Alex Newport is a Grammy nominated producer and musician. He is responsible for incredible collaborations with Does It Offend You Yeah? The Sounds, At The Drive-In, The Mars Volta, and our personal favourite – Bloc Party’s album FOUR.
Alex is originally from Wolverhampton and now resides in New York City. He is allergic to mold, wheat and mushrooms.
What is your morning ritual?
Coffee, and then force myself to eat something. For years I skipped breakfast and only had coffee, then around noon I would get this pounding migraine. So it is a bit of a new thing for me. I try to make it interesting by coming up with strange combinations; I get these chocolate flavour rice cakes and put some slices of brie on them, and sometimes chocolate spread too. I still really hate eating in the morning though. I wish they could make a pill for that.
Why New York?
I've always loved New York, but for whatever reason most of my friends (when I first came to the US) were on the west coast, so I ended up spending a lot of the 90's in California. Although, I always preferred the New York topography, architecture and personality. I would get homesick for the UK and thought that, short of moving back to the UK, New York would be closer both geographically and attitude-wise.
What is your hustle?
I just wanna do cool shit.
What do you love to chat about at parties?
I'm usually trying to explain that I think the “feel” of something is more important than the technical ability or the flashiness of it, and with everything not just music. I think that these days everything is terribly superficial - movies, music, conversation - many people are afraid to express themselves. They rely on style over substance, CGI, easy way out, too much copying of what everyone else is doing, lowest common denominator, blah blah blah.
I like to find out about other people, what makes them tick and how life is for them. I find it fascinating.
What lesson did you learn the hard way?
That you must always, ALWAYS tip your building super in NYC.
What is art to you?
Something that expresses an emotion or communicates with other people in a non verbal fashion, and it’s totally subjective! I think most of Moholy-Nagy's work is incredible. I also think that the movie “Child's Play” is as well; to a slightly lesser degree perhaps.
Tell me about a memorable career moment?
I have good memories of almost every project I've worked on, but in particular working with At The Drive In – they were so energetic, funny, driven and just bloody great fun to be around.
I also remember working with Dallas Green for the first time – he was singing, wearing headphones and in that studio it was a bit tricky to get the headphone mix right. So I set up the mic just behind me and he sang to the studio speakers. Hearing him singing like that, just inches away, was incredible. It still puts chills up my spine.
What advice would you give yourself 12 months ago?
Forget the nicotine gum and do cold turkey. Because the gum is just as addictive anyway.
What music do you listen to at home?
Recently I've been listening to an artist from London called Twigs, who I think is just incredible.
If you could provoke change in any area of the music business, what would it be?
The internet has been a blessing and a curse, but I do wish there was something that could be done about recorded music being devalued and passed around and stolen.
I’m only too aware that the old model wasn’t working, but the devastating effect that piracy has had, mostly on smaller labels and artists, isn’t widely understood. Most artists I know have little aspirations of becoming millionaires, they simply want to be able to function and to continue making music, and that has become a very difficult proposition when people don’t think they should have to pay for music at all.
At the same time, many labels (and artists) see a drop in income, and that causes fear and a hesitation to take risks or to try to develop something really original. As a result many producers, labels and artists go the safer route of following whatever the trend is, not realising perhaps, that the music is even less likely to make any impact. I try my best to push artists to be themselves and to take risks, because I know there are a lot of people out there that really want to hear something honest.
What have you been working on recently?
I've always liked electronic music, but didn't really get too deeply into working with it myself until last year. So I've started writing and producing a few things, programming, and it's a lot of fun. I'm really digging into it now. Not so much a change in direction for me, but a parallel direction as it were, innit.
If you could meet with anyone whom you have yet to encounter, who would it be?
David Bowie or Billy West. Although Billy probably won't show up because everyone will make him do the Ren And Stimpy voices again. Thom Yorke? Maybe he can do Ren's voice.
In your life right now, what is one thing that baffles you?
How is it that they can explore the surface of Mars, but they can't make a deodorant that works for more than a couple of hours.
Photograph by Isaac Rosenthal
Art Direction by Beatrice Hurst