Elliot James Mulhern is a British musician best known as the drummer and founding member of the rock band Hey Monday. Bborn in London, James began playing drums at private school studying jazz and hip hop, all before moving to the United States of America at 13. Before Hey Monday’s inception in 2007, James was a fixture of the South Florida music scene as drummer of Easton, a project which he would later re-ignite. He owns a music publishing and production company Fever Mint. He left Hey Monday at the end of 2009 and toured with The Scene Aesthetic. His Spotify featured playlist ‘Weak by Week” releases a new personally curated set of songs every Monday. James received an RIAA certified platinum plaque for his work on the vinyl release of Songs About Jane by rock/pop band Maroon 5. The vinyl was pressed by ETR & Brookvale Records and featured a remix by Kanye West of the Grammy winning song “This Love”. At the beginning of 2016 he received his 2nd RIAA Gold Plaque for the release of Nickelodeon’s, Best of Nick Toons. Jame’s most recent project NTRL RBLS, which started last year is quickly on the rise, but that is not all that is up his sleeve. James is keeping busy creating a lifestyle brand (and store), playing packed shows (notably Coachella), and keeping up with the simple things in life, like the beach and movies. Enjoy our follow up interview with Elliot James below!
Entertwine: So last time we spoke with you, you were Baallet. This time it looks as if you’ve launched a brand new project, NTRL RBLS. Can you tell us about the beginnings of this project, and where the idea stemmed from? I’ve always felt like the best way to enter any situation is humbly and unpretentiously. Baallet was a really cool thing for me, because it was the opportunity to make music under another moniker and see how people responded without any preconceived notions of what I do. It’s really felt like a journey for me to feel like I earned the right to make music under my name again. With RBLS, I first met Alex last year and it seemed like every idea either of us had ever wanted to tackle could happen with each other. My life is about creating at every opportunity, my passions in art go so much deeper then just the way it sounds and thankfully we live in an age where anyone can make a really good living doing whatever you want, if you truly want it bad enough. Melrose and Fairfax is a very specific corner of fashion, its really more of a lifestyle and we realized that there were a lot more people who believed and wanted the same things we did, so we made a brand just for people like us.
What are some of your latest releases from NTRL RBLS? I heard you had a video go viral on Flipagram? The Flipagram thing is still crazy to me, ha! When we were in HM social media had just begun to take off. We had had PureVolume, Myspace, AP, these micro communities within our market, but it wasn’t anywhere near on the same level as things are now. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of it, but there’s nothing that can prepare you for putting a video up because you thought it was cool and waking up the next day to half a million views. We’ve been working on the RBLS album now for the past nine weeks, day and night. It’s been a while since I’ve worked on an LP because most releases these days are centered around singles and the odd EP, but its what I’ve always loved most about making music and still believe is the best medium to present your work.
We released ‘All Your Love’ as first original, its one of my favorite songs on the album and it was a perfect introduction into this sound we’ve been chasing right now. Part of living in this new genre now is remixing and the best way to do that seemed to take things from the past that we loved and not only shaped us, but songs that shaped the world and give those same colors the vibe to be present now in the future. Thats how the Jackson 5 remix came about. Then before you know it labels started approaching and we signed ‘I Want You Back’ to Universal/Motown.
I think people are still just used to seeing me behind a kit and don’t realize I’ve been writing music since I was 14. I’ve never been satisfied or happy with my voice or the way it sounds, but what time teaches us is the shortness of our time here. This is it, this is what we get, so how are you gonna make those years count. You have one voice, and one body, and one face, the easy thing to do is make excuses for why its not right, but this is what the voice I was given and I intend to use it shamelessly. I won’t ever apologize for the art I make and I hope that everyone finds their voice in every aspect of their lives.
What was it like working with Evren Göknar and Jan Fairchild? You don’t realize what it is to master the art of something until you’ve watched real masters work. Evren and Jan made the records that defined not only my childhood, but everyone alive at that time. The records they made changed the landscape of everything that existed at the time. And they did it over and over and over again, for decades, and they’re still doing it now. I sit here and think about it often, how I was this kid in the UK being forced to learn music theory and jazz, all of which are necessary, but just wanting to find more. Meanwhile I’m discovering all these albums and studying them obsessively, dreaming of coming to America and working with the people making them. And somehow that happened… Like I said, I think about it often when I’m in studio with these guys and I still can’t make sense of it all.
There’s nothing more gratifying as an artist than having your heroes reach out to collaborate, and thats exactly what happened when putting the RBLS project together.
