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| 7 February 2024 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Everclear mainman Art Alexakis is currently in the midst of his first solo acoustic tour of Australia, with Wheatus’ Brendon B Brown in support. Alexakis is an interesting fella – with Everclear he has released a dozen albums, toured Australia ten times (I think), and done it all sober AFTER kicking drugs and booze in his twenties. He has a loving family, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2016, and released his first solo album in 2019. More recently he has gained a psychology degree and become a Life Coach. I wanted to talk about all the above, and more – but time is our enemy, and even with a generous half hour we barely scraped the surface. Throughout, Alexakis is warm, entertaining, and thoroughly open no matter how personal my questions are. Dig into this candid conversation with Art Alexakis.


ART ALEXAKIS: How’s it going? Sorry I’m so late. We got in late into Melbourne and then the interview before you pushed a little long. So, thank you for your patience.

100% ROCK: No problems. I’m sure it’s very hectic on tour, so I appreciate your time very much. So, you’ve played your first few shows over the weekend up in Queensland. I have heard that they were pretty special.

I thought they were special. Who did you hear that from?

The tour manager passed on to [my contact] that the crowd were pretty rapturous about all your stories and whatnot.

They were, you know, and the guy who ran the club last night – we played there with Everclear and sold it out last year. And he’s like, ‘this is the best show I’ve ever seen here.’ I’m like, ‘get out of here.’ He’s like, ‘no, really – look at all those people, when people are leaving and they’re smiling and they’re talking and they’re singing your songs and walking out the door, you’re touching people, right?’

Oh, that’s awesome.

You know, cause I’ve – Everclear – have had a love affair with Australia from the beginning. And it’s just, it’s really great to come back and do this [solo acoustic tour]. I didn’t know if it was going to work here, but it seems to be so far, yeah.

That’s fantastic, mate. Playing solo and acoustic: does it take your songs back closer to how they were when they were first written, before producers and band mates got to them and all that sort of stuff?

Well, I produce my own stuff, but before my producer-mind gets involved with it and starts thinking, oh, maybe we need strings and this and this. Yes, it’s full circle, it goes back to the original way the overwhelming majority of the songs were created – that’s kind of how I tell it to people when they ask what it’s like. It’s just me. They’re like, ‘do you play with other people?’ No. ‘Do you play with, like, tracks and loops and other instruments?’ No, it’s just me and a guitar, man. ‘But what if you forget a chord?’ Then I suck, you know! [laughs] You know, if I forget a line, I’ll just stop and go, ‘can you believe I forgot the words of my own song, man!’ and people just keep singing. They’re singing the words for me. I mean, it’s like a full-on singalong – you got 250 people singing, it’s fun. It’s really fun.

It’s endearing as well, you know. We like those we admire to be fallible and to be human, so…

We’re all human, man. You know, it’s like, I don’t know anyone who performs that doesn’t make mistakes. When you’re on stage with a full band and you got big guitars and drums and everything’s going, you can get away with it. With just a guitar, it’s like you’re out there without a net, which is both frightening, but it’s also exhilarating at the same time to be able to push yourself to go do that, to go walk out on the ledge, you know? And I enjoy doing it. I hate doing it AND I enjoy doing it! The whole thing.

I bet. I’m not really one for standing up in front of a crowd, so I would assume that there’d be nerves no matter what you do.

Ohh, absolutely. It’s, you know, doing this is one thing, but when I have to speak in front of a crowd – like I’ll do public speaking, you know, political rallies and stuff like that. That’s terrifying. It’s terrifying trying to be witty and intelligent and charming for thousands of people. Or hundreds of people. It’s daunting to say the least.

Oh, absolutely. I’ve had to make speeches at friends weddings [and book launches] – and that’s like 50 or 100 people. That’s bad enough. I couldn’t even imagine standing in front of thousands.

And you know, most of those people, right? You’re the one who, you know, probably knows everybody a little bit.

Exactly. Exactly.

This is like, the weird thing about fame and success, which is wonderful and a blessing, and I’m grateful for it… but at the same time, and I explained this to someone the other day, when you have any kind of fame – you could have like just local band fame or our kind of fame or, God forbid, which terrifies me, Taylor Swift type of fame, you know, or Michael Jackson fame, where you’re recognised everywhere you go, every time you step outside your door. It doesn’t matter – you can be in Indonesia and people know who those people are. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone – but it’s weird when in most people’s lives, you know about the same amount of people that know you, you know what I mean. Pretty much – unless you’re like the pretty girl or the football star or something like that, and then more people know you than you know, so when it happened for Everclear, I’m like, ‘wow, we’re the pretty girls!’

