Eric Alexandrakis’ Like a Puppet Show Album: Remixing Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
For his latest project, noted composer/music producer Eric Alexandrakis has teamed up with actor John Malkovich and photographer Sandro to create Like a Puppet Show, a 12-track vinyl-only album that was released on Record Store Day in the United States. Record Store Day is an event designed to raise awareness and drum up business for independent record stores, and falls on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. The album features Malkovich reciting Plato’s Allegory of the Cave over original soundscapes composed by artists such as Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, the Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan, and the Cars’ Ric Ocasek, to name a few.
Alexandrakis says the idea for the project came to him a couple of years ago while he was working on “cinematic tunes with a revolving door of high profile musicians.” He explains, “I was creating this ambient piece called Cryogenia X and it was really meant to be kind of like a dreamy subconscious thing where somebody is lying there in a cryogenic state and the world around them is changing over the years. Death, war, different seasons, peace, all these different things happening in fast motion. And then I said, ‘how cool would it be if maybe we could get John Malkovich to recite Plato’s Allegory of the Cave over it?’ Almost like a subconscious voice speaking while you’re in the dream state. So I talked to Sandro about it. He’s been working with John for like 20 years and he thought it was a cool idea. He talked to John and John said yes and that’s how we all got in touch.”
The idea would further take shape when the three met up at a photoshoot in the spring of 2014. Sandro and Malkovich were working on pieces for Sandro’s “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to Photographic Masters” series, which recreates famous photos with Malkovich as the subject. Says Alexandrakis, “I got to watch the whole process and it was amazing. They did old photos with exactly the same light, the same clothes, the same makeup, but with John Malkovich doing the pose. John as Muhammed Ali or John as Marilyn Monroe or John as Einstein sticking his tongue out. The attention to detail and watching Sandro create and direct and reproduce everything without Photoshop, and then watching John get into character as the hair and makeup guys transformed him, it was unbelievable. It was literally a master class in everything from wardrobe to makeup to photography to direction. So, as I’m watching this and watching the photos pop up on the screen as Sandro shoots them, I start thinking, ‘oh man, these look like picture disc photos. These would be so cool as vinyl picture discs’. Then the wheels started to turn and I thought to myself, ‘how about we give this version of the Allegory dialogue that I put together to some major artists and ask them to just create their own soundscapes around it, kind of like art school on steroids’.”
Alexandrakis made a “big list of specific people who had a certain creative edge to them,” sent them Malkovich’s dialogue, and, 12 tracks later, Like a Puppet Show was born. The album’s release will tie in with Sandro’s exhibit, which is currently on a world tour, and a documentary the three are making about the album’s creative process. They also created their own record label to release Like a Puppet Show, along with any future endeavors. “We have full PR and we’re planning on putting out several different versions of the album with some of the same people and then some brand new people over the course of the next year or two,” he adds. Vinyl only, for now. Says Alexandrakis, “one of the reasons for this is to show that art is not disposable. Intellectual property has been abused so much. We want to create appreciation. A lot of people scoff at that and say we can’t avoid mp3s and all that, but in Japan a big part of the music there is still CD sales. And that’s because the industry there made a conscious decision to hold on to the format. Whereas here they tried to fight Napster by giving everything for free to Spotify. It’s just absurd. We need to invest in technology and not just make everything free free free. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean people are going to want it. You make it valueless and it becomes valueless. For us, this record is something you could put on a wall, it’s beautiful. It’s art, whether you’re playing it or not. It’s a statement and it’s going to speak to people who appreciate that stuff. It’s not for everybody and we kinda don’t care. If you want to hear it, you have to buy it and you have to put it on a turntable and if you don’t have a turntable, we don’t care. It’s almost a punk ethic. We’re going to do it our way.”
During his stay in the hospital for cancer treatments, Alexandrakis would write and record his second album IV Catatonia. He explains, “it was totally medical themed and I recorded it the first week I started my treatment and then finished it my last week so it was like a window into that time. I put my nurse on the cover and there’s a box set with medical products and fake blood and tourniquets and a postcard of the hospital saying ‘wish you were here’. I really like taking it to the extreme.
