jason!

Keep up on the latest from APOP by visiting their official website at www.theapboffice.com. “Exit Popularity Contest” in now available via The End Records on CD and cassette.

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DANIEL LIONEYE: Linde Lindström On Bringing Their Ferocious New Album To Life!

DANIEL LIONEYE: Linde Lindström On Bringing Their Ferocious New Album To Life!

daniel-lioneye-2016-2

Linde Lindström’s passion for music allowed him to rise to incredible heights. Best known as the lead guitarist in H.I.M., his insatiable for musical growth for music has allowed him to rise to incredible heights and while establishing him as one of the most impressive players in the game. However, it is important to note that his axe-work isn’t limited to the love metal genre he helped forge. In fact, his side project, Daniel Lioneye, features some of his most impressive work to date.

When formed in 2001, Daniel Lioneye originally consisted of Ville Valo (HIM) on drums, Mige (HIM) on bass and Linde (HIM) on guitar and vocals. That year, they released The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Finland and Germany, a ‘tongue in cheek’ psychedelic stoner rock album. Performing festival shows in Finland under the name ‘Daniel Lioneye And The Joint Rollers,’ their music soon reached international audiences when the title track of the album was selected as the theme song for Bam Margera’s MTV show, Viva La Bam. In 2006, “The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll” was the most played Finnish song in the world (right after Sibelius, of course).

In 2008, Linde wanted to do a Daniel Lioneye album completely different than the last. The follow-up album, simply titled VOL II (The End Records), was an extreme rock n’ roll album much heavier than their first, quite noticeably influenced by black metal. The album represented everyday life- divorce, dealing with difficult situations and people, cannabis psychosis, extreme nightmares, self-realization, sex, moving on, standing up for yourself, anger management and the universe.

Now, Daniel Lioneye has teamed up yet again with The End Records (US) to release VOL III, which is slated for an August 19th release. The album is, in many ways, a combination of their previous two efforts. Basking in magnetic glow of the northern lights, this album deals with an existential crisis- depression, disappointment, being lost, meaninglessness. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Linde Lindström to discuss his life in music, the making of Daniel Lioneye’s ‘Vol. III’ and what the future my hold for him.

Going all the way back to the beginning, what are you first memories of music in your life?

My mom singing me a lullaby slightly out of key.

How did you first start getting involved with the arts and playing the guitar?

I have been fascinated by the guitar for as long as I can remember. I always knew I wanted to be a musician. I was begging my parents to buy me a guitar and I finally got a mini acoustic as a Christmas present when I was 10. I started taking lessons right away. I was very motivated. I soon started to play in all sorts of bands.

What can you tell us about the process of finding your creative voice as a player?

It’s an ongoing process. The older you get, the more confident you become. At least in my case. For me the biggest thing has been to accept myself as I am and not listen to people telling me how to play or what to do with my life. I’m a blues player by heart.

Who were some of the performers and people behind the scenes who helped to shape the artist we see today?

Life in general. All the people and animals in my life. All the music I have ever heard. Iggy Pop, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Kingston Wall, Nachtmystium, Elvis Presley just to name a few.

You are clearly very driven when it comes to your career. What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?

Music is a natural way for me to deal with all the emotions and difficulties in my life. Everyday life is my inspiration. Normally when I take a break from everything, stuff starts to come..

daniel-lioneye-2016-3

You are about to release Daniel Lioneye “Vol. III” It has been 8 years since your last release. What made now the time for a new record?

I’ve been working on the album for years whenever I had the time or when I felt like it. I almost wanted it to never get finished. It has been an amazing process. So basically, the time is now because its ready, simple as that.

What were your aspirations or goals for this album as you started the process? Was there anything you wanted to try that you hadn’t been able to in the past?

I didn’t really have any goals. I don’t feel like I ever write anything, it just comes from somewhere. I always end up doing things differently anyway. No use repeating old stuff. I wanted this album to be “better” than the previous ones and I wanted to try if I can produce a vocal sound that I could listen to. I almost made it.

For fans already familiar with your past work, how does this album compare and contrast?

In a way its a combination between “The King Of Rock ‘n Roll” and “Vol II”. More singing less growling. More fuzzy riffs, more melody. Lyrically the theme of the album is existential crisis-depression.

You have been working alongside the other members of the band for years. What do they bring out of you creatively?

I feel comfortable with them, amazing musicians and great people. We operate on the same frequency. Mige wrote most of the lyrics on this album and they still feel right and personal to me. That tells a lot.

What can you tell us about the songwriting process for your music? What has changed and what has remained the same through the years?

Like I said earlier, I never feel like I write anything, it just comes from somewhere. A melody, a riff, a rhythm, whatever. Then I program drums on Pro Tools and play the other instruments and send the demos to the guys. A very different process compared to the King of Rock ‘n Roll album. At that time we went to the studio for five days without any material, got shitfaced and the rest is history, haha. The only similar thing with all three albums is that the basic tracks, drums, bass and guitars were recorded in five days.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in bringing the album to life?

I’m lazy but playful. I always seemed to find something more relevant to do than record my vocals. I don’t like the human voice, especially my own. I recorded all the vocals at my home studio alone. Other than that, everything went very smoothly.

You have lived with these songs for awhile now. Which of the songs on “Vol. III” resonate with you the most?

I have a love/hate relationship to music. And everything actually. Every other day the songs are the greatest masterpieces ever written and every other day complete worthless shit. ‘Blood on the Floor’, ‘Ravensong’ and ‘Aetherside’ are my favorites at the moment.

daniel-lioneye-2016-1

How do you feel you have most evolved as an artist since you first started professionally?

I have learned not to give a shit what people think of me. That has given me a lot of freedom both as an artist and as a person.

As an artist, so many things can be said about the current state of music. What excites you about being a working artist?

Music excites me. You just have to concentrate on the things you can actually do something about and forget about everything else. Otherwise you would be upset all the time.

Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future — both short and long term?

I have no clue whatsoever. I don’t think that way. I guess I will still be transcribing the musical things that come to me from nowhere. That’s all I can say.

What is the best way for fans to help support you at this stage in your career?