Yeah, right.

And then I, like, look in the mirror – and I’m not the pretty girl! [smiles self-deprecatingly]

Yes, absolutely. I was listening to Sparkle and Fade and So Much For The Afterglow over the weekend – AGAIN, for the millionth time – and I was struck by how there must be a massive juxtaposition for you. I mean, these songs are so raw and emotional, written about what were sometimes quite traumatic times in your life…


…but then you’re delivering them nightly and they’re crowd favourites. Does performing them take you back to those difficult emotions?

Yes, that’s a really good question, Shane. Songs like Father Of Mine and Wonderful – when I wrote those songs I had to put myself in that mindset of that kid going through it, right, to really block into that emotion. Every time I sing it, I gotta do it. You can’t… you know what I mean by ‘phoning something in’, where you’re kind of halfway there? I can’t do that with any of my songs. It doesn’t work. I’m not that good. I’m not that, like, great of a singer, great of a guitar player. I need to be invested, and connected if I’m going to connect and invest with other people on an emotional level and It doesn’t even matter whether it’s Everclear with the big guitars and drums, or just me and the guitar, I have to be focused, I have to be connected, you know, which is like, again, both terrifying sometimes and exhilarating and fun.

And very emotional, I’m sure. So, coming off stage at the end of that every night, do you have a process where you shake that off?

I’ve learned to, like, when I walk on stage I’m nervous and the crowd’s out there, and once the lights go down and the crowd roars and I walk out to my mic, I’ve got this process I worked out years ago, just mentally turning the fear and anxiety into energy, right into excitement and energy. By the time I hit that mic I’m ON, and it’s the same when I’m done. As I’m walking off stage, I’m just breathing and I just blow out all that – everything that just happened and all that [emotion]. When I walk off stage, I’m a little drained, you know – these are really good questions – it’s when you’re that emotional that you have to have some built in pressure valves to be able to do it and not just keep get eaten up by the emotion, you know. That’s a really good question.

Thanks. I’ve heard Santa Monica on the radio maybe 10 times in the last month or so. When you were writing that song, about that time in your life, you couldn’t have had any idea – let alone any hope – that it would become a radio staple some 25 or 30-odd years later?

And in AUSTRALIA? NO! I had never… all I knew about Australia was Kangaroos, Men At Work, AC/DC of course, and shrimps on the barbie! That’s about it – oh, you gotta throw a little Mad Max in there too! But you know, I’d always fantasised about going to Australia, and all the amazing places that I’ve gone in my life, thanks to the band. And let’s be honest, thanks to Santa Monica – that was the golden ticket, you know, that was the Willie Wonka Golden Ticket that opened the door. We have been blessed to have other hits that actually have been bigger at radio, sold more records – like Father Of Mine, I Will Buy You A New Life, Wonderful… but nothing opened the doors to the world for us like Santa Monica.

I bet. How do you remain humble knowing that you’ve sold 6 million-odd records and packed houses every night and go to different countries?

[Wry smile, teasing] It’s closer to 8 million. And who says I’m humble?

Wow. Well, you seem pretty down to Earth, man.

Well, my wife kicks my ass. I bet that probably helps…

They’re good like that, aren’t they?

Yeah. I have a partner in life who absolutely just doesn’t buy into my shit. That doesn’t mean she’s not my biggest fan: She is, but she’s… at the same time, she keeps me level, and so do the guys [in the band]. And just the way I grew up – I grew up poor, man. And from the time I saw The Beatles when I was four years old I didn’t want to do anything – I saw them on TV, of course – I didn’t want to do anything but play in a rock ‘n’ roll band. I never really wanted to be rich and famous. I just wanted to have a good life. I wanted to have a house because I lived in a housing project [low income apartments]. So having a house was like 3 levels up the class system, right, for me! I wanted to have a house, a wife, a kid. And go to work playing music – and that’s what I’ve got right now. That’s the life I have – a middle class suburban house that we love. I’ve got a pool in the back so I can swim – because, I don’t know if you know, but I have multiple sclerosis, I got diagnosed eight years ago, and that’s the best exercise you can do because you don’t get overheated. So when we bought that house, I’m like, we’re gonna buy a house with a pool or room for a pool. But getting back to it, I’m just grateful for the life. I have this wonderful life. Sure, I’ve got, you know, a chronic disease. I’ve had back issues. I’ve had spinal fusion. I’ve done all this stuff. But that doesn’t really temper my gratitude. I’m sober, I’ve been clean and sober for almost 35 years, 34 years and counting, and I’m just grateful for having the life and the people in it that I do, and being able to do this – being able to talk to you about my music. I mean, how many people get to do that, especially in your 60’s? I’m living the dream and I’m aware of it, I don’t take it for granted.

