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WORLD OF NOISE: Everclear’s Art Alexakis Reflects On Creating 30 Years of Balls-to-the-Walls Rock ‘N’ Roll!

Everclear, one of the leading alternative rock bands to emerge from the ‘90s led by vocalist, guitarist and founder Art Alexakis, has a lot to celebrate in 2022. The band has just released ‘World Of Noise – 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition’ and officially kicked off their 30th Anniversary Tour. The special remastered reissue marks the first time the band’s 1993 currently out-of-print debut album is available on all digital music streaming platforms. ‘World Of Noise – 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition’ features all 12 original tracks plus six bonus songs, including the previously unreleased “Drunk Again” and “Nervous & Weird 2001 Remix.” 

Since forming in 1992, Everclear has enjoyed a lengthy career by any measure, spanning 11 studio releases, including four that have been certified Gold or Platinum, selling over 6 million records, and achieving 12 Top 40 Hit Singles on Mainstream Rock, Alternative, and Adult Top 40 radio, including “Santa Monica,” “Father of Mine,” “I Will Buy You A New Life,” “Wonderful” and “Everything To Everyone,” as well as numerous videos, thousands of shows, and various other accolades, including a 1998 Grammy nomination. In recent years, Alexakis created and runs the annual Summerland Tour, which features a package of popular ‘90s alt-rock bands, and also released his first solo album, Sun Songs, in 2019.

After the demise of his band Colorfinger in 1992, Alexakis was struggling to make it in Portland, where he’d moved from San Francisco. That extremely difficult personal and creative period was the crucible that forged Alexakis into the fiery songwriter heard on the early Everclear demos, the ‘Nervous & Weird’ EP (1993), and ultimately the ‘World Of Noise’ LP, both released on the Portland independent label Tim/Kerr Records. The original 1993 release of ‘World Of Noise,’ paired with the band’s significant efforts to break into college radio and the buzz they’d created within the Portland music scene, attracted the attention of major labels, including Capitol Records, which signed the group soon after. Beginning with their major-label debut, 1995’s platinum-selling album ‘Sparkle and Fade,’ and its massive chart-topping hit “Santa Monica,” Everclear was soon a household name and catapulted into the masses, thus allowing their impressive three-decade career to prosper and endure.

Celebrating 30 years as a band in 2022, Everclear – Art Alexakis (vocals, guitar), Davey French (guitar), Freddy Herrera (bass), Brian Nolan (drums) – officially launched their 30th Anniversary Tour. The 25+ date North American outing, featuring special guests Fastball and The Nixons, is making its way across the U.S. all summer with a setlist that runs the gamut of Everclear’s longstanding career, including songs from ‘World Of Noise,’ B-sides, fan favorites and all the hits. Additionally, the band recently rolled out an amazing commemorative anniversary video, “Everclear – 30 Years Gone: A Retrospective,” hosted by former MTV VJ, current radio host, and longtime friend Matt Pinfield.

Icon Vs. Icon’s Jason Price recently caught up with Art Alexakis to discuss the making of ‘World Of Noise,’ the release of the 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, and what it means to him personally. Not one to dwell on the past, Art also offers up his vision for the future of his iconic band. 

Before we get started, I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for being an inspiration. Not just in a musical sense but as someone who has been able to use their platform to help others. 

Thank you, brother. That’s very kind of you to say. As time has gone on, with 33 years of sobriety and learning from mistakes, I think I’ve become a better version of myself, as I hope we all do. I had to learn to balance. While the balance in my physical body has become difficult to manage because of my Multiple Sclerosis (MS), I think the emotional balance has become better and more astute. I’m getting certifications to become a life coach and counselor. I’m about a year and a half away from getting my psychology 4-year degree, which is something I promised my mom that I would do. She passed away about 16 years ago, and I promised her I would get it before I died. So, fingers crossed, but I’m just a little over a year away from it. It’s hard, man. It’s hard going back!

I hear that, and it isn’t like you’ve slowed down.

Nope, that’s true. Good point! [laughs]

We connected today to discuss the 30th-anniversary reissue of Everclear‘s ‘World of Noise.’

