vendredi 29 mars 2024

Interview Alex Wellkers

Explore Alex Wellkers' musical journey from acoustic beginnings to eclectic blends in 'Fly Away'. Discover insights on instruments, lyrics, and aspirations in this exclusive interview.

1. Can you tell us about your musical journey and how you got started with the Alex Wellkers project?

Had some songs I wrote in the past back in 2013 and 2014. Performed some of them for myself with my acoustic. I thought, ok, if recorded well, those songs would not sound too bad. In 2014, I went on a liveaboard for a week and had a lot of time to think and decided, I should try to do something with these songs. When I was back, I recorded the first EP. There is only one vocal and one acoustic guitar track on the songs of this EP. At this time, I mainly listened to the music by the brothers that grew up in Burnage, Manchester. So I wanted the artist family name to sound British. Actually, I have to admit, a better choice would have been possible.
2. What inspired you to transition from playing the accordion to exploring various instruments before settling on Blues music and the electric guitar?

I started playing the accordion at age 6. That was pretty young and it was just very common to listen to traditional folk music then. I later switched to keyboard, the first guitar I played was a classical Spanish guitar with Nylon strings. At an event of my godmother, I met a guy who played an electric guitar. I was very fascinated, still very young. He later gave me a small Fender amplifier and I bought my first electric guitar. That was when I started to take electric guitar lessons where I was taught the Blues scale. Yes, Alpine folk music is maybe not my favorite musical genre but I am thankful that I had the possibility to start to play an instrument this early.
3. How would you describe your musical style and the evolution of your sound from your early EPs to your latest album, "Fly Away"?

With pre, I found out that it can work. The songs I recorded, at that time, did not sound too bad. But I wanted to add some instruments and, meanwhile, the whole evolution about drum machines that started around 2006, developed well. I recorded see and you can hear that the recording quality got better over the years. With for, I had an EP that sounded remarkably better than the second EP but I knew well that there was still room for improvement. From time to time, I still listen to songs like andrina or the card. They are not bad but, nowadays, I would record these songs differently and better. Also, for financial reasons, I used virtual drum and string instruments. I started experimenting with real string and drum takes long time ago already. But it did not work. I could not find a good workflow such that the result was in a quality that satisfied me. Sometimes, this is still difficult. But I found a way to replace the virtual string instruments and, at least in my opinion, it paid off. The strings are real in most songs on famous then, the first album. Not in all of them. I still had the feeling that something is not complete about the recordings. So I also replaced the programmed drums with real ones in the songs of the new album. And yes, it makes a huge difference.

4. What motivated you to incorporate classical instrumentation such as violas and violins into your rock music on the "Fly Away" album?
I always try to see myself in a critical way. What can I improve? Not only using different languages in some songs can make an album less boring. As an artist, you have numerous options to make your music interesting and I just try those as good as I can. That also involves using different instruments. Bands like Portishead and The Verve did that in the 90s already.

5. Could you share the creative process behind your songwriting, particularly for tracks like "You Want Us" and "Amy" on the new album?
Those songs were written in front of the piano. I take some lyrics I wrote before, play some chords and try to find 2 or 3 parts that sound well. I write the chords down and record a pilot track on my smart phone. Later, I replay those parts and record them. Then, these are arranged the way I think they sound nice. Once the speed is fixed, I start to record some drums and have those replaced by a real session drummer. However, for the songs on fly away, this is not completely true. Originally, only the cymbals were replaced. The plan was to keep the kick, snare and toms from the drum machine. But in the mixing process, I thought that something was missing. So, the kick, snare and toms were finally replaced, too. Once the drums are recorded, I record the bass guitars and the electric guitars. Earlier, I also recorded the acoustic guitars myself. But I am not good in ignoring that every time I record acoustic guitars, all my neighbours can hear my play. So I compose or program the acoustic guitars and have them replaced by a session musician at a later stage. I try to add many instruments such that the recording is dense enough and does not sound thin anymore. Finally, on top of it all, the vocals are recorded.

