Monday, June 28, 2010

Q & A With Alex Kemp

California DIY musician Alex Kemp recently released a new EP, Rat D'Hôtel - Part I - Rat Walks into a Bar, with three more to follow. So, your resident quirky chick set out to find out about this project and what else Mr. Kemp was up to. You know what? He's witty and charming folks. Get the low-down on Alex Kemp below. And, there's an MP3 Grab at the end of the interview ... as if my brilliant interviewing skills aren't enough for you!

Quirky NY Chick (QNYC): First, things first, thanks for taking time to answer some questions.

Alex Kemp (AK): You're very welcome. It was hard to find time between consulting with BP on how to stop the oil spill and trying to talk Kim Jong Il back from the brink of war, but hey- anything for QNYC.

(QNYC): Fans may know you from your work with Small Factory and Chicago electro rock band Assassins; you also do sound design if I’m not mistaken. But, for those that may be unfamiliar with your work, tell us a little about yourself.

(AK): Small Factory, Assassins, composing for TV and Film-- that's pretty much the deal! I've moved around a lot, though I live in Venice, CA now. I drink more coffee than anyone you know. And I like making music more than I like listening to it. I'm also in search of a really good tailor if anyone has any suggestions please let me know.

(QNYC): How you would describe your music?

(AK): Smoove, with hints of berry.

(QNYC): You’ve put together a series of 4 EP’s that you’ll be releasing throughout the year. The first, Rat D'Hôtel - Part I - Rat Walks into a Bar, is already available on iTunes and physical copies are available through your website. The EP’s chronicle a fictional character named Rat. Will you tell us a little about the project?

(AK): I'm really not sure what the fuck I'm doing. I'm working with a very specific group of musicians-- great people-- and that's what really informs the sound. But as far as Rat D'Hotel, and what that's all about, its a cluster of images that keep nagging me.... something about this kid, who's a bit of ne'er do well, a philanderer, and a cad. I love him deeply, he's so fucked up. And I want things to work out for him. So I'm singing about him, and also about me and my friends. Can we call it an exploration? Let's call it an exploration; that sounds very fancypants.

(QNYC): When you first envisioned the songs, did you plan to have a conceptual work or did it just grow into that?

(AK): The latter. I HATE rock operas. This is definitely not a rock opera, or linear story telling in any sense. But I am drawing a picture maybe. The same way that a cluster of stars don't really look like a dipper (big or small), but nonetheless that's the picture we see when we look up in the sky.

(QNYC): Why have you decided to release the works in 4 parts instead of as one record?

(AK): That was a very deliberate approach I wanted to take. I love EP's. And I love albums, but they don't make the same amount of sense any more the way we listen to music... So doing 4 EP's that you could then put in a box and call an album seemed like a great way to invite people inside the process of making the album, and break up the usual 'gigantic opus' mentality that goes into making something as precious and all-consuming as an full length record. I guess I view these EP's as little notes I'm sending out, post cards, from where I'm at to where you're at.

(QNYC): You’re releasing the EP’s on your own. Is this a complete DIY project or was there a producer and other musicians involved helping you express your vision?

(AK): No producer, though I'm really keen to find someone to work with. The musicians I'm playing with are amazing people, from a very different background who have great facility and play music with an effortless joy that amazes me constantly. They all happen to be from the contemporary Gospel and R&B scene, and it lends a very different perspective to the sound. It would be great to get a different perspective from the production side, too.

(QNYC): I know you probably like the control and freedom you have doing things yourself, but are there times you think you would like to have the benefit of a label?

(AK): Well, that's a tricky question. Like, if you were alone, wouldn't you want a boyfriend or a girlfriend? Sure, especially the idealized person you make up in your head, who's soooo attractive and kind.... Then you get into another crazy relationship with some unmedicated bipolar basket case and boom you're like "get me the hell out of this pronto!!" Um, I guess I have baggage.

(QNYC): Your website is creatively interactive and I’ve had fun clicking on all of the various bits. You have a background in art, don’t you? Aside from the website, how has visual art manifested itself in your music?

(AK): I can't take any credit for the amazing website other than that I asked "what if" a lot. The designers and Ludlow Kingsley do amazing work and I'm a huge fan as well as a client. Roxane Daner also did the artwork for the EP series. She rules. Here's their website: LUDLOW KINGSLEY

But, yeah, I did study painting at Rhode Island School of Design and that's also where I started playing music.

(QNYC): While we’re on the subject of visuals, will there be any videos for the Rat D’Hôtel series? I can envision b&w mini films.

(AK): I'm DYING to do some videos. Anyone who has ideas and wants to help should reach out to me immediately!! I've been batting around ideas with a few friends and we're getting close to having some ideas that make sense. Cheap and cheerful is the goal.

(QNYC): Other than the Rat D’Hôtel series, do you have any other projects in the works?

(AK): Well, I recently scored a short film called "What's Coming Next" by the young French Director Thomas Leistenschneider, and I'm doing another film now called "Psychosis" by Ian Christian Blanche. I also have a project with Norwegian composer Kristin Dyrud called Postulat that does very happy songs! We have some stuff on Myspace if you want to check it out. Plus I'm playing guitar with my friends' band called Capital Cities. So yeah, I like to keep busy.

(QNYC): Now for the infamous “What was the last …” question.

What was the last
…song you intentionally listened to?

(AK): Chromeo doing Tenderoni with Daryl Hall on the webcast Live From Daryl's House

…record you bought?
Little Dragon "Machine Dreams"

…book you read?

Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran

…movie you watched?


(QNYC): In parting, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?

(AK): I like you, too.

MP3 Grab: "On Your Side"