Mind Equals Blown: Interview with Josh Klinghoffer
Interview by Joe Ballard – mindequalsblown.net
Whether it’s from his work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, his very own experimental rock project Dot Hacker, or his session work with the likes of Gnarls Barkley, Beck and many more, you know Josh Klinghoffer‘s work one way or another. Editor Joe Ballard recently had the honor of interviewing him about all things concerning Dot Hacker as they discussed the band’s newly released album How’s Your Process? (Work), the challenges of switching from guitarist to all-out frontman, potentially working with Damon Albarn in the future, and much more.
MEB: I have to start by saying congratulations on releasing How’s Your Process? (Work) earlier this month! It’s (rightfully) getting universal acclaim from critics, but how has the fan reception to the album been so far?
Josh Klinghoffer: Thank you! Universal acclaim? Is it? That’s good to hear. I honestly don’t have much contact with people’s opinions of it, from what I’ve been told, people are enjoying. I guess there are a few people I know who have said very sweet and encouraging things about it.
The album explores so many different styles in just six songs – from soft and ethereal to atmospheric pop to harder rock – yet they all blend together seamlessly and every member repeatedly gets to shine. Was it your goal from the beginning to make it so diverse or did that happen naturally as the writing/recording process went along?
I can’t say it was a goal when we began the writing and recording process because we didn’t know that we were going to break the album into two halves yet, but generally, I like to try and explore as many things as I can within the same song even. Juxtapositions in styles or sounds are always exciting to me so it thrills me to hear that we accomplished that.
More specifically I want to ask about “First In Forever”, my personal favorite, which kind of stands out from the rest of the album with its electronic and pop tendencies. What inspired the song lyrically and did the music for it come together easily?
That song has always been one of my favorites too. That song was literally the first song I had written in forever at a specific point. I want to say it was written toward the beginning of 2010 after my first 6 months with the RHCP. By that point we would’ve been working on songs and I guess I hadn’t come up with anything in a while because I remember thinking that was the “first thing in forever” I had written that I liked. Maybe it was only a few weeks but to me it felt like an eternity. I remember sitting in my living room on an overcast day playing a friend of mine’s borrowed Gibson ES-120T. Did the music come together easily? That’s a very good question. Without getting into too many details, it did and it didn’t. I think I always knew exactly how I wanted it to sound but it took a long time to get everyone to see where I wanted to go with it. The lyrics are pretty self explanatory I think. Motivation. First steps. I love that song.
Moving on to the album’s cover art, you said that you and drummer Eric Gardner came across the photo in an old magazine. How, in your eyes, does it represent the music and its message?
Again juxtapositions I guess. I think snails are disgusting, but this one is all tarted up. I don’t know. Everything should make you think about things from multiple directions and positions. Is it slow, beautiful, gross, all of the above? One thing is for sure, it’s a beautiful photograph…in my eyes.
And to top it off, (Work) is only the first half of a two-part album Dot Hacker is releasing this year, with part two coming in October. Can you talk a little bit about what fans can expect from (Play)? Will there be any major differences in sound or is it more of a continuation of part one?
Well, since it was all recorded as one collection of songs I’d say it could be considered a continuation of the first group, but the songs are each their own little journey unto themselves. There are no major differences in sounds though perhaps there are a few moments on this next record that sound unlike anything this band has released to date, but to me it all sounds like Dot Hacker.
You guys have also been playing some shows in California in support of (Work). Of the new songs, which is your favorite to play live and why?
I’m not sure yet. All the new ones are still wrapped in that blanket of insecurity. They were all really fun to play but I had blown out my voice singing all day every day in preparation for those shows so when it came time to do the shows, I had no high voice (which I use a lot). I loved playing “First In Forever”, but I had to sing the chorus in a lower voice. “Whatever You Want” is really fun, but having not played in a year, it’s a bit strange screaming with people two feet from your face. “Aim” is a blast to play but that song is so expansive to me and I have to sit in one place and play the piano/synth. I haven’t gotten used to that yet. They’re all fun to play. I want to do it more.
You probably get this question often, but having played so many shows in giant stadiums with the Chili Peppers and then playing in smaller, more intimate venues with Dot Hacker, do you have a preference for one over the other?
I can’t say I have a preference for they are both fun and present an entirely different set of challenges. I’d probably have to play a Dot Hacker show at Wembley Stadium to be able to perfectly compare having done big and small places with the RHCP yet only smaller places with the Dots.
Listening to (Work), one quality that really stands out to me is that all four of you sound like you’re playing with a kind of freedom and fearlessness, like you’re unafraid to try absolutely anything to make the songs perfect. Do you feel that having Dot Hacker gives all of you a form of creative release that maybe you don’t have as much of in your other projects?
I think anything that is “your own” allows a certain kind of freedom that you might not have in someone else’s band or touring with someone else, so yeah. I think all four of us consider this band “our own.” I feel that way as much as I can about the RHCP as well but of course when you’ve been with something from its inception, you feel no ties to anything. Dot Hacker is certainly a place where the four of us should feel comfortable being free and fearless. It’s up to one’s self to make that happen. I think everyone does a pretty good job, but there is still work to be done.
Going back in time a little bit to when the band first started playing live shows, did you find any major differences/challenges in switching from your usual role with the Chili Peppers to being the frontman for Dot Hacker? And if so, how did you handle it?
Yes and no. I’ve done far more shows with the RHCP than the Dots so there’s still that feeling of uncertainty when singing lead live or playing some of these songs, but that will go in time. The more we play, that’ll change. There are slight challenges mentally going from the role of lead singer/lyric writer to guitar player, but I love it. I love it. One complaint in life I’ve always had is that I’ll never not be this person. I can’t know what it’s like to be someone else. How many you’s are there? The idea of being one person rather than many. I think I’ve always tried to make myself as many different me’s as I could. Maybe? I don’t know.
Do you think the time will ever come when Dot Hacker becomes the primary focus of your career? Would you want that time to come?
I love everyone I’m currently playing music with. That’s all I could ask for. As long as that keeps happening, I’m fine. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
You said in a recent interview that you’re a big fan of the legendary Damon Albarn’s work. I know he’s already collaborated with your band mate Flea on Rocketjuice and the Moon, but is there any chance we could see a Klinghoffer/Albarn collaboration in the future?
Anytime, anywhere, with bells on, I will be there. I’d love to. You should ask him.
Thanks so much for taking some time to answer these questions, Josh. Any last words for your legions of loyal fans all across the world?
Hold the newsreader’s nose squarely, waiter, or friendly milk will countermand my trousers. Stephen Fry? Anyone? Sorry. Thank you legions! Thank you so much for listening to our music.