“I was more upset about David Bowie’s death than I was about my own father’s,” Everclear frontman Art Alexakis says. “My father died a few days before Bowie. I felt like I knew more about Bowie and learned more from him than I did from my Dad. Bowie was a constant in my life.”
Although that may sound a little harsh, it wasn’t said in a malicious way. He simply didn’t know his father. The song “Father Of Mine” was one of the Portland band’s biggest hits and accurately depicted the relationship he had with him, one that left Alexakis searching for strong male figures in his life.
“I was a little boy in the ‘60s and ‘70s when ‘Space Oddity’ started playing on the radio and Ziggy Stardust emerged,” he recalls. “His ability to take something and make it his own was incredible. That was more of a lesson and he was more of a role model than my father was.”
Alexakis didn’t exactly have the easiest upbringing. His father left when he was 6 and came to see him in Los Angeles once after his older brother George died from a heroin overdose when Alexakis was 12. His girlfriend committed suicide when he was 15 and he went to live with his dad for three months when he was 16, which didn’t work out so well. Eventually, he had to flee L.A. after getting caught with a gun. The path he was on was going to lead to either jails, institutions or death. It was just a matter of time. Thankfully, at the ripe age of 22, he decided to get clean and change his life.
“I was shooting up a lot—coke and heroin—trying to work a regular job,” he says. “I wasn’t doing that very well. I got clean before, but kept drinking, then that go to be a problem. I’m an addict so I put my energy into sex, power, anger, control—everything. I still did that after I got sober in 1989.”
His moment of clarity came when a complete stranger said to him, “Man, you look like shit. Are you a drunk?” His immediate response was filled with expletives, but eventually he tracked the guy down and told him he needed to go to an AA meeting. The man got his coat and took him to one a half-an-hour later.
“You know when it’s time,” he says. “I knew I was better than what I had been doing. I just stopped drinking.”
At this time, Everclear was just getting off the ground. A month after he got sober, he went on tour, which wasn’t exactly conducive to staying clean. He was riding in a van with four drinkers, but insisted they keep their poisons away from him. He managed to stay on the wagon the entire time, even when they were playing in a lot of bars and temptation was all around him.
“I had to stay focused and aware,” he says. “You have a disease other people don’t have.”
His tenacity and razor-sharp focus worked. The ‘90s were strewn with Everclear hits. From “Santa Monica” and “Wonderful” to “Everything to Everyone” and “I Will Buy You A New Life,” Everclear was one of the decade’s greatest success stories. Alexakis knows it never would have happened had he not sobered up. That didn’t, however, mean life was perfect. He quickly traded drugs and alcohol for promiscuity.
“There’s a reason I’ve been married four times,” he jokes. “I wasn’t just a bad boy, I was a horrible boy and I was really good at it. When you start selling records, that opens doors that aren’t open for a lot of other people.”
With 27 years of clean time under his belt, Alexakis has resurrected Everclear with 2012’s Invisible Stars and 2015’s Black Is the New Black, clearly a new chapter for the once self-destructive artist.
“I’ve always felt this has been my project,” he says of Everclear. “I was always able to do what I wanted to do. It started off as this angry, alternative punk band, but as time went on, it got weirder and more poppy. Two years ago, I was watching a band play and I missed making just a bad ass rock album, no keyboards, all guitars.”
A friend of his happened to have a studio and offered Alexakis the space to make a record so he got to work. After a year of touring, he had saved enough money to fund Black Is the New Black. One million streams and 10,000 copies later, it wasn’t exactly a huge success, but it didn’t flop and Alexakis got to make a record he loves.
“It was a lot of work,” he admits. “It was like pulling a Mack truck through the eye of a needle sometimes, but it was worth it.”
Today, Alexakis is more grounded, married to his fourth (hopefully last) wife and in a place where he’s not angry anymore. He’s still treated like rock royalty, but he’s got a solid grasp on that, as well.
“It sounds like a Hallmark card, but everyone is just a person,” he says. “Everyone has similar needs. I just need a salami sandwich, a cigar and my wife. Sex is 10 times better with my wife. I’m much better off than 30 years ago when all I wanted to do was get fucked up, get in a fight and go fuck someone else’s wife [laughs]. I’m more than happily married. I’m a miracle in progress, working on it all the time.”
Art Alexakis (of Everclear) Presents Songs and Stories, February 27, at the Moxi Theater, Greeley, 7 p.m. Tickets are $20/ADV and $25/DOS. Visit www.moxitheater.com for more information.