From the LA Times 2/20/03: "Alexi Murdoch, a long-haired, bearded singer-songwriter, stands on the Troubadour stage, picking a moody scale on his guitar and singing an expressive, introspective lyric. The crowd, which includes press, record label reps and movie soundtrack supervisors, quiets down and tunes in to his dusky voice. It's the classic Troubadour tableau, as inscribed in the early '70s, when it was arguably the most famous nightclub in the world."
Almost Famous - An Interview With Alexi Murdoch
By Tiffany Stone (TiffanyAStone@aol.com)
Alexi Murdoch is the epitome of what I found sexy in high school: longish wavy-brown hair with a hippyish/’70s rock star vibe. At our interview, he’s wearing corduroy pants, a black shirt and olive green cardigan sweater. At his recent Mint show (club on Pico Blvd near Crescent Heights) in Los Angeles, he had a groupie section with myriad young girls in tight jeans and T-shirts singing along. Alexi’s strikingly pretty girlfriend was dutifully collecting fan info for the mailing list.
I recognized Alexi from his gig at The Mint. I didn’t meet him that night because things were mad. The Mint had recently been visited by the Fire Marshal, so they weren’t allowing in more than the maximum capacity sign allowed. I had to wait for fifteen minutes outside, even though I was on the guest list. This was almost a deal breaker. I was cold and annoyed. It was worth the wait. For only being the opening band, Alexi has deservedly garnered a lot of hype. His music wraps around its audience like a cozy blanket possessing a ubiquitous honesty.
Alexi was late for our meeting and sincerely apologetic for the second time that day regarding his tardiness. The first time was from his cell-phone. “I didn’t realize there was traffic at this time of day.” Our meeting was scheduled for 1:30pm at a coffeehouse in Santa Monica. Apparently, he was also confused about where Santa Monica is in relation to Hollywood.
“I’m so sorry. Let me grab a coffee. Can I get you anything?”
“No, thank you.” I was still nursing a peppermint tea. I wanted a slice of carrot cake, but a mouthful of crumbs didn’t make for good interviewing. He returned and was grinning sheepishly at his café mocha. “I still have this cold. I don’t usually have sugar, caffeine, alcohol or drugs.” Alexi started out the conversation by interviewing me about the Movie Poop Shoot website I freelance for. I speedily rattled off some facts, trying to sound knowledgeable. I really didn’t want to talk. Reigning in control, I switched to Alexi.
T: You have a distinct voice. I love your accent.
AM: I never really thought of myself as a good singer. When I was younger, I mimicked whomever I was listening to. I used to sing in more of an American accent, but that wasn’t true to who I was. I was born in London but also grew up in Scotland. My voice is more English sounding than anything else. My dad’s Greek, but I don’t think I have any of that in my voice. I don’t really listen to my voice anymore. For a while I got a bit obsessed with it: whether I was in tune, etcetera.
T: Do you get paid for any of your gigs?
AM: I do get paid for licensing, and now that the EP is out, it is cool. I can’t make a living-well, not yet. I also do voice-overs. I am sure you have heard me unknowingly. I don’t know if you know, “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” [a popular three-hour morning radio show in Los Angeles that plays everything from Moby to Philip Glass and includes emerging artists.] I’ve been played on it a lot. That helps. My music is starting to get played around the country now: Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York, to name a few. My website, www.AlexiMurdoch.com, has that information. It also lists the record stores where my EP is available.
T: Coincidentally, I just heard another live set with you as a guest singer yesterday morning on “Morning Becomes Eclectic.”
AM: That was so fun. It was the craziest thing. I’m doing a couple of songs with this Canadian producer, Michael Brooks, and he did this record with Tanzanian singer, Hukwe Zawose, who plays with Peter Gabriel. Next thing I know, I am playing with Peter Gabriel’s band.
T: How did Nic Harcourt [the host] of “Morning Becomes Eclectic” discover you?
AM: When I met Nic Harcourt it was really by chance. He came to see my friend’s band, East Mountain South. I was opening for them. I knew Nic would be into our music. He came up to me after the set. I gave him a demo, and the next morning he was playing it. He played it the whole month of August, and within a week of hearing it, they asked me to come in and do a live show.
T: You recently had a song played on “Dawson’s Creek.” Was that surreal?
AM: I don’t even have a TV; I had to go to a friend’s house. Then the last five minutes of the program [you know where they do the emotional montage where all the storylines get tied together, and the characters are pensively looking out the windows and stuff like that] they ran the song for like four and one-half minutes straight. It was amazing exposure. Immediately my website was overwhelmed with people buying the EP and writing me from as far away as Canada. It made me realize that with all the label interest I have right now, I’d still rather try things first on my own, independently.
T: My first impression at The Mint gig was that Alexi took himself too seriously and had an over- inflated ego. I was expecting to like him right away. I was surprised by his arrogance. He was not the headlining band, and he told the packed room to be quiet four times. Some people come to The Mint just for the bar. Perhaps his accent made him sound pedantic. I had never seen a musician hush a crowded bar. I didn’t think it was an endearing move.
