Neil Nines, Heath Allen & Aleesia discuss main influences, their collaboration ‘Heat Of Your Wave’ and more: Interview
Teaming up for the ultimate of collaborations in the form of ‘Heat Of Your Wave,’ we could not be any more thrilled to be joined by Neil Nines, Heath Allen and Aleesia as they discuss their latest single, their approach towards music production and so much more.
Constantly on the rise, Neil Nines and Heath Allen have been ensuring nothing less than the most feel-good of vibes, with both set of artists’ impacting the dance scene in the most immersive of fashions. Leaving no doubt to the imagination, each of their productions act as a clear testament towards the undeniable musical prowess that they both possess, and when joining forces, the end product was one that has left us all in awe. Incorporating their styles of play in a manner that will scintillate even the toughest of crowds, their most recent release, ‘Heat Of Your Wave,’ had us all feeling some type of way, whilst singer/songwriter Aleesia elevated the single to even further heights. A collaboration for the ages, we could not be any more thrilled to be joined by the masterminds of this certified hit, as all three acts discuss the main inspirations and influences that led to their chosen career pathways in music, the significance behind maintaining a versatile nature as time progresses and electornic music evolves, the possibilities presented when working alongside each other, a wider view on the production of ‘Heat Of Your Wave’ and the message that it has set out to portray, the inspiration behind the accompanied music video, mixing and mastering their own records, what the future holds for each individually, as well as collectively, and of course, so much more.
Hello guys and thank you for joining us! Could you give us an insight on the main inspirations/influences that led each of you to your chosen career pathway?
Music has always been a part of my life since taking piano lessons as a child and listening to everything from the Beatles to Beethoven on car rides with my parents. Later I got really into rock, picked up the guitar, and eventually formed two rock bands at University. This is when and where the dream of actually being an artist started. I also started falling in love with electronic music through experiences I had clubbing in New York, right before the EDM industry as we know it today blew up. I began dabbling in production years back, but it wasn’t until I started DJing in 2016 and taking a course at the Garnish school in New York that it all started coming together. – Neil Nines
For me I was a DJ in bars and clubs playing mainly top 40 for many years. But what really captivated me and pushed me to want to produce this music was going to TomorrowWorld when they had it here in the states. I knew at that first festival in 2013, it was a moment that changed my life. – Heath Allen
Music has been such a massive part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up with two older sisters, cool parents, a huge CD collection and I was the youngest, so I think I was always looking for attention. I would perform for anyone who was willing to watch – sing, dance, rap, present –anything. I grew up as a dancer too, so I was exposed to such a wide range of music, and rhythm and musicality were ingrained in me. I just knew I loved creating and performing from a young age; it was the first thing I ever said that I wanted to be ‘when I grew up’ – a singer. So I’m just happy I get to fulfill that calling. – Aleesia
With music a central aspect in each of your lives whilst growing up, we would like to know the impact that the scene has had on your style of play, as well as the significance of maintaining a versatile nature, whether that being as a DJ/Producer, or a Singer/Songwriter?
My tastes have really evolved with the scene, from gravitating towards the dreamlike high tempo state of early trance with artists like Tiesto, Paul Van Dyk, and Paul Oakenfold to deep house and UK house in my early days of DJing lounges and smaller rooms, to now falling in love with techno during my current stint in Berlin. As my tastes evolve, I’ve learned the production skills associated with each genre, while taking what I did in the past with me into each project. This includes influences of my early days of playing rock and classical music. – Neil Nines
I think a lot of my influence comes from the G.O.A.T., Tiesto, and many others from the golden age of electronic music while attending my first festival. Artists like Above and Beyond, Armin van Buuren, Avicii, and Alesso come to mind. Their melodies just grabbed me and I was really feeling the music at that time. Some of those songs still just take me to a happy place. Growing up I loved Moby, The Crystal Method, and Paul Oakenfold. I think they all have had an integral influence on my sound. – Heath Allen
I had so many significant musical influences growing up. As a little girl, I would sit and study any CD’s I had access to – so it was anything from the Showboat Musical Soundtrack, to Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child to Shania Twain. I think that’s what contributes to my versatility as a songwriter. I’ve always had a special connection with RnB and Pop music, but I hated the idea of being put into a “box”. So as my career evolved and I got opportunities in the Dance world, I really started to fall in love with how much of a crossover there was within the genre. It felt really limitless and uninhibited, which is so fun as a songwriter and vocalist. – Aleesia
Impacted by the vibrant musical culture of Neil’s hometown Baltimore, and with Heath touring in clubs around Washington D.C., we would like to know of any similarities and differences that you both noticed when working together, as well as how your own experiences and knowledge was passed on to each other, if that was indeed the case?
