We came across the artist Alexander Louis Grass posting on Craigslist1. I conducted the following interview with him.
What are your influences?
Thatâ€™s too hard, man. Thatâ€™s too hard. You canâ€™t ask a question like that. Well, when I first started, I had the rock â€˜nâ€™ roll and acid jazz base that most people did. Jimi Hendrix, Jaco Pastorius, Black Sabbath, Mahavishnu Orchestra, 10 Years After. Â Black Sabbath was a huge influence on me, and from there I really delved into heavy metal. Iâ€™m not really headed in that direction at all any more (metal, that is), but Iâ€™m very thankful I put the time and effort into learning the licks and the history. Itâ€™s important. All that minor key stuffâ€¦ the staccato and legato and subtle hints of classical musicâ€¦ thatâ€™s all very important in developing a sense of dynamics. Which is why Iâ€™m a huge fan of Tool, as most people with any sense are. Randy Rhoades and Cliff Burton left an indelible imprint on my brain. Especially Cliff Burton. No other bassist has influenced the way I learned about music the way that he did. Les Claypool is great, tooâ€¦ although I was always a fan of his more commercial stuff. I really loved the Primus album produced by Tom Morello. I love Iommiâ€™s more obscure stuff from Sabbathâ€¦ like â€œTequila Sunriseâ€ or â€œChanges.â€ I mean, I couldnâ€™t really tell you ALL of my influences, but there is definitely a source. Middle eastern music means a lot to me as well. I lived in Israel for a while, and the different modes they use are just so unconventional. Itâ€™s so boring to stay in that little pentatonic boxâ€¦ especially when youâ€™re writing. My influences are too great to name. I just try and pay attention to good songs and great musicians. I try to imagine their thought process in coming up with what they did. I try to put myself in their shoes. Otherwise, if I hear a cool sound, Iâ€™ll put it in my memory bank to use later on.
Can you explain the two pictures on your Craigslist post2?
Explain? Well, I guess I just took the general, stereotypical, myspace-ready, internet-camera shots in a way that would look flattering… or the alpha male idea of domination or assertion. I think the one where I bare my chest and I have this facial contortion that would sort of imply angstâ€¦ I think thatâ€™s the best one. It sort of reveals the depth with which you commit yourself to a craft, an art. Whatever you do there has to be some spirituality, you know. Even if youâ€™re atheist or agnostic, there must be some sort of incorporeal connection to what you do. And I donâ€™t mean that in the sense that itâ€™s insubstantial, but in the wonderful way that those intangible forces sway us in significant bouts of ghoulish influence. I can always feel something behind me, breathing on me and holding my hands as I play. Great players, committed artists should always realize that it isnâ€™t really them playingâ€¦ itâ€™s the subconscious extension of yourself bleeding your truth out through an auditory means. Your soul literally pouring out of your fucking ears and fingers and mouth and eyes. An artist knows all these things and I think that picture sort of captured the truth of the matter. Dedication, love, pain and all that good stuff. Wowâ€¦ I really go off on a tangent there.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Married. Well, Iâ€™m engaged right now. My fiancÃ© had a daughterâ€¦ a wonderful girl. I consider her my own. I guess Iâ€™ll be married, you know? A couple of kids. As far as what Iâ€™m doing with myself, Iâ€™d like to be doing something with music. But itâ€™s so hard now, isnâ€™t it? I mean, itâ€™s hard to make money doing this thing that I love doing. Iâ€™ll always play music, but I donâ€™t know if it can pay the bills. Especially with the way peopleâ€™s attention spans and auditory proclivities go. I mean, if Soulja Boy can have a hit song, then any three year old mentally deficient monkey can, too. So, Iâ€™ll probably have my M.B.A. and be working for Merryl Lynch or Dean Witter or Citibank, or whoever pays the most.
Which instrument is better, a guitar or a keyboard? Â Why?
Guitar is more pure and organic. Itâ€™s wood and nickel steel and magnetic pickups and near primitive wiring. Itâ€™s as barebones as you can get in an age of electronic enhancements. Of course, keyboard and synthesizer seemingly dominates every nook and cranny of popular music. Iâ€™m a huge fan of going au ;. I even play keyboards, but I can only feel and realize myself when Iâ€™m expressing myself on the fretboard. Keyboard is great, but I donâ€™t see it as the proper focus of any band that I would be interested in. Except for Zombiâ€¦ their shit is fantastic.
How long did it take to record “Fits Perfectly”?
Not that long, actually. Roughlyâ€¦ roughly an hour, I would say. I mean, everything is first take, unless I fuck up very, very badly, which is not a common occurrence. Itâ€™s just two guitar tracks and two vocal tracks. The more technical songs can take several takes and even after itâ€™s done it still may not meet your expectations as an artist. Iâ€™m no Satriani or Petrucci or Vai or Batio. I just do what I do with some soul and maybe a flair of technical prowess. But the fancy stuffâ€¦ the accoutrements and embellishments donâ€™t dominate my playing as much as they did when I was a teenager. I think any guitarist can relate to that. â€œFits Perfectlyâ€ is just an example of tempering your playing. Do things for the sake of the song. Donâ€™t be a pretentious douchebag like a lot of these fuckers can be. Everyoneâ€™s a critic, but nobody had anything to offer in hand with their critique.
What is “Time is Running Out” about?
It has apocalyptic themesâ€¦ very geopolitical, foreboding, end-times-are-coming-so-you-better-run-and-hide. Itâ€™s about how people hang themselves, they tighten their own noose. The way things are headedâ€¦ you know, nothing is going in a way, worldwide, thatâ€™s going to be helpful for anybody. We need change. Iâ€™m not blaming anybody specifically, but we need a change, and thatâ€™s what â€œTime is Running Outâ€ is about. Itâ€™s a very sullen and sobering song. If you really think about it, there has to be a shift in the way people make there way and do their dealings. Pay it forward, assholeâ€¦ just try to be a good person instead of seeing who can get into that parking space first, or who can cut of who in the line at the grocery store. And donâ€™t just blame people if you donâ€™t know what theyâ€™ve done, or youâ€™re totally oblivious to what is going on. I hear people say they hate Bush every day, but rarely do I hear an explanation or anyone who truly understands the mechanics and machinations of the political machine. I donâ€™t like the guy either, but I keep my mouth shut until itâ€™s time to voteâ€¦ because Itâ€™s really all bullshit until you have the chance to do something. All these kidsâ€¦ they all talk a lot of bullshit until itâ€™s election time, and then 75 percent of them donâ€™t show up.
Can you leave us with a closing quote?
â€œA vote is like a rifle, its usefulness depends on the character of the user.â€ Teddy Roosevelt said that, and it holds truer today than it ever had. Thankfully, most of the most who donâ€™t know any better arenâ€™t arming themselves.
Alexander Louis Grass post on Craigslist was flagged and removed. ↩
There were two pictures on the post. The first is the picture included in this interview. The second was of a dog smoking. I was unable to post the second picture because Alexander Louis Grass’s Craigslist advertisement was removed. ↩