T: How long have you been playing in LA?
AM: I got back to LA in February after taking some time off. It was exciting to see I was going to do it, to really get over the fear. I started playing open mikes anywhere I could. I had no clue how I was going to get a band together, and it just happened. They are all super- talented-not ego-driven, and very musical.
T: What are the different types of instruments in the band?
AM: They are the electric and upright base and a broken down drum kit. I am not into that overused drum sound. Sometimes there are other musicians that stand in. There is a real community of excellent musicians in LA.
T: How did the whole music thing come about?
AM:I sort of fell into music. I came out here to write fiction.
AM: Yes. Though, I actually followed a girl out here and stayed. I didn’t know what I was going to do: to act, write or whatever. It was a friend who heard me on a camping trip, and he came up to me the next week and was like, “I’d really like to manage you.” I was like, “What for?” “For music, man.” This conversation was what kind of kick-started the whole thing. Did you grow up with music? I didn’t find the guitar until I was 17, but I played the piano, the trumpet, and just about every other instrument.
Music has always been a part of my life. My mother was a singer. I started singing early on in a choir. That’s where I developed harmony. I went to a Christian boarding school in Scotland, and first thing in the morning we had chapel. At 17, I started out writing. The songs were really bad; very self-indulgent and about adolescent pain. I used to listen to Pink Floyd’s, “The Wall” over and over again. You have to get over the fear of finding your voice.
T: Alexi rambled on like a college freshman after reading his first philosophy book about what it means to be authentic. I was correct. Alexi was intelligent, spiritual and also a philosophy major at Duke. This sometimes translates into conceit. However, he truly believed his diatribe. Alexi was sincere.
T: Which musicians do you listen to? Who inspires you?
AM: It’s always embarrassing when I get into conversations about music how little I know about contemporary musicians. I only recently discovered Jeff Tweety. I had never heard of Wilco. I felt a really strong affinity with him. I don’t hear a lot of contemporary music that grabs me.
T: When I saw your show at The Mint, I noticed you had a few different styles of music. A couple of songs sounded like David Gray, and of course people compare you to Nick Drake. “Orange Sky” seemed alternative country to me.
AM: Someone said they heard a reggae vibe in that, which is funny because when I originally wrote that song and played it on the guitar, it had more of a reggae bounce to it. And now it’s more of an alternative country sort of sound.
T: Is this the direction you are going? Or do you just have different influences?
AM: Producers and other music people are always telling me I have to “hone in” on my sound and find out what direction I am going in. I understand the need we all have to categorize, but when you start thinking that way, you limit yourself. Generically, I couldn’t find a place for my music, as far as genre.
T: What about the last song, “Something Beautiful,” you did live at your show? It is a powerful song to end on (My date, after acting uninterested all night proclaimed, “That song’s money,” and threw down his business card from an established management company. Alexi never called him, and I never saw him again.)
AM: I am actually recording “Something Beautiful” right now. That song is really a chant. It’s only 3 chords. I had it for a while and just assumed it would be an intro to a song and that there would be more to it. Then I sang it for the first time a few months ago at a gig, and it worked. A lot of people have really connected with that song.
T: How do you come up with songs?
AM: If I had to describe how I write songs, I would say I focus on circles more than lines. I am not afraid of repetition. In this day and age we don’t pay very much attention, and you have to sort of repeat yourself ad nauseum.
T: Where do you see yourself in the future?
AM: That’s a weird one because my philosophy has always been to not really plan or anticipate anything; it takes you out of the present. Though, I’ve realized that perhaps this is a naïve concept. Being acknowledged for what I do is more difficult than people think. A lot of musicians I have known over the years and even friends are getting weird. I am starting to feel alienated from them. They are like, “You’re doing so well. What’s it like? How’d you do it?” It’s not like I am any different. I am writing the same songs. I am hoping that I can get out there and not let my ego mess with me and stay humble. It’s funny how people will come out of the woodwork as soon as they smell success. They know what you want to hear and what your insecurities are. It’s hard to tell sometimes who is bullshitting you.
T: Alexi, obviously tenacious, took big risks to get his music heard: He once moved over from coach to first class on a plane to give Natalie Imbruglia his demo tape. Another time he met KD Lang at midnight in the frozen foods section at a grocery store. Having just wrapped up his first recording of a song, he gave her a demo. It was fate. Lang later left a message on his answering machine praising his talent.
T: Are you interested in getting a manager?