If you like the album, buy it, don’t just download it for free. Also, come and see us live!

Are there any plans in the works for a U.S. tour of this album?

No plans about the US yet. We are playing five shows in Finland in the beginning of September and some European shows are on the works as well. More about that later.

Many young artists can look to you for inspiration. What is the best lesson we can take away from your journey as an artist?

Like I said before, for me it has been to learn not to care too much about what other people think of me and just letting go. Getting over myself basically. I recommend that to everybody.

Follow the continuing adventures of Daniel Lioneye on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Spotify. Pre-order Daniel Lioneye’s “Vol. III” today – Click Here!

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Daniel Lioneye To Release ‘VOL III’ On August 19th Via The End Records

Daniel Lioneye To Release ‘VOL III’ On August 19th Via The End Records

daniel-lioneye-2016-2

The End Records is pleased to announce the upcoming studio album from Daniel Lioneye, set for release August 19. Featuring members of HIM, Daniel Lioneye (“The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll”) returns after eight years to deliver VOL III, which boasts a seamless blend between rock, psych metal and black metal. The first single “Ravensong” just premiered with Revolver and is available now for download and streamingCLICK HERE to listen on Revolver!

Says guitarist and vocalist Linde, “VOL III is heavier, with more fuzzy guitars, more singing, and less growling. The drumming is very ‘metal.’” He jokes, “You can actually hear the vocals on this album.”

Vol. III Tracklisting:
1. Messier 0
2. Blood On The Floor
3. Break It Or Heal It
4. License To Defile
5. Ravensong
6. Alright
7. Baba Satanas
8. Aetherside
9. Dancing With The Dead
10. Oh God In Your Great Mercy
11. Mathematics Of The Storm
12. Neolithic Way (2016)

Pre-Order Today!

 

daniel-lioneye-2016-1

About Daniel Lioneye:
When formed in 2001, Daniel Lioneye originally consisted of Ville Valo (HIM) on drums, Mige (HIM) on bass and Linde (HIM) on guitar and vocals. That year, they released The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Finland and Germany, a ‘tongue in cheek’ psychedelic stoner rock album. Performing festival shows in Finland under the name ‘Daniel Lioneye And The Joint Rollers,’ their music soon reached international audiences when the title track of the album was selected as the theme song for Bam Margera’s MTV show, Viva La Bam. In 2006, “The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll” was the most played Finnish song in the world (right after Sibelius, of course).

In 2008, Linde wanted to do a Daniel Lioneye album completely different than the last. The follow-up album, simply titled VOL II (The End Records), was an extreme rock n’ roll album much heavier than their first, quite noticeably influenced by black metal. The album represented everyday life- divorce, dealing with difficult situations and people, cannabis psychosis, extreme nightmares, self-realization, sex, moving on, standing up for yourself, anger management and the universe.

Now, Daniel Lioneye has teamed up yet again with The End Records (US) to release VOL III, an album that is, in many ways, a combination of their previous two. Basking in magnetic glow of the northern lights, this album deals with an existential crisis- depression, disappointment, being lost, meaninglessness.

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Billy Talent Announces Dates For ‘Afraid of Heights’ US Tour

Billy Talent Announces Dates For ‘Afraid of Heights’ US Tour

Dustin Rabin, Billy Talent, Afraid Of Heights

Prolific Canadian rockers Billy Talent just announced the routing for their September US tour. The tour follows the July 29 release of their upcoming studio album, Afraid of Heights, available now for pre-order via The End Records (US). For an early preview, you can now stream the first two album singles, ‘Afraid of Heights’ and ‘Louder Than the DJ.’ Instant track downloads of both songs are available with the full album pre-order.

Billy Talent ‘Afraid of Heights’ US Tour
09/03 – Riot Fest; Denver, CO
09/05 – The Riot Room; Kansas City, MO
09/06 – Varsity Theater; Minneapolis, MN
09/07 – Rave Bar; Milwaukee, WI
09/09 – Rapids Theatre; Niagara Falls, NY
09/10 – Gramercy Theater; New York, NY
09/11 – The Sinclair; Cambridge, MA
09/13 – The Foundry @ The Fillmore; Philadelphia, PA **
09/14 – Rock & Roll Hotel; Washington, DC
09/16 – Pyramid Scheme; Grand Rapids, MI
09/17 – District Square; Kalamazoo, MI
09/18 – Riot Fest; Chicago, IL
09/30 – Chill On The Hill, Freedom Hill Amphitheatre; Sterling Heights, MI

**On sale Wednesday, 6/22
All other tickets on sale Friday, 6/24
CLICK HERE for tour routing and ticket links! 

Afraid of Heights will be available in standard and deluxe versions on vinyl, CD, and MP3. All physical pre-orders include a unique download code that allows fans access to a special Mastered-For-Headphones edition of the album. All physical pre-orders made on BillyTalent.com or The Omega Order come with exclusive pre-sale access to the September US tour. Tour details to follow.

In addition, those who order through BillyTalent.com or The Omega Order will have access to additional package options, including a limited-edition custom Klipsch Groove portable Bluetooth® speaker with the Afraid of Heights album artwork on the front grille.

CLICK HERE to reserve your copy today!

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Hinder Release First Six Track Acoustic EP “Stripped”

Hinder Release First Six Track Acoustic EP “Stripped”

Hinder-NewBand

Multi-platinum rock act Hinder has just released their 6-song acoustic EP entitled Stripped. This is the band’s first acoustic release, which features acoustic renderings of popular Hinder songs, along with an acoustic cover of K’s Choice “Not An Addict,” inspired by the band’s intricate relationship with drug abuse and recovery in the music world. CLICK HERE for the full Stripped premiere with Revolver!

Hinder goes acoustic!

Hinder goes acoustic!

Says Hinder, “We’ve always said that you can tell when a song is well-written when you can play it in several different styles and you still love it. It’s fun to strip everything away and let our fans hear our music in a different way.”

