Alex Walker — a multi-instrumentalist we met playing with Andrew Strong (THE COMMITMENTS) — has just released a new track titled “Gotta Lose” for free at Lapdance Academy. Featuring Len Xiang and Kobie Powell (of Us3), “Gotta Lose” is yet another genre-twister from this rising star in music, and taken together with his other tracks on Lapdance Academy (did I mention they are all FREE!!) shows just how creative and progressive Walker and his fellow musicians can be.
Alex took some time out of his busy recording schedule to chat with us about the new track and some of his views on the music world; here’s the interview!
RELEASE LIST: First off, a little background on yourself as a musician.
ALEX WALKER: I’ve been playing this ol’ guitar longer than I haven’t at this point. I started on the electric guitar, learning Jimi, Jimmy, Coltrane, Frusciante, Zappa, Mingus, Leo Nocentelli, Dave Navarro, Curtis Mayfield, Kerry King, Christopher Dowd (Fishbone), and Kurt Rosenwinkel to name a few. Soon after, I fell in love with the classical guitar, and really resonated with the idea of being a mini orchestra, where you are balancing the melody, the bass, and the inner voices. For 10 years, I devoted my entire life to this art form, and thru that devotion, created a technique for myself where I can think of music vertically, as well as linearly, and strive to be as true to the language that I’m slowly developing for myself.
RL: You’ve played with Andrew Strong (The Commitments) in the past and work with Kobie Powell (of Us3) on your new track…what do you find challenging and fulfilling about working with other artists?
ALEX: The idea of being o.k with whats going on around you musically, and trusting others instincts whether or not you immediately agree with what they are doing. Performing music is a kind of experiment, where, you don’t really know what it is until after the fact…so, being able to suppress any knee jerk reactions, in order for the sound to breath, and for the unity of everyone involved in the creating of the music to become fortified, I think is paramount. Whats fulfilling about working with Andrew or Kobie, or the other consummate musicians I’ve had the ultimate pleasure working with in the past, is that, they are on top of their game, they are experienced, open, and confident with what they do. Rising to that opportunity, and taking charge of all your past musical experiences, your countless amounts of hours practicing, remembering why you make music in the first place, and looking at the other people in the eyes while you are in this moment, these details make my soul pulsate, and I try to give back musically what I’ve been given.
RL: You’re from New York. If you could do anything you wanted to change New York City, what would it be?
ALEX: New York is what it is. Its big, overwhelming, uncompromising, sexy as hell, and above all, electric in so many ways. The energy that I feel when hanging out with friends, working a job, sleeping in my car, making music with those I love, to do it in New York is like nowhere else in the world. But I think its become swollen in its gluttony, and is a drastically different place than what it was in the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s. The time you spend working to pay those outlandish rent prices, to take your girl out to a decent dinner, or even coughing up $2.25 to ride uptown on the subway, the less time you get to make your art, to pay yourself back spiritually and creatively, to output all of the crazy stimuli you accumulate everyday walking these streets. It’s just too damn expensive for most, and I think that takes a very obvious toll on the overall creative output on our fair city. The Eva Hesse’s, the Lou Reed’s, the Richard Hell’s, the Patty Smith’s, the Ginsberg’s and the Kerouac’s of today I think are venturing elsewhere to live and create, where the danger is close, but the rents are low.
RL: Now the new track: “Gotta Lose” — how did you get in touch with Kobie Powell (of Us3) and Len Xiang to put this track together?
ALEX: I’ve been friends with Len Xiang for a while now. We’ve played shows together in Brooklyn, been supporters of each others work and artistic paths, and we’re both part of the Fort Greene family. We’ve always wanted to collaborate on a recording, and this track seemed like a perfect match for his voice, so, I found him one evening, and he came in and nailed it. Brian Grosz, (founder of Lapdance Academy and a close friend, “pre-natally”), is friends with Kobie, and, after sending him the rough mix of the track that I had produced, he was down to come in and lend his lyrical genius to it.
Brian Grosz’s support, vocal production, cover art, and general corralling, and the efforts of mix engineer Tommy Mokas of CasaNova Studios helped make this track what it is. The fact of the matter is, these four guys gave it their all, and I am eternally grateful for their contributions to this record.
