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Interview: Alex Cameron Talks Style And Substance

Interview: Alex Cameron Talks Style And Substance

Interview by Fluffy / Thursday 18th January, 2018 10:29AM

Australian pop-rock artist Alex Cameron's solo career has been a high tension balancing act of style and substance. Over the past five years Cameron has produced a run of powerfully emotive tunes and over-the-top music videos showcasing his vocal abilities and enjoyably distinctive visual brand. Cameron's talents have attracted winning collaborations with US songwriter Angel Olsen and Australian provocateur Kirin J. Callinan, and he has recorded alongside enigmatic saxophonist and "business partner" Roy Molloy on albums Forced Witness (2017) and Jumping The Shark (2013).

Cameron's work embodies an all-in approach where it can be tricky to distinguish the artist's position from the showbiz personality he portrays, a sometimes controversial strategy that's received bouquets as well as brickbats. He'll be visiting our shores for shows with Molloy and fellow traveller Jack Ladder in Auckland and Wellington this February, ace reporter Fluffy caught up with the artist who was in London supporting US rockers The Killers. Read on for their conversation about his artistic collaborations, musical trials and tribulations, life on the road and more...

Hey man, how’s it going?

Going good, how ‘bout you?

Not too bad. What’re you up to?

Ah, I’m in London, we just played last night in Birmingham. I’m just peeking out the window and at the weather and I was anticipating that it would be grey but it doesn’t seem an awful day which is quite nice.

How did the show go last night?

The shows have been wild. We’ve been playing with The Killers and it’s been a learning process, and really exciting to play in a giant arenas. We played two nights in a row and each night there was sixteen thousand people in the room. It was a lot of fun and we get to hang out with the band. The Killers have been really sweet and generous to us. It’s been really sweet.

So I wanted to talk about your most recent album Forced Witness. What is that title getting at?

The title, I felt, was gonna be an effective one because there was so many different interpretations that I think were all applicable but ultimately its to do with, I think, a human’s empathy threshold and the dangers of being desensitised.

One yarn I saw online about your latest album touched on the Internet age in general. Do you ever feel anxious about a Skynet-type situation with artificial intelligence arising over mankind?

It’s interesting, I was speaking about this yesterday with one our bandmates. She was talking about the inevitability of humans, logically, being needed to be destroyed and I was wondering if I’d rather die from a robot putting a giant pincer around my neck and then using some kind of tube to drain out my brain fluids for sustenance or would I rather be killed by global warming and the robot one doesn’t seem so bad.

You’ve been touring around a whole lot at present. Have there been any standout destinations on your worldly adventures?

I think Portugal is a beautiful place. I think people are discovering that and it’s becoming a destination, it’s a really sweet place. I really like Pittsburg, in the United States. Something about the city just has a spirit to it that I really like; it’s my favorite city in the US. New York is feeling more and more like home, it’s incredible. It’s just a special place. I haven’t been to New Zealand but I’m excited to because my friend Kirin keeps telling me that New Zealand is like the place to go and play shows.

It is pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

Very nice, I can’t wait to see it.

I was going to talk about Kirin J. Callinan. Obviously there’s a few parallels that can be drawn between yourself and him: you’re both from Sydney, you both have an interesting brand of imagery. I just wanted to ask if his track ‘Big Enough’, which you feature on, is the point of that song sort of saying that the whole Australian pop scene is big enough for the two of you?

Well, we came to the idea because people kept comparing us and we always thought that we were polar opposites but using a similar platform. I think we just want to convert that feeling into a song about things that have shaped society. Y’know, struggles between different communities and different walks of life, the struggle to get along. We just wanted to communicate and remind people it doesn’t have to be about us vs. them, it can just be about us, together, coz ultimately that’s what the world is.

Nice, that’s a really good message man.

Thanks. I hope so.

While we’re talking about collaborators, one of your most recent songs also features Angel Olsen, how did that duet come to be?

