Joshua Craig Discusses New The Alien Blakk Album "Bekoming"
The Alien Blakk doesn’t just have a unique and experimental sound, they have a unique outlook on making music. “There may have been a few third takes on the album but it wasn’t due to playing it was due to technical situations. I don’t really believe in doing it too many times. If you can do it you can do it, if you can’t you shouldn’t be there” says band founder and front man Joshua Craig. Their second album "Bekoming" is soon to be released, which was an endeavor three years in the making featuring musicians from bands such as CKY, Flotsam and Jetsam, and Megadeth. During my chat with Joshua we discussed the making of "Bekoming," the stellar guest appearance from Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame, and the two cover tracks on the album.
xFiruath: When did The Alien Blakk come together and what has the band done so far?
Joshua: The situation came together in about 2005. I was originally playing with Ray Herrera when he was not very actively pursuing Fear Factory. We had a singer and some bass players come down. I ended up having some interest in Dave (David Ellefson of Megadeth). I met Dave at a music convention where I was playing guitar for Coolio. We started talking and nothing really came together for quite some time but then I posed the idea of The Alien Blakk to him and he liked the music. He just said “Whatever this is, I’m in.” That’s how it all began. Craig (Flotsam and Jetsam's Craig Nielson) I’ve known for far too long. I jammed with Flotsam and Jetsam and the funny thing was that the first thing I did with Craig, my first professional job, was actually on a Megadeth tribute record. It seems to have come full circle now. It’s been going on for five years now as this album has taken a little longer than I thought it would.
xFiruath: You’ve done session work for a huge number of acts. Are you currently working with any other bands right now?
Joshua: I have a new book that comes out in March called “Advanced Lead Guitar Concepts.” It has a CD and DVD and 150 page book with tablature. It goes into what you think about when you play and why you’re trying to go about doing what you are doing. I also do a lot of video game music. I’ve done some stuff for MTV and I also do a couple little fill-in things here and there for guitar session work.
xFiruath: I didn’t know you had done any video game music. What games have you provided music for?
Joshua: Some of the games I’ve done music for were Mech Assault, Splatterhouse, which is coming out at the end of the year, Need For Speed 2, Rayman 3, Growlanser, and many others.
xFiruath: I noticed on the press release that it said you’ve worked with Christina Aguilera? Is that correct?
Joshua: I did session guitar playing for Scott Storch, who produced the “Stripped” record that Christina put out. I remember that right before I went in for the session he asked me if I could just learn something on my drive down to the studio, which was about a 15 minute drive. He sent the messenger over with a CD of Journey’s greatest hits and he said just listen to “Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin,” I want to focus on that one today. We ended up doing a version of the song that may have come out somewhere outside the U.S., I don’t really remember. He had this idea of having kids doing the choir and I did a bunch of shredding all over the place. I did the demo work for the song “Fighter,” which they had like four or five guitar players on the album anyway. That was a very high profile experience.
xFiruath: You’ve done work for a wide range of bands in many different genres. How would you describe the sound of your own band The Alien Blakk?
Joshua: The first Alien Blakk record I did was really because I needed some more diverse guitar. Everything from country to death metal to acoustic shredding type stuff. I wanted to do something that was as diverse as it could possibly get and had in the back of my mind the hope of getting to audition for Guns N’ Roses, which actually happened. I got a call from some people who were familiar with the record. Buckethead had just left and so they had me come on down and play tunes with them to see what it would be like. We played in some gigantic room, it was like an airline hanger or something or a rehearsal stage by an airport. There were seven guys jamming and it was amazing. We completed some tours with that first record and gained some notoriety and got enough attention for a second one.
xFiruath: Who did you bring on as guest musicians on the new album “Bekoming?"
Joshua: We had a great talented singer Donnie Hamby, who was the singer for Double Drive that had a couple of cool records. The song he did was between an extremely heavy ZZ Top and old school Black Sabbath. That tune is one of my favorites on the record. Donnie just rips on vocals like Chris Cornell meets Bruce Dickinson. There’s a really cool excerpt streaming on TheAlienBlakk.com, a song called “Erased.” We also had a friend of mine, Deron Miller, who sings and plays guitar for CKY. He came out and did the vocals for the song called “The Path,” which is a song about dealing with loss, and it was the last lyrical themed inspiration I had written for the record. I wrote it after I had a conversation with James Hetfield when he played in Arizona. It deals with loss and the parent no longer around and how it affects your life. Deron had already agreed to do the song but he didn’t know about the content until we sat down. Instead of me giving him lyrics I just told him to write whatever he felt. He wrote his own melodies and lyrics.
A.K. from Flotsam and Jetsam and I have been friends for years. He came down and we were just going to work on one song together, but he loved the whole record so he ended up on three of the tunes. We just played until time ran out and we had to leave the studio. He does backups on one song, a gang vocal thing with me on another one, and in another one it’s like a real duet with me. He does a line, then I do a line. That’s for the vocals, and for the drums I had Craig Nielson from Flotsam and Jetsam and Kevin Talley (Daath) did a few songs. Then there’s the situation with Dave and myself as well.
xFiruath: I read that you also have Mark Hamill doing a voice over on one of the tracks?
Joshua: Oh yeah, Mark too. That was actually huge and very cool. Mark is an amazing human being and a good friend. He supports The Alien Blakk and wanted to be involved. He’s very well known inter-planetarily, so I thought it would be cool. He does a voice over section on “Bekoming,” which is the first song on the record. Two-thirds of the way through the song Mark does a voice over session I had written for him. There’s an instrumental section with a string break down and a melodic guitar section with a Tool-ish bass section going on, it’s very ambient, and then Mark comes back in with him asking questions and I give the answer. It’s a dialogue back and forth and the music gets really heavy and intense. The questions I had for him but the answers I did once I was fully aware of how the mix was going to be. I didn’t write down the answers, I just answered them as they were being asked. He’d ask the question, and then here’s the answer. It was reactionary to keep it fresh. All the guitar playing on the record was basically without any second takes. There may have been a few third takes on the album but it wasn’t due to playing it was due to technical situations. I don’t really believe in doing it too many times. If you can do it you can do it, if you can’t you shouldn’t be there.
xFiruath: You’ve got a couple of cover songs on the album. Which ones did you choose and why did you go with those?
Joshua: We did a Tom Petty cover called “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” We heard it on the radio and thought it would be really cool if it was extremely heavy. We kind of completely reanimated and harmonized different sections of the song. “Snowblind” (Black Sabbath cover) we’ve been doing live so we mixed that in there. It’s all extremely pot smoking slow. We slowed the song down as much as we could without having it fall out of groove. The mid section is all acoustic with instrumentation in there.
xFiruath: When is The Alien Blakk heading out on tour in support of “Bekoming?”
Joshua: We had planned a tour but then Dave got back with Megadeth. We are playing April 6th in Arizona and Dave will be playing with us there. We’re working on a European situation. Anyone who played with us previously knows it’s kind of like a family situation, you come in for a couple of shows or tours, and if you aren’t available call the next guy on the list. We have some cool people we are in contact with to play with us live. It’s a musically creative endeavor.
xFiruath: Tell me a bit about what music you’ve been listening to lately.
Joshua: CKY, Guns N’ Roses, Machine Head. Stuff like that, at least that’s what I’d be willing to talk about. There’s some other stuff I probably wouldn’t want to divulge too much information on.
xFiruath: What else is going on with The Alien Blakk?
Joshua: Well we signed the deal with Century Media yesterday. So the album will be available through CMdistro and the retail outlets might go for it. I did that so people would have another way to get it besides through our website.
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