In the case of you want us, I programmed the acoustic guitar and asked the session musician to play the part similar to the acoustic version of Creep by Radiohead. Strings were programmed by me and played by Julia Stein.
6. Your upcoming album features a blend of languages, including French and Swiss-German. How do these linguistic influences shape your music?
Since my youth, I listen to a lot of Rap music in Swiss-German. They also taught us French at school because it's one of the 4 national languages here. Here, we know the grammar of that language quite well but, unfortunately, I rarely use it so I forgot most words. It's nice to switch languages for a couple of songs on an album. It makes the album a bit more diverse.
7. "Fly Away" includes a Hip-Hop/Crossover song in multiple languages. What inspired this multilingual approach, and what message do you hope listeners take away from it?
This song belongs to the adventurous side of the album. Everyone should try out new things now and then. I took the original drum track from the Drum Stem Club of Emily Dolan Davies. Her take served as some kind of template for the song, rhythmic wise. I recorded a guitar riff and composed this chorus that goes like “do not fall”. Then I composed minimal lyrics that I could rap in Swiss-German and French and the result was this song. I hope that some non French and non Swiss-German speakers like it as well. The arrangement is definitely non standard. Maybe it can encourage people to switch languages more in songs?
8. As an independent artist, what challenges have you faced in launching your own label and releasing music on your terms?

To produce such an album, one has to invest a lot of effort. The greatest challenge, if you want to call it so, is when you release the work and realise that no one will listen to it anyway. Might be because the music is bad, because you simply do not reach people or radios don't play it. You will not find out why but you know well that it is so. A reasonable conclusion would be to stop making music. But, on the other hand, from time to time, a few positive feedbacks come in.

9. Could you share some insights into your collaboration process with session musicians and producers on the album?

I am the only producer involved. So far, I did not meet any of the session musicians involved in person. Once the arrangement of the song, the song structure and mostly, the recordings of the bass guitars and electric guitars stand, I program instrument by instrument and have these recorded by remote session musicians. If the quality of the delivered takes is sufficient, I take the parts that I think suit the song and leave the others out. Sometimes, especially when working with a pianist, the only guideline is the drums, the pilot lead vocals, the lyrics and the chords. Some play very virtuosically. This works for some songs, for some it doesn't. Often, I leave out parts but in the end, it's me who decides what to take and how.
10. What role does emotion play in your songwriting, especially in crafting dramatic and epic tracks like "Making Progress"?

This song is a remake and I think it was the first song that got programmed strings replaced by real ones. Emotion always plays a role and, to be honest, when I listen to the final master of such a song, I nearly cry. I got pretty far, music quality wise, and there was some progress during the last years in this regard. At least from my point of view. There is so much work involved here and if people don't like this kind of music, I know well that I tried my best. However, I also always hear things I would do differently nowadays and I also hear things that I would not take anymore nowadays. That's all normal. But in the end, whether or not I like my music is not of matter too much. The question is: Do people like that music?

11. How do you approach blending different genres like Pop, Rock, and Hip-Hop within a single album while maintaining a cohesive sound?
It's a journey. Let me take you on that journey and we will visit different places. Songwriting is always important. But if you're critical and record it nicely, you can make nearly everything sound. Listen to Die Antwoord. She has a very soft voice, they have a very special musical style. But it rocks and it rocks a lot. Why should I restrict to a certain musical genre? In my opinion, that would be boring.

12. Your lyrics often explore deep themes. What themes or messages do you aim to convey through your music, particularly on "Fly Away"?
I don't take meanings of songs too seriously to be honest. A lot of people take themselves too seriously. To my mind, it's better to see things more easily. People can interpret songs they want to interpret them, that's all fine.

13. With the current music landscape being so diverse, how do you see your music fitting into or standing out from the industry trends?
From my perspective, fly away is special. I do not know similar music or a similar music artist. In this sense, it's something new. The quality is ok and there are some good songs on it, I believe. I did what I could to produce nice music that I like. I don't think it hits any trend but having dreams is important. Maybe some people will like it, let's see.
14. Looking ahead, what are your future plans and aspirations for your music career and the Alex Wellkers project?
Chances are high that there will be no music career. If people will listen to the music, that would be a miracle. But hope is always involved when you make music. Nobody wants to make music that is not heard. I can say I tried it.
I am about to finish the follower of fly away. There is some nice songs on it, too. It will take a while to complete this one. This will be a bit more dramatic than fly away is.

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