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Music, Etc.: M.A.G.S. Moves Forward

Elliott Douglas, aka M.A.G.S., talks pros and cons of self-recording, the genesis of his name and where his influences take him.

Elliott Douglas, better known to fans as M.A.G.S.
Elliott Douglas, better known to fans as M.A.G.S.

Elliott Douglas, better known to fans as M.A.G.S., made quite a splash with his early releases, picking up song placements on Showtime’s Shameless, CW’s The Flash and MTV’s Teen Mom 2. A native of Buffalo, NY, he relocated to Los Angeles in 2018 and is currently working on his second full-length album.

Growing up, Douglas played drums in a lot of bands, played lead guitar in a few bands and, with The Malones, his last band before going solo, he played bass. Along the way he taught himself the rudiments of recording and has self-produced everything he has released.

Those releases—2015’s Cellophane EP, 2017’s self-titled debut album and 2020’s Lost Tapes, recorded in 2018—showcase his diversity, from punky garage to folk-rock and everything between. His new album, set for release in spring 2021, promises another shift in genres.

On Learning to Record:

My cousin gave me a demo of the first version of Adobe Audition and a Radio Shack mic that would plug into the PC. That was my introduction to multitracking. I probably started taking it seriously when I was about 16. I got a Roland VS880 digital workstation. I was in a band and the guitarist picked one up; he said, ‘Here’s the manual, figure it out.’ It was my responsibility to learn how to record for us. That machine was way more involved than Pro Tools.

My setup now is simple—a Universal Audio Apollo Twin and a MacBook. I’ve got my guitar amp and a few guitars and a little MIDI keyboard. I haven’t been in a controlled mixing environment since I moved to L.A., so I’ve been doing a lot of stuff on headphones.

I have gone to a few studios to work on this album, and I’ve had mixed experiences. I realized that I like to have the time and the flexibility to work on things at my own pace. It’s very challenging sometimes to know that you’re paying for the time to figure out how to tune a drum. That’s an hour that I could have pushed record and just tracked the song.

On Becoming M.A.G.S.:

Back in 2014 was when I started writing by myself. Doing my own music was something I had been wanting to do for a long time. I used to sing a lot when I was a kid. My dad was the worship pastor at my old church, and he encouraged me to sing, but I was too self-conscious at the time. That was the start of it, getting past that feeling of self-consciousness.

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On Singles Vs. Albums:

The interesting thing is that my fans expect an album. I do like doing singles, just to keep people’s attention. And I do like to put out five or six songs as an EP, something impactful. But generally, I want to show a body of work. I feel like I have a lot to say, and the only way to do that sometimes is through a whole sequence of music that you can take in all at once.

On the New Album:

With this next album, I’ve allowed myself a little more freedom in terms of the genres that I’m covering. I was raised on a lot of indie rock, American bands that were trying to sound British and British bands that were trying to sound American. Some of my previous music has been influenced by what I was listening to at the time. I think my first album was very much influenced by the Strokes and older Arctic Monkeys. In the last few years, I’ve really gotten into hip-hop and a lot of soul music, like older Motown. I grew up listening to a lot of that, so I feel like now is finally the time when I can interweave those things into what I’m doing.

I started the album in June and did all the drums and guitars at my friend’s studio. I then took it back to my place and started doing the bass and vocals and extra production stuff. I’ll take it back to my friend’s studio to mix it.

We just put out a single, “Smile,” but I’m already thinking about the next song.