An interview with talented musician Alex Wyer about his upcoming projects and some of his biggest career highlights.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a musician?
I come from a very musical family. My mother is a classically trained pianist and baroque singer and my dad loves listening to his music, especially his old LP's. My brother's been playing guitar since he was four and it was with him that I started my first band, so I've always been around music in some way.
Who were some of your influences growing up?
My earliest memory is sitting on my parents sofa in the living room, I would turn plastic bins upside down and arrange them around me as a makeshift drum kit and I'd have wooden spoons and use them as drumsticks.
My parents had video tapes of top 40 hits. I'd put them in the VCR and just play along with them for hours, as you can imagine I broke quite a few bins along the way, but my parents were always supportive and never made an issue about it, so I guess my earliest influences would have to be the session players on records. Phil Collins did a lot of his own work, but he also had Chester Thompson, Pelle Alsing who played for Roxette, Debbi Peterson from Heart, Steve Ferone and Steve Gadd. Then as I got older I started getting into my parents record collection. My dad is a big fan of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Yes and Jethro Tull. My mum listened to The Beatles, ABBA and John Denver, and listened to all of it!
In my teens I got into Green Day, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, a lot of American bands. But I also listened to British bands like Blur, Ocean Colure Scene and Muse. It wasn’t until in my 20’s that I started listening to jazz and R&B, which had a major impact on my playing style.
What are your thoughts on being a professionally trained musician compared to a self taught musician?
Being trained has definitely made things easier, having been taught the rudiments early on, they've kept me in good stead. I don't keep up with my reading as much as I should but it’s always there and always useful if I go into a session with no prep time, I can write out the charts as I go and I usually have it written out in one listen. These days though, it's rare that I get asked to read charts but it can still happen from time to time.
As a drummer, do you find yourself listening to the actual music in the song more than the lyrics or both?
I have to say both. I’ve always thought that the music is the driving force for the lyrics. It’s a supporting instrument just as the drums are, which took me most of my teenage years to figure out. There's a push and pull with the music whichever way you do it, it can have a drastic effect on the way the lyrics are received.
What has been one of the biggest achievements of your career so far and why?
One would have to be working on the AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered album. A host of famous names, including The Killers, Jack White, Nine Inch Nails, Snow Patrol, Patti Smith and Depeche Mode, re-created U2’s Achtung Baby album in celebration of it’s 20th anniversary. I worked with Declan Gaffney and Gavin Friday on The Fly which was an amazing experience to be part of. To contribute something to an album that has so many incredible artists on it was a dream come true for me. Though I didn’t get to meet any of them in person it did open a lot of doors for me which is worth more than anything.
What are some of the concepts that help you when writing new music?
For my own music it really depends, I tend to write instrumental stuff more than anything. Emotions do play a part in my writing though, I guess. I like to write music that makes me happy, but to be honest I've never really given it much thought. If it's in a band situation. I'm not the only one writing, one of the other members might have a core idea that they want to get across. Personally, I like to bounce ideas off other people to gauge their reaction in those situations.
What would be one of your ideal collaborations if you could choose?
Neil Young. Next question
What projects or shows do you have coming up?
I'll be heading into the studio in a couple of weeks to work with Tim Despic. He's a British composer who recently finished work on a soon to be released Robert De Niro film and who's currently working on a new project involving Bruce Willis. I'll also be collaborating with an Irish singer songwriter/Ghost writer turned LA native named Lauren White whom I'm particularly excited about working with. She's just finished writing a sound track for the American Horror Story series. In the new year, I'll finally get around to starting a new project with my brother that we've been trying to do for a while, but schedules have always got in the way. There's also a few local bands that I sit in on from time to time as well just for a bit of fun, where we play some covers and maybe an original or two
What are your plans for the future as a musician?
To keep doing what I'm doing. Things have been going so well for me since I moved to LA that I wouldn’t change any of it. I want to play with as many bands and artists as I can. The more I work the more I learn, so much so that I've begun learning other instruments such as the cello, and pedal steel is something I've always been interested in using for my own music. So I'm trying to find someone who could teach me that.
What would be your best piece of advice for aspiring musicians?
Start a band with your friends and just jam. After a while you'll have some songs, go to your local venue and ask them if you can put on a show. If they say no, keep asking till they say yes. There will be hard times and lots of them, but there will also be great times. The ones who make it to the top are the ones who never give up