Interviews

JIM ALXNDR chats his incredible new single Together

From graduating his studies at the University of Melbourne in 2016, JIM ALXNDR (James Vincent) has been travelling the world making music ever since. He is currently based in Los Angeles after having studied in Berklee College of Music’s prestigious Electronic Production & Design program for the last two years.

His musical diversity is one of his biggest assets and has enabled him to create music that covers many genre classifications – for example, as well as releasing electronic/RnB music, he was commissioned by the University of Melbourne, (which holds the status as the number one ranking university in Australia) to record a 20 minute orchestral work which he had composed during his undergraduate studies (which you can find on his Spotify).

Because of his outstanding abilities in music production as well as audio engineering and abilities as a multi-instrumentalist, James is constantly sought after by artists of many different genres, including award-winning piano prodigy Jesus Molina, MXXWLL, Citizen Kay, Dylan Joel, WOODES, and Two Another.

Collaborations with other artists, along with the music James produces for himself under the name JIM ALXNDR, have collectively been listened to over two million times. James recently collaborated with emerging Australian Hip Hop/Pop artist Dylan Joel to co-produce and co-write his entire 2019 album – You Were Made to Blossom which includes the popular song Run to the River which was released in February 2018 and has already been streamed over 1.6 million times.

So, fresh off the release of his most recent track Together, we caught up with the artist himself to chat about the differences in performing between Australia and the USA, live instrumentation in electronic music, and what the future holds.

Fresh off the release of his incredible latest single Together, we caught up with LA-based producer JIM ALXNDR for a chat.

HAPPY: Hey, how’s it going? What are you up to at the moment?

JIM: Hey! It’s going well, I’m currently sitting in bed in a dressing gown listening to some music and answering these questions. In terms of what I’ve been up to in a broader sense – I’ve been working with other artists out here in LA, as well as preparing some JIM ALXNDR releases for later on in the year. I’ve also been getting super into recording things with this ZOOM microphone I bought that you can plug into your iPhone, so I’ve been recording lots of samples and putting together some really interesting sounds from my (maybe not as interesting) life.

HAPPY: We’re loving Together! How does it feel having the track out there in the world?

JIM: Thank you! I’m glad you guys are liking it! It feels great to be putting so much music out, and I think cause I’m doing it so often this year, it’s getting less and less nerve-wracking every time I put something out. I remember releasing my first ever EP, watching it upload and be out there and then stressing about whether people liked it or not and whether it was being listened to or not, and that stress is definitely still there, but it feels a lot more comfortable now.

HAPPY: Could you tell us a bit about the track?

JIM: Together was born out of a Moog IIIc (really expensive/nice modular synth) – that’s what’s making the main chord sounds in the drop. Modular synths (at least in my experience) are usually viewed as monophonic devices, but I really wanted to approach them as chord machines, so the Moog IIIc having 9 oscillators allowed me to tune the individual notes to chords and then trigger them and retune the voicings (only one note at a time) as I was playing to make the chords for together (I’m pretty sure the whole drop was a one-take thing). Sorry if that didn’t make a lot of sense for everyone, I just wanted to briefly nerd out. After making the drop I kinda didn’t touch the track for a few months as I was finishing other things. Then over Christmas, I was staying in Colorado, looking after a friend’s house and I was revisiting a lot of things because I was putting together the tracks for my second beat tape and this one came up. I did up a quick demo to see if it fit the other tracks I chose and then left it to sit for another couple of months.

I think letting tracks marinate and not touching them for a while whilst you live your life is a super important thing to do, and is something I do often. It often leads to revisiting the track in a few months with a completely different perspective and maybe getting something cool out of it. This kind of thing happened with Together – I revisited it shortly after I moved to LA this year, and basically the whole track just came out really organically. I think the final version took me about two days to put together and then I spent a little longer mixing it, but yeah it came about really organically and quickly after sitting in my laptop for about 6 months.

HAPPY: You’ve spent a bit of time performing in both the USA and Australia. What are the biggest differences between the two cultures?

JIM: I’m lucky enough to have experienced both because I think they both have really positive things to take out of them. In my time playing and hanging in the Melbourne music scene, I felt a huge emphasis on individuality and expression – I feel like that was what musicians wanted to do (be/express themselves) or at least that was the case in the circles I was hanging out in. And I think, more importantly, there was stress on individuality/expression without a huge judgement on technical ability etc. I think (or guess) that this is a big part of the reason why Australia comes out with some truly amazing, amazing music and some really fresh sounding things – because people are encouraged to be themselves and express their own voice. I think that being exposed to this relatively early on in my music career was one of the most valuable things I’ve ever learnt.

