Hey Alexx Magic, welcome to Buzz Music and thank you for being here! "The Limbic Limbo" took us on a smooth psychedelic journey that we did not want to end. You do a fantastic job of fusing genres into your music, how long did it take you to master your sound?
It has taken my whole life. I started with classical piano when I was 7 and ended up doing that, regardless of other excursions with other instruments and styles, until I graduated with both my Bachelor's and Master's degrees in piano from Northwestern University and Manhattan School of Music, respectively. More on what happened after later... You were originally the frontman for the band Soft Candy. What influenced your decision to pursue your own solo project? I was not originally the frontman for Soft Candy, I was the final person to step to the plate in the band's history. I also have had many other projects and personas, some of which have been eaten by the internet and maybe on old hard drives which may or may not talk to modern computers with their new-fangled tiny and manifold connections. I have played in bands since high school and am now 35. I decided on this moniker Alexx Magic to represent a transformation in myself upon moving to Los Angeles. Music was never for money, really, in my mind. I wanted to be part of everything I could. My solo project now is gathering myself a much-needed focus on abundance after nothing short of a catastrophe in Chicago and the end of my time there. But also a focus on quality and style in a way that is the ever-flowing learning process of creating music. I have chosen more and more lately to play all the layers in my recordings because I wanted to see every part of the process and know what it was like to be that thing. After so many collaborations I have grown weary and weary in a way, perhaps greedy that I want to touch each element with my own magic. It feels selfish, but at this point is a complete necessity and even a great joy to synthesize all my knowledge and experience into something that I feel can define me and encompass the sounds I want to hear. Working with others can be incredibly stressful and your ability to choose and be free is taken away to an extent. That's not to say I don't enjoy working with or playing together with others. But I needed to do this project for myself and no other reason really. You are an incredible instrumentalist, with a great knowledge of music and it’s genres. At what age did you begin your musical training? So at 7, I began piano lessons and this was the foundation of my ability to pursue other instruments with ease and delight. I learned to play by the book, so to speak, with a local piano teacher, who recommended that I go take lessons at a community music school to get lessons in music theory, ear training, composition, trumpet, French horn, plus experience playing in various small and large ensembles like piano trio, duets with violins, violas, cellos, tubas, trumpets, flutes, singers of all kinds, plus even a full orchestra, in addition to my soloistic pursuits on the piano. It was also around this time that I was starting to teach myself instruments because it would have been too daunting to have so many lessons during the week. I took interest in the guitar, picking up my dad's 2-stringed acoustic guitar he had long forgotten about in the attic to play songs that used power chords like Lithium and Basketcase and other punk/rock/pop tunes. I was hooked on rock music! I started growing my hair, wearing jewelry, occasionally painting my nails, burning incense, listening to CDs instead of (or rather, while) I was doing my homework. And then it was put on nice clothes and go to the city (NYC) on the weekends to the upper west side for classes at Manhattan School of Music starting in sophomore year of high school. Post No Bills was my high school band. At least the first one. We played Pink Floyd, Doors, Pearl Jam, the Beatles, Tool and even Iron Maiden covers among our own loose compositions and jams. "Pick a key" we would say... It was pretty alright! Band members were a bit annoyed with my antics of playing my guitar on my head or with my teeth or playing my keyboard too loudly. One could never hear the vocals either because we were in ever pursuit of the unattainable: a PA system (which even after we bought it could never compete with our amps turned to 11). We recorded many of our primitive jams on the only equipment available - Karaoke Machines with tape decks and 4 track recorders. From those humble days in the basements of our homes, and in great contrast to my intense IB diploma and extra classical music education at Manhattan School of Music prep on Saturdays which lead to my attending music college, there has been a long pursuit personally of struggling to find how to represent myself to the world after so much experimentation and goofing off. I suppose, it has always been just what happened organically through the people I met when we would get together to play, in tandem with my experience as a classical musician - I live a double life. I started recording me and my friend using a karaoke machine and my friend's 4 track but eventually found laptop recording at its nascence. I had a MacBook and a Mbox and Protools and I was free as a bird, making my first experiments with audio and midi recordings in a visual DAW. I was doing this at home in addition to practicing my scales and arpeggios and chords and doing my music theory homework, plus all the while learning classical pieces, making improvisations, writing songs, etc. I played piano for singers starting in middle school as well and was a member of school bands playing trumpet and French horn. I