Official Stripped Tracklisting
01. Not An Addict (Acoustic)
02. Intoxicated (Acoustic)
03. Wasted Life (Acoustic)
04. Hit The Ground (Acoustic)
05. If Only For Tonight (Acoustic)
06. Get Stoned (Acoustic)

To accompany the release, Hinder will embark on their first-ever acoustic tour, with June/July dates throughout the U.S. Please see below for details.

Hinder 2016 Acoustic Tour Dates:
06/01 – Annapolis, MD – Rams Head ON Stage **
06/03 – Stroudsburg, PA – Sherman Theater
06/04 – Uncasville, CT – Mohegan Sun Casino, Wolf Den (free show) **
06/05 – Salisbury, MA – Blue Ocean Hall
06/07 – Binghamton, NY – Magic City Music Hall
06/08 – Boston, MA – Royale Boston
06/10 – Marietta, OH – Adelphia Music Hall
06/13 – Cincinnati, OH – 20th Century Theatre
06/14 – Flint, MI – The Machine Shop
06/16 – Madison, WI – Majestic Theatre
06/17 – Sioux Falls, SD – The District
06/18 – Springfield, IL – Boondocks Pub
06/20 – Colorado Springs, CO – The Black Sheep
06/21 – Boulder, CO – Fox Theatre
06/22 – Grand Junction, CO – Independence Ballroom
06/25 – Reno, NV – Cargo
06/26 – Pasadena, CA – The Rose
06/28 – Modesto, CA – Fat Cat
06/29 – San Diego, CA – House of Blues
07/01 – Agoura Hills, CA – The Canyon
07/02 – San Juan Capistrano, CA – The Coach House
07/03 – Phoenix, AZ – MIM Music Theater

** Hinder only

Click Here For Tickets!

About Hinder:
Multi-platinum rockers Hinder, whom have sold over 3.8 million albums and more than 7.5 million singles, garnered north of 130 million video views, and racked in 50 million spins on Spotify, and counting, are back with their first-ever acoustic EP Stripped, set for release May 13, 2016.

Stripped follows their fifth full-length album When The Smoke ClearsWhen The Smoke Clearsentered the Billboard 200 claiming four Top 10 chart positions upon its May 12, 2015 debut. With over a decade-long career under their belts, and having honed their chops touring with the likes of Mötley Crüe, Nickelback, Aerosmith and Papa Roach, When The Smoke Clears breathed new sound, and new air, into the ever-evolving band. The songs on When the Smoke Clears run the gamut from rowdy rock to subtle country influence, to memorable pop hooks, all of which retain the DNA-distinct spirit of Hinder. That ability to walk the tightrope between genres, without a net, is something the band has had fun with in creating the new album.

As one of the few bands to have massive cross-over success in recent years, Hinder’s debut album Extreme Behavior climbed to #1 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart and made its way to #6 on The Billboard 200 chart. The album featured one of the biggest songs of the year, ‘Lips of an Angel’ – a Top 5 hit across EIGHT Billboard singles charts (including #1 on Top 40). Their sophomore effort, Take It To The Limit surpassed their debut, peaking at #4 on The Billboard 200, solidifyingHinder as the biggest new breakout rock act and catapulting them into packed arenas worldwide with their explosive live show. Proving they consistently make hit records, the band followed the first two albums up with a #1 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Album (All American Nightmare), and a #3 Top Hard Rock Album (Welcome To The Freakshow).

With increasing social media stats (1.6 million Facebook followers), it’s clear that Hinder fans are along for the ride and as hungry as ever for more.

For More Information On HINDER:
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Billy Talent To Release ‘Afraid of Heights’ On July 29th via The End Records

Billy Talent To Release ‘Afraid of Heights’ On July 29th via The End Records

Dustin Rabin Photography, Billy Talent

Prolific Canadian rockers Billy Talent announce their upcoming new studio album, Afraid of Heightsset for US release July 29 via The End Records.

Billy Talent – Afraid of Heights
LISTEN HERE: Audio Premiere via Alternative Press

Says the band, “This record is about struggle, both within ourselves and within the society we live. It’s about asking questions. It’s about friendship and loyalty and it’s about choosing not accept things that don’t apply to us. That don’t represent us. It’s about believing in the person that’s reflected in the mirror and taking responsibility. It’s about the pressures that society creates and how we’re all trying to figure out where we fit in. It’s about following your dreams and knowing that when you get knocked down you have to get back up. It’s about listening to our planet and learning to respect her. It’s about love and loss and life… but more importantly it’s about the power of ROCK ’N ROLL.”

Coming your way July 29th!

Coming your way July 29th!

Afraid of Heights will be available in standard and deluxe versions on vinyl, CD, and MP3. All physical pre-orders include a unique download code that allows fans access to a special Mastered-For-Headphones edition of the album. All physical pre-orders made on BillyTalent.com or The Omega Order come with exclusive pre-sale access to the September US tour. Tour details to follow.

In addition, those who order through BillyTalent.com or The Omega Order will have access to additional package options, including a limited-edition custom Klipsch Groove portable Bluetooth® speaker with the Afraid of Heights album artwork on the front grille.

The title track “Afraid of Heights” is available now for streaming and instant download with the full album pre-order. CLICK HERE to reserve your copy today!

Official Tracklisting:
01. Big Red Gun
02.  Afraid of Heights
03. Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats
04. Louder Than the DJ
05 .The Crutch
06. Rabbit Down the Hole
07. Time-Bomb Ticking Away
08. Leave Them All Behind
09. Horses & Chariots
10. This Is Our War
11. February Winds
12. Afraid of Heights (Reprise)

Deluxe Version Includes:
01. Big Red Gun (Demo Version)
02. Afraid of Heights (Demo Version)
03. Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats (Demo Version)
04. Louder Than the DJ (Demo Version)
05. The Crutch (Demo Version)
06. Time-Bomb Ticking Away (Demo Version)
07. Leave Them All Behind (Demo Version)
08. Afraid of Heights (Reprise) (Demo Version)

About Billy Talent:
Since the release of their self-titled debut in 2003, Billy Talent have cemented themselves as a generation-defining rock band.  Boasting nearly one million albums sold in Canada alone and nearly 3 million albums sold internationally, the band have seen multi-platinum certifications for their albums Billy Talent I and II and III, and platinum status for the latest studio album Dead Silence.  The band has enjoyed tremendous success at Canadian rock radio where they have had three #1 hits that combined for 19 weeks at the top spot, six Top 5 hits, and five Top 10 hits.

