It’s been a long and eventful trip for Art Alexakis. The frontman of Everclear has experienced more in his 60 years on this earth than some may do in a lifetime.
He’s battled addiction and overcome incredible odds, found sobriety and success as the lead singer of one of the most successful alternative rock bands of the ’90s. And through it all, he’s maintained a positive outlook on life.
Recently Everclear celebrated 30 years on the scene with the re-release of their debut record World of Noise. To discuss this milestone, Art sat down with us for a brief interview during stage setup for their Greenville, South Carolina date. In our interview Alexakis opens up about his experiences – both good and bad – and discusses how they’ve shaped him as an artist and a person. Read on for more.
AltWire: Firstly, congratulations on such a massive milestone in your career. How does it feel to have Everclear be around for close to 30 years?
Art Alexakis / Everclear: Kind of surreal, to be honest with you. It’s something that when I thought about it earlier this year, I realized that I started Everclear when I was 30, and I’m 60 now.
And I had no idea or even interest in playing rock and roll when I was 60 years old. Cause you always think of different ages when you’re younger. The older ages being like you’re gonna be of a different mindset, you’re not gonna be the same person. Guess what? I’m still the same person.
I’ve got more experience. I’ve learned from good things and bad things. I’ve weathered them; I’ve developed. I got diseases I never thought I’d have. Whatever. But that same person that loved rock and roll when I was four years old? Still there. I still got it. It’s all there.
30 years old? Same guy. He’s still there, but without a lot of the baggage, let’s say. I don’t have that baggage in, which is a good thing. But from that perspective, I’m very grateful because I realize, without thinking about it, that this is my life’s work. People talk about their legacy in life and their life’s work. And this is my life’s work.
I’ve put 30 years into this band. I’m still doing it, still making new music, not as much, but still doing it. I still got the attitude, and the guys that have been in the band for almost 18 years, some of them; we’re still into making music and going out and playing music like it’s relevant and new every night.
It’s not nostalgia for us. Not that I think nostalgia’s a bad thing. I think it’s a great thing. Me and two of the guys in the band were getting nostalgic about Rush the other day. About growing up as kids, as teenagers, and finding 2112 and going back and listening to “All The World’s A Stage.”
That was 13-14 year old us that was super stoked about music. And I was that way about Punk Rock and New Wave when that came out a year or two later, and it doesn’t matter. I still got that excitement and that fire inside of me, as far as music and rock and roll go specifically, and I hope it comes through.
AltWire: You had a couple of bands before Everclear, including Colorfinger and The Easy Hoes. Has releasing World of Noise opened up the gates to releasing your pre-Everclear material?
Art Alexakis / Everclear: [Smiling] Clever boy. So Derek, when I found the Everclear tapes, I found the original Colorfinger tapes as well. And so I’m going to put out a remastered, really great sounding [remaster]. I’m playing with the idea of maybe even remixing Colorfinger and putting it out there. I think that could be interesting. I wouldn’t do that with Everclear because it was too much of a document.
But Colorfinger? Maybe I remix it. Who knows? I don’t know. But I’ve got the tapes. I even got the tapes for the band Shakin’ Brave. Shakin’ Brave, that came out in 87, was my first real band. I found the original mix tapes for that and The Easy Hoes. I got all that stuff as well.
I have all that stuff, and I have thought about putting some of that stuff out. So it’s definitely in my mind. And Colorfinger is definitely gonna happen for sure.
AltWire: With the Nervous & Weird EP, most of the tracks from that EP went on in some form or fashion to be part of later Everclear albums. However, one of my favorite tracks, “Lame,” has never been re-released or remastered. Any plans to re-release or remaster that track?
Art Alexakis / Everclear: I hadn’t thought about it, you know? I haven’t heard that song in years. I’d have to go back and listen to it. I haven’t heard it for a long time, but I remember it being a pretty good song.
It’s a heavy lyrical song. There was a lot of stuff going on that I made correlations between. Heterosexual relationships, Gay relationships, and the connection that relationships are relationships, and it doesn’t matter. But the externalizing of it, what other people think and getting gay-bashed in a bar, or getting beaten up in a bar for being gay and emotionally abusing someone. There’s connections. They’re not the same thing, but there are connections there. A lot of it comes from the same emotion, and that’s where the word Lame came in. I think it had a lot to do with my sobriety as well.
My sobriety when I wrote that song was pretty new. I wrote that in 92. So I was three years sober at that point as opposed to 33 years sober now. So it’s a different perspective, but I’d like to revisit it. I’ll take a listen to it. We’ll see. I’m sure I can find it on YouTube, right?
