Northern Transmission Interview with Josh
Here’s Charles Brownstein’s interview with the multi-talented Josh Klinghoffer talking about his new band Dot Hacker, and how they finally managed to get their record out.
CB: With you guys playing with all these different projects like PJ Harvey, Beck and Broken Bells (I could go on…) how do you ever find the time to hit the studio?
Josh: That’s a good question. I hope now, with playing with the Chili Peppers and there being a clear schedule—like, I know pretty much where I’m going to be for the next year, strategically—
I think we can put aside specific blocks of time to work, and I’m always writing on my own.Yeah, being a very well-oiled machine like the Chili Peppers allows there to be a concrete schedule and people can make sure they’re free at a specific point. Until then, it was always pretty disjointed. You know, one guy would go out of town for two weeks, and get home and there would be a one-day overlap, and then someone else would leave for a week and it’s pretty infuriating (or it has been, at times).
CB: I’ve listened to the record a couple of times, and it sounds really good, by the way. It’s got a bit more of an electronic sound to it… is this the record that you guys really wanted to make?
Josh: Yeah, I mean I think this band is the kind of band I always wanted to have, mainly
meaning that it’s a band I formed with friends of mine who are all sort of working towards a similar goal. Not comparing them to me being with the Chili Peppers or anyone else in the band doing a touring gig or touring gigs I’ve done in the past, but something that I’ve wanted since I was like, 13 years old or something was having a band with your mates, which I was never able to do until now. When I was 17, 18, 19 I just started playing with people and then started touring with people, and then my 20s just sort of got away from me. So yeah, this is the kind of band I’ve always wanted. As far as the record, I have moments of thinking that it sounds really great, and moments of thinking that it sounds incomplete just in the sense that there were people leaving town, and it was kind of disjointed even when we were making the record at times, but I definitely think it’s a great starting point and I really look forward to making more music with them. I think there’s an aspect that it’s not even as “out there” and it doesn’t take as many chances as I even would like it to, but then again maybe that’s me talking 3 or 4 years after it was recorded, you know, listening to it for 3 years.
CB: It took quite a while to get the record out, were you a little nervous about how it might be received at first?
Josh: It was completed some time ago but wasn’t mastered professionally, and then we had it mastered by Bernie __ for the release, but did a sequencing and home-mastering on my 30th birthday, which was October 3rd, 2009. That was the day we sort of considered it “done”, more or less. We’d started it in February or early March of 2009, and I didn’t even get asked by Flea to join the Chili Peppers until July so the band, at the time the record was started, was all I was focusing on and all I really wanted to spend my time doing, so it was 2009, and I didn’t start playing with the Chili Peppers physically until October of 2009, so the record was sort of done, basically, for about 2 and a half years (started being recorded about 3 years ago) and when I hear it, that’s the one thing that I just sort of think: that I would have maybe liked to have made it a little more sparse, and a little more… “experimental” is not the right word, but maybe taken a little more chance in certain areas with sound, and with just the way that a band plays together.
What winds up coming across—which is good, also—is to put a couple of guys in a room, which in some songs sounds great, but because people were leaving town, it wound up staying that way instead of having the opportunity to ask ourselves “is this the best way for this song to be presented”. What I think I like most about this record is that it’s a very honest depiction of where the band was, and it was a band that was just starting, just finding their feet, and then when people started leaving town I got asked to join a really, really incredible situation and really have my time taken away. I’m so glad that we found a home for it with ORG and Andrew and Jeff to put it out because it allows the band to exist without rather than to come out with our next record as if it were our first record. Now that this record exists, the band has, hopefully, in people’s consciousness, you know even a minor history, and when we do music in the future (because obviously the Chili Peppers will take a break between records or whatever), and what we’ll do moving forward will be the next step, rather than the first step. The record that’s just coming out now was the first step.I’ve kind of gotten over the idea of being nervous about what other people are going to think. I mean, people are going to think what they think, and if there was anything to be nervous about, I’d say that being with the Chili Peppers, and filling the position that I’m filling would be the thing to be nervous about. I can just do the best I can, and hopefully people will enjoy it and not dismiss it, but yeah, I want everybody to find joy and happiness from music I make for sure, but I would say it makes me nervous when I listen to it and I’m not fully into it. *laugh* But again, you know, it’s a really good starting point, I think, and I’m really looking forward to where the band goes. I hope people like it. I don’t expect everyone to, but that’s another thing: unfortunately the band doesn’t get to play live very much, but I do think that with Dot Hacker,
all the people in the band are really good and play really well together, so. I hope to God that comes across in the record. I mean, I know how the record was recorded—certain songs, certain sections were not recorded in that way… they were made later, you know, and only by a pair of us, or three of us, or even one of us when people were out of town, but I think it comes across that we are a band.
CB: Are there plans for when you’re finished touring? Like with your other commitments to do some shows?
Josh: Yeah, absolutely! I mean, we did the True tour and at the moment Clint Walsh, one of the other members, is doing a gig with one of my favourite bands growing up: Mad Dog, in New York in late May, and I will be there so we’re going to maybe book a show in New York in late May, but it’s the kind of thing where I don’t know if anyone gives a shit *laugh*. It’s a question like, should we headline at a little tiny place? Will enough people come? I mean, obviously because I’m in the Chili Peppers, that sort of makes people wonder and maybe a few people might show up, but you never know. Other than that, we’re just a band that has a record out for like, 20 days at that time, and no-one would come, really. Heh. But, you know. We’d love to play as many shows as possible, and with many of the breaks this year, we will hopefully jump on a bill and do 2 weeks or 3 weeks. The Chili Peppers have very definite breaks in their touring: it’s pretty much 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off, because everyone other than me is pretty family-oriented these days, and they have kids, and they don’t like being away from them for too long, so I can really say “For these 2 weeks I’m completely free, so let’s go across Canada” or “Let’s go up the west coast.”
CB: So, are you constantly batting around new song ideas via email, I guess? I mean there are so many different influences going on there.
Josh: Yeah, I mean, there’s a part of that where maybe, for a modern band, we’re one of the least “capable”, technically, when it comes to that kind of writing…. So no, we don’t really do that as much because I don’t know how to record on computers, and I know the bass player doesn’t know how to do that either at all. The other 2 guys kind of know it a little bit, but we don’t do a lot of that kind of work: we do it either on our own, and then with each other in a room, or else just straight up together in a room from scratch. I write a lot of stuff and then just wait for my first opportunity to assault them with it, or you know, vice versa, or else we just jam together for hours and then listen to it, so that’s gonna be a good thing. Maybe we should all learn to work via email.
CB: As to long-term plans for Dot Hacker, would you like this to be a full-time thing? Is that the plan?
Josh: Yeah, that’s the plan for me—I mean, I love these guys and I love playing with them, and I love writing songs and I like singing songs, so I think as a long-term plan for me, it all just took life’s natural course I suppose, for me to be ready to be even near to consider myself a singer or frontman for a band. I’m so used to not being that, it’s so much easier to kind of like, hide on the left or right side of the stage, but, yeah. It’s definitely something that I would love to do for the rest of my life, really. Just simply because the band is made up of a bunch of friends that really
love hanging out with each other, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t want to play together and write songs and fuck off on stage together.