Interview With Nicholas Emilio…
We sat down with LA-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Emilio about his new single “Kitchenware and Candybars” which debuted on what would have been the late Scott Weiland’s birthday (October 27th). Emilio’s reinterpretation of the classic Stone Temple Pilots tune pays homage to the singer and band that helped shape him as an artist, while also displaying his impressive musicality and production abilities. Read on as Emilio discusses how he painstakingly recreated Robert DeLeo’s bass tone and why this STP song choice seemed best as far as paying tribute to one of the most celebrated vocalists in rock and roll.
How did you and your producer divvy up instrumental duties for your new single? Who played what?
Hm. I don’t think we really divided it up in a strategic way. Tom Chandler, my producer, is a great multi-instrumentalist, and he did a lot of cool stuff on this record. He made it easy for me to lay on the parts that I cared most about, the vocals, keyboards, and guitar solo.
How did you capture the Robert DeLeo bass tone in your cover?
Personally, I’m still heavily obsessed with analog amplifiers, preamps, compressors, etc., The bass itself was run through an API preamp and a Distressor, which sets you up for success, right out of the box. I’d say API is one of the best preamps for bass, especially if you want fat, gritty tone. Then, finding the bass amplifier sound itself was actually done “in the box”, for better or worse! Like I said, I love the analog stuff, but modern recording and instrument software is getting really, really good… surprisingly good… kind of scary good. Finding this particular amp sound was done through a lot of testing and sifting through myriad options. Also, beyond that, it also comes down to the mix, of course – how you use EQ and compression in post-production to season it properly, so it sits well within the song. Tom was the mixer, so again, credit to him on that, but we went over a ton of tonal options to land on the chain and settings.
When you’re producing your own material, is it common for you to play all the instruments on the recording?
Yes. Haha. I was always a Billy Corgan fan, and he was notorious for recording all the parts himself, or even re-recording the parts that his bandmates played. I learned this as a wee lad… maybe consciously or subconsciously this affected me as I was growing up and learning how to play and make records. Even when I was in bands, I would re-track things if it wasn’t up to snuff, but I tried to do it with care and sensitivity. It’s not always easy. Playing everything myself certainly has pros and cons… the main benefit is being able to do it consistently and have things mesh well. For example, if you’re tracking a bunch of rhythm guitars, and you want them to be really tight, it’s better if the same person does them. James Hetfield from Metallica would double all of the heavy rhythm guitars, and as you probably know, that stuff was uber tight. The downside of playing everything, of course, is you could potentially lose some nice, subtle, analog variations, or lose diverse perspectives or additions. I’ve done some stuff with multiple players contributing, and it’s also great, sometimes beautiful, but I guess for the Icarus Landing stuff or my solo stuff, I’ve done a lot of it myself. Partially out of necessity. The one area where I often did not play was drums. I’m okay as a drummer, I can hold my own, and I played in a couple pop/rock groups back in the day, but I’d rather have a seasoned pro play the drums. An exception to that would be electronic tracks/drums.
Would you call yourself a bassist or do you just kind of know enough about the instrument to add some low end to a song?
I’ve played bass in a few bands, with quite wide range, actually – I’ve played in everything from old school hardcore punk bands, to metal bands, to Christian churn bands! And I enjoyed all of those experiences, in their own way, but I don’t know if I’d call myself a bonafide bassist, simply because my first/primary instrument was/is guitar. But I can throw down on a bass if needed. And knowing how bass works, and how it should fit into a composition, and into a mix, is super critical to writing and producing better songs. It helps you get better at everything else, including guitar, drums, piano, mixing, you name it.
What are your plans for playing this song and the crop of new songs that you’re putting out in a live setting? Do you have a bassist in mind or are you accepting applications?
Ah, yes… I’m in the process of putting together a killer new live band! And I do have a bassist in mind… Mr. Gregg Cash! He played on a few of my earlier songs, brought a ton of love and flavor, and is also a great engineer and producer in his own right.
How did you approach the bass in ”Kitchenware and Candybars”? Were you looking to completely emulate Robert’s playing, or did you want to put your own stamp on it?
I think we took inspiration from Robert in that we wanted to ensure that the bass was right for the song, and for this treatment. That is what’s most important. And we also wanted to keep it kind of simple to let the vocal stand out and shine. This is a pretty raw, emotional song, and it’s all about the words and the vibe of the vocal. So I think that was the guiding light.
Is Robert among your bass heroes? You said STP was a favorite of yours growing up.
I remember hearing STP as a very young kid, and being immediately drawn to the rawness, the visceral power, the unique sonic landscapes that they created, often with just the 4 of them and the core instruments. I also remember Robert’s bass playing standing out, more so than some of the other bands of that time. He’s super creative, plays in the pocket, but still stretches the boundaries. I also always loved his stage stance and presence. Long story short, yeah, he was a big inspiration as a bass player and as a band member. He’s got some heavy mojo and amplified those songs in special ways.
What made you choose this song to pay tribute to Scott Weiland and STP over some of their others?
It was meant to be a raw, pure, emotional tribute. The inherent starkness and nakedness of the original Kitchenware, and the heavy emotions in the lyrics and presentation made it ripe for an honest, raw homage. I didn’t want to pick one of the big mainstream hits. That would almost be too obvious, and I don’t think it would’ve carried the emotional weight and feeling that Kitchenware can and does. The song is about loss. We lost Scott Weiland way too early, and he influenced so many musicians and fans, so in the end, this is a lament.
Be sure to check out the official video, directed by Wesley Alley and co-produced by Emilio.
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