Can you believe it all started with a Source Magazine and a Special Ed cassette? From there Alias has released 14 albums, working with Slug, Sole and Doseone to last month’s solo release Fever Dream. The Maine born, California bred, Maine resident is an avid Bibio, Flying Lotus and the Weeknd listener. And, Thom Yorke, if you’re reading this, Brendon Whitney would like to collaborate. He’s all about honest music, his style would work with yours, he’s into live instrumentation as well as crate digging sample work. Thom, you there? Okay, well, regardless, it’s alright, because at the end of the day all that matters is family. “Nowadays, I quit touring, got a dayjob, bought a house and as of last year, became a dad.” Potholes questioned, Alias answered. Everybody wins.
Hit the skip for the interview.
PIMB: How’d you get started? What made you jump into hip-hop culture with both feet running?
Alias: The first album that ever really made me think that I could write my own raps was Special Ed’s Youngest In Charge. I couldn’t believe that someone who was only a couple years older could do it with such finesse and style. That was around the time I found an issue of Source Magazine (at probably the only store in Maine that sold Source Magazine). From that point on, I just read about the albums in The Source and would buy cassettes that I thought I would like. It was super new and exciting music. There were a bunch of artists and hardly any of them had a similar sound. Everyone was doing it differently and that was what made me want to give it try.
PIMB: Who are you listening to now? Anybody you’d like to collaborate with?
Alias: Within the last few years, I’ve been listening to all kinds of music from a pretty wide range of styles. Some of my favorites are Beach House, Yeasayer, Burial, Grizzly Bear, Flying Lotus, Bibio, The Weeknd…I’d collaborate with any of them. And geek the hell out. As far as collabs go, though…the number one slot hasn’t changed for the last decade. If I ever got the opportunity to collaborate with Thom Yorke, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I’m a massive fan of his.
PIMB: Fever Dream takes a different approach than its predecessors, why the change from using live instrumentation to sampling?
Alias: I started out making my beats from nothing but vinyl samples. Every part would be lifted off of a record and chopped up in my MPC. About 10 years ago, I started incorporating synths into my beats. Then I started working guitar into them. I strayed more and more away from sampling until it was to a point where I was basically only using drum samples and playing everything else. When I started working on Fever Dream, I started messing around with the idea of sampling again. I had forgotten how much fun it is to chop up and completely alter a sample. I’ll definitely be working with samples again on any new music I do.
PIMB: What inspires you to continue to put out beats that challenge the field and hip-hop in general?
Alias: I don’t know. I just like interesting sounds, I guess. I’ve always wanted to challenge myself, first and foremost. I don’t ever want to make the same record twice. I don’t try to make challenging beats really. I just want to make something that’s interesting to my own ears and take an approach that I haven’t done before. So it’s always shifting and moving to keep it interesting.
PIMB: What’s your experience with Anticon been like? Their roster is pretty jam packed, where do you see yourself in their network of artists?
Alias: I’ve been a part of Anticon since the beginning. I’m a co-owner along with 7 other people. Releasing your music through a record label that you are a co-owner of is something that not alot of artists get to do. I get to be labelmates and co-owner with some of the most inspiring, awesome people I’ve ever met. It’s been great. As far as where I see myself in the network, Anticon is a label that is interested in releasing honest music. I just keep the music and approach to making it honest and I feel like we all click together. That honesty is the one similar trait we all have, I think.
PIMB: Deep Puddle Dynamics, how’d you get involved? How’d that experience shape you as an artist?
Alias: Sole had been in contact with Slug and talked about trading music and possibly collaborating. Then a few months later, Sole and I flew to Memphis to do a show and we met Mr. Dibbs. Dibbs gave Sole a tape that Dose wanted him to have with a bunch of his music on it. When we got home, Sole started talking to Dose about collaborating and had talked to him about Slug. It all started kind of clicking from there. Sole told Slug and Dose that he and I had been doing alot of music together and wanted to include me in on it. I basically wouldn’t have been involved if Sole hadn’t suggested that I be a part of it. Recording that album kicked something open in me. Being around those dudes really made me step my game up. That album made me realize that I could really do something serious with music. I was just lucky enough to have Sole suggest that I be included in on it.
PIMB: I think people forget that 30-something artists have a life outside of music, what’s it like juggling work in the studio and home life? Do they ever collide?
Alias: I’m living a completely different life now. Five years ago, I was touring and only doing music as my source of income. I was gone for two or three months at a time. It got to be too much for me. I was missing my wife and was missing being home. Nowadays, I quit touring, got a dayjob, bought a house and as of last year, became a dad. It’s awesome, because my daughter has been a huge source of inspiration and my wife is incredibly supportive of my music. She always makes sure I regularly have time to close my studio door and work on music. Plus, it’s super cool to put my headphones on my daughter and watch her face light up. She starts dancing too, so I know I’m doing something right.
PIMB: Music isn’t all work, it’s fun too, right? What’s one of the funniest/oddest/awkward moments that you’ve experienced in the studio?
Alias: I think the most memorable moment is from the time I was working on “Into the Trees” with Yoni Wolf from WHY? It’s a remix for 13 & God where I did the beats and he did the vocals. He was at my apartment recording his parts and he was recording the last part of his harmonies. He was doing the lower octave, Barry White type of steez last. He got super low with it, like, surprisingly low…but absolutely nailed it without wavering or going out of pitch at all. Right after he stopped singing he just started laughing out loud and in disbelief, I said “duuuuude!” while laughing. We listened back to that part a bunch of times and laughed our asses off. When it came time to mix and do a final arrangement of the song, I kept the part where he laughed in and even used it a couple times in the song.