It's been a long time between drinks for post-grunge alternative pop-rockers Everclear. The band with sole remaining original member at the helm, singer/guitarist Art Alexakis, will release Welcome to the Drama Club in September. Alexakis has become quite accustomed to break-ups over the past few years having first split with his former band mates Craig Montoya and Greg Eklund, then the group's label Capitol Records and finally his third wife. To add salt to the wound, he also declared bankruptcy. With the new album as the platform, Alexakis will be starting fresh with a new band in the form of guitarist Davey French, keyboard player Josh Crawley, bassist Sam Hudson and former Everclear drum tech Brett Snyder. The album features a dozen tracks including Under the Western Stars, A Shameless Use of Charm and the first single, Hater. The accompanying video for the single is sure to stir some controversy via its crude and violent exploits of the clip's fictional 'Hater Jesus' character. As the band readies itself before heading out on a Fall tour, Joe Matera caught up with Art Alexakis to discuss Alexakis' drama filled world of the past few years.
Ultimate-Guitar: What did you try to achieve with the album?
Art Alexakis: It was recorded in the way that you would appreciate albums like The Stones' Exile On Main Street and the like. That was the kind of vibe we tried to achieve and where it was coming from. While it's contemporary enough to work today, at the same time it is definitely a record with lots of organic drum sounds but without any bunch of samples on it. It's not Pro Tooled too death or tuned up like a lot of things are today. It's a real record. And I love it.
If the album's lyrical content is anything to go by, you've certainly weathered some major storms the past few years?
I've lived through a lot of stuff over the past few years. I've been through a divorce, been through a band change with guys going in and out of the band and I also went through a bankruptcy. Because of all of that, a lot of changes in my life were made and which made me really rethink a lot of things and the way I looked at them. Basically from all of that I got really healthy, both emotionally and physically so now I'm in a really good place. And my new band smokes, I love these guys like brothers.
So did making the album prove to be a cathartic experience for you then?
|"I've lived through a lot of stuff over the past few years. Basically from all of that I got really healthy."|
Yes it was, very much so. The whole album is basically the story of a relationship gone wrong with the person in it going through all the different emotions and feelings that you go through upon a break up. And from that, coming out the other side intact and probably better off for it. But it didn't seem that way at the beginning. Hater is probably the angriest song on the record by far, it's basically telling the world to fuck off. And to specific people as well. Hater is to me the ultimate break up song where you're just like 'you know, I just don't want to be with you anymore, you suck'.
The video expands on the subject matter further by taking on a religious theme?
The thing with the video is I wanted to do something that was a little less obvious. It's a very low budget video as its pretty much meant for the internet only so a lot of people worked for free making the video, they did it for fun. I asked the guy who made it to write something that was out there and that would come from a different place, either religious or political and he went with the religious theme. I think he did a great job of the video and it's also probably the video where you see the band the least in any video we've done as it's more of a story telling video.
Was it a laborious process when it came to the song writing?
It was done over a period of time. I was also thinking of putting on the album, when the songs were written so you could get a better view of like the year and so. Like you'll listen to one song and I'm so in love and happy but on the next song, I'm so pissed off. And then on the next song I'm so over it. This is a real autobiographical record and like all autobiographical records, I wouldn't put on a record or publish anything that wasn't universal or that other people could hold on to or relate to. Though they're maybe different views and my own flavour of any universal themes, they are universal themes none the less.
Did you write all the songs on guitar?
|"The whole album is the story of a relationship gone wrong with the person in it."|
I wrote all the songs on guitar. Some songs came from a riff, and some from a melody that I had come up with.
The record sounds like it was a very organic process when it came to the recording process?
Yeah, we basically recorded all the basic tracks in a room together and that is something I haven't done in years. Since we were all in a room together, the bass and drums were recorded at the same time and some of the guitars like about 50% of them as well as 50% of the keyboards were done live in the studio too. And we did the overdubs on the top of that and then recorded vocals on top of those last. Most of the record was recorded over a three or four month period. Then I took a couple months off while someone started mixing it but I wasn't really digging it after about three or four songs in so I pulled everything and took another month off to rethink what I wanted to do. I decided I wanted to make it myself with the guy who recorded it, so we ended up mixing it together on Pro Tools. So though it was recorded very cheaply, I think it sounds pretty great. It goes to prove you don't need to spend half a million dollars on a record.
