Jake Allen

He moves around the guitar like he's been holding it for a lifetime, gliding from end to end to produce sounds that you'd normally expect from a full-on band. But Jake Allen hasn't been around a lifetime - he's only 22 years old. But he's been making records since he was 9 years old - his father helping him record music in his home studio. He passed out the album, "Looking at the Sky" to classmates in his elementary school, so it should be no surprise when you witness the amazing way Jake plays.
His latest release, "Etherica" describes his journey of disconnection, a time period in his life when he couldn't feel anything - happiness, sadness, anger, joy. Jake says "Content wise, the album basically sums up my personal feelings towards having an ego death. I think that anybody who deals with a depression of any kind will find some comfort in listening to the lyrics on this record... I've been calling it progressive ethereal rock for a while now. Throughout the wide array of dynamic changes I feel that there's a reoccurring feeling of floating or flying that is being evoked."
When you have a chance, watch the youtube video, "Slappy Thang". Great, great stuff. And of course, pick up "Etherica". Jake will actually be on the road this fall with a whole band, so check out the schedule, and keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ's.

XXQs: Jake Allen

PEV:  With a rich collection of styles, how would you describe your sound ?

Jake Allen (JA):  Hmmm... it's kind of tough to describe it but I've been calling it progressive ethereal rock for a while now. When I write I don't aim for a style, just what pleases my ears. What comes out is usually hard to categorize but I do think the word ethereal well describes one aspect of the music. Throughout the wide array of dynamic changes I feel that there's a reoccurring feeling of floating or flying that is being evoked. It's not country.

PEV: Calling Michigan home, what kind of music where you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?

JA: I was first inspired to play music by watching and listening to my father who has been a musician all of his life. He was my main influence to begin playing music in general. He inspired me to play keyboards and he raised me on progressive bands like Yes, ELP, and Genesis who crafted albums in a conceptual kind of way. By the time I was eleven I started listening to bands like Nine Inch Nails, Deftones and other groups whose technical skills fell way short the prog bands yet they showed me a completely different approach to using emotion in music. Of course my father was a bit surprised when my keyboard playing went from prog infused arpeggios to three note "shit rock" melodies, although I do sense that it was a necessary stage for me to go through as a young musician.

PEV: At the age of 22 you’ve been able to do more than most ,but, what was it like for you when you first started out?

JA: Well, I was very blessed to be born into a musical family where creativity was an everyday type of thing. The thought of making records thrilled me as young boy and I found myself in my father’s home studio whenever he was between projects. He would help me get my ideas onto tape. I was probably around nine years old when he helped me record my very first "album" which I called Looking at the Sky. I passed them out to my classmates in my school. I remember the excitement that I felt when I first was able to share my music with others. The feeling inspired me to keep on a musical path and I haven't stopped since.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Jake Allen show?

JA: That depends on if they come out to a solo show or a performance with the full band. The solo show is just me with my acoustic guitar and my voice. They'll most likely see me compensating for the rawness of one acoustic guitar by playing the instrument in avant-garde styles similar to Andy McKee or Michael Hedges. There are a few tunes where I will be playing the fretboard with two hands while simultaneously slapping the body of the guitar for percussive effects. A lot of people call this a one man band effect because it often sounds like there is more than just one instrument being played. The solo shows consist of a lot of finger style guitar playing mixed with some occasional live looping which allows me to walk off the stage and go grab another drink from the bar mid-performance. Just kidding, that hasn't happened... yet.  The performances with the full band are about quality musicianship, the chemistry between the four members, and rocking the hell out of the material. This is where I get my best cardio workout. Like most bands, performing together live is our passion and you can easily tell that throughout the show. The songs are accurately recreated on stage and we often use some light backing tracks so that nobody's favorite little synth or triangle sound gets left behind. At times we like to elaborate on the arrangements and really stretch.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

JA: ("Don't say doin your wife, don't say doin your wife") Hahaha. No but really, it's usually something like "what can I do to start this performance that will immediately win this crowd?" Being in a stage of my career where I am still playing some weekly three to four hour club gigs there is also the infamous "I hope I don't run out of material tonight" thought. It never happens but it crosses my mind a lot for some reason. When I'm playing with the band the usual thought is "yes! I am about to have a release of pure energy" or something dealing with the excitement and anticipation that comes with every show. I'm lucky to have never had any problems with getting nervous or scared on stage. I'm just very excited to play!

PEV: Tell us about what the period of your life when you say you were plagued with “the thing.”

