For Art Alexakis
, charismatic front man and driving force behind the multi-platinum powerhouse Everclear
, there's truly no debate about moving forward musically and staying relevant. Nearly fifteen years since his Portland, Oregon based unit captured the hearts of Gen-Xers and rock fans everywhereand hit #1 on Billboard's Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chartwith Santa Monica
- the happily restless singer/songwriter is gearing up for Everclear's next evolutionary phase by preparing for the songwriting and recording process for the group's next anticipated studio outing.
Alexakis has built a solid career and devoted fan base on heartfelt songs culled from real-life experiences that he's always been open about. His father abandoned the family when Alexakis was a child, leaving his mom to raise five kids in a tough Los Angeles neighborhood. His older brother died from an overdose, and the singer had his own early battles with drugs before cleaning up. He would later chronicle these experiences in his songs, including Heroin Girl
on the Sparkle & Fade
album (platinum in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia) and Father Of Mine
(about his absentee father) on the album So Much For The Afterglow
. And when it comes to the next studio outing, things will pretty much follow in the same fashion.
In the mean time, while preparations are currently underway, Alexakis continues to keep himself busy with activities both musical and personal. He recently ventured forth performing solo shows, as well as, performed on the recent Vans Warped
tour amongst other things. Joe Matera
recently called Art Alexikas
to get the lowdown on all his current activities as well as get an insight into what fans can expect with the new upcoming album.
UG: I want to start the interview first by asking you what is the status of new Everclear studio album which I am told is being planned for release in early 2011?
The new album we're going to be recording soon is going to be a rocker. The last one we did was pretty much acoustic; In A Different Light. But the new one, while not being a total throwback, will definitely have a lot of fire and feel that will be a cross between Sparkle and Fade and So Much For The Afterglow. It is going to have lots of big guitars that, is for sure. We will start recording it in the late fall. At the moment we have been working on demos which we have passed around to some labels who want to hear them and so we're hoping to have it out for next summer.
Didn't you originally have plans to release the new record around about this time now?
Yeah that was the plan but I was on a different label and I didn't really like the vibe of the label and their mindset. And I thought we needed to part ways. We were originally booked to go into studio in May and the record was supposed to come out this coming fall. And that's what I wanted to do but it just wasn't the right situation. I'm glad we waited though because I have written some cool songs since then and it's going to be a better record because of it.
You have been keeping yourself busy of late, even performing some solo shows.
"The new album will definitely have a lot of fire and feel that will be a cross between Sparkle and Fade and So Much For The Afterglow."
Yeah I have been doing a solo tour with Eddie Kowalczyk of Live and Leigh Nash of Six Pence None The Richer and we called the tour, Open Wings-Broken Strings. We did a bunch of dates which were well received and so are now planning more.
For several years, you also served as an A&R representative for Capitol Records.
Yeah, I found quite a few bands that I tried to sign but they wouldn't let me sign them.
They wouldn't let you sign, why?
Well I'm prevented from naming the bands, but at least three of those bands - I was also paid money specifically to never ever reveal their names or even talk about it - but those three bands went on to become platinum selling acts for someone else. So I would have been a pretty good A & R guy. (laughs)
Do you still look around for new bands that may interest you?
I always have my eye out and I have just got done doing the Vans Warped tour and I have to say that a lot of the new bands that kids are going crazy for, I think that while they're exciting I don't think they have anything that stands out especially when it comes to melody. They do have loads of attitude and intensity which I like, but, unfortunately no melody.
With so many bands out there, is it harder to find that diamond in the rough today?
I think they're out there for sure like right now I'm actually working with a girl who is a singer/songwriter with Hollywood Records, we're working on songs, but they're more of a pop-bluesy R'N'B thing. There are a few other people I'm working with too. I lave a lot of fun doing that and it is something you're definitely going to hear a lot more of in future.
Performing shows today alongside younger bands like you did on the Vans Warped tour, does it feel like you're old school now since 15 years ago it was Everclear who were the young hot band of the day.
