Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Photography — Charlotte Robin
Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Photography — Charlotte Robin
Alex Cameron is thin, tall, with a progressive mind and most of all, he is a natural born storyteller who can't conceive music without a visual aspect. With his accomplice Roy Molloy, he spreads his views on everything and everyone on all the continents. Times are strange but it's okay, we have Alex Cameron now.
Hi guys, how are … Man, you’re recording this too? (laughs)
Alex Cameron: Yeah, just to have a record of what’s been asked.
Okay. Great! I like it because it shows that you consider that an interview is not only the journalist’s responsibility. How are you then?
Alex: I’m well. I really wanted to come to Paris because you have my favorite bakery. It’s important for my diet.
How come you’re not obese?
Alex: I guess it’s pure genetics. Very fast metabolism. Too fast maybe. This is why I’m thin. I should be 8 to 10 kilos heavier I think.
Roy, I heard you drove trams in Sidney.
Roy: Yeah, but I just left this job a few days ago. They discontinued the conductor service for money savings. It’s sad, I guess I was the last one in the country…
It’s funny, I have the impression that driving trams is becoming a thing in the indie music scene. Jaakko Eino Kalevi was a tram driver too, in Helsinki!
Roy: Yeah, it’s interesting…
Tell me about how happy you are to be in Paris.
Alex: I think that in Europe, here is the place I played the most shows. It’s nearly a challenge playing in Paris. I like Parisian audiences very much. I find it very rewarding to win the audience here.
And you Roy, were you onstage with him every time?
Roy: Actually, it’s my first time in Europe since 2008.
Okay, cool. So how do you find it? Do you think France changed a lot, as many people say?
Roy: I don’t know. Maybe just in my mind (smiles).
Alex: It’s tough to say. In Australia, we hear a lot about what’s happening over here. In the news and what not. News and tragedy become entertainment when you’re very far away.
The situation is strange in Australia, too. You had a rather extreme government, right?
Alex: Yeah, it’s still here. Just with a different leader. They’re doing some very ugly things. I think perhaps history will look very fondly upon what’s this government doing. But people pressure the government a lot, it’s positive. As young people, we tend to vote progressive.
You said in an interview that you were able to turn any room to your favor. Putting aside the extreme self-belief you show by saying that, tell us about your worst experience onstage?
Alex: Maybe in Milwaukee. The weather was very cold, maybe -8° C. We bought a Cadillac in America, that we toured with. Our air conditioning system wasn’t working right. Suddenly, there was anti-freeze in the car. And then when we played, it was even colder. Onstage, we were freezing. Two people started yelling at us. They didn’t like the act or something. It was difficult, so I decided to talk to them, still onstage. And it went kind of well after that. People anticipate that I would be aggressive onstage but it’s quite the opposite. It’s quite a celebration.
What brought you to make yourself look older?
Alex: Well, I remember feeling as though what I was doing required an extra element. I’m not satisfied with just releasing an album, and then fingers crossed, people listen to it. That’s not how I get a job done. So you have to understand there are different elements required to achieve a success in the music business. As a storyteller, I wanted to make the album three-dimensional. I wanted to take what I’ve done musically and then the plan was that Roy and me construct a whole world around it. The record, the online storytelling, the visual aspect, the videoclips, the website and then performance in the real world. I decided I would embody my favorite character from the record which is a talk-show host for the song “The Comeback”. For me, he was the storyteller.
It’s funny because you said that when you began the project you had 2 demos and you began working on the visual aspect as soon as you had these 2 demos. While generally, people record an EP or an album and then think about the visual aspect.
Alex: Yeah, it was happening as we wrote and it was happening as we performed onstage in Australia.
Roy: It was a very natural thing.
I had different theories about why you put that mask before every show. Maybe it was a way to protect yourself from being exposed, or maybe because society allows more freedom of speech to older people.
Alex: I think as young persons, it’s our role to be progressive and to accept that things change. The older generation can be a megaphone for old ideas that end up being outdated and offensive. That same thing goes for character writing. A character can say and behave in a certain way but cannot necessarily represent that viewpoint.
I like the way you and Roy deal with community management. Is it part of a strategy?
Roy: If someone’s feeling like expressing himself, he writes something on the page. It’s a good outlet for us, I think.
Alex: We started doing it as a sort of document for ourselves. We would write and not post things. And then, it’s grown into a thing people wanted. It’s like writing a book, but one page at a time. People get to see each page as it happens.
It’s really different from the stereotypes that have become common in the music industry. Posting a photo every time you’re in a new place, sharing moments of intimacy for instance, and all the “direct to fan” strategies… I think people are bored of that.
Alex: I think we have an understanding that perhaps, by doing the longer format, you don’t reach as many people but that it’s rewarding for the people that want to be there.
Roy: We’d been emailing these things to each other anyway (laughs).
It’s really refreshing because all the music game has become really bland lately. And even in indie music. People seem to reproduce the mass consumption logic of pop music and the media, like Pitchfork, have become as strong as some TV channels.
Alex: I really wanted to create something that could exist without relying on something like that. I wanted Roy to have a strong perspective. Not necessarily to undermine the system or anything like that but certainly so that we could exist if these people didn’t want to write about us. We toured and released an album by ourselves, and have been performing for years before anyone ever wrote an article about us. So we knew all along that our success would have little to do with whether or not we could have a review on a website. Or whether or not someone wants to tell our story for us. We’re telling our own story.
PR has now become the most important thing in the music industry. All the bands and the labels are running after the biggest media, for the 3 lines that could write about them.
Alex: I think what we’re doing is a bit beyond that but of course, our relationship with our label is really good. We’re glad to have them on board cause they do a lot of this stuff that just helps the work proliferate.
You said on Twitter that you liked your politics the way you liked your music: progressive. So what I’m going to do is give you the names of various acts and you’re going to tell me if you find them progressive or not.
Alex: I love his music but lyrically, he doesn’t sound very progressive. He certainly is a new style of rapper who doesn’t rely on dramatic, subversive or aggressive views. But hip hop has always fascinated me because it’s not just about the songs, but also about how good the songs are. Which is always amazing to me. The story is “hi everybody I’m a musician, and the song you’re listening to right now is the best you’ve ever heard and anyone who says it isn’t … blow me”.
Alex: He creates sorts of dark worlds that he puts on different eras. I think he has the license to say the things that he does. I really enjoyed his album from 2013 cause he put it in a modern context. He seemed to challenge not necessarily the establishment, but certain powers. In that album, he was less of a voice of God, and more of a voice of a little man, which I enjoyed.
Alex: Maybe he tries to inspire people via broadcasting his own accomplishments. Maybe that’s what his purpose is. He’s not like a Michael Jackson who releases a song called “Heal The World”. He’s not that kind of pop artist. Nowadays, no one has a #1 hit that promotes world peace.
Roy: This guy has the biggest audience in the world and he just talks about his ex-girlfriend. It’s not particularly inspiring to me. The subject he covers are microscopic.
Alex: I don’t know much of his music. He had this huge hit about doing cocaine on mirrors with strippers, things like this. I don’t really connect to that. I think it’s a little bit shackled, a little bit constricted. It’s like a small room. It’s not really covering. But it is certainly, I think, strong because it’s a confession.
Alex: I avoid things that cost a lot of money because I couldn’t do it.
Alex: Yes, Alex Cameron… Very progressive. He’s trying to be confessionary to the point people could understand the human side of failure and of ambitions as well... failed ambitions in fact.