Aleister X is strange. Not like your Nicki Minajs and Katy Perrys who think that throwing on a blue wig with matching contacts is a radical departure from the norm. No, Aleister X is genuinely strange.
It’s hard to get a handle on this mysterious performer/recording artist. Even after interviewing him, the easiest way I can find of summing him up is to say he’s like a hip-hop Lux Interior, from England. Even that doesn’t do him or his work justice. While on paper it reads as being self-consciously “out there”, through whatever artistic alchemy he possesses, Aleister X reigns in a whole world of disparate influences and really makes them work.
X has just released a new album titled Half-Speed Mastered on the Steev Mike label, and it’s a belter. Hack your way through the dense undergrowth of noise, stream-of-consciousness lyrics and hyperactive beats and you will be rewarded with deep pools of warm harmonies and gorgeous textures that befit an album influenced hugely by living in southern California.
It seemed only right that this occult-influenced English rapper living in LA would be featured on Dangerous Minds, and so here he is, answering questions exclusively for us.
Dangerous Minds: You are a man shrouded in mystery. Can you explain to the readers of Dangerous Minds who Aleister X is?
Aleister X: Yes I can. What most people don’t realize is I’m actually Lou Barlow (Dinosaur, Sebadoh, Folk Implosion).
DM: If you could sum up your aesthetic in 140 characters or less, what would it be?
AX: Without the character counter this will be difficult, but okay, sure: Post-Bitchin’ and
DM: Where does the album name Half-Speed Mastered come from?
AX: Back in The Davis, now defunct CBS Records made these special remastered “Audiophile Pressings” of certain albums. Known as Half-Speed Mastered from the process of allegedly mastering at half-speed, giving the albums an extended range, bigger sound. But I think they just put that logo on the album jackets and doubled the price, which is a very cool move.
DM: Half-Speed Mastered is like a mixture of experimental hip-hop, J-Pop restlessness and Californian psychedelia. Those seem like strange bedfellows but you’ve made it work. Musically, what were the main influences for the album?
AX: The Association, The Mammas And The Pappas, Kool Keith, Bruce Langhorne’s Soundtrack to The Hired Hand, Manny Fresh, KISS, Schoolly D, (early) Cornershop, DJ Screw, ZZ Top, Bad Company, AC/DC, CSN&Y, AWK, PTV “Godstar,” Blowfly, Foreigner, the real Van Halen, soundtrack to Pusher I, II, III, just to name a few.
DM: You’ve also mentioned California itself being an influence on the album, and the lyrics certainly suggest that. What are your favourite parts of Cali, and what in particular about that culture has had an impact on you?
AX: I just love the whole LA/Southland vibe. All The Industry history, the way locations have been used in films and TV so much they become meta-experiential, existing in the collective imaginations of the world, and my personal relationship to that. I love the Cheeseburger Culture, Fun Hog Culture, Rad Culture, Porn Culture, Creep Culture, Cult Culture, Home Invasion Culture, Cop Show Culture, Laid Back Culture, Awesome Weather Culture, all that cool shit California is known for. And the darkness surrounding and connecting it all. But it’s all SoCal to me.
DM: And what are the things you don’t like about it?
AX: Carl’s Jr, Silicon Valley, Wine Country, The Beach Boys, and Northern California.
DM: Robert Anton Wilson is one of the major influences for practically everyone at Dangerous Minds, and I see that you are also a fan of Discordianism. What is it about this “ideology” (term used loosely) that you like?
AX: RAW is a major influence on me as well. I love the blurry lines between fact and fiction. The mysterious secret origins of the original manuscripts surrounding The Principia Discordia is the most powerful thing about it. A lot of shit started with that.
However, the timeline for shit starting looks like this: Lovecraft - Cubism – Surrealism – Crowley – Himmler – Hoffman - Welles – Discordia – Illuminatus! Of course this is a Western–centric timeline, but that’s where the Mis/Disinformation Arts were perfected. Discordianism “liked” me first!
DM: Because I’ve only received the promo version, I can’t see who did the sleeve for Half-Speed Mastered, but I like it. What can you tell me about it? And is that Donny Osmond in the middle?
AX: I’m really glad you like it. You’re the first to even mention it. It’s actually a painting of the photo on the back of the KISS ALIVE album, done by American artist, Space Boss Corp, in 2005. The rumor was one of the kids in the photo was Tesco Vee, but that’s not true. I read in KISS Unmasked bio it was just some random nobody. But he was the first kid to ever make a banner for a band and hold it up at a rock concert.
DM: Tenuous link alert: the use of a “white square” on your sleeve makes me think of the “controversial” sleeve for David Bowie’s new album. What do you think of it? I think it’s lazy but I love Bowie’s current fuck-off attitude to press and promotion, and the industry in general, especially compared to his contemporaries like Lou Reed.
AX: David Bowie is a true master and has influenced everyone and everything. I’m happy to hear of his “fuck-off” attitude to press and promotion. He’s smart. He sees what’s going on. The artist has to do everybody’s fucking job now. Every single artist is working around the clock for free trying to get on Starbucks’ label. Why should David Bowie work for nothing? Lou Reed took a lot of shit for that album he did with Metallica. He ate crow. He’s Lou fucking Reed! He should’ve told those troll bitches to fuck-off too. And everybody thought Bowie made Lou soft! I like what I’ve heard of the new Bowie album. Great videos too.
DM: Beyond music itself, who are your main influences as an artist?
AX: Orson Welles (especially “F” For Fake”), Ray Johnson, Howard Hughes, Penn & Teller, Chris Burden, Christo, RAW (the man AND the WWE event), Steve Martin, Cheech And Chong, Tony Clifton, Eddie Murphy, Sacha Baron Cohen, Bela Lugosi, to name a few.
DM: Have you got any more videos/tours/releases planned for 2013?
AX: I’m musical guest on “The Chris Gethard Show” March 20. I’m releasing a massive double follow up to my 2011 release “Black Skull Music Mixtape Vol I” and “Half-Speed Mastered,” over 23 tracks. Just in time for summer. Possibly a limited US summer tour with Belgian breakcore artist, Sickboy. Possibly other shows. I don’t know how to book tours. I need some fucking booking agents with guts to realize the potential. I put on a great show. I’m a true entertainer, not just another bearded indie band of clichés. I’ve got fans all over the US and world begging for me to play. HELLO! (If yr in a bearded band of clichés, no hard feelings).
Alesiter X “LAX”
You can buy Half-Speed Mastered here. For (a little) more info on Aleister X visit his website, though I would recommend you subscribe to his entertaining Twitter feed for more regular updates, and check out the many videos on his YouTube channel.