Interview: Nic Capelle Discusses 'Crooked Deluxe,' Premieres Exclusive New Capelle Song, "Distant Minds"
As 2012 chugs forward, so does the anticipated and still-TBA summer release date of Crooked Deluxe, the new free-style electro-rock album from London-based Capelle.
The album has been brewing hype among the band's UK fan base, just as the band have been creating hype of their own in the US. In April, they'll head out on the road for a brief US tour that finds them visiting New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Guitar World recently caught up with Capelle mastermind Nic Capelle, who mixes a career in advertising with his rock-and-roll alter ego. Capelle, a singer and guitarist in the band, shared some insight into his hip-hop roots, the band's recording process and visions for Capelle's future.
GUITAR WORLD: You're originally from Australia. What took you to London?
Music. What actually happened was I moved from Perth to Sydney, which is on the east coast of Australia. I moved there for music, and then I got offered a gig to tour Germany during the World Cup in 2006. As a professional keyboardist and backup vocalist, I had my own thing going on in Sydney, and I was signed to an independent label. I decided it was a really good opportunity to get over to Europe. After that, I moved to London, which was always what I wanted to do. It was always the plan to move from Perth to Sydney, from Sydney to London, and eventually from London to America.
Who have been some of your influences?
I’ve got a huge amount of different influences, and with the album it always seems to be fairly similar — Queens of the Stone Age, they’re a big one for me. Then there’s stuff like David Bowie, AC/DC, Daft Punk, Justice, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker. There’s also The Black Keys, Led Zeppelin is a big one — I’m constantly still listening to Led Zeppelin.
I get band crushes, and I try not to listen to too much music when I’m writing and recording, because I don’t want to accidentally start plagiarizing. I’ve been exposed to several bands and musicians who do that, so I’m quite cautious of it. Those artists are definitely my staples, but like I said, I get band crushes. I might be obsessed with one musician for a week and then not really listen to much for a couple of months but eventually find something else I really like. It’s often going back in the catalog of music that has already come and gone where I get most of my inspiration.
The last time you guys were in America, you filmed a documentary, which is scheduled to be released this spring. In hindsight, what are some of the most vital things you learned about being on the road whilst the documentary was in progress?
The big one is sticking together as a band. It’s a tough old thing. They tell you that touring’s tough, but I love it. I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I just think it’s tougher on relationships. I don’t think the working side of touring is particularly tough. You’re going at a hundred miles an hour, and you have a huge amount of excitement, and then you have nothing. It’s sort of up and down all the time, but I love it, and you get into a rhythm of touring. I think that definitely sticking together and putting up with each other’s shit is a pretty vital thing to learn as well as working hard and trying not to complain. There are a lot of people who wish they could be doing it but don’t get the opportunity.
There seems to be a big difference between the value of social media in the US versus the UK and other countries. Would you say that the values of the UK fan base are a bit more personal and physical?
Yeah, I definitely think so. I think the whole thing with social media is that a lot of it is smoke and mirrors. There are bands that have loads of followers, but they aren’t necessarily hardcore followers. I think it’s the people who are avidly coming down to your gigs and making that effort to come and see you live that are the true fans. People just “liking” you on a Facebook page doesn’t necessarily mean they are hardcore fans, and I think that’s the thing with London — sure, you do get the bullshit of people just dipping in and out of your music, but I do think that when people do make the effort to come and see you play live here in London, it’s because they really want to.
London is not sun and sand. It’s cold weather. It’s harsh weather. You know, it’s dark and shitty, so there’s a real effort in coming out to see live music. In London, they really love what you’re doing, and they’re real fans.
How has having a career in advertising helped you out with your music?
A huge amount. Anyone who thinks they can do music and not make money is living a tight frame. To be in a band and to push a band costs money. The advertising has helped, obviously, because of being able to support myself financially. I also get exposed to the mechanics of social media all the time and how to push bands and make bands successful.