I do want to touch on a bunch of the things you’ve just mentioned there, but we’ve got so little time and so much to deal with. So I’ll just try to jump around a little bit. Congratulations on your sobriety: it’s more than half of your life. I wondered, most of all… after 35 years, I understand that you’re in the process and all that sort of stuff, and you know how to deal with any kind of temptation that may arise. But how was it when you got signed? You were 32, I think. You’d been sober for less than 10 years, and then when that fame hit you and there must have been opportunity and temptation at every corner – how did you stay sober and resist that temptation?

That’s a really good question. Actually, when I got signed, I was 32 – I got signed in ‘94. So, I was five years sober. I got sober in ’89 – clean and sober – in ’89. When success happened, we were so busy, we were playing like 200 shows a year. It’s crazy, you know, but I’ve never used drugs or alcohol or anything close [since then]. There have been temptations, but I’ve learned to build myself a little cocoon around me. Like, the guys that I tour with now – Everclear and the crew – there’s seven of us, and five of us are sober, and that’s not by accident. I try to surround myself with sober people. And the other two, they’re like, ‘have a beer after a show’ kind of guys, they’re not drinkers, you know, they’re not partiers. I don’t hang out with people like that. My wife, my wife is a lightweight. She drinks maybe 10 drinks a year and barely keeps her eyes open, you know! [laughs and smiles adoringly]

But I’ll tell you though, to be honest – and a lot of musicians who are addicts, and even sober addicts, have had this experience: when we’re in the rooms – in the fellowship – the Twelve Step [Program], we talk about being Dry Drunk. And Dry Drunk is when you’re not using chemicals, but you’re not working your programme and you’re acting like an alcoholic and using something else. Like sex. I did that – the fact that I was married four times? Not an accident. Not a coincidence. It’s because I was not a good partner, because I had so much temptation and I took advantage of it. But not just sex. Anger. Anything you can get dopamine out of is going to be like a drug: anger, shame, control, success. Even failure, believe that or not. Anything that causes that emotion creates dopamine. And it’s exhausting for other people, for sure.

But I’m in a place now where I’ve been working my programmes really hard and I have a great fellowship around me and my relationship with my family, with my daughters and my wife, has never been better. I’m just, you know, it’s a blast, man. I’m just very happy about it. I’m not religious at all, but I’m very spiritual. I’m very close to my spiritual side, and I’m grateful for it, grateful for everything.

I would imagine that playing in pubs – I mean, I like a few drinks, but gawd, there’s some obnoxious drunks out there in every bar in the world that I’ve ever been to. I would imagine that playing to people like that would be more of a reinforcement to stay sober rather than a temptation to fall off the wagon?

Absolutely. Absolutely. Nothing works more than an ugly drunk to make you realise that, like, man that used to be me, that could be me now. No, no, nothing’s worse than that. That’s a good perspective. You know, in The States we play bigger places, so we’re not really playing bars anymore. We do to a certain extent, like bigger bars or private shows where they pay a lot of money and we’ll play a private bar. But, yeah – when we’re in Australia, people, I don’t know, our fans – even the drunk ones – are usually pretty articulate and intelligent and aware, you know. They’re not, we don’t get a bunch of boneheads like, like a lot of metal bands do! They’ll get, like, those guys you know [makes a face and a caveman-type noise] and they’re always guys – we luckily have a lot of women at our shows and we always have, which is both a blessing and a curse! [laughs]

I really enjoyed your solo album Sun Songs, which you’ve been talking about making for many years. Was it important for you to not sound like Everclear – and how can you approach that when your vocals and your songwriting are so distinctively synonymous with Everclear?

Again, a great question. You know, when I went to make that record, I wanted to make a record that sounded like Joni Mitchell’s Blue or Neil Young or, you know, something like that. And as I get into writing it, I’m like, that isn’t me, man. I’m a rocker. I can play things acoustically, and that’s cool – it’s a different vibe. But most of those songs – a lot of them could be Everclear songs because that’s what I’ve been writing for 30-some years. You know, I don’t write songs to sound like Everclear, Everclear sounds like my songs, because that’s what I do.

Absolutely – House With A Pool, Line in the Sand, White People Scare Me. They could all very easily be Everclear songs from any of your albums.

