Alexander Menzies has a new album on the way as Alex Smoke. It’s called Love Over Will and it’s out on 22th of January. We love it a lot (needless to say that love conquers all).
Furthermore he is going to perform in Vilnius this Saturday. Do we need more reasons to talk with this Scotsman?
Hi Alex, How are you? What are you up to at the moment?
Hey. Am currently sitting in my kitchen, in between sessions in the studio. I have to take regular breaks to give my hands a rest. Have wrecked my hands more times than I like to remember so these days I am careful not to overwork. Ideally I’d like to be able to work 8 hours non-stop but it can’t be done.
With every album your music involves into other level. You started from minimal techno. Have you got bored from it? It almost disappeared in your music.
Yeah I just have changing interests and new avenues to explore so I just go with my gut. I could make more money and get more gigs if I just stuck to the same sound but it simply isn’t my priority. Dancefloor music will always have a role to play in my life as it is such a beautiful shared way to experience music, and fully involves the mind and body which is a rare thing but I also like to gig a bit less these days anyway to give me more time in the studio. It’s amazing how a single weekend gig can mess up your headspace for creating music.
Your every new album becomes more and more artistic, looking from the best perspective, taking listeners into joy of experience. What’s your main goal as artist? What would be best achievement for you?
Well what you said is a good sign. I am steadily losing my sense of expectation from other peoples’ perspective and simply following my own agenda. It is a selfish pursuit, but I also think it should be if I want to create anything original and of any worth. I really used to be concerned with what other people thought or what they wanted from me but I was always a bit frustrated, knowing that I’d only be able to make my best work without that worry. This album is a crossing point in many ways, as it contains both music written earlier in this process which references my earlier sound, and more recent music of a looser style. In future I am increasingly trying to focus on new directions.
For me Love Over Will sounds like Tom Waits and Muddy Waters have listened to Nicolas Jaar a lot. Did blues music have any influence on you while making this album?
I love blues music but it is not music I listen to a lot, so the album doesn’t necessarily reference it directly, but maybe has an underlying melancholy about it that has echoes of the blues. There is one track that contains a Mississippi prison song and which is therefore directly referencing the roots of the blues.
Can you tell us about the approach and techniques that you used while making Love Over Will? How did you manage to extract such a “creased” sound?
I love the edge to music when there are tiny movements and random events happening on the smallest scale. Things like tiny pitch-shifts, noise, tight delays and distortion all play a role, as well as more left field techniques involving cross-filtering and spectral messing. I love the processes that create new timbres, and the meeting between those different textures.
What are you trying to tell through the album artwork? I read this as “you can fuck yourself to death, that good this album is”. Am I right?
Haha…not exactly! The artwork comes directly from the photographer’s interpretation of the album themes and title, so is really his to interpret. My take on it is that it references the hermaphrodite, the balance of masculine and feminine, sexual liberation and religious imagery. It is up to people to take their own view on it but I do feel strongly that our society has a strangely warped attitude towards sexuality.
By the way, is it you posing in the cover photo?
Nae chance. The models shall remain anonymous.
I really enjoyed Wraetlic project. At one part, it is clearly Alex’s work. On the other hand, it is completely different in comparison to AS sound. How do you draw the distance between Wraetlic and Alex Smoke?
Thanks. It was one of the few occasions when I had a clear idea before I started of what I wanted. Namely, short songs, more experimental production and pop structures. It was liberating to work that way and have no expectations on me. You can hear the influence of the Wraetlic stuff in the new album I think. I’ve also been working on a new Wraetlic LP which will hopefully be out this year too.
What’s the best album of 2015 for you?
It can never just be one…
Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld – Never Were the Way She Was (Constellation)
Arca – Mutant (Mute)
William Basinski – Deluge (2062)
Have you cried when Bowie died?
In all honesty I rarely find death that sad, unless it was a tragic death, and Bowie went out in such a great way, at peace with his friends and family, with a new album just finished and the admiration of the whole world. The thing which hit most afterwards was what a good person he actually was, and how that carried through in the sentiments expressed when he’d left, and that is such a positive thing for anyone, whether famous or not. Having said that, of all the famous names that have died in the last 10 years Bowie was in many ways the biggest shock to the system and has created the biggest sense of loss. I grew up listening to Bowie and watching him and his music is still some of my all-time favorite. A great man.
What’s your favorite Scotch?
I’m not a big drinker but if pushed I’d choose one of the less-known private bottlings created by various smaller brands with names no one knows, and I’d get someone who knows to tell me which one to go for. It’s a deep and secretive world is the Scottish whisky. I’ve had some lovely old ones in the past, but their names are never the ones we all know.
There’s a lot of Lithuanian immigrants working in Scotland. Have you met any of them? If yes, what are your impressions?
I’m sure I’ve met lots of them without knowing it, and Glasgow’s population has changed hugely over the last 10 years to include a much more cosmopolitan mix of people from all over the world. We really needed help with our gene pool so we’re very grateful.
What can we expect from your gig in Vilnius on January 23?
I’ve been putting together a new live show over the last few months, and working hard on making it more live and more involved. It’s a balance between having lots of machines and sounds to play with while being able to keep focus on creating a flowing set, so I’ve got a fair amount of hardware but am cutting back on the vocal elements. It’s also worth noting that it is a set for the dancefloor and not reflective of the mood of the album which is more experimental, although it will of course contain tracks from the album reworked into dancefloor forms.