Back in 1991, I was living in San Francisco. At the time, I had a record label and a band called Colorfinger, which was developing a following and building some excitement. We had a record that I had written and produced. It was the first time I had done everything, and it was my album. I was going through a separation and divorce from my first wife because I had gotten sober, and she hadn’t. I met this girl on the road in Portland, Oregon, and we had a long-distance thing in 1991, and then she moved in and got pregnant. Later in the year, we decided to move to Portland because we were going to have a baby, and we were in our twenties. You have to keep in mind that at the time, San Francisco didn’t have a good public school system and wasn’t a good place for a young couple with no money to have a baby. Portland, at the time, was much better. My sister and her family lived there, so we moved there. I decided that I was going to do one more band, and that was Everclear!

I got the guys in the band, and we slugged it out in the clubs in the summer of ’92 while I had a new baby at home. I got the opportunity to record a record for $400 in trade. Well, it wasn’t really a record but a chance to record everything we had because I wanted to see what it would sound like recorded. I liked that it was going to be 8-track, and there wasn’t going to be a lot of gimmickry happening. It was going to be an honest document of where we were. I wanted to see if there was anything there because we were spinning our wheels in the clubs, trying to develop a following. Once we recorded it, it was apparent to me that there was something there. It was noisy, loud, and crappy sounding, but I got it and knew something was there! I sent it out to people like SXSW and other music festivals and venues all around the northwest. Almost every one of them called me back and wanted to book us. At the same time, I also sent it to papers around the northwest; everybody wrote about it and said it was great. That’s really what kicked it off. About a year later, we signed to Capitol. After we put ‘World of Noise’ out, we recorded one more song called “Nervous and Weird,” which became a single and put that on the record. That song replaced “Drunk Again.” Incidentally, that song is one of the bonus tracks on the reissue and has never been released before.

EVERCLEAR - 'World of Noise' 30th Anniversary Reissue

That being said, we put it out and started getting a lot of interest from labels. We signed a publishing deal in April of 1994, and the labels pounced! We signed a deal with Capitol in June of 1994 and went in and made ‘Sparkle & Fade’ that summer. They re-released ‘World of Noise’ in the Fall of ’94, and they mastered it without me being there. I had made some changes to it, but I was never really happy with it, but they put it out on vinyl, CD, and cassette. I had leased it to them, so it was out of print five years later in ’99. I was so busy in ’99 with a new album, getting divorced, and marrying trophy wives that I didn’t give it much thought. A boy had his priorities! [laughs] I’m not talking about my wife now; she’s not a trophy wife. She could be a trophy wife; she’s beautiful, but that wasn’t the one I was talking about! [laughs]

Anyway, I never did anything with it. There were no digital platforms at the time. When there became digital platforms, maybe eight to ten years later, I knew I wanted to do it, but I was bummed because I didn’t really know where those tapes were. I didn’t want to put out the Capitol version. There was a point where I was going to acquiesce and finally do it, but I just didn’t like the sound of it. So, I was kind of hesitant and always found excuses not to do it. With this year being the 30th anniversary, having found those tapes in storage now is the time. Listening back and forth between the Capitol version and the raw tapes, it was really night and day for me. I mastered it with my guy Brad [Blackwood] at Euphonics Mastering, who I’ve been working with for over ten years now, and I really love the way it sounds. We found a couple songs that no one or very few people ever heard with “Drunk Again” and a remix of “Nervous and Weird” in 2001 that I barely remembered doing. The reissue has 18 songs on it, and it’s out there now, so people don’t have to pay $100 to $200 bucks for a crappy-sounding CD. Now, they can get it for ten or twelve bucks, whatever iTunes charges, or for free on Spotify or whatever. We’re also putting out vinyl which should be out in October or November.

Looking back on this album 30 years later, what does it mean to you personally?