JA: Let me start out by saying, I've always been a really happy guy and have never had any real bouts with depression other than emotions triggered by conditional events. In January of 2009 I went through what I would call a involuntary ego death and my life got very dull. I guess you medically refer to it as something called "depersonalization." I remember the exact moment it set in.  I was preparing to leave home for the first time and set out on an adventure with an amazing woman named Sarah Colclasure whom I had met a few months before. About five days before we left I was with two of my closest friends. All of the sudden I felt extremely distant from them, like I was outside of my own body. I felt a numbness. I was ambushed by this feeling and it grew in intensity over the next week and into our journey across the country. Sarah and I kind of jokingly dubbed my condition "the thing." Sarah and I stayed on the road for two months before we landed in San Diego where we would live for the next six months. While in Tucson, I wrote the opening cut to the soon to be album "Ascension" and thought I could be onto something pretty interesting. I had never written anything with that kind of message and it felt like it effortlessly came through me. While living in San Diego, somehow, a "guru" or "mystic" named Ram Dass came into my life. I had a CD set that had a bunch of recordings of his speakings about awakening, existentialism, and his tips to India where he studied with these famous gurus. It was really comforting to hear about all these things because all the topics were so closely related to what I had been experiencing since acquiring "the thing." I got a lot of answers. I decided to set up a tour for the fall months and leave San Diego. Sarah flew back to Michigan and I fearlessly hit the road and performed all over the country for three months. It was around this point when I realized that "the thing" was kind of like tool I could use to do things without questioning the outcome. It worked with me and against me in the sense that I did not care what happened. 

If something great would happen, I would be numb to it, if something bad would happen, I would be numb to it. It allowed me to take a lot of risks. I even almost died a couple times. "Almost" so I guess I still have a survival instinct. I could feel a lot of creativity stirring inside me during the trip. I decided that I would dedicate the next year to recording a new album about what I had been going through in 2009. It was the best recording process I had ever experienced. I started to get my joy back and began to experience moments of pure bliss in the studio. The creativity was therapeutic and I could feel real happiness! I wrote a lot of the material in the studio, again, effortlessly. At times, it felt like I was not the one creating it, but it was a gift. I realized that "the thing," the dullness, was a blessing in the sense that later I would be creating extremely potent music about this dullness. "The thing" ruled my life , but I started to rule it and use it as a tool. "The thing" is an infinite awareness that is indestructible by any worldly things.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

JA: The best ideas, I think most artists can agree on, come from real life experiences. When I was a teenager I wrote about the real life experiences I had with girls as a lot of young artists do. Now, the experience that came from having "the thing" was the underlining inspiration behind the creation of "Etherica." What I find to be most interesting about the new experience is the size of it on a cosmic scale. It seems as if it has amplified my abilities to express myself. I'm extremely lucky to have been given an outlet to express these experiences. I think that if I did not have the outlet I would be a very unhappy dude with a lot of pent up emotional baggage. Thanks to having an outlet I am able to channel all of those feelings into one concentrated thing. I believe that having a healthy outlet of some kind is very important and will prevent people from taking out there emotions on other people. Violent people have not yet found an outlet. If one of them reads this I'm sure they'll want to kick my ass. They'll say something like "this kid thinks he's got it goin bosanova."

PEV: Tell us about your latest release,  "Etherica". What can fans expect from this work?

JA: Well, if you go back and listen to any earlier release of mine I think anybody would agree that "Etherica" is on a different level than anything I have previously done, both the music and the content. Content wise, the album basically sums up my personal feelings towards having an ego death. I think that anybody who deals with a depression of any kind will find some comfort in listening to the lyrics on this record. Hell, it might even cure them! Musically, I think this album is more advanced than my previous works. It has a rainbow of moods.

PEV: Do you ever find yourself getting writer’s block and if so, how do you get over that?

JA: Nowadays I write most of my music in the studio and there seems to be enough tools in there to keep me inspired on the music end. Although sometimes I do have a hard time turning my thoughts into lyrics that flow correctly throughout a song. Usually brainstorming using a mind map technique can help me a bit. Sometimes that method does not help at all and I'll either have to wait for the right formula to pop into my brain or I'll have to just throw away the idea completely. I actually wrote a song once about having writer's block to try and get over it at the time. Like any artist, I love it when the lyrics just flow out with the music. I also find it interesting that the majority of the stuff that flows out easily ends up being the most "commercial" material. At least it's like that for me. It makes me think about the collective consciousness and makes me really wonder what makes something "commercial" or likable to an average listener even when the content makes no linear sense.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Jake Allen?

JA: I play all of the instruments on my records and I produce, mix, and master all of the music myself... I also do not use electricity.

PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

JA: I would like to go and play to as many places as I can and experience the lifestyle in those places. There are spots in Europe that I would love to venture to next year. I'd like to go wherever there are people who are fulfilled by live music in some positive way.

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

JA: I like to play disc golf and blackjack.

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

JA: There is a band from Michigan called Ella Riot (formerly known as My Dear Disco) whom I think are going to be buzz worthy. I hope the best for them and I think their music is great. There is a lot joy, energy, and fun in their material.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?

JA: Probably something in the field of psychology.

PEV: So, what is next for Jake Allen?

JA: Super long term- ohm. Long term- successfully communicating something of importance through a successful career in music. Mid term- tour with the band this fall. Short term- lunch.

 

 

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