Grammy-nominated artist Eric Alexandrakis. (Photo: Minoan Music)
NEW YORK – Grammy-nominated Singer-Songwriter, Composer-Producer Eric Alexandrakis spoke with The National Herald about his latest album, Terra – a 28 track travel concept album written and recorded around the world on a primitive 16-track recorder.
The album is a mix of influences which includes late 60's Pop, early New Wave and film music, taking the listener through Alexandrakis’ emotions and experiences with catchy danceable psychedelic whimsy. This musical journey impresses the listener with a fearless creativity and vision that has become rare in today’s music industry. It hearkens back to the golden age of the concept album while highlighting Alexandrakis’ unique talent.
All tracks are written, arranged, produced, performed, recorded and mixed by Alexandrakis, with a few exceptions which include appearances by bass player John Taylor of Duran Duran, and drummer Steve Ferrone [Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Duran Duran, The Bee Gees, Michael Jackson, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Slash, etc.].
His family history could be a movie script- Nazis executed his father’s father, while his mother’s father was a well-known mechanical innovator in Egypt. His parents were immigrants from Greece and highly accomplished in their field. His father's list of impressive accomplishments includes being one of the main co-founders of the University of Crete. Eric’s accomplished mother is highly regarded within Philosophy circles and through her published works. Alexandrakis’ godfather would tell him stories about his good friend and neighbor Albert Einstein.
Alexandrakis is also a descendant of Cretan freedom fighter Kostas Giaboudakis, who famously blew up the gun powder room at Crete's Arkadi Monastery in 1867.
Studying classical piano from age 6-16, Alexandrakis could not only sight read music and sing, but was also able to transfer what he learned to other instruments, picking them up with ease. He attended the University of Miami where he studied English literature and public relations. Accepting that music was going to be his lifelong passion, Alexandrakis went on to get his graduate degree in Music Business.
Following the release of his first album, 9 Demos On A 4-Track, a persistent pain forced him to go to the hospital where, just shy of 25 years old, Alexandrakis was diagnosed with cancer. During his treatment, he started to write and record his second album, I.V. Catatonia, made up of twenty-two diverse compositions. The album cover featured a photo of Alexandrakis’ nurse and the artwork was his x-rays. While he maintained a sense of humor about his illness, the unexpected happened. Just as I.V. Catatonia was set for release, Alexandrakis had a recurrence of cancer that landed him in an enforced germ-free hospital room for a month.
Seven blood and platelet transfusions, multiple chemotherapies and a stem-cell transplant forced Alexandrakis to confront his mortality. What was manifested, though, was an overwhelming desire to live, to create, to persevere at any cost.
In 2019, Alexandrakis earned a Grammy nomination in the Best Spoken Word Album category for his album I.V. Catatonia: 20 Years As A Two-Time Cancer Survivor. His fellow nominees included the eventual winner Michelle Obama, The Beastie Boys, John Waters, and Sekou Andrews & The String Theory.
TNH: Did you always want to go into music?
Eric Alexandrakis: Music was always a very natural thing for me [remembering melodies, picking up other instruments, etc.], but the desire to do it came and went because I didn't think of it as a job. After some years of classical training, I discovered John Williams at the age of 8 and I wanted to be an orchestra conductor. All during my schooling and upbringing I was always playing in some school group, singing, and doing plays. Performing has always felt natural, and then when I hit my teens, I wanted to become an actor. In high school, I was in a rock group, and really enjoyed that to a degree, but no one was particularly focused unfortunately. Eventually as I matured, I realized that I could do music as a job, and should, because everything about its process was totally natural to me.
TNH: What inspires you the most?
EA: It’s really hard to say as inspiration can come from another song, a film, a face, a car, the lines of a car, experiences, really anything. I guess I would have to say a great melody, and a great image. The last six months or so I've been studying music from the 70's, everything from early Electronica to Rock, and that's been a big inspiration. Yesterday I was listening to the first Human League album for the first time, and that ironically sounds like me in some ways.
TNH: What was the most challenging/rewarding aspect of working on this latest album?
EA: The most challenging was doing it on a 16-track machine, which no one uses anymore. Everything is all done with computers now, and unfortunately the end results hold no actual performances due to the heavy processing of everything. With this album, everything was played mostly in first takes by me, with a few second takes, so it's all performances. Being able to play everything that way and deliver, is one of the most rewarding aspects… but seeing it finished in all its 28 track glory is the most rewarding.
TNH: How long did the album take from idea to realization?
EA: The idea started 20 years ago after my cancer relapse. I'd chipped away at ideas over the years, but never made it into a cohesive project due to other projects and life. January I started to buckled down and punched it out January to August. It's so ambitious that I was starting to pull the hair out of my head towards the end.
TNH: How has COVID affected your work?
EA: All opportunities from my Grammy nomination last year were lost, but I'm lucky to where I've built myself up to a point where I always have opportunities, so not too bad. The music industry has made it a point to devalue music for the purpose of promoting high ticket priced concerts, but didn't consider the possibility that concerts might get cancelled. Isn't that genius?
TNH: What are you working on next?
EA: I have about 50 songs left in this "Terra" series, so more releases under that theme, but I'm also backlogged with five other albums that needs finishing and releasing. I also have some new material with John Malkovich coming out, and I'm also working on a project circled around The Battle of Crete, namely the executions of family members in my father's village of Adele [about 5 miles east of Rethymno]. That will probably take another year to complete.
Ambassador Dimitrios Tsikouris (JD, MA) has a 36-year-long career in the Greek Diplomatic Service with assignments in Germany, the United Nations, New Orleans, Washington, DC, NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy, Iran, Belgium, Indonesia, Malaysia, and ASEAN.
LAS VEGAS — Her husband campaigned to help unite the country, but Jill Biden says "healing" a nation wounded by a deadly pandemic, natural and other disasters and deep political polarization is among her chief roles as first lady, too.
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