Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Interview: Alex Skolnick Tells Me About His World Music

Alex Skolnick
Alex Skolnick's latest project, Alex Skolnick's Planetary Coalition, drops today on 11/11/14.

If you missed it, check out the review here... Glacially Musical Alex Skolnick.

When I first heard about this album I will confess myself confused. Long have I been a fan of Testament and I knew full well that Skolnick had a different side to him and played in a jazz trio, but I'd never heard it.

My email foretold of an album that wouldn't be metal in anyway. There's a part of me that was sad upon reading this news, because well, those chops.

I was willing to give this album a listen with a truly open mind and the CD has not left my car as of yet. It's destined to be one those records that confuses my wife when it comes up after Napalm Death or King Diamond.

Alex was kind enough to answer my questions about this album...
Glacially Musical: What kind of mood do you need to be in to write the World Music versus metal?

Alex Skolnick: Surprisingly, the moods aren't the most determinant factor. A high energy mood can lead to an upbeat world tune or a fast metal riff, while a quiet, reflective mood might contribute to an ambient piece in either genre. It has more to do with what gear I'm playing through - whether I'm playing acoustic or electric and what type of sound I have going. Another factor might be what I've been listening to or inspired by. Coming home from Gonzola Rubicaba's Cuban All-Stars at the Blue Note will inspire different ideas than say, catching someones set at Wacken. 

GM: What kind of reactions did you get from the industry when you were talking about doing this?

AS:  I think the industry doesn't know what to make of me at this point and I'm just fine with that. I'm not doing this for them but for me, for the other musicians and any listeners that can appreciate it. Some industry folks get it of course, but others seem to be thinking "There he goes again." 

GM: Are there any plans to tour this album?

AS:  I do have high standards for the project and refuse to put it in venues where it doesn't get the respect it deserves. We're  in talks with museums and universities, as there is a whole geographical/social awareness component that goes hand in hand with the music. The project's graphic designer, architect/artist Maddy SJ, has also put together some great video footage we're looking at incorporating into the live shows. It would be impossible to tour this with the exact personnel on the album, but not hard to recreate most of it, even with a small ensemble. There are several shows coming up in the New York area to celebrate the release and beyond that, were waiting to see what the response and demand is.

GM: How does your writing process differ for a vastly different style of music?

AS: Surprisingly, the writing process is really not that different. The end result is very different of course but in either case, the idea comes unexpectedly, either while humming to myself or noodling around/warming up on an instrument. Ideas are collected, the best ones chosen for further development. One big difference however is that with world music and jazz, I often make charts of the notation in order to speed up the process of working the songs out with the other musicians, although there are some artists in all genres who just work by ear. 

GM: I think some of us are born with a kind of music in our hands, maybe we don’t always know though, do you think these songs have been in there trying to escape?

AS:   I mentioned earlier the process of coming up with music by humming to myself. Most people do this at some point or another. The difference is that when one is an experienced musician, they're able to take what they've hummed and interpret it with a musical instrument.  I can't say for sure but wouldn't be surprised if most have at least some basic musical ideas bubbling in there somewhere.  

GM: Did you ever think, like man, what’s Dave Mustaine going to say when he hears this?

AS: I don't think about that, no. Dave's created some very influential music that I have much respect for. He's also been surprisingly supportive, even mentioning my jazz work in interviews, but as I'm not in the same band, it's not a concern. Of course, I hope he likes it, and others too. 

GM: How long did it take to round up all of these musicians? 

AS:  I began the project in February, 2014. At that time I had just over half of the musicians lined up. The rest fell into place, including a few I was introduced to within just a few weeks of recording. 

GM: Did you write the songs together, or did they just put the part on top of what you had done?  

AS: In most cases, I would create a composition based on a style that fit their playing, and they'd help me fine tune it . In a few cases, I composed the music with the guest artists and they'd help me get it right. I had no illusion that I could just jump into all this on my own. It's been very educational, musically and otherwise. 

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