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ALEX L’ESTRANGE: THE MAKING OF ‘AUCHENFLOWER’ AND Q&A

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Brisbane-based songwriter, producer & multi-instrumentalist Alex L’Estrange releases his debut EP Auchenflower on Friday December 16. Alex has been busy traveling around the country supporting Holy Holy on their Darwinism national tour and will present a hometown show at Black Bear Lodge’s Last Party Before Lockout on January 28. Ahead of the EP release, Alex was kind enough to pen a piece for us on the making of Auchenflower. While we had his attention, we also asked Alex to do a little Q&A for us.

Making Auchenflower – In the Studio
By Alex L’Estrange

I recorded most of ‘Auchenflower’ in my home studio, which is basically just a basement with a lot of mattresses, lamps and rugs. It’s affectionately known as Luv Basement, and when we moved into the house (about two years ago), it seemed an impossible task to convert such a space to a recording studio, but it’s incredible what persistence can do with such a small budget.

I’d say the best part of the studio is its vibe. I’d call the décor 70s motel / jazz grunge. It almost doubles as a social club, all through the week people come and listen to music or jam or even record ideas down if something comes up. It has a romantic dankness that’s very conducive of wine and smoking, although I’m currently three months off the cigarettes.

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As far as gear goes there are only really a handful of things that are worth mentioning. First are my musical instruments. My brother stores his drum kits here so I’m spoilt for choice. There’s a Ludwig Legacy (retro fitted), a late 60’s Pearl and a DW Collectors. I have an upright piano, which is nearly in tune, a couple of guitar amps (Orange R50, Vox AC15) a small collection of synths (Casiotone, M1, MS-20), a couple of acoustic guitars and my beloved US Fender Deluxe Strat.

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One thing I do a little differently to others is mix on full range hi-fi speakers. My father, who’s retired now, was a hi-fi speaker designer, and before he sold up his business a few years ago, he gave me a pair of speakers. They’re called HMF-600’s if you want to look them up. They have an incredibly linear frequency response, high power, and low distortion. I figure why not mix on something that would be used for mastering, I get to hear what’s really going on.

I have an old Technics RS-1500 ¼ inch tape machine. The bias oscillator recently broke though so now I just use it for its pre amps. The vocals on the song ‘OH&S’ were distorted by half plugging in an SM-58 to one of its pres. It overdrove the signal in the weirdest and wildest way. That reminds me, SM-58’s, I think they’re my favourite microphone. I use them on just about everything. I also have a small collection of Beyer mics and a RODE K2, but I find myself using the 58’s more than anything, especially for vocals and guitars.

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All this stuff then goes into my Macbook Pro. I mostly use Pro Tools but occasionally muck around in Logic 9 because I love its MIDI layout. Like a lot of new musicians / producers, I didn’t grow up with traditional recording gear but computers instead, so I feel very comfortable creating and sculpting sounds in the box. It’s incredibly freeing and modern plugins are awesome. At the moment I’m loving everything from SoundToys, their plugs are so creative and diverse.

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I believe that the simplicity and limited gear of Luv Basement is what makes the recordings from there sound unique and interesting. ‘Auchenflower’ wouldn’t be what it is without the wonky instruments, weird outboard gear, odd microphones and 70s jazz motel dank.

 

ALEX L’ESTRANGE Q&A

alexWhat was your first gig?
My first gig was entertaining old people at the Ballina Senior Citizens Concert in about 95′ – I was four at the time.

I did Slim Dusty covers (and one Michael Jackson cover) as my younger brother waltzed about the stage with a loaded cap gun. It was really loud, they probably hated it.

What’s your latest recording and when will you be back in the studio?
My latest single is called ‘Nothing to Hide.’ It’ll be officially released on the 16th of December along with my debut EP ‘Auchenflower.’

I’ve just started recording a bunch of new tracks and sounds in my basement studio (we refer to it as Luv Basement). I’m hoping to have a bunch more stuff to share by mid next year.

What gigs have you been playing lately?
My last show of the year was supporting Husky in Brisbane, that was an awesome night! And I recently finished a national tour with HOLY HOLY. It was so much fun and a huge learning experience. They are the loveliest people and some of the most incredible musicians I’ve ever watched.

Most memorable gig?
Definitely playing the Metro Theatre in Sydney with HOLY HOLY on this last tour. It was by far the biggest crowd I’ve ever been in front of, and that room is really special. The wine was significantly flowing that night too, was a very nice time.

Worst stage nightmare?
I’ve had quite a few, because my gear is usually in some kind of disrepair. But recently I had this thing with my Strat where the neck wasn’t bolted in properly, and every time I moved on stage it would slip and the whole guitar would go out of tune. It wasn’t the coolest thing. Most of my stage nightmares have been my fault.

Album that changed your life?
Kid A by Radiohead. This album changed the way I thought of pop music and how it could be represented. Its flow and narrative is flawless. It can travel from dirty and edgy, to achingly beautiful. It’s a masterpiece.

What gigs are coming up in the next few months?
I’m playing my own headline show in Brisbane on the 28th of January at Black Bear Lodge. It’ll be the night before the lockout laws are instated in QLD, so there really isn’t a better excuse for a big debaucherous party.

A vocal tip for the kids?
Don’t concern yourself too much with gear. The most important thing is a well performed and meaningful take.

Alex L’Estrange Facebook page

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