Tell us your real name, country of birth, and childhood experience.
My name is Alex Van Allen, and I was born and raised in the United States. I’m not sure how to explain my childhood experience… My parents often remind me that I once ran headfirst into the TV screen during the flamingo part of the Miami Vice intro. How’s that? On a serious note, from a music standpoint, I grew up in a household where my father was always playing lots of Jimi Hendrix, Ted Nugent, etc. My father played bass in a rock band called Soul Rebellion when he was young, so he has a strong affinity for rock and roll. So, that may have had an influence on my interest in guitars.
Tell us your academic qualification.
I’m sitting on a high school diploma. I skipped out of college. At the time, I was scared I made a huge mistake by not going, but having zero student loans allowed me to open a small business in my early 20’s, and now I have some free time to focus on my music.
Tell us about your music career, band name, musical background, experience, and skills.
I think like most teenagers that are into music, I had that epiphany of, “why don’t I play guitar?”… That happened to me around 16, and I’ve been playing ever since. So, it’s been 10 years of playing guitar with a bunch of other instruments and weird sounds following suit. I got into engineering, mixing, and mastering aspects of production out of necessity. Back then I didn’t really have the means to get it done professionally, and now, after years of practice, I don’t really trust anyone else with my songs.
I use my real name. There was a brief moment when I was starting this new project, where I considered using a stage name, but ultimately, I felt like, “what’s the point of expressing yourself if you’re going to masquerade it?”
Tell us about your genre, concept, and idea behind your music video and the song.
I’m sure a lot of people will try to over-define it, but to me, it’s just plain old Hip-Hop. “Fading Out” is conceptualized around the idea that everything fades out eventually. Glories, failures, what have you, it’s all going to disappear, so enjoy the process. The video was shot by Garrett Kip (Kip Kid) around my hometown with some pretty autumn scenes outside. That was done somewhat intentionally due to the multiple autumn references in the song.
Tell us how to run a record label independently and successfully based on your experience as an artist.
That’s a big question. Simply put, you have to be willing to put in work. Especially if you’re going to do the whole thing yourself. Have realistic goals in place, don’t have shame in your self-promotion, and if you’re going to work with other artists, make sure to find like-minded people.
Tell us how you are promoting your music.
Almost exclusively online. I’m sure I don’t need to explain to blog readers the importance of social media, and how amazing of a tool it can be when utilized properly. It’s incredible though. I put out my first release back in 2012 and even in those 5 years, things have become so much more accessible for independent artists via the internet.
Tell us what makes you happy and what makes you sad.
Music makes me happy (and sad). That’s the appeal it has to me. There is an emotional connection that can be shared with strangers through a couple of basic chords. Need I say anything that hasn’t been said a million times about the D Minor chord?
Additionally, good food, good company, and John Frusciante’s guitar solo at the end of “Wet Sand” make me happy.
Explain clearly the story or concept behind the song.
The title, “Fading Out”, actually stemmed from a conversation I was having with my girlfriend. Like most men, I have a tendency to zone in and out during conversations. I hate that I do it, but I can’t help it. I directly reference it in the first line of the second verse. There’s this whole underlying theme in the song of going through personal growth and speaking metaphorically about it through the changing of seasons. I think Garrett (Kip Kid) and I, got there after putting back a few beers.
List the radio stations, TV stations, and blogs that have aired or featured your new song.
Internet radio and blogs including The Word Is Bond, Stereofox, StandardFresh, and A&R Factory. I’m still hoping Yo Gabba Gabba! will get back on the air so I can perform on the “The Super Music Friends Show” segment.
Give us links to where the song can be purchased.
Tell us about other members of your band, music producer, crew, or music video director, how the song was recorded, and how the music video was shot.
Music-wise, the whole thing is me. It’s a solo project where I do my own production and engineering… So, it’s really a ‘solo project’. For this particular song, I have Kip Kid (Garrett Kipp) as a feature and the video director. Garrett is a longtime friend of mine and is easily the most talented rapper I know personally. Garrett has this amazing ability to string thoughts together loosely but in a very natural way. Whereas, I’m way more literal and story-driven with my rhymes.
The song was recorded through an AKG Perception 220 into PreSonus’ Studio One 3. I use that as my primary DAW.
The video was shot entirely by Garrett on his A7s II and edited in Adobe Premiere.
Tell us how long you have been in the music industry, your experience, and your future goal.
That depends on how you want to define “in the industry”. As I said, I’ve been making music for about 10 years, but I have very few releases to show for it. I’m kind of a hoarder when it comes to tracks I’ve made. Up until recently, I shared little and was very self-conscious of my music. My primary goal has always been to “make stuff I’m proud of”. If I’m doing that, I’m happy.
Tell us what makes you unique from others.