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OVERREACTIVIST: Michael Grubbs On Wakey Wakey’s Powerful New Album

OVERREACTIVIST: Michael Grubbs On Wakey Wakey’s Powerful New Album

wakey-wakey-2016-3

Michael Grubbs is living proof that dreams can come true. As an artist, he has had a lifelong love affair with music. A native of Richmond, Virginia, he began playing piano at the age of five, impelled by maternal instruction and inspired by the works of Brahms, Bach and Beethoven. An artistic sensibility was formed and later augmented by his teenage discovery of a more contemporary canon, including Billy Joel, Elton John and Led Zeppelin. It was during that time when the seeds for what would become Wakey Wakey were planted. 

Grubbs will be the first to tell you that he is no overnight success. After 10 years of tending bar and playing open mic nights in NYC, he finally found himself in the right place at the right time. That’s when Grubbs met Mark Schwahn, chief writer and executive producer of hit American TV drama series ‘One Tree Hill,’ performing a brief set for him helmed by a then recent composition, ‘War Sweater’. Schwahn used the song in the finale of One Tree Hill’s sixth season and gave Grubbs a small recurring role in the show. His passion and dedication to his music finally paid off as the single captivated the audience and launched the single to #13 on the iTunes chart almost instantly. There followed a rapturously received debut album, the impossibly tortured ‘Everything I Wish I’d Said The Last Time I Saw You,’ and the devotion of a fan base whose fidelity to their idol led to the crowd-funding of a second album, 2014’s ‘Salvation.’

In 2015, Wakey Wakey released the 3-song digital ‘Homeless Poets’ EP which provided a taste of the heartfelt songwriting and independent spirit being tapped for their next release. Flash forward to 2016 and the stage is set for Grubbs to once again touch the hearts and captivate the minds of his dedicated legion of listeners with a new full-length release. The road to ‘Overreactivist’ was not an easy one. However, the results speak for themselves. The album, which drops February 26th, 2016 on The End Records, serves as Grubbs’ most powerful, autobiographical and mesmerizing work to date. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with this artist on the rise to discuss his journey as musician, the creative evolution he has experienced along the way and the challenges of bringing ‘Overreactivist’ to life!

Music is a major part of your life. How did it first come into your life?

I was raised by musicians, which is a lot like being raised by wolves! [laughs] There are certain things we do that no one else really gets. Music was a real language in my family and a way to communicate about things. It was a big part of the day to day. You know how most kids have a playroom with toys in it? Well, we had a playroom that had musical instruments in it. When I was a little kid I was playing and rolling around underneath the piano! [laughs] We had this big burgundy baby grand piano and my mom taught lessons on it at the house, so I spent a lot of time in that world. Music, early on, was a big part of my communication. I learned to read music when most kids learned to read English. I mean, I learned to read English too! This isn’t the article where I admit that I can’t read! [laughs]

Were there mentors in your life who had a big impact on you?

Yeah! I was a band geek when that time came. My mom had taught choir at the middle school, so when I got there it wasn’t a natural thing for me to be in the choir. I had already been in choirs my whole life, so it was more important to me to learn an instrument. At that point, I started studying the French horn. I remember I had a middle school choir teacher named Mr. La Grand. He was awesome. He really invested time into me and tried to have an accelerated course for me since I had already been exposed to a lot of things they were teaching. That was great. Of course, in college, you have various mentors who are important to you. It is fun to think of it in that way, as opposed to my direct musical influences. I mean, I can talk about Radiohead but it is pretty cool to talk about Mr. La Grand.

What can you tell us about the process of finding your creative voice as a young artist?

I was never really exposed to pop music as a kid. We had a lot more classical and religious music. I was exposed to more hymns than I was to dance music. For me, pop music was the forbidden fruit. When I got to college, it was the first time I ever really cracked it open. It was a pretty overwhelming thing for me to be at that age and suddenly experiencing it all. I didn’t even know what it was to be cool! [laughs] I had never even thought about it! [laughs] For me, college and the first six or seven years in New York was spent wandering around through the musical landscape seeing what was going to be for me and what I was going to embrace. I was in a jam band. I also had the really straight singer/songwriter stuff that I did. That first 10 years in New York, I was in the anti-folk scene for awhile, which is a very experimental version of folk, which is really cool. It’s funny, with Wakey Wakey, when I got to that process, the first set of songs I did as Wakey Wakey, was when I really felt I had found my voice. The audience reaction to it was so fast. There is a confidence that comes from speaking as yourself when you develop the character you want to be or whatever it is that you want to put forward. When you really develop that, a lot of the stage fright and that stuff kind of goes away.

You have a new album for us called “Overreactivist.” Any new project comes with a new set of goals and aspirations. What did you aim to achieve when you started the process?

'Overreactivist'

‘Overreactivist’

The first thing I ever said about the album out loud, when I was talking to producer Chris Cubeta, was that I wanted to make an art rock EP. I wanted to be completely free of any thoughts of commercial success, radio or anything like that. I wanted to throw it all out the window and make something I felt was a true and honest piece of art. In doing so, it seems to be people are embracing it much more than anything I have done before or when I did a pop album, which is an entirely different genre. The artistic aspect of it was really important, throwing away form, throwing away rules and really taking everything I had learned and setting it free. I think that shines through on the album in that the songs aren’t as structured as some of my older stuff. It is a little more left of center, which I personally really like. The other thing is that Chris and I said we were going to make something we thought was cool. [laughs] If we didn’t really love it, it wasn’t going on the album. If there was a sound that we were like, “I don’t know. That reading is weird to me,” it didn’t get on the album. Everything had to be very authentic, very real and speak to myself and Chris, my collaborator.

Let’s talk about that collaboration. You worked with producer Chris Cubeta in the past. What does he bring to the mix?