Having a good knowledge of what consumers want informs the advertising, because we are into music and we know a lot of cool music that’s coming out and have a real hand on the tolls of the music scene. The advertising informs the music, because it makes way for how to push a band and how to get it out there and having an eye on the trend of what is happening in the world today. In regards to that, a lot of bands — as we touched on before — are getting successful through social media, and we’re seeing a lot of what makes them successful first-hand before it’s out to the public. So yeah, it’s a great combination. I never thought it would be. You definitely do get some inside scoop.
Would you consider Capelle a self-sustaining project in that you write all of the material and you can promote yourself in other ways other people might not be able to? It sounds like you actually do a bit of your own footwork.
Yeah, I think we’re lucky in that respect. Don’t get me wrong, it’s brilliant having the insight, but that doesn’t mean you get a foot up in the industry because of it. Our minds are always going. We’re always being challenged and exposed to new ways of doing things, which is extremely powerful, but at the end of the day, it still comes down to content and how good your content is and whether people actually like it.
You know, although we an advantage in some respects, we’re still out there fighting it with all the other unsigned bands. Really, it comes down to consumers being exposed to what you have and also really liking the material.
When you write an album, do you find yourself to be more inspired in or outside the studio?
It’s freestyle, so it’s rare that I go into the studio having something to do. I like to work on an intuitive level, so I have a real inclination to go into the studio and put some stuff down. In regards to content of songs and how they come out, it’s always an intuitive process. It’s always free styled lyrics and whatever is subconsciously going on in my life at that time. I’ll often pick up my guitar and play around with some effects, put a riff down, put a drum loop down, and then I’ll just grab the microphone and start free styling.
Whatever comes to mind then and there shapes the direction of the song. I might come up with a verse, but more often than not it’s usually some kind of chorus/hook, and then I’ll listen back and think “Right. That’s what I’m talking about.” It sort of evolves from there. I never write anything down. I find that when I do, the songs become quite cliché, and I prefer to not have boundaries.
I was hugely influenced by hip-hop as a youngster, and one of my first records was NWA when I was about 11. I actually went to a local record store to purchase “Straight Outta Compton,” but the person working at the store thought it was too explicit and said, “I don’t think your mom would like that.”
So I got turned down and instead went and bought the Terminator 2 soundtrack, which had Guns N’ Roses’ “You Could Be Mine” on it, and subsequently I got influenced by Guns N’ Roses after that. Hip-hop was a staple then, especially in high school. I think that side of me has stuck in terms of free styling and being quite autobiographical.
What kind of guitar gear did you use to achieve a sort of grittier sound on Crooked Deluxe?
The lead guitarist, Sam, had a 1969 reissue of a Gibson Les Paul. I used a Gibson 335, which is a 2009 model. For the amplifiers, we used all Marshall — all valve. We used a vintage model for the majority of it. We actually also used a Fender Rock 100 watt amp with a tube preamp for some of the clean sounds. We used a lot of effects.
One of the big effects we used for the guitars was a POG, which is by Electro-Harmonix and you will hear it on the majority of the songs on the record [laughs]. Another really cool pedal that we used which can hear after the first ten seconds of “Louder” is a pedal called the Wooly Mammoth by ZVEX. That’s actually a bass distortion/fuzz pedal, which has a very electronic sort of sound. It’s got this knob on it, which is “pinch,” and it works as a sort of gate. It sounds phenomenal on an electric guitar — really aggressive and nasty. We also used a lot of Boss spring reverb.
Having recorded Crooked Deluxe in your own home, in what ways have you found that beneficial versus having an outside producer come in and help?
There are tons of different types of producers. There is the kind of producer that oversees everything and adds the “fairy dust,” so to speak — the sort of icing on the cake. And then there is the producer that is more hands-on and has a bit of a vision of his or her own. I’m more of a producer with a vision of my own.
I think the way an album is recorded and mixing and ultimately is produced has a huge bearing on the sound of a band. Producing is something that I’ve sort of fallen into since my early twenties and trying to find work as an engineer. Getting into the side of what really makes a record sound good is something that I’ve been into, so I think I would find it terribly hard to get somebody else on board unless I really trusted them all and they had a similar work ethic. I had a really finite vision of what I wanted this record to sound like, and I guess that’s part of why I am the musician that I am.
Visit Capelle’s official Facebook page for more information on the release of Crooked Deluxe and upcoming tour dates.