Based in Los Angeles, Eddie Cohn does it all: music, podcasts, production, and DJing, as well as playing a smorgasbord of instruments. But mostly, through it all, he focuses on human connection.
The world’s status quo – political bedlam, viruses, and general craziness – turned his attention to music because, as he told LA Voyager, “Music has the power to heal and dramatically shift the energy in a room and it’s always been there for me. A good song can stay with you forever.”
The recent release of his single/music video “Freedom,” the title track of his forthcoming album, delivers feverish rhythmic pulses blended with incantation-like harmonics reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s powerful music, only more percussively visceral, while intimating questions pertinent to our Orwellian/dystopian situation.
The video, directed by Leslie Andrew Ridings, conjures up the surreal, adverse feeling of the movie, District 9, where the fabulous assumed bizarre grotesquery as reality shifted, taking on an oddness today’s world refers to as “the new normal,” which has absolutely no correlation to anything even remotely defined as normal.
XS Noize spoke with Eddie Cohn, trying to find out more about the person behind the music: his songwriting process, his influences, and his concerns about the effects of what’s going on in the world on humankind’s psyche.
What three things can’t you live without?
My two cats and a pool.
How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory there?
Music has always been in the periphery and played a valuable part of my life from a very young age. We had a piano in the house, so I would sit down and play melodies at the age of three. I didn’t know how to read music, but clearly, something about the sound of the piano made me feel some calm or maybe even a spiritual experience. Music relaxes me, and I’m more in tune with myself when I’m playing music, and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember. I moved on to the drums in my teens and the guitar in college, and I think it was when I heard Nirvana for the first time when I felt compelled to sing and write my own songs. Music has been this omnipresent throughout my life. I’m not sure I could live without it. The catharsis created from music has probably been the primary reason I feel the natural inclination to play a musical instrument or write a song.
What’s your favourite song to belt out in the car or the shower?
I think anything on the Superunkown record from Soundgarden. The high notes of “Fell on Black Days” or “Like Suicide.” I can’t come close to hitting those Chris Cornell high notes but I sure as hell like to try.
What singers/musicians influenced you the most?
Grunge played a crucial part in my musical development. Some of the most inspirational singers for me have to be Chris Cornell, Layne Staley, Eddie Vedder, and Kurt Cobain. I admire how they don’t necessarily sound professionally trained, but they have an abundance of energy and raw emotion behind their performance. As I tried to hone my craft and style as a singer, I became more enamoured with Jeff Buckley, Bono, and Thom Yorke, all brilliant singers, nuanced and unique in their own light. I also loved Alex Van Halen when I was a drummer. I try to fuse many percussive elements into my music, and I love the way Peter Gabriel adds tribal percussive elements to his songs.
Which artists are you listening to right now?
I’m not listening to too much music right now since I’m engrossed in my own projects. I’ll throw on Tame Impala or maybe Portishead. Sea Change by Beck and OK Computer are always close by. I’m intrigued by fusing rock and electronic elements, so I also love SBTRKT, Recondite, Dillon Francis and ford.
What is your songwriting process?
It’s quite unpredictable. I used to force the process a bit, but now I let the songs unfold naturally and organically. There isn’t a regimented process per see, and since I write essays, books, record a podcast, DJ, and teach yoga, I don’t feel as much pressure to have to write songs since songwriting is one of many of my creative outlets. But it typically begins with a drum loop I’ve created, then a bass or synth part I’ll create, and then I’ll start humming some melodies and build the song from there. I’ll reach out to a drummer and have them put on some drums or percussion and keep building the track from there. Hopefully, the lyrics are starting to unfold by that point, and I’m close to a finished song.
What was the inspiration for your single/music video “Freedom”?
In the past, I was drawn to write about life and death and the mystery and randomness of life, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to write about the strange look of the world thanks to Covid and the lockdown. I think this is unlike anything I could have ever imagined. I want to think the intentions of politicians and the people running the world are for the betterment of society, but it’s sometimes hard to trust they have our best interests. Do they really know what they’re doing? What’s the psychological and cultural impact of a generation addicted to technology? When you couple that with masks, social distance, and forced lockdowns, what is the effect from all of that? Does anyone have any idea what the ramifications will be from these decisions? Do we get to make our own decisions anymore? A lot here to think about, but I tried to capture some of these themes in the song and video.
What do you want people to take away from the video?
I guess I was trying to capture the world’s dystopian nature right now and produce imagery that may inspire some deeper questions. What’s really going on beneath or behind the curtain of the media and politics. Hopefully, the video will inspire people to take a step back and objectively think about what’s really going on in the world. Is it really the best solution to wear masks, social distance, stay home, force people to take a vaccine and continue to isolate from one another? Is it a surprise that suicide is higher than it’s ever been since the lockdown?
Why do you make music?
I feel like I have no choice. It’s who I am. It’s probably one of the reasons I’m here and breathe. To sing and write songs.
What’s next for you, musically?
I have a new record coming out in the summer, entitled Dystopian Days, so I’m looking forward to releasing the full record. I’ll probably release singles, remixes, and more music videos to promote the record. I have some ambient music I’m planning to release and hopefully some more live stream shows and in-person shows if things go well in 2021. Fingers crossed.