It is a really weird thing that I have with Chris. We have so much in common. There are some places were we pass exactly the same and there are others where it is so disparate that it is amazing we are able to even work together! For instance, we have the same birthday, which is kind of strange. We just did a five-day trip through Europe together, while visiting gradiometers stations and stuff like that. We had a lot of time to talk about music and different artists. We were talking about “August and Everything After” by the Counting Crows. We were like, “That was the best album for me during such formative years! It was such an important thing.” Then there are things we don’t agree on. I love Katy Perry! I love pop music and he does not! [laughs] He can enjoy it in a certain way but he doesn’t enjoy it. He is much more into Pearl Jam and things a little more raw in that way. Those are things I think are really cool but I have never embraced as much as I have with pop. There are also people we crossover on, who are contemporary, like St. Vincent and other people on the landscape who we work together on. All of that musical stuff comes together and lends to the overall picture. I think if I go too far in my direction, it’s not cool. If we go too far in his direction, it’s not me. He kind of helps me bring out the best side of myself.

What can you tell us about your songwriting process these days? Has it changed much since you first started?

Yes and no. I think what I have realized is that there are different forms of songwriting for different types of things. I think of pop music as more of a product. Pop is something about the end goal and then you create what it is that is in your mind. You make things that are really delicious and really fun. There is also a more artistic side that comes from the gut and you don’t know what it is going to become. Albums like “Almost Everything,” the first album we put out, and the current album, “Overreactivist,” are much more artistic and going from the gut type of albums. For that kind of thing, it is a collection of ideas. I try to grab little ideas out of the air, throw them in a jar and at the end of it determine what feel the most cohesive and what feel the most passionate for me. Then I flesh out the spaces between and make the album. That is my favorite way to write and it is really quick too. We write really fast! Everything runs on energy in the way we work together. That is a fun way for me to work because I have terrible ADD and I can’t nitpick too much and have to just roll with it.

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What were the challenges you faced in the process of creating “Overreactivist?”

Oh, man! There were so many crazy hurdles with this album! One thing that was important to me was not having any outside input, which meant I had to do the entire thing myself. No one outside of Chris and I, besides a select group of friends, heard any of it before it was done. No one on the business side of things heard it until it was done. That meant everything was totally self-funded and brought together. On top of that, we wanted to work at this studio called Galuminunfoil, which was the place where we made the first album. I met with Chris and said, “Hey, I’ve got this idea. I want to do this album … ” And he was like, “They are knocking down the studio on February 1!” [laughs] This was at the beginning of January, so our timeline for recording the album was insane and the studio was already fully booked, so we couldn’t just walk in and record whenever we wanted. We basically had to go in late at night or early in the morning. We had a total shoestring budget. We played 99% of the instruments ourselves. The people who came in and played our strings and our drummer were the most wonderful people and they played at such a cut rate. It was truly a labor of love. We were working hard and fast. We never gave up and suddenly, one day, we realized we had this creepy piece of art and we were really proud of it.

Which songs from the album resonate with you the most at this point in time?

I think that “Heartbroke,” the opening track of the album, is something that is really resonating with me. I feel like it is a really good sample of what is to come in the album. If you think of the album as a crazy elliptical, where there is this center meat of the album and there is a lot of the stuff and to the right and left but the center is where it all comes together. Think of it as being in the shape of an eye. I feel like the iris of the eye is “Heartbroken” and it really sums it all up in a great way. I feel like it is a piece of art and I am really proud of it.

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You took everything a step further with bringing in a talented artist to create the artwork for “Overreactivist.” What can you tell us about that aspect of this album?

My wife is an art book publisher. She works in, what can be considered, the high art culture of New York. We have spent a lot of time going to art shows, looking at art at homes and flipping through different things and saying what we like and what we don’t like. That is a language I have really learned to speak with her, which is great. Obviously, the artistic side of the album was very important. I think I have said the word art a nauseating number of times during this interview! [laughs] However, for me to make something I was really proud of was really important. We came across a piece of art by a woman by the name of Michelle Meged, who is a very talented artist who does collage. The minute I saw that piece it really spoke to me and I felt a guttural reaction to seeing the collage. That is what ended up being the cover of the album. In getting to know Michelle, talking to her and bringing her in on the project was amazing. She was so sweet and, as I got to know the rest of her catalog, it was overwhelming! Everything she does is so beautiful and astounding. I ended up working with her and picking different pieces of her art to fill out the entire packaging of the album. I think there are 10 or 12 of her collages used inside the album. When you open it up it becomes this crazy visual thing, which is pretty intense and fun!

I totally agree and it isn’t something you see as much these days with the rise of digital media.

Yeah. People are really focused on digital and understandably so. It is tough to think, “I am going to make this physical product and who knows if anyone is going to buy it! People are going to download the album.” The interesting thing about Wakey Wakey is that we are the kind of band that is more important to a small society of people. We aren’t the type of band that is embraced very casually by the masses. We aren’t Justin Bieber or Katy Perry, artists who have certain tracks who are casually in everyone’s minds. The people who are really into our songs treat it like art. For me, it is more about creating something that is actually worth buying, opening up and looking at! It is also awesome and a lot of fun to do. It is really one of my favorite parts of the process, putting clothes on this stuff.

So much can be said about the state of music these days. What excites you most about being part of the industry in today’s climate?

I think there is a lot to be really excited about. It’s funny, Spotify has its pluses and minuses but it is also a reflection of modern culture. I don’t think it is the cause for modern culture but a reflection of it. One of the real positives of something like Spotify is their New Music Friday Playlist. That is an amazing way to find great new music that is out. They have put two or three of our last singles on there. That resulted in us being exposed to more people than we ever would have. It is almost like new radio. The other great thing is that it used to be that you would sell a CD, you would get paid that day and that would be it. You could do a couple of albums, invest your life and time into it and get one big payday from selling all of those albums and who knows what would happen down the line. Now, with streaming, one really positive thing is that there is this new creation of mailbox money! [laughs] If your song continues to stream, you continue to get something. It is almost like you were in any other business where you build a career, take it with you and it continues to support you throughout your life. That is something I see as a really positive aspect of the current landscape.

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You are going to head out on tour very shortly. What can we expect from this outing and what goes into bringing a tour to life these days?

