RE-POSTED FROM: Interview – Aleister X and Andrew WK | Culturedeluxe.
Aleister X is the new protégé of Andrew WK after being signed to his Steev Mike label. Born in Goa to Brit ex-pats and currently dividing his time between Kingston, Brooklyn and Tokyo it’s fair to say that he brings quite an interesting history to the music. You can check out Aleister on his myspace and if you like what you hear then his latest release, ‘The Git’ EP is now available on iTunes. In this exclusive interview Adam Gibby chats to Aleister X and Andrew WK about their working relationship, meeting at a lighting shop and the quest to find a booking agent.
How did the two of you come to be working together?
Andrew: Umm, through ‘Wicked Wicks’ really. Well the same guy who, in a way, I would say discovered me in New York, this guy SS (Spencer Sweeney), that’s who I first heard the music from. I was hanging out at his house one day and it’s the same guy, Spencer, who’s co-owner of Santos Party House, a club in New York that we opened and he’s always a go to guy for me when it comes to finding out about mind-blowing stuff. He’s always finding out about it on his own or in touch with it. Anyway, I was over at his house and he was playing this music and it got to the point where I really couldn’t concentrate on anything else except this music and I had to know all about it and ask him all about it and he didn’t know much about it himself but he gave me the disc. At that moment it was almost like a prophetic vision, that I could just tell this was going to become a big part of my life. This Aleister guy or this music or whatever it was and it did so…
Aleister: It was just Aleister then.
Andrew: Yeah it was before the X came right?
Aleister: Yes, ‘Wicked Wicks’ was five tracks on the CD-R or it might even have been a cassette and then we met at the first show.
Andrew: No, I met you on the street at a lighting store. No, no the first time was at the show, the first time was when we played together. That might have been the second time we met eachother, the lighting shop. The first time was when I played in the band. That’s funny too because a lot of my band members, the first time I met ever them was when we were filming a music video so sometimes you meet people in situations where you normally think you’d be well acquainted. I had learned all of his songs from listening to the music and actually met Aleister at this concert where we played with a four-piece band, in New York.
Do you two have a very hands on relationship or do you just come together as and when?
Aleister: Well I sort of do my demos, I record them at my place and then I take them to Andrew and when we can get together it’s at his studio and then a lot of things happen and it kind of clicked magically. It’s really quite amazing, isn’t it Andrew?
Andrew: Yeah, you always hope that you click with people. I guess I never doubted that. I was working on a video for one of those early tracks from ‘Wicked Wicks’, that EP that we’ve been talking about, there’s a video on YouTube for it, ‘Super Creep’. That was the first music I had heard and I just wanted to dive in to it and just be a part of it and fortunately Aleister was kind enough to let me and he was very open minded. But the reason why it was so exciting to work with him isn’t what he lets me do as much as what he comes up with that I get to learn from. I mean just incredible vocal phasing, incredible melody lines and a world of feelings and ideas. His songs paint pictures in my head that really no other music has and it’s a world that I just wanted to live in.
Aleister: Well it’s been the longest relationship musically and artistically as well for me. I’ve never really worked with anyone in terms of producing or recording or anything. I’ve done it all myself and working with Andrew, working with someone who immediately understands what I want to do, what I’d like to do, what I’m doing and then what he does is just immediately beyond what I could imagine it could be and then together it’s just like the first production partnership I’ve had.
Andrew: I’d just like to add real quick, I mean he’s described it very well there and there have been times of almost psychic bonding for sure and it’s very refreshing for me because it’s totally a different vibe. It’s nothing to do with what I’d normally work on. So, for myself, it’s a real nice change of pace to work with someone who is wearing black most of the time for example and at first that can seem kind of eerie but it really is powerful. The head space and the feelings that Aleister gets involved and what he does.
Aleister: It’s all in the eyes; it’s all in the eyes.
Andrew: It really is. It’s these beautiful eyes and there’s a lot to be seen with them and through them.
Aleister: And it’s been a real laugh.
How would you both describe the music?
Andrew: Well I mean there’s so much variety so for me it’s the voice. The music is this guy’s voice and what the voice was saying and the music is there to drive the point home or pump it up or frame it nicely. To me it’s definitely a signature sound which has all emanated from this guy’s mind.
Aleister: It’s a bit all over the place. Maybe if I could describe it musically it would be all over the place of music that sounds good, that I like to hear or that I’d like people to hear. I want it to move people and really make them move or just sit still and not move as long as there are heavy feelings.
Andrew: Yes, it can be so moving that you can’t even move.
Aleister: Completely motionless sound or non-stop motion, preferably both at the same time but it doesn’t always happen.
How do you set about writing your songs? Is there a particular way you go about it with the beat first or the guitars?
Aleister: Oh yeah, I start with the beat, get all my beats going, or just one beat and then get bass tracks and I basically just build it like that. A bit of bass and then maybe synths or guitars and then I get a skeleton track and start writing the vocals. It’s all very ‘I’ve got an idea’. It’s all very planned, very meticulous, very editorial, very ongoing. So I get the song and start adding things.
What does Andrew bring to the songs with his production?
Aleister: Just amazingness really. Pretty much just mind-blowing amazingness and virtual insanity and intensity and deeper emotional levels.
