Los Angeles songwriter and producer Michael Collins has a penchant for including drug puns in band names. In the past he’s gained recognition releasing albums as Run DMT and Salvia Plath, and he returns this month with his debut effort under the Drugdealer moniker, The End of Comedy. While the new name carries on the druggy theme, it also has descriptive relevance. Collins is the brains behind the project, but The End of Comedy features significant input from a number of other personnel, including Ariel Pink, Weyes Blood and members of Sheer Agony and Mr Twin Sister.
“I think the main thing here is that in my solo music endeavours I was completely focused on the singularity of my ideas. Meanwhile, during those times, every other part of my life has always taken on a very collaborative and communal structure in general,” Collins says. “There’s certain peers of mine who I really look up to and have always inspired me and I’ve been insanely lucky to work with them closely on this project. In turn I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that the most obvious music path in my future is one rooted more in community than ever before.”
The most well known guest is undoubtedly Ariel Pink, but plenty of listeners will be familiar with Weyes Blood and Mr. Twin Sister, and there’s also contributions from members of Holy Shit!, Mild High Club, and Mac DeMarco’s band. Collins was already friends with the majority of guests, which meant the collaborative process was far from arduous.
“Other than Ariel, I’ve known all of those people intimately prior to them becoming household names in the independent music conversation. So it genuinely was never any intention to involve anyone except the people who I’ve been working alongside of for years and years,” he says.
Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering takes the lead vocal on the album’s lead single, ‘Suddenly’, as well as its title track. Collins’ relationship with Mering stretches back several years. “[She] was my roommate around five years ago in Baltimore in this old spooky house that was essentially one step away from a squat,” he says. “Every day there I would hear her working on her gorgeous haunting songscapes literally coming down from the attic where she lived. Our whole time being friends I think we’ve gotten closer and closer and it’s safe to say that she’s really responsible for a lot of what I’ve been writing now.
“I wrote piano progressions thinking of her and missing her while I lived in Oakland. I tried to imagine what I would really want to hear as true fusion of what I was looking for and melodic sensibilities that she could dig. That’s a kind of collaboration that works really well for me, because it’s born out of the love and admiration for the collaborator that inspires me to even go there.”
Unsurprisingly, Pink proved to be an exciting creative foil, much to the delight of an admiring Collins. “It goes without saying that becoming friends with him and being able to write stuff together is one of the greatest joys and excitements I’ve ever felt,” Collins says. “His ideas are endless and in him I found someone who I could relate to as an obsessively curious songwriter.
“I was kind of floating for a bit in LA and we started hanging out and I was staying at his house. I was just working on some ideas and he started shaping and adding to them. That’s how we wrote the song ‘Easy to Forget’ that he sings, just a natural flow of things coming together at his place.”
The album credits are rather extensive, but Collins emphasises the significance of each individual’s contribution. “The other collaborators, Jackson Macintosh from Sheer Agony, Danny James, Izak Arida from The Memories, Benjamin Brown from Holy Shit, Joe McMurray from Mac DeMarco and many other players were part of a family vibe in making this one,” he says. “Everyone was truly important in a real way, adding a distinct flavour to a pretty varied mix of sonic vibes.”
To mix and finalise the album, Collins hooked up with Australian musician and producer Shags Chamberlain. Chamberlain’s in-studio perfectionism was another key element in making the album what it is. “The recording process was easy – I like to just get things down and keep the content rolling. That’s my modus operandi. Then when I was finished with that, my odyssey with Shags began. He’s a brilliant mixer, but more than that he’s just a massive architect. He hears things that still to this day I will never hear and either brings them out or deletes them. I usually just rush through everything, so I learned a lot from him in terms of really looking at things in detail. My artistic process is loose and spontaneous and his is quite the opposite. I like learning from people like him who are almost psychotic in their pursuit for order.”
The End of Comedy is out now via Weird World/ Domino Records. For more details, head to drugdealerband.bandcamp.com.