Q&A: Incubus’ Mike Einziger Talks Work With Avicii , Nile Rodgers And A Justin Timberlake Wish

Known as one of the most talented guitar players and composers in his time, Mike Einziger’s claim to fame first came with the work he did with alternative rock band Incubus in the 1990s. Since then, he has been an important component in today’s music industry, working independently with the likes of Nile Rogers, Avicii (he’s on the Swedish superstar’s album, True) and many of today’s up-and-coming artists. Read VIBE’s exclusive interview with Einziger to get an insider’s look into his contributions for “Wake Me Up,” his studies on Quantum Physics and why he’s still waiting for JT’s call.

VIBE: What was it like to work with Avicii on the current chart-topping track “Wake Me Up?” What was the mission/theme in writing that song?
Mike Einziger: Writing with Avicii was really refreshing, since I’d never worked with anyone in his musical sphere. He was really open-minded and had strong ideas about what he liked, and what he didn’t. When we started discussing our musical ideas it became obvious early on that we would get along really well because we had similar philosophies regarding the creation of music, even though we come from totally different musical backgrounds. Our only agenda in writing ‘Wake Me Up’ was to write something timeless, something that would speak clearly to a global audience without any pretensions…. and I think we accomplished that. Working with Aloe Blacc was amazing as well; we all had such a simple chemistry together. The song fell out of us in such an effortless way.

What are your thoughts on its rapid success?
I couldn’t be happier with how the whole world embraced the song. In all my years as a songwriter I’ve never experienced anything like this before. It’s so gratifying to have written a song that speaks so clearly to such a wide audience.

Is there an artist out there that you dream of working with? Who and Why?
Justin Timberlake. He approached me many years ago at a party (before the release of Justified) and told me he was a fan of my guitar playing. He even asked for my # and I gave it to him but ‘m still waiting for him to call! Justin is one of the most talented artists of my generation. 

Did you end up working with Nile Rodgers while in the studio?
No, not on the Avicii album. But I have worked with Nile in the past. We worked together on some music for the video game ‘Halo 2′ back in 2004. Working with him was so much fun. I’m so happy for all the success he’s had recently because he’s such a genius, and I really admire the immense diversity of the music he’s produced. He’s a true pioneer in dance music.

How has working in electronic dance music differ from your work in the alternative rock band Incubus?
The two mediums are different in many ways, but as far as songwriting goes there’s really no difference at all. Songs are songs, regardless of how they sound, stylistically. The arrangements need to work and the material needs to translate, or nobody will understand it.

How have you liked working solo versus working as a band?
It’s been really fun seeing what I can do on my own. Nothing could ever replace the experience of being in a band but I’m definitely enjoying doing something different than what I had become accustomed to over all these years of playing with one group of musicians.

You have also taken an interest in both history and philosophy, studying both subjects with Harvard professor Dr. Peter Galison. Do you find these studies have enhanced your music? Your perspective on the world?
I studied History and Philosophy of Science at Harvard with Peter Galison and it was one of the most informative experiences of my life. I have a particular interest in the area of Quantum Physics because its problems cut straight to the heart of some of the deepest mysteries of nature. I stay awake at night thinking about this stuff! Galison and I are currently working on a film together (he’s directing and I’m the composer) about the proliferation and storage of nuclear waste. The film is called “Containment” and it addresses the problem of trying to predict how to keep intelligent life forms away from nuclear waste storage facilities for the next 10,000 years.

Tell us about your future projects with Yuna and Chuck Inglish.
Yuna has a full-length album coming out through Verve Records later this year, on which I produced/co-wrote a song called “I Wanna Go.” Yuna is a super talented singer/songwriter from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia who has worked with some really talented people in the past, including Pharrell.

Chuck Inglish and I started working together on his upcoming new album, Convertibles about six months ago and we’re almost finished with it. It’s hip-hop, but it’s musical in ways that I can really get into. We used a lot of live instrumentation in addition to classic drum machines and synths. The songs also feature Mac Miller, Chromeo, Big Boi, Chance the Rapper, Ab Soul, and others. I’m predicting big things for this album!

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