We’re in it, so lets acknowledge it – Pop Culture, the record biz, society as a whole …all at a crossroads. A landscape so filled with cowardly leaders, Pamela Anderson pornos, vague dismissals of real issues. All amidst an arsenal of soulless fake punk, wannabe icons, who tug at the pant leg of mainstream consciousness. Curiously, kids still look down, only to see melody-free careerists with huge media profiles (no need to use names, use your imagination) and music so hyped yet, uninspired that said, Icons are household names but barely eek to platinum. Is it because the kids want to buy video games? Is it because they all fled to rap? Or is it because…. they smell a rat?
New Radicals, led by young liability/singer/songwriter/producer Gregg Alexander, is chomping at the bit. Maybe youve been brainwashed too is his baby and you can feel it from the impulsiveness present in every loaded sentence.
Born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan to an ambitious plumber father and a mother who constantly switched religions, his family scraped by, politely snubbed by the snooty uptight neighbors. Gregg at school alternated between gifted student and juvenile delinquent. Branded the school revolutionary (i.e. the only kid tall enough to confront his conservative teachers), throughout all this, his large frame insured he wasnt roughed up in gym class. When I was twelve, I saved up for an electric guitar and had a teen epiphany. Forming a band with his brother, who did his best Keith Moon on drums, they were off and running. Once he had a fake ID in his possession things escalated. Sneaking into Detroits house and punk clubs dancing up a storm by night, listening to R&B and working class rock radio by day…the fantasies now had a life force of their own. The spirit of Detroit radio was powerful, its such a segregated town, like legal apartheid, to the point that you can feel the soul and pain and spirit in the faces.
Meanwhile, his mom settled on being a Jehovahs witness, so the family from that point on primarily hung out with Irish and Black families instead of Grosse Pointers. Going to school with these rich kids was shocking, not a care for the struggles going on in the real world. At fifteen he lived large and bought a three hundred dollar four-track recorder from money made snow shoveling and stealing from the church donation box. He then started recording original songs. I couldnt afford guitar lessons, but my uncle taught me the chords to the Whos I Cant Explain, immediately, I started switching the chords and making up my own songs.
This was the turning point. Elementary…, on my four-track Id bang the drums first, a bit of piano, loud guitars next, a one take vocal – and boom! I gave cassettes to my friends whod play them at the school dance. Gregg was getting restless, and in an idealistic mood, fresh from reading all the cliche on-the-road books, he decided to plot his endless summer.
Gregg talked his mom into a first…. a vacation in California to visit an ostracized aunt. He had it all planned, he took a bus downtown to the Shrine Auditorium to sneak into the Grammys to sniff out the Beast known as the record business. Much to his amazement he walked right pastsecurity, toting a lit joint. Dazed, he began approaching rock icons as diverse as Eddie Van Halen, Little Richard, and Rick James. It was such a bizarre experience, I knew that once summer returned I had to run away. Upon returning home his grades descended drastically, his clubbing doubled, and he began shoveling snow non-stop until the journey began.
Landing in Los Angeles, and crashing on the floor of a brother/sister gospel group he met at the airport, things started to roll. He began his habit of going to random sunset strip offices, waltzing past security & secretaries, and literally jumping on startled executives desks to howl his songs acappella. It was funny as shit, the reaction was usually get this freak out of here now or you dont have a lawyer yet do you? Within months he had a record deal, we made this bombastic, Phil Spector monster but… the record company was sold the month of the albums release, which promptly tanked.
Greggs immediate reaction was to drive cross-country 12 times. It was the beginning of a long lost weekend of adventures and song writing that continued for a couple of years. I found myself in every situation in the book…. religious kooks, gang fights, white witches looking for three ways, and state police who confiscated and lab tested my extensive vitamin and applesauce collection… basically I had the time of my life. Forced to abandon his trashed convertible in Memphis, he headed for Europe.
With his acoustic guitar and portable tape recorder as a constant companion, the journey continued between NYC, London, and LA where he began slowly assembling the New Radicals. In NYC he lived the downtown life, sleeping on floors, doing pep pills and dancing all night while simultaneously spending entire days in Central Park writing songs and busking. I was starved for new information and experiences, trying not to let what should be a joyous occasion…a state of limbo in near poverty, stress me out.
Eventually the new songs took hold. Occasionally, I enter a near trance when I sing, I was at Thompson Square Park and the crowds reaction to Someday Well Know and You Get What You Give was scary and fanatical.
New Radicals, rocks newest contenders were born overnight. Music is the most immediate medium mankind has. We need to use it for something useful instead of just making money for the man. Such as? Ready for a run-on sentence? Making closed minds, sexism, corporate greed, economic and educational separation of the races, homophobia, and fat people phobia a thing of the past. Keep dreaming kid. Make mass media instigated middle and working class idealization of the systematically, short of a fluke, unobtainable American dream of being a heartless, faceless, corporate millionaire a shameful act. New and future generations must hold their friends, lovers, bosses & parents accountable when they display such behavior. We werent born yesterday, were aware some cynical people might be laughing their ass off reading this, but making light of real issues by those who should know better, is exactly what stops it from being a gradual reality. Whew!! Are you afraid of alienating some potential fans by having such an up front stance? No, I hope we dont forget the reason everybody embraced rock n roll in the first place. Where else can you fuck your brains out and simultaneously fight oppression of the human spirit. As we all know, now rock culture has been co-opted by soda pop companies and Wall Street. But theres no law that says we cant remind each new generation that rock n roll was created and subsequently stolen from our black brothers.
In the event this album gets recognized, do you have any other message to all the film, music, and media creatures who may be watching your ascent? No… oh, why not, Ill take the bait. WAKE UP BENIGN CREATURES! Businessmen too, a selfish ego and money driven life without a pro-human agenda is a pathetic thing. The innocent trusting eyes of future generations are watching, dont let us down corporate ass kiss phonies! Dont be afraid to speak true and rock the boat, and gain strength and satisfaction in the knowledge that at some point the weasels at the top will turn on you and make you spin out of control… but fear not, thats when the magic begins. Okay Gregg, now that weve talked about music, the world, and everything else, lets talk about love… were these songs written about anyone in particular? Just being in this world is Roman performance art; Im selectively private and single. Oh come on, everybody that knows me knows anyway… Ive had an on again, off again magical/ dysfunctional girlfriend for the last seven years. Shes amazing – wild – profound – and to say its an open relationship is an understatement. Lots of drug references in the songs, do you have any dark secrets? course I do I’m a Rock N Roll singer, but nothing Im not proud of. Who cares anyway, but yeah Ive tried most drugs, most positions under the guise of most religions, with most genders, on most continents, whilst on a speaker phone with my mom and dad listening intently, but I always come back to one thing….life and love.
BUT WAIT! Theres really only one thing we were told strictly off the record: I pop lots of odorless garlic pills – its to offset the crazy hours. Odorless garlic is the ultimate flu fighter, six of those fuckers and you can get loaded all week.
So maybe hes right, the 90s are cynical and politically correct, maybe he should spare the rap, maybe he should escalate it, who knows? but listen to the record. It has a life force of its own