About a year ago my manager took my publisher and I to dinner with Jan and we were already 20 minutes in having such a good time when I asked the table when Jan Fairchild would be arriving, because the thought had never even crossed my mind that one of the greatest assets to hip hop and urban pop had been sitting there the whole time as a slender, humble white man. Last week there was a bunch of us at my studio and Jan forced me to fill up cups with water and pitch match them to Jan’s keys, they he makes me start hitting them with spoons and write this melody on the glasses, we ended up making a chorus out of it… I’ve never seen people navigate music the way Evren and Jan do. And when you’re working with the guys who made the NWA records, and Tupac, Elton John, Michael Bolton, Pharrell, Mariah, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pet Shop Boys and Stevie Wonder, naturally your music is going to start taking on a different life.
You most recently played at Coachella correct? What was this experience like? A dream come true I’d assume? Not only was that my first time experiencing Coachella, but also my first time being in Palm Springs and that part of the desert. And it turned into one of the most profound and enlightening experiences I’ve had over the past few years. The movement they’ve created out there is truly unique and most of the slack you hear from people about Coachella is from the people who didn’t even attend. You’ve gotta get out there and be part of the story to see the full picture.
Tell us a bit about your new store on Melrose Ave? Alex is from Thailand and most people know that I was raised in the UK and Asia. The culture is very close to home for me and very much a real part of who Alex and I are. Alex has been a mogul in fashion for a long time and I love his view on the state of clothing, past and present. A lot of people don’t realize the influence he’s had on streetwear and high fashion working with brands like Reebok, and Chanel, WESC etc. I wore nothing but WESC denim exclusively for years for no other reason other than the simple fact that I loved it. And years later find myself somehow making clothes with the dude who created everything I loved about that brand. Pete has always been a huge influence and mentor to me, I owe so much to him as a fan and friend and he’s always been so good at at telling people they haven’t read the whole message yet even when they think they’ve seen it all. You have an opportunity to break the status quo every time you take on an idea and realize you can propel your art further when you work in many mediums, not just one. Our store front is a show room for NTRL RBLS but also a high end, appointment only tattoo studio. Think about it as a spa for The Jetsons.
Most readers may recognize you mainly as a drummer. Are you still drumming? If so, what are you currently working on? Ha! The never ending stigma!! (Laughs). I am still drumming. I’m always drumming. It’s the backbone of who I am and it will always be a fundamental part of what I do. Mike (Cipari) and I have been working on my next kit for over a year, and we’re finally about to start building it. I don’t ever want to do something that’s been done, I’m always trying to push the envelope creatively in film, music, art and drums are no different.
Since I was 8 I’ve just been chasing new sounds and trying to access them. My school kept all the music rooms, choir rooms, everything underground. The basement was always damp and cold, the rug was permanently wet somehow. I didn’t have a drum set of my own yet and was never allowed to play what I wanted in my classes so I stayed everyday after school into the night playing along to tapes and records, many of which were Evren and Jan’s albums. When we started the RBLS album I told Jan that I also wanted to break ground on project LP that was a tribute and hat tip to all the albums that shaped us. There’s about six of us and we’ve been going into the studio tracking drums then going into another studio chopping up all the recordings and making beats out of them, sampling ourselves. Using Usher’s flute guy and Ja Rule’s Saxophone dude, creating these jams and these layers and then singing on them and having friends and artists start to do features and verses. But it still all stems from drums and the beats ; )
When you find a moment to relax, away from LA craziness/Shows/Writing, Etc., how do you spend that time? What are some hobbies you have that many people might not know about? I watch a lot of films, a ton. In all varying genres and decades, but I’m super into movies, its a bit of a problem. One of the greatest things about traveling is access to galleries, you can be anywhere in the world and see the greatest art show that’s happening RIGHT NOW. I love that I get to go back and fourth to Florida every few weeks because it forces me to sit on the beach with my dog and remember who I am, and why I’m alive and what it is to be a part of civilization right now. No one’s ever had it as good as we have it right now, no one’s ever had the resources we have right now. I love thinking about the future and considering it all.
What is next for you in 2016? How do you plan on wrapping up the year once november/december roll around? I’ve been thinking about getting a house in Palm Springs through the end of the year. Like I said before, the desert is a cool place and its great to get away from everything. I have an idea to get a house for three months and bring out friends during the stay to work on different music and different projects. I hope to relax a lot too and work on my pancake making skills, which I’m slowly but surely getting much better at!