I’d say one of the biggest differences in our influences has more to do with Heath’s experience at festivals, opening shows in Las Vegas, and going to bigger room shows in DC, whereas I was more influenced by a more small room New York club scene via my older cousin and underground Baltimore scene i.e. the legendary club 1722. I actually attended EDC Las Vegas a few years ago for the first time with the influence of Heath, who was actually quite shocked that I never attended one of the major festivals. It really opened my eyes to the festival sound, that level of production, and being surrounded by so many ravers of all influences coming together in such a beautiful way. In the studio this often results with me driving more of a commercial, chill, radio friendly record with Heath pushing for a harder, more club friendly sound. The compromises here get us to a nice in between spot for our collaborations. – Neil Nines
While I grew up in Baltimore, I now spend a lot more time in DC and have first hand witnessed the scene grow exponentially here while Baltimore remains more of a predominantly hip hop / top 40 open format scene. Neil has a classical musical background and can play so many instruments. He’s definitely helped me get some of the ideas that I have going around in my head out and into the DAW for whatever record we are working on at the time. Also like Neil said I think about how i want a song to fit in a DJ set and with that comes a compromise that’s been working well. – Heath Allen
Having just released your collaboration, ‘Heat Of Your Wave,’ we would like to know the main thought process behind its production, the overall message it has set out to portray, as well as the overall feel of working with one and another?
When I receive a track that I’m going to write on, I always try to focus on how the music makes me feel first. Then I ask if there is any specific direction or inspiration conceptually that the Producer wants created. Luckily, in this case we were all very aligned. The track was dramatic, melodic, dreamy and uplifting – so we wanted to set that tone through the lyrics as well. It tells the story of an all-consuming love, where you’re completely wrapped up in someone else’s energy. I think my favourite part about the song as a whole is its warmth; it’s all-enveloping while still being fun and feel-good. – Aleesia
When Heath and I started working together in his home studio during the pandemic, we started out with a few sketches but quickly felt stuck without strong vocals to draw from and really become the emotional backbone of the records. We were both drawn to a more ethereal trance sound with the first sketch, found Aleesia online, and were enamored by her very unique vocal style. The vocal for Heat of Your Wave then sent us on this long journey to bring the track to life and really convey the vibe and message that she describes perfectly in a way that fits more with current industry trends. – Neil Nines
We had this incredible vocal and general idea of what the track could be, but just weren’t 100 percent sold on the first instrumental. At one point we actually paused the production in favor of finishing some other tracks. As a result of our growth as producers, changing tastes, and the changing landscape, we came back to it with some fresh ideas which ultimately resulted in more of a modern sound that was true to the theme while still having the energy that I wanted in the track. – Heath Allen
Beginning the track’s production at the start of the pandemic, could you give us further insight on the challenges faced along the way, and how the long journey and process behind its creation ended up impacting the final product?
I think sometimes the best tracks really do have a long production history and journey. “Heat Of Your Wave” is definitely one of those tracks. It evolved in so many respects throughout the writing process. I’ve said it before, I just love when Producers can take a vocal performance and be inspired to elevate the track accordingly. The initial track idea was already so good – but Neil and Heath really took the song to another level after I sent them the vocal parts, and I’m so thankful for that. It’s a testament to their talent and vision as Producers for sure. – Aleesia
Part of what took so long was that we had perhaps taken on too many projects and we ran into the common curse that so many producers struggle with in finishing tracks and letting them go. There was also a third member of the initial production team that had left, which kind of led more to the idea of completely changing the instrumental. Then there are all of the mixing/mastering challenges and changes to our process that really drew things out. – Neil Nines
Part of it too as I recall was we had just lost a lot of momentum, life started picking up again as things opened up again, and with all the mixing/mastering challenges and reliance on other people’s timelines, there were several periods of feeling stuck. At these points I sometimes wondered if we would ever get to where we wanted to with our records, this one included. Luckily we stuck with it and it paid off. – Heath Allen
Besides the message omitted through the track itself, we would like to know of how the music video came to life, and how imagery and lyrics have helped in creating a wider understanding around this certified hit?
