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Entry date: 9-12-2022 - My Friend Alex has a birthday - Letters about My Friends

Dear Friends,

Today is my buddy Alex’s birthday. It is fitting that it is his birthday because he taught me so much about what it means to play music at a higher level than I was doing it before I met him. Alex has made his living in the music business for the 30 years we have been friends and that is admirable. He’s also made some great music, too.

When Alex and I met in 1993, I was living with Alexa, who I have written about before, and he had gotten married to Alexa’s best friend, Christina, who I knew very well, too. The girls thought we should hang out because Alex was from England and didn’t really know anyone outside of Christina’s family here in Phoenix and we both liked the same type of music.

At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. He’s not exactly the most outgoing guy and I’m not sure he was looking to make a new friend. We hit it off, though, and went out to get some pizza. It was our first date.

We did have a lot of the same taste in heavy, noisy music and Alex hipped me to a lot of great stuff, as well. He’s the one who got me going on Gang of Four and Unwound and he also filled me in on the workings of the music industry, which he was firmly entrenched in at the time. This was in the infancy of Hillbilly Devilspeak, so I thought it was so cool to be hanging out with a guy in a heavy, noisy band that was getting a little play on MTV occasionally.

It also helped that as we got to know each other, there was a lot of things in common for us outside of music. We were both only children (my brother, Matt, hadn’t been born yet) and had a similar upbringing and world view. Unlike Alex, I wasn’t convinced at any point my parents were robots (Sorry, buddy, if you’re reading this), but my mom did refer to my dad as “the marshmallow man” (sorry, Dad, if you’re reading this. She could be a B a lot of the time) so there was some sort of crossover.

The best thing about our friendship, though, was that we talked a lot about everything. I was happy to be a sounding board about his musical stuff and the frustrations he was experiencing as a budding engineer and producer. There was also the strange dynamic of having his mother-in-law, who is a well-known band manager and a friend of mine, trying to drive his band to a place where he wasn’t sure he wanted to be.

Alex was also a great sounding board for me and very helpful with Hillbilly. He recorded our first few real demos and even gave them to his bandmate, Dave, who had started BGR Records in England. Dave ended up putting out our first seven inch and that was huge. If not for Alex, that would have never happened.

We got to go into a real studio for a few days in 1994 and recorded that first 7”. I learned so much about Alex watching him work. The guy is amazing behind a console, and he was able to make the band sound so good. It really made me step my game as a singer and a bassist. He took the time to explain what he was doing to me all along and it has helped me throughout the years immeasurably.

Later that year, I was there for him when he and Christina lost their son, Adam, at childbirth. It was one of the worst times you could imagine. Alex was in England at the time, and I remember wondering what to say and how to be supportive for him and Christina. I was ill equipped to do anything but listen and be there. I still don’t know what to say.

On a brighter note, Alex and I went on to make a pretty fun little record under name of Son of Crackpipe. I wrote about this previously here at Ergonomic Mischief, so look it up if you want to do so. Just the two of us and a drum machine. We also played one live show at El Rancho De Los Muertos downtown.

After he and Christina broke up, Alex moved to LA, and we didn’t see each other very much. I went out there for a fun visit once and ended up shooting Guinness and rice out of my nose during a particularly violent episode of vomiting. It made me laugh out loud, though, and I couldn’t wait to share it with him as I knew he would find it hilarious, too. One shouldn’t drink too many Guinness after Thai food.

He also recorded the first and third Hillbilly records for us. We did the first one at the same studio we used for the 7” and then went out LA to record the last one in 2003. He definitely did right by us and challenged me, again, to do and be better.

I have mentioned this before, but after Alexa and I broke up, she and Alex ended up in a relationship for a long time. That was a strange dynamic, but he came to me and talked to me about it before things got too serious between them. It was Christmas and we had a good time doing the holiday thing. I thought about it a lot and I came to the only conclusion I could.

What could I say except go for it if you think it will make you both happy. They were both people I really cared about and for the last few years of my relationship with her, we were way more like roommates than boyfriend and girlfriend. It seemed kind of right to me, in a weird way, that they were together, but it did strain our friendship for a while.

I miss getting to see Alex more often, but when we get a chance to hang out, it is pretty much like no time has passed. I owe him a phone call, so I guess I know what I am doing later today. I love that my kids enjoying where his band’s shirts, too. It is like life is recycling itself.

Happy birthday, my friend. I am so proud of all the cool stuff you have done. Keep doing it, please.

See you tomorrow.

From the only SOC live show. Alex being Alex.

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