Words: Dylan Murphy
Photography: Paula Trojner
Waterford artist Alex Gough explains everything that shaped his latest mixtape, from cars to Ferris Bueller.
Increasingly, multi-hyphenates are becoming commonplace in the arts. Whether it’s Donald Glover directing his own show and writing his own music or the independent grind of self-taught creatives like Lava La Rue, artists are more hands-on than ever in the creative process.
Another act subscribing to this approach is Alex Gough. Having released his newest mixtape ‘Forever Classic’ he also directed the visual identity of the project and took on alternative mediums to bring the project to life.
In the build-up to the release, he recorded numerous radio shows explaining the thought process and inspirations behind the record. Coupled with a carefully crafted 80s-inspired aesthetic that he collaborated on with a number of creatives the Waterford act succeeded in creating a wholly immersive visual identity for the tape. ‘Forever Classic’ captures a moment in time and projects the vivid and imagined universe where Alex’s lyrics reside.
The Waterford rapper, drummer and producer spoke to District about what inspired his most immersive record to date, from cars to Ferris Bueller.
“Someone asked me recently what my favourite song out at the moment is and I genuinely couldn’t think. Because any song I’m listening to is from decades ago – like D’angelo and 90s hip hop or 60s jazz records.”
“I thought there was nothing really new I was listening to and I love all the classic stuff, maybe I’m just ‘Forever Classic’ and then I was like ‘oh that could be a name for a project.’”
“So I actually built the project around my influences rather than building the project around the songs.”
“When I made this project I was watching so many movies because I wanted it to feel like a movie – a 90s movie. ‘Forever Classic’ the song itself is supposed to be an intro. The whole project is summed up in one song. In the same way when the credits are rolling at the start of a movie and you see everyone that’s worked on it. You see the mood they are tryna set.”
“I watched so many movies and there are so many references all over the project to characters in those movies, like Wayne’s World, Ferris Bueller and American Pyscho. Even though it’s music and I listened to a lot of music when it was being made, the films had such a huge impact on what it became what I wanted to achieve with it.”
Often inspiration comes from lived experience and exploring the world, but in the midst of a global pandemic, many people couldn’t look beyond the four walls of their home. So when creating the mixtape Alex had to get creative.
“I think there has to be a massive shift in my personal perspective. In the opening of the project i talked about it in the first track, I wanna reflect my surroundings. So all my inspirations and all that come from the people, things, products that everything I consume and exist around me as a person. So all of a sudden when that flips on its head and the only surrounding you have are your room. Or in my case I call it the office, where I make all my music and practice drums.”
“That’s all I had. So all of a sudden I had to think in my head and create scenarios and scenes and write the songs based on how I felt, but projecting that int a place, a person or period of time. Which is why a lot of the songs actually exist in a timeline on the project. There’s a world being created there, which was a huge goal going into the project considering I didn’t have my own world to explore.”
“We actually collaborated with a photographer called Jared Tapy. He took photos of Miami beaches and sunset boulevard and places like that and I basically directed the vibe of the project to him. I told him the vision I had and he went and took the photos. So those photos are exclusive to the project.”
“To basically say this song reminds me of a sunset street with a car driving down it and he was able to find that match it to an image. It was essential in making “Forever Classic” another world and not just a mixtape.”
“I don’t know why, but I had this obsession of making songs that you’d play in your car in the sun with your windows down. Like in ‘Boyz N the Hood’ and those kind of movies with the suspension and the wheels are bouncing. That was all really in my head when making this project.”
Alex injected radio-inspired audio throughout ‘Forever Classic’. It became another piece of fabric in the patchwork quilt of the world he created. In more practical terms, he hosted weekly radio shows prior to the release of the tape that gave him space to talk about the record and what informed it.
“The radio thing [On the record] was like my title card … I wanted it to feel like the start of a movie and setting up what you are going to hear.”
Kenny Beats is one of the most sought after producers in the game right now. His boom-bap inspired link up with Denzel Curry on ‘UNLOCKED’ earlier this year was a refreshing approach to a traditional style. What stood out to Alex about it was the mixing of the record, undertaken by Nater Burgess – who ended upmixing ‘Forever Classic’.
“I remember going through a wishlist of who would mix this album and I took my favourite records and ranked them in terms of sound I wanted for this project. The first one on the list was ‘UNLOCKED’. I searched for who mixed it, found him [Nate Burgess], emailed him and then he really liked the project.”
“It was an absolute dream to work with someone who worked on the project you spent months listening to.”
“Along with Kenny Beats, they achieved the cleanest dirty sound I’ve heard. It’s Wu-Tang; It’s so boom-bap and dusty but it’s so hi-fi. When I heard that project I was like ‘how is this knocking so hard but is so lo-fi and dusty but is still this polished record?!’. That’s exactly what I wanted forever classic to be.”
“Kendrick… Especially ‘TBAP’, ‘DAMN.’ and even ‘GKMC’. When I think of an album, that’s an album to me. Every single detail means something. Every single detail in the video is there for a reason, every word he says relates to the album you are listening to or maybe two albums ago. That to me is an album. Somewhere where these songs, sounds and ideas and words exist. Without it, it’s just music. When it becomes an album to me is when it becomes an experience.”
“After listening to Tyler I was like ‘shit remember he does it [Pitches his voice down] on the song with Frank Ocean.’ It’s kind of like horror movies back in the day, where they had this really creepy deep voice, kind of like that, where it is melancholic in what I’m saying but over a cheerful instrumental.”
Listen to ‘Forever Classic’ below: