Electronic mixer uppers Julien-K began as a side project for electronic music created by Amir Derakh and Ryan Shuck from the band Orgy. As years pressed on, so did the band, as they went on to tour, play shows, write and record releasing a handful of albums, EPs, and singles, the band saw everything falling into it's proper places. All wss well with the band that they went on to release their most latest entitlement "California Noir Chapter 1 and Chapter 2". Guitarist, programmer, and producer Amir Derakh, of Julien-K discusses the first chapter in the California Noir series, as well as plans to release new material, playing shows, and touring.
1. Introduce yourself and tell me what you do in the band?
Amir: Hi I’m Amir Derakh. I’m the guitar player, programmer, and producer of Julien-K.
2. Tell us a brief history of your band.
Amir: We started Julien-K as a side project in 2004 when our main band at that time became very dysfunctional. We also really wanted to be more electronic and be able to experiment/branch out with our songwriting styles. Eventually we had no choice but to make it our main project. We have 3 albums out and we’re working on our 4th one now.
3. What type of band are you?
Amir: We like to call ourselves Indietronic or Industrial Garage. It’s a hybrid of melodic vocals, electronica, and rock ’n roll.
4. Would you mind telling me the story as to how the name, Julien-K came into the picture and what does it mean and symbolize for the band?
Amir: We originally wanted a cool brand name like a clothing designer would have. We ended up with a real person’s name that would become our alter ego. There is a story behind the name, but we like to keep that a mystery and let people find out on their own where the name came from. I’ll give you a hint… our spelling is different.
5. Who are your musical influences?
Amir: 80’s New Wave, 90’s Industrial, Electronic, Dance, & Modern Indie music. We like to throw it all into a big pot and mix it up.
6. What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Amir: We mostly write about relationships (good & bad), life and its many challenges, plus our experiences and desires. Then we sprinkle some dark, hyper, fantasy on top to keep it interesting.
We, like most artists, don’t like to spell it all out for our listeners. We like to let them come to their own conclusions as to what the meanings of the songs are.
7. Do you write your own songs? (Discuss the songwriting process in detail.)
Amir: Most of our songs start off as an idea by Ryan Shuck or myself. We also occasionally collaborate with other artists we click with musically. Sometimes these outside ideas have turned into really great songs. Sometimes they never go anywhere just like some of our own songs. Either way, it’s always a great learning experience and a lot of fun. Ryan is more of a singer/songwriter type of composer while I create musical concepts and compositions that we all collaborate on to finish. Anthony ‘Fu’ Valcic is a big part of this whole process as well.
8. What made you want to go label-less and do the whole DIY thing? Do you want to see yourselves getting signed again? If so, what should labels/zines/promoters know about your band? Why should they be interested in it?
Amir: We’re always open to discussions with labels, managers, etc., but for now it makes the most sense for us to do this ourselves. No one else has done a better job than we have at this point. Don’t get me wrong though, if the right opportunity came along we would look at it very seriously. We’ve just had the most successful Julien-K year ever because of our fans, and because we’re getting everything done very efficiently ourselves. As a result of these successes, some amazing opportunities have already come our way this year.
9. Why did you go the concept album route on the new album?
Amir: We thought it was a fun idea and California Noir seemed like a great umbrella to put all these songs under. I think we always like to keep things interesting and unpredictable. The fans really seem to be enjoying it and so are we.
10. How did you challenge yourself sound wise to fit this concept?
Amir: We had a very loose idea in the beginning where it was heading but it all fell together very naturally in the end. Every album we’ve done forms itself in the process. This was no different. As the producer, I usually start off with a loose concept of the direction and then we see where it takes us. When Ryan came up with the “California Noir” concept, I knew right away what was needed to round out the album. It actually made it easier to focus on what songs fit “Chapter One” and which songs didn’t.
11. Why did you want to turn to creating an Indiegogo campaign to help get "California Noir - Chapter One: Analog Beaches & Digital Cities", out there? What do you think it is about these campaigning sites launching themselves to help anyone in need of their assistance?
Amir: We did it because making records still takes an immense amount of time & there are real hard costs involved. We also believe that artists should be compensated for their work. This is one of the only ways that it can happen for a small band right now. We would not be able to do this anymore if our fans did not participate with us. It’s just that simple. None of us can just sit around making music all day if we can’t pay our bills! We’re a small indie band, not unlike a lot of other bands out there, who just have to find a new way to make it all work. So far this has been working really well for us. We certainly aren’t getting rich but at least our costs are covered & we’re starting to make some money again. For us, this turned out to be the best possible solution but we didn’t know that going into it. We honestly were very surprised and happy how well it turned out. We’re very thankful our fans rallied to make this happen. It has pointed a way out of the tunnel for us, and for that we’re very grateful.
12. Did you get the album you wanted? Is everything on there or were there some things that were just impossible to pull off?
Amir: We wouldn’t have released it if we weren’t happy with the album. We’re in control, so we have the final say in all aspects of the album and its release. There are some unfinished songs (that we will now finish) that will probably show up on California Noir - Chapter Two: Nightlife In Neon.
13. Is it important for you to paint visual pictures with the songs?
Amir: Yes, We try to do that as much as we can by creating unique music, lyrics, titles and sounds for all of our songs.
14. What would be the cinematic equivalent of "California Noir - Chapter One: Analog Beaches & Digital Cities"?
Amir: That movie hasn’t been made yet. See next question haha.
15. Is the concept of the album going to develop into any other mediums like film or graphic novels?
Amir: One could only wish for something like this to happen! Yes please! I personally think it would lend itself very well to a screenplay.
16. What can you tell me about the follow-up second chapter entitled "California Noir: Nightlife In Neon"? What can be expected and when will that release see the light of day?
Amir: We’ve already started working on it. I can’t give you an exact date yet, but I hope it will come out before the end of the year. I think as usual it will have some surprises, but it will also cover some familiar territory that our fans love.
17. You guys did an acoustic performance, have you put thought into releasing any of your material into acoustic format for a future release?
Amir: Yes, I think we will release a couple of things but I’m not sure what they will be included on yet. I like to let things happen in a very organic way, so we’ll see where they end up…
18. How about shows and touring, what do you have in-store?
Amir: We have a show in LA coming up on August 7th at Los Globos. Touring in the US has been hard to do as the costs are very high. We’ve been constantly trying to figure out a solution to fix this problem. It’s our next big hurdle to overcome. We’re very open to ideas and any help in this department is always appreciated! We’ve been very lucky to tour all over the world, but getting back out on the road in the US hasn’t been very easy for us. As Ryan likes to say, “We’re working on it fuckers!” Hahaha.
19. What do you guys have planned ahead for the future?
Amir: We have multiple releases in the works which of course includes California Noir - Chapter Two: Nightlife In Neon. The other things we’re working on will be a surprise. Although, we did discuss one of them recently online. We’re going to release a double compilation album spanning the years we’ve been together. It will include some unreleased tracks, live tracks, demos, and much more. This will be a very cool project, and I hope a fun album for our fans. I can’t wait to get this out.
20. Do you want to add or say to the fans out there?
Amir: Julien-K has had the best year we’ve ever had thanks to all of our amazing fans. Thank you so much! Without your support we would not be able to do this! Lot’s more coming!