An Album To Break The Mould
In an industry where we're all striving to make, report or listen to the next greatest hit; the pressures on artists can develop a sometimes gruelling process of music production. Somehow, there is always someone out there who manages to break the mould and can make something “New” and exciting once more.
It's always a pleasure to talk with groundbreaking creatives, particularly musicians. This Wednesday (the 7th of December), I had the fantastic opportunity of a brief phone call with one of the members EDM's latest up and comers, Alex Seaver from Mako.
We talked about many things, from the album's release (which happens to be this Friday, December 8th!), it's inception, creation, to living the life of an EDM superstar, collaborating with Rehab at Calvin Harris' house, advice for young musicians and more.
It's all in a day's work for Alex in his little studio in North Hollywood, and the outcome of the conversation yielded an overall good time.
All of which can be found below:
It’s an honour to be talking to you today. Not just any day, we are two days away from the release Hourglass! I’ll start off by saying wow, you guys knocked out of the park this time. As a musician, a writer and a fan I have mad respect for the artistry you pulled off on this one. Now you just dropped the entire album in NYC yesterday! How was that?
“It was exciting man it was cool I mean first off we weren't sure what to expect it was our first time playing live with the bands and one of the first times we were singing live and all this music that isn’t even released was all performed at once. So we weren't really sure what the reaction was going to be like. But it was a really magical night I mean everyone was super positive everyone was super happy and then whenever we played one of our older songs everyone started singing along from start to finish which was maybe the coolest experience you could probably ever have.”
Where does the name for the album come from, any particular inspirations?
“The name came after thinking a lot about what kinds of songs I was writing for this. I ended up borrowing a lot from my life and experience, and I noticed that a lot of the songs dealt with time in some from whether it was abstract or more obvious, looking back to the past, nostalgia about seeing something in the future with somebody or living in the present with somebody. I don’t know something about the motif of time just kept popping up and I just kind of felt that an hourglass represents time in a way that was pretty creative.”
You said on video that Wish You Back had been on your hard drive for what seemed like two years, so I have to ask how long you have been working on Hourglass?
“You know it’s funny… I guess you could kind of start it off… I’m trying to think like which track technically started it off. I mean we redid Our Story for this album, and Our story is a song that is about three years old. But I’d like to say I Wish You Back and Let Go Of The Wheel were some of the earliest tracks or demos that we put together regarding songs that we liked then over the course of about two years. And I’d say the last year is when it became apparent that we were making an album and here it is, but I think some of those songs were probably created about two years ago.”
Speaking of Wish You Back, it’s a beautiful song, very acoustic and soulful, a bit of a departure from dance music. Will we see more tracks like this in the future?
“Absolutely yeah. On the album, I would relate another song called North Dakota to be pretty similar. It’s just organic and textured it’s not as electronic but you know it’s been an interesting experience trying to figure out what we wanted to do with this album because we were collectively not so much inspired by the progressive house theme as we used to be. And part of making the album was thinking oh here we have a chance to make something different we don’t need to put out singles or radio songs. And we just found ourselves gravitating towards that kind of indie electronic and alternative and indie rock sort of sound. It kept creeping in, we recorded a lot of guitars and a lot of drums, got a bunch of string sessions together throughout the course of the album so I think that people should expect a little bit more of this kind of Organic influences in the music.”
And that’s an interesting point. It’s rare these days for some artists to reach the point where they have the ability to make the music that they want and not be upholding to a particular genre or label. And that’s exciting to see in this album.
“Yeah and I’ve been so inspired by a lot of our colleagues and other artists around and sometimes you find with electronic music that everyone is trying to find their more creative side rather than just coasting on a sort of formula that was only working for a while. Now it’s all about making something special or something that stands out, and it’s a fearful experience. I can relate that needs time to sort of find that voice, I mean it’ taken up most of the four or five years that we’ve been together and I feel like were starting to create something that may be a little unique to us. But it’s always an exciting thing for any creative person when they feel like there being honest with what they’re doing even if it is a little risky.”
So what was it like working with Kwesi? Will you ever work with him again on future albums?
“Oh man, he’s the best! He’s just this incredible artist, singer and songwriter that we met just like two years ago and the first session we did together we wrote wish you back. For whatever reason, I don’t tend to write as often with other people as much as I used to… But Kwesi is one of those guys that I just love so much that anytime he is nearby and wants to get in the studio we’ll just get working together. And so we’ve written a good batch of songs which will hopefully be up on the Mako Project pretty soon. “
Now you had two collaborative vocalists on this album, Kwesi was one, and forgive me if I mess up her name, Natalola? What was it like working with her on Run For Your Life?
“Yeah I think she goes by Natalola, her name is Nat Dunn and she is unbelievable, and I think she just began her new artist project which is called Natalola. And I met her when I got a call from another producer named Rehab he called me up like a year ago and said hey come write with me, and he gave me a freaking address which was Calvin Harris’ house. I ended up showing up to this large estate not knowing where I was and Rehab was there, and he had brought another singer, this young woman named Nat Dunn. She and I bonded immediately, we got along so well, we wrote a song super fast, and then I invited her over to my studio a couple of weeks later to work on a song, and we did Run for your life in just a couple hours. I mean we just clicked… You know whenever you work with people the personalities and the tastes can always vary. Every once in a while, you get someone were it’s like we just see the same way, and her voice was monstrous, so it was a real pleasure to be able to get her on one of the tracks. “
Do you ever still feel your still a small fish in a big pond?
“Oh absolutely, because my reality is just a small dark studio in North Hollywood. And that’s it. Like there's not any glamour to what I do on my day to day. So…”
Well, it’s a step up from a bedroom!