Andrew: That’s very kind of you to say, Aleister. I didn’t pay him to say that. I just try to make the best of what’s there always. It’s mainly mixing I mean there’s times when we’ll over dub stuff and I’ll play something here, or we’ll get SS on track.
Aleister: You just bring your amazing ears and your hearing.
Andrew: And MacMall might pop in on guitar, he’s worked with Aleister for a while now.
Aleister: He’s not on any of the tracks though. All the guitars is me.
Andrew: Oh yeah. How long has he been playing live now?
Aleister: Umm, he’s been on the live shows since earlier this year, like January, the beginning of the year really.
Andrew: But yeah, for me it’s always really about the mixing so whatever Aleister brings in…
Aleister: You’re just amazing at editing; you’re like a total God. You’ve put me on a whole other track as a producer myself I’ve learned so much working with you.
Andrew: That’s very kind thank you. And right back at you.
Aleister: Remember the terrible tracks I’d bring to you at the beginning.
Andrew: Well it’s come a long way. How long has it been now that we’ve been working together? Since 2005?
Aleister: Yeah 2005/2006. So four or five years.
‘The Git’ EP came out a few weeks ago now. How has it been received?
Aleister: I don’t know really. I mean a handful of people have received it and I think they’ve received it well. It’s really hard to say. I’m really hoping to see just some good old fashioned reviews, music reviews. I’ve seen a lot of press release copies so it’s really hard to say, we’ll just have to wait maybe. Maybe wait it out.
Andrew, how different a feeling is it releasing someone else’s music instead of your own?
Andrew: It’s a very good one. It’s the opportunity to just do more. At the same time it doesn’t really feel like a big choice for me so much, it’s the same reason that I do anything, whether it’s Andrew WK or anything else. It’s just what it feels like I was born to do. These things just come in to your life and to not do them would almost take more effort. It would be less natural or harder. When something’s meant to be it just becomes very streamlined so it all feels just part of the life you’re living and I have a variety of activities but they’re all related and that’s a very organic and natural desire to do that stuff. I mean there’s no-one else in the world I’d rather be working with than Aleister X so it’s very satisfying and exciting doing that but at the same time there’s nothing else that I’d rather be doing than just about anything else. So I’ve just been very grateful for the opportunity to be challenged, to be rewarded, to work on something meaningful and to contribute whatever skills I have to a vision that I really believe in. I really believe in this music and what Aleister’s doing and I’m confident that others will as well.
You’ve got plans for a third EP and then an album after that, is that right?
Aleister: Yep, that’s the plan.
Andrew: Yeah, we’ve been building it up and this is the first time that I’ve ever been involved with anything like this in terms of a label of this sort. Running a record label has been a lot more strange than I had anticipated for a lot of different reasons. With some folks that I had chosen to work with before in my career things got a bit complicated there so when I started this label first I had to change the name and reorder the sub-structure of the company but it all worked out and we can still release the music and it’s very exciting to imagine finally getting to that eventual album because it really will be quite a body of work at that point.
Aleister: I think the full length will be the one to look out for. Not to say that the EPs are bad, I think each one is the best thing I’ve ever done but the full length is really the one that I’m the most excited about.
Andrew: Likewise and for many reasons we feel that getting there through these three EPs is a good thing.
Aleister: Yeah, I’m very excited about ‘The Git’ right now.
Andrew: Me too. What’s been really nice is that each one of my closest friends who I respect, my peers whose opinions have mattered to me going back ten years now, people that have had a huge part in shaping my creative outlook on the world have all been blown away by Aleister and what he’s doing and that to me is the only kind of encouragement I’ve required so far to believe in this and get it from obscurity to a more visible state. I think it’s just one of those things; it’s dark and it’s intense and it’s powerful but it’s also full of a lot of joy and I think people are finding that.
Aleister: Hopefully some people from booking agencies will discover it as well. If some booking agencies want to get behind a new upstart I’m the one. Aleister X.
Do you prefer to be on stage or do you prefer writing and recording in the studio?
Aleister: I love it all. I love being on stage, I love performing live. I love recording music, I love being in the studio. I’m working on demos, I’m writing all the time, I just love it all equally.
Andrew: And that fact is what appealed to me so much, especially upon meeting Aleister is that he could do it all. He had every facet of his vision there and had the capabilities to do it. I mean he could write a song, he could sing it, he could play all the instruments, he could make the album artwork, he could make a video, he could perform really well, he had an amazing look and presence in general. When I’m encountered with something like that that’s just as exciting as it gets because again, it just seems so obvious that someone is doing what they were born to do.
Will you continue to work together throughout your careers or will you go off and do your own things and then maybe get back together in the future?
Andrew: That’s an interesting question. I mean this is already the longest collaboration I’ve ever had with another musician, it really is, and I’d actually never realised that until just now. I’ve normally worked with people for one release and then occasionally worked with them again. I have friends that I’ve worked with over the years, just playing around, jamming, practicing, whatever but as far as a focused, specified, musical project this is the longest.
Aleister: We’re locked in. We’re locked in for three (EP) and one (album)
Andrew: We’re locked in for a long while more for sure. I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t keep going.
Aleister: Me neither.