AM: I was with a large management company for a few months. I even knew going into it that it really wasn’t the place for me. I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they would work with me and do things differently. It became really obvious after the EP was done that they weren’t going to be satisfied until I was on Star radio [Top 40] and had a video on MTV. They definitely had a plan and resources. It’s not what I am into. I walked away from it, and they were surprised. I’m not signed to a label or anything. I think people are really lazy about their integrity. They’re like, “Keep it real.” I think selling out doesn’t happen in some grand transaction. It happens in small increments every day. And before you know it, you’ve sold off the whole thing. I think you have to make a stand from the beginning. I don’t believe in getting to a place and then doing what you really want to do. I don’t buy that.
T: Are a lot of music industry executives coming to your shows?
AM: At a gig, you can always tell who the industry people are by who leaves before the music starts. They scope out the scene, talk to your manager, then bail. The other night, I was more excited about two girls who drove all the way from Irvine to see my show at the Troubador in Hollywood than some A&R person who was trying to chat me up. I am doing great on my own. I got a call the other day from Tower Records in Philadelphia. They want me to do an in-store when I come to town and are going to give me a listening station at all five of their stores. The Tower woman who called had actually paid for my EP. Music people are always trying to get CD’s for free, so I was impressed. Record labels pay big money for listening stations. I also just did an ASCAP [American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers] showcase during the Sundance Film Festival. In March I am doing another showcase at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.
T: After the tape stopped, Alexi waxed a bit more philosophically. Eventually, The Mint show’s “be quiet” issue surfaced. Alexi said he realized that he needed to drop the volume of his voice and that the audience would follow suit. See, overthinking can get you places, and Alexi Murdoch is on his way.
Luke says: I emailed Alexi Murdoch to see if he thought Tiffany's article was fair and accurate. He didn't. I spoke 3/7/03 with Alexi's manager, Lynn Grossman, who said the interview was given to Tiffany on the basis of the final article being published on www.moviepoopshoot.com. That site wouldn't publish the article because Chris, the editor, thought it was badly written. So I bought it for lukeford.net.
Grossman and Murdoch say Tiffany's article is unfair and reflects her own issues rather than the qualities of the singer Alexi Murdoch.
Luke's Doppelganger Deconstructs Tiffany Stone
Chaim Amalek writes: I have redacted the answers given to Tiffany Stone's interview questions, and present here only the questions. Now just between us adults here, how good are they? Maybe this is a really great line of questions for this material (I wouldn't know), but really, what adult cares?
In my opinion, all rock interviews and all rock criticism should be left to the under-21 set. We adults should deal with more serious issues and with art made for adult sensibilities, limiting our criticism of the more juvenile material to censorship of that portion of it which is harmful to our young (which would include all gangster rap). At her age, Tiffany should be raising children, not acting like a superannuated teen. She needs to be for Luke Ford a woman, as Luke needs to be for her a man.
Concerned writes: I am deeply troubled by a recent article on lukeford.net.
The website, which is focused on Hollywood producer interviews and Jewish theology, suddenly gives significant column inches to an interview with some obscure rock musician. A rock musician? The article was authored by Tiffany Stone.
Suddenly, I am flashing on Abbey Road studios circa 1968. John Lennon walks into the control room and announces to the rest of the Beatles, "This is Yoko. She's a musician, too!" Uh, oh ....
Chaim Amalek writes: Luke, leave the music biz beat to Marc, who knows better than to post drivel like this. She's a very nice girl, but she does not belong on your site.
Tiffany Stone writes: Why are people so hung up on labels? Are they the ones with hang-ups? The entertainment industry encompasses the music industry. Also, I have been a writer for many years. A couple of the places where my music journalism has been published are Spin Magazine online and Sweater Magazine. I have also worked at record labels (indie and major). Tiffany Stone is my real name. I do not go by or critique others with an *alias.*
Concerned writes: "Tell Tiffany to wake up and smell the coffee. How many rock musician profiles have been posted on lukeford.net before yours? ZERO! ps Is she Wiccan? Just curious."
Tiffany replies: "I don't believe in organized religion. Luke, you have a few readers who don't have lives or real names. It thrills me that "concerned" had the time (to waste on moi) to come up with a John Lennon/Yoko Ono metaphor. I am very flattered."
Chaim Amalek writes: I had something snarky to write here but then, in view of my new faith, chose to chuck it all. I wish Tiffany well in life, and I would be thrilled if the two of you had a nice church wedding full of handsome WASPS (I know I wouldn't be allowed in, as you'd want pretty pictures of the event).
But I still am a bit surprised to learn that you would pay for content of that sort, and for that site. Have you ever before paid for anything on lukeford.net? Not just to me (zippo), but how about in years past to the Reverend Peter Luther Christian, Cindee Plenum, Kaspar Gomez, Muhammed Ibn Abu, the Herpetologist, Fischel Teitelbaum, the Tough Jewish Chick or any of those other interesting characters who used to write in? I guess that's why they stopped writing to you - no money in it for them.
Now to make Tiffany an even more interesting person, please ask her to formulate a policy on immigration and diversity. Can American EVER have too much? (Every other woman I've asked this of has reacted as though I suggested they needed to lose thirty pounds.)