An interview with Ted Alexander

Many of you might not have heard of Ted Alexander. Yet… Born in the UK, Alexander spent most of his formative years abroad, first in New York where he became a fanatic of the blossoming, early noughties rock scene and then as a student in Canada, where he began his love affair with contemporary electronic music. Deciding to return to London to focus his energies on production, Alexander is finally, after several years hard graft, starting to taste the fruits of his labours. His track Energy made its way onto the recent Life & DeathSome Things (Fall) compilation and with a handful of eye-catching releases on the not-too-distant horizon, 2013 could well be Ted Alexander’s year.

Energy (Original Mix) – Ted Alexander

[audio:|titles=Energy (Original Mix)|artists=Ted Alexander]

Hi Alex, thanks for talking to us. I promise I did my research but there wasn’t all that much out there about you. I must say though I really liked Energy and all 47 seconds I was allowed to hear of a remix of your forthcoming XXX record

Ha, yeah. Well the reason you won’t have heard of me is simply because I’m a relative newcomer on the scene. Also, I learned the hard way, not to put too much on the internet. When I was just getting started, way before Energy dropped, I was literally cold calling and messaging artists like James Teej and Tale of Us, trying to get them to listen to my stuff. In the end, all I could do was put it up on Soundcloud to get the exposure I needed. After word got round that the tracks weren’t bad, I decided to put some more up. Almost immediately Matteo and Karm from Tale of Us contacted me and told me to take them all down. It had only been 3 or 4 days, so I didn’t think too much damage could have been done. Then my friends over in Canada and the US started saying how great my new tracks were, so I did a Google search and then of course, they were all over these Russian websites available for download. So now I limit my music online to only 40 second clips…

That’s something every producer has to go through I imagine, like a right of passage. So tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do and how you came to do it?

Okay, I’m Ted Alexander. That’s not my real name, or rather it is, but it’s not my surname, just my first and middle names stuck together. When I was thinking of names my sister suggested I used a word that ended in ‘ted’. I could’ve been called adopTed, lifTed, molesTed, uniTed. All awful suggestions. Anyway, I started producing 3 years or so ago, I’m 26 now. I lived in Canada for a long time and went to university out at Concordia in Montreal. The Electronic scene is really strong there, small but strong. During the summer months they used to throw this Sunday rave called Picnique Electronique which would fly over all the European DJs. Slowly as I spent more and more Tuesdays and Wednesdays sitting in my Maths and History lectures hungover, I realised I wanted to do music full-time, or at least try to.

I finished Uni and moved to London where I enrolled at Point Blank in Hackney, on a production course. I already had a really good understanding of music from just being a hardcore enthusiast, so I wasn’t totally starting from scratch. I studied there for a year and half and really enjoyed myself, it gave me a much more rounded idea of what I wanted to do and the sound I wanted to pursue. I met some interesting people, shared some great ideas and overall just had a very productive time making music. The product from that roughly two and half years later is Energy, which I’m very proud of.

Tell us about Energy then. It feels like a real labour of love.

It was. I was actually so hungover when I made it. I’d stupidly booked studio time and then gone out the night before which is NOT something I’d advise any of you to do. Anyway, I was sitting there and playing about with some bass-lines I’d already written and then we just made it in 3 or 4 hours. It was mostly trial and error if I’m honest, just playing around with whatever I could get my hands on. I used the Reactor and Camel Space distortion units a lot. A lot of the time I don’t really know what I’m doing, I just have a general framework of understanding to fall back on. I don’t even remember the process and once it was done I didn’t really think too much about it. It wasn’t necessarily the vibe I was going for but then again I never really have preconceived notions of what I’m going to make. I put it up on Soundcloud and started hammering it out to all and sundry, to see if anyone would get back to me. Luckily it wasn’t one of the ones that got leaked by this Russian website and eventually it fell into James Teej’s hands and he really liked it. He couldn’t release it for ages though and so somehow it found its way to the Life & Death guys and they picked it up in October 2011 and started playing it a lot as Tale of Us. From there they signed it onto the Some Things (Fall) compilation and here we are.

It’s funny because Energy really sounds like it was tailored to Life & Death.

Yeah I suppose their musical philosophy and mine is quite similar. I’d certainly been listening to their stuff a lot in the years leading up to it and I’m a fan of long, musical intros and adding that layer of emotion to a dance-floor track. I didn’t make it with Life & Death in mind, but once it was made I knew I wanted it to be them who put it out.

And the vocals? Are they you?

Ha, yeah. I’ve always been a singer, whether in choirs or church groups. Having said that, I’ve always been quite reluctant to sing on my tracks. So when we were making Energy, my mate asked me to jump on the mic to do some sound tests to ensure the right wires were plugged in or whatever. He took ages and I just got really bored so I started busting out into a couple of songs and I think I fell into Time of the Season by The Zombies and then just as the microphone turned on I landed on the ‘What’s your name?/Who’s your daddy?’ lyric perfectly. My mate was laughing hysterically but he also said there was no way I wasn’t going to use my voice on the record, so that’s how it came about.

Do you write your own lyrics?

Yeah I do but I don’t put much thought into them to be honest. I usually just choose a theme and run with it. The lyrics on Energy are just a totally random collection of words and phrases, pure nonsense in most cases.

What else have you got in the pipeline release-wise?

I don’t have the exact release dates but the next one is on Stem Records, which is run by the guys who do the Treehouse parties at Sankeys in Manchester. It’s a pretty new label and have some great artists on board and they approached me a while back for a podcast but then we got chatting and I ended up sending them some bits, which they liked. It’s very much along the same vibe as Energy. It’ll be a 4-track EP with two original cuts from myself and then remixes from Ultrasone and Heartthrob, which I’m really excited about.

Next year I think I’m going to explore more Techy horizons, just because as an artist you always want to separate yourself from what everyone else is doing and try something different. I find that the deeper, techier stuff has a bit more longevity as well.

Well whatever it is I look forward to it. Finally, you’re a DJ right?

I am. I play under the same name, Ted Alexander. I haven’t been playing much at the minute. I’ve been concentrating more on production and haven’t been offered the gigs I wanted so I think it’s better I just take my time and let things happen naturally. There’s no point to put any added pressure on myself, I’m not desperate to get gigs. I’d rather people just like my music and create a following through that, I’m not in any huge rush.