Heath and Aleesia trusted me to take full reins on working with the video assets as this is somewhat of passion of mine. The imagery of the waves immediately got me thinking about surfing and movies/shows about the essence of a place like California. Point Break is one that comes to mind. I had asked a graphic designer I work with to come up with a simple lyric video centered around this surfing/beach vibe, and it was a really nice way to introduce the track as summer began. Soon after the song’s release, I got connected to music video maker Lorenzo Calandro aka KLOR through a mutual DJ friend who had worked with him. I was actually considering Lorenzo for another track but he really loved “Heat of Your Wave” and practically insisted on working on it haha. I was stoked about his passion for the record and I’m really glad we went with him. The result is something that really leaned into more of the mysteriousness, sexiness, moodiness, and futuristic aspects of the record, quite a contrast to the vibes of the lyric video. It has gotten some incredible reaction on social media and beyond. – Neil Nines
With collaborations far from few in the dance scene, Neil and Heath have worked multiple times with one and another. We would like to know how your musical chemistry has evolved with each endeavor, as well as both your thoughts on the significance around sharing ideas and thoughts during the creative process of a track that is in the works?
During the pandemic Heath and I lived very close to each other (in the Baltimore suburbs at the time). We had really spent so much time together evolving our sound and production skills and didn’t see a ton of other people given the circumstances of Covid. Each track, each challenge as we discussed, led to a learning curve that just kept going. There were a lot of growing pains at first when we got stuck and ran into these continuous challenges, and tracks weren’t being finished. Now though, we have a lot more confidence. As far as working together in the studio, I think we are very open minded to each other’s ideas, even if for example, I might have some resistance at first to something that might change a vibe I’m in the midst of. Heath has this mantra of “yeah might as well try it”, which I love, and that has really worked well for us to take some of our tracks to the next level. – Neil Nines
As DJs I think we both have a really good ear, we have similar tastes, and a high level of expectations on what our tracks should sound like. Over time, it seems like we are more on the same page and have more confidence like Neil said. I think we are both pretty easy going people too, so there is not much ego, even when we disagree we can work through it pretty easily by talking it out, trial and error, or checking a reference track to guide us, for example. – Heath Allen
Mixing and mastering your own records, could you give us a further insight on how and why this decision came to be, as well as the impact that it has had on you guys as artists within the dance scene?
As we alluded to earlier perhaps the biggest challenge we faced was in the mixing/mastering stages. Perhaps early on we had had too high expectations on what an engineer could do with the early versions of our records. We had tried out several engineers and realized a couple very important lessons. For one, even the best sound engineer in the world can’t make a mediocre composition sound amazing. If anything, the mixes we got back would just expose what is missing or lacking in our early productions. This gave us a lot of challenges because once we realized this we often wanted to change or add things after the fact, which made things super complicated logistically in having to go back and forth with file exchanges and edit requests. We also honestly had one particularly bad experience from a professionalism standpoint that really set us back. These challenges were a blessing in disguise as it kind of forced our hand to dedicate our time, energy, and resources to get better at these technical skills and try to do it on our own. The impact has been huge for our confidence as producers in knowing we can take it all the way. This has made us make better compositional choices as well earlier in the process. I do want to be clear that I have tremendous respect for the vast majority of mixing and mastering professionals, and have actually recently have had a lot of success doing feedback sessions where a professional engineer will give me mix and master advice live online that I’ll tweak on the spot. This has been a great solution where I can lean into the experience and ear of a dedicated sound professional, but still be able to have the control I like and move forward on my own. – Neil Nines
Like Neil said, it feels good to be able to do it ourselves, and take the mystery out, and have more control. We were also hoping to develop a close enough relationship with an engineer that could give us feedback earlier on in the process and just never found the right relationship. We would still love to work with other engineers in the future but for now, doing it ourselves seems to be working for us. Each record seems to be better than the last from this perspective too. Also, it’s nice to be able to reallocate the budget that would go to an engineer towards other things like marketing and more plugins haha. The mixing part of the process has actually now become kind of fun too, and something I’ve personally embraced as my background seems to suit it. – Heath Allen
Taking inspiration from the golden age of trance and electronic music, we would like to know your approach towards music production in this day and age, and how significant modernisation has become when looking to produce tracks that will resonate with all spectrums of our industry?
