A few months back, which seems like quite a while ago now, Dres posted about a new artist called Cold Specks bursting on the UK scene and quickly spreading stateside with her self-described brand of “doom soul.”
We were able to catch her show at the Troubadour in LA, where we caught up with her producer/manager, who told us that the wave of support has been amazing: they finished and posted a song online, both relative newcomers, and within a matter of days The Guardian picked it up and blogs everywhere went crazy.
We also got the chance to sit down with Al Spx herself, who’s back in LA tonight for a show at The Echo. Click below to hear or read the full interview, where we talk about Mob Wives, Jools Holland and the FCC.
Interview with Cold Specks:
SM: We read that you’ve stated that you draw inspiration from anyone in the range from Bill Callahan to Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Coming from Canada, how did you come across a type of music that is so a particular to a region? A sound of struggle and strife and that kind of thing?
CS: I’m not really sure. Someone handed me a copy of Southern Journey… Alan Lomax’s. There’s a certain collection called Southern Journey and I was just very attracted to it for some reason. I always say it’s because the people included in those recordings had no intention of going anywhere with it. There was just a lot of love in their voices and I was just attracted to that. I’m not from the South, I’m a Canadian who lives in London, but I just… I love that music.
SM: That’s great. What’s your inspiration outside of music that you draw from?
CS: Umm… I read. I watch loads of trashy television. But that’s not really inspiration for… I discovered Mob Wives recently. Have you seen that show?
CS: Umm… I’m just gonna go on a bit of a rambling thing now. Big Ang on Mob Wives is the greatest human being I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching on a television screen.
SM: Why is she so awesome?
CS: Have you heard her speak? Have you seen her face?
SM: Apparently not!
CS: No. She’s got… you just need to hear her voice. The voice that’s coming out of that woman with the plastic surgery that she’s had… it’s just fantastic.
SM: Well, you’ve described your own sound as “Doom Soul.” Why those particular words?
CS: It started out as a… we were updating the Facebook page and had to write a genre and I wrote “hahaha Doom Soul. Morbid Motown. Gothic Gospel,” and Doom Soul caught on. The next day, I removed it from the facebook, but–
SM: Too late.
CS: Yeah, it was too late. It’s just out there now. I think it just makes sense to people, I don’t mind it too much. There’s doom in the music but it’s also soulful so… it makes sense.
SM: You know, music’s such a personal thing and a lot of the time music is done by the artist for the artist and then they’re surprised by how much it resonates with people — surprised they’re a hit, I guess. Did you ever expect your music to resonate this much with so many people?
CS: Umm… no, I never expected to make an album, I was just recording songs in my bedroom and in my basement. I’m glad that people like and seem to enjoy it, but, I don’t really think about that too much because it’ll only drive me insane.
SM: What was it like playing Jools Holland? It’s gotta be amazing to think of all the great musicians that crossed that stage before you and will continue to cross it.
CS: It was pretty nerve-wracking. Pete Townsend was standing right behind me on one side, on the other side, Mary J. Blige was standing right behind me. In front of me was Brad Anderson from Suede… on one side was My Morning Jacket and the other Florence Welch and they stuck me in the center and asked me to do an acapella and I just was… terrified. But we weren’t signed to a label at that time and didn’t have any fixed album plans and a lot’s come from that performance so I’m just entirely grateful to the people at Jools Holland and hopefully they’ll have me back someday!
SM: That would be great. Going back to how you started, I read somewhere that you were worried your family may not approve of the career choice, and that was apparently why you initially went with a pseudonym. Can you speak to that a bit?
CS: I made the mistake of talking about that in an interview a couple… about a month ago and it just comes up but if you don’t mind I’d rather not talk about it.
SM: Makes sense, no worries. You know, this album… is not a bright, big ball of sunshine. There are heavy themes throughout. Is it difficult to share with all of these people? To put it out there and just take that first step?
CS: It was at first but I had to force myself to just become completely desensitized and just remove myself from the songs, or else I couldn’t be playing the songs that I write every night. I’d have a mental breakdown. Once you record things and once it’s a finished product and you put it out there, I feel like it just doesn’t belong to you anymore, and I had to force myself to do that. There’s one song that I don’t play anymore because it’s just too… I can’t do it. I just can’t play it. “Lay Me Down” I don’t play live anymore. The album’s not even out, people are gonna be pretty pissed off but I don’t give a fuck.
CS: Is this radio?
SM: No, we’re not on the radio so your song can actually play instead of being sensored for “God damn.”
CS: Yeah! God damn. God damn the FC-fuckin-C.
SM: I noticed on your album liner notes the credits were rather short, you know, a limited number of people had their hands in on the creation of the album. But I did notice you credited a “spiritual advisor.” What role did they play in the creation of the album?
CS: It’s really hard. I have a hard time trying to describe… his name’s Rob Ellis. He’s an amazing drummer and also a very well-known producer in the UK, but his role on our album was — Jim Anderson produced the album — Rob, we brought in to just… we call him “guru?” He drummed on it, all the drumming on the album and all the percussion was his, those were his percussion arrangements. We collaborated together on arrangements with Jim… he’s sort of, I don’t know. Jim and I were both very new to everything. Jim hadn’t quite produced an album like mine before and I’d never made an album, and Rob was this seasoned guy I guess, and he gave us a lot of advice. I guess he was our mentor? A guru or spiritual advisor? His son, his fifteen-year-old son, actually plays on the record.
SM: What does he play?
CS: Slide guitar on a song called “Heavy Hands,” and a bode guitar on a song called “Steady.”
SM: I was reading that by your own admission you had a rather morbid period in your life earlier in your life, and that aided to the music you created when you were in high school. Are there traces of that music on this album?
CS: Yeah, “Lay Me Down” is the first song I ever wrote. I wrote it when I was in high school. “Elephant Head” is another high school song. Which other ones…
SM: I once scored a goal in a high school soccer game.
CS: Did you? I was an award-winning student. I don’t know. I really wasn’t. I was the MVP for the school trivia team but we were the worst in the league so it doesn’t really count.
SM: Where would you like to go from here? You know, we’ve talked about your past and the creation of the album, but where do you want to go from here career-wise and specifically in terms of a second album?
CS: I want to go to Mars. I don’t know. Tour loads and I hope to make more albums and hope people enjoy those albums and I hope to be… I don’t know. I hope to do well at this thing, and that’s it.
SM: Simply, what do you love about music?
CS: Umm… that’s a hard one. It’s just great. It’s just great. What I look for in a song is always a strong melody but whenever there’s a really beautiful, distinctive voice accompanied by strong songwriting I always find that to be just, the most amazing thing in the whole entire world. My favorite thing is to just sit down in my apartment in London on my creepy radiogram, which is an old, sort of 60s vinyl player that ticks… it’s really creepy and it ticks when you put records on it, I… I just, it’s just… music is great. I don’t know, I’m just rambling but music is great.