ash.ØK talks with us about his debut album ‘The Unraveled’, which is a hodgepodge of emotions and different elements of Electronica, Indie, and Pop. Therefore, he makes his alternative music even harder to define. However, everything he creates is pretty enjoyable. Besides that, he’s also a fan of making films, so you can’t miss watching the video for the first single, “Holding Sand”, produced by the artist himself.
1 — How has 2018 been for you so far?
Surreal is probably the most accurate way to describe 2018 for me. My album dropped at the beginning of this year and it still gets me every time I hear anyone talk about this music. For the past two years prior to the drop, I was pretty much holed away in my studio without a single ear listening to what I was working on. So yeah, it’s still hard to wrap my mind around the fact that this music is being listened to by anyone, let alone fans on the other side of the globe.
2 — Since when are you passionate about making films and music?
I’ve always been really obsessed with the details that lead up to a final piece of work. Even from a pretty young age, I would dissect songs on the radio to figure out a certain bassline or riff, and then try to cobble it all together into my own version of that song. I could still sit for hours watching behind-the-scenes footage of how an album or film came together. I’ve always geeked out over movie and music facts – sometimes, I get more of a thrill out of hearing how a particular song came together more than the actual song itself. I think that curiosity lends itself to being passionate about your craft and wanting to focus yourself on the act of creation.
3 — What’s your favorite song on your recent debut album ‘The Unraveled’?
Bruh don’t ask me to pick between my babies…😄 lol. In all honesty, I think the album is varied enough that I’m drawn to different songs for different reasons. The title track is probably the most emotional one and it was the catalyst for the rest of this. I love the mellowness of songs like “Bitter Herbs” and “Holding Sand”. From a producer standpoint, the harmonies on “Breathe Me In” get me every time. And tracks like “Don’t Say Xie-Xie” and “Just Freedom” have a totally different energy than the rest of the project. Not trying to be cliché but I’ve spent so much time obsessing over each track that it’s ultra-hard trying to pick which one I’d want to call my one and only.
I honestly wasn’t sure what the reaction was going to be. Not because of the music being good or bad, but because I kept so much of this under wraps for so long. To me, it’s just too difficult working on anything when anyone is over my shoulders especially if there’s any negativity or doubt being injected, it just kills the creativity. So I kept what I was working on pretty much to myself and a handful of folks. The first release off the album was “The Unraveled”, which premiered on HuffPost with a really powerful video. Just because of the basic content of that story dealing with suicide, it just floored everyone and began the whirlwind of questions around this album and what it was all about. In the end, the reaction has been so positive and amazing and I really couldn’t have asked for a different response.
5 — How many artists collaborated with you on this project?
Easily over two dozen vocalists and instrumentalists contributed to this album. About half of these were listed as featured artists, but so many people outside of this had a hand in the final outcome. I had some pretty amazing talent on this album and there are versions of some tracks that never made it outside of my studio which I’ll probably release at some point.
6 — What is the one thing you’re proudest of ‘The Unraveled’?
What really grounds me about this album is that it started with me telling the story of a very close friend who tried taking her life. Since the album came out, I’ve had so many people reach out to tell me how much “The Unraveled” spoke to them, how they were going through something similar and that this music actually meant something to their own story. It can get overwhelming at times, but I’ve built some really meaningful relationships because of this single project, in ways I definitely would not have been able to do otherwise, and I think that brings me the most sense of completeness when thinking about this music.
7 — Were you inspired by a historical event for your latest music video “Holding Sand”?
Not so much a single historic event, but I’ve always been drawn to stories from Medieval or the Dark Ages, which are almost always morose and full of heaviness, broken hearts, death, etc. We drew much of the inspiration from Braveheart, Game of Thrones, etc. and wanted to create a storyline that fell in that world. I flew out to Eugene, Oregon from Philly to film this video – the dense forests and the general dreary tone of that day really set the mood for the final video. In thinking of the visuals, I just wanted to see something from that realm juxtaposed to music that was really bass and synth-heavy, just two totally different ends of the spectrum.
8 — How was it possible to produce those relaxing vibes and melodies?
The original production started exactly how it’s heard on the final track, with that single reverse piano line. As much as the cello takes the center stage, the simple piano melody was really what started the song for me. I went in and laid down the cello line against that. At the end, though, it really was the bass kicks and rolling synth organ that set this into something that was more modern. I wanted to do something super 808-style heavy in there to balance out the rest of the lighter notes. The other instruments on the track, like the erhu and Native American Bass, were just sounds I really wanted to hear over a more EDM/electronica beat, just for the contrast in genre and tone.
9 — Will you continue to experiment with different genres of music in the future?
In all honesty, there’s really no way I can keep away from experimenting between genres. I create music in the same way I consume it, without boundaries or categories. Even if I tried making a standard, genre-specific track, it’ll still ultimately morph into something that bleeds into another category.
10 — Do you have any final words you would like to say to our readers?
I’m truly humbled at the support I’ve received from folks from so many parts of the world for this project. In addition to people reaching out from all over the US, the album has been picked up by a number of stations in Europe, Japan, India, etc. and it’s incredible to hear back from people who discover my work. I often write directly to fans that this is a one-man show with no corporate support or backing, and it’s 100% true. Doing this grind solo makes it that much more meaningful when someone gives an indie artist or producer like me a spot on their playlist. I don’t take any of this for granted, truly humbled and grateful that I’ve created something that made its way into another person’s music collection.