You may not know much about Los Angeles/London alternative rock band thenewno2, but you're about to. Originally a duo formed by Dhani Harrison, thenewno2 has now expanded their line up to six, as well as their sound. The band has released their second album, thefearofmissigout and is currently preparing for a tour with Jane's Addiction, but in amongst all the chaos of the album's release and the impending US tour, band member and Grammy Award-winning mixer and engineer Paul Hicks talks with me about working on thefearofmissingout and most things in between.
Hey Paul, how are you?
Quite great, actually! How are you!
Fine, thanks! What are you up to at the moment?
We’re just really busy at the moment; we’ve got a Jane’s Addiction support slot coming up, so we’re all in rehearsal mode, getting things ready for that. It’ll be a lot of fun, I think! [Laughs]
I’m really enjoying thefearofmissingout at the moment; it’s a kickass record!
Great, that’s excellent!
Many Australians may not be aware of thenewno2’s current album thefearofmissingout, which was released at the end of last month – how would you describe it in comparison to the band’s debut record?
I think the simplest answer is that everything’s just gotten a bit bigger, in terms of sound and production. It was a different scenario when the first album was made; it was Dhani and Oli [Hecks] - Oli’s not in the band now – but it was a bit more of a duo then. I was involved, but more in recording and mixing duties. As time has gone on, things have slightly changed, and I’m a lot more…I’m actually in the band now! I’ve been contributing a lot to the production side of things and obviously, there are more guys in the band now, with Frank [Zummo], Jeremy [Faccone] and John [Sadoff]. I mean, it’s definitely a big team effort nowadays and we spent a long time on this one, actually! [Laughs]
We’re all happy with it and we’re pleased with the outcome, I’m glad you like it.
Definitely. In saying all of this, do you think thefearofmissingout still serves as a good introductory album to those listeners who may be coming to thenewno2 only now?
Yes, I think so; I think that there are possibly, some slightly more accessible tracks on this album than the first. Sorry, I can’t really expand on that one, but yes I think so! [Laughs]
I noticed that thefearofmissingout features some special guest vocalists in the likes of Ben Harper, RZA and Holly Marilyn – what was it like working with artists from such a variety of musical genres?
It’s always been something that Dhani wanted to do, to get guests involved and not just focus on us in the band. I don’t think it was anything that was thought about too much in advance; I think it’s sort of a scenario that comes about because Dhani meets a lot of people! I think there was a chance encounter with RZA and the Wu-Tang guys and they ended up doing some recordings and then Dhani was like, ‘Well maybe you could help us out?’, so that’s how the collaboration with him came along. People like Thorunn [Antonia], the vocalist and Holly, who is on the first track, in a way, they’re friends as well as work colleagues. It’s always a relaxed attitude, you know, ‘Do you want to try some singing on this?’ and more often than not, the process works!
I know that Dhani spent much of the last few years performing with Fistful Of Mercy – were there any side-projects you were involved in between albums that could have influenced your recent work with thenewno2?
Well funnily enough, I was involved in mixing duties on the Fistful of Mercy project! I’ve spent a lot of my time, I don’t know how much you know about my side of things, but I spent a long time working at Abbey Road Studios and I’ve been heavily involved in a lot of The Beatles’ related projects over the years. I’m just trying to think of timelines… While Dhani was off doing that, I was very involved in the soundtrack for the George [Harrison] documentary (George Harrison: Living In The Material World) that Olivia [Harrison] was doing. I can’t think of everything off the top of my head, but that George documentary took up a lot of time; that was a great project.
It was fantastic the way that documentary came together…
Yeah, absolutely. It was really intense and emotional, but it was an absolutely fantastic project for George, this documentary. It just won a couple of Emmys too, it was a great project!
I know the band is classed as being based in both London and Los Angeles – how much do these two distinctive music communities influence your music in particular, if any?
It’s an interesting question! I just think that different places give you different inspirations; in LA, there are more people around and you can pull the more creative consciousness together, whereas quite a lot of the time in England, what we do is we collect a load of ideas and then we sift through them and see what works and what doesn’t. It’s a time consuming process, so basically, when we’re in England, we usually do things from Dhani’s place and so England is a little bit more like, ‘Let’s sort this out’, whereas LA is like, ‘Let’s just put everything down and have a great time’! We’ll then spend hours and hours in the English countryside sorting it all out. Both locations are fantastic, it’s great to be able to work in both locations; there are some things that I can’t possibly even explain or think about in terms of differences, but I think having both locations has definitely helped us.
Definitely. You’re on tour with Jane’s Addiction this month – have you had many recent opportunities to perform much of the new material live so far?
Yes, we’ve done some shows around LA; the album was released a little bit earlier out here in the States, so we did a few shows. We did an Amoeba Records in-store and then we zoomed over and did Lollapalooza, which was a lot of fun; we did Seattle and there were a burst of things there. We zoomed to London to do our first show in England, which was at Dingwalls, which was great. We had a great time there and managed to do a bunch of press and some other little recordings. We’ve been pretty busy and now we’re just trying to work out what sets to do for the Jane’s Addiction crowds! We’re just fine-tuning things; we like to do different things for different places and different scenarios, so we’re just working out a different set list for this tour.
It all sounds very exciting!
Yeah, there’s a lot of excitement all round, really!
Finally, when will you guys be making the trek out to Australia?
I mean, I hope so, that would be great! I know Dhani had a great time when he made the trip with Fistful of Mercy. To be honest, I’m the person who just sits in the studio and creates things, so if I’m honest, if there’s anything planned, I don’t know about it! There is talk about wanting to do it, so I’m sure at some point in the near future, there’ll hopefully be some movement over to play for you guys, that would be great!
It’d be great to have the band out here, I remember Dhani and Fistful of Mercy garnering some sweet reviews when they played the Bryon Bluesfest.
Yeah exactly, they had a great time doing that, so hopefully!
Well thanks for having a chat with me Paul, it’s been great to talk with the band in general! Congratulations on the new record once again, I’ll definitely spread it round.
Fantastic! Thank you, I’m really glad you like it!
Cheers man, have a great tour with Jane’s Addiction and we’ll keep an eye out for any potential Australian visit developments!
Cool, we’ll let you know what happens! We’ll let you know what we’re up to. Thanks a lot!