played in my schools' jazz ensembles and wind ensembles and Manhattan School of Music's orchestra on French horns. I have been part of an orchestra playing Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Tchaikovsky, and many others. I played keyboards and French horns in my school's musicals. I simply could not get enough. I moved to Chicago when I was 18 and started music school. Things changed a bit and narrowed in scope as I began practicing upwards of 6 to 8 hours per day on the piano in addition to normal school work papers and assignments and class attendance. I wanted to start working a job then, perhaps teaching, but I struggled with fashion, struggled to come up with a proper way to market myself, struggled with self-esteem and image, and still had to show up for school as we all do. I feel like it took me a long time to grow up. I experimented all through college with different ensembles. A few early iterations held for very long, but after I returned from Vienna, Austria, something changed in me that I learned from living abroad. I felt like I knew how to experience life better and appreciate art and its contribution to society more. I felt more okay in my skin. And with that came the first group to start doing regular performances, La Malaise, a chamber pop trio with piano, acoustic guitar, cello, and vocals. It was cinematic and dramatic and it was fun while it lasted. We recorded all our music on four-track tape machines. Uploaded to Myspace, R. I. P. Then, after creative differences and drama, the group split and I found my friend Steve with whom I started an electronic duo called Rain Delay Theater. At first, I would play my own gear only and accent his sequenced computerized compositions with guitar and vocals. Eventually, I wanted hands-on interaction with synthesizers and then access to the compositional elements of recording the synthesizers and samplers electronically. It was all super fascinating, listening to electronic music with an open mind and creating it. We split because I think Steve and I wanted to write our own music and we weren't really able to make the duo work. I started seeing a girl who changed my world big time during my senior year. We formed a group together during the time we went long-distance after I graduated and moved back to New York to pursue my masters in piano. The group was called Electric Maid. We made an album and put it on myspace, R. I. P. I believe there are a few youtube videos hovering on the internet and there may still be a Facebook page because that was a thing. After we broke up when I returned to Chicago to be with her, I felt pretty lost. I had spent all this time working on music in bands and teaching lessons but not really playing much classical music live in good-paying situations except for some meager opportunities I found through friends or acquaintances in Chicago. Unable or perhaps unwilling to figure out how to access the market and penetrate better opportunities, I felt frustrated with it and decided that classical music was only going to be for myself for a while and for my students. I would sit around and practice on my grand piano I was working to purchase month to month. I read through all the music I had. Every single Beethoven sonata, Bach prelude, and fugue, Debussy Preludes, Etudes, Ravel Miroirs, Brahms Rhapsodies, Chopin Nocturnes and Waltzes, Rachmaninoff Preludes. I needed a new rock project, a return to my roots and a break from electronics. I started playing together with these young guys still in college at Columbia College in Chicago. At first, we didn't know what to call ourselves, and the only name we used lived was, frankly, obscene and not be repeated here! But then the member who seemed to be emerging as the leader called it Soft Candy. The name stuck and there were often fights in the band to change it to something new but I, especially, wouldn't allow it! I thought it was easy to remember and really evocative. We eventually crystalized our style with the dawn of our first record, Chelsea Boots & Violet Eyelids, after a year or two of shows and some crucial lineup changes and additions. We released it on Bandcamp but also as physical media on cassette tape. This was a big deal because my other former projects didn't produce physical media. And now I see the importance of having had done so and the consequences of not doing so. I helped engineer the first track and record it as well as play keyboards, and then also contributed some writing to the final song, but didn't have much to do with the other material. Which was stellar in quality and super unique. It made me upset that I had not been let in on the fun, and when push came to shove the lead singer decided to strike out on his own. There was tension anyhow between him and his friend who had joined the band as second guitar and vocal. The lineup changed and we appropriated new members. Then there was a long split where I took a break from the group. During this time, I returned once again to electronic music, feeling quite alone after the group's demise. I used the moniker Parasitic Twins at first, then Vanishing Twins, then EHF which stood for Extra Human Function. Clearly I had some issues making a decision. Released an album on Bandcamp. Then I started playing completely improvised shows and sharing the full sets to SoundCloud. I had also started playing drums in a sludge metal outfit called Edgar Allan Ectoplasm, and then made a life-changing decision to move into Young Camelot, a live-in recording studio and show house that also housed many artists' works from the local scene, as well as regular plays and film screenings. Edgar Allan Ectoplasm released an