Below, you can read our interview with Ian Smith of New American Hustle, and listen to their album Destination Go-Go. Check out our full music review of Destination Go-Go HERE.
Q: Excited to be talking with New American Hustle again! We have a different lineup playing on Destination Go-Go – who’s playing what on the new album?
A: This time around Nate Bridges from Black Market is playing guitar and bass, along with mixing and mastering the album. Some of the vocalists are Lola Shuze, Aylene, Messy MC, Lolita Hendrix, and MC Bristol.
Q: You may be one of the most prolific bands we’ve ever worked with – what drives you to create so much music?
A: It sounds cliche, but it’s the sheer joy and emotional outlet of creating music. It’s very cathartic for me. I was away from music for 20 years, so once I came back, there were 20 years of pent up songs just flowing out of me. We already have two more albums completed that will be released later this fall, and a third one currently in production that will feature some special guests.
Q: On that same note – are you writing as you are releasing music, or are some of these albums old tracks combined with new songs?
A: The two completed albums are older tracks, the first one is reggae songs Nate and I worked on during the lockdowns, and the second is a compilation of my favorite tracks from the past couple of years.
Q: The ’90s trip-hop vibes we’re getting from Destination Go-Go is a pretty big departure from the hard rock/grunge vibes of your previous album Bury My Black Heart. What inspired the change in genres?
A: After one project is finished, we move right onto the next. We don’t want to repeat ourselves – it’s important to keep evolving and changing. I refused to be lumped into one category. However, I think the 90’s trip-hop and alternative music vibe will stick around with us for the next couple albums. In the future, we’ll consciously be trying to balance all our diverse influences and make them work as seamlessly as possible on future releases. I’m always full of new ideas.
Q: Are there other genres you might be considering exploring on upcoming releases?
A: More of a “chill” vibe, perhaps more singer-songwriter style. We’ll be working with vocalist Lisa Bregneager on the next couple of releases. She has a very ethereal and dreamy vocal style. Maybe some more dub and covers songs. Something like St. Vincent or Radiohead perhaps.
Q: As a “virtual” band, each of these albums is completed without ever getting the musicians together in person. What exactly does that process look like for someone who’s never considered recording this way?
A: I come up with all the tracks using a combination of pre-recorded loops and live instruments. Once I get the song structure down, I’ll send it to my engineer, in this case Nate. He generally adds other instruments or fixes things so they flow better. Then the song either goes off to the vocalist or saxophonist, or whatever musician is needed. Then it all comes over to me in WAV format. I upload it into my DAW and then finally back to Nate for mixing and mastering.
Q: As a follow-up, would you recommend the virtual arrangement for other musicians who might be struggling to get together during the pandemic? Any tips for a band who might want to give it a try?
A: It’s pretty a streamlined process now – I used it before the lockdowns began. So honestly, it may be the way of the future as musicians continue to struggle with the pandemic, especially where I live in California. I’d say try to connect with likeminded people either through Airgigs, Instagram, or however you best network with other musicians. I’m always open to collaborations too.
Q: What’s your favorite track on the new album, and why?
A: I’ll Be Fucking Drunk Today. I’ve struggled with alcohol in my past so it hits close to home. Once I heard that vocal phrase and guitar behind it, I just laughed. It is both absurd and perfect! That got me started on a Portishead vibe and the song just kept building and building into this 10+ minute track. Aylene’s obscene rap vocals just increased the intensity even more. I really enjoy the guitars on it as well, though I know the song gave Nate a challenge when mixing, but hit definitely nailed it.
Q: What is your songwriting process like?
A: I always start with sounds I like to listen to. I’d never make a song I wouldn’t want to listen to. So to that end, I’ve destroyed or deleted more songs than you can imagine. I’m a relentless self-editor. Some of those deleted songs were good, but I’m really trying to grind things down using the less-is-more theory. I just love so many styles of music, my head is constantly filled with ideas and it’s sometimes hard to edit it all down. As a kid, I used to dream songs. Unfortunately, I’m not good at music theory or playing by ear, so I need loops or grooves to help me out when I write songs. Working with talented musicians also makes my life easier.
Q: You talk about ’90s influences on the recent project. Which artists in particular did you draw from?
A: I love Portishead, Radiohead, Massive Attack, Sneaker Pimps, Bjork, Beck, Tricky, and Weezer. Even more recent people like St. Vincent, Peaches, and Goldfrapp really have inspired me lately. The next album will feature my love of Khruangbin and dub music.
Q: We’re eight months into 2020 – do you have additional releases planned for this year? What else might we expect to hear from New American Hustle?
A: September will feature Mind of Madness, an EP of reggae meets Mazzy Star inspired songs, hopefully in October we’ll release Butcher’s Daughter – I think some of our best work yet! November we’ll release Life Can Be Dangerous, a compilation of songs Alessandro and I did over the past couple of years. And after that, we’ll have to see what 2021 brings.
Q: Any shout-outs you wanna make?
A: Thanks to Nate Bridges, our very talented engineer and musician. Check out his band Black Market on Bandcamp. https://blackmarketdub.bandcamp.com/music.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: Thank you to all the fans and supporters and to everyone who’s listened to and enjoyed our music. Cheers!
(Want to be interviewed by The Ark of Music? Click HERE.)