HUNNY CLAIRE MOAT
ALEX MASI ATTACKED BY NEON SHARK
3rd March 2011
When I first spoke to Italian born guitarist Alex Masi I told him I was a witch. He, quick as a flash, told me he was Captain Kangaroo.
We've chatted on and off since then and he was 'just a guy with a guitar!' Understatment - much.
There are times when you shouldn't swim out of your depth and this is one of those times. Despite convincing myself that I could tread water, I knew I was drowning.
Drowning in a whole new sea of music courtesy of Alex Masi.
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Through the depths came 'Neon Shark' an album of deep proportions, sharp as a razor and as clever as a troop of monkeys. A Grammy nominated opus with the not so quiet and riotous Frankie Banali on drums.
I ask where such an album title evolved from and Alex tells me; "It came to me in a dream. I was playing the guitar under water and the music was attracting this huge fluorescent shark that wasn't threatening towards me but was to everyone else".
Influenced by classical music, especially Toccato and Fuge in D Minor, one of Bach's famous compositions, Alex Masi embarked on a musical journey that some musicians only dream of but never aspire to.
Alex Masi: 'Under Fire' from the 'Attack of the Neon Shark' Album
Attending the conservatory of music in Verona and graduating in Harmony and Theory he went to 'appease his parents'.
Alex had already discovered the gem they call Ritchie Blackmore, the ultimate guitarist, and Alex made a conscious decision, I believe, not to become a reflection of Blackmore but an entity true only to himself.
I tell Alex I can't pigeon hole him or his music and he tells me that's good. "I tell people to stop categorising music... it doesn't have to be that way"
There are no boundaries to what Alex does. "It's like breathing." If it feels right he plays it.
With a multitude of albums that range from classics to rock it's hard to imagine where the magic comes from. He tells me; "Inspiration, music is like breathing I need it to exist on a daily basis!"
I've listened to Dark Lord and Masi and his latest offering and it's a veritable musical feast, however it's deep and it's overwhelming in it's intensity. I tell him this and ask "how do you maintain this creativity and intelligence?" He says laughingly; "My creative brain hemisphere holds the rational one in a headlock." Somehow I believe him.
Alex expects immense amounts from himself and more from the musicians he works with. Jokingly he tells me that he threatens them with physical violence. Hence why he "dabbles" in Muay Thai. Which is, I now understand, to be martial arts and not some expensive cologne.
I'd do as I was told too of I had some martial arts expert telling me to get on with it. He also says that copious amounts of alcohol help. "A good drink never hurt," and he's not wrong there.
I talk to Alex about his works and tell him straight that he should've been born three hundred years ago. "I was," he laughs and my thoughts are confirmed later on when I ask him my trademark question about stripey socks.
"I'm lucky if I can find a pair of socks. I just drag them out of the closet".
"Closet" remarks I? "Yeah, a walk in one," he chuckles. He also drimks water and Margaritas on stage on stage, "if they are available" he adds. Very refined.
There's much talent here, and yet Alex scoffs at the rock star scenarion and chat. "I shun all that," he says honestly. "I don't buy into that".
Despite music being Alex's life source, I was impressed to find that he shows empathy to animals. I mention the picture of him in a charity shoot with a monkey. "It's a chimp," he reprimands. "Monkeys have tails." And that was me told.
We have a converstion about apes at this point and then I discover that Alex is interested in the world around him in general. Alex is considering writing a book on teaching music I venture. "No," is the reply "on the aesthetics of music and social issues". I'm considering writing a book too, on him, but it won't be finished in my life time.
It occurs to me that in my years in the music industry that only two people have fascinated me musically; Alex and Armand Melnbardis. Both live and breathe music and both have their roots firmly seated in the Gretas. Both technically brilliant and both fill their purple auras with music... I think I've unearthed another vampire.
I notice that people associate shredding with Alex. I discover that this is a term that he doesn't like. "Shredding is a word I hate. It implies insecurity and lack of actual musicality..."
Before I asked him about this technique I took some advice from the lovely Steve Lynch of Autograph fame. So that I didn't have another blonde moment. Instead I got a blast of Masi's venom on categorization. It's my underatanding that Alex thinks music should have no restrictions. Just an expanse of possible potential.
We talk about music in general. He knows what music I like and he doesn't berate me. He likes Allan Holdsworth and a few others; Led Zep is the only band I recognise. He tells me, "rock was at its healthiest in the 60s and 70s".
I say that I'm not familiar with some of the aformentioned people and instantly he tells me "it's research time", and indeed it was.
I ask Alex about Twilight and he has "no idea". We talk about what he's listening to currently he says "old Prodigy." I tease him and ask if he plans on becoming an arsonist... "or slapping some bitch up," he interjects laughing.
My memory clicks in at this point. I don't ask Alex, but I'm certain there's a Prodigy type riff floating around Alex's latest offering 'The Theory of Everything'.
Gigs abound and we talk about his favourite gig. "In Mexico City, with Macaluso and Coven (MCM)." I guess that's down to some atmopspheric and acoustic type wizardry!
I have listened to Alex Masi's work, 'Rock Your Soul', 'Fire in the Rain' and 'Living On the Highway' stick in my head, along with 'Downtown Dreamers' and 'Eye Of The Hurricane'.
Alex has just finished a European solo tour and since he wants to "play for all kinds of people that don't usually listen to rock or modern music", the likelihood is that he'll be playing somewhere near you in the future.
Alex Masi is what I would call a musician's musician. For some music is a learned craft, to Alex it's the elixir of life.
When I last spoke to Alex he was mixing another of his creations in his studio, 'Haunted Hill'. There are no skeletons in this closet... just a genius with a guitar and possibly a pair of socks.