Incubus front man Mike Einziger has recently collaborated with Hollywood’s hottest film score composer Danny Elfman on an unusual new project.
Rhiannon Buck: What was the first instrument you learnt to play?
Mike Einziger: I studied the piano briefly as a child. But I learnt to play what I heard; I never studied classical music at all.
RB: And what do you play now?
ME: Piano, drums, percussion. I’m proficient but I’m not great at any of them.
RB: When did you realise you would have to take a break from the guitar?
ME: Well, I was injured recently and had to have surgery on my left wrist. I couldn’t play guitar for a few months – I had a two-month recovery period – so there was no choice. It was worrying, I had no idea what would happen. I’ve played guitar every day since I was 12, so it was a nerve-racking time.
I can play the piano with one hand, which is kind of a good thing – it forced me to be more creative. The injury actually enabled me to start this new work, because previously I wouldn’t have had the time or motivation to write the kind of music I am now. I’ve always wanted to write a concert piece and so I jumped on this opportunity. I’ve been playing music in a van for a very long time; it feels good to be doing something different.
RB: What inspired the symphony End.>vacuum?
ME: It’s hard, I don’t even know to be honest… I guess the same things that inspire me to write anything were forces in this symphony.
RB: How did you meet Danny Elfman?
ME: Danny came to see us perform. We met after the concert; we talked and remained friends. Over the years he’s been an inspiring figure for me.
RB: Do you think you’ll go back to Incubus?
ME: Oh definitely, playing with Incubus is the best experience of my life. We’ve been so fortunate, but it’s also important to explore other avenues of creativity. Everybody else in the band has artistic pursuits: Brandon [vocals] is going to study art, Ben our bass player is going to continue to make records at home and Jose [drums] has recently become a father, so now is a perfect time for us to take a break. We’ll resume next year and start a new album. This time is just going to make the reforming experience better.
RB: Will you go on tour with the End.>vacuum?
ME: It’s a great idea but it’s really expensive to go on tour, so I don’t know if it will happen. I guess if I make it through the first tour, I’ll see where it goes. I loved being in Europe, especially in the summer. Australia was amazing; Sydney was great. South America was fantastic too – Buenos Aires, Rio… It was an incredible experience to go there and play.
RB: And you’ve enrolled at Harvard…
ME: Yes, I’m starting university in the Fall, which is a huge thing for me. I’m moving to Massachusetts; it’s going to be freezing. The weather is brutal, but I’m not going for the weather. I love Boston and this is all about pushing my limits of what I can handle, my intellectual stamina. I’m studying music theory and composition, and hopefully physics and astronomy. Science is a driving force for me, my inspiration for everything. That’s where I got the name for the symphony from. I’ve done a lot of reading around the subject. It’s really interesting, it goes above a lot of people’s heads.
RB: Is there any surf in Massachusetts?
ME: Not that I know of. I live in Malibu and I’ve been surfing since I was a little kid, but I haven’t been for a while. Now that it’s summer and I’m home I’ll be getting some time in the water before I go off to Harvard in the Fall.
RB: Does surfing help you with the musical process?
ME: Yes, there’s something really amazing about being in the water. It’s relaxing and surreal. When I’m in the water I hear rhythmic patterns and different song ideas play out in my head while I’m paddling around. I usually keep them in my head then go into the studio and start playing. Once they get in my head, it’s just like shaking a bottle and then opening it up.
RB: Do you surf on your own?
ME: I much prefer to surf by myself; if I have the choice I’ll go on my own. I just don’t like dealing with other people. Sure, I’ll go with friends, but I prefer my own company. I don’t like having to fight crowds for waves.
RB: Do you have a preferred break?
ME: Tavarua in Fiji – no crowds, it’s a small group and I’m always with friends there. But back home Malibu is great, it’s crowded but you can find other spots like Point Dume; I love surfing in all those spots. Unfortunately I’ve been on the road so much it’s hard to stay active. We surf around the world when we get the chance – Portugal, South America, Japan – and it’s really been a great opportunity to travel, make music and surf.
I’m riding a 5’6” Channel Islands pod, a singlefin, and it’s a great board. It’s wide and thick and I love it. The older I get the less I want to ride thrusters.