Australian Crooner Alex Cameron Finds Clarity In Failure (INTERVIEW)

Alex Cameron, or the character within his music, is something of a mystery. On the surface there is the Australian musician who left the revered electronic group Seekae to forge his own path. On the other hand, there is the weird Alex Cameron who adds pock marks and wrinkles to his face while donning greased back hair, bringing to mind a washed up lounge singer. Oh yeah, and then there’s the Geocities website filled with bizarre yet intriguing gibberish of all sorts.

Regardless of what version of Alex Cameron you try to wrap your head around, his music on his recently (re)released album Jumping The Shark is sure to grab your attention. Though the album was technically released in 2013, it didn’t reach its proper audience at the time. But it did catch the ears of the folks over at Secretly Canadian, who recently gave the album a proper release. With a voice that is subtly soulful, brooding, and drearily hopeful all at once, Cameron often sings about losers and the kind of consequences that come when said losers hit rock bottom. He glorifies failure to the sound of synths and a drum machine, and the minimalism of it all is what pulls you in. Somehow, it makes you want to dance your ass off as much as it makes you want to sit and mull over the lyrics with a cup of whiskey-laced black coffee. Think of it like Tom Waits for millennials.

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Whatever state of mind you’re in when you listen to Jumping The Shark, it’s impossible not to be intrigued by the inner workings of Alex Cameron’s mind, as well as his relationship with “business partner and saxophone player” Roy Molloy. With his album now officially released and a looming U.S. tour, Alex Cameron took the time to answer some questions in his quintessentially strange yet humorous manner, hopefully clearing up some of his mystery, or perhaps adding to his mystique.

Can you give a little bit of background on your relationship with Roy Molloy? How did you meet and what is your partnership like musically? 

Roy is my business partner and saxophone player. We met in 1994 when his family moved in next door. He’s the kinda guy that helps out on the renovations when you want to add some nice Greek Columns or an above ground pool. Musically, he’s the cavalry. He adds to the synthetic crescendos with blistering alto saxophone leads and solos.

How did you come upon the dynamic of saxophonist and singer?

The leads and solos I wrote for Jumping The Shark were all played on keyboard. No midi. So I wanted to have something human filling that role live. I also like brass things. Instruments. Jewels. Crockery.

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Will you have a backing band on your upcoming tour?

No. The lyrics and the melodies are a priority. That’s two things. So we’re a two piece.

You’ve talked about this idea of celebrating failure as a major motivation and theme behind Jumping The Shark. What is it about failure that is so appealing to you as an artist?

I thought it was best to stick to what I know. Obscurity, ambition, self pity. Failure is a way to overcome those things, to progress. The clarity of failure is quite freeing.

Your new video for “The Comeback” features you performing alone in an empty theater. Can you talk about the idea behind this and also maybe explain what the hashtag of #ALKCM means?

I want my videos to be focused on one thing: the song. I don’t necessarily want a visual narrative distracting from the narrative that already exists in the lyrics. Also, we work hard on stage, and I want people to know that. Really we’re trying to promote the live show, because it’s hot. ALKCM stands for: Alex Ken Cameron.

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Someone recently referred to Jumping The Shark as a “storybook of sadness”. Would you say this is an accurate description? 

I highlight small, specific tragedies. Things that are sad or avoidable if it weren’t for some inherent flaw. I write about these specific events in the hope that they’ll highlight some great link between the personal and the human.

Who are some artists that you admire or that inspire you as a performer and singer?

Billy Field. Foxygen. Randy Newman. MF DOOM. Jack Ladder. Angel Olsen. Warren Zevon.

This album originally came out in 2013. What is it like to have people just now hearing something you actually made and released years ago?

I always wanted to have something rereleased. A piece that was so good, someone came along and rescued it from obscurity. That seems like a cool thing. So we worked for that. We didn’t give up on the album when anyone else would have. I’ve been saying to Roy, this is the weirdest four year album cycle in the history of Internet music. But, we’re doing it and it’s working and it feels good.

Considering that this album has already been out, do you and Roy Molloy have other music or even a whole album already in the works?

Yeah we’ve got plenty of music. We’re ready to work.

Will Roy Molloy maintain his position as a tram driver if/when you go on tour?

No he got the sack. The company he worked for wanted to train him as a ticket officer instead. Handing out fines isn’t what Roy’s about. So now we’re touring.

Your interview guidelines mention that interviewers are encouraged to ask about your potential as a professional basketball player in high school. Can you give us some background on that, and perhaps why you chose to pursue music over basketball? 

I played basketball at a competitive level in high school. My first time overseas was when I was 15. I toured the US and Canada in a representative team. I chose music cause I didn’t fill out physically and couldn’t compete with men when it came to crunch time. I knew I was going to be a musician though. From when I first heard Buddy Holly when I was small.

This idea of the Internet seems to come up as a frequent topic in your songs, writing and philosophy. Do you see the internet as something valuable and important or something negative, whether for artists or for the world as a whole?

The Internet is fine. It’s the broadcasting of the brain dead that I’m concerned about. That’s why I like failure. We’ve been through all of this before. Political turmoil, war, bigotry. But it wasn’t recorded correctly or broadcast successfully because here we are again. No lesson learned. Maybe the Internet will document the experiences of the dead with a firmer perspective. Something to learn from.

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Alex Cameron’s Jumping The Shark is out now. To find tour dates, music, and amusing rants, you should probably just check out his Facebook page. 

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