INTERVIEW: Alex Clare talks New Orleans, classic soul, raves and moombahton!
by Marcus K. Dowling
As many are now becoming intensely aware, moombahton’s success at inception has been heavily reliant upon familiar samples being nestled in the comforting arms of cumbia, dembow, house, soul and reggaeton rhythms. The rare exception to the rule is the velvet smooth voice of 25 year old London, England crooner Alex Clare.
In November 2010, the single “Up All Night,” a yarn about a betrothed man involved in a tawdry bender overwhelmed the blogosphere with its fresh take on Carribean melodies and riddims. The auteurs responsible for the sound, producers Diplo and Switch, Mad Decent Records’ madcap reggae soundclashers, Major Lazer. Clare’s debut album, The Lateness of the Hour is scheduled for European release on July 11th, and features tracks crafted as Clare took a journey to legendary homes of earnest soul, jazz capital New Orleans and reggae’s most inspirational homeland, Jamaica.
Moombahton becomes involved in this tale as Moombahton’s inventor Dave Nada, and Nadastrom production partner Matt Nordstom were called in by their Dubsided label chief Switch, and close friend Diplo to remix tracks “Up All Night” and “Too Close” in the moombahton style. The Washington, DC natives took two intensely strong performances that recall the power of Delta soul and classic R & B dredged in modern production, making them massively anthemic summer tracks, perfect for warm, idyllic and amber sunset tinged romantic memories.
I had the opportunity to interview this most exciting new soulful voice on the nature of creating this album, as well as moombahton. Enjoy!
When were you first introduced to soul music, and who were some of your key inspirations to become a singer/songwriter? Who have you added to that list that you’re now a signed artist in a perpetual creative mode?
I think the first soul music I heard was probably Get Up, by James Brown, but to be honest, I’ve always had a Stevie Wonder fetish, its like its always just been there. Singer/songwriter wise he’s up there, but there are alot of musicians I’d class as influences/heros from Donny Hathaway, Desmond Dekker, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan to Count Basie, Cole Porter and Tony Joe White.
You had the ability to write so much of your album in such traditionally soulful locales as New Orleans and Jamaica. Was that a label move to aid your process, or was that something that you did of your own free will? Did the journey influence any songs, or were you just looking for a great location to put down ideas you already had?
I think it just worked out like that coz Diplo and Switch didn’t want to be in LA, and I didnt want to be in London to start things off, so New Orleans and Jamaica where the best half(ish) way points, as we could find good studios and good musicians at our finger tips. Yeah, the location definitely influenced a few of the tunes. “Humming Bird” would never been written if it wasnt for seeing them in Jamaica, and “Up All Night” was written in New Orleans, with the prospect of a mental night ahead.
Your debut album is entitled “The Lateness of the Hour.” Is this a nod to when the album is best listened to, when your best creative ideas struck you, or is it derived from somewhere else?
Benders. Lead single “Up All Night” touches on what seems like a pretty epic one. Are you a partier by nature, or was that about one particular crazy story. What do you do to relax when you’re not writing or performing?
Oh man, I used to party hard, loved off raves and warehouse parties, waking up in strange places and doing the walk of shame home, but I’m alot more chilled these days. I think “Up All Night” really was written in hindsight, mashing together a load situations I’d been in. Being in New Orleans, it definitely brought out parts of me I’d forgoten about. Every now and then I’ll have a big old blow out. but to be honest, just chilling with my friends, going fishing and writing. that’ll do it. I’m basically a very old 25.
Island UK released “Up All Night” as an album teaser late last year, and it was pretty quickly picked up by The Fader and a ton of blogs. What has been your initial impression so far of the excitement surrounding the first few singles from the album?
I think its awesome, as a musician and songwriter, you want your art to get heard, and suddenly it gets listened by thousands of people, all over the world.
Moombahton. Before Nadastrom (Dave Nada and Matt Nordstrom) flipped “Up All Night” and Too Close,” were you aware of what it was, and if not, was the remix of your song the first time you had heard the sound? As well, what do you think about the global explosion of the sound, and being linked to it in many people’s eyes?
I’d heard little bits form the Mad Decent crew, but when I heard the remix of “Up All Night,” it blew my mind. I was grinning ear to ear for about ten minutes, and still do every time I hear it. Hey, im honoured to be associated with Moombahton, its genuine no pretence party music. Theres not many other genres that can still claim that.
What is your take on the dance music boom, and are you comfortable in it? Or, do you see this as a way to get people interested in your sound, and then they’ll be treated to a bigger cross-section of where you are creatively as an artist?
I love making dance music, but to be honest, I make music for musics sake, theres no great plan to it, just find an impulse and run with it. Regardless of boundaries or genres, Im just gonna keep making what ever gives me goose bumps, and hopefully people will keep feeling it.