March 18, 2014 Interview – Daniel Hunter of Analog Rebellion
Starting in 2005 as solo and independent music experiment, PlayRadioPlay!, Daniel Hunter was just beginning to learn what he could do with his talent. With an electronic-based sound, Hunter released The Frequency E.P. in 2007, followed by the full-length album Texas in 2008. Both were highly embraced by the electronic Billboard charts. The more Hunter grew within the industry, the more he began to realize his tastes and ideas in music were starting to change. In September of 2009, Daniel Hunter took to his blog to say, “I have come to the point where I no longer feel that the name PlayRadioPlay! represents the music I create.” Alas, Analog Rebellion was born. Under this new name, Hunter released some incredible music starting with LP’s, Ancient Electrons (2010) and Full Frontal (2012). Just a few weeks ago, Hunter released his strongest album to date, Ill’e Grande (2014), showcasing his musical talents as well as collaborations with other musicians. CrypticRock.com was recently able to discuss the new works of Analog Rebellion as well as what the future holds for the act in an exclusive interview with founder and musician, Daniel Hunter.
CrypticRock.com – You have been working at music now for over a decade and began as PlayRadioPlay! early on and changed the project’s name in 2009 to Analog Rebellion. As Analog Rebellion you have released four albums in four years. What has changed for you as a writer over the years?
Daniel Hunter – Nothing abrupt. I have just grown gradually and I have never really tried to make certain sounds. I have just made what I am capable of making. Logically I guess, programming and such, but nothing specific. I have tried to grow as a songwriter melodically, as far as complexity goes. I value complexity in music, but at the same time I am not a great musician.
CrypticRock.com – PlayRadioPlay! was a different sounding project than Analog Rebellion. What inspired the change in your musical style, and as a result changing the name of the project?
Daniel Hunter – You know, I just got older. The more my music changed, the more I wanted to distance myself from the old sound. If you listen to the first Analog Rebellion record Ancient Electrons, it’s not all hugely different from some of the songs on the last PlayRadioPlay! record Texas (2008). “A Particularly Long Elevator Shaft” is practically a PlayRadioPlay! song. Then some of the songs on Texas like “More of the Worst” is practically an Analog Rebellion song, you know? I was just transitioning as a songwriter to a more mature sound and the name change was just inevitable. I thought that I wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. Do you find that your music with Analog Rebellion fulfills your artistry most of than anything you have done prior?
Daniel Hunter – Yeah, like I said, I just kind of make what I am capable of making and whatever comes out. I don’t really sensor myself or go for a certain style or anything. Really, the only cohesive thing between albums is the production, typically. If you hear Full Frontal (2012), it is a very bright, digital album – like a lot of digital distortion. Ill’e Grande was recorded mainly as a tape. That is the cohesion in that album even though the songs are all really different. I tend to like the newest songs I have written the best. I think that is a good thing for someone like me. I am always trying to look forward, and the further I tend to get from an album, I tend to like it less. I am always just trying to write better stuff.
CrypticRock.com – Is it is more relevant to you, the newer it is?
Daniel Hunter – Yeah, definitely.
CrypticRock.com – I imagine as you get older, your tastes change and you refine your music a lot more. You began composing music as a teenager. Looking back now, what is the most important thing you learned about writing music over the years?
Daniel Hunter – That is hard. I learn different things from different people that I have worked with. When I was doing PlayRadioPlay!, I worked with Jacknife Lee who did U2, REM, and Bloc Party, and Lester Mendez who did Santana’s Supernatural (1999). I did some co-writing with a songwriter/producer named Dr. Luke, who has probably written a lot more recent stuff that I just don’t know, but he wrote Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” and a lot of Top 40 hits. I think I learned from him as well. One time he was bragging to me that he had four songs on the Top 10 or something. That is how formulaic his music is; he is just able to pump it out, you know? Although, I almost feel like he taught me more than Lester did, but I still liked Lester more as a person. Overall, Dr. Luke was just a really interesting guy.