On the other side of the world, I think I’ve played with the most incredible musicians in my life so far and have learnt so much about the craft and how to best equip myself musically (with skills etc) to express my ideas. I think that I exist musically predominantly in the hip hop/jazz world (or at least up until this point, I have) and living in the birthplace of these two genres and playing with people who have grown up with an undiluted version of it, has given me an education that can’t really be taught in a book or by a teacher.

So, whilst I wouldn’t necessarily call them ‘musical differences between the two cultures as a whole’, I definitely felt that there was a lot more pressure to be technically skilled at my instrument whilst playing in the US during the time that I was studying there. It felt like almost a ‘right of passage’ type of vibe, to like master your instrument and learn the history and understand the context/world in which you are playing from/in. Not to say that there aren’t incredibly technically skilled musicians or a rich musical history in Australia, I think it’s just a little more explicit in the US, especially in the music scenes that I existed in.

The other huge thing I learnt from being in the US is that all the cool musicians you look up to etc are really just normal people like you and me. Being so geographically far away from, arguably, the centre of genres like pop, hip hop and jazz whilst I was in Australia led me to view the people I looked up to as these unattainable stars, but after living in the US and having access to these people as teachers and peers enabled me to really just see them as that, and to interact with them in a way that was respectful but engaging as well (rather than just worshipping them from a distance as I probably previously would have done).

HAPPY: Have you found being a musician easier in one particular place?

JIM: I think it’s hard to get an accurate read on that question cause I’ve existed in both scenes at different points in my career and life. I will say though that being a musician in the US hasn’t necessarily been easier, but more doors have been opened here than I think would have been if I stayed back home. I’ve had formative experiences in both places, but I really think that immersing yourself in a musical culture as rich as in the US will always give you something to walk away with that you didn’t go in with. I guess that I’ve found being a musician easier in the US cause there are more opportunities here in the genres I exist in, but I have always found myself really missing the music back home. Sometimes I really just want to go see my friends play at The Ev and drink a jug of Carlton.

HAPPY: You stress the importance of incorporating real instrumentation into your music. Why is this something you like to do?

JIM: I do this a lot, mostly because I enjoy playing lots of different instruments, so it’s a happy coincidence that I enjoy the effect of playing a lot of the instruments on my tracks. I think the underlying concept behind it though is less dependent on the ‘real instruments’ part and more on human performance. I try to play every part that’s in my tracks (rather than programming) because I believe that everybody’s time feel/dynamic feel acts like a musical thumbprint – a completely individualised imprint on the music.

Whilst working on Dylan Joel’s record ‘You Were Made To Blossom’ we (the production team and Dyl) followed this kind of thinking a lot. We got Dyl to record the instruments on the record as much as we could. Even though some of us may have played the part more accurately (no offence Dyl) it was more about capturing the spirit of the music and making it sound like Dylan Joel, not like a team of people who aren’t Dylan Joel, or like a computer.

Don’t get me wrong – I think programmed/quantised music has a place, and I use those tools a lot too (for example when I have an idea in my head that I don’t have the technical ability to execute), but for the most part, my default is to play everything in. It’s like having a band of clones playing my music, it’s pretty funny.

HAPPY: Are there any particular artists you’re currently seeking inspiration from?

JIM: For sure, I’ve been listening to Darwin Deez a lot recently – I think he’s a genius. I really loved him when I was in like Grade 8 or 9, and now revisiting his stuff is bringing me lots of joy. I’ve also really been digging the new Japanese House record.

It’s funny that I listen to a lot of music that doesn’t really resemble the music that I make, but I think I learn a lot of things from doing that – and I guess for some reason I really enjoy checking out a diverse range of things.

HAPPY: What’s next for JIM ALXNDR? Any other exciting plans in the works?

Well, there’s a lot of releases scheduled for the rest of the year featuring some of my absolute favourite people in the world – possibly a cassette release (we shall see) and I think the music that’s coming later in the year will be a little surprising for the people who have been listening to my stuff so far.

Some music that I’ve worked on for other artists is also coming soon, which I’m also super excited for. I’m also trying to play a few shows in Australia when I’m back home in the middle of the year, so that’s super exciting! Lots of excitement.

Together is available now. Listen above.