Band Alpha Strategy is not new to our readers. 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. Their music is often compared to The Birthday Party, The Jesus Lizard, Public Image LTD and Gilla Band. 
Last time we spoke in 2018 but since then a lot of has changed. The last news are that Alpha Strategy finaly released new EP „Staple My Hand to Yours“ recorded last year with Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio studios in Chicago. So beside this changes and new EP we talked about Albini, music videos, new gigs, promotion activities. Rory is with us here today so let's dive in. 

Current line-up; photo by Steve Owen
Hi Rory. Last time we spoke about Alpha Strategy in 2018. Since than a lot has changed. In 2019. whole band temporarily moved to Berlin from Canada. But after your bandmates returned, you decided to stay in Europe. Since than you lived in Poland and Czech Republic where you currently reside. What’s so special for you in Europe and what are main differences between living in Canada and Europe?

The big reason for wanting to move over here had to do with touring, the Alpha Strategy guys and I would come over to Europe every year or so for a big tour. So it seemed to make sense for us to just move here so that we could play shows throughout the continent regularly, rather than just for a few weeks in a 12 month period. Canada is tough for touring - there aren't a ton of big cities, and a lot of them are far away from each other. I've always appreciated in Europe how in smaller cities and towns, it's often possible to find a crew who are putting on shows, even if it's just for their extended friend group - in Canada this is exceptionally rare outside of larger municipalities. There is of course, always the US for playing concerts, but even for Canadians this requires a work visa (which you need to pay a lot of money for) and doing a pile of paperwork, so it was never appealing to us.

There's much I could say about residing in Europe, overall I'm happier with it than being in Canada. In Toronto, the part of the house I rented was small, disintegrating, and cost a fortune every month. In Prague I pay less in rent, and live in a much nicer place where I can host bands whose concerts I am putting off here. I appreciate how walkable European cities are more often than not, and how I don't have to wait ages to see a doctor or dentist or whatever if I need one. I don't drink all that much, but I like how I am treated like an adult in terms of liquor laws here - it's possible to buy a bottle of something in a store after 22:00, or find an open bar after 1:30 am. And on the music stuff again, I really appreciate the interaction between friends and bands from different cities. How I can easily travel somewhere else for a night to watch or play a concert, and how I end up making friends and see familiar people around central Europe. It's a wonderful thing to have that sort of cultural exchange, when there's people coming and going and getting up to weird/interesting art in an area surrounding Prague within an 8-hour driving radius. It's not that I'm bitter about Canada or anything, I had a lot of good years there. But I feel being here just suits me a whole lot better for what I'm up to and want to do.

How do you think the band envolved during this time and since the beginning in 2011? Do you see any difference between Canadian and Europe line up in sense of personal relationships, creation process, sound…?

In terms of putting the songs together, it has changed a lot. With the Canadian crew, it was more like I'd describe an idea, and the guys would figure it out, and we'd just keep tossing things around until we were satisfied with it. Now I record full demos of each song at home, we put it into Guitar Pro for Martin, Ondra, and Filip to figure out, and then we start working on it together and changing parts around. Relationship-wise, with the Canadian AS it was often the case that they were already good friends of mine when they joined the band (James already being one of my closest Toronto friends when he first came on board) or, in the case of Evan specifically, he joined into our existing crew and we ended up hitting it off with him. So coming to CZ, I only knew the guys a bit when we first got together, so in addition to figuring out each other musically, it was also a matter of getting familiar as people. For probably any number of reasons, it turned out that we all get along quite well as a group - I sincerely like spending time with the guys here, we hang out regularly outside of band stuff. I think overall it helps with being comfortable in sharing ideas, knowing there's not someone holding back something out of politeness or whatever. I know we can be honest with each other, and I trust their opinions completely.

I was asking about all these changes and how do you see them because I am sure that all that effected your music and new EP „Staple My Hand to Yours“. And that’s why we are here today, so, whay do you think?