I think it’s a document of where we are. I think it’s a really genuine and honest look at the root of what Everclear is all about, even though the music has become a lot more produced or different in a lot of ways. I never wanted to make the same record twice. As good as they might be, I didn’t want to make ‘World of Noise,’ ‘Sparkle and Fade,’ or even ‘Afterglow’ again. I always want to do something different because otherwise, it gets boring. If you’re bored, you’re not enthusiastic, and you’re not going to make good art. And it is art! I used to get a twinge of cringe when rock people called themselves artists, but it is art! I’ve come to the point where I accept that because you are creating something from nothing. Music is the closest thing to magic in this world. You can create any kind of artistic expression with words, visuals, noise, sound, or a combination thereof. If you don’t have enthusiasm, you’re not going to make good art or good music, and it’s not going to be fun. If you’re not having fun, the fun’s not going to come through. That being said, I feel like “World of Noise” encapsulates everything we are doing now. You can hear the seeds of it in everything, or at least I can!

How does that translate to your live show?

To be honest, the dichotomy of our recording and live shows is fascinating. Our live shows have always been balls-to-the-walls. I’ve tried to do the produced thing, but we’ve never used tracks. I tried it for one show on ‘Afterglow.’ It was the very first show we did after ‘Afterglow’ came out. Actually, it might have even been before ‘Afterglow’ came out. We tried using loops and tracks and stuff on the record, but I was like, “I hate this! I absolutely hate this.” So we didn’t even do it. We just spent two hours at soundcheck before I was like, “Nope! Get rid of it. We’re a rock band. We’re gonna figure it out.” And we did! We’re out on the 30th Anniversary tour right now, and none of the bands on this tour use tracks, which I think is really cool.

EVERCLEAR 30th Anniversary Tour

You made this album back in the day when albums were albums. How vital has sequencing of songs played in what you do as an artist?

It’s played such an important role in every record I’ve ever done. I’ve always been a stickler for sequencing, and it’s super important to me. My favorite albums are sequenced in a way the songs feed into each other, and it all makes a lot of sense. Some songs fade, some cross fade, and some stop suddenly. There are many great examples, but there’s an album by Aerosmith, their fourth album, called ‘Rocks.’ I think it’s one of the top 5 rock records of all time. It’s sequenced so well! So, I never missed a beat with that!

Looking back on your body of work, how do you feel you’ve most evolved as a songwriter? Do you see clear milestones for yourself?

Sure! I think it’s been a natural evolution, and I think it all depends on what’s going on in my life. If it didn’t, it would be disingenuous to me. I think you can look back at all my records and see where I was at that time. There are a couple of records that I would classify as “divorce records.” Some of them create a little bit of uncomfortableness like, “Oh, okay. That’s where I was. I was pretty heartbroken…” or my sobriety wasn’t good. Even though I’ve been clean and sober for a long time, in the rooms, we call that being dry. That means you’re acting like an alcoholic but are not using. There were a few periods of that but not for years. I have an extremely strong program and fellowship right now, which is terrific. As my wife likes to say, I am the best version of myself when I go to meetings. When she told me that, I really connected with it. I do my weekly meetings and try to balance time with the family. If I need a meeting, I go. She doesn’t second guess it, man. It’s like, “Okay. Go ahead. We’ll be alright.” I’m very, very blessed.

I’m happy to hear that, Art. Nobody deserves it more than you!

Thank you, brother. I appreciate that.

When we last connected almost a decade ago, you mentioned wanting to write a book. The last time I saw you make mention of it was pre-pandemic. What’s the status of that project?

It’s there! [laughs] I keep making notes, and I think I’ve finally found someone who I want to work with as an editor. I don’t want to co-write it or use a ghostwriter. I tried that, and I didn’t enjoy the way it sounded. By that, I mean it didn’t sound like my voice on the page. I want an editor who I can bounce stuff off, and they can do the typing! [laughs]

I’m sure there is much to unpack with an endeavor like that. Even though you are still in the early stages, I was curious to know if you learned anything about yourself through the process?

A little bit! And I know there will be some excavating and extricating a lot of stuff. When I think of something new, like a situation that happened way back when I write it down in my notes. I have this big, long electronic folder on my computer full of notes. I go through it every now and then and put each item into a particular year. I’m like, “Okay, this is from 1974. This is from ’86. This is from ’92.” It’s starting to build a little structure, and I’m cognoscente of it. I want to get out of school before I focus too much on that. As I said, I’ve got another year and a half of school. I want to get that done. I just don’t have the energy to do it. Through all of it, I have to tour and be in Everclear to make a living, ya know.

