I’m actually a big believer in the reason that music and art as a whole is so important is that appreciating art and appreciating music on its own sake for its own level is a really good thing, I think it’s just inherently enriching.
Here at Echoes and Dust we’ve spoken with sleepmakeswaves on a few occasions. Essentially once a year, and it’s been great to track what’s going on in the life of the band, from tours to records to the state of rock in Australia.
But with every topic pretty well covered over the years in our interviews and on other websites, we thought we’d dig a bit deeper into what makes bass player and sole original member Alex Wilson tick. We’d hate to think the years he spent studying moral philosophy at uni were not explored a bit more. We also discuss film versus book, touring, what music is, and more. And watch out for words like “ne’er-do-well” and “bulwark”, because, well, because it’s Alex.
When I spoke with Alex it was towards the end of last year and they had recently completed another huge tour which ended in their hometown of Sydney. They are looking to record another album this year, which they are crowd-funding just like last time. At the time of writing this they are three quarters of the way there so get on and pledge if you haven’t.
They’ve also recently announced a support gig for Devin Townsend here in Australia next year, which should harvest another crop of new fans in the same way their supports for Karnivool and others did a couple of years back.
Alex answers the phone with simply “Gilberto”, which prompts us both to agree it’s a good thing it was me calling, and it takes us straight to a discussion about the different names we are given in life.
Alex: That’s interesting right, because, maybe it’s something to do with maybe like there’s always an interesting thing with names, I have like several names. As a kid, my parents always called me Al, unless I was really bad then I’d get that full Alexander treatment, and a few of my good mates call me Al, but mostly Alex or Wilson or something like that, but I’ve noticed that girls like the full Alexander or even Alejandro as well (laughs). They enjoy that one as well. So maybe there’s some sort of connection there, y’know?
(((o))): How’s things?
Alex: Yeah, things are good, I’m currently stuffing around with a new laptop, trying to get that ready to use for the upcoming set. Got rehearsal tonight, y’know, just normal stuff at this point I guess, y’know, it’s a cold but otherwise lovely, clear and sunny day in beautiful Sydney where we live and it’s great.
(((o))): Yeah the weather is shit here. Just been up in Darwin and for a week I got to laugh at everyone back in Melbourne before it’s back to the Antarctic winds, as you Sydney folk love reminding us about.<
Alex: (laughs) Nah seriously, I do love it there (Melbourne), I think the whole rivalry thing is pretty silly to be honest, but when I was travelling down every week to do the shows with Cog which were really good fun, we’re all just sort of walking around Melbourne, sort of drinking nice coffee, I had two of the best breakfasts I’ve had in recent memory there and all that kind of stuff, and I’m like, ‘this is pretty great, I don’t understand why anyone would hate this’, y’know, it’s a good place, if not for all the kids bumping into each other playing Pokémon Go, it would have been the easiest time in a city I’ve had recently.
(((o))): Did they keep bumping into your zimmer frame?
Alex: (laughs) the whole thing makes you feel like a really crotchety old man, because had you asked me when I was actually playing this thing back on like a GameBoy, when I was like, however old, I dunno like 13 year old me, ‘hey Alex, what if one day everyone played Pokémon, and they all played it on their phones, and it was like in real life’, I’d have been, ‘oh yeah, that’s sick!’ but now, y’know, it’s sort of tragic how the future tends to be sort of underwhelming and vaguely irritating when it actually arrives, like, what a gyp, I thought I’d be getting a jetpack (laughs). But all I get is a bunch of irritation having kids playing Pokémon Go.
(((o))): When I was writing up my questions for this I was also preparing to talk with Mike Lessard from The Contortionist, and I realized there were a lot that I wanted to ask you both, because he’s very philosophical…
Alex: That’s interesting, cuz like, we found out on Facebook we had actually started reading the same book at the same time, which is this thing called Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, which is sort of a weird old book from the 70s I think where this guy tries to sort of analyse world mythology through the ways of Freud and psychoanalysis and stuff like that, so yeah, you’ll get some good mileage out of that one Gilbert, I think you’re onto something (laughs).
(((o))): What’s the story of your name. Not the band name – but your own name?
Alex: It’s actually, I think my dad wanted to call me Matt, and mum was like, ‘no, fuck that, that’s a terrible name’, and so they settled on Alex. That was the story that I got told, and I guess it’s sort of, y’know, I have always appreciated how it has a nice, sort of majestic quality based off y’know, Alexander the Great, who, as you know, was famous for killing a lot of people (laughs).
I think there’s not that much exciting to Wilson, I think it’s just one of those sort of like, long-standard English names that gets handed down through the generations. That’s pretty much it, I think the only other interesting thing is that I found that in the days before I became, y’know, a ne’er-do-well, who works full-time in various music related activities, I used to work a desk job, and I found that Alexander was quite a handy name to have in an office environment, because it would help, it’s sort of like putting on Alexander is like putting on your serious face, y’know? (laughs). It’s like wearing a hat where you get serious things done in an efficient time. So yeah, that’s my name.
(((o))): Plus there’s the thing about names with an ‘X’ in them, especially if they start with “X”.
Alex: That’s true! That’s actually um, yeah, I mean, I never wanted to make a big deal out of the X though, I think you just kind of want to let it sit there and do its thing (laughs). No seriously, I’ve always kind of struggled with names, like people who make it Xander with like a big capital X at the beginning, or like, stuff like Xavier or something like that or Lex. Lex always makes me think of Lex Luthor, and just, all of those really sort of hammy performances in the early Superman movies and stuff like that. So yeah, I think that’s a thing, you don’t wanna make a big deal of an X, y’know, you wanna be a bit humble about it, y’know, humility (laughs).
(((o))): In some cultures, and I’ve been told this is a Maori tradition, when people meet formally they tell each other the story of their name – it’s all out there so you know more about that person’s origin and so on before you move on. This takes some time, and it’s something we don’t do here, not even with people we’ve known for years – we tend to go for the slow reveal even though in reality we judge each other pretty quickly straight away.
Alex: I think you’re right, and it works out in a lot of different ways, I’ve noticed in Australia we’re really big on using first names, like even in a formal work setting or something like that, you still might call your boss Damo or something like that, whereas if you were to go to Germany, who, where they’re very progressive and socially liberating in a lot of ways, any sort of like, workplace or formal thing you will call people Herr or Frau or something like that, there’s always that formality to it.
And I noticed when we were in the States recently that names are not used so much as a lot of other things, like Sir and Ma’am really get quite a workout there as well, so I think like Australia tends to do a little bit better in terms of where we’re a bit more invested in taking the time to get to know people’s names and learning them and using them. I think we probably do miss out on something there, like, we probably do miss out on a lot of opportunities to learn interesting things about people and find ways to connect with them on that level, and I mean ultimately, I guess that is the, the point of all this is to sort of try and have meaningful connections with people in a way, like, I think it’s probably all kind of just a function of like, there’s no damn time, and it’s hard to make it not sound like some sort of really clichéd rant about how it’s sort of alienating the modern world, but I mean it’s sort of true on some levels, sometimes you find yourself starting an interesting train of conversation with someone but you have to stop it short, y’know, because you have somewhere else to be, or something else to do, or the conversation you’re having with that person in the shop is just a little interim from getting from Point A to B and going on and doing the more important stuff that if you don’t do, you’re gonna get in trouble for it in some kind of way.
So I think, yeah, we have missed out on that but there’s nothing that we can really blame ourselves too much about that, I think we just live in a situation where having that kind of knowledge about more than a handful of people that we’re really close to is actually quite a difficult proposition, and I think that particular thing, that question of how we get close to other people, how we get to know about them and know where they’re coming from, I think that one has some pretty big ramifications for explaining, I think a lot of things about the time we live in, and why we are the way we are at this particular point in history I guess.
(((o))): Names have a big influence on our lives – for example there’s the notion that most US Presidents and other famous and influential people have a surname that starts between A and K because people are organised in alphabetical order. So when kids at school are waiting for the morning roll call or papers are being marked, everyone’s lost interest once you get to the second half of the alphabet. And the association thing you just mentioned with Lex Luthor. Then there’s things like imposing names on people…
Alex: I think you’re totally right, and the former moral philosopher in me could say a bunch of stuff about how there’s all of these intellectual traditions where the concept of naming objects as such is considered sort of a form of conceptual violence in a way, which is a little dramatic I think, and probably slightly overdone, but the kind of basic point is pretty true, and that when you do put a name to a being, in a way it allows you to interact with it in such a way that you don’t have to regard the part, you don’t have to, you can regard it in terms of functionality I guess, how it’s useful to you, how it fits into your schematic of a life, it’s a way of, I suppose, placing or boxing in, or systematising or something and I think what you bring up is interesting, is a name is something and sometimes for us a function of just having an alibi for not having to deal with a person as they really are.
