InnerSphere - Balkan Tour 2018
InnerSphere - Balkan Tour 2018

Alpha Strategy: From the finest Canadian underground [INTERVIEW]



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Alpha Strategy are hailing from Toronto, Canada. Since 2011 they are noising around spreading post-punk, noise-rock and alternative sounds. Their concert list is full of gigs in Canada and all across the Europe. It's not so usual that bands like that tour across the other continent but Alpha Strategy came here multiple times. And they are planning to do that again next year as a part of tour that will promote their new album "The Gurgler". We had the privilege to listen it before it is officially out and that's how we got into band and wanted to give you closer look into their work. So today we are talking with Rory that founded the band...

photo: Schlebly Wilson
Hi Rory, at the beginning of this interview can you please tell us more about “Alpha Strategy” history? It started as a one man story but soon evolved in full band if I got it right…
Yep. I was first doing solo work under my own name, instrumental songs for chord organ and electronics. I'd gotten tired of that, and wanted to do something more engaging. So I continued writing and playing mostly alone as Alpha Strategy at first, but decided it could be improved significantly if I got other people involved.

You sound was influenced by post-punk and noise-rock bands such as The Birthday Party, Public Image LTD, The Jesus Lizard. You can mention some other bands, but I am also interested in what are your non-music influences (books, movies, significant events in your life…)?
Living in the same place too long, film noir, cursed images, walking, mistakes, weird stuff on Reddit, getting tired of people, people getting tired of me.

How do you manage to run a band with everyday obligations (work, friends, family)? Is it difficult? And what are the main challenges you’re dealing with having a band?
There's a fair amount of work that I feel compelled to do with the band, and I spend the bulk of my free time doing something related to it. But of course there's no definitive end to the amount of work that can be done for a band either. You could work on a song every day for weeks, and there's still nothing absolute that says it's finished, or that it couldn't be improved. On the non-musical side of it, things like trying to book a tour, there's no way to know if  I've done all the research I could have in finding suitable places to play. So making those sorts of judgments, and the opportunity cost involved, those things are rather tricky.

Your third album “The Gurgler” will be officially out any day now. Are you excited and what are your general feelings and expectations about it?
It's a lot better than the other Alpha Strategy records.

You’ve worked with almighty Steve Albini on this record. How was your experience and impressions in working with him? How much did he helped/influenced you directly (not to mention indirect influence he had on all scene and generations of young people)?
This was the second album that we did with Steve, as the one we put out in 2016 was recorded with him at Electrical Audio also. I felt as though we hit it off with him well the first time around, but this year I think we all had a better understanding of how everyone worked. Steve's not one to get involved in particulars related to song arrangements or composition, rather he's focused on making the recordings sound as good as they possibly can. At the same time, he's also great to bounce ideas off of. I was talking a bit about how we wanted to have a lot more space/dynamics on this one, and made reference to how a lot of the recordings on the 2016 record have a tempo that sounded especially hurried, which we wanted to avoid this go around. He nodded his head, with a big grin on his face.
I hope we get to make the next one with him as well. We feel quite at home at Electrical, and between the space itself and what Steve does within it, there's a natural, open sound that we really appreciate.

Can you compare your albums, from first to this third one? What are similarities and differences between them?
Alpha Strategy (2014) – The majority of the songs I had together though a lot of work I had done manipulating samples, before I got the guys on board. What the guys contributed certainly improved things.
Drink the Brine, Get Scarce (2016) – Better songwriting than the previous one, but the tempo at which we played a lot of the songs kinda throws me off from it.
The Gurgler (2018) – We wanted to move away from knocking people over the head all the time with a loud/fast/bombastic approach. This one is much more sparse than the others. We put a lot of time into thinking about how all of the songs would work together as a record, and discarded a bunch of songs that we weren't happy with. Our old bass player Ben left halfway through, and Dan joined in straightaway after, with interesting results. I yell less and sing more.

“The Gurgler” will be released on CD and vinyl by Polish label “Antena Krzyku”. How you got it touch with them?
Ralph Schaarschmidt (Buzz Rodeo, Trigger Cut) had heard us and passed along our work to Arek at Antena Krzyku, who then wrote to us. We're honored to be on such a great label, and Arek is very thoughtful, responsive, and dedicated. I'd always been wary of getting involved with a label in the past, but I'm very glad to be on board with Antena Krzyku.

On your tours you’ve visited Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia and after this album out you plan to visit us again. What you liked about Balkan countries that made you want to come back (I see in Serbia you liked “vinjak” (Serbian brandy) a lot ☺?
There is no better alcoholic beverage than Vinjak. Unfortunately for me, it is not available in Canada, so the only option at the moment is to bring bottles back with me in my luggage when I leave Europe. I really enjoy the food in the Balkans as well, I'm happy any day I can get my hands on some cevapi or bureks. The cities and countryside are beautiful, with lots of character. And most of all, I admire how personable and sincere people are.

During those gigs, did you had a chance to meet and listen to some of our bands, had anyone caught your attention?
We played with a show with Megs and NakaJima during 2016 in Velenje, Slovenia. Both very talented, energetic groups who I would love to see perform again. Since then I've also come across Gudron from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Nikki Louder from Slovenia who I found particularly interesting. And of course Repetitor are great.

Is there any difference between the audience in North America and Europe for instance? In what way they are similar and in what way specific?
It's hard to make any large generalizations on crowds, as sometimes in playing the same city more than once you'll get wildly different responses. I think there a lot of different factors involved, certainly how well we are functioning as a band on a given night is one of them.

We’ve reached the end of this interview. Thank you for this conversation, and… as I mentioned it above, you’re coming to Europe soon. So please, tell us more about your plans for the near future and upcoming tour. Use the opportunity to send final message to our readers before we see you live…
We're at the very beginning of booking the next tour, so we look forward to coming back to Europe and the Balkans during March/April of 2019.
Thank you.



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