Joey Alkes & Chris Fradkin the Double Trouble Interview

A dose of double trouble is heading in your direction with these teamsters known simply as Joey Alkes and Chris Fradkin take control when answering these alignment of questions. These two have become well known musicians and have composed and created some of the most catchiest and smoothest going music around. The twosome spoke to me recently about how they formed and what sorts of music they tend to create and what are the plans for them within the upcoming future.

1. How, when, and why did you form?

JOEY ALKES: We worked in the same act years ago in Denver, Colorado. We're talking 76-78. Chris wrote some tunes with these two characters I managed and produced. When the band collapsed in L.A. after signing a deal with Don Williams Music, Chris and I stayed in L.A. and started writing.

CHRIS FRADKIN: That's about it. I was on my way out west, to L.A., and while passing through Denver, I hooked up this act The Jupiter Rey Band. They were pretty wild: a six-foot-two transsexual singer and tons of real estate money. That makes for a potent combination.

2. Who do you consider your major influences?

CHRIS: The real estate people, by far. Oh, we're talking about musical influences?

JOEY: Well, I like most anything if it's authentic, or at least is done so well that it can fool me.

CHRIS: Yeah, the conjurer's trick. The secret to the universe.

3. What do you mean?

CHRIS: Well, there's this shell-game aspect to the popular arts, and by popular arts I mean art consumed by people: the work of Picasso, Woody Guthrie, Maya Angelou, Will Rogers. There's this familiarity that runs through the work of all those artists: in the lines of Van Gogh's paintings, in the verse of Billy Shakespeare, in the filmwork of Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, 1999). You've heard it before; you've seen it before. It's a familiarity aspect which is a genetic commonality in the popular arts.

JOEY: With music, rock and pop influences me the pop songwriter: Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, the Motown sound as a whole, Neil Young & Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Laura Nyro, Lovin' Spoonful, Chuck Berry, The