Oh, man! It is a crazy amount of work. I can’t really put into words the amount of time it takes. It really does become a 9 to 5 job, a few months before a release. It is crazy how hard you work as a musician, if you take it seriously! [laughs] For us, the U.S. tour is a co-headlining tour with a guy name Lee Dewyze. We are both playing solo for that. I am going to play some of the older stuff, some of the new stuff and some of the middle. I want to span as much of the catalog as much as possible. The intimate solo show is a really interesting way to get to know the songs on a deeper level. I think, for our hardcore fans, a lot of them prefer that. For our European tours, Chris is going to play guitar and Sarah Koenig-Plonskier, which is a crazy mouthful of a name, will be playing violin with us. We have worked really hard on the show to make it something more than just three people sitting there playing their instruments. That continues to develop with different kinds of things that will make it into a real musical experience. I am really excited about both of the different experiences we have coming up. They will be very different and both very artistically rewarding for me.

Young artists can look to you and to what you created as an inspiration. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?

That is a tough one. There are so many ways to answer this question. I think the success that I have had is the result of persistence. The success that I have had is the result of 10 years that I spent as a bartender in New York, working every single day honing my craft, experiencing and living. I think the number one thing would be to never give up. Keep working. If you want to give up it’s fine but if you want to be a musician keep going because it could be that you will be in your 30s in a coffee shop playing at an open mic and you will get discovered. It will all be because you never gave up and got better and better throughout the time. I also think a really important thing for me was having the understanding that if I had moved to New York, gotten signed and swept up into the big thing right way, I wouldn’t have been ready for it. I would have been eaten up by the whole system, spit out and would probably be working at a bank right now. The time I spent doing the hard work is all part of the reward. If you are kind of struggling and that is what is going on, it is easier said than done, but embrace that and realize it is all part of the process. When it is time for you to make it big, you will be there and you will do a better job at it because of the time you spent working and paying your dues.

Any other thoughts on this new release before I let you go?

The album is on pre-sale right now, so if people want to head to whatever outlet and pick it up. If they can buy it, that is awesome! If they are looking for the best way to take care of me as an artist, buy it and then stream it! [laughs] I’m excited to see everybody at the shows. I think anyone who was a fan of the first album should take a minute and check this one out. As an artist, I want each album to be different. This album is more of what I was doing when we met a lot of the fans. If anyone heard the dance album and thought, “Oh, holy shit! He is doing pop music now,” that is not what I am doing, I am doing art, so each one is different! [laughs] This is going to be one that I think will resonate with people who enjoyed the first album.

Perfect! Thanks for your time today, Michael. I can’t wait to see where the journey takes you next!

Awesome, man! I really appreciate it! I appreciate you being a fan and I hope to see you at a show soon! Thanks for writing about music and I will talk to you later on!

For the latest news and tour dates for Wakey Wakey, visit the official website at www.wakeywakeymusic.com. Follow the bands adventures on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

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HINDER Announces Fall/Winter U.S. Tour In Support of ‘When The Smoke Clears’

HINDER Announces Fall/Winter U.S. Tour In Support of ‘When The Smoke Clears’

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Hot off their European tour, the anthemic, multi-platinum rockers Hinder are set for a U.S. tour this Fall-Winter. The band will be performing hits from their latest album, When The Smoke Clearswhich debuted May 12 on digital, CD, and LP formats via The End Records/ADA. The album claimed four Top 10 chart positions, entering the Billboard 200.

Hinder 2015 Tour Dates:
Nov 19 – Amos’ Southend; Charlotte, NC
Nov 20 – Baltimore Sound Stage; Baltimore, MD
Nov 21 – The Stone Pony; Asbury Park, NJ
Nov 23 – Port City Music Hall; Portland, ME
Nov 25 – Upstate Concert Hall; Clifton Park, NY
Nov 27 – Manchester, NH; Jewel NH
Nov 28 – Showplace Theatre; Buffalo, NY
Nov 29 – Sherlocks; Erie, PA
Dec 01 – The Tree; Joliet, IL
Dec 02 – The Intersection; Grand Rapids, MI
Dec 04 – Anthem @ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino; Sioux City, IA
Dec 05 – Q and Z Expo Center; Ringle, WI
Dec 06 – The Machine Shop; Flint, MI
Dec 08 – POVS; Spring Lake Park, MN
Dec 09 – Fargo Theatre; Fargo, ND
Dec 11 – Bourbon Theatre; Lincoln, NE
Dec 12 – Venue 3405; Joplin, MO
Dec 13 – The Blue Note; Columbia, MO
Dec 15 – Rockin Rodeo; Denton, TX
Dec 16 – The Aztec Theatre; San Antonio, TX
Dec 18 – Diamond Ballroom, Oklahoma City, OK
Dec 19 – 18th Street Pier; San Leon, TX

About Hinder:
Multi-platinum rockers Hinder, whom have sold over 3.8 million albums and more than 7.5 million singles, garnered north of 130 million video views, and racked in 40 million spins on Spotify, and counting, are back with their fifth full-length album When The Smoke Clearscoming May 12. As one of the few bands to have massive cross-over success in recent years, Hinder’s debut album Extreme Behavior climbed to #1 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart and made its way to #6 on The Billboard 200 chart. The album featured one of the biggest songs of the year, ‘Lips of an Angel’ – a Top 5 hit across EIGHT Billboard singles charts (including #1 on Top 40). Their sophomore effort, Take It To The Limit surpassed their debut, peaking at #4 on The Billboard 200, solidifying Hinder as the biggest new breakout rock act and catapulting them into packed arenas worldwide with their explosive live show. Proving they consistently make hit records, the band followed the first two albums up with a #1 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Album (All American Nightmare), and a #3 Top Hard Rock Album (Welcome To The Freakshow). With increasing social media stats (1.6 million Facebook followers), it’s clear that Hinder fans are along for the ride and as hungry as ever for more.

