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There’s a hoard of rock songs from the grunge, alt-rock era 90s which just occupy space in your head and like it or not, never look like leaving. ART ALEXAKIS from Portland band EVERCLEAR is responsible for some of them and many are from their 1996 album, So Much For The Afterglow. It’s been just over 20 years since the hugely successful album was released and to celebrate, Everclear are bringing their So Much For The Afterglow tour to Australia at the end of this month. Fronted as always by Art Alexakis, the band will perform the entire So Much For The Afterglow album, including hit songs “Everything to Everyone,” “I Will Buy You a New Life,” “Father of Mine,” “So Much For the Afterglow,” and “One Hit Wonder,” along with tracks from the rest of their extensive discography – including their huge Australian hit ‘’Santa Monica. Ahead of the Everclear tour AM’s Greg Phillips spoke to Art about the making of So Much For The Afterglow and the upcoming Australian shows.

You’re bringing the So Much For The Afterglow  tour down here in late September. So Much For The Afterglow begins with some gorgeous Beach Boy style harmonies. Were those guys an influence on you growing up?
Yeah. As a guy who writes songs and produces his own records … I have never been produced by anyone else … Brian Wilson was definitely an idol in a lot of ways and also a cautionary tale. I didn’t want to get as wrapped up emotionally and psychologically in my work. I had gone through drugs earlier and hopefully missed out on that but yes, I am very influenced by them. When I wrote the song So Much For The Afterglow, I had to do an intro for it. It was originally just like a punk rock song and started with feedback and me singing and that’s how we recorded it but it felt like it needed something to make it more of a easy-to-hard dichotomy kind of moment. So I came up with the idea of doing that. We went into the studio one day and I recorded all the base notes, all the different parts myself. Then I got Greg and Craig, who were just really starting to sing at the time, to do the double and triples and harmonise. This was before Pro Tools. If you missed a note you had to do it again. I mean you could punch in and out but it took a whole day to do about 28 vocals and mix it down. When I put that at the start of the song I had hoped that it would sound like the beginning of the record and it did. So when the song was completed it was like, OK that’s the title of the record now, So Much For The Afterglow. It was kind of a fuck you to all of the people who said we were one hit wonders. Whenever you are successful I think there is a large number of people who want you to be successful but there is also a large number of people who want you to fail on your next endeavour. I don’t think it is an American thing,  I think it is a human nature kind of thing. Being from Portland, Oregon … it can have  a small town mentality sometimes. Anyway, like I said it was the best FU I could give anybody other than arguing with people in the press and I don’t really do that. It’s a cautionary tale. Don’t fuck with songwriters. We have the gift that keeps on giving. We will ruin you forever! Don’t ever date a songwriter, it’s a bad idea.

When you decided that you were going to do the whole Afterglow album live, did you have to go back and try to find certain pedal sounds or guitar and amp sounds that you’d stopped using?
I haven’t really been that specific about it. One of things is … we don’t use recorded, syncopated tracks live like most bands do. We just don’t do that and to me, it was like I want to do the record but I’m not trying to recreate it exactly how it was then. I’m going to recreate it from my perspective now. We stay really true to the record creatively … what we are singing and playing and all but I am not trying to … you know, this is rock ‘n’ roll, it is not archeology. For one thing, I don’t play Mesa Boogies anymore. All of the guitar amps were Mesa Boogies doubled through a JCM800 I think but now I play a Hayden amp which is the guitar version of Ashdown. Also now there are different players in the band. To me, it was more about recreating the excitement of the song as opposed to being exactly perfect on tone. And the tour we’ve just had doing this has been our best selling tour in 15 years.

Revisiting the album, are there any particular songs you’ve  enjoyed playing more than others?
There are 5 or 6 songs that we play all the time, you know, the big hits and some fan favourites but there are a couple of songs that we never play and have never played before this like Sunflowers and Why I Don’t Believe In God, where Davey brings out a six string banjo and I play 12 string guitar. That’s a lot of fun to play. It’s a lot of fun to play the songs in order. We play side one, take a break and do some Sparkle And Fade Songs and maybe some from World of Noise, then come back and play side two and then hits all the way out. It’s a pretty long set.

