Michael Collins of Drugdealer opened up about the cinematic nature of his debut record, The End of Comedy.
The End of Comedy features some impressive collaborations with Ariel Pink, Weyes Blood, Danny James, Mac Demarco for a video, and others. How did collaboration play a role in the songwriting and general concept behind this record?
When I started making music and learning how to work with audio in general, it was a completely solo endeavor. I needed isolation in many ways to figure out what I wanted to do with composing and had no background in it. Years later, I got a handle on songwriting and I really like working on stuff with friends of mine. Not jamming though; more like sitting down someone and sharing ideas and adding to them. It's a beautiful meeting of tastes, humor, philosophies, etc.
You've released music under other names - Run DMT, Salvia Plath, Silk Rhodes, and probably more we aren't aware of. What spurred the Drugdealer moniker change? What was different or special about these songs that needed a rebranding of sorts?
There were lots of reasons for all the name changes, but mainly I just felt unsettled for a long time releasing my music in general. I always wanted to start anew and build a new foundation for ideas. I've always been madly bouncing around to different things like a typical roving creator type. Now though, I wanted to start a project that I could build over a longer span. Drugdealer is going to be that thing.
What was the recording process like for the record? Big studio ordeal or DIY style?
Just bringing by minimal setup to different peoples houses or recording spaces and working with them wherever its most convenient. I'd say my philosophy is that the simplest, easiest way to record music will produce the most authentic results.
What type of things motivated you to create The End of Comedy? What were the influences for the songwriting and production?
Definitely singer-songwriters that just kept things simple - songs that were straight to the point, had meaningful lyrics where the vocals were pushed to the front of the mix and just ooze sincerity. I would have to obviously be indebted to so many, but specifically Wings, Carole King, Hendrickson Road House, Lee Hazlewood, Bill Evans and so many more. I wear the influences on my sleeve and that's the only way that I can do it.
The title of the record isn't an indication of the mood of the album. It sounds joyful and pleasantly psychedelic. What's the background on the title and how does it relate to the theme of the record?
The album's concept is loosely based around ideas about humor and sincerity in my life. When it's working, comedy can be used a translation tool to say the things that no one is able to admit in society, and I meditate on the context that surround jokes a lot. I thought a lot about the heaviness of life that lies beneath the surface of humor in general - and also how I'd like to not rely on it for every difficult situation in the future.
The record plays like a soundtrack weaving through various motifs you'd expect in a film. Did living in a film-rich environment like Los Angeles have any impact on the album?
Los Angeles is the most cinematic place I've ever lived, but a film fetish has been the bane of my existence since I was very young. Everything I do relates in some way to film aspirations and all the music I make is basically the outlet I've had to muse on narrative ideas. I want to make films and score other people's films in the future.
What are your live shows like? Are you reliant on collaborators to reproduce the album content that has so many guest appearances? Do you have a conscious awareness of performing material live while you're creating it?
It changes, but now I'm just trying to involve the right collaborators and make sets that cater to the live setup. Vocal heavy and no effects! Give the people what they want - clarity.
At least for Drugdealer and Silk Rhodes, you display an unmistakable ability to act as a conductor to orchestrate other musicians to make the sound you want to hear for your project. Are you passionate about a communal idea of music-making or is it just a convenience to pull others in to make the stuff you have trouble creating yourself?
Both. I think that music throughout history has mostly been a tool to bring people together in a vortex of creative bliss, but unfortunately today that is lost to many people who just want to have total control. I'm not saying I don't toggle with those same issues, but I find it extremely rewarding to compare notes with other musicians that I love and obviously the sum is greater than the parts. Not to mention, some of these people have been huge influences to me in my life prior to working with them so it is always an extreme privilege to throw around ideas with them.