And I know that there’re plenty of experiences in my life, where, as you said, you learn something about someone’s past and it really does change your whole perception of how they are as a person, and in a wider way, sheds light on the fact that maybe all the expectations you’re bringing to 99% of your social interactions might actually be wrong. You’re always sort of plugging these assumptions in about people that may not fit, you could be entirely off the mark, and I think that the difficult thing, I guess trying to wrap that train of thought up, the difficult thing is that in a way that kind of knowledge, that kind of knowledge and that kind of way of relating to people is so crucial I think to being somewhat happy and satisfied in the kind of society we live in.
We do need authenticity, and we do need real relationships and everything like that, but it is just incredibly difficult, given the sort of practical constraint that modern lifestyles place on us, I guess it’s just really not possible. The weird paradox is that if you go and live in a sort of primitive society or something like that, they have all the time in the world to learn about each other, but I suppose that knowledge might not be as useful as not dying of typhoid or dysentery, or something like that. It’s almost like problems find the gap, don’t they? Y’know.
(((o))): What is the nature of truth? Sorry for the non-music related questions by the way…
Alex: No, this is great! Um, I don’t know how (band manager) Mike Solo’s gonna feel about this, (laughs) but let’s go down this rabbit hole, I’m all about it.
Um, what is the nature of truth. Um. Fuck. I guess my point of view is, I’m one of those people who believes there is an objective reality, so in a sense, y’know how there’s that Zen koan, right, so if a tree falls in the forest, and no-one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound, right? I do believe the tree falls and the sound is made regardless of whether anyone’s there to perceive it or not, I do believe that there is kind of truth that exists independent of the fact that we’re around.
But in a way, banging on about whether that version of truth is super-important kind of misses the point, because any interpretation has to come through our own unique frame of reference as human beings, and I think that the major thing is that if you look at it in a common sense way there are certain things about human perceptual capacity to be broadly shared. Like, we have eyes and ears, and noses, and certain kind of like raw desires and impulses that will frame our interpretation of truth, like y’know, desire and self-preservation and pride and all of this kind of things. So there are unifying things, but there are also things that make us incredibly different from one another.
Some of those are the result of culture, and some of them are the result of just human uniqueness and our own individual experience, I think the big problem with the concept of, the big thing, not the problem with the concept, the big thing to try and work out in terms of understanding truth is firstly that it has to be interpreted to you via this human apparatus for understanding, and the second part is trying to delineate which parts of that are commonly shared, and which parts are actually diverse within our experience of being human.
And I think drawing that line is really, really hard. And I think one of the things I’m frustrated by constantly, I guess, is people’s, um, to draw that line really definitively. I think one of the things that we’re experiencing at the moment is we live in a, again another cliché about the times we live in, but its true, we live in times where we’re bombarded with so much information, that sorting out the truth from the bullshit, the signal from the noise is really hard.
And one of the things I think that people do to try and bulwark their heads by potentially in a coherent terms of ego and self, we come to that huge, chaotic morass of information is to draw that line really clearly, to clearly delineate between what parts of being human are indisputable and clear, and I can hold on to, and what other parts I can say are all just sort of subjective, meaningless bullshit that in a way I can sort of ignore or dismiss and I think there’s something very comforting in doing that.
I think the temptation to do that is very great and it exists in all of us, and we all need to do it to a certain extent, but I think in all sides of morality and all sides of the political spectrum we’re seeing a kind of extremism crop up in all different kinds of competing areas. Yeah, so that’s my first rant about truth. There you go (laughs). If I may quote the Wilcannia Mob, which were a huge fixture on our recent touring thing “this is my rhyme and that’s what I said.”
(((o))): Speaking of extremism, let’s talk about music for a minute – what do you make of extremism and absolutes in opinions about music. “Is this post-rock or not.” “Is this definitively good or bad music.”
Alex: I think the music analogy is a really good one, I’m actually a big believer in the reason that music and art as a whole is so important is that appreciating art and appreciating music on its own sake for its own level is a really good thing, I think it’s just inherently enriching, but there’s another aspect, which is that by practicing and going through a process of self-understanding on our own, preferences and desires around things like music and musical style, so what we want out of it, it’s kind of a low-stage practice for ethics as a whole.
It’s like, you can work out the ethics of music, and the way that sort of genres interact, and how to sort of treat fellow listeners and everything like that, can actually sort of be a microculture, that’s how we should behave as a whole, so I guess my take on it is really similar to yours. I think that if you take something like music, we can see that there are big problems that need to be fixed, y’know, a couple of things that might come to mind, and sort of like, consistent, under-representation of women in the music industry, would probably be a big one, y’know other various kinds of discrimination lurking in the corners. Another big one for me is the sort of general emphasis on a kind of inauthentic commodification of music, like the idea of music not as a sort of authentic experience but as a product to be sold.