CrypticRock.com – That is great that you have been able to work with so many eclectic talents. Your latest album Ill’e Grande was just released last week. It is really an excellent and unique album all the way through. What was the writing and recording process like for this new album?
Daniel Hunter – The initial writing process was pretty much the same as always. I just spit ideas out into my cell phone and computer as I have them. A lot of times it is ideas over several years that I finish… finally that need to be on an album. That was the songwriting process, but the actual recording process was different this time because I didn’t just do it on a computer in my house this time like I have done 90% of my music. I did it at a really great studio in Brooklyn called Strange Weather. For the first time, I had more than half of the instruments played by other people. I have always written and played them before, but this time I wrote most of it and handed it over to really great musicians who are much greater technically than I will ever be. They were able to make things better because they are better musicians all around. And some of that shines through on the record. I think the biggest part is on the opening track, there is some bass tapping. I don’t know if you know what that is, but it is a very metal thing to do and doing it on a bass is even weirder. It is just an example of something that I could never come up with in my entire life that this guy just came up with in his sleep essentially. They definitely added something to the record. The recording process itself was much different because everything was essentially played live at the same time. Normally, I might record a song over several years and the guitar part will be the same guitar that I recorded in the demo three years ago and I just keep it, you know? There was none of that carried over in the new record, which is definitely why it has a fresher sound than the old stuff.
CrypticRock.com – It can definitely be heard. As we touched on earlier about the collaborations with other musicians, what was it like overall work with others for this new record?
Daniel Hunter – It was great. It was very humbling. Not only because they are just way better musicians than I am, but because they are way better musicians than I am and they appreciate my songwriting, which is really humbling.
CrypticRock.com – That is an important connection to have before entering a studio.
Daniel Hunter – I almost feel like they should be in their own band writing their own stuff. I am so grateful to have them, but yeah, that was one of the best things about working with other musicians. It was also less stressful because I am just not very good at any instruments so it was nice to just hand over a lot of the riffs and stuff to these guys and let them perform them much better than I could.
CrypticRock.com – You have done some live dates including most recently SXSW, but do you have plans for doing a full tour in support of the new material?
Daniel Hunter – Yeah, as soon as the opportunity comes along, we are definitely going to do it. I think we are just over the whole play sixty shows in two or three months, get paid $100 a night, and play in bars to twenty people because “that is what new bands are supposed to do”. In our eyes, we would rather be at home making digital content that could reach millions of people over being on road touring as a new band by ourselves playing to two hundred people a night. With that said, if we got the chance to tour with another band that felt right, we would definitely do it. We are not just going to do the whole tour grind thing because I have done it before and it is just very unsatisfying.
CrypticRock.com – That is understandable. What are some of your musical influences?
Daniel Hunter – It is funny because I think I have bought fewer than ten records over the past three or four years. It is a very typical thing to say for snobby people who play music, but it is funny because I have been listening to very similar music since I have been in high school. I just never had the capability of making the music that I heard or anything like it. I feel like I am finally not quite there, but I am definitely closer than I was when I was younger to making the music that I have always really loved. I think a lot of the PlayRadioPlay! and early Analog Rebellion stuff was made almost out of…convenience is a bad word, but you know; when you are like me and you are not a great musician and you are making the music by yourself, you sort of resort to very simple stuff. I have always wanted to make better music than that, which is why I wanted to distance myself from my older music.
CrypticRock.com – That is understandable. My last question for you is regarding films. CrypticRock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Daniel Hunter – I am not a horror junkie, but I do like horror films. 28 Days Later (2002) is one of my favorite horror movies ever. One of the reasons is because Jacknife Lee, the producer that I worked with, did some of the music and one of my favorite bands ever, Granddaddy, had one of their songs in it. It just scared the shit out of me. I don’t know if it is considered a good movie, but I have always loved that one.
Interview conducted by Vanessa Carlucci