An Interview with Electronic Music Creator Alan Dreezer
Alan Dreezer is a U.K.-based melodist, lyricist and singer. His music combines heartfelt lyrics that delve into his emotions and life experiences with electronic, synth-based elements to create soulful synth-pop. I talked to him about how he started with music, his creative process and where he finds inspiration.
Interview with Alan Dreezer
Karl Magi: How did you first become interested in making music?
Alan Dreezer: In the late ’90’s, my best friend Russell Aylett bought a second-hand Roland Juno 60 keyboard. He just fooled around with sounds on it whilst I freestyled melodies and scribbled down lyrics. Over a period of three or four years, after writing a lot of terrible songs in our spare time, we started to feel like we were making music other people might want to hear and we formed a duo called TARA 2 and that was the beginning really. I was a retail store manager and for a long time that just got too busy so I had to leave music alone for a while. But I realised I just wasn’t happy when I wasn’t making music. Coming back to it makes me feel complete again.
KM: Where did your interest in electronic/synth-based music start?
AD: We were both into the same bands growing up like Aha, Depeche Mode, Yazoo, ABC and The Human League. The sounds they used and the lavish production of producers like Alan Tarney & Trevor Horn really inspired us to start writing. I still reference those bands today.
Right now, I’m really into a guy called RY X. His music is in the synth genre but leaning a little towards Ben Howard and that kind of vibe as well. I also love a band called Zero 7. They’ve just come back after a five year break and I’m very excited about that because their albums have had a big influence on me in the past.
I was live streamed on an American T.V. show recently and they said that some of my songs sounded like Hozier, so I’ve been listening to his stuff too as a result and I’ve got into him. Sometimes you stumble across things, don’t you?
KM: Who are some of the artists that have inspired you with their music and why?
AD: After TARA 2, I fronted a rock/pop band for five years from 2011. Although I loved the camaraderie of that life, it wasn’t the music that I really wanted to make. Then I heard James Blake and Sohn and knew then I had to make a move and go solo. Their sound has such incredible attention to detail and their ability to create a certain mood in every story they tell just blew my mind. It’s been the best decision I have ever made musically.
KM: Tell me more about the process you go through when you're creating new music?
AD: I’m predominantly a vocalist, lyricist and melodist, so once I get to the point that I have a whole lyric written and I can sing that lyric, I’ll take it to the studio where I can collaborate with other musicians and/or a producer. I also take in different musical references. For example, the track Unknown on London E12 references a drum sound that was used on The Weeknd’s Starboy. We look at what makes a great pop record and get inspired by those things.
Time is money in the studio, so I go in there pretty prepared. I’ve worked with my current co-writer and producer for seven years on different things. We have almost a telepathy for the type of sounds and mood we want to create, so normally I can complete a song in two to three sessions at the studio. It’s a quick process, but it’s very rewarding at the same time.
Elliot Richardson (my producer at Highfield Studio) has an amazing memory for where every sound is in a song. If I reference a sound or a mood in a song, he’ll often be able to pull it from that amazing memory of his. There’s a lot of experimenting because each sound has to sit with every other sound. We normally start at the piano just to get the chords together and then we’ll bring in a drum sound and just keep on layering more sounds on top of each other.
KM: Tell me more about your London E12 album.
AD: I released my debut album in July. I started working on it in the summer of 2016, but being an unsigned artist means that you’re self-funding it, so it took a little bit of time. I had really big ideas for it and a level that I wanted it to come in at.
I’d worked with my producer Elliot at Highfield Studio with my previous band. We’ve actually worked together for about seven years on different stuff. As I built up the relationship with him, I realized that we had similar musical tastes. We tried writing a song together away from the band I was in at the time. It was a big turning point for me. It was our first attempt, it was a big success. I wasn’t entirely happy with the kind of music that I was making with that band, so I made the decision the following year to become a solo artist. Myself and Elliot then wrote the whole album together over the next 18 month period.
In terms of the themes in the album, London E12 is where I was born and grew up. A lot of the album is reflective and there’s a narrative going through the album as well. It’s about my experiences from 2015-2018 and also looking back at different periods in my life, in terms of the lyrical content.
The musical influences on the album come from people like James Blake, Sohn, S.G. Lewis and a new artist that’s just come out called Goss. All through my life, electronic synth-based music has always interested me the most. Although I stepped away from it for a few years, going back to it is like coming home.
KM: What are the projects that you’re working on currently?
AD: I’m currently working on a live show for the album which kicks off at the end of January. As well as that, I have just started working on album two which will be called H E A L E D. Circumstances conspired in that my wife’s not been too well over the last couple of years. She suffers from fibromyalgia, so we decided to try living in a warmer climate to see if that would improve her health. We did that in March this year and we’ve just come back. It’s been a really big success and her health has improved.
Living in a different country with a different lifestyle, away from the pressures of the world gave me the opportunity to be uninhibited with my thinking, so this album’s definitely a lot more positive and upbeat.
KM: What are your future plans as a musical creator?
AD: After the live shows finish at the end of March, I’ll spend the following six months or so recording the rest of the album. The live shows came about when we were mixing the album. At the end of the process, the producer asked if another guy could sit in on a session. This young guy named Ben Duggan came into the session and on a break, he asked if he could play me some of his songs. He’s basically a bedroom producer but it was like, “Wow!” It was him and his sister. They are called SOVE. She’s the vocalist and he’s the producer and they just blew me away. I’ve been mentoring them because I’ve built up contacts and made a lot of mistakes that I hope they won’t make now with my help. I’m trying to steer them in the right direction.
They and a friend of theirs are going to be my backing band on the live shows. We are just starting rehearsing for some live shows in my local area and in London in early 2019. After album two is released, I hope to then play my next set of live shows in both the U.K. Spain, Germany and the USA where I’m getting a lot of support.
KM: How do you reinvigorate yourself creatively?
AD: In the last three years, I’ve been able to solely focus on music and that’s really freed me up. I can listen to a lot more, I can think about things more and I can read a lot more. The fatigue of day to day life isn’t as heavy as it used to be so that’s really good for writing. I’ve written about 52 songs for this album and now it’s just a matter of finding the ten songs that will go into it. I’m more creative than I’ve ever been.
For me, where I am has a big influence on my ability to write songs The six months that we spent in Spain this year and the tranquility of my day to day living has made coming up with ideas to take back to the studio that much easier.