San Francisco-based truly talented artist ArchiveX, opens up to FM about his timeless, intense and meaningful self-described “Soul-Ambient-Electro-Roots”, included on his forthcoming debut album ‘Some Ungodly Hour’, released on July 29th.
From the album…Inspired by the bleak mass-incarceration culture of the United States, here’s the strong video directed by Kamil Dymek, for this ambitious rework of Ray Charles’ ‘Hard Times’.
First up…Why did you call your project ArchiveX? Is there any interesting story behind it?
That name sort of bubbled up organically after the music for the project was already done. There are a lot of different musical personalities in this project, sounds drawn from broadly varied facets of my musical experience, and when I’d try to describe it I’d find myself saying things like, “well, I sort of pulled that track out of the moody electronic rock archive,” or “that one was really kind of from the Gospel archives.” So the name ArchiveX became shorthand for describing that blend of musical personalities and inspirations drawn from different drawers in the files. And then there’s the “X,” which hints at the mystery of creating music. You usually don’t actually have any idea where any given inspiration came from. It’s just sort of a gift from the aliens: the “X” factor.
You described your sound as “Soul-Ambient- Electro-Roots”. Do you have more words to describe it?
Oh, definitely. It could easily be “Soul-Ambient-Pop-Electro-Rock-Gospel-Singer/Songwriter-HipHop-Roots,” but that’s obviously not the most user-friendly description. It’s more accurate, though.
For any given track the appropriate genre description might be just a slice of that, but over the course of the album all of those adjectives ultimately apply. That creates a bit of problem when you try to come up with a tidy genre tag, though.
You began writing and recording the songs that comprise Some Ungodly Hour in 2013…Tell us more.
Through an odd series of events I ended up singing in a black Baptist church in 2011-2012. Though I’m not religious, I was profoundly moved by the emotional directness of the music, by the total commitment of the singers and musicians, and by the obvious, dramatic positive effect the music had on the congregation. To be reminded of how much music can matter was hugely inspiring to me, and that provided the spark that set me to writing the songs on this album.
What were your influences whilst writing it?
The immediate influence was old-school gospel – I spent a ton of time digging into work from greats like Mahalia Jackson, The Soul Stirrers and Spirit of Memphis. I really wanted to try to capture some of the old-school forthrightness of that music. It’s music that doesn’t pull punches, and it’s music that still sounds really fresh to me.
As I worked, my pre-existing musical personalities inevitably weighed in and that created the sort of odd gumbo of genres that make up the album. The gospel-tinged essence is the through-line, though.
Why did you choose as your first single, an ambitious rework of Ray Charles’ ‘Hard Times’? (we love it btw!)
Glad you like it! My manager was actually the one who decided to put that track out first. I think he felt it was an approachable conversation starter that hinted at some of the directions that other tracks on the album take further. There’s a bit of an electronic element in there that’s much more fully fleshed out in other tracks, there’s a bit of gospel styling to the vocals that becomes more overt in some of the other tracks, there’s a retro vibe, there’s a directness of emotional tone. It’s as good a stand-in for the larger project as any, with the caveat that none of the songs really stand in for the whole all that comprehensively.
Are you planning any live shows and what will they be like?
Yeah, definitely planning live shows with the goal that they be scalable and flexible. I have solo acoustic arrangements for all these tracks, so there’s an anchor point from which I can slide up through varying degrees of accompaniment – either with musicians or djs or both depending on the vibe we’re after. One thing that I really loved about performances in the Baptist church is that they’re always different. Sometimes the same song will be uptempo, sometimes down, sometimes with choir backing, sometimes solo vocal. Based on that model, my goal is that live ArchiveX performances always be different – different from the album tracks, different from the previous performances. I want there to be an improvisational element to them – one that can adapt to the energy of any particular circumstance.
If you could collaborate with anyone (dead or alive), who would it be?
I’d have to go with one of the badass 40s or 50s gospel quartets. The Sam Cooke era of the Soul Stirrers would be an excellent choice. Maybe Spirit of Memphis or the Golden Gate Quartet. You start off with four knock-out voices who can blow away a room without ever touching an instrument. Singing with them would be transcendent. And then you could deploy those voices over some really unexpected musical elements and go into uncharted territory.
What’s next for ArchiveX?
Well, as I said above we’re working out the flavors for live performances, and then I have a bunch of new tracks in the works, and those range all over the place in style and inspiration, so… more of the same!
By Fabrizio Belluschi ©FM