Jake Ingram, a multi-instrumentalist from Birmingham, Alabama, is the author of Always in Danger. Described by the artist as a fusion of shoegaze, techno, ambient, and pop with a dash of metalcore and noise. Always in Danger will probably appeal to fans of HEALTH, Nothing, Queens of the Stone Age, and Dead Weather.
This album defies genre like so many great works before it, and he has no doubt it’ll be considered a great work as well. Check out the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how it all got started?
ALWAYS IN DANGER: Growing up in Birmingham, AL, I always had a pretty wide spread of favorite musical artists and genres that I got really passionate about and wanted to emulate; virtually everything from Paul Simon to Mastodon. As a guitarist, I spent a lot of time trying to form or join different bands over the years, but nothing really stuck for long, and anyway I never quite knew what genre I wanted to stick to, if any. Once the pandemic started, playing music with other folks wasn’t really an option, various other life events had me writing lyrics like crazy, and I needed an outlet more and more. Finally, I decided to just try to program beats and synths myself, layer in some of my guitars and vocals, and just see what would come out of it, if anything. Always in Danger was the result of that, and I haven’t stopped since.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
ALWAYS IN DANGER: Self-taught, pretty much across the board. I do everything for Always in Danger myself, from writing, recording and mixing to the visual design components (except for photography, which my wife helps with). I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13, and writing lyrics, poetry, etc, since college. Nowadays, I’m trying to teach myself drums, beats, and keys. I’m not a drummer or a keyboardist by any means but I’m learning a lot as I go. In the studio I basically just cobble together drum and synth tracks, one note—or snare hit—at a time, and I find that you can learn a surprising amount that way.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘ALWAYS IN DANGER’?
ALWAYS IN DANGER: The band that I fell in love with right before I started Always in Danger was HEALTH. Their fourth album, “Slaves of Fear,” was such a huge creative inspiration to me that I honestly don’t know if my first EP, “Unknown Shores,” would’ve happened without its influence. As far as the biggest influences for my new album, I would also point to Loathe, Deafheaven, Perturbator, and Queens of the Stone Age. Lyrically, I’ve always been really inspired by The National. They’re one of my all-time favorite bands, and I’ve always loved how Berninger writes. The name “Always in Danger” actually came from a National B-side called “You Were a Kindness.” The full line is “everything’s weird and we’re always in danger,” which always struck me, a person living with OCD, as a very succinct encapsulation of the experience of living with anxiety.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
ALWAYS IN DANGER: I blend elements from a lot of different genres. Most of the new album features stuff like big industrial-style drums, heavy alt-rock-style bass riffs, shoegazey vocals, and noisy synths. One of the subtler elements you might hear is a kind of ambient drone texture—that actually comes from an ambient noise instrument I built myself, out of a cigar box. Altogether, I’d describe the overall sound as something like “heavy-experimental-alt-rock.” If you like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, HEALTH, Muse, or Queens of the Stone Age, I’m pretty confident you’ll find something of mine that you like.
5. Creative work in a studio or home environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excites you most, and why?
ALWAYS IN DANGER:
As of now, I’ve really only worked on the Always in Danger stuff alone in my home studio, and it’s a very comfortable kind of excitement when I get going. I can write and play whatever I want, on my own schedule, and listeners can choose to engage on their own or not. It’s obviously more impersonal than playing live, but the pressure’s off. That said, I’m working on getting a sort of “touring” band together so I can hopefully start playing some shows, and that’s a really exciting prospect, but it’s also a much higher-pressure kind of thing.
6. Do you think is it important for fans of your music to understand the real story and message driving each of your songs, or do you think everyone should be free to interpret your songs in their own personal way?
ALWAYS IN DANGER:
I’m always hopeful that listeners will understand what I’m going for, and especially hopeful that my writing will resonate with them. That said, we all view the world in our own way, and I feel like if someone is able to form their own unique attachment to a song based on their own interpretation, then that only adds to the value of that song, so to speak. To me, if it means something to someone, then it just matters that much more.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfillment as the amount of work you are putting into it or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
ALWAYS IN DANGER:
The process of making music and hearing a finished product that I’m happy with is hugely fulfilling for me on its own. I decided a long time ago to make music for myself first, so that even if no one else ever heard it, it would still be something I’m proud of. Everything after that is a bonus in my book. If it gains popularity, great! If it deeply resonates with just a handful of people, even better. I’m not about to measure success by a number of listens or merch sales or whatever—if I can have the same effect on someone that my favorite musicians have on me, to me that’s a huge success.
8. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style?
ALWAYS IN DANGER: I often feel like I learn the most when trying to emulate other artists. I have very little formal training in music or production, so almost every technique I utilize comes from studying what makes other great art successful. Of course, every artist is a product of their influences. As far as the development of my own style, I feel like that’s still taking shape, like it gradually morphs as my skillset grows, and I’m still learning a lot.
9. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
ALWAYS IN DANGER: I tend to write lyrics all the time. Whenever I’m confronted with any intense feeling, I try to channel it into some kind of creative expression. It’s therapeutic for me, especially when dealing with a lot of anxiety or frustration. So I end up keeping a lot of lyrics stored in my notes app. Musically, I really just push myself to try new things or emulate musical techniques that stand out to me, then as soon as I land on something I really like, for instance the bass line to “Loose Ends,” or the opening guitar lick on “Ozymandias,” I build off of it and try to let the possible song take shape. From there, I’ll usually try to pair already-written lyrics to it in a way that matches the song’s tone and meter. In the finishing stages, I let the lyrics and message of the song shape how the rest of the layers fit together. It’s a lot of trial-and-error ultimately. I don’t collaborate much, but I do have some very talented friends that I get feedback from as often as I can, and that’s a huge help.
10. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative, and entertainment?
ALWAYS IN DANGER: To me, the most important aspect of making music is authenticity—staying true to whatever drives you to create. I get excited seeing artists make something that feels passionate, whether they’re aiming for a fun pop song or a deeply personal concept album. My writing comes from places of intense emotion, and oftentimes the feelings of anger or fear which jumpstart that process are the result of political, spiritual, or social frustration, for sure. As a person living with OCD, mental health issues are a constant recurring theme too. I’m hopeful that listeners who live with similar challenges will find some kinship in that; it’s always nice to know you’re not alone in whatever you’re facing.