It’s taken Nick Valensi a little while to follow in the footsteps of his Strokes bandmates and do something musical away from the group, but this week he releases his debut album with CRX, a new band comprising Richie Follin of Guards, The Dose drummer Ralph Alexander, LA musician Darian Zahedi and The Reflections member Jon Safley. With their debut album ‘New Skin’ due out on October 28, Valensi spoke to NME about finding his place as a frontman, having a helping hand from some famous friends and the future of The Strokes.
Ages ago, you said you wouldn’t do a solo project because you couldn’t imagine working on music without the other Strokes. How have you been finding not working with them so far?
Nick Valensi: “Well, it’s been great. We’re having a lot of fun. I know I said in the past that I wasn’t keen on the side projects and the solo projects, but I got to a point where I changed my mind pretty hard on that cos look at me now. I’m going for it. I think I said that before our fourth album came out so it was a while ago. I was feeling a bit miffed about the solo projects that were coming out. Things are different now and things are going well with The Strokes, and they’re all very supportive of CRX.”
Was it hard to take on the role of singer?
“It took a little bit of time for me to figure out how my voice sounded the most natural and, to be perfectly honest, at first I really hated my own voice. I could barely stand to listen to it and I obviously didn’t want to feel that way so I just woodshedded with the singing and figured out the different ways I could sing and how I could sing in a way that wouldn’t bug me, so it did take a little while. And with the lyrics too, it did take me a little while to get the hang of being a lyricist too.”
Did you ever consider getting anyone else to sing in CRX?
“No. I got to a point where I made the decision to at least try to write lyrics and sing on the songs that I’d written. I did always feel that if it doesn’t work out I don’t have to put it out, but it was something I tried to do because the catalyst behind me wanting to start another band was I got to a point where I was really hungry to get on tour. The thing with The Strokes is we don’t do shows that much anymore and we certainly don’t do a tour the way you would think of a tour. After we recorded our last full-length album ‘Comedown Machine’ and we didn’t go on tour with it at all the bug to want to be in front of audiences playing music hit me really hard. That was when I started writing the first two songs for this project and really putting my intent behind being the singer of those songs for the first time in my life.”
What did Josh Homme bring to ‘New Skin’?
“I’ve never worked with Josh in that kind of capacity where he’s producing a record but there were so many choices that he made that were really instrumental in the final sound of the album. Josh had a really amazing ability to do as much or as little as a particular song needed. I remember one song we were struggling setting up drum sounds at the beginning of this song and he came in in the morning and said ‘I want you guys to listen to this Missy Elliott song over and over again and I’m going to come back in a couple of hours’. We listened to ‘Get Ur Freak On’ 12 times in a row and then we started getting drum sounds. There’s different styles for a producer on a rock record, from being really hands on and really laid-back and Josh was able to do all of them.
You said on Twitter that The Strokes drummer Fab Moretti has been helping out with the record. What was his role?
“Fab is basically my best friend so I couldn’t imagine working on a creative endeavour without at several points in the process of writing, recording and even with the album artwork just checking in with him. I like surrounding myself with people who are more talented and more intelligent than I am. Fab is just one of those people to me. It’s a normal part of the creative process to share what you’re doing with the people closest to you and really that’s Fab’s involvement with the record.”
What’s happening with The Strokes right now?
“The Strokes are alive and well and living in New York City. We are working on music and we want to put music out hopefully next year. If I start saying that now, though, then people just get too excited and then there’s all this hype you’ve got to compete with and that’s not fun. If anything I’d rather just pull a Beyoncé next year and just drop shit.”