RL: You’ve decided to release the vocal and instrumental “stems” of “Gotta Lose” under a Creative Commons License to encourage remixes, mash-ups and so on. Why was this decision made?
ALEX: I’m really into the recyclable situation modern music has found itself in. I love the Frank Sinatra-Biggie Smalls mashups, the Beyonce-Fugazi mashup is crazy times, the Radiohead remix contest they did with the tune “naked”, I think this is an avenue for furthering viable creations. Plus, people are gonna do it whether your keen on it or not, so, why not put it out there in the open and let people play with it. There are some remixes that I enjoy more than the original song, so, its a method that is not gonna go away. I’d rather embrace it than awkwardly hold onto my music as something “un-fuck-with-able” or precious. Have fun. You bought that Imac from the “genius bar”, its got garage band, use it.
RL: You release a lot of music for free through Lapdance Academy: what is your stance on file-sharing, and what are some methods you’ve used to get your music out there yet still attempt to make a living?
ALEX: Yeah, my stance is, its free. Take it. Share it. Above all, listen to it. I’ve got boxes upon boxes of wrapped, unsold CD’s from past bands and projects that will never see the light of day. I’d rather share my music and have it instantly accessible for people to listen to and share, rather than trying to “make a sale” when somebody expresses interest in what I do. Sure, the artist has to be a salesman, but I run away when someone comes at me hocking their wares. And I can’t be the only one. Now that isn’t to say that its always free. When this song starts getting radio play, money will come into the picture, when it is licensed to the next blockbuster film, money will come into the equation. But while it exists purely as a song, for people to listen to on the subway, or at work, or at the bar, or while making the sweetest of love, its on me.
As for other methods I’ve used to generate income with my music, obviously performing, thats the most immediate way. Get a gig, either solo or as a side man, and make that cheddar. I’ve done a slew of television theme songs, and underscore for documentaries, television shows and the like. Also, having a steady stream of output available online leads to session work, and other avenues where visibility can become dollar bills. Its true that licensing is becoming the cornerstone for musicians to make money on their art, but the music “biz” is still reeling from the upheaval of file sharing, so its anyone’s game now. Those willing to reinvent the playing field are gonna reap the benefits.
- Who would win in a fight: Paul Walker (actor; The Fast & the Furious), Jeff Walker (singer; grindcore band Carcass), Billy Walker (country musician in the 60s and 70s; nicknamed “The Tall Texan”) or Johnnie Walker (Whiskey Baron)? I think Johnnie wins hands down. Paul’s got the abs, Jeff’s got the throat, Billy’s got the twang, but Johnnie just gets inside you and does his dirty work from within.
- Metallica or Megadeth? Megadeth. Mustaine is a beast who doesn’t give an f. I saw him backstage in Belgium at the 2001 Graspop festival, he is out of his mind, throwing shit all over the place after he just ripped 30,000 Belgian heads off. “Hello me, its me again” makes Goethe’s complete works read like an R.L. Stine book.
- I’m criminally insane and I own 1 CD. What is it? Can I have two? Ghostface Killah’s “Iron Man”, and Charles Mingus’s “Pithecanthropus Erectus”.
- What’s the corniest/cheesiest song you know how to play on guitar? I can do a really schmaltzy solo guitar arrangement of “Frosty the Snowman”. Besides that, I don’t really have an affinity for corn or dairy.
RL: Finally, what’s next for Alex Walker?
ALEX: Right now I’m getting ready for a recording session of some classical guitar-esque pieces that I’ve composed, recording them as a trio for electric guitar, bass, and drums. Also, just finished scoring a film with Christian Zucconi (of the LA band, GroupLove) by director James Nicholson entitled “Nobody Knows My Name” (www.nkmnthefilm.com). I also have an EP in the works to be put out by Lapdance Academy sometime this fall. Some solo performances in NYC, and hopefully a tour with Andrew Strong in the near future. Besides that, feverishly working on my guitar playing to further understand this world in which we live.
GOTTA LOSE – featuring Len Xiang and Kobie Powell (Us3)