Ken Morton | Aug 16, 2019 | 1
A Man of Many Faces: An Interview With Alexander Leonard Donat
Alexander Leonard Donat is a man of many faces. With Vlimmer he presents dark and atmospheric electronic compositions with vocals and the rare guitar. As Fir Cone Children he crafts catchy, short and punkish songs in a more traditional way, with guitars, bass, drums and vocals, and on the latest, includes Whimsical‘s Krissy Vanderwoude’s vocals on five tracks in a direct and playful way. And Bias, his collaboration with Thomas Schernikau, WHOLE, while dark like Vlimmer, explores various rhythms and is uplifting in overall tone.
In between his day job, taking care of family matters and running Blacklist Illuminist Records, Alexander took the time to answer some questions about his latest releases and his love for music.
You’re Vlimmer and Fir Cone Children. Please explain the differences and likenesses of each project. How do they represent your personality?
These two projects represent at least two hearts beating in my chest. While I express my love for dark and more electronic music with Vlimmer, Fir Cone Children is 2-minute punk with just vocals, guitars and drums. Both have the undeniable love for atmospheric music in common with shoegaze being the most obvious influence. Vlimmer and Fir Cone Children may not have had their final band names back then, but they started at about the same time in autumn 2013. I’m not sure whether one project was the result of the other, but it certainly makes sense that one project helps making music with the other, as it’s easier to write dark songs when you’ve been busy writing sunny songs before. As I usually don’t mix a Vlimmer phase with a Fir Cone Children one, these phases are pretty intense and don’t end until a sufficent amount of songs have been recorded. Eventually, it really feels like a relief every time I get back to the other project. One needs the other, it’s a massive help that keeps everything exciting and in balance.
What bands influenced you when you were young? Can you remember experiencing them for the first time and was there an event that connects those bands that you remember fondly?
For a long time in my life I wasn’t into any alternative music scene. It was in mid-2000, the year I turned 18, that I made contact with albums by Korn, Limp Bizkit and Deftones. I loved them all, yet only one proved to be of real value: Deftones. When White Pony came out, it was like a revelation. The heavy, atmospheric guitars of Stephen Carpenter and the floating voice of Chino Moreno, it opened my world to a bunch of bands who create massive sounds: Sigur Rós, Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor – at a certain time, post-rock was my favourite genre, I guess. But also: Converge (hell, Jane Doe!), Trail of Dead (Source Tags & Codes, for Christ’s sake!), My Bloody Valentine and Radiohead! Deftones, however, had the biggest impact at that time, especially when I saw them live in 2001, I dressed like Chino, wore baggy pants, had a similar hairdo. When I was in my first band in 2003 I guess it was no surprise that I tried to sing like he does and make his weird screaming noises which are otherworldly. I still do the latter, my singing though has drastically changed.
Your bio for Fir Cone Children’s new album mentions that the new songs are influenced by your two children. How do they and being a father get into your new tunes?
Before starting with my punk project which would much later be named Fir Cone Children I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do: short, fast-paced songs, not longer than two minutes, sunny chords, a beach-like feeling and fuzzy shoegaze guitars. It totally fit to this new life I was heading into with my first daughter being born and my family moving 500 km northwards – everything was upside down, crazy, exciting, overwhelming. When thinking about the lyrics I knew I wanted to conserve this feeling of excitement through very direct, simple lyrics that would fit on a matchbox. And what could be more exciting than watching the world through the eyes of a toddler or child? I decided that all Fir Cone Children lyrics would be about things I actually observed in real life – half of it from my perspective, half of it from my daughters’ ones.
How has your sound evolved with Vlimmer’s many EPs and Fir Cone Children’s albums?
Fir Cone Children has developed from a garage punk outfit to dream punk that I try to play the fastest way I could possibly do it. While the first album Everything Is Easy was entirely recorded on a Tascam 8-track recorder which made it a littl