There’s some great dirty guitar sounds on the track El Distorto De Melodica. Did you have a lot of fun creating that track?
Absolutely. You know what is fun about that track was that … we recorded that track in March 1999. In 1998 we had gone to the AES music conference and it was the first time they had shown anybody Pro Tools before. It wasn’t commercially available until the first of the year. I bought the program when it first came out because I liked the idea of being able to … not necessarily make things sound perfect but being able to layer beats and rhythms and stuff. So what we did is … I had a bunch of rough ideas and we went into the studio and just jammed for ten or fifteen minutes and recorded all of it and then went through it and took certain parts of it. Then we put that on Pro Tools and created beats. Me and my Pro Tools guy at the time would create beats and rhythm tracks and put them on it. Then I recorded another guitar over it and I was screaming through a distortion pedal with an old bullet mic. So that was it and we mixed it but it was a lot of fun to make … a lot of fun to play!

I saw a YouTube clip from earlier this year where you dedicated Why I Don’t Believe in God to Chris Cornell. Did you know Chris well?
I didn’t know him well. I’d met him a couple of times. I knew Chester (Bennington from Linkin Park) better than I knew Chris, I knew his wife and stuff. When we were coming up, super unknown … Chris was like a larger than life thing to me. Even as time went on and we became successful, I’d meet him at shows and events but … we were on tour when that happened. They were on tour and we were on tour and it was just devastating. I know how dark things can get on tour when you are away from family. I don’t know what was going on with him but If there was chemicals involved I don’t know but I do know that if you are depressed, for a creative person things can get hard to understand sometimes and you can get into a dark place. When I dedicated the song to him … you can’t make judgements about people. It’s easy to go … this guy has it made, he’s a creative genius, he has one of the best voices in rock, he’s a great lookin’ guy and he’s got a great family. Yeah all of that is true and he probably knew that but it doesn’t change what is going on in your head and heart. It is hard sometimes hard not to hear those voices telling you shitty things about yourself.

Let’s change the subject to something more pleasant … You’ve pretty much always been a Les Paul style guitar guy. What is it that you like about them? Why not a Strat or something else?
Oh because of Jimmy Page man … Jimmy Page and Joe Perry. Those were my gods growing up. I always wanted to be a lead guitar player, I didn’t want to be a lead singer. That was until I figured out I was never going to be a great guitar player. After hearing Eruption by Eddie Van Halen, I realised that was never going to be me, then the next song I heard on the radio was Watching The Detectives by Elvis Costello and I was like, that’s what I want to do. I want to write songs like that but with a big guitar sound … and that’s what we are … singer, songwriter, punk rock, hard rock guitar band. That’s all we have ever been.

Are you still using the Line 6 M9 for effects?
Yeah but the next one, the M13. It’s great. I’ve never been big on effects. I use a little chorus here and there, some tremolo. The thing about the Line 6 is that it is basically modelled after old stomp boxes. And I use the graphic equaliser with a pre amp sound that just pushes up my sound a little bit. Then a digital delay for playing guitar leads every now and then but I keep it really simple. Davey gets deeper into it than me as far as effects go but we don’t use a lot. Everclear’s sound is not about that, never has been.

How many times have you been to Australia now?
I think it is going to be our 6th time.

What are your memories of the first tour?
We sold more records down there per capita than we did in the states on Sparkle and Fade. We were over platinum in the states but we were double platinum in Australia and New Zealand and with So Much For The Afterglow, we were quadruple platinum down there. When we first got there, we got off the plane and there were like 300 people there waiting for us with signs, screaming and holding pictures of us. I was thinking this is in a very small way what it must have been like to be a Beatle. It was amazing. We’d never had that before. We’ve always had a real warm welcome down there and it’s always been a lot of fun, it’s exciting.

Friday 29th September 2017
The Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane

Saturday 30th September 2017
Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle

Tuesday 3rd October 2017
The Metro Theatre, Sydney

Wednesday 4th October 2017
The Gov, Adelaide

Thursday 5th October 2017
Croxton Band Room, Melbourne

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