-Installation Three- Behold the Power of Bulletproof Coffee
It’s August 10 and Alific‘s new album Eclectic Radio is officially available on all digital platforms. In our final installation of this Deep Dive series we sat down with Alific to talk about the creative process, how Eclectic Radio is different from his previous releases, and that high-octane brain juice known as Bulletproof Coffee.
Any creative endeavor has the tendency to bring with it a certain sense of magic. Even artists who have a formula they work within or go-to starting point can’t deny that there’s a certain degree of making something from nothing. You can sometimes claim a muse, or the cosmos, or in the case of Alific’s latest track, “Bulletproof,” maybe the inspiration is pinned down on an ingested stimulus, but the simple fact remains that something amazing is being brought into the world by the sheer force of a creative mind.
Eclectic Radio takes the listener on a journey into the world of a skilled producer and musical visionary. We swim with whales, we stop and jam with our friends and even make sure to swing by the local rocket fuel/coffee shop—all the while you get the impression that you’re making the trip in the most tricked out ride in the galaxy. This is Alific. This is Eclectic Radio.
Rootfire: Today we’re premiering “Bulletproof.” What’s the story behind the name?
Alific: For whatever reason I was up early on a Saturday and was waiting around for my roommate to wake up so we could leave for a camping trip. I was getting impatient so I decided to make some bulletproof coffee and mess around on some beats. I then found myself in rapid-fire producer mode and everything was just flowing creatively. I found myself three hours later on my third bulletproof coffee literally done with the song.
RF: How do you know when a song is done?
A: It’s just a feeling I get. Sometimes a song can go on forever and never be “done,” but other times I feel like I can’t do anything else to it and it feels complete. Rarely do I feel that a song is complete. There is always something in the back of mind that I feel could be added. That why this Bulletproof was so rare. I’ve never just zipped in/out and done.
RF: What is the typical workflow on a track for you? Is there any sort of formula that you like to stick to? Are there some favorite types of samples or sounds you like to hunt for to get the juices flowing?
A: I don’t have a set formula. Every song seems to start and end differently. Sometimes it’s a bassline in my head and sometimes it’s a drum beat. Each layer just pops in my head or I find them by searching around for samples. I do have a folder of hip-hop beats that I gravitate toward when I am just messing around. I do find that those hip hop beats gets ideas started quite easily, which is what happened with Bulletproof. It was just a beat that I thought sounded cool and added to it.
RF: Talk to us about Bulletproof Coffee. I hear from those who are into it that it’s a notch above. Are the rumors true? What makes it so good?
A: I’m a big fan of Bulletproof Coffee. It also helps that there is an actual Bulletproof Coffee store right down the street from my house in Santa Monica. I had never had one until I lived here but they’re life changing. Its basically coffee brewed with specially treated coffee beans, grass fed Ghee Butter, and MCT oil aka Brain Octane fuel and that’s blended in a blender. It supposedly kicks your brain and energy into gear. I like the taste and like having my brain on octane fuel.
RF: I wanna shift gears and talk about the new album, Eclectic Radio, in its entirety. Are there any specific achievements as an artist and producer that you feel you’ve accomplished with this release? How is this album different from previous Alific releases?
A: I feel on this album I was able to let go of a lot of restrictions holding me back and just did whatever felt good. I usually don’t sing much, but this album has a lot of me singing on it. I didn’t plan on it, but I found myself having the urge to sing on a lot of these and it just felt good so I went with it. I was also able to cover more genre-ish’s on this album. I didn’t plan on it but I found myself jamming a country-ish groove with my dad and I decided to sing over it. That was “Supposed to Be.” When it was done I was like “its kinda country….” and didn’t know what to do with it. But then I thought, what the hell it’s a good groove and it sounds like me, and that’s what the album is about. Just me being me. I’ve listened to an eclectic collection of music my whole life so why not just make an album of it.
RF: Alific has primarily been a studio project – are there plans for any live appearances to bring the music of Eclectic Radio to the live scene?
A: Yeah, I was playing live in Vegas with a drummer for a while. When I moved to LA I never jumped back into it but it is definitely on the horizon again. The next time around is gonna be something special.
-Installation Two- Wilmington Jam
Guest Post by Alific
It’s always a pleasant surprise in life when you meet someone for the first time and it instantly feels like you’ve been friends since childhood. It’s rare, but it occasionally happens. That’s how it felt when J Smiles and I first met. Actually, the first time we were introduced to each other was on the phone via Seth Herman (founder of Rootfire) in 2013. I was going to be joining The Movement on a nationwide tour as their fourth “utility” member, playing keys and samples. Seth got the 4 of us on a conference call to discuss the tour and I felt the connection instantaneously. The three OG’s of The Movement (Josh, Gary and J) were kind enough to take a chance on a stranger like me joining them on the road for the next few months and it was an adventure of a lifetime that I’ll never forget. Soon after that phone call, I quit my job, packed my bags and flew to SD to meet the guys and practice for the tour. That’s how it all began.
After hanging out for a week or so with the band prior to tour, I remember being shocked at how talented J Smiles was. He played every instrument you could imagine. Aside from being a monster bass player, I learned he played drums, guitar, keys as well as knew the art of recording and engineering. Our friendship quickly grew as we discovered we liked the same exact bands outside of the reggae genre and we both had a natural burning desire to continuously create music. Being on the road can be daunting and it’s hard to keep your head on straight. But continually playing gigs every night and creating new music made the time fly by.
As an engineer and producer myself, I had most of my audio equipment with me at all times during the tour. I had a portable audio workstation and always had my laptop out in the van or in the hotel room. On days off or nights after the gigs, we would convene back at the hotel and continue the music buzz we had going by making new songs. I would usually have an idea or “blueprint” of a song and let J hear it and come up with ideas. That’s how “Wilmington Jam” started. We were on the drive to Wilmington, NC to play a gig. I was nestled in the back of the van and had a rough drum beat, bassline and scratch MIDI guitar. I let J listen to the track and he was like “Oh I got something for this!” We played the gig that night and were about to go get into some late-night shenanigans, when J said “hey man let’s skip the after party and just go back to the hotel and work on the track,” and that’s what we did. I set up the mobile studio and J plugged in his bass and laid down the bassline live in 1 take. If you listen carefully, you can hear the random bassline changes throughout the song that J was just making up on the fly. It turned out so good and unique; I didn’t touch it after that. I left the magic as it happened. After the bassline was recorded, he picked up the acoustic guitar and laid down the rhythm. At that point, the song was very raw but had a groove and feel to it that only J Smiles could have created.
That was the birth of the song. 1AM in a random hotel in Wilmington, NC. No expectations or direction, just pure musical improvisation and instincts. After that initial night, as the tour went on, we just kept adding more elements and layers to the track. I specifically remember being in Plymouth, NH on our day off driving to some secluded cliff jumping spot in the Pemi River. I had my laptop out in the van and my mini MIDI keyboard messing around on the track. I had found a cool “West Coast” hip-hop synth sound and was trying to come up with a melody for the track. I gave the keyboard to J and he threw the headphones on. I couldn’t hear what he was doing at the time, but I also didn’t care. I knew it was going to be cool so I let him do his thing. It wasn’t until days later when I pulled up the song again and heard the melody. Not surprisingly, it was exactly what I was hearing in my head. This happened more than once with J. “Faded Times” was another track that had a similar story, as well as other songs and beats that are still yet to be completed and released.
As with many of my songs and compositions, “Wilmington Jam” got lost in the sea of digital files and ideas on my hard drive and did not see the light of day until 5 years later. I was randomly going through old tracks and “Wilmington Jam” came up on my computer and immediately I was like “WTF it this!” I had completely forgotten about it. I located the original session files and dove back into it with a fresh perspective and new tricks. I spent the next few months remixing the song as well as adding in new parts but I decided to keep the original bassline and acoustic guitar tracks from the hotel room that night as it gives the song its identity. Sometimes, magic can happen in life. Hopefully, someone is there to record it.
-Installation One- Did You Know Whales Sing in the Key of D Minor?
It’s a simple truth that a song can impact people from across borders, that a melody can pull on our human heartstrings no matter where it comes from. Whether it be instrumental or lyrical, and whether those lyrics are in our native language or some other exotic tongue, the simple truth remains: good music is impactful regardless of origin. But is this experience unique to humans?
LA-based producer Alific taps into a wide variety of sonic elements on his new full-length album of distinctly unique tracks, Eclectic Radio, out everywhere Aug 10. Ranging from outer-space dub escapades to catchy earworms, this latest release provides a glimpse into the mind of a masterfully creative producer, all the while making sure to keep your foot tapping and head bobbing. This month, Rootfire will be taking a Deep Dive with Alific, premiering a series of songs from the new album while hunting down the deeper stories that often lie at the heart of the music we love. For our first installation we ask you one simple question: Did you know that whales sing in the key of D minor?
The song is entitled “Beyond the Sea Smoke” but not even Alific himself always remembers that. Among those in the know, it’s simply called “The Whale Song.” The reason for this? Within the layers of dubbed out piano lines and ethereal female vocals the songs of humpback whales are stitched into the fabric of this aquatic auditory adventure.
“My initial idea was to download some samples of oceanic life (whales, dolphins, etc.) and simply have them in the background. As I researched sampled aquatic sounds more, I kept coming across small clips of whales singing and just thought the sound was really beautiful. I thought that if I could get the samples into my audio editing workstation, I could maybe process the audio and change it to match the key of my song. I located a handful of samples to use and began to analyze them in my workstation and was astonished to discover that I didn’t need to autotune/process any of them—they were all already in the key of D minor, the same key ‘Beyond the Sea Smoke’ is in.”
Humpback whales have been known to not only vocalize, but to actually compose songs consisting of thematic motifs that can be broken down into phrases and sub-phrases of notes varying both in pitch and velocity. But these songs aren’t necessarily unique to one whale or another; in fact whale songs appear to be indigenous to certain regions of the ocean. A certain song – the same song – will be song by humpbacks who are hundreds of miles apart, but whose groups cross paths beneath the vast ocean waves. Humpbacks from the other side of the globe? They have their own songs, unique to the waters they call home. These meticulous melodies, which are often up to a half-hour in length, slowly change over time, just like a popular melody changes slightly as it’s passed from generation to generation amongst us humans. The stickler? Just as Alific discovered in his own analysis, these songs have a tendency to be in the key of D minor. Want to learn more about whale songs? Check out the pioneering research of marine biologist Roger Payne.
Life is full of mystery, and this is a beautiful thing. It would seem the drive to create, to express, to communicate lies deeper in the DNA of the world than just with us homo sapiens. Language, emotion, music, art—this is where magic finds its voice, where life finds meaning even when there are no words. In “Beyond the Sea Smoke” Alific gives us a direct connection to the muse of his musical workings. The elements of creation are laid out for all to see, but it’s the hands of this craftsmen producer that make the alchemy happen.
Alific’s new album Eclectic Radio is now available across all digital platforms. Pick up your copy today.