I totally get it. What do you have brewing in terms of new music? I can’t imagine the songwriter in you sleeps!

No! He doesn’t sleep, but he goes on vacation! [laughs] He went to Greece in April, which was fun! I’ve always considered myself to be an album guy. I think in albums, I don’t think in singles. After doing our last record, ‘Black Is The New Black,’ which is a balls-to-the-walls rock ‘n’ roll album, I’m okay with just doing a couple of songs a year. The rest of the band is as well because it’s fun. It isn’t a grind like going in to do twelve songs and spending a year and a bunch of money. This way, we spend a couple of grand to go and do it. Then you spend a couple of grand to do a video and maybe get a kid from art school to do it. To answer your question, we have a new song that will come out later this year. We’ve already recorded it, but we need to do some more vocals, hit a couple of guitars, and mix it. We’ll probably do that after the tour in July or August. The single will probably come out in September. The single is called “Year of The Tiger.” This is the Chinese year of the Tiger, and I was born in the year of the Tiger back in 1962. It’s great!

A friend of mine’s kid goes to an arts high school. My daughter is going to one as well, and she starts in August. It’s called California Heights School of the Arts. My friend’s kid is in a different one, but they have a film program. I’ve seen some of the videos he did in middle school that were pretty good, so I’m thinking maybe I’ll let him do it! He wants to write a treatment when the song is done. So, when it’s all done, I will give it to him, and he’ll write a treatment for me. His dad and I will budget it out. His dad’s a singer in a pretty well-known band and does a lot of work in film, so he knows a lot of people. I think we can put together a crew and do it for a few grand. That sounds fun to me!

Everclear - Photo by Ashley Osborn
Everclear – Photo by Ashley Osborn

I can hear it in your voice, and the smile on your face has been building as you’ve explained it to me! I can’t help but be fired up about it!

Dealing with people with checkbooks and expectations is a grind. Doing it honestly and creating something you’re proud of doesn’t require a lot of money these days. The technology, from recording to video, has gotten crazy. To put it on a platform and get it out to people is doable and, again, doesn’t cost a lot of money. That’s what sounds fun to me, and I’m glad to hear that comes through to you. So, I’m thinking I will release two songs a year. Every six months, I’ll do a song and put it out. After doing about six or seven of those, maybe I’ll record two or three more, put an album out there, and just call it whatever the decade was called! “Here ya go! Here’s what we did over the past ten years!” [laughs] I mean, I’m sixty years old, so I will not be doing this forever. I think I’ve got another ten years in me, hopefully. I’m looking to get caught up financially, and I’m pretty close to that. Then I can leave a legacy for my kids and just enjoy it. To be honest, I don’t ever think I’ll retire. I’m going to have a practice of coaching and counseling people. That’s something I really look forward to doing. Of course, I will still hit the road once or twice a year and do weekend shows. That’s kinda what I’m doing now, just adding to it. As long as I have time for my wife and children, that matters most.

That smile of yours is building again as you talk about the future. I gotta tell ya, your authenticity is something that has always spoken volumes.

Thank you for saying that. That means a lot to me.

I’m always eager to learn from those who came before me.

As am I.

What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey?

Don’t give up, be honest and learn from your mistakes. I’ve always felt that, and it sounds a little Hallmark card-ish, but we’re not defined by how or why we fall down or how many times. We define ourselves by how we get up and learn to stay up. It’s what we do with that knowledge once we’re up. That’s how we move forward and what defines forward for us. Being able to find what moves you forward is the big thing. As I get older, I grow more aware of things about myself, the world, and my past. I don’t dwell on the past at this point in my life. I look back, and even though there are a lot of things that I don’t like, there is a lot I do! I’m very grateful, and I feel very blessed for it!

Thanks so much for your time today, Art. I wish you nothing but the best moving forward. I look forward to your next encounter!

Thank you, brother. I do too. Take care!

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