AltWire: You’ve always been vocal about the issues. What kind of issues affect you now versus compared when you were younger?
Art Alexakis / Everclear: So many. This country, and this world, but especially this country, has so much distance. There’s always been a distance between the right and left, but right now, it’s so disparate, and it’s so far, and it’s so angry. And I think we’re on the balance of some sort of civil upheaval that could come. I think there’s a lot of stuff.
The whole Roe V Wade going down; I think people are gonna look back and go, “That’s when it started. That’s when the Civil War started”. That’s what I’m afraid of. Because I think it’s a call to arms. Women aren’t gonna sit around and let men dictate to them anymore, nor should they. And I’ll be right next to them marchin’ in the street.
It’s not about religion, man. It’s not about God. It’s about men in control. That’s all it’s about. It’s about people using the words – what they call the words of God, to control other people. They’ve been doing it forever. Even before Christianity, they’ve been doing it forever, and it’s gotta stop.
And that has nothing to do with spirituality. I’m an incredibly spiritual person. I believe in God and even consider myself a Christian, but I don’t buy into that Old Testament hate and pain and shame stuff. I don’t buy into it. It was written by an emperor. It was put in the Bible and was put together by an emperor to keep people down.
The true meaning of it has been lost on so many people. And I think that that’s one of the issues today that a lot of people are going to come up with. Just acceptance. It’s just a lack of education. And there are so many people, not stupid, but ignorant and angry in their ignorance, and fired up. Because they’ve got political people like Trump and other people saying, “No, it’s good to be ignorant. You’re strong in your ignorance. That’s conservatism.”
It’s not conservatism, but kind of, and it’s just, you know, demagogues, man, they’re everywhere. And they’re trying to control people, and it’s something that’s gotta be put to rest. And it scares me because… I don’t see an easy answer.
AltWire: I feel like we’ve been in such an uncertain time.
Art Alexakis / Everclear: We came out of an uncertain time. We’re in an uncertain time. I just read that they’re saying we’re in a recession, you know?
AltWire: Yeah, it’s like, “when’s it going to stop?”
Art Alexakis / Everclear: It’s never gonna stop. It’s the way our economy’s based. Our economy’s based on gambling. It’s based on the stock market. It’s gambling.
You’re betting against stuff, or you’re hedging – hedge funds. You’re hedging that this is gonna work or putting so much money into something that it’s gonna sway investors in a certain way. It’s all smoke and mirrors, but it affects everybody, and it affects people who are just trying to make a living for their families.
Most people are just good people. Just, “man, all I want to do is have a comfortable life, pay my bills, have a house, take care of my family, and raise my kids to be good people.” That’s what 90%, 95% of the world is. It’s that other 5% you gonna look out for.
AltWire: When Everclear signed to Capitol Records, the label wanted to pass you off to audiences as a 24-year-old, even though you were 32. Of course, you refused, but what are your thoughts on ageism and the need to stay authentic to yourself?
Art Alexakis / Everclear: It’s disingenuous, man. If people are gonna see through it – I learned that from my mom. If you lie too much, people will never trust you. And they’ll see through it. Eventually. Just tell the truth.
Try not to do bad things, but if you do bad things own up to ’em, live up to ’em, try to make amends, and move on. Pretty much the philosophy of my recovery and my sober fellowship, and the basis of the whole 12-step principle is to basically realize what you’ve done and own up to it.
Make amends. Make reparations when necessary and move on, you know? I think all people should look like that. I think all people could use the little 12-step philosophy.
AltWire: In April 2019 you revealed to the world that had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. How has multiple sclerosis altered your perspective of life and the way you connect with people?
Art Alexakis / Everclear: Believe it or not. It’s allowed me to feel more joy, thanks to my relationship with my family, with my wife and my children, with my sober fellowship, the guys in my band, and just relationships everywhere.
I’ve become more accepting and grateful. Not for what I don’t have, not for the fact that walking is harder for me, or “this” is harder, balance is harder or cognitive memory or whatever. But the fact that I still have what I have, and I’m very grateful for it. And it’s inspired me to work harder physically with medication, diet, physical therapy, working out with weights, and doing all this stuff.
Not just because I got MS, but ’cause I’m 60 years old, you know? You gotta work harder. The older you get – you’re a kid, wait in 10 years, you gotta work harder. And you get to be 60, it’s even harder. Then you throw MS on it and it’s like being 75, you know? [laughs]. I mean, give, give a brother a break, man.
It is what it is. And I don’t have resentments about it. I don’t have anger about it. Sometimes I do. And then I get spiritual, and it goes away. And I’m not religious at all, but I’m very spiritual and there is a difference, a huge difference.
AltWire: You referenced your diagnosis in your song, “The Hot Water Test“. Can you talk a little about your experience making that video?
Art Alexakis / Everclear: When I wrote the song and it was gonna be on the record and I told people, in the world, about my MS, I wanted to do something, working with the MS Society and Sweet Relief. Two organizations that I work a lot with that are based around MS, looking for a cure and helping people that have MS.
And I wanted to do a video. I felt like the words that I was saying are words that other people would feel. I thought it would be interesting to have different faces with my voice saying these words, and emoting about them. And of different ages, different ethnic groups, male, female, some trans people are in there. It’s a cross-section of America, but America with MS. And, we didn’t have a lot of money to spend, but, we did it and it came out great. It was a one-day shoot and I’m just really proud of that video. I’m proud of that song.
AltWire: Switching gears, many younger artists feel as if they’re being pressured to create digital content on social media platforms (for example TikTok), in an effort to try to be the next viral sensation. What can we do to cultivate artists and preserve their art without having them sell their souls in marketing?
Art Alexakis / Everclear: I think that’s a personal choice, man. I don’t think anyone’s got a gun to anybody’s head saying you have to do this.
I think they feel like they have to do it. I think you can use TikTok, and I think you can use social media as a tool. Being younger and growing up with that, it’s something that’s natural for you. For me and people in my age group, it’s something we have to learn, right? But that being said, I think you can use those tools in a positive way.
One of the problems I have is that too many young artists are just following what the person over here did or this person behind them did, or this person did. They’re just going, “I want to do that. That was successful. I want success.” And you can’t do it for success. Success comes when you do something great, or something that’s infamous, or inspiring, or controversial.
You don’t the end result of that: the fame and the success and the money and all that stuff, from doing what everybody else is doing. But it’s the safe way to do it. And I think people need to be more brave. I think younger artists need to be more brave and I think they need to listen to more music than just what’s in front of them. And not just music.
I mean, look, [holding up cellphone] we’ve all got supercomputers in our pockets, right? If you want to hear a song from the forties, or if you want to hear something, ask Siri; she’s gonna play it for you. We have access to everything here and not just that: movies, books, poetry. Immerse yourself in culture and write from that.
And don’t be a follower, be a leader. That takes bravery. That takes tenacity. It takes knowing who you are. And I think that’s more important for artists. Learning who they are first, what they like, learning what’s available, accessing that, and then creating.
And I think a lot of times they put the cart before the horse.
AltWire: Looking back over your career, how do you feel you’ve grown as an artist since the beginnings of Everclear?
Art Alexakis / Everclear: I’ve become a better singer, better guitar player. I’ve evolved. I’ve learned how to incorporate different styles and different genres that I loved: Country, R&B, Pop, and Dissonance, into creating what has become Everclear. Everclear has just kind of worked into this bigger thing. And just tried to be open and grow, as a person. And because of that hopefully my art, and my music is gonna grow as well. So I feel like I’ve been pretty successful with that.
AltWire: Where do you see yourself going from here? Any solo music plans or future Everclear music in the pipeline?
Art Alexakis / Everclear: Everclear is my music, I look at it as one and the same. Whether I do another solo record, I won’t do the same kind of solo record if I ever do it.
I’m interested in working with other people, like maybe playing bass in a punk band or doing something more country or Americana-type stuff with someone else. I’d be interested in co-writing songs with one other person, not a bunch of people, but one other person for a project; that would be fine, but I haven’t found that yet.
So, I don’t know. Everclear’s not gonna do another album anytime soon. But we’ve got one song in the can. That’s gonna come out in probably September, or October, called Year of The Tiger. And I’d like to do a song every six months; that’d be fun.
If it ain’t fun, I don’t want to do it. I’m at a place in my life. Does that mean there isn’t things that aren’t fun to do? Do I like taking out the trash? No, but I like having a clean house, and that’s part of the deal you have to do.
Do I like cleaning toilets? No, but I like a clean house. You know, my wife likes a clean house. If my wife is happy, she’s nice to me. And we know what that means! So, that gives me joy. All that stuff is joy. And to me, you do what gives you joy in life, you know? And I’m in a good place with that right now.