And you can understand both of those things within the capacity of music, and you can come up with complex ideas about them and then you could transpose them outwards into a sort of wider understanding of society, where yes, we do have these same problems with discrimination against vulnerable people and the commodification of experience generally into things that can be sold to you, rather than be made part of your authentic life, and I guess, it would be my hope that through like, practicing to know what things to tolerate and I suppose be open-hearted about and have a live and let live attitude to music, knowing the difference between those things that one should tolerate and those things that one should say, ‘no, these need to change’, and having done it in the sort of low-stakes realm of talking about artists and bands and styles and everything.
You might have learnt a bit about yourself that you can then take out into the wider world and be a bit more confident and decisive and on solid ground about knowing the difference between what should be tolerated and what needs a stand taken against it. Because I think honestly, that’s one of the big sort of truth questions I think that we face at the moment, is I think every human life needs both a measure of accepting the way things are and the fact that life and be pretty unfair sometimes, the world’s not exactly the nicest place, but y’know, that has been the way that it’s been for all time, but then also a measure of actually being like, ‘no, fuck this, the only way we’ve actually got anything done ever is by essentially charging the ramparts and trying to make the changes that we wanna see’. And that’s, I think, a dilemma quite a few of us are facing at this time, and music I think is sort of a good playpen to sort of figure out the difference for those things where you can then go back into the wider world and make those decisions on a surer footing.
This is my rhyme and that’s what I said (laughs).
(((o))): If music is, like other art, a form of communication, is it a language and if so is a song a conversation or a speech? Is it neither? Is it both?
Alex: I think music is a form of communication and it is a language in a sense, but I think we need to be really careful about exactly how we define that, the devil is in the details, so I wouldn’t say music is really analogous to language in the way that we use it every day. So don’t think a song is like a conversation in a really functional sense, it’s very rare that a song directly tells you anything of any significance. I mean, there are songs that have, throughout time, that have been able to tell us quite clearly the temperature of the room and whether we should have our clothes on or off, and been able to answer those questions for us quite clearly (laughs).
But I guess the point being, I don’t think that’s really music doing the talking at that point, that’s just someone talking at you over a bed of music. I think music itself, the idea of sound and texture and rhythm and pitch and harmony, it is a language but it’s more like a dream. It’s a dream language. I think when I write music, it’s a lot like I’m having a conversation with myself, accessing various parts of my subconscious that I probably wouldn’t otherwise be able to in a normal way.
One of my favourite musicians, Johnny Marr, the guitarist from the Smiths, described songwriting as daydreaming in sound, which I thought was really good. And I think when you hear, at least when I take something powerful from a song, it does appear dreamlike in a way, it’s very powerful and emotionally effective, but it’s not obvious in a way that a statement is, it’s not communicated in a really clear, direct fashion. It’s something that maybe sort of comes at you laterally from an angle, and it’s a feeling that builds up, and you might not know right away exactly what it means, but you do know that you’re feeling something and you might need to go away a bit later and try and figure it out.
So I think that there is communication and there is language going on, but it’s in a different way. And I think that’s sort of brought out by the fact that in terms of writing music and music fandom and all these other aspects of music. Every thing that focuses exclusively on the language like aspects of music, like sort of scales and harmony and everything and makes music really formal, often fails to connect with people, because it’s missing that bit of extra symbolic element in there, you can’t just treat music like a functional conversation, there’s gotta be that additional part. It makes it alluring I guess.
(((o))): Does some music have more of a role for the listener than other music?
Alex: Oh yeah, totally, totally. I mean, I think we, I think the kind of music that we do both because it’s progressive rock and instrumental music, just to throw you some couple of genres out there, it both allows and demands a fair bit of the audience I guess, you know given the context of a lot of the kind of music that’s out there, y’know just generally, the kind of stuff that is sold as a product that the last vestiges of the sort of old, tiny music industry are continuing to grow that on, that kind of music doesn’t require a lot from the listener, but it also doesn’t give them a lot, in my opinion, it’s not, there’s not a great deal of exchange going on. It’s sort of just simply there, and it’s enjoyed, then it isn’t again.
