InfluenceWith a face familiar from his role as LAPD Detective Vic Mackey on the FX police drama The Shield and Captain Nathanial Barnes in Gotham, US actor Michael Chiklis is also keen to be recognised as a recording artist.

‘It’s frustrating just getting people to listen,’ he says. ‘No-one was looking for music from me. One of the greatest joys is hearing from people who have just turned on to the music – once they hear it, they’re onboard.’

Michael ChiklisIt’s two years since Chiklis built his high-spec LA recording studio, centred on an Audient ASP8024 mixing console. Now he has completed Influence, his first solo album in it.

‘This record really represents a part of who I am musically in a lot of respects,’ he says. ‘The album is called Influence because it’s an exploration of some of my personal musical roots, bringing them into the present. Having the likes of Steve Lukather, Andres Forero, Scott Healy and so many other fantastic players on the album made it that much more fun to make – and obviously made for better, tastier recordings. Some of the songs are ten piece band set ups, brass, percussion, the works… try doing that in-the-box and making it sound live and authentic.’

Not a fan of in-the-box recording, the choice of a large-format mixing desk makes obvious sense.

‘When you’re in the box, it just feels like you’re in a box,’ he says. ‘There’s a sizzle to the sound when it runs through the preamps on a board, an analogue vibe that I think is innately more human. In the box is fine especially if you’re working on electronic dance mixes with a drum machine but this album has a big live band feel. The bass, drums, guitar and keyboard tracks are primarily single take stems with only a couple of punch-ins throughout - and I mean, like two on the whole record – so the bottom of every track is basically a live recording. Nothing like a board to sort that out.’

‘The board is almost like a member of the band on this record,’ he continues. ‘Interestingly, the album is sonically cohesive, in spite of the fact that it is genre schizophrenic. It’s an extremely diverse album to say the least, yet it sounds like… me.

‘This is because of several factors – everything was recorded in the same space; the core rhythm section is the same throughout; my voice is very specific; and the board tied everything together, capturing everything consistently, with warmth, character and clarity. Also, the board moved from genre to genre with us. We were able to achieve all these different sounds without being limited by a console that was good for one thing but not another.’

Michael ChiklisSurprisingly, perhaps, the desk is not the culmination of a long-held desire to work in a ‘proper’ recording studio.

‘Prior to working with the ASP8024 I was downright console phobic,’ Chiklis admits. ‘They always looked like the cockpit of a jet to me, a bridge too far for a lowly musician. Well, I’m proud to say that I actually set up the session and recorded the basics for ‘Little Bit of Funk’ myself. I also did a lot of the comping throughout the whole record. I’m still no engineer, but I learned so much through this process and I’m no longer intimidated by any board. The more I worked with my Audient, the more I realised how straightforward it is. JT Graves engineered this album, and I sat by his side as the artist/producer watching, listening and learning – a lot.’

Chiklis also bucks the perception that working in-the-box makes thing quicker and easier: ‘The ease of the workflow made making this album possible, given the time constraints,’ he says. Even though it took over two years for me to complete this record, the whole thing was the product of maybe 12 sessions total. So the musicians came in, we set mics, ran sound checks, rehearsed and pressed record. In and out – bang boom, done! The console made it easy.’

How does Chicklis anticipate balancing his music and acting roles?

‘I’m a husband and a father of two in addition to having a busy film and television career, not to mention the rest of life’s demands,’ he says. ‘For many years, that left almost no time to focus on my music so I just kept playing and kept my foot in the door. Now that my children are grown, my wife and I have more time to pursue some of the things we’re most passionate about. For her it’s fashion, for me it’s music.

‘When you write, produce, record and distribute an album on your own label, it’s a labour of love and when you’ve actually done it, seen it through to fruition, that’s something to be proud of.’

Looking back, what advice might he give himself as a passionate musician and actor just starting out? ‘Get out of your own way and don’t allow others to set limitations on what you can accomplish,’ he offers. ‘Just go for it. Build it and they will come.’

And looking forward? ‘I think I might put together a tour. That sounds like good fun to me.’

Interview by Anne Liversidge


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