I'm satisfied with our curret process of compositon, I think it allows for precision in something I am putting together at home, but gives the guys an opportunity to easily add in their own ideas to it. It's hard for me to speculate on exactly what has directly impacted the sound of the new EP in relation to the 2018 and 2016 records specifically - it's pretty obvious of course that with 5 years passing, a totally different line-up, and new musical concepts overall can affect it, amongst other things. I'd like to think that I've improved somewhat as a songwriter as well, who knows if that's true though. But I think there's some retention of the experimentation of the 2018 record and the energy of the 2016 record which come together well, along with the ideas and talent that Martin, Filip, and Ondra bring to what we're up to now.

Alpha Strategy with Steve; photo: Jon San Paolo
EP was recorded like your previous album „The Gurgler“ by the all-mighty Steve Albini. Actually, this is the third time you’ve worked with him. Maybe our readers will remember the interview you did with him last year, but for those who don’t please tell us your impressions, what was it like recording with him? Was he ready to give you some advices and maybe influence the sound and your ideas directly as he was willing to chat?

Yeah I love working with Steve, and the environment that is Electical Audio. Electrical itself has this sort of relaxed yet inspiring/encouraging atmosphere about it. When we were there this time around, he expressed how he accepts how he will eventually have to retire, even if it isn't something in the immediate future, but isn't necessarily all that far off either. So I want to make an effort to get back there at least one more time for something else with him. In terms of the work there, he makes it a point to try and help the band make the best record they possibly can, but at the same time with any ideas he has, he'll ask for your opinion on it. If you're not into something he presents, he takes no offense to it - he's trying to leverage his technical knowledge and experience to get the recordings to where you want them to be. So I would say he wasn't directly trying to influence the sound of the record, instead opting to be collaborative and helpful with whatever it is.

„Staple My Hand to Yours“ was released recently (digital and vinyl). On 8th of July, you organized release show with some noise rock, post punk and similar bands. How was it?

With six bands in total and the organizational stuff, I was running around quite a bit all night. But I can't see how it could have been a better evening - we had the concert in my favorite venue in Prague (and one of my top venues overall) Underdogs' which is operated by friends of mine who have been very supportive of Alpha Strategy and the concerts I've been organizing. And even though the show was in the midst of the summer / festival season, there were a lot of people there including many friends who I was happy to see. The bands were all friends of mine who I had invited, so it was great having them there for it and being able to see them play.

By watching your live videos and pics I’ve noticed that you’re often very dynamic on stage. I liked this quote: „Post-punk / Noise-rock firecracker with a vocalist who is a combination
of John Travolta from "Grease" (dance) and Nick Cave (singing).“ 

I don't know what I am doing most of the time when I'm moving around, but I figure it's better than just standing there!

You had a chance to play and meet a lot of bands all across the „Old continet“. What do you think about Czech and Europian underground scene? What are the names worth checking out? Have you noticed any new bands from Serbia and Balkan region?

This might be the toughest question, there are so many bands I can think of. Other than friends I'm mentioning here in the article, I'd highly suggest Exwhite (DE) for their wild garage style and great songwriting, Doc Flippers (DE) for offering recordings and live performances that are both equally a treat to behold, Neue Welt (CZ) for everything fresh and interesting they bring to the concept of art rock, and Mižerija (HR) for being such a tight unit of a band with interesting ideas composition-wise. I am also inspired by the energy and drive of the Parnepar/How Yes No (HR) folks and love to see them perform. Oh and one more, I haven't seen them live yet, but if I can make it to Fluff Fest this year, I would love to be there for Crna Žuč (RS) whose recordings I am very intrigued by.

Now, when new EP is out you are planing new concerts and tour. You’ve even booked some shows for 2024. What can you tell us about those plans and wishes, any chance to see you in Balkan? It wouldn’t be you first time here…

We'd very much like to come back to the Balkans. Going to Croatia is now much easier with the country being part of the Schengen area, so we're now in the process of trying to sort out a show in Zagreb before the end of the year with our friends in How Yes No. Maybe we could do something larger next year - I would love to. But I think the rest of our touring for 2023 will be tied to our September France / Spain / Portugal shows. We're doing about two weeks there, which will be interesting as it will be mostly places the guys and I have never played in before. 2024 is a bit looser, but we'll be up to something in as many European countries as we can.

