Interview: Alific

Interview: Alific

Brendan Dane is the multi-talented Musician/Producer behind “Alific”. Dane started out playing bass in a many different styles of bands growing up, most notably San Diego’s Stick Figure. Dane has since brought all of his talents to the forefront with his solo-project, from writing, recording, engineering, producing, and naturally playing his favored bass guitar. Dane believes that “the foundation of every song is the bassline”. Once the music plays, there is no denying that fact. The Pier recently had the chance to catch up with Brendan Dane, while getting further access into the styles and influences behind Alific.

The Pier: Growing up in Ohio, how influential was the reggae-rock genre as a youth, or did you gravitate to other genres?
Alific: I didn’t really get into reggae-rock style music until I first heard Sublime in high school. My first album I liked with lyrics was Bob Dylan’s “Desire”. But other than that album, my cassette collection in grade school was primarily movie soundtracks. I would really pay attention to the music and would envision the exact movie scene for every theme on the soundtrack and I think it helped me develop an emotional connection with music that is still with me today. My older brother was also a very big influence on my music selections. Anything he listened to, I did also. So by middle school, I got into Bob Marley, Nirvana, Beastie Boys, Jane’s Addiction, Tribe Called Quest, Grateful Dead, Rage Against the Machine….all over the place. I never seemed to develop any distastes for any certain genres, if it made me feel good, I liked it.

The Pier: Did you have a favorite artist/band that opened your eyes to recording and performing music when you were growing up?
Alific: As a kid, I was always into performing and recording. I played piano for 9 years growing up so I was constantly exposed to practicing and performing all throughout my childhood. But it was in high school when I saw the Sublime documentary “Stories Tales Lies & Exaggerations” and I think it was Miguel (Skunk Records) stating that they made a lot of the early Sublime stuff in his college recording classes. After seeing that, I thought, “that’s exactly what I want to do in college”, so I choose to go the Audio Production route while in college.

The Pier: Are there any producers/sound engineers that influenced your style and sound while recording “Dub in the District”?
Alific: Well I gained a lot of my knowledge of recording & engineering from an audio production professor of mine at Ohio University named Eddie Ashworth. Eddie was from Redondo Beach, CA where he was the lead audio engineer at Total Access Studios where he recorded bands like Sublime, Slightly Stoopid, No Doubt, Long Beach Dub All-Stars, Pennywise, Guns N’ Roses and the list goes on. The first time I walked into his office in college, I noticed all the Sublime Gold records hanging on the wall and was like “who the hell is this teacher!?” He then explained his background and I was in shock that a teacher at OU was a key player in some of my favorite albums of all time. After I learned his background, I was glued to Eddie trying to absorb any and all information I could. So I really got to learn from the main source and I definitely feel he influenced the way I record and mix today. But I try to use a bunch of different styles and techniques in my own music. When I listen to albums, I pay close attention to the way it’s mixed and recorded. How loud the snare is, how they pan the drums, how loud the vocals are etc. I then just follow techniques I like and use them in my own mixes. For instance, I really like this singer songwriter J.J Cale, and he uses a lot of tambourine in his mixes. I really liked the way it made the songs sound and stand out so in my song “Tribal Root Seed Dub Drop”, I tried putting a bigger emphasis on the tambourine and I really think the songs flows better with it.

The Pier: What about the recording and touring process with Stick Figure. How much did those sessions impact Alific’s debut album “Dub in the District”?
Alific: Playing with Stick Figure influenced a great deal of the album. With Todd Smith being sampled on drums on half the album, I can easily say the album wouldn’t have seen the light of day if I hadn’t recorded Todd drumming or learned some great drum programming techniques from Scott Woodruff (singer of Stick Figure). I actually used to set up all my recording gear for just about every Stick Figure practice, and after each practice I would go home and play around with it and give the guys a quick mix of it. So it was a lot of fun trying new microphone techniques and mixing ideas while getting some practice in. And after playing with someone like Todd, I gained a new respect for this particular style of drumming. I never really paid much attention to it before, but in my opinion the drumming and delivery on the snare and hi-hat hits in this style of music is a key element in what makes a great band stand out from a mediocre band. So all in all, I don’t think I could have completed this project without the knowledge gained from playing in Stick Figure for the last few years. Props to Scott, Todd and K. Bong.

The Pier: How much of a difference, if any, is the reception of the reggae-rock sound on the east coast being more conservative than the easy-going ocean breeze vibes on the west coast?
Alific: There is a big difference in my opinion. On the west coast, reggae-rock bands are very common. I think its the “feel” and vibe of this style of music that makes people want to hear it when the weather is nice outside or your at the beach or when your just feeling good. So out West, the weather is generally always pleasant, the beach is close by, so all the elements are there. And since this style is so popular on the west coast, bars and clubs have no trouble booking bands of this genre. Almost everywhere you go, there will be some kind of reggae-“ish” band playing live. It’s become a true part of the scene. It’s great. But on the east coast, it’s not as common. The music is out there, but you have to do a little searching to find it. But when a band from the West Cost comes out here on tour (like Slightly Stoopid, Rebelution or Pepper), they’re always greeted with the same enthusiasm and dedication as any fan on the west coast. The fans seem to be everywhere, no matter what coast or continent you may be on.

The Pier: Living in Washington D.C. currently, have you had an opportunity to jam or collaborate with any of the members of SOJA or New York’s own John Brown’s Body and Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad?
Alific: Unfortunately, the answer is no. All 3 of these bands I’m a huge supporter and fan of, and would be thrilled to jam or collaborate with any of them. But the opportunity hasn’t presented itself as of yet.

The Pier: “Dub in the District” is virtually a one-man-show, how difficult was the recording process for you without the comfort of other musicians jamming in the studio?
Alific: Doing an entire album solo defiantly has its benefits and its drawbacks. It’s great in the sense that you essentially only have to deal with yourself. If you don’t dig a certain sound, take it out. If you feel like something isn’t right, change it. Making the album was a very mellow process so I would never categorize it as being a difficult one. If anything, it was just a lot of fun. I didn’t have any deadlines or anyone breathing down my neck to get anything done so it was good in that sense. I do enjoy the freedom of working alone, but miss the energy and the creative process of collaborating with friends and fellow musicians. So like everything in life, it has its pros and cons.

The Pier: Will you continue writing and performing music under Alific, or do yousee yourself expanding your sound while forming a new band?
Alific: I will defiantly continue creating music as “Alific” as long as I can. I’m already back in the swing of things working on my next album that should be out next summer (2012). The whole concept of Alific was created so I could release my own music. I spend the majority of my free time recording and on my computer and over the years have accumulated a bunch of songs. So I needed an avenue to release my music. I also created Alific to showcase more of my producer and engineering skills rather than just being a bass player. I love playing bass and writing bass lines more than anything, but producing and arranging an entire song is a completely different task and skill. I wanted to show my skills in terms of producing, arranging, and writing songs. In terms of actually forming an “Alific” band to play live, I would love to. But as of now, I’m still searching for people to jam with. If it happens, I’m all about it.

The Pier: Is there a possibility of once again performing with Stick Figure, either as a collaborative effort or reforming the band for tour dates?
Alific: Yeah. I’m heading back to San Diego in November (2011) to do a little “reunion” show with Stick Figure. I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be great to jam with everyone again. Hopefully going to be doing some recording in Stick’s studio as well. I still stay in regular contact with the guys from Stick Figure and I consider them all close friends more than “ex-bandmates” or anything like that. So I could see some collaboration possibly happening on some music down the road.

Alific Links:
Alific Website
Alific Facebook

Interview by: Kris Siuta