A Gentleman Named Actionslave is Teague’s all-in electronic hip-hop studio project influenced by his days as an aspiring DJ/rapper in high school and later as member of groundbreaking South Jersey hip-hop band Spilled Milk. The album also contains extended beat-heavy musical interludes and soundscapes reflecting Teague’s interest in things like 70’s Miles Davis or Medeski, Martin and Wood.
This album is a limited edition at 500 numbered CDs.
Why commonplace? When….Actionslave.
“To express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can,” says James Joyce in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. That was the mantra for my new album, Actionslave.
My name is Teague Alexy. I am a guitar and harmonica player, singer/songwriter and along with my brother Ian Thomas Alexy make up the roots music band Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank. When I was a kid, my friends and I made what is now called old school hip-hop. At the age of twenty, I traded in my turntables for an acoustic guitar and left my South Jersey home. I completely turned my back on that way of making music. For this album, I wanted to see what I could come up with if I went back to making hip-hop, or ya know, my version of a hip-hop album. The new album is called A Gentleman named Actionslave.
I started making music before I could play an instrument. There was a general feeling that hip-hop was a fad, and if it was lucky enough to last, only young people would do it. We did it for the pure enjoyment of listening to the playback, getting excited when the beat came together, laughing at one another’s rhymes. I think we also enjoyed being outcasts as hardly anyone liked hip-hop back then, especially adults. We had no interest in becoming lifelong musicians or even being musicians at all. We were prank call generation kids following instincts for having fun. I wanted to reinvigorate that spirit of making music.
There were no affordable beat machines and samplers specifically designed to make hip-hop like there is now. We had to figure out some sort of basement method. The creativity involved in figuring that out fed more creativity, and doing things differently made it original. Sloppy, and sometimes with a bit of static, but original. I wanted to revisit that philosophy of making music while incorporating things I have learned about musicianship, sound, production etc. So, for the Actionslave album, I stayed away from popular beat machines in favor of an oddball assortment of equipment. Instead of using outside samples, I used the musicians in my circle and chopped and sampled their parts as to be part of my composed whole. A rap producer would kill for the collection of musicians I have around me now. A gangster rap producer would kill eleven, twelve people, no problem.
Recording the Actionslave album started when my brother Truvio was passing through Minnesota. We had big fun making beats we were calling ‘gangster theme music’. Truvio was skeptical of my new found interest in Minnesota roots music and was determined to bring me back towards music I made in Jersey. We would goof-off and freestyle over top of the beats and eventually some amusing song concepts emerged. I decided to let the lyrics be as free and fun as they would have been when I was a teenager.
For me, acoustic guitar and truth go hand in hand. Things like venting and sarcasm fit better over beats. The lyrics on Actionslave are written to an ancient code of Philadelphia old school hip-hop filled with esoteric references to my childhood and early recordings.
I discovered the artist Jean Michael Basquiat while working on Actionslave and tried to make a connection with the way he included words and symbols into his paintings. Basquiat would put his work on canvas, doors, windows, walls, and would fearlessly go over his own work. Lots of layers. I would make beats on things I can’t really play: a circuit bent drum machine, saxophone and theramin through tremolo and keyboard through a tube amp with fuzz and noise synthesizers, then edit, cut it, loop it, play electric guitar, execute some beat science, create rules, break rules, move it around, add delay…...constantly learning. I probably used every instrument or piece of musical gear I have owned or borrowed over the last ten years on the Actionslave album..
I tried to make Actionslave as original as possible. I have never come across anyone else who grew up making primitive Jersey hip-hop as a kid and midwest roots music as an adult, so I tried to make something that only I could make. I used every trick I could remember and made up some new ones along the way. Playing instruments I can’t play led to mistakes. Sometimes I would let the mistake dictate the direction of the song. Experiment. Compose. Repeat.
My Dad is a painter and we share the same birthday. I think I instinctively try to make each ‘Teague Alexy’ album into a sort of personal painting. A real artistic expression. The New Folklore was exploring storytelling and using characters outside time, place and reality to reveal deeper truths over a freewheeling live band. This Dance was a gut-examination. Going deep down into my own heart to find truth and contradiction over a more defined groove. I feel I am working towards something and these albums and tours have been exercises for things I need to develop in order to create some sort of master work that will encompass many different parts of my musical background alongside my experiences and philosophies; my entire life into an album, or even, one perfect song. But I am not there yet, and that is not what this is. This is from the basement. This is Jersey kid shit. This is Actionslave.
Time for the shout outs: Angelo DeRosa was my first musical partner and I have always been at my best with that man at my side. We started making music when we met in 8th grade all the way up through Spilled Milk when we were 25 and working with him again is my favorite part of the album. DJ Mouse is also one of my favorite people and Minnesota became a better place when he arrived. To me, his vocals on the opening track bless the album. Steve Garrington plays bass on Shake The Foundation. I also sampled some live things and studio outtakes and such from Ryan Young, Joe Savage, Dustin Tessier, Chad Bloodson, Ian Thomas Alexy and BJ Capelli. I also sampled a Billy Martin breakbeat. Joe Mabbott and Erik Koskinen mixed it. Ryan’s Lament (for Disco Dave) is a dedication to Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys. A Moment for Beatmaster Wiz is a dedication to the kind, talanted and cool Lamont Smith who along with Angelo and I was in the 7 man crew Breakdown Posse in high school. Lamont passed away as a young man.
A Gentleman Named Actionslave is 14 tracks blended together into a 57 minute continuous piece and limited to 500 numbered CDs. Actionslave is also available digitally.