We are so very excited to premiere a new remix from Alan Wilkis‘ current project, Prints. Wilkis is an insanely talented producer, remixer, musician etc., so much so, that it is almost absurd how humble this dude is. The way that Wilkis talks about his projects, past and present, it is almost as if they are no big deal, something that anyone with a computer and a passion for music could do. This is, however, far from the case. We had a blast picking Wilkis’ brain on all things music, so without further ado…
Who is Alan Wilkis?
Well, Im from New York City, born and raised. Upper west side. My parents still live in the apartment that I was born and raised in.
When did you first discover music?
I have very early musical memories. Definitely a very distinct “Thriller” memory from when I was 5. My parents put it on and I actually freaked out, it was kind of at a family dance party and I was just running around the house going nuts. That’s the first time I think I really connected with music. I started playing piano around 7, picked up guitar around 13 and haven’t stopped since.
How did you get into remixing?
Phoenix had just released their stems to 1901, so I did a remix just for fun. Next thing I know it kind of just made its way around the web. All of a sudden Phoenix’s record label got in touch with me and said “we really like your remix, can we use it to promote the band?” Their A&R guy invited me into their office, they sent it to KCRW and it got on the radio. I started getting emails from people saying “Yo I heard you on the radio!” It instantly got way more traction than any of the other stuff I had done. So that was kind of the birth of me as a remixer. I think I approached remixing differently than most remixers do. I kind of approach it as producing. I would take the person’s song and just get rid of everything. I usually keep their voice and keep the structure of the song intact and then just kind of write a new song around it. That was how I did it I guess, and it just became how I do it.
What is one of the most memorable remixes you have worked on?
The Joy Formidable one I just did was maybe the most challenging. It’s a full on rock song, there is nothing dancey about it. It’s a weird structure with weird time signatures. It’s verse is in one time signature, instrumental break in another. It was a challenge. I wanted to preserve the way they wrote it, so I kind of did an electronic version of a jam. In the end of their song, things just kind of explode. Guitars get louder and crazier, so I tried to do that production wise. It was the first time I had ever tried to do something like that.
How do you go about listening to new music?
I like to think that I have several sets of ears. I have, you know, the simplest, “do I enjoy this, period.” Then I have songwriter ears, regardless of whether I enjoy it, “is it a good piece of music?” Then I have producer ears, you know trying to figure out what kind of tricks did use when recording. I have really weird rules about how I listen to music though. I only listen to albums 3 times and then I basically never listen to them again. Even favorites. I’ll listen about three times and I’ll star the ones I absolutely love. I’ll make a weekly playlist that I update on spotify. I mostly do that for myself, but I am also just so psyched to be able to share that with people. But yeah, Im pretty weird. I think I listen to music that way because there is just so much out there. For me it’s the best way to get inspired. New shit makes me think of how to produce differently, to write differently.
What music are you loving right now?
Penguin Prison’s “Don’t Fuck With My Money.” I listen to that song incessantly. I just want to hear it, I cant explain it. I would love to work with him someday, he is a fellow New Yorker apparently.
So tell us about Prints.
Prints is a culmination of a lot of my thinking. Doing remixes totally opened me up to collaborating with other artists. The next inevitable step was to see if any of these people wanted to work with me, on my own stuff. The first person I linked up with for Prints was White Hinterland.
What is the story behind the track “Shadow?”
I was listening to a lot of Serge Gainsbourg at the time and I wanted to do something like that. It sounded French to me, I don’t know if it sounds French to anyone else, but that is what I was thinking about. That kind of dark 60’ French pop music. I wrote it as an instrumental first, then Casey from White Hinterland just seemed like the perfect addition because she has such a beautiful and ethereal voice. It was kind of a no brainer. Casey came by my studio when she was on tour in NY and we sat around for 6 hours banging our head against the wall. Eventually she came up with this idea of the shadow as something immediately close to you of course, but something that you either love having near, or something you dread.
What was it like to work with Lyrics Born?
He sounds exactly like he raps. I think he was used to people being like “I love the song that everybody loves, can you do that again?” I think he was shocked and happy to hear me say I just wanted him to do whatever came to him. That was hopefully refreshing for him. I just gave him the idea of the double edged shadow and he ran with it. He knocked it out, and it was awesome.
Tell us a little but about this remix by Project Jenny!
PJPJ are an amazing electro-pop duo from Brooklyn, close pals of mine. I helped co-produce their last album, “Home, Sweet Home.” I really loved what they did with their remix – they gave it an almost 90’s hip-hop Pharcyde kinda vibe. And I love the verse they added to the end – really over the top and really cool, all around.
How has the internet been an important player in what you do?
Almost everybody I’ve gotten together with has been through the power of the internet. There are so many problems with the industry but [these collaborations] have been fucking beautiful and are the core of my project. Its pretty awesome. I worked with Childish Gambino on the song that I’m releasing next. I knew a friend of a friend who knew him, so I put it out there, like “what are the chances he will want to do this.” And he emailed me himself a couple days later! He was like “Yo, lets do it.” He is incredibly hard working. He was so on the ball, and stuck to his word more than anyone I have probably ever worked with. [The track] has a 90’s hip hop vibe, it will be released in a couple weeks!
Any other good collaborating stories?
Hood internet sat next to my sister on a plane and they both started talking (they are both insanely out going.) My sister was like “oh my brother does music,” not knowing a thing about [Hood Internet.] So she just put us in touch, we stayed in touch, he sent me new things he was working on for his album and he ended up doing a remix for “Shadow.“
Who would be a dream collaboration for you?
Cee Lo! I word murder to work with Cee Lo. I think he is one of the best singers alive. Whatever anyone feels about his music, take that away. It’s the sheer quality of his voice, the pitch, his soul. He is literally one of the best, ever. Also, as I mentioned before, I would love to work with Penguin Prison.
What is next for Alan Wilkis?
More remixes, collaborations. Just keep working. See where it goes!