Alexandrakis has been doing it his way from the beginning. Born in Coral Gables, Florida to doctorate-holding, non-musical parents, he says he was drawn to music and the arts from a very early age. “It was pretty obvious that the arts were me,” he says. “I could make music out of pretty much anything. I’d do plays in school and always got the lead. In elementary school we’d have to pick an instrument in the beginning of the year to study and I’d pick all of them. Then during school concerts I’d bounce from instrument to instrument.”
As a pre-teen and teen, Alexandrakis set his sights on acting after being inspired by the film Back to the Future. “When I got into college I wanted to be a theater major and my parents sat me down and convinced me to try something else,” he laughs. He would end up double majoring in Public Relations and English Literature while still dabbling in music and acting. Alexandrakis recorded his first album 9 Demos on a 4 Track in his 20s “just for the hell of it. Just as an expression. I’d been doing music on and off for years but I didn’t think I could make a living out of it,” he says. The album was created in what Alexandrakis describes as a “bad time” where he was suffering from a persistent pain. After the album’s release, then-25 year old Alexandrakis would find out he had cancer and that the pain was coming from a fist sized tumor in his chest. “So that kind of threw things into a loop,” he says. Nevertheless, 9 Demos was out and the feedback was positive. “People were telling me it was really good. And it was from people who had no obligation. It’s not like with your parents who say everything is good because they want to encourage you. Musicians usually don’t compliment other musicians, but industry people were complimenting me so I thought that maybe I was on to something.”
During his stay in the hospital for cancer treatments, Alexandrakis would write and record his second album IV Catatonia. He explains, “it was totally medical themed and I recorded it the first week I started my treatment and then finished it my last week so it was like a window into that time. I put my nurse on the cover and there’s a box set with medical products and fake blood and tourniquets and a postcard of the hospital saying ‘wish you were here’. I really like taking it to the extreme.”
Looking for an outlet for his music, as well as an opportunity to get away from the “freeloading” Florida-based label he was signed to, Alexandrakis launched Minoan Music, named for the ancient Cretan civilization. During his childhood, Alexandrakis’s family relocated to Crete for his father’s job. The young music lover would become obsessed with the Minoans and their palace at Knossos. “The Minoans, they’re from Crete and they made music. It made sense. And who could resist the Minotaur, right?” he says, referring to the label’s logo. “Crete is my favorite place. Everything about it fascinates me.”
Alexandrakis launched Minoan Music, named for the ancient Cretan civilization. During his childhood, his family relocated to Crete for his father’s job. The young music lover would become obsessed with the Minoans and their palace at Knossos. “The Minoans, they’re from Crete and they made music. It made sense. And who could resist the Minotaur, right?” he says, referring to the label’s logo. “Crete is my favorite place. Everything about it fascinates me.
Though Alexandrakis has plans to release more of his own work through Minoan Music, right now his focus is on Like a Puppet Show and future projects with Sandro and Malkovich. “The plan is to keep making more. Right now I’m talking to artists for the next one. We have Record Store Day and then we have one coming out the day after which is a shorter version and then that same one with different artwork in January.” When asked if he has a favorite track from the album, Alexandrakis says, “I do but they’re all so different and so cool that I’d do them an injustice if I just picked one.” And as for the next new release, he says, “we’re going to do samples instead of full dialogue. We have a really interesting variety of different people joining us, but unfortunately I can’t tell you who yet.” Though Alexandrakis is tight-lipped about his current collaborators, he names John Williams, Mozart, and, most interestingly, Thomas Edison as part of his dream roster. “It would be cool to have Thomas Edison email me sounds of his light bulbs smashing on the floor and then putting those around the dialogue and having the sounds of machines and things like that.”
Alexandrakis also hints at another “really big” future project with Malkovich and Sandro but adds, “I can’t say what it is yet but I think we’re starting that in January. There’s all kinds of things floating around right now.”
To learn more about Eric Alexandrakis, click here: https://www.facebook.com/ERICSGALEXANDRAKIS
To learn more about Sandro’s Malkovich exhibit, click here: http://www.sandrofilm.com/main/index.php
To learn more about Record Store Day, click here: http://www.recordstoreday.com/Home