Heath and I both share this love for what the symphonic, ethereal, and emotion driven elements that trance and some golden age EDM records bring to the table. What’s exciting to me now is the recent rise in popularity of Melodic House and Techno. It pulled in a lot of what I love about trance, house, and techno together in a fresh way with artists like Tale of Us and Vintage Culture currently being huge inspirations for me. While modernisation has definitely increased production quality and polish that keeps setting the bar higher, there is still something about older records, their rawness, their significance, and the quality of the songwriting that keeps those tracks alive and relevant. I believe now if one can consistently combine both great songwriting and great production quality, you’ll stand out amongst the crazy amount of tracks that are released every day. As much as electronic genres provide a level of energy, hype, and danceability that let’s say classic rock records don’t have, there is something in the songwriting, essence, and performance of those types of records that is lacking in the electronic space. The idea of combining these two worlds in a new way inspires me in a big way. – Neil Nines
I’ve also been really inspired by Melodic Techno. I actually saw Tale of Us at Coachella and they absolutely blew the minds of everyone there, which says a lot because it is such a mainstream music festival. Also, I’ve been loving the Future Rave genre brought to life by David Guetta and Morten. They seem to have also thrown back to the ethereal, lush vocals and instrumentation of trance with modern production techniques and tools. – Heath Allen
I think I go through seasons, stylistically with my music creation. Like I said, entering the Dance world happened super organically for me, when I collaborated with DVBBS on one of my writing trips to LA and we wrote “Gold Skies”. Ever since then, I never really left. But because my musical palette is so diverse, personally, I try not to overly focus on what “genre” we are creating. I think as music creators and people, we should respect history, but challenge it always; evolve, elevate and create based on a feeling. That’s what I try to do through any song I’m a part of – tell a story, and evoke a feeling. That’s what any genre of music is about at the end of the day, in my opinion. – Aleesia
Leaving your own marks with this latest release, could you give us an insight on what the future holds for Neil, Heath and Aleesia on both an individual and of course collective level?
At the time of this article, Heath and I would have recently put out our next single, “The Same.” This new song has had a very similar journey as “Heat of Your Wave”, shares a similar vibe, and we are incredibly proud of it. For me individually, I’m currently in Berlin, experiencing the scene and working on an individual EP. I’m super pumped to do something that is more conceptual, and based on the depth and zeitgeist of Berlin through my own lens as someone brand new to it. Heath and I also have at least another record or two we are committing to working on later this year. As far as working with Aleesia again, I certainly hope that happens at some point as she has been absolutely incredible to work with. Obviously her vocal talent and songwriting are world class but I want to point out just how engaged she has been with us around the release and beyond. I know realistically given all of our different priorities it might be awhile, but fingers crossed that we will work together again sooner than later! – Neil Nines
Neil and I recently got a chance to perform together at NOTO in Philadelphia as direct support for Arty and Morgan Page. It felt great DJing a show again and I’m looking forward to playing more shows hopefully soon. As Neil said we have a few tracks to get back to later this year. I’ve also got to say that Aleesia is absolutely amazing and also hoping we can get this particular band back together sometime. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to working on some remixes I started and enjoying a bit of chill time this summer golfing and hanging out with my friends and girlfriend. – Heath Allen
As a team, I [humbly] think we nailed it with this one! Our synergy was next-level throughout the creative process and I’m super happy with how the song turned out. It’s even more gratifying to see people enjoying it! I think there could be more collaborations in the future between us for sure, so you’ll have to keep an eye out. For me personally, I need a little bit of everything to keep me stimulated as a creative. I try to keep it fresh and challenging for myself so that I find renewed excitement in my everyday writing process. So I will be writing and releasing all kinds of music from Dance, Electronic, K-POP to a good ballad every once in a while. So please keep following along! – Aleesia
Remarkable in every sense of the word, we will be keeping a close eye on each set of artists and all their future endeavours within the dance scene, but for the time being, make sure to stay fully up to date with each by following them on their social media accounts, and at the same time, don’t forget to stream ‘Heat Of Your Wave’ through all major platforms here. Enjoy!
Image Credit: Press / Provided by Artists