Let's not forget Canadian line-up Rory mentined above; photo: Schlebly Wilson
The last time we spoke you said that Vinjak was one of your favorite alcohol drinks. Has anything changed since than? 

Vinjak is still up there at the top - though another winner I was recently introduced to by the Forbidden Wizards folks while in the Netherlands, is jenever. They claim it's the original gin, the English tried to copy jenever and then gin is what came out of that.

Before the end, I wanted to mention one of your acitivites as well. With your bandmates you also run „Aww Man Radio & Concerts“. Please introduce this idea.

The whole Aww Man thing is something I started just before covid set in during 2020. I'd done radio quite a bit over the years, and thought it could be fun to get back into it but as a live stream / podcast from home rather than being affiliated with a proper station. I'd been listening to Howie Pyro's Intoxica radio show for ages, and more recently found the old airchecks of The Hound on WFMU from the 1980s into the 1990s. I liked their humor and sincere approach to radio DJing, plus their playing lots of old weird stuff, and I thought I could also do something along those lines but also mix in music I was digging up on Bandcamp. So I got started doing it, and then of course with covid coming just after that, it was like "well, what else is there to do anyhow?" so it was a good thing to get up to on a weekly basis. With the radio part of it, I'm really happy that I was still able to get talking to people I'd found on Bandcamp and later invite them to play shows here in Prague, and/or host live performances in studios I'd rent for the occasion. A great example of that is with Forbidden Wizards from the Netherlands, who've become great friends of the Alpha Strategy guys and I, we've done tours with them, et cetera. Rosa Vertov is another, they're such a great band and fun people, it has been a real honor to set up shows for them here in Prague. So yeah the concert organization sort of came out of the radio part - talking to people, I would say, "oh later on, if you want to come to Prague and play a show, let me know." And surprisingly enough, quite a few people asked me about it. In the past year especially I've been super busy with the concerts - I was trying to do them all in weird places (a children's choir rehearsal hall, an old TV studio, a Chinese restaurant, for example) but renting out all those places and getting a PA system in there becomes prohibitively expensive (I'd make back from ticket sales probably something like 20% of what the costs were) so in the interest of being able to do as many shows as possible and still afford to eat, I've switched over to doing it at conventional spaces instead. Now it's kind of gotten to the point where I don't even need to invite bands any longer - people find me, and that gives me a lot to manage as it is. But I am also really happy that the AS guys are involved if I need help with logistics, equipment, ideas, that sort of thing. Our friends Greg (from the band Hothouse) and Bara (Prague-based photographer known as Messbarbara, and also in a band with Greg called Skincare) are very much in on the events, for that I am truly grateful.

I almost forgot. By searching youtube I’ve noticed there aren’t many official videos of Alpha Strategy. Why is that?

With the release of the new EP the idea had crossed my mind about how worthwhile it would be to do a video for one of the songs. And for the sake of clarity, I think making a video is an entirely different thing than posting live concert footage on YouTube. We'd done a couple of actual non-live concert videos for the 2018 and 2016 records, but the more I thought about it these days, it just seemed like it would be gratiutious to do a new one. A lot of people figure that if you're going to do some sort of release, you might as well – or even you should - do a video for it. I think if someone has a clever video idea, something which could be entertaining, why not. But I'm really not an expert in anything pertaining to music videos, and I would never have the time to dedicate to becoming better at it. I can already think of a few friends who could definitely come up with better ideas than I could and are very skilled people when it comes to video work in general, but what's the real purpose in doing it for Alpha Strategy? I don't think it would achieve anything, and I don't particulary enjoy the process. I'd prefer to spend the time and energy on writing a new song, or playing/organizing shows. As the years go on, I am much more interested in the music / performance itself, and less interested in whatever show business and/or marketing stuff people think you ought to do when you release something. And to me at this point, for us anyhow, putting a bunch of effort into a music video seems like added work with no return.

Ok, we’ve reached the end of this interview. Thank you for this conversation. I hope we’ll have a chance to see you here next year. Last thoughts are yours. Cheers!

Thanks for the support and taking the time to speak with me.