Well Angel and I were pen pals for a while. We met on tour and exchanged emails and we just stayed in touch with one another and we’d send each other demos and all kinds of things over the course of a year or two. Eventually I had this song that I felt needed Angel’s voice, needed a woman’s voice and her performance is just so important on that song. Angel’s so important in general to me. As a musician and also just as a friend and someone who’s been a great help to me and the way I conduct myself as a person. She’d been huge and it’s just a beautiful thing that happened, that song is a beautiful moment.

If you had the chance to collaborate with any artist in the world, living or dead, who would that be?

Hmmm, probably Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits).

And why would that be?

I’d like him to produce a record. Any record he’s produced, especially Bob Dylan’s stuff, I really like.

Can you tell us a little about your partner in crime, Mr Roy Molloy?

Yet again, I’m sharing a hotel room with him right now.

Oh right, is he just around the corner?

Somewhat, but it seems like his brain is far, far away. He’s sleeping right now. Roy is an old friend of mine; someone who has always been seen together. We met each other when we were kids, about five years old. We went to high school together and we ended up playing in bands together, I used to play drums and Roy played bass. Then we were working at a pizza restaurant and I decided to play some instrumentals to Roy that I was working on. He was a very important figure to me when I was young but for this record, because he was encouraging and he has a lot of ideas himself, he’s been a strong voice in the creative side of things from day one. He’s had a major part in it y’know? Then we started touring together, just me and him, he does a huge amount of work for what the act was and he’s been a major part of what the act has become so we’ve been partners since the beginning of it all.

Awesome man, it must be very rewarding to have such a long-standing bond with someone.

Yeah, it’s not something that you get to contemplate a lot because you’re busy working but every now and then you get a moment to sit back, especially when you’re playing like Birmingham when you’re used to playing night clubs and all of a sudden, the same people are playing to sixteen thousand people and it’s something to think about.

Can you tell me a little bit about your other musical project, Seekae. Do you guys till play together at all or has this been all encompassing for a little while?

I’ve been busy, but the other guys have been real busy as well. We still write together. I know there’ll be another album soon. That’s a band that we’ve also been making since high school, so it doesn’t feel like we’re taking time off, it just feels like we’re working on the next record.

Recently I read an article (Alex Cameron, Kirin J Callinan And The Problem With “Ironic” Toxic Masculinity by Jared Richards) which name-dropped yourself and specifically your track ‘Marlon Brando’. Did you happen to see that at all?

I did.

What did you think of that?

Someone told me about it. I’m open to dialog, I love discussion and I think that ultimately the record is unfortunately, is about a majority, more then it is about a minority and so it’s a majority that needs to be confronted, subject matter that needs to be confronted, so I wrote about it. I think that ultimately, these people need to discuss it. I have zero problem with it. I encourage people in the future to reach out to me and talk to me. Junkee never contacted me but that’s up to them, that’s not up to me. I’ve said my piece on the record and it’s clear what the record is about. I have no problem with people discussing it.

Thank you so much for your insight, I appreciate it. On a slightly different topic, I saw recently online that you felt nicknames were underrated. Have you got any sweet nicknames yourself? 

When I was a kid, my baby brother used to call me, it was odd, it was “Alcho”. Which is short for alcoholic in Australia, I don’t know if you call guys call people alchos? It’s not a sweet nickname per say, it’s something I didn’t mind as a kid, which I suppose is a little dangerous. I mean, Ken, is probably the strongest offering. Ken is one I respond to; when I was a kid, I wanted my name to be Ken.

With Alcho, were you a bit of a drinker back in the day?

I think the joke was that I wanted to. I tried to start drinking very young. I think it’s also a play on Alex Cameron, Al Cam you know? When I was a kid I was desperate to drink, I really wanted to.

You can catch Alex Cameron alongside Roy Molloy (on horn) and Jack Ladder live at Auckland's Kings Arms Tavern on Thursday 15th February and Wellington's Meow on Friday 16th February. For more info and tickets head along HERE.


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Alex Cameron with Roy Molloy
Thu 15th Feb 8:00pm
Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland
Alex Cameron with Roy Molloy
Fri 16th Feb 8:00pm
Meow, Wellington