Alex Cross: Corporate Goth

Jasper Clifford Smith
24th Oct 2014

Alex Cross is making huge waves in Sydney at the moment, introducing us all to the fruits of Corporate Goth. We sat down with him before his headline show at Newtown’s Union Hotel to discuss his new sound, new lineup and how he was inspired to dig himself out of a creative black hole to become one of Sydney’s most talked about new artists.

Sydney Scoop: So what's corporate goth?

Alex Cross: It started off as a joke, or as a way of streamlining my work-versus-recreation aesthetic so that I could conceivably finish up at 6pm and play a show wearing the same clothes. But now I see it as something more than that - it's both celebrating and satirising capitalist excess at the end of the so-called "Age of Entitlement". It's taking on the mantle of the villain - The Man - in the narrative of popular music and turning that character into a hero.
There's something subversive, to me, about this kind of "radical conformity", if you look at it as a response to the prevailing mythology about artistic achievement and legitimacy, where an artist is required to prostrate and debase themselves - potentially for many years - before their work has any value. The musician must be the wretch, the outcast, or the vagrant in order to be taken seriously. And this is an image that has been commercialised now to the point where when we see a bunch of scruffy dudes with guitars we don't know if it's a music video or a life insurance commercial. The vagrant/troubador rock 'n' roll myth is irrelevant today, which is why the type of music associated with it is no longer interesting or - let's face it - commercially successful.
So corporate goth is that, basically. A bit of humour about my own life circumstances, and my existing preference for suits and ties, combined with a deeply-held belief that the artist should be recast as a powerful, rather than downtrodden, figure in society.

SS: You used to play with a ten piece band or something. What's changed?

AC: Yes, I played as a part of "Alexander Cross & The Daggers", a band that started off as a pretty simple blues rock ensemble but became incredibly bloated as more and more noise was added to the mix, because I thought that would somehow make the songs better or have a greater impact. We played quite a few shows around the city and in the Inner West, and we had a good time doing that, but something about the sound - and many of the songs I was singing - seemed dishonest to me. I never felt fully comfortable playing music that way.
So a little while ago I deleted almost everything we had done or recorded and started afresh. It was incredibly liberating.

SS: And you recruited Marcus Whale (Collarbones, Black Vanilla)?

AC: I did. I'm not a huge believer in destiny or fate, but when I met Marcus, an artist I already greatly admired, I was very much at a low point personally and creatively. I'd undergone a pretty huge upheaval and was feeling very lost, and music wasn't doing anything for me. I had just left an Angie solo show at 107 Projects in Redfern, and I was walking with Weet, my friend and bassist, back to the station. Marcus and Travis had just finished their big Synergy Percussion show and were walking up Redfern St.

Marcus and Weet already knew each other, so they said hi, and Weet brought up that I was looking for a keyboardist for an upcoming show. Marcus was holding a keyboard, which had played for the first time that night. He lifted it up, and with that one gesture he began a process that revolutionised our live set. It became small, concise and largely electronic. Sort of like Marcus himself.

I owe him, and Weet, and of course my incredibly talented virtuoso guitarist/keyboardist Tyler Grant, a great deal.

SS: That's beautiful.

AC: I think so.

SS: How has the response to your new live show been?

AC: Enthusiastic and immediate. People have been responding in ways they never did before. It's really encouraging, and it validates this sense in myself that I'm finally doing what I'm "supposed" to be doing.

SS: So are you going to be releasing any of this new stuff in the foreseeable future?

AC: I am. I'm currently recording the album, which is going to be called White Collar, with Tyler and Marcus, and ahead of that we're releasing a single, Young Lovers.

At this stage, though, the only thing available online that showcases this new "sound" is my cover of Kirin J Callinan's Love Delay.

If you want to check out what all the fuss is about come down to the Union Hotel on Saturday 25 October. It’s free and supports are Biscotti, Bistro and Sails.

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