It’s a cliche, no doubt, and probably one of our biggest exports: the idea that if you follow your dreams and persevere, you will eventually make it! And the truth is that for artists and heads in the creative industry there really is no other option. What the fuck are you gonna do?! Settle for amnesia and the sweet numbing of a nine-to-five? That’s a no go if your heart is really in it! But that’s not to say that everyone who sticks to their burners will get it in the end. That aint possible, either. Remember the parable of the camel and the eye of the needle? Yeah – No? Did you know that there are roughly 20 thousand songs uploaded every day? You know what I mean? Anyway, back to the topic at hand. It’s not really clear what this idea of making it really entails. Is it that you get that dosage of fame you were thirsting for, or that you make yourself a bit of paper, or get the respect that you always wanted or felt that you deserved; or is it that you just plain get to do whatever the fuck it is that your heart desires, and get to choose how to spend your time? That right there sounds aight to me. But I’m pretty sure that it’s different for everybody and I also know that the greedier ones amongst us will probably reach for all of the above, plus a big bag of chips! Or was that dick?! Pardon the digression.
Anyway, I am very happy to introduce you to this young, talented brother by the name of Aphrotek (aka Eliyah Reichen) who set out on a simple mission: to record with musicians and vocalists, that he deeply respects. The list included Meshell Ndegeocello, Mike Ladd, Donny McCasslin and Tim Lefebvre of David Bowie’s Black Star band, PhaseOne (that’s the brother who just tore shit up on Sway’s show), Melanie Charles, Taron Benson, Hired Gun, Gregoire Maret and Genevieve Artadi. And you know what?! With just some rough demos, a self-released EP, his natural gift of Gab and the conviction that he can actually pull this off, he really managed to convince every single person from his list to jump on board! His debut record entitled Stories will be dropping this coming Friday, but you can already sample some of the eclectic goods you’ll find on it, right here. In the meantime, check out what the brother had to say about following your dreams and loving this thing called music. Without further ado, I would like to introduce you to Mr. Aphrotek!
How the hell did you get such an all-star line up on your debut LP?
It was simple, I just wanted to collaborate with a few rappers, singers and musicians from New York. We planned to go there together with Dom Brukhalter. Dom was drumming on and co-producing the album, so I started to reach out to these people by email, before the actual trip. I used the first EP, “Launch”, as well as some of the demos and pre-productions of some of the songs from the album, to show everyone what it’s all about. And the response was very positive and quick. Mikal Lee aka Hired Gun or Phase One were down, Melanie Charles as well. Encouraged by this response I kept dreaming of more collaborations and activated my network of connections to get in touch with more people, like Donny McCaslin, Tim Lefebvre or Meshell Ndegeocello. Dom had played with Mike Ladd and Gregoire Maret before. By the time we went to NYC, the cast was almost complete.
I wanted to make no compromises musically and I wanted to do something unique. Also, I wanted to prove to myself that even tho I’m based in Europe I can still try my best and make it happen. So I did it.
Were you actually in the studio with these musicians and vocalists, or was this more of a file-exchange type process?
Yeah, most of the features we recorded at my buddy’s Derek Nievergelt’s studio in Brooklyn, it’s called Orange Fish Studio. I then, flew out to Paris, a few months later, and then back to NYC, for further collaborations. A few parts on the album ended up being files sent around, because our itineraries didn’t always allow for us to meet.
It took you roughly four years to produce this and to finally get it out there, why did it take this long and how does it feel to finally get it out there?
Yeah, we started laying some grooves that ended up becoming parts of the album in Spring 2014, which is already 4 years ago. The actual production of the album started at the end of 2014-2015, and since the project was growing nicely, I wanted to take time and see where it could go if I kept reaching out to make it perfect. So, at the end of 2015, I got Meshell Ndegeocello on the project and we worked on this track around Christmas 2015 / early 2016. Around about that time, I also got Genevieve Artadi on board and the cast was complete. I then left the music on a side for a bit, life got in the way. I toured Japan and Europe with Diane Birch, did some MD work and producing for her and also played with a big electro-rock band called Bonaparte at many festivals in Germany and Switzerland. And then, in the Fall of 2016, I went back to my studio to finish producing the album and then mixed it for another 2 more months. I wanted to take time to make it perfect. And since I have my own recording studio, I was never limited in regards to time – that was a big advantage for this process. Eventually, I started label shopping for a few months, this was in the Fall of 2017, when everything was finished. I decided to put it out on my own with a great promotion team, that I can’t thank enough – and here we are! It’s May 2018, and the album is finally dropping! I’m so happy it’s going to see the light now!
When you listen back to the songs, would you change anything?
Honestly? No! Of course, there’s stuff in the sound and some details, here and there, that I would have liked to improve or something, but… Its a statement, a photograph of a moment, a long one, but still.. No! I listen to it as a listener now, and I left my producer and musician hat back at the studio. I’m looking forward to build on this now. On everything that I had learned in this process and on all the ideas that I kept on the side, during this time.
Have you started to work on any new material and can we expect to hear more collaborations with legendary musicians?
I have a bunch of new ideas and desires. I’ll get back to my studio to work on my stuff in the summer, andI’ll start to contact some people again. There’s a bunch of artists, musicians and vocalists that I dream of collaborating with in the future. We’ll see if the music brings me to this, but I’ll keep going for it, that’s for sure. There will be more collaborations with other drummers, as well. I’ve been studying a lot of rhythm and grooves lately and hear different drummers and percussionists on these concepts. Rhythm is everything!
When can we see you perform live and what should we expect? I’m assuming that you won’t be able to bring everyone together on one stage, or am I wrong?
There is a lot of work involved in organising shows with everyone, but I’m looking into some options for that at the moment, maybe for 2019. But the core band, you’ll see us live as a trio with lots of electronics, and we’ll use samples and invite some guests depending on where we play. It will be like a live remix of the album and more. The shows will also serve as a lab for my future music. I will include some new stuff in the set, with time, and let the music evolve and lets see where it goes.