With the decline of the contemporary jazz market in the US, you’d expect that recording artists would feel the pressure to follow prescribed trends. After all, part of the survival game has always involved releasing formulated “radio friendly” material. However, there have always been a few brave visionaries who prefer to define the rules of the game. Welcome to the world of Acoustic Alchemy, who have just released their 18th CD, Roseland.
Moving the music forward is something Acoustic Alchemy has been doing for over 25 years. “We try and change every time. Every CD is a reaction to the last one. We never want to duplicate. Whatever we did last time, we don’t want to do this time,” said guitarist Miles Gilderdale.
Where and how Roseland was created was unique for the group. “This is the first CD that we’ve ever recorded ourselves. The initial recording was done at Miles’ studio. Prior to that, we’ve always gone into a studio to record,” said guitarist Greg Carmichael.
The process of recording it themselves “took three times as long” as previous CDs, according to Gilderdale. They wrote the songs as they were recording them, which allowed them to “try stuff out” without a “clock ticking.”
“This is a sign of the way things are going. A lot of artists have their own studio … This the way a lot of people have gone by necessity,” said Carmichael.
Keeping true to form, they didn’t feel any pressure to write music for the CD with “an end point in mind,” shared Gilderdale. The creative process was for themselves and no one else.
Why not conform? “I don’t think we know how … We’ve been going now for 25 years. We have a signature sound … the sound of the two guitars. We’ve kept with that,” said Carmichael. They’ve dabbled with things like the addition of saxophones but have remained true to their core. “It’s a very recognizable sound,” he said.
One change they did make for the Roseland release was teaming up with the Heads Up International promotional machine. “Despite the fact we did the record ourselves, America is such a big country. It really is quite important for us to have an established record label doing that for us … For us to do that ourselves from England would be very difficult. We are very pleased with Head’s Up … We certainly needed them, especially for America … America is our main market,” said Carmichael.
Finding a label in the current economy isn’t an easy task. The guys give credit to Acoustic Alchemy’s manager of 25 years, Stewart Coxhead. There is “no one better qualified,” said Gilderdale. (James Coxhead, Stewart’s son, designed the Roseland cover.)
Currently on tour in the US, Carmichael and Gilderdale believe that live shows are the key to the success of this release. “There are a lot of the [radio] stations from 10 years ago that aren’t there anymore. That makes it more difficult for us … It’s a lot more difficult now … In order to reach people, you have to get out in the road to do it,” said Carmichael.
Touring can present its challenges, but these veterans embrace the travel with realistic ease.
“We are road dogs to quote an Alchemy tune … we all love doing it,” added Gilderdale.
“Once we’re up on stage, it’s great. It makes it all worth it,” said Carmichael.
10/21/11: Hyperlinks formatted