I guess with what we do, I think that we require a fair bit from the audience, relatively speaking. They have to bring a set of open expectation to what we do and they kinda have to figure it out for themselves, essentially. We don’t give a huge amount of clues in the music about what we were thinking or what we were feeling when we make it, but I think there’s something really nice about that, cuz it’s an open space for the audience to explore, and I’m just happy that we’ve managed to find the people out there in, y’know, radio land, that appreciate having that space and are happy to go along with it and they really value being just a little bit challenged and also able to then take that and create something cool of their own with it.
I think that’s awesome, someone I know made a really good, I can’t remember who it was, but he made a really good analogy recently saying the difference between sort of, a pop song and instrumental music is a little bit like the difference between watching the film and reading the book. In the film, it’s all there laid out for you and you can be quite passive and the meaning is just imparted directly to you, particularly if it’s sort of a Hollywood blockbuster or something like that, but if you go and read the book, even if it’s a very well-written book, y’know with good pacing and everything that goes along in a nice clip, you’ll still have to invest a fair bit of your own imagination into bringing it to life.
But as someone who’s always, always been a fan of the book and the kind of like, person also who will, tediously, defend the book to death over the movie, don’t ask me about Jurassic Park, I’m warning you (laughs). I find that that analogy really spoke to me, I find there’s a real strong connection between my lifelong passion for reading, which was my first love really early on as a kid, and still is a massive thing for me and falling into this weird thing of making instrumental post-rock.
(((o))): Film also often tells you the story too directly so you miss out on the process of adrenaline and dopamine where you get anxious and confused, but then get the reward for working it out – that dopamine hit really only kicks in when you work it all out yourself.
Alex: I think it’s just you always end up having a more personal relationship to the art that you’ve gone into the depths of and like, returned with something from it, and that’s a nice thing, it doesn’t have to be something that’s the same as everyone else got, but, as long as you got something that’s yours and no-one else can take it away.
(((o))): Have you seen Hunt for the Wilderpeople?
Alex: Yeah, I loved that, that was awesome. I went to see it at the movies with a really good friend of mine, and I thought that was a really good example of making a film that was really goddamn funny and entertaining, but also managed to make you feel something at the same time. And I think that’s a really difficult thing to do, as someone who makes sort of like, super melodramatic and at times quite overblown music, I guess that I’m always kind of in admiration of people that manage to illicit really strong feelings out of me, in a sort of whimsical, low-key sort of way, y’know, I found that movie quite moving. It didn’t have any huge drama particularly in it, in any great way, y’know?
I like the haikus as well, I thought those were really good, those.
(((o))): I’ve been thinking lately about the Lifeworld that German philosopher Husserl talked about, in particular the notion of the structures and frameworks that we construct and how they can enhance or destroy what exists naturally in society – more often posing a threat by seeking to take power or control away from people. What’s your take on his ideas?
Alex: Yeah, look, my thesis was on a guy called Heidegger, so he was sort of like the major student, and depending on who you ask, either continued Husserl’s work or either totally destroyed it. And he was also a Nazi, so he wasn’t a particularly nice man by any stretch of the imagination. He didn’t kill as many people as Alexander the Great, but I mean, still probably not someone you want to emulate particularly (laughs).
I think it’s a really hard one to answer, isn’t it? I studied, so I guess my point of view I can only answer based on what my experience was, I studied moral philosophy for a long time, very passionately out of a sincere belief to want to try and understand how people could be better, to try and be a better person myself, and then sort of try and do, a better job being a human being in the world, and the conclusion I kind of came to after a while was that a lot of it is bullshit. And not just bullshit in the sense of being incorrect, but bullshit in a bigger sense of being an alibi for making self-interest respectable, intellectually.
A way of rationalising what you want to do and making it the justified, or dominant way, by creating all of these great arguments around it. When you look at something like, just the tribes that exist in philosophy, one way you could look at it as several different kinds of people with competing sets of preferences and competing outlooks on life, just finding a way to make their own way of doing things fairly intellectually respectable, rather than ‘fessing up to the fact that basically within us all there’s actually just this really basic, primary need to have the world the way we want it to be, and when it’s not the way we want it to be, it’s quite convenient to go blaming other people for that as a first measure. Which may, in some cases be quite justified so, sometimes it is the problem, but it’s not always the case that it’s not the most useful reflex reaction to have.
