Los Angeles-based brothers Daniel and Andrew Aged formed their music duo in 2010, and released their acclaimed “No World” debut album in 2013. Prior to that, the brothers had already built up resumes of touring and session work in the music world, playing alongside the likes of Robin Thicke and Raphael Saadiq.Currently their band, known as Inc. No World (formerly inc.), have released their sophomore follow-up, “As Light as Light“. However, seeing as I was a big fan of their debut album, most of our interview focuses on their 2013 release, though we did touch on the new album also.
How did two guys that grew up on the Smashing Pumpkins, Elton John and D’Angelo end up choosing to make electronic music, albeit with an RnB influence? Particularly since you’re both instrumentalists who could have made anything from rock to soul music.
Daniel Aged: We’ve never really thought about it that way. I think we just try to follow the song, and allow the elements rhythmically, sonically, etc to suit the song in our eyes. I think we were inspired by combining quality playing and sounds on live instruments with some elements that are more mechanical or electronic feeling.
Andrew Aged: Just chasing the sounds we hear in our heads.
I’m guessing that your session music days took you to a variety of studios, where you would have worked with different engineers. Which of these audio professionals did you learn the most from in terms of recording and mixing practices, and why?
Daniel: I think we’ve learned the most from are the ones that said, “You guys should do this yourselves”, or from our friends who we share similar tastes with. We’ve been following our ears all the time, not really using specific recording or mixing practices, but more searching and taking chances. Mostly simple things, like starting with a good-sounding instrument. We’ve recently been working with our friend Cole MGN in terms of engineering and production, which is great because we all come to music from a pretty open place.
There seems to be a dwindling sense of devotion to physical instruments among today’s aspiring artists, in favor of MIDI devices and plugins. How were you both able to develop your own instrument skills? Would it have been harder for you to develop as players in today’s MIDI-centric music scene?
Andrew: We started playing professionally fairly young, and we’re always able to take what we’d learn and apply it. Even today, we’re always looking to improve musically, regardless of what’s going on, so it seems like being a musician is an inward search. Prior to touring we both studied jazz and improvisation at the University of Southern California. I had some great teachers including Joe Diorio, and Daniel had John Clayton, Alphonso Johnson, and lots of great players at school. So for a good while our emphasis was on our instruments and finding our voice through that.
I read that “no world” was made in a big, rented room near your house. Can you talk me through the process of creating that studio. What were the considerations that had to be taken in terms of acoustics, the sound of the space and the criteria for the gear you put in there?
Daniel: There wasn’t much we could do in the way of treating acoustics. It had very high ceilings, glass windows, and concrete floors. It was inspiring to be in a big open place where sound carries, especially in the process of seeking the songs. We tried to capture the feeling of the room by micing instruments close up as well as far away. We ended up mixing the album in a different space.
Andrew: We’re looking for a roomy quality and a sort of no-rules approach to recording.
Talk me through your guitars, amps and basses. I’ve seen a few pictures on Facebook of the equipment you have. What are some of your favorites of each category and why?
Daniel: For basses I mostly use a ’78 Jazz Bass, ’66 P Bass, ’75 P Bass, Fender Bass VI and sometimes a new Jazz Bass, pretty much always DI or splitting the signal through pedals.
Andrew: I mostly use a Fender Strat. I also like the 70’s Hofner 12-string. My Gibson Byrdland Midtown Kalamazoo is very versatile, and I use the vintage Fender Silverface Amps too.
You’ve got music videos where you play with a live drummer, yet the album seemed to feature a lot of drum programming. Is this a deliberate dynamic?
Daniel: There’s a good amount of live drums on the album, mostly done one drum at a time. There are a lot of different ways of taking a sound and building upon it, sometimes on the computer, sometimes with a drum machine, etc.
Andrew: On “no world”, we would record live drums but alter them heavily. On our new record there are live drums in a more natural state.
I see a mixing board and other gear in your pics on Facebook. Is that your studio, and what stuff is that in the picture?
Daniel: That is where we recorded most of our new album “As Light As Light“. Our friend Omar Velasco’s studio, Moon Canyon Sound. He has a few nice tube pre-amps, compressors made by Highland Dynamics. We brought some of our pre-amps as well (Neve 1081, Ampex 350, etc)
What about the various keyboards in the pic linked below? What models are those, and why have you chosen to work with those?
Daniel: That is also taken in Omar’s studio. The only ones we ended up using there were the piano and the organ. We also use some electric pianos, one made by Kawai. I’m playing a ’75 Emmons E9 Pedal steel guitar in that photo, which is something I’ve been learning for the past 2 years or so.
I’ve heard you guys handle the recording and mixing of your music, but where do you turn for mastering? Is that also handled in-house, and if so, using what means?
Daniel: We mostly go to Bernie Grundman’s, and either work with Chris Bellman or Bernie.
Andrew: Feeling the Bern.
Specifically when it comes to “no world” what were the instruments used for that album in terms of guitars, bass, amps and pedals?
Daniel: Most of the guitars were done with a Fender Strat through a late 60’s Princeton reverb amp. Bass was pretty much all done direct through a Neve, mostly a ’66 B bass or a Jazz Bass. Many pedals were used, mostly made by Boss, or outboard effects (delays, modulations, etc.)
Did you record “no world” through a digital board or an analog one? Was it important to be deliberate in that choice?
Daniel: We worked at a few different studios for that album, a lot of it was recorded without a board, but some was recorded through a Neve. Most of the album was recorded a few instruments at a time, so a board was not necessary.
What are your preferences when it comes to mics? Are there certain ones that are reoccuring in your workflow?
Daniel: We use Shure SM7’s for a lot. SM57’s a good amount. In the studio we gravitate towards U47 FET, or any high quality old tube/ribbon mics.
Andrew: SM7 is my favorite mic to sing into.
The new “As Light as Light” album features music with a different timbre of guitars and less of the RnB-centric beats of “no world”. What are your hopes and intentions for this project?
Daniel: We hope the music gets heard and enjoyed for what it is, without regard to genre for the most part. We hope people can feel the intention and appreciate the depth of choices, sonically, lyrically, rhythmically, stylistically, etc, and in the end find peace and dig the music.
Andrew: We’re always learning new things musically, and our music is a place for us to grow. I spent much of the year before this record playing acoustically and writing with just a guitar in hand. Many of these songs just came through the hands and voice without much craft. So we thought best to leave them. Also Daniel developed his Pedal steel playing, and drums which helped form the sound of this record. We just hope to open up our sound and make the music we would want to hear. Also create a record we can go play live with instruments and live band.