Alexx Calise is many things. What she is NOT is your typical singer/songwriter/rocker/roller. With two albums and an EP under her belt, she has made a career out of being told “No. You can’t do that.”, and then saying, “Oh yeah? Well we’ll just see about that!” After the success of songs “Morning Pill” and “Cry” from TV shows, she did a complete 180 on her latest EP, AC3, and released one of the most refreshing guitar rock offerings of 2012. Here is Part 1 of my interview with Alexx:
Amps: There is a big difference between In Avanti, and this AC3 EP, in that this one is much more raw. What brought about the change?
Alexx: Part of that was the change in producers. Luigi Gonzalez did the In Avanti record, and he’s worked with Madonna, The Killers, Shakira. He’s really big in the dance and remix world, actually, and we kind of tried to merge the two together. You know, the standard rock, but he also has that dance and electronica background, and we tried to make a cool hybrid of the two. That’s what went on with that record, and I really enjoyed doing that, but at the same time I’m a very raw kind of artist, the bands I’ve always enjoyed are more of a rawer variety. My favorite bands are Silverchair, Stone Temple Pilots, and I’m really into Ragtime and Dime Store music, just stuff that’s raw,and that’s where AC3 came into play. My producer, Wes Michener is a huge fan of grunge, and we just totally bonded and had a great time making that record. And that’s a lot closer to where I am as an individual. I don’t really like polished, ’cause I’m not that polished as an individual. No matter how hard you scrub, you can’t get the rock and roll filth off (laughs).
Amps: It’s really cool that you can get these two records, and they’re two completely different sides of Alexx, because this one is really in your face,starting with “Not Crazy”.
Alexx: Well, thank you. I’m glad that you are able to recognize that. I’ve had trouble in the industry, I’ve never had a problem with opening doors, but keeping them open sometimes is tough because people are like, “Oh, you’re all over the place, blah blah..”, and I’m like, “You know what? As a human being I don’t consider myself one-dimensional”, and I’m not. I like to do something different every record. As a solo artist it is easier vs being in a band, where you HAVE to develop a sound and stick with it. I like to be ever-changing as an artist, so thank you for recognizing that.
Amps: So you’ve found that there’s been an issue with people wanting you to just sound one way?
Alexx: Oh yeah. I’ve had a lot of success with my song “Cry”, and I had NO IDEA it was gonna hit as big as it did. We were trying to push the harder stuff, “Break Me” was the single, and that ended up doing well, but not like “Cry”, and that was the sole ballad on the entire record. So what happened was, now everyone, between my licensing agencies, label, managers, they’re all saying, “We want another ‘Cry’, we want more of that”. And I’m saying,”Ok, well you know what, it’s still me because I wrote it, and I’m proud of it, but that’s very much one side of who I am”.
I mean, live, I’m very much Jekyll and Hyde, I channel my Sebastian Bach, like “Get the fuck up!! Get up!!”, and you know, there’s these little girls who love my song from Dance Moms, and I’m onstage screaming, “Get the fuck up!!”, so it’s tough (we both bust out laughing).
Amps: Now, songs like “Cry” and “Break Me” are autobiographical?
Alexx: Everything is. “Cry” was written in about 15 minutes, and it was during a really low moment. I remember exactly what I was doing when I wrote it. It’s about just being in your head, and not wanting to be all the time. “Break Me” was inspired by a really toxic relationship that I had and I overcame it. In Avanti was a real empowerment record, but it wasn’t a whiny kind of record. A lot of people they write this “woe is me” stuff, and this record was a fuck you middle finger.
Amps: What kind of equipment are you playing/singing through?
Alexx: My AC-30 amp, and I am a big Gibson fan. There’s nothing like the sustain on a Les Paul. I use a beautiful white one, and I have red hair, so when I play, I sweat and I guess all the red gets on my hands and it’s gotten all over my guitar, but it’s created this really cool hue around the edges. It’s got so much rock and roll grime on it, and I don’t clean it. Gotta leave it on there! I also just got a Gibson SG named Cupcake. It smells like a pastry, and I have no idea why!
I sing through the Shure SM-57, because I’m soft-spoken and it captures certain elements better than say, the SM-58 does.
Amps: What do you do to keep your voice in shape?
Alexx: I got some great advice from Dave Meniketti from Y & T. We were backstage one night, and I was like, “Dave, your voice is so fuckin’ awesome! How do you do it?” and he just said, ” You know what? All it comes down to is getting a solid 8 hours of sleep a night”. And he’s right, because I’ve toured before, and sometimes your voice just gets ragged, but getting that sleep really keeps it up, because it is a muscle, and you have to exercise it, but you also have to take care of it.
In Part 2 of our interview, we’ll discuss what Alexx does when she’s not working, among other things. Stay tuned!