I think that ANR songs — not always, but for the most part — have always been a little more epic and a little bit more melodramatic, so that's a pretty good indicator. If a song has a bunch of different sections and stuff like that, it's obviously gonna go in the pile with ANR. Whereas if the song is more about a combination of beats, it's more for me solo. ANR is more about songs, and when I do stuff by myself, it's more about grooves and making tracks.

What's your writing setup like for the solo stuff? Do you start on the computer?

I write on the computer, and I pretty much start by programming a beat. Then I get it to the point where there's enough going on so I can sing over it, and then I'll just sing, freestyling nonsense words and stuff like that on top of the track. I usually do that a few times and then listen back to it, but probably not in the same sitting. And then I try to figure out what I was singing, what that could kind of sound like lyrically.

John Hancock (center) breaks away from ANR for a new solo album.
Peter Richardson
John Hancock (center) breaks away from ANR for a new solo album.

That's a very pro-songwriter method.

It's easier that way, and I think there's something to be said for the unconscious drive of the creative mind, when you're not worrying about "What am I trying to communicate?" and you're just singing into a microphone without thinking. A lot of times I'll listen back and think, Oh, there are two full sentences. I was saying something, and I didn't even realize I was trying to say it. It's a fun little adventure.

This is a cliche question, but how did your influences for this solo album differ from the influences on Awesome New Republic? You have a song called "Nurse With Womb." I'm guessing that's a nod to the band Nurse With Wound.

[Laughs.] Yeah, it was totally related to Nurse With Wound, the band, although not really musically or anything like that. I just saw a painting of a nurse, and just started thinking about a pregnant nurse, and thought of the band name.

But for the album, the things that were the most influential on the record were Parliament Funkadelic, particularly The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, and The Electric Spanking of War Babies. I actually wrote some of the lyrics for the album along to some of those records, just listening to that. And then basically whatever I hear emanating out of the little CD stores and botanicas around the neighborhood, and any records I have of Haitian vodou and Cuban Santeria folk recordings. I was listening to a lot of that when I was making it, as far as the rhythms go. And then Prince, always.

You recently played the material live with a full band. Do you have plans to do that more often?

Yeah, I wasn't really sure if I'd be able to do it more. I had to kind of gauge it on the enthusiasm of the players involved, but after the show, they were all coming up to me kind of demanding to do it again, saying they didn't learn all that music for one night, and they're all stoked to do it more in the future. So probably sometime around August we'll be able to start playing again here and there. I'd love to do it again and kind of focus a little more on the details, rather than throwing the whole thing together.

So between this project and Awesome New Republic, what's next for you?

Like I said, I think I'll probably be trying to put together more of these big shows with the full band for John Hancock later in the summer, like August. And then ANR, we are trying to finish tracking and mixing our new album by the end of this month so it can come out in October. We're pretty much just holed up doing that for now, but we'll be playing out as soon as we know that it's done.

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