Mike Einziger Talks Jamming With Justin Bieber at the Grammys, New Incubus Album & More
Pulling double or triple duty is nothing new for Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger. In addition to his membership in the multi-platinum Los Angeles band -- which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year -- Einziger has become a hot commodity in the dance world, first appearing on the Avicii crossover hit "Wake Me Up" and later David Guetta's "Lovers in the Sun." Monday night at the Grammys, Einziger's dance pedigree was proven again as he joined Skrillex, Diplo and Justin Bieber for their performance of the Grammy-winning "Where Are U Now."
The guitarist has also branched out into the film and scoring world, joining friend and composer Hans Zimmer for an eight-week tour of Europe this spring. Incubus need not worry, though -- as Einziger told Billboard on the Grammy red carpet -- he and lead vocalist Brandon Boyd are having a blast working on new material while rediscovering their decades-long friendship.
Read on for more of Billboard's chat with Einziger.
How did you get involved with the "Where Are U Now" performance?
Sonny [Skrillex] contacted me and asked. This was a big deal for them. It was Justin's first performance on the Grammys, so they just asked me if I would do something special.
Had you met Justin before?
That was the first time. I'd spent a lot of time working on the arrangement with Sonny and Diplo, then we went into rehearsals and things kept changing. Sonny's a great guitarist, so he was playing guitar. I brought a keyboard and some big drums and Diplo was like, "I want to do that, it looks like fun." We had two drum sets, so we brought in Jon Theodore [of Queens of the Stone Age], who is one of my favorite drummers. Then my wife, Ann Marie [Calhoun], is a great violinist, so we worked all this up, then Justin came in.
What was it like for you to work with a pop star of his stature?
I was really nervous. I didn't know Justin or how he would react to the song. But he was very nice and gracious and said, thank you before he even heard the song. Justin started singing and right off the bat it sounded awesome. Then after we finished a run-through, he looked at me and said, "This is awesome, thanks for doing this." We felt like a band.
Would you ever take this group on the road?
[Laughs] That might be difficult logistically with schedules but you never know. Stranger things have happened. The live version is available now on SoundCloud.
Speaking of schedules, how is the Incubus album coming?
We haven't been recording so much as writing. We had a whole bunch of music put together and then we kind of pushed it to the side and said, "Let's just go in a different direction and try new things." So we're in this great place where we're feeling really creative and have a lot of new material. Whatever the album ends up being, it will be great because we have so many songs to work with.
Is there a timeline for when the music will come out?
The idea was to put something out before this summer and tour this summer but we didn't want to force it. We really wanted to take our time and make the best music that we possibly could. We just didn't want to repeat ourselves and get trapped in sort of a formulaic delivery system, which is easy to [fall into], especially when you've been doing this as long as we have. So we've just been exploring all kinds of different musical avenues. It's been really enlightening and fun.
Do you have a secret for avoiding that formula?
Lately Brandon [Boyd] and I have been spending a lot of time reconnecting as friends. We're around each other all the time, but there's always a lot happening. So he and I have been hanging out five days a week for the last few months alone, just the two of us. It's been really cool.
Tell us about your work with Hans Zimmer.
I'm going on an eight-week tour of Europe with Hans in April and May. I'm helping do his first tour ever with his film music. He's done other festivals and things like that but it's a life-long dream of his and I'm honored to be able to help him realize his dream because he's helped me realize mine: to score movies. He's a really good friend and a mentor.
Is there one movie he's done music for that you're most excited to play live?
I love the score from Interstellar, it's just so ethereal and beautiful. I'm also a little biased, we recorded pieces of that score at my house. I love Inception, but the list of movies he's scored is ridiculous, he's done so much. And there are bits and pieces of his score that are just so brilliant that I didn't even notice in the film. None of the imagery from any of the films is part of his show, it's just the music with totally different imagery and visuals. So it's a really different perspective on his music.
Does the way your music styles intersect teach you both things?
We learn from each other. I would definitely say that I've learned more from him than he learns from me at this point, but we influence each other and we inspire each other. Hans is the most collaborative musician I've ever worked with. He just loves to be in a room with a bunch of people who think differently than he does, which is kind of rare.
Sonny also seems like that.
Sonny is very, very collaborative. I actually put Hans and Sonny together about a year and half ago. We all got together and spent the night making weird noises in Hans' studio, we were just playing around. It was when we were working on Spider-Man actually. But Sonny is such a wizard with sounds and he'd already done film work. I just thought that introducing them would be great. They haven't done anything together yet formally, but I'm sure it'll happen at the right time.
Does it ever feel surreal when you are all hanging out?
I know those guys really well now. They're both my friends, so it's normal, but every once in a while I have to step back and go, "Wow, I'm hanging around with two of the most talented people in the world." It's a privilege. Sonny is such a savant, he really is.
Do all of these different collaborations keep you refreshed for Incubus?
That's what it does. Being able to step into these multiple musical universes, it keeps things interesting, for sure.