With over a decade-long career under their belts, and having honed their chops touring with the likes of Mötley Crüe, Nickelback, Aerosmith and Papa Roach, When The Smoke Clears, the debut release with Hinder’s new lead vocalist Marshal Dutton, has breathed new sound, and new air, into the ever-evolving band. The songs on When the Smoke Clears run the gamut from rowdy rock to subtle country influence, to memorable pop hooks, all of which retain the DNA-distinct spirit of Hinder. That ability to walk the tightrope between genres, without a net, is something the band has had fun with in creating the new album.

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ALOKE COMES ALIVE: Christian Zucconi On Band’s Long Awaited New Album!

ALOKE COMES ALIVE: Christian Zucconi On Band’s Long Awaited New Album!

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Aloke is an explosive band with who have taken an amazing journey as artists. The New York band, featuring Christian Zucconi of the indie rock collective Grouplove [widely known for the smash hit “Tongue Tied”, which reached the number-one position on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in 2012, becoming their first number-one single], recorded the album live in the Chicago home of legendary producer and noise merchant Steve Albini, resulting in a sound that’s pure old, school rock ‘n’ roll. To sum it up in the words of Zucconi: “Two-inch tape… no Pro Tools, no overdubs… energetic, fun, important music.” 

Aloke eventually camped out in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, playing shows. They didn’t fit in any scene or mold, which is usually a badge of honor. Aloke was playing mathy, discordant post-hardcore when hipster rock bands with somewhat new wave influence, like The Strokes and The Killers, were on the rise.

The next year, Aloke, who honed their chops touring the East Coast, released a few of the songs on an EP and sent them to press and booking agents. No one bit. A year later, Hooper invited Zucconi to Greece for six weeks and the seeds of their participation in Grouplove were planted. After returning from Greece the band parted ways being too broke to continue touring. Zucconi and Hooper worked on new music together and included some Aloke material which somewhat accidentally got a new lease on life as Grouplove tracks, songs like “Colours,” “Itchin on a Photograph” and “Gold Coast.”

Now, fast-forward to 2015, Alive is coming out as is, in an untouched and unchanged format. ‘Alive’ is what the kids today need. No laptops. No clicks. No software. Just real rock ‘n’ roll. The album is set for release in digital, CD and vinyl LP July 17 via The End Records/ADA.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Christian Zucconi to discuss his musical roots, the process of bringing Aloke’s “Alive” to life with legendary producer Steve Albini, the circumstances surrounding its long delayed release and what he has in store for us in the months to come from both Aloke and Grouplove.

Going back to your early years, what music had a big impact on you and what are some of your first musical memories?

Christian Zucconi

Christian Zucconi

My first musical memories go back to when I was very, very young. When I was a baby I had emotional responses to certain songs. I remember being a little kid and hearing Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.” I would hear it come on the radio, freak out, grab my Mickey Mouse guitar, jump on the couch and headbang! [laughs] That is when I was 3 years old. I think I was destined to have music be an integral part of my life. When I was growing up, like a lot of other people, my brother gave me Nirvana’s “Nevermind” on cassette tape. I lost my shit because I had never heard such pain, emotion and dynamics in music before. Nirvana was a huge catalyst for me to pick up a guitar and learn their songs. They really put me on the road to playing electric guitar and singing in a band.

What made you pursue music as a career as opposed to going a different route? Were there doubts this was the path for you?

No. Even before Nirvana, I was on the piano and writing songs. I never wanted to learn what the teacher wanted to teach me, I just wanted to write my own stuff. I was always composing. I think it was something that was in my blood. Hearing bands like Nirvana, The Pixies and Fugazi made me want to move on to the electric guitar, start playing shows and releasing whatever I held inside. I am kind of a shy and quiet person in life but when I get onstage I become a totally different animal. I feel like the music was in me and I had no choice. It just happened.

Aloke has a brand new album and you are playing several shows in support of its release. How did the band get started?

We all grew up in a town called Ossining, New York. Sing Sing prison is located there in the Hudson River Valley. It is about half an hour north of New York City. There is something in the water there because a bunch of us met and had the knack for music, playing songs and musicianship. One of my friends could play any Slash solo in fifth grade and do all this crazy stuff. It was a great environment and great friends to come up with. We just started playing in bands as kids. We started in bands in high school and just kept moving forward. There were little changes and shifts along the way. We all had the same influences, like the ones I described, and they were our role models and made music in that vein. We started recording, playing shows and eventually went out to our hero, Steve Albini, and recorded this record with him. It is a classic story of kids who grew up in the same town and survived together by being in a band.

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Aloke

The musical seeds for “Alive” were sown back in 2007 with producer Steve Albini. What can you tell us about what was happening at the time and led to it being shelved until now?

The album was written in New York at a crazy time personally for all of us. Living in New York City is crazy in itself when you are an artist and rent is so expensive. It is a hard place to survive. There is a lot of struggle and it comes down to self-preservation and how to keep it together, learning to be yourself and persevering in a hard environment. A lot of the songs on this album reflect that sentiment. Personally, I had been in a crazy long-term relationship that had just ended, like “Gold Coast” and “Hard Day At Work” were influenced by that emotional turmoil, which is always a great breeding ground for songwriting. We made the record out at Steve Albini’s that summer. He tracked 18 songs in a few days and finished the entire record in 14 days. We stayed at his studio and lived there, which was really cool because we stayed as a band, as opposed to going home every night. We would wake up, have breakfast together in the kitchen and go right to work. It was a cool and creative environment. It was very satisfying at the end because we were so proud of creating this piece of art. It sounds like a Steve Albini recording, which was our whole goal because he is able to capture a band’s essence live, which is where we shine. We are kind of a cathartic live band and he was able to capture that. It felt really good and was at the pinnacle of our career to work with him. We came home and started sending out little EPs. Music at the time was a little different. Labels and people in that world just weren’t into or willing to risk their jobs, I guess, for a band that was hard to figure out or define. There was a big dance/new wave/disco scene in the rock world at that time in New York. We just didn’t fit in anywhere. It was kind of the end of an era. It was just silly to keep plugging along when we had recorded this album and felt really good about it. After a year or so, we thought it might be time to do something else and move on to the next chapter of our lives, so we kind of shelved the album, knowing one day we would release it. After a few years, suddenly, the time arrived and here we are. We are really excited to bring it back and it still feels really fresh and important. It doesn’t feel like it is dated at all. I think it fills a hole because there aren’t a lot of bands doing this kind of music. Bands like ours are hard to find. There are some on Sub Pop and a few others coming up that are heavy and are bringing a heavy, ‘90s grunge influence back but I think it is a great time to reveal this album.

