Hi ash.ØK! Welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Doing great, thanks for asking.
Can you talk to us more about your new single “The Unraveled”?
Absolutely. “The Unraveled” is the title track off of my new album of the same name. I spent almost two years in the studio recording this project, so it’s pretty surreal to see this work finally getting out to the rest of the world. This song, in particular, was really the catalyst for this project, it basically set the stage for the rest of the album.
Did any event inspire you to write this song?
The entire concept for this song came about one night while grabbing drinks with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in years. From the very start of the night, you could just sense there was this overwhelming sadness about her. As the conversation progressed, she really started opening up about her life and eventually confided in me that she had tried committing suicide. She told me that at the very moment she was about to swallow a fistful of pills, she heard her infant daughter downstairs squealing with laughter and it jolted her for a moment and for that reason alone, she didn’t go through with it.
Hearing this story that night absolutely shook me to the core. She was someone that had this perfect social presence, all her Facebook posts were these picturesque moments with her daughter and her husband, whom she had been madly in love with since high school. Everything on her Instagram just seemed to be this never-ending perfect moment. And to hear that she was really crumbling heavily behind this façade because of so many different pressures – marital, career, financial – even after all these years, it’s still tough to juxtapose these two images as the same person.
That night, I went home and just started writing feverishly. I wanted to try and understand all the different ways life and love could fall apart right when it seemed most perfect. “The Unraveled” was the first song that came into fruition and the entire album started taking form pretty quickly afterwards.
I do want to add that as heartbreaking as it was to hear such a close friend going through this, she was fortunately able to find the right person to talk to and get help through this darkness.
How was the recording and writing process?
While I was writing the lyrics to this song, I actually already had the instrumental in mind. It was a really haunting, two-minute piece that I had composed some time ago, and it just fit that sound of lost desperation I was hoping to achieve. The lyrics are written from her husband’s point of view, how he’s finding all the times that he’s let the burdens of life get in the way of understanding his wife. The couple in this song are really overwhelmed and trying to cope with these stresses in their own isolated way and not necessarily together. For the instrumental, I wanted to create a synth-heavy eighties vibe to the track, channeling a Phil Collins-type of electronic percussion against a Chris Isaak “Wicked Games” guitar riff for the build up to the hook. I went back in and also expanded into a more live drum sound as well as also adding in bass elements from dubstep and trip-hop kits. With the pads and keys I played, as well as with the background vocals, I really wanted to paint an ethereal, whispery bed, with just a ton of reverbs and echoes coloring the background. I was fortunate to link with an incredible vocalist, Rianjali, who gave these really lush harmonies that fit well over the track. My mix engineer on the album, Jeff Chestak, really understood the emotion I was going for and did an incredible job of balancing out the electronic and live elements of the song.
How was the experience filming the music video?
Without a doubt in my mind, I don’t think any other director could have created a more perfect video for this music than Patrick Mason. I came across Patrick’s work by chance and was instantly drawn to what he could do with the camera – his films have a really raw, elemental ambiance to them, with really beautiful use of shadows and streaming natural light. Luckily, he was an instant fan of the music and he completely understood the gravity of what I wanted to film. I was really impressed with how much thought he put into the tiniest of details, making sure we filmed in locations that would fit where the main characters within the story would be in their lives realistically. We filmed over the course of three days in multiple locations in West Virginia, pretty much chasing the sun from day to day. The actors in the film were nothing short of incredible, conveying so much story with absolutely no dialogue. And I also made my acting debut in this film – if you blink, you’ll most likely miss it ha…
What was it like to work with Rebecca Loebe and what did she bring up to the table?
Although the track has a ton of synths and really processed kicks and snares, I really wanted a voice that sounded completely real and unaffected, where you could feel the sadness and desperation cut through on its own above the many instrumental layers. Around the time I was scouting for someone, I came across a clip of Rebecca when she debuted on “The Voice”. She did this jaw-dropping cover of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” and I knew immediately that I had to work with her. I reached out, sent Rebecca a draft of the song, which she loved, and after we were able to nail down timing around her busy tour schedule, we were able to get the main vocals in place fairly quickly. She’s pretty amazing to work with, just a genuinely awesome human being that completely knows how to embody whatever song she’s performing. She had such a sad and sweet delivery of the lyrics, there really wasn’t too much else that we needed to do after her first take.
What role does Pennsylvania play in your writing?
I was born in Philly and grew up just outside of the city. Being on the East Coast really played a huge influence in the music I gravitated towards, I grew up idolizing producers like DJ Premier, the RZA, The Roots, as well as southern producers like Organized Noise. Moreover, I’m a first generation Indian-American and being born and raised between these two cultures has really played major in introducing me to music and genres outside of just mainstream American music.
Does the new single mean we can expect a new album – how’s that coming along?
This title track is just one part of a much larger, complex narrative. I’ve been super blessed to work with so many incredible artists for the project, including Tina Guo, Conkarah, Chrsyanthe Tan, Anna Yvette, Kid Moxie, the West Philadelphia Orchestra, just to name a handful. There are a total of thirteen tracks and although the music is founded on electronica, the range extends to folk, brass, and hip-hop. I mirrored this album on the genres of music I listen to and what I ultimately created has elements of eastern music against 808s, synth basses, live guitars and percussion.
Any tentative release date or title in mind?
The album should be available everywhere early January 2018.
What else is happening next in ash.ØK’s world?
Right now, outside of promoting my album, I have a few projects I’m currently wrapping up. One of them that I’m really excited about is kinda DL for now until the actual launch, but what I can say is that it’s for an artist that I’ve been really looking to work with for years. Hoping to have more details on that in the coming months. Outside of that, I recently co-executive produced an album for NY rapper Kaly, which is going to be released in a few weeks, which I’m also pretty stoked about. There’s a ton of really trippy stuff we worked with, including live sitars we recorded for the album, which were pretty cool to mess around with during production.
With the release of “The Unraveled” video, I’ve had a ton of new artists reach out for collaborations so I’m continually picking out folks with concepts that I absolutely love and with whom I really want to work with. I’m always listening to new stuff and I love it when artists send dope ideas through. As a producer, I’m eager to work with new singer-songwriters, film directors and other indie folks to create something unique together.