EP on Bandcamp and DVD. But tensions between myself and the guitarists blew out of control and the group also ended. I was feeling diffuse and confused. It was strangely at this time that a former member of Soft Candy came back to Chicago and we met up and decided to give another shot at reforming the band and making a fresh new album. The process of recording the album was extremely long and drawn out. We played many local shows, but never really sought out out-of-town opportunities. It was during this time that I started to realize how the band was yet again a pipe dream in terms of being something more than a hobby. Nobody seemed to want to take the risks involved in promotion in the wild west of the new streaming world and modern global market economy. Bandcamp was a place album that went to never be heard, or if they were heard, they were not purchased. Streaming is taking the lead and changes needed to be made. Being in a band was unaffordable. Too many gas miles and hard lessons. I started to take matters more into my own hands in terms of assembling the recordings. Things would take so long to record and put together, it just made sense for me to compose parts intuitively at home. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Creative differences and life's hard knocks destroyed the band yet again, ultimately unfurling during the recording process begun at Treehouse Records to complete the album The Lüvrs & the H8ers. This album was recorded entirely to a Studer 24 track 2-inch tape. No digital editing. In the end, it may have worked a bit against the albums final product not to be tweaked and mangled into perfection like most contemporary digital recordings. The process was nonetheless a moment in which I proved to myself that taking responsibility for the outcome of my work and therefore my life is truly up to me if I want to see it happen. With some help from the remaining members, the basic rhythm tracks were laid down. Then all the overdubs which took weeks and months to schedule with the recording studio and cost a larger sum of money than I had originally intended. You are an East Coast native, being born in New York and having lived in Chicago. What influenced your decision to move to Los Angeles? The experience left me feeling burned. I tried hard to promote the album even though I no longer really had a band to play it with. In the process, a few members from Chicago's MTV ghosts began playing together with me as the final lineup of Soft Candy. They helped me do a kickoff show and play some follow-ups, but we all knew it was only for the short term. Things really took a turn for the worse after this point as well, as one of my roommates decided to sabotage my life as I was preparing to go teach a music program in Tunisia. My apartment was turned into an unsavory place and I frantically moved all my music equipment and computer out of the apartment to an extremely generous neighbor. I was essentially homeless and was responsible for all the money involved. Sleeping on a friend's couch, I decided randomly to book a plane trip to LA to see what would come of it. After I returned from Tunisia, I visited LA as a way of celebrating my birthday. It was supposed to be with my girlfriend. She didn't come. The 2nd to last night I was there, my Airbnb host pointed out that there was an apartment available across the courtyard. Luckily I was able to get an appointment to see the place and I was sold. It was perfect. How could it be possible that I found a perfect place without barely lifting a finger in one of the most difficult real estate environments in the US? The choice was made clear. I would sign the lease and get out of Chicago, drive my music equipment in my Honda across the country and into this little apartment. It has been difficult and there have already been many trials. But some exciting new opportunities are on the horizon as I reinvent myself yet again, possibly in the purest expression I can manage at this age. I am now 35 and I figure it's now or never. What can we expect to see next from you throughout 2020? I am planning to release a 5 song EP sometime in March-May. There is a possibility of some performances in and around and on the way to SXSW in March with a trio I have been playing with lately with some local musician friends of mine. But things seem a little sketchy at the moment so it may not happen. For sure, I will be doing shows in the future, if not also solo performances. I am planning on releasing my second single from the EP called In the Mirror Balloon in a few weeks. After that.... there is quite the mountain of unfinished tracks waiting to be shined and polished and ready to show the world. I am planning on releasing as many songs, albums, EPs, or whatever I can think of this year and beyond. I want to make as much quality music as I can and eventually go on the road. I am also working on some exciting production projects on the side, namely collaborating as alter-alter ego DJ Big Nipple with my friend Little Baby J. She is a comedic electro-clash artist who has the persona of Peaches meets The Lonely Island. It's a fun departure from my normal stylistic choices. We are releasing an EP in the coming months as well. I am also working with Miss Jupiter on her new record as producer and mixer. She owns the store Spacedust in Los Angeles on Sunset Blvd, an eclectic shop featuring many of her own designs of clothes and nick-nacks. She is a talented songwriter and vocalist. Her songs incorporate a range of styles and genres, but mostly a kind of spaced out glam rock/prog-rock style. I am looking forward to an exciting year!
Listen to the sounds of Alexx Magic here.