04 Sep DANIEL ALEXANDER-MELANCHOLIA, MUSIC AND MESSAGES
Daniel Alexander as a creative fits the #itchysilk criteria with ease.
While there are singers and songwriters who like to expound wishes of creating music with ‘messages’ and ‘saying something’, many fall short. The initial promise of meaning quickly dissolving into an abyss of formulaic one-dimensional noise. Daniel Alexander a singer, song-writer, videographer and producer is not that type of artist.
Residing in South East London the English Literature graduate can be called a newcomer in the sense of his solo pursuits. Initially a career in a band saw Daniel Alexander achieve success. It would not be beyond the realms of common sense to wonder why would he leave? It is clear however that he possesses a strong sense of artistic integrity.
When it became apparent that the direction of the band was at loggerheads with his own musical compass he sought out a different bearing. A brave decision. But life is generally a series of opportunities with risks. The difference-some choose to take bigger risks than others.
Off the back of that initial risk-Daniel Alexander as a solo artist has created an electro enthused single of boundless beauty. DoubleGlazedGazeDown released on the mercurial Maison-Ansi label represents a vindication of that risk. It’s ‘solemn’ down beat electro bit of music that we like to call ‘melancholic joy’. Beauty aside this is a is a telling bit of music come social commentary on the plight of us as humans. Far from contrived and reeking of self-importance it’s a powerful piece that immediately taps into real and relevant fears.
The follow up track Gulf builds on that melancholic joyful music as it were. A stark almost stripped affair allows Daniel Alexander’s yearnful vocal to add emotional layers.
Explain how a South London boy (even though we imagine it is easy) found his way into the creative arts?
I was studying Literature at Uni and was doing a large amount of writing and fair amount of drugs when I was introduced to a pretty special group of people. From there, I met more like-minded people and witnessed what it meant to be creative, productive and to have conviction in your output. I began making crap beats on a laptop and trying to wail over them in my bedroom. It was shit for ages but I knew what I wanted the tone of the music to be. I also wanted to emphasise a lyrical element.
What does it mean to be ‘pop’ and what does pop music mean in this current climate?
I don’t know if ‘pop’ does have a singular meaning. There is popular music and pop chord progressions. They will always resonate for the same reasons they have done. Of course, there is pop music being created of merit, like there always will be. In this version of pop, there is significance still to be found. In that sense pop can still be used as a vehicle of communication in the current climate. Then there is a type of pop which is more polluting, plastic and empty. This pop is detrimental to progression but that’s one symptom of a wider cultural epidemic.
Of course, the next question-do you make pop, or do you just make music?
I think there are pop aspects, although it wasn’t conscious, it’s just how it came out. What interests me is the subconscious selecting of melodies and note intervals; all the melodies that you heard as a kid in the back seat, beaming from the radio in front, or the tracks you heard on video games over and over, those worm up from the depths of your mind and reform into something when writing. So, it’s not pop, but there are aspects, because pop is something that’s always been there, in the background or fore.
Discuss a bit this whole journey with another band-what was that like, what did you learn and of course why did you leave?
It was exciting, illuminating, transformative, hazy in places, crystal in others, all the beautiful things making music with like-minded people can be. We had a very committed DIY ethic to begin with. That is something I have tried to carry with me into this project. I learned what I wanted to do, how to do it and how not to. Towards the end it became stifling. We were moving in a direction I didn’t recognise. The band/marriage analogy is cliché, for a reason. They share many of the same relationship dynamics, but also the intensity of intimacy. When you love someone and they don’t love you back, what can you do?
You are a creative explain the other disciplines that you love and pursue?
I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was younger. Lyrics, poetry, automatic writing. For my process, it’s the automatic that is key. It’s a channel between your conscious, inhibited state and your true state. A line or image, whilst writing, seems completely abstracted and unrelated. Upon second reading, it can reveal how you’ve been thinking or feeling just so exactly. For me it’s perfect. So, the written word was probably my first pursuit. Aside from that, I’m interested in photography and video. I shoot but only on a XA2. Film feels better but I’m not purist.
So, in this current juncture how long have you been pursuing this music thing if that is what it is and indeed what was the catalyst in making this push as it were?
I always wanted to make music that was heavy, dark, electronic in some regards, more traditional in others, with literary/lyrical elements. When I left the band, I began working on making music that sounded like that. If you have the capacity to create, the freedom to communicate and hold any kind of platform, then with that I think there is a responsibility. Music can be simple, it can be an opiate, but it can also be healing and provide personal solace.
I aimed to reflect at least a fraction of the very visceral bewilderment and collective fear that exists presently, through a personal scope. To me it was like, why write about anything else? What is more important? We are at a cross roads in history. The path we take now is more pivotal than any other course we have taken prior, in a very real sense. Do we continue to glide toward nuclear holocaust and/or an authoritarian future, or will we reclaim our planet and our humanity?
Let’s talk production, equipment, techniques and what you are trying to achieve?
My production techniques are rudimentary; I just fuck with stuff until it sounds half decent using a lot of the Waves VST’s on synths and the Soundtoys stuff too. I write with the same electric guitar I’ve had since I was fifteen and record all my found-sounds on my phone. My favourite records are those that create psychological interiorities – like Dummy or Untrue (2007) or Nebraska (1982) – either of another’s mind, or a space in which to understand and process your own. I’d love to try and achieve that with my music… whether it does or doesn’t is another matter.
We watch the decay of our society through a screen, which pixelates and fuzzes out our response in turn.
If we were to see the abuses of power and atrocities we can witness, due to technology, in the flesh, our responses I can only imagine would be different. High-definition images of a traumatic, horrific reality, but being able to shut down your true emotional response to continue living ‘your’ version of morality. The screen-grabbing aesthetic works for me. That is often what our world is – a screen. The intersection between electronic technology and our humanity I find fascinating. We march forwards on the assumption that electronic technology enhances and liberates us. That terrifies me.
It’s described as ‘solemn’ is that the emotional spectrum you were trying to achieve and why?
It just came out that way. I think the tone of the track aligns with how I was feeling. Desperate, angry, hypocritical etc
“notes from the inside of a damaged machine”, interesting image explain this more.
We are living through the deterioration of structures that have been sustained for a long time. Those in high office are aware of this. They are attempting to consolidate power, and wealth. When the game is up they can transition into whatever comes next, intact. That is why they are selling off the NHS. This is why American Homeland security purchased 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition. That is how and why Trump is in office. We are living through the end of something and as it bleeds out, fatally wounded, essentially by its own hand, we watch and wait and wish it were different. The music is a note being passed outside, to whoever can hear it, from the inside.
Gil Scott Heron big name. Explain what he means to you and how he inspired (if he did) your creative flair in the single.
Gil Scott Heron is a pioneer and general hero. His delivery was reserved but no less a sharpened response to his reality. There was anger, of course, but curiosity, and playfulness too, and a knowingness; he ‘knew’, and if you could dig it then he would let you ‘know’ as well. What Jamie XX did with his words and voice was incredible. I feel that GSH/JXX record aligns with how I’d like to see this project… a delivery of conviction set to forward-looking music.