Creating this album at a very pivotal time in your life alongside Steve Albini, what did you take for future projects?

I learned to just be honest with yourself and be honest in your songwriting. I learned not to be tempted by frills or tricks and to write music from an honest place. You have to have fun doing it. It was really cool to see him work and see how he mic’d stuff from a production standpoint. Most of all, I learned you have to stay true to yourself and stay true to that, whether you are successful or not. You have to do what you love.

What can you tell us about the songwriting process for “Alive” and has your approach to songwriting changed through the years?

Aloke - 'Alive'

Aloke – ‘Alive’

With Aloke, we would do a lot of improv in the rehearsal room and let go for a few hours and jam. We had played together for so long, since we grew up together, that we were very comfortable with that. A lot of the songs on the album came from random jams. We would record the practices on cassette tapes. When we would go back and listen and discover a really cool riff or something from a particular day. Some songs would come that way with all of us collaborating at the same time in a room and the lyrics would come after. Other songs I had written at home on an acoustic guitar but it was all very collaborative and we would all arrange together. With Grouplove, meeting Hannah [Hooper] was a huge changing point in my life. Her and I write more together now. Back in the day, I didn’t really collaborate in the real songwriting process if we weren’t jamming as a band. Having Hannah to bounce ideas off in the early stages of the songs is a completely different experience for me. It has been a really nice change. Hearing a beautiful woman’s voice singing with mine was a really fun experience. Although we do write at home, we also do a lot of collaboration after the song is brought in. Everyone adds their own thing to it and the songs change quite a bit from where they begin. There are a lot of similarities between Grouplove and Aloke. It is hard to really define how songs happen because they come from an unknown place and I don’t really understand it. That has always been the case with me.

What was it like stepping back into an earlier chapter of your life with this release? Was it a difficult transition to make?

No. It is interesting. We got together this past weekend to start practicing again. It had been seven years but the strange thing was that it wasn’t strange at all. It felt completely normal and as if no time had passed. I think that was a cool and comforting sign. There weren’t any crazy nerves. We played our first show last night in Philly and it was awesome. I think we put in so much time as a band back in the day and growing up together that it feels completely natural. It feels like breathing or going to sleep, in that it feels so natural. That was really a cool thing to realize when we did it.

That is very cool to hear and you seem to be in a great place creatively. Do think Aloke might continue forward and even record new music in the future?

Aloke

Aloke

Yeah, definitely. It is so much fun and we are so good together. For artists to stick to one thing forever is crazy, so it is important to pursue passion projects on the side. It is important to grow and explore as an artist while working with other people. If our schedule allows it we definitely want to put out some new stuff. Aloke was writing material almost too fast in a way. At our shows, we would play six new songs and everyone wanted to hear the six old songs they had heard a few times, ya know? There are some songs we never really captured and we would love to go back and record. We have already jammed on some of the riffs by just messing around in the studio the other day. So, yeah. If time allows it and we can build up a cool audience with this record, we would love to do it and keep doing some tours over the next few years.

Having written this music at a different time in your life and revisiting it now, do any of the songs resonate with you in a different way at this point in time?

Ya know, not in a different way. I respect them as they are reflective of a different time in my life. It was a hard time in my life but I would never want to change it because it led me to become who I am today. I think it is important to revisit that. I am a very nostalgic and emotional guy, so sometimes I like to wallow in the sadness of my past. It is not always the best idea but sometimes it is nice to relive those kind of memories and honor them. It is not painful to sing the song live or anything. In a weird way it celebrates that sadness through song and allows it to live forever.

Where do you look for inspiration these days? Anything you find yourself gravitating toward?

Yeah! Hannah and I have been writing a lot for the next Grouplove record and Hannah is now seven months pregnant! We are having a baby in August, so that has been super inspirational. Knowing this magical process that is old as time itself is happening to us is really exciting to us. It is inspiring a lot of new songs as well as new approaches to songwriting. It has been a very creative year being off from Grouplove, getting Aloke going and writing songs. It has been really fun.

Looking back on your career, how have you most evolved as an artist along the way?

Christian Zucconi and Hannah Harper

Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper

Meeting the guys in Grouplove, as randomly as we did in that art commune in Greece, has had an enormous impact on me. Meeting new people to collaborate with, approaching songs differently and meeting new personalities from around the world opened up my whole process. With Aloke, we took music much more seriously in a way. Grouplove was an accidental band in a way, as we didn’t plan on being a band when we were recording our first EP, it was more of a fun passion project. Approaching music that way and not taking yourself too seriously was a big growing experience for me. Writing with Hannah and the other guys in Grouplove really expanded my horizons. When you hear any Grouplove record, it is so different from Aloke. It was amazing to experiment and go down that road in music. The biggest lessons I learned were to be open and not to be afraid to collaborate with people of different musical tastes or influences. The results can be amazing. It has been really good for me.

What is in the works as far as touring for Aloke in support of “Alive” in the short term?

We are looking to do some West Coast shows in July. The album comes out in July, so we are looking to do Los Angeles and San Francisco. Those shows are just about to come together. That is going to be awesome to play out there. We will take it from there. If the record gets a good response or not, we are going to be hitting the road!

Christian Zucconi and his bandmates in Grouplove

Christian Zucconi and his bandmates in Grouplove

You mentioned you were writing for Grouplove. With a new baby on the way and Aloke touring, you have a busy schedule. Any idea on when you will return to the studio?

We’ve demo’d out at least 15 to 17 songs right now. We are hoping to get into the studio by next month to get started but we are definitely aiming to have it finished this year for release in 2016. We will be back on the circuit next spring or summer.

That is great news! We wish you continued success with all you have going on! We will be spreading the word!

Thank you, Jason! I really appreciate your support!

The ?pre-order for Aloke’s ‘Alive is now available! The album is set for a July 17th release. 

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