I agree. If you have songs that are strong, they will always shine through not matter the type of production and whether it's lavish or minimal.
Absolutely, not only the songs though but also having a band and the musicians to pull it off on whatever the song calls for. No one is going to confuse us with a band like Yes, with their level of musicianship but at the same time, that was not what we wanted to do or be like.
You were telling me how you pulled the plug on the songs you had done. It seems to have been a bit of a character trait of yours during the band's existence, is this because you're very hard on yourself as a performer when you have your producer's hat on?
Yes I'm a definitely a control freak when it comes to stuff like that, there is no doubt. I've got a vision and I hear things in my head so I've learned to let it out?Because this was an indie record project, and I wasn't making product on a deadline for a major label, I wanted to make it right so I just took my time. And we had to just get it right so when it was done, it was done. At the end of the day, I can live with me making mistakes, but I can't live with me listening to other people telling me something is okay when it doesn't sound right to me. Not if it's going to bear on my name and Everclear is my name. It is something I built up and worked hard for over the last 15 years.
Let's turn to gear what guitars and amps did you use?
|"Hater is probably the angriest song on the record by far, it's telling the world to fuck off."|
I used a '58 Fender Telecaster, several Gibson Les Pauls and a couple of other vintage guitars that I've got like a Gibson ES-175. I played them mostly through Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifiers and an old Fender Tremolux. I also had my '67 Marshall Plexi which to me sounds awesome. Davey mainly played his '87 ES-335 and a Black Les Paul Custom through a Marshall JCM900.
Have you still got your Les Paul Gold Tops?
Yes I used those Gold Tops on this record but mainly for the bigger and crunchier songs.
Over the years one of your famed methods you used to record your guitars in the studio was to add a miked up Gibson Explorer to the guitar tracks in order to give you more mid range bite. Do you still adhere to this method today?
Yes, but I kind of strayed away from that sound on this record. I don't use the Explorer too much these days, though I might have used it for a couple songs on this record but not too much. Most of the miking on this record was close miking using Shure 57s and 58s as well as a mike set up a little distance away on some songs, just to give the song a bit of phase. When ever I record acoustics, I tend to go direct and if they have nice pickups in them, I also mike them too as I like a lot of string sound.
Who have been your musical influences?
The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Otis Redding, Motown, Stevie Wonder, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Neil Young, Pixies, early REM?really anything that had great guitar based songs and great songwriters. Out of all of them, Neil Young is really important to me because though he isn't a great singer all on his own, not a great guitar player all on his own, he had his own thing and that was what I wanted to emulate. I was never going to be the hottest guitar player in the world and I knew I was never going to be the best singer but I felt like what I did and what I had to say, all put together, would make it worth while.
Everclear were the alternative darlings back in the Nineties yet, as you mentioned earlier, you later declared bankruptcy?
|"Like autobiographical records, I wouldn't publish anything that other people could hold on to or relate to."|
Yes, it was because I let my wife at the time control my money and buying things that I really didn't have the money for, as well as having bad business management and having people afraid to tell me not to spend money. I am pretty smart business wise, but I wasn't using that as I was taking things for granted in my life and thinking that it would never end. I think a lot of that was due to egos. I'm not blaming any one as I did let my ex-wife spend money like it was going out of style but at the same time, I made those choices to let them and to not tell them no.
Over the years Everclear were dogged by comparisons to Nirvana, how do you feel about it today?
I think it was kind of silly. When you go back and listen to our stuff and even stuff off Sparkle and Fade  we sound nothing like them. I remember one occasion when Dave Grohl was asked about whether he thought Everclear sounded like Nirvana. And he answered that Everclear sounded nothing like Nirvana, and that it was the band Bush that sounded like them!
2006 © Joe Matera