In Pound For The Sound, we get technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature tones.
Jim Wilcox spent a third of his existence as the drummer of Arizona's own Authority Zero. He toured the world with the punk band and built a career for himself in the music industry.
Though he's since left the punk group, which is still active in 2017, Wilcox's drumming is a crucial element of their 2002 MTV mega-hits such as "One More Minute" and "Over Seasons."
Wilcox's countless hours in the Authority Zero tour van led to an obsession with both electronic music and a digital recording program called Reason. Eventually that obsession turned into something he wanted to do more and more. He recalls coming home from tour and working on tracks, converting a room in his house to a production studio. Wilcox wanted to work with friends on basic tunes and make music that, he says, "would never get heard by anyone."
Flash forward two decades and a lot has changed for the Arizona native. For starters, Wilcox now resides in Colorado. But he maintains strong connections to the Phoenix music scene. With a strong push from a couple of close friends, Wilcox has continued to evolve as a producer, musician, and songwriter.
He now owns and releases records from his label, Unity of Noise Records. He has also worked on some remixes for the now-defunct Love Me Nots, created performing aliases such as Blue Collar Prophet, and most recently released an electronic self-titled eight-song album under the name Lunawolf.
Wilcox talked with New Times via phone and e-mail about the new record, his drums, and what his vision is for the future.
New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
Jim Wilcox: Honestly it might sound weird, but I would have to say my ears. I’ve never really had a “secret weapon” as you put it. I’ve always just simply heard things. Arrangements, synth sounds, drum tones, and honestly I feel fortunate to be able to say that. It’s not an easy thing sometimes, translating what's in your head onto a recording. I work with my sister-in-law Michelle a lot on all of that, we talk about sounds in her head, and even in mine, that I feel we’re always able to achieve, and its always awesome to look back on that.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
Hm, well I’ll always resort back to my drums of course, simply because they were my first love. But over the years of gear collection, Ableton’s Push has been the thing I’ve used the most. It really allowed me to create that one-man band situation I had been looking for in the writing process. From a musician’s stand point, when you're used to being in a band and simply just jamming out ideas and putting together songs on the fly it becomes really difficult to do that when alone in a studio. The looping capabilities of Ableton started me down that path, but Push gave me the instant gratification I was used to finding when jamming in a band. I could do anything and everything I needed to do with one piece of equipment and never have to touch the mouse or keyboard. It is quite amazing.
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
Honestly, no. I bought a new drum set a couple years ago, but that's about it. She’s a beauty though! DW Kit, 24-inch Kick, 10-inch, 12-inch, 16-inch, and 18-inch toms. I call her The Blonde.
You recently released a song with Chan Redfield [of Harper and The Moths) under the moniker of Lunawolf. Even though you two live in separate states, you guys managed to record the track by bouncing files to each other making it a true online studio collaboration. What was your process in building “Invisible?”
So this was really fun. The project started as a simple file sent from Chan to myself stating “Hey I wrote this weird thing on my keyboard and sang to it, but I'm not sure what to do with it and your the only person I know that really does anything with electronic music." Sitting in Colorado not doing much but working on my own stuff, I had a listen and was immediately attracted to the sound. I spent about four hours — right then and there — and sent Chan back this immense production of drums, guitars, bass, more keys etc and was hoping he would be into it. Honestly, I was nervous haha!
He took a listen and texted me [that he was] really stoked on what I had done. Needless to say, Lunawolf was born. From that point, Chan and I started collaborating via the phone on what we wanted to do and then we would send ideas over Dropbox to listen to. As we began to write more music, I started to teach Chan Ableton and the whole one man band situation and he was hooked. This is where Pandora’s box really got opened up. Once he was comfortable, we began to simply send the Ableton files back and forth to each other directly and collaborating became a thing of beauty. We could make adjustments, arrangement changes, sound design work all within the same file to each other without really having to discuss much, unless we didn’t like something. We went back and forth this way for quite a while, throwing out tons of ideas and finally deciding on what is now the eight songs on the record, and we’re very proud of each and every one of them.
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Do you miss Arizona? What has been different about Colorado?
Honestly, I can’t say I miss Arizona as much as I miss my friends. I absolutely love Colorado and all it has to offer me and my career, but my friends are irreplaceable and no matter where I live, i’ll always miss them. Luckily, I live in a rad place and they all love to visit, and I still visit them from time to time as well.
Denver has been nothing but inspiring to me. The music scene in here is absolutely thriving and at every turn, I can get knee deep into any style of music I feel like at that moment. My lady and I found a split level house to rent and I converted the downstairs into a small studio with a tracking and control room that has suited me quite well over the last few years allowing me to continue to perfect all that I want to be involved with in music production. I’ve even have a new punk rock band here (we have no name yet) that is working on a record as we speak. I’m sure we’ll come up with a name by the time the record is done, I hope.
You were saying you had big intentions for a new studio and Lunawolf. Can you share some of the vision with our readers?
Yes!, So Melissa and I are working on purchasing a house in the mountains right now and it's a little premature to say, but if it works out, I’ll have about 2,000 square feet of space with high vaulted ceilings to build a full recording studio in and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve wanted nothing more over the years than an amazing drum tracking room and this place will be perfect so fingers crossed!! As far as Lunawolf goes, Chan and I have already been working on some simple ideas for the next Lunawolf album. I’ve also said we should definitely try to get together on this one and see what happens when we work in the same room. He and I work so well together and have such similar views on song writing that it would really be awesome to spend a couple weeks locked down in my studio just jamming ideas out. I really feel the future is bright on that front and I’m very excited to see where it goes.
Correction: A previous version of this article indicated that the songs "One More Minute" and "Over Seasons" were released in the 1990s. They came out in 2002.