Rap is storytelling through poetry. I’m rapping about experiences and things I’ve been through. I’m not one for excessive hyperbole in raps, so, this is my unique perspective. Production-wise, as a guitar player, almost two-thirds of my songs have a guitar track somewhere on them. I can’t really name anyone else who stylistically plays guitar like me in their rap songs. You usually hear a lot of jazz, and blues guitar in Hip-Hop. I’m coming from a more folk-rock angle.
Tell us your weakness and strength pertaining to music.
I feel strongly about my production. I’m usually able to achieve the sound I’m going for. I do wish I would push myself more in terms of trying new techniques and styles though.
List your five favorite songs including the artists.
Jimi Hendrix – “One Rainy Wish”
It’s Hendrix. The verses are in ¾ while the chorus comes in in 4/4 with this squealing guitar. Just amazing.
Modest Mouse – “Heart Cooks Brain”
A beautiful track filled with clever, but simple little metaphors. There’s also, this record scratching over the track, and it just feels so damn right.
Nas – “Life’s A Bitch”
I truly believe this is the greatest Hip-Hop track ever written. AZ’s verse is like the second coming of Christ, and that trumpet solo in the outro from Nas’ dad is just like, “fuck me”.
Ryan Adams – “Star Sign”
I think Ryan is a genius, and just about every single song he has ever made is damn near perfect, but this is a hauntingly beautiful little bonus track with an ambient feel thanks to reverb and an organ part.
Kanye West – “Gone”
I wouldn’t even be rapping if it wasn’t for Kanye. The song samples Otis Redding’s – another one of my favorite’s – “It’s Too Late”. Otis does something real to my soul. Otis mixed with Kanye is just musical heaven.
Tell us your position on “DIY” Do It Yourself” and signing to a major label.
I think creative freedom is always the most important thing. If you have that, you’re in a good place. I’m sure there are record deals where you can retain that freedom, but there’s also a shit load of horror stories about labels trying to meld artists into a creation of their own design. I don’t want to come across as an anti-major label. I think the exposure they could provide you kind of speaks for itself.
Tell us the instruments put together in this song.
The bulk of the track is made up of a couple of individual guitar parts layered together. That spiccato strings-sounding part you hear is actually my electric guitar running through a pitch delay pedal by Dwarfcraft Audio called “Superwizard”. It’s this totally amazing pedal that can oscillate input audio through a switch known as “din din din”. It’s a lot of fun. There’s an acoustic finger-picking part. And few other very light elements to thicken it up. You also have drums that I finger-tapped on my Maschine from Native Instruments “Beam” kit off the Prospect Haze expansion. I layered those with 808’s. Lastly, there’s a vocal sample in between the verses from Henry Burr’s 1909 release “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now”.
Tell us other activities you will like to pursue apart from music.
I’ve recently started wood carving with hand knives. I made a cooking spoon for my mother for Christmas, and it came out beautifully. I intend to spend more time with that when I have a chance. Also, I made a batch of hand-pressed hard cider with my girlfriend over the fall. That shit came out delicious. I’ll be figuring out how to dedicate more time to that as well.
Tell us about gaining the confidence to sing in front of a large crowd for the first time.
I’ve hated doing it the few times I have. I know that’s not very inspirational, but it’s the truth. It’s an important element to being a musician though. Unless your intention is to hide in a closet and sing quietly, you have to be able to do it. My main advice would be to remember that you had the nerves to perform in the first place and to embrace the experience. The people who judge you the harshest are usually the people farthest removed from something like that.
Tell us the best way to make money in the music business.
Not music sales. No, seriously. Do you think musicians would spend months/years on the road if they made enough money on record sales? Touring sucks, but touring has always been the best way to make money. It’s a chance to promote further record sales and sell some merchandise simultaneously. Unfortunately though, for a lot of independent artists, touring is not a good way to make money either. Don’t make music for the money. Work hard, hone your craft, love doing it, and hope it pays dividends eventually.
Tell us your experience pertaining to TV/Radio plugging.
Very little. I’ve emailed local radio stations in the past, but now I’m kinda like, “fuck it”. I think in 2018 internet radio is the way to go. There are services out there like Spot Lister that can get your music in front of people with 100,000 subscribers plus Spotify playlists. If they like your song, they’ll add it to the playlist. Things like that almost have better exposure than local radio does anymore.
Narrate your recording experience.
I usually start with a drum track in Maschine. I then import that into my DAW. As aforementioned, I use PreSonus’ Studio One 3. I then add in the desired instruments and do some light mixing. Once I have a decent loop, and a feel of what I’m working with, I start working on my lyrics. I then record my vocals into my AKG Perception 220. After that, I finish laying out my track. I mix further, add very light EQ, and compression if needed, and then I listen to that about 10,000,000 times and edit further until satisfaction.
List your various works.
Under this current project, “Fading Out” – Single is my only release. But, I am working on my first full album, “Alexithymia”. It’s looking like that should be done in 2018.
State links to connect you on social media.