One of the things that I’ve noticed recently as someone who was once part of academia and was planning to go quite deeply into it for a while, but doesn’t now, I’ve noticed that the academic viewpoint, a lot of the language of things that I’d learned at university have now been put out into wider society via sort of sites like Buzzfeed for example, or something like that, who, a lot of the time will, cherry-pick quite sophisticated concepts from people like Sarkhos say about power, which is what your question is about, and then put it out in this really cheap spoiler clickbaity kind of way, essentially reducing something that was a really deep analysis of some fundamental things that human beings are into a sort of article-shaped weapon that you can use to attack people on the Internet.
And I’ve singled out Buzzfeed here, but they’re not the only ones doing it, and I don’t wanna come across like, y’know, everything they say is wrong, because I also think they do a lot of good stuff as well, and there are as many awful, right-wing Internet publications basically doing the same thing, like there’s this horrendous YouTube channel called PrayForUniversity, which is basically masquerading as a university course when it’s really just complete propaganda made by this libertarian billionaire who wants to sort of push a very harsh, unforgiving view of the world out there in order to justify certain things.
So I guess that’s just a very long-winded way of saying yeah, I do think that the world we live in, particularly at the moment, is one where people are seeking a lot of power, and we’ve been told consistently since a really early age that when things don’t go right, it’s our fault, we haven’t been powerful enough, we haven’t been responsible enough, or you haven’t planned well enough, or you haven’t been authentic enough, or you haven’t set out boundaries too well, and this is the reason why you ended up getting hurt, or something didn’t go right for you, or one or the other, because you didn’t do all of these things you should have done, which would have been more powerful manifestations of who you are as a self.
And I think at the end of the day, I’m a guy who likes ballads, and a dude who speaks to me in terms of philosophers would be someone like Aristotle I guess, who always talked about the Golden Mean. Sort of try and find a way to balance. And it sounds really glib to say it, but I think that to a certain degree we just have to try and finesse that in our every day lives, we have to recognise we do live in a world where it is, a lot of the time, people out to get what they want. And there are a lot of people out there who are able to make their self-interest look really respectable and maybe even kind, y’know, the wolves in sheep’s clothing and everything like that.
We do have to be wary, and we do have to be skeptical, and we do have to live in that world and kind of deal in power ourselves, but you don’t wanna give all of yourself over to that, I feel. I feel that, that kinda down that way lies madness. And I think that, you know David Foster Wallace, one of my favourite authors, he once said that, you know, if you um, I think I might be paraphrasing, but something like, if you devote yourself to power you’ll continually be worrying that you’re not powerful enough, and then someone else is just gonna grab a one-up on you as well, so I think one needs to find a counter-balance to that as well.
I think giving is a really good way to do that, whatever that means to you. I think there are various ways that one can do that, you can give to yourself, and you can give to others, and I think a good example of balance is maybe us being in this band. We certainly get great things out of it, we get to be in a cool band playing the hits of today, and y’know, sort of enjoying going around the world and having these amazing experiences that we love and are good for us, seeing all these things, and having these kind of experiences. But at the same time it also feels like a beautiful experience when you hear from someone that they’ve received something gratefully from you out of the music.
And I think that’s, a lot of the time, an attitude that we tried to bring to it from the start. It wasn’t, what can we get out of this, but what can we put into it, to make it as best as it can be, and to give something back out there as well. So I think, yeah, just have to strike a balance I suppose, find that equilibrium on some way. I don’t want to buy into the totally nihilistic point of view. Even if you recognise that power is a thing that rules the world in a lot of ways, you can find elbow room to act differently from time to time to disregard it in a few significant ways, y’know?
(((o))): That makes me think of how it can be very liberating is to give up power in certain situations.
Alex: Yeah, totally. And it’s interesting that you mentioned all this stuff about y’know getting away from the systems and all of the bullshit and everything like that, because one of the things that Heidegger did, moving on from Husserl with all that stuff was to try and get the idea of relating back to lived experience to not approach your own life conceptually, but to try and approach your own life as an inherent thing that matters to you, and that’s a very sort of good way of putting it I guess, but I can really empathise with what you said, because when I came across all that stuff studying philosophy, I was very preoccupied with all of these difficult, unresolvable questions that the modern world sort of puts into your head based on this very systematised way that we live, like, what am I, who am I going to be, what boxes am I going to fit myself into, yadda yadda yadda and everything like that.
And having that guy at that point sort of come out of the book and kinda say, well look, the point of a life isn’t to sorta think about what you’re gonna be, the point of life is to actually just get along and do it, y’know? Get messy, and live the everyday stuff, I found that tremendously liberating, so I can understand where you’re coming from there, for sure.
(((o))): You’ve just finished touring the USA and did a shit load of miles – did you fly between cities?
