It’s hard to picture the Alex Cameron who’s releasing his debut full-length solo album, Jumping The Shark, as the same Alex Cameron who has recently eased into the role of frontman for revered electronica trio Seekae. Solo, Cameron is possessed by something more twisted, projecting an image of delusion and arrogance superfluous to the moody synth atmosphere of his album. Not too far underneath the veneer of his hideous web presence and fracas with bandmates onstage, there is a sense of truth and sincerity. Speaking on the phone (seeing as I couldn’t agree to the outlandish terms and conditions of a face-to-face interview as outlined on his website), Cameron recounts his recording process.
“I started making the record around this time last year. I wrote a couple of songs, then [with] a good friend of mine, Mclean Stephenson, we worked on some different visual ideas as well. Then I took a trip over to Paris and London, then to Cornwall in the south of the UK, and I decided to do the rest of the record over there. Then I returned and hit the studio with the producer, Fanny V, and just knocked it out. It’s been done for a while to be honest, it’s just taken time to organise the online side of it and arrange shows.”
Belying the varied geographical points of conception, Jumping The Shark is bound by overarching aural and thematic cohesion. “It’s very intentional, there’s a strict theme on the record that I wanted to adhere to. Each track may tell a different story, but my intention was to have all of them come from the same world. I wanted it to be a record laced with the reality of failure. I wanted to also represent my experiences within show business. I’ve been making music for quite some time, I’ve been touring, I’ve been a part of all these different circumstances; they’re the things I wanted to project on the album.”
Themes of success are relayed with an air of scorn on Jumping The Shark, but it’s more a meditation on dissatisfaction rather than a dismissal of aspiration within the paradigm of contemporary music. “There is a desire for absolute success and absolute security, there’s a massive desire for that. A lot of the anxiety on the record comes from that craving to be validated in an industry that doesn’t offer that. You’re never going to get a decent pay cheque; you’re never going to get any of the things that are sold as an idea. The idea of being a successful musician is now sold as a product. You can forget about it. Advertising is already way ahead of you. If you’ve got some sort of ambition to be a successful musician, it’s more likely that you got the idea from a Coke ad, or a goddamn insurance ad, rather than from listening to a goddamn record. So I wanted to project that, wanted to make sure that’s what the lyrical content, the songs and the poetry stressed. I wanted it to be clear.”
Alongside the display of unrequited lust for success are moments of male sorrow, with characters on the record depicted as at-times pathetic shells of masculinity. However, it’s not a manifestation of a sense of shame. “It’s more a fear of being ashamed rather than an actual realisation of that shame. It is born from anxiety; it is something I’ve witnessed. I’ve seen it run through virtually all the people I’ve met in the industry. A lot of the lyrics are comments on that. A lot of the songs are about what I’ve seen. In a way, my way of channelling that is through one individual source. I’ve seen all elements of failure and shame and fear and anxiety. I am in a way trying to shed light on something, but it’s more me finding something I want to talk and sing about that I think is important.”
The conflict within Jumping The Shark lies in the mere fact that it exists: an album that sardonically bemoans the dearth of success within the music industry while, presumably, aiming for a modicum of success itself. So what’s the point? “It’s a piece of work I’ve created, my sole focus is creating quality pieces of work and maintaining that quality, getting it out there no matter what. When you walk into a goddamn wasteland, like we all are, there’s no room to sit around for fucking years relying on some dead system for success. It’s not my priority. My priority is to make music and put on a goddamn rock show and make people leave the room thinking, ‘That was a fucking piece of work right there.’
“I don’t really care how people hear the music,” he says, cussing like a Vonnegut protagonist. “The whole time I’ve been in this racket people have been telling me, ‘Maybe you’re in the wrong industry if you’re trying to make money.’ Everyone tells you that. People who give you contracts tell you that. It’s a goddamn sham, the whole thing’s a mess. I want to do things on my own, and that’s the only way to truly make a statement. People make compromises every day; people make compromises in their artwork just to achieve something like success. It’s kind of sickening.”
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK
Jumping The Shark out Friday November 22 through Crawfish Records.