Published May 22, 2013This year is shaping up to be an extremely productive one for Alex Zhang Hungtai's project Dirty Beaches. He has already released the Water Park soundtrack and a tour tape, not to mention his newly delivered double-LP Drifters/Love Is the Devil. As Hungtai tells Exclaim!, at least part of the credit for this rapid output belongs to Brian Jonestown Massacre lynchpin Anton Newcombe.
"Most of it was recorded in Berlin, really late at night," Hungtai says of the cinematic, largely instrumental Love Is the Devil. "I had access to my friend Anton Newcombe's studio and I didn't have any money or know anyone at the time, and I had this incomplete record with me in Berlin. The deadline was coming up, and Anton basically invited me over and said, 'Dude, you can record here for free. You can use my shit, here's my stuff. Teach yourself how to use Pro Tools, man.'
"His engineer pretty much came in and had a five-minute session: 'Here's record, here's fast-forward, here's rewind. If you need to edit you can call me and I'll teach you more, but right now, all the mics are set up. We have these two channels for you, like how you like to record it.'"
With Newcombe's blessing, Hungtai recorded the album alone during late-night sessions.
"I'd just go in after Anton finished, because he works pretty much every day, and he finishes around 9 p.m. or sometimes later, at midnight," he remembers. "I'd go in after midnight and I'd have the studio all to myself for free until he came in the next morning. I didn't really have time to meticulously write or orchestrate these grand ideas. Basically, I just went in and did a lot of writing and tried to record at the same time. It's really raw because I didn't have time and I just went in and did as much as I could and edited it afterwards on the laptop."
This isn't the only time that Newcombe has helped Hungtai out. The pair first met when Newcombe released Dirty Beaches' score for Water Park as a 10-inch record via his own A Recordings Ltd.
"He's been really encouraging because he really likes the fact that I'm doing everything on my own," explains Hungtai. "He was like, 'Yeah man, you just do your own shit, that's fucking cool.' He was like, 'Is anyone releasing your soundtrack?' I said no, because none of the labels want to release an instrumental soundtrack. They think it's not bankable. They don't think it's going to sell. Anton was like, 'Fuck that, man. I'll support you. I'll help you put it out.'"
With Drifters/Love Is the Devil available now through Zoo Music, Hungtai has begun working on a new film score with an Argentinean director. He currently can't share any specifics about the project, but he's planning to continue delving into the world of soundtracks.