JIM ALXNDR Interview - Versatile and Prolific
Known as a versatile and prolific music producer, JIM ALXNDR (James Vincent) has sustained and contributed significantly to the work of artists of all musical genres. He obtained his undergraduate degree in contemporary music performance in 2016 before entering the Berklee College of Music’s prestigious EPD (Electronic Production & Design) program. As he is sought after for his expertise, he has collaborated with many internationally renowned artists such as Carly Rae Jepsen (Three time Juno Award winner), Broods (Ten time winners of The New Zealand Music Award) and Elle Graham (a.k.a. WOODES), who was named “Best Australian Solo Artist” by the AU Review, Australia’s leading independent music, arts, travel, film, gaming and lifestyle publication. JIM was also commissioned by his alma mater, the University of Melbourne, one of the leading universities in the world, to record an original work entitled “The Crest”, a 26-piece orchestra composition which was critically acclaimed by Australian online music platform Trouble Juice. Recently, Mr. Vincent co-produced and co-wrote the song “Run to the River” with Australian musician Joel Dylan; the song was released in 2018 and has garnered nearly 2 million streams since release.
Futuremag Music: Hey Jim, how's life, the universe and everything?
JIM ALXNDR: Hey! It’s a great book that I haven’t read so I can’t tell you how it is. In terms of me: Life is good, LA is sunny as always which helps. The Universe seems to be treating me well right now so I’m appreciating that too.
Futuremag Music: Could you talk us through how you moved into the music scene? What are some memorable moments in your time making music?
JIM ALXNDR: I come from a performing background, playing Saxophone and Keys mainly – so when I was living in Melbourne I was playing a lot of gigs and meeting musicians that way. Since moving to LA my integration into the scene has been more so as a producer than a player, but being able to do both has been a really useful asset. One of my most memorable moments in making music loosely ties in with being both a player and a producer. I was tracking saxophone for Citizen Kay a few years back at his producer Pat Gabriel’s house, when Pat’s friend Dylan Joel walked up the stairs (he lived in the basement) and asked me to play some sax on his stuff sometime too. He ended up inviting me to work as a producer on some music with him after Pat showed him some beats I’d made. Little did he know (or he might have known - I should ask him) that I’d never produced with another artist before, so I went into the session absolutely shitting myself (I think I may have googled ‘How to produce for artists’ the night before or something haha). The first half of the session was pretty tough, we were trying to reimagine his song ‘Done Witchu’ and figure out what was missing and by about halfway through the session, I felt like I wasn’t really making any useful contributions and we weren’t really getting there. Then I thought about songs I liked (at the time I was listening to a lot of Timbaland) and tried to figure out what I liked about them. I thought about ‘Bounce’ and how most of the beat was made up of human noises (breaths etc), so I thought it’d be worth a try. We got Dyl behind the mic and we recorded a bunch of breaths and gibberish mumbles – stuff like that – and it gave the song such a good vibe. We carried on like that for like 2 or 3 hours and the song came out at the end of that day pretty similar to what’s on the record today. I think that was my first success with another artist, and it was a really great way to learn how to produce for an artist. It was also pretty nice cause Dyl is such a nice guy so me fumbling around for the first half of the day didn’t seem to bother him at all.
Futuremag Music: Could you explain your song writing process and what goes into the topline, production etc? What is your favourite part of the process?
JIM ALXNDR: When I’m writing songs, I try to write the whole song at the piano, or guitar. I usually don’t touch the computer until the song is finished in full. My thinking is that if the song is captivating enough with just a vocal and piano, then production can enhance the song rather than save it. Saving a badly written song with production is a really laborious, taxing process and I try to avoid it as much as I can.
When I’m making instrumental tracks, my process is usually the complete opposite – I want to go in with no preconceived ideas and open up my computer and start from scratch in there. I like to be inspired by random sounds and stuff from my computer and then write something based off of that. I think by doing that, your tracks sound more like an electronic producer created them, rather than a musician with a laptop. For example, my song ‘Fruit Salad’ started with the Rhodes sample (which is actually me playing a Jazz Standard on keys) that I cut up and just mapped to some pads and played them like an MPC. Starting from a place where you really utilize the idiosyncrasies of the technology you’re using rather than going “Oh we’ll have a C Minor chord and then a G Minor chord” sets you up to make something that’s more connected to what you’re making it with (a computer), and I find that more interesting.
My favourite part of the process now is interestingly what I used to hate doing the most. I love the end of the process – fixing all the little things and making transitions smooth and making everything hit just how it needs to. I used to hate doing all that stuff, but then I realised that it makes the track go from sounding 60% done to like 110%. It’s really cool spending 3 or 4 hours doing really tiny little things and then zooming out and listening to the track and being like “wow, sounds like a real track now”.
Futuremag Music: Could you outline how making music and living in the United States is different to doing it in Australia?
JIM ALXNDR: Of course, this answer will most likely be riddled with sweeping generalisations, so just wanted to disclaim that this is all based off of my experiences and opinions. The general vibe of the musicians I’ve met here is pretty different. In America, people are a lot more confident and a lot more blunt in general. Australians may see this as egotistical and rude (and sometimes it really is) but I’ve come to learn that the baseline level of self-confidence here is just so much higher than what I’ve experienced and what’s accepted in Australia. If people here really believe in themselves they’ll tell you about it, whereas I feel a lot of Australian musicians don’t like to talk about the fact that they love the music they make so they don’t seem full of themselves. I definitely identify with both sides of the equation here, and really believe that humility is a pretty essential thing to have, but I think it’s important - especially in the music industry – to outwardly believe in what you’re doing (of course only if you inwardly believe in it first).
The process of making music in the studio here is somewhat similar to making music back home, but I guess the personalities you end up working with here are a little different to those you’d work with back home.
Futuremag Music: For those looking at international opportunities for music, what are some pieces of advice?
JIM ALXNDR: I can’t stress enough how important being in the right place at the right time is. Not saying that you need to like stalk your favourite artists to find them and ask them if you can work for them (I think that really wouldn’t help your chances), but just by being in LA, there are way more opportunities that will come to you cause there are so many opportunities flying around. I think that different places are good for different things, and it’s most important that you’re satisfied as a human being and you like where you’re living etc, but living in a scene that you want to be a part of builds a really great foundation for a successful career.
Also specific to LA – there’s a demand for Australians in the music scene here. Australia has a really unique sound and I think the rest of the world is starting to catch on to that as more and more Australians are starting to influence popular music (Sarah Aarons, Flume, Kevin Parker, M-Phazes, Ruel, etc.). Sometimes I tune in to Triple J Unearthed and it just reminds me how incredible the Australian scene is, so if you decide to hop on over the pond, just know that you have something that people want out here too. Also APRA is really supportive of Australians over here – they have an office in Hollywood and I’m sure would be happy to meet any Aussie writers/producers who come over to LA. They were super friendly when I met with them and they hosted a bunch of young Aussie writers and producers for brunch a week after I met with them, so there’s a super friendly and supportive community out here for sure.