Interview: Alex Cameron

Straight off the back of widely celebrated sophomore release Forced Witness, RideMusic caught up with the Australian  about growing up in Sydney, his special relationship with ‘business associate’ Roy and new album ‘Forced Witness’…  

On his first album, Alex Cameron created a grandiose alter-ego as a coping mechanism for dealing with his anxieties. Now he’s taking on apathy – and forcing us all to pay attention.

“Erm, I don’t mind them. It’s something that I do probably, certainly since we’ve had the record out but probably a couple a week” Alex Cameron tells me about his experiences with phone interviews as his tour entourage make their way from Denmark to Germany.

I ask Cameron what it was like growing up in Sydney “Erm well Sydney is one of the sort of like, in the larger scale of things, one of the wacky places you know? One of the very few lucky places on Earth. Erm, Australia is a very fortunate country. I mean growing up in Sydney was really, er, I count myself lucky”. 

Alex Cameron is a mystery and he knows it. “I think I attempt to write really descriptive stories that I just think that is most expressive way of saying what I want to express. It’s all very intentional and all very much intended to do what I hope it does. So if it registers with other emotions and clicks with people in a certain way, that definitely gives me satisfaction.” He proudly tells me.

I have long been interested in Alex Cameron’s relationship with his saxophonist Roy Malloy. In certain interviews, he calls Roy a ‘business associate’ and in others a bandmate. I ask him what it was like growing up with Roy: “Yeah we have been friends since we were about 5 or 6 years old. He was my next door neighbour for many years when I was a kid. We ended up going to high school together as well so, it’s just like an ongoing friendship with him and we seem to motivate each other to work hard and to just keep going through more and more work.” 

His answer intrigues me so I go on to ask whether he feels it important to have a good working relationship with bandmates: “I think so yeah. I think the more people you add to the crew, the more of an understanding of how important chemistry is and how important it is just being a conscientious person. It’s part of what it is of being in a band. Also just hanging around people and just having a good time. We definitely want to get on with everyone, we definitely want everyone to feel themselves really.”

‘Jumping The Shark’ is Alex’s debut record and it’s a storybook of sadness; an intimate collection of his deepest thoughts that’s strangely uplifting and joyous considering the dark lyrical content within. Whether you feel like dancing or pulling down the curtains, it turns out synth and drum machine are both heavily potent weapons in his hands: “I suppose I try and write about specific things that are of interest to me and I feel like they resonate at a frequency that makes people think about their own situations. It’s very conscious when I’m writing or doing anything. There’s nothing blasé about it.”

It seems Alex has as much faith in ability than anyone but Alex himself. “My auntie bought me a portable cd player and ‘Let There Be Rock’ was the first CD I was vocal about wanting. That was like the first songs I was singing by myself with my cousin. I always imagined that I was the person singing it. I would really strictly practice and learn songs and every single lyric and every single melody.”

I am invested in Alex now – a believer. I tell him I believe his new album ‘Forced Witness’ is a contender for album of the year and in hindsight, how he feels about the album. Alex seems to go quite shy and shocked by my first statement. “Oh thanks man. So far no one has given the record a bad review as I could probably give it. But I do read what people say about the record. I try to remove myself from it personally from what people say but unfortunately, I am the one responsible for it so it will always have an impact. But I feel really quite amazed by the feedback so far. People really taking the time to listen to the record and think about it, and any discussion that comes up is generally been met with progressive thought and consideration. So largely feeling quite satisfied and motivated.”

In his tracks, Alex seeks to address micro tragedies– tragedies that are avoidable, and usually stem from an individual and their personal failings, rather than are imposed by circumstances. “Most of the time it comes from discussions I’ve had with people or direct experiences. It’s certainly not fictional if you know what I mean. It’s not necessarily autobiographical either. So yeah, they’re very real and they’re very true I’ll say that”.

I purposefully try to jog Alex’s memory about the last time he played in Newcastle. “Newcastle is really good to us, the crowd are super friendly. We just played there with the Killers like last week, erm and the crowds are really good. The UK is against the odds do you know what I mean? Because it’s a pretty tough country to live in, to experience in. It’s heavy man. The crowd against the odds always make us feel like going back so, its one of those things. It’s a tough place but the people are good to us so we will always keep coming back for more”.

We both acknowledge that Newcastle is a ‘heavy’ place in the winter. Suddenly, Cameron enthusiastically describes the cities he will be visiting on his UK tour. “I really do like Brighton. I love Brighton in the winter. I love it when it’s windy and the waves are crashing against the rocks. I just like that you know? I mean, London I’m looking forward to because we’re doing the biggest venue that we’ve ever headlined in London, The Scala. I’ve heard it’s a nice place but I’ve never been there. But I actually like coming and going to Manchester and popping over to Liverpool and where you are. I don’t know, I like being outside of London as much as I like being there. You guys are living in a hard place! The crowd are always responsive and I think they’re are looking forward to something and so are we!”.

With geographical locations still firmly the source of conversation, I ask him the main difference between UK, US and Australian music culture. “I’d say that the British are looking for something new, something new and exciting and they’re looking to proliferate that. The Americans are looking for something tried, tested, proven and successful and Australians are looking for a good time. I think that’s one way to describe it”. Right now we are oscillating between the UK, Europe and America, I guess. I mean those are the places we see and the places we work.”

As the conversation draws to a natural close, I quickly squeeze in one more question about what fans can expect on his upcoming tour, right before Alex has the chance to put the phone down. “We’re going to be playing with a full band and I’m loving that. It’s really liberating and sounds really powerful. They should get a little half cut and have some fun but no pressure! Just come and expect to be treated with respect and feel like they can let go a little and have a good time!”.

Words: Matthew Thomas