Well one of things we got a lot from those young bands on Warped tour was respect. Everybody I talked to came up to me and told me we were on fire. And that felt really good. Sometimes I do feel kind of old but for the most part I just feel we have a lot of respect. The Warped tour was really cool and felt like a big family. It was like punk-rock summer camp. We were there one time, when we were this young band of brash guys, and where everybody was going, wow Everclear'. But now we're like a pop band.
What young bands are you currently listening to and recommend checking out?
I really like All-American Rejects. Also some of my buddies from Good Charlotte, they have a new record coming out and they sent me a few tracks to listen to and it sounds awesome. I still love guitar driven pop and love guys like Jack Johnson. I'd love to do a record that was just me playing acoustic guitar. I think that would be a great record.
You seem to change the band's lineup on a regular basis. Is the reason because having new members can create a new fresh chemistry or is it because after awhile members' musical ideals clash?
A little bit of both but mostly the former. I just know when I need to make a change. Everclear is my business and it is my thing. It has never been a group except for when we play live. And I give credit where credit is due and I take the biggest percentage though give percentages where it is due for being part of the band. But having said that it is always, always been from the very beginning, my experience and my thing.
In 2008 you released the track, Jesus Was A Democrat', which in some ways summed up your views on Christianity which itself differs greatly from the staunch conservative right wing view.
Yeah that whole mentality that the right wingers have is really, when you look at it, and look at it in theory and practice, nothing to do with Christian ideals. Nothing. The interpretation for them is all about taking care of your own self, not looking out for the other guy. And when it comes taxes for example, it is supposed to be about taking care of people, not taking care of your self. Being Christian means having Christian ideals and looking out for the other guy.
In his day, one would have considered Jesus a liberal.
Totally, but he was beyond a liberal, he was a radical. He got killed for being an extreme radical. He was not part of the status quo. I don't think my song was that provocative but a lot people on the right did, for sure. We just put it out as a download but I have to tell you, I'm really thinking of re-recording it for the next record now since it's looking like its going to be a pretty aggressive record. There is even a song on it called White People Scare Me.
What sort of business advice would you impart to young musicians about your own experience in this industry?
"Well one of things we got a lot from those young bands on Warped tour was respect."
The business of the music industry is really not much of a business any more as it is kind of a free for all. People are just starting to figure their way through it all now. I think that is both bad but mostly good especially for new young bands as the opportunities there are nowwell it depends on how much you want to hustle. It is about really working hard though. For example there was this band I met at the Warped tour. This band didn't even get picked to play the Warped tour but they followed the whole Warped tour for two months. They just bought a booth and managed to sell over $70,000 worth of CDs and shirts during that period. And they were playing people their songs on headphones and kids were buying it. Now that is amazing to have sold that much without playing a single show. And now I guess everybody is going to pick them to play next year because they were outselling bands every night, bands that were actual playing on the bill. I was super impressed.
Turning to the subject of gear, what are you currently using?
Acoustic wise I'm still playing Taylor guitars. I love those guitars. As far as electrics go, I am still playing Les Pauls. I just got a new white Gibson double neck guitar that I have just started playing with at a few shows. It is such a great guitar. I also have a couple new guitars coming from this guy who makes them. They are called Flatline guitars. They're kind of copies but they're not really in many ways. Amp wise, I'm so into my old Mesa Boogie. Nothing beats plugging a Les Paul into a Dual Rectifier Mesa Boogie, it sounds amazing and I still love that sound.
Finally how do you think you have evolved as a guitar player?
I think in some ways I have become less of a guitar player because I am more of a songwriter if that makes sense. I am concentrating more on keeping a rhythm and playing the song. When it comes to the different kinds of subtleties that you do as a guitar player, it is taken care of by Dave [French] my guitar player because he is just a better guitar player than me. But I would say I've become more comfortable as a guitar player as I can now adapt pretty quickly to just about anything. I can sit down and play with anybody and it will sound pretty good so I think I've evolved as a musician as a whole as well.
Interview by Joe Matera