We just caught up with Alex Metric, “an artist’s artist” from London with a style fusing disco, funk, Chicago house, Detroit techno, and indie rock. Recently off the True Colors tour with Zedd and Madeon, he’s now on his own after releasing Ammunition PT 4. Read on to hear more about what it’s like touring with significantly younger artists, playing all-ages shows, capturing ideas, and working in a proper studio.
This isn’t your first time in Boston. You’ve played at Ascend (formerly Prime) and House of Blues, and you’re at Bijou tonight. How do you think it’s different coming to the northeast versus other parts of the world? Do you think people respond differently? How do you change things, or do you even have to?
►I wouldn’t massively adapt my set because of the geographic location, but I would adapt my set to the room. You can have different vibes wherever you are in the country depending on the room and the people there. You can go to main hubs and I wouldn’t say there’s a massive difference. Also, when it’s a headlining tour for me, I hope the people who come to the shows know what to expect and adapt to the music.
You’re in a weird position where you just came off the huge True Colors tour with Zedd and Madeon, as support, and now you’re out on your own tour. How does that change the game for you? Is it harder with more pressure?
►It’s very different because when you’re opening up for someone else’s audience, it’s a tough gig to do, especially when Zedd’s and mine are so different. And when you’re playing 45-minute sets in big arenas, you don’t really get time to indulge yourself with what you really want to play. I only ever play out of a pool of records I love, but there are only so many I could play that a Zedd fan was gonna like. So most nights my set was similar, since on those shows most people are there for the headliner. But of course, on the flip side, there were a lot of kids who heard me for the fist time and heard something different and that’s what I was there to do; play something different and open up their music spectrum.
Do you think they’re open to it, or are they closed-minded?
►I’d say 75/25. 75% closed-minded, 25% open to it.
It’s funny you say that. We feel like in the last few years, that’s really the way it is. Four, five, six years ago, you didn’ really know who was playing when you went out, but you were going out and going to ejoy whatever it was.
►I think it depends on the headlining artist and their fan base.
Do you think it also matters age-wise? We know the Zedd crowd is a bit younger.
►No, that’s the best crowd. The all-ages shows are the best ones. They’re kids who have never been to a show before, they’ve never seen a DJ. They’re just so hyped watching music and they have no idea of what’s cool or what isn’t. They’re not judging anything; they wanna hear music and jump up and down. I think it depends on the audience, too. Anton [Zedd]’s audience is definitely more of a pop-centered audience on the EDM end of the spectrum. I think for some of those die hard fans of his, that’s what they wanna hear. It’s cool that’s what they like, so some shows were harder for me.
We were talking in the car on the way here… we wouldn’t say you’re old, but…
You are significantly older than the other guys…
►On that tour, yes. I’m 34 years old. When Madeon wound up on the bill he was 21, Anton was 24 or 25. So yeah…
Do you feel like sometimes it’s harder to connect with their kind of audience, or a younger audience, because you’re 10 years removed?
►No, not at all. It’s not like at my shows it’s all 34-year-old people. I don’t think that’s the case at all. Ultimately it’s not your age, it’s the music that connects with people. So I disagree with that. There are a lot older DJs than me playing to a lot younger crowds.
Jumping back a few thoughts, you were talking about how you were opening for these guys with a totally different audience than yours. How did you get linked up on Zedd’s tour, of anyone they could have chosen?
►That’s the third tour I’ve done with Anton now. How did we meet? I think it was an agency thing. The first tour we did was four years ago now. We have the same agent, AM Only, and I think they put me forward as support and I really got along with Anton and his whole crew. Musically, it was a god fit because we were quite different; I may have been a bit more banging than than I am now, so maybe musically it was a bit more in line, but it was still different and it went well. Then I did another tour with Oliver and me supporting Zedd a couple years ago.
You just released Ammunition PT 4, and there’s been a bit of a time gap between that and PT 3. Did you plan that gap, or did everything just fall into place when it did?
►No. I never sort of plan when an Ammunition thing is gonna come out; I just suddenly have the records together that feel like they fit and I’ll release them. In between 3 and 4, I did another EP (the Hope EP) and I did a single. So it wasn’t like I didn’t put any music out, just the Hope EP, which has two tracks with with Oliver. They didn’t feel like an Ammunition thing; I didn’t even plan to do another one necessarily, but I had a bunch of demos together that made sense.
When you work with someone like Oliver, are you mainly, physically in the studio together?
►I always work with people in the studio. I prefer doing it that way. At least do the first session together, then you can go off sending it forward and back. But to get going, I much prefer to be in a room with them. I just did a track with The Knox in New York. The Amtrac collab is the only one I did do via the Internet.
What’s your studio setup like?
►Lots and lots of old analog synths and dusty gear and wires everywhere. I write in the heart of east London.
How do you balance time on the road with writing new content? You probably can’t wait until you get home to work on it.
►I’m a bit old school because I use outboard gear, vintage gear…
►Oh okay, Cool.
You just never see that anywhere anymore.
►For me, it’s not easy to take all that on the road with me. I did get a flight case to take one synth on the Zedd tour with me. Honestly, I took it out of the case maybe three times in two months. In order to be creative, I need to be in a particular mindset in a particular zone. For me, being on the road just doesn’t create that bubble.
Right, because you’re staying up late and playing long sets. Coming back, it’s is the last thing you want to think about.
►I’ve got a romantic view of making music and that’s being in a nice studio with toys to play with and being comfortable. Not being hunched over a laptop in a hotel room. I’m in the minority now. Most people these days work on the road.
What’s your process for capturing ideas? You always hear of people coming up with ideas in the shower or in the car and you can’t save them. Do you actively try and save ideas?
►I write lyrics or a melody, I’ve got thousands of messages in my phone. I’ll do little things on the road, like get beats going or play with some chords. If I have an idea I can put down, I’ll develop it at home. A lot of the time, with melodies and vocals, it’s a matter of trying to put them in my phone and trying to decipher them when I get home.
We’re heading to Bijou now which is definitely different than the big arena shows. You mentioned earlier you’ll be in Texas soon – one of our favorite places – where are you playing?
►I’m playing Thursday (12/17) in Houston at Stereo Live and Friday (12/18) at one of my favorite clubs, which is Kingdom in Austin.