(NOTE: We’ll be returning Monday with the finale of the Kickstarter Awards)
When San Francisco-based musician Aria Jalali’s not on tour with his band Railcairs, he keeps busy by deconstructing and rerecording famous songs in his own synth-crackle-pop sort of style. Just listen to his cover of The Cranberries “Dreams” for proof. He plans to up the ante for his Kickstarter project — an endeavor to recreate Kate Bush’s entire 1985 masterpiece Hounds of Love from start to finish — and we’re pretty excited to see what will come of it. A $20 pledge gets you an individually painted-and-numbered edition of the album plus a “hand-written love letter.” Even if we weren’t already suckers for Kate Bush (and pop music, in general), how could we resist?
Check out what Aria had to say about his project below. Support it here.
What inspired you to begin reinterpreting pop classics like Kate Bush and The Cranberries?
While we were on North American tour for eight weeks this past October and November, a friend of mine in Seattle burned me the album Hounds Of Love to listen to on the way back to California. I had heard the songs before a bunch, but listening to it — as a complete album — in order while driving down the west coast of the continent, just really listening to the brilliant pop elements in the record — the instrumentally used vocals, the slow slinky bass lines, the super 80s dance beats. I heard less fuzzy, and more clever versions of all my own music making tricks in that album. Each song ended with me thinking “I wish I had been the person who wrote that song.”
As for the Cranberries song “Dreams”… We had actually been covering that song live during that same tour, just for fun, so when I got back and made this Kickstarter project, I wanted to post a cover to show people I wouldn’t ruin the album they love. The choice for that seemed pretty easy, as I had just played it every night for 50-something nights. It was probably a bad example song to use, to be honest, the Kate Bush record is a way artier and open to changing around than that Cranberries song.
What’s your work process like? (You mention a lot of pacing and hours devoted to listening to bits of a single song over and over again.) How do you decide how you will ultimately rearrange parts of a song? Do you decide based on a certain feeling that song gives you or is it more technical?
Ah, okay, this is where my neurosis shines through. Basically I record rough draft demos (or in this case, for this project, just use the originals) and I put them on my headphones. Then I walk around random parts of San Francisco near by house, like the Wharf or Russian Hill. I play the same songs over and over again with a little moleskin notebook, taking notes of what instrument to manipulate to recreate each sound, or what software plug-in I would use to emulate some certain noise. Basically the entire song gets thought-experimented in my head, and I will just pace about hearing all the completed parts in my imagination. and then I will record voice memos to myself, where I use my mouth/voice to emulate the bass line or drums or whatever, so that I don’t forget how I want them.
(Especially in covering a song, this is difficult, because you have to decide: will I recreate the song along the same skeleton and structure, like I did for that Cranberries song, where it’s basically the same song, played by someone else… Or will I completely restructure the feel and movements of the song… just keeping maybe the chord progression and lyrics… anyway…)
Then when I get home, to recreate my imagined finished song, I pick a certain instrument or sound to record, and I spend generally quite a while recording this, pacing around, asking myself if it sounds perfect and right, and if not, doing it over and over again. Once all the parts are recorded, then I spend days just mixing all the volumes and effects to the right level, and working on extremely subtle blends and effects in the sound that basically no one ever notices but myself.
What are some other albums you’d like to deconstruct? Do you have plans to do it again in the future?
Ah, I think this is about it for me. I couldn’t see myself doing another cover anytime soon. I am actually wildly not fond of covers. It was more of a one-time thing, plus, I have so much more original material for railcars that needs to be recorded. I know you should never say never, but really: never (after this).
How has your use of Kickstarter been so far? Anything happen that you weren’t initially expecting?
Kickstarter is simply incredible to me. Not just for my own benefit with this project, but the concept itself. It’s hard to imagine something like this didn’t exist earlier. I am so into the idea of getting people behind art and creative projects. It’s like everyone gets to be a Renaissance art patron all over again!
I am astonished by the amount of support and backing we have had so far on this project. I really wasn’t expecting it to take off like this.
Yes. I just want to thank Kickstarter and everyone who is backing this project for helping out and letting me recreate an absolutely classic album. As soon as I am back from the 8-week tour in Europe this winter, this record will become my number one priority. I can’t guarantee everyone in the world will like the finished album, but I know I will. And my general rule of thumb is, “if you yourself like your art/music, it is certain someone else out there will too.”