“Oh man, I did that for a long time too so I know exactly what that’s like. But it’s a pretty exhilarating feeling going to a city and a bunch of people you've never met before just know your music. But the way I feel as I live my day to day life is like man there is so many people out there-there are so many great artists, and there is just so much going on that even if the most we can do is just a couple people to listen to our music. Everything will be awesome. But yeah I don't know how I even get heard among all of the music that gets put out there all the time.”
Now you’ve collaborated with some of Dance Music’s Biggest, but are there any other artists out there you’d love to have a collaboration with in the future?
“That’s a great question I mean we get to collaborate with a lot of indie electronic artists Yeah I’ve built a playlist… I’ll pull it up right now… I’ve been listening to a lot of good people on here… Oh yeah! I just went and saw Porter Robinson and Madeon and that was just awesome-“
Awe! Wasn’t that such a good show!?
“Yeah man! Those are two artists that I’d love to work with; there’s this producer named Song that I love, yeah I’m just finding all of this crazy awesome indie electronic music! EDEN is a friend of mine, and it would be awesome to make music with him one day. Yeah man, there’s so much cool stuff out there. But Ironically we're moving away from collaborating with people who are sort of on the EDM side of things and get a little more into that alternative electronic kind of things just because I think it inspires us right now I think.”
-Mako's Hourglass Inspirational Playlist
That seems to be the trend that EDM, on the whole, is heading in is that indie-pop electronic area. In fact, I just saw EDEN and Elohim here in Toronto as well. Speaking of, do you ever get the time to go out and see other artists very often?
“I really try to! I don’t do it so much because I can be a little anti-social and I just spend all day and all night in the studio kinda making music. But it’s really inspiring to go out to see other artists especially as we’re sort of shifting our whole live show away from DJ’ing to this kind of like, live-electronic hybrid setup… It’s to see what people are doing and how people are performing their music. And there’s a lot of different ways to do it technologically speaking. And then in terms of like the Aesthetic, like the lighting that they use or if they use graphics. And then just seeing how that translates to an audience. Because instead of just a bunch of people jumping at the drops, it’s a music venue you know where people are listening to music and just kind of getting what that kind of relationship is with the audience has been a different from our background. “
-EDEN (Photo Curtesy of Jeff Nickel)
So, this may be a hard question to answer, but what’s your favourite track on the album? Or better yet, which track was the most fun to produce?
“Oh man… Yeah, fun is one thing. I think one of my favourites was the first track, Let Go Of The Wheel. But that one wasn’t so much fun to make. *Laughs* Because it took like a solid year and it was a bit of a gruelling process. But it was one of the first tracks that started to develop in a way that, I was like, this is a brand new sound. And this is what I want to go for but when your forging in the fog like that you can’t tell how to make it shape up correctly until you’re already there. But then there are some other songs like the Our Story Finale which is another favourite of mine. That one came together so quickly it was almost as soon as I decided that we should rework our story into this cinematic rocky sort of thing it pretty much came together in a week. So definitely one of the most fun was Our Story, and one of the one’s I’m most proud of had to be Let Go Of The Wheel.”
While we’re on the topic, Hourglass is certain to inspire a whole new generation of aspiring producers, do you have any advice for people just starting out?
“You know I think the one thing you can do is just make as much music as possible? I know a lot of people get a lot from just watching tutorials and I know there is a lot of great resources out there. But way we did it was just like. Just grinding and making so much music and being smart about learning what you’re doing and learning what your strengths are and finding out what your voice is and who you are and what you want to say. The thing we notice the most is when people send demos to us they kind of sound like whoever they probably love listening too. And I totally get it because we did the same thing. But you’re never going to stand out if you’re just so closely replicating another artist so there has to be that moment when you decide what makes me, me and what do I wanna say with my music.”
You’ve certainly come a long way leading up to this release, among many others. Do you ever look back on how far you’ve come? Anything you’d do differently?
“It’s such a tough question because there are so many things that I wouldn’t necessarily consider mistakes but just things that I went in the wrong direction. But you would never learn if it is the wrong direction until you do it, so I don’t have any regrets about anything… But yeah it’s a fascinating journey especially coming from classical music to DJ music to what were doing now… and it’s been a bizarre journey and it’s weird to look back see how it all happened. A lot of seemed like such a random series of events that kind of lead us to where we are now. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything it’ been a fun experience.”
I noticed some of your notations and doodle sheets have been all decked out and doodled on, so I have to ask, which one of you is the illustrator?
“I wouldn’t say there very good, but I was just having fun when I got bored and started doodling my ass off, and I had all these blank spaces, so I just started writing lyrics in them.”
Well, your fans are desperate to hear you live, have you got any exciting plans for 2017?
“Right now we have a couple of quick short-term plans. We’re going to be playing in SanFrancisco on Tuesday and then we’ll be back in Los Angeles on Wednesday. And we haven’t put any formal plans together but I know we’re dying to get to a whole bunch of cities in North America so I think throughout the next couple of months we’ll start to announce more Venus as they open up. But for now, I would say stay tuned for our socials and stuff would be good. But we’re excited to take this show on the road and show it to everybody.”
All right well it’s been awesome! I won’t take up too much of your time; the album is excellent, and I have no doubt in my mind everyone’s going to lose theirs.
“Yeah absolutely! We’re excited to see how it evolves!”
Well, folks if you made it through all of that you have most certainly learned how cool it is to talk to a famous artist, above all they are people, and they're just as excited as we are to share their music.
As of now, the album is live, I hope you all enjoy it as we look forward to what Mako has in store for us next in 2017.