Yeah, absolutely. And we talk about it all the time. Like, there was a song on that record called Sing Away and we redid it as the band for this live album we did, it was an extra bonus track. And it came out great – it’s actually getting played on the radio, for the first time in decades we have a new song on the radio in the States, and that was cool. We made a video for it and it’s about teenage suicide and teenage job bullies and my daughter is actually in the video as the guy’s girlfriend.

Ohh cool, I’ll look it up.

Yeah, it’s on YouTube. Sing Away. But yeah, I think White People Scare Me would be fun to do [as an Everclear song]. House With A Pool. I think there’s quite a quite a few songs that you could do. Line In The Sand. I’ve thought about doing Line In The Sand as a punk rock song – you know, as a more like fast artist song. So, I don’t know. It’s fun to play with them – they’re my songs, you know, so I get to do with them what I want, to have my way with them!

We’re running out of time, I wanted to talk about your life coaching and multiple sclerosis and all this other stuff, but I’ll fast track to the end ‘cos I know you’ve got another interview shortly. With life so seemingly happy and content for you – you talked about your family life and everything career wise is going great – do you find it harder to write songs now? I recall Dee Snider saying many years ago that he really struggled when he was sitting in his big house by his big pool with his big cars in the driveway and he couldn’t come up with the next teen rebellion anthem or whatever he referred to it as.

That’s a good point. You know, I mean, I’ve made about 11 full records in my whole life, most of them – nine of them – with Everclear. Not to mention live records and greatest hits and bonus tracks or, you know, all that stuff, or covers. And then another album of covers. I don’t feel the burning need to make another album right now, ever. That could change, but that doesn’t mean I don’t write – I DO write. I’ve got a new song that I want to record and put out this year, you know, for the fans. I’ll just put it out online, do a little cheap video for it. It’s fun and [I’ll] just do it for the fans and to have something new to play. You know, I think that sounds like fun to me. The whole idea of going into a studio for a year of my life and making another album. I’ve done it. I don’t really need to do it anymore.

A lot of bands are doing that just one song or a single or an EP or whatever.

Yeah, it’s fun. I mean, I think I’ve exhausted a lot of ideas, and when I get a new idea to write about, I’ll record it.

On a complete tangent, you did a cover of Thin Lizzy’s Boys Are Back In Town for the Detroit Rock City movie, which I really enjoyed. Did you have much to do with producer Gene Simmons at that time?

Ohh Gene, Gene… Yeah, Gene tried to get me to do it for no money! [laughs]

That sounds like Gene…

Yeah. Gene is just the cheapest dude. He’s like, ‘this is a special thing, so you can just pay your money for it – it’s going to take off’ and I go, ‘Gene, the label’s paying for it – you’re not even paying for it! Like, Gene, I’m not doing it for free!’ Also, they [KISS] asked us to go tour with them in 1996. And I said yes – and at the time we were making like $20,000 a show. I said ‘pay me 5 grand a show, so I can pay my guys and afford the bus, and we’ll do 10 dates,’ and the rest of the band were, like, fine. That would be great. You know, we don’t have to make money – I just don’t want to lose money. The money they offered me was $500 a show!

Oh wow.

That doesn’t even pay for my sound guy! That’s Gene. But yeah. Anyways, you know what, man, I’ve gotta go meet a guy downstairs for an interview. This has been wonderful, Shane.

Totally understand, mate, and thank you so much for your time. Awesome. Enjoy the rest of the tour.

I will, thankyou.



FEBRUARY 1 – Cleveland Sands Hotel | Cleveland QLD
FEBRUARY 2 – Miami Marketta | Gold Coast QLD
FEBRUARY 3 – Kings Beach Tavern | Caloundra QLD
FEBRUARY 4 – The Backroom at Chardons Corner Hotel | Brisbane QLD
FEBRUARY 8 – Lion Arts Factory | Adelaide SA
FEBRUARY 9 – Freo Social | Fremantle WA
FEBRUARY 10 – The Carine | Duncraig WA
FEBRUARY 11 – Dunsborough Tavern | Dunsborough WA
FEBRUARY 15 – The Wool Exchange | Geelong VIC
FEBRUARY 16 – Chelsea Heights Hotel | Chelsea Heights VIC
FEBRUARY 17 – Brunswick Ballroom | Brunswick VIC
FEBRUARY 22 – Waves | Wollongong NSW
FEBRUARY 23 Crowbar | Sydney NSW
FEBRUARY 24 – Ettamogah Hotel | Kellyville Ridge NSW
FEBRUARY 25 – King St Bandroom | Newcastle NSW


Category: Interviews

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