Alex: Nah it was all just on a bus, driven by y’know an Australian legend called Adam Perry, so yeah, it was good, it was good.
(((o))): It’s an amazing place isn’t it.
Alex: Oh, unbelievable. I love it. Obviously, y’know, you can’t love America without having a warts-and-all attitude about it, but um, I found it a really invigorating place to be. And their music culture and appreciation for music is just unreal as well.
(((o))): I found everyone I met was different from the stereotype we have of Americans here in Australia. But it’s also a country of extremes and diversity that we don’t really see in a place like Australia, such as the great wealth and widespread poverty.
Alex: Um, that’s a real, um, that’s a real difficult one. I guess it is a really big wild world out there, isn’t it? Y’know, I guess that’s sort of the main thing I felt, both musically speaking and non-musically speaking. Look, I love Australia and I don’t really have any particular inclination to want to live anywhere else, but I think in some respects we’ve quite a beautifully, sheltered kind of existence out here, there aren’t many of us, we’re in a sort of big old space with plenty of room and yeah, we can just kind of more or less go about our business, trundling about in an idiosyncratic way without anyone particularly bothering us.
When going to a place like America to play music, the amount of diversity, and awesomeness, and difficulty, and y’know, everything just crammed cheek to jowl into what’s already a big country, but y’know, they’re all this side-by-side, up against each other during everything, it’s pretty exhilarating. But it also makes one feel like you haven’t really got it yet, you know what I mean? Because there’s just so much out there to understand, both as a musician and as a person. I guess that was my feeling when coming back from the United States.
(((o))): When we’ve talked in the past you’ve always shown an attitude that “Yeah I’m really happy with what I’ve done here, but now I think about it I could have done this”, or “I want to be better at that”. Do you still feel that way?
Alex: Oh totally, totally, I mean it would get boring if there wasn’t things like that, it’s like you said, I think that Australians maybe do have a bit of a stereotype about the US, and it’s really just an interesting experience to go there and understand that in many significant ways, you didn’t really know things that you thought you knew, and maybe now you know things that you didn’t know it was even possible to know, because you’ve experienced them now.
And I think that it all dovetails back to that original point I was making about how comfortable are you during that definitive line between what you’ve experienced, what you think is universal, and what you’ve experienced that you think is just sort of a circumstance, some kind of idiosyncratic cultural or personal thing.
And if you’ve drawn out that line really sharply, you might not rock up to a place with an open mind, and just may not find it as interesting. You may not find life as interesting, you might be more sure in your opinions, you might be able to speak more clearly and unambiguously on certain topics and you might sometimes be right, but there’s things and you might also get a lot of credit for being really definitive and outspoken, but you might not find things as interesting.
And I guess that’s always been my whole perspective I suppose is, try to work as much from a perspective that it’s very possible to be wrong, and as my bandmates would also tell you, it’s quite of struggle for a guy who’s often convinced he’s right (laughs), I mean it’s definitely a thing that’s worth doing.
(((o))): And you’ve made some new friends (The Contortionist) that you’re bringing back?
Alex: Yeah, definitely, definitely. We promised them that they’re gonna get to hug koalas and hopefully like, the weather’s good, so we can like maybe, take them to a beach or something on a day off. But yeah, it’s gonna be really awesome. I’m pretty sure The Contortionist have been to Australia once or twice before, I mean they’ve been around for a while, and been doing their thing for some time, I think having been through a few lineup changes I don’t think everyone in the band has actually made it to Australia, so it’ll be pretty cool to show people around for the first time. And y’know like, progressive rock musicians are always nice people to it’s just good to hang out (laughs).
(((o))): Are you still playing a fair bit of Love of Cartography on this tour?
Alex: Yeah, I think. Y’know, we’re in the process of writing a new record at the moment, and we’re about halfway where we need to be on that. The plan is to try and, hopefully, have it out by 2017, but we sort of need to see where it’s all going to end up. And I guess with this tour that we’re doing with the Contortionist and Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving, it’s going to be the last tour that we do before the next record comes out, so I suppose we’re going to try and give like one last hurrah on the Cartography stuff I guess before we move on, and the next time we come back to designing sets we’ll have a bunch of new stuff that we can put in there and maybe revisit some sort of old things that we haven’t played in a while, who knows? But yeah, we’re definitely going to wrap that up I think with this tour.
(((o))): It’s always exciting to see Tangled Thoughts of Leaving play live.
Alex: Yeah, totally, as well as, I mean it’s gonna be a really good line-up, probably got those two bands on around the country, and then, you know, for other selected shows we’ve got, Mowgli, Majora, and Stranger Things Have Happened and I mean yeah, just sort of basically having two awesome bands on the whole tour and then a bunch of other great bands opening up at the selected shows. It’s really, really cool. And yeah, we’re like, good mates with all of those bands we’ve played. Yeah, actually everyone on the lineup we have played with in some capacity before, y’know, either in their current band or as a sort of previous one, y’know, before that, so, yeah I figure it’s gonna be basically one big love-in of post-rock boys, which is basically, that’s, you’ve gotta give the punters what they want, Gilbert (laughs). That’s what they came for and that’s what they’re gonna get!
(((o))): Perhaps the most important question of the interview – Tangled have said they will not be wearing jocks for the whole tour.
Alex: Not wearing jocks for the whole tour, you mean like, going commando for the whole tour?
(((o))): Yeah, although I did read your interview when you talked about the other type of jocks that sometimes ruin shows – the dickheads.
Alex: (laughs) I mean look, I, I look, I’m pretty in favour of going commando generally, like it feels great, and it’s kind of thrilling to live on the edge, but I mean obviously as we all know, the problems arise when it might get a little too thrilling. So, um, you’ve just gotta see where it ends up (laughs).
On a more serious note with that, I sort of read that and there have been a couple of times over like the past year or so where sort of, I’ve been up playing, and then you sort of see some guy come down the front and try to start a one-man moshpit, or something like that, and just sort of like, y’know, totally kill the vibe for about 20 people that were just having a good time, I guess it’s just sort of like a general PSA, sleepmakeswaves requests you don’t be a dick (laughs), and like, be considerate of your fellow punters who are maybe there in the zone, just, y’know, having a good time. And yeah, I dunno, this is some sort of like interesting stuff you’ve put on my place, I’ll have to figure out how to test-demo jock theory, because you wouldn’t wanna let them get away with talking big game and then not actually verifying, y’know (laughs). Pics or it didn’t happen, right? That’s what they say on the Internet, so (laughs).
(((o))): Well I’m out of questions would you believe…
Alex: There’s one more, there’s one more thing I wanna say before we wrap this up, alright, because you didn’t ask me, but, the book is way better than the movie of Jurassic Park, like, so much better (laughs). I can’t even, look, I’m just gonna give you a brief run-down. Basically in the movie, what happens is that Speilberg does what he always does with movies, which is make them very entertaining, but take all the substance out of them, so basically turns Hammond, right, the guy played by Richard Attenborough, into this sort of really nice grandfatherly figure who cares for his children and everything like that, and is really dismayed that the whole thing goes bad.
But I mean in the book, Hammond is actually this awful kind of arch-capitalist who doesn’t give a shit about whether his grandkids are gonna die, and in the end he doesn’t get off the island, he actually sort of falls down this ravine and gets torn apart by a whole bunch of those tiny little mini velociraptor dinosaurs and everything like that, and then like, y’know, there’s all this gnarly shit about chaos theory in there, Ian Malcolm, like doesn’t make it off the island either. He dies there as well, but the whole time’s losing blood and hallucinating and ranting about chaos theory, and it’s awesome, and it’s dark, and it’s brutal, and the movie fucked it up.
That’s all I’m saying, y’know. So there’s your clickbait there, right, ‘Australian post-rock musician disses Jurassic Park’, y’know? (laughs)
((o))): I do want to thank you again for talking with us, it’s always great to catch up and I do love coming to see you guys play. I love the way you interact with your fans on the stage, and I see some young couple or guy come up to you after the show and you can see that happiness in their faces. And it gets back to what we talked about at the start with what we know about each other and that with any performer or celebrity, fans will always know more about you than you know about them and that’s an unequal relationship so how you deal with that matters. I always think you guys are so genuine in your appreciation of the people who come to see you.
Alex: Oh that’s a really nice thing, yeah totally, I mean there is all of that, then on like, a more basic level it’s actually just really nice to talk to people about what they’re interested in when you’re on tour, and you’ve just talked about like, what show it is, how much beer you’ve got, and sort of like, the health of your bandmates for like the past three weeks or whatever, y’know, and when someone comes up to you at the merch desk, like I remember at one point in Belgium this guy came up, he had like a PhD in French Literature, and I’m like, yeah yeah, okay, let’s not talk about my band, let’s talk about (big ol’ laugh). Y’know, you don’t hear about that very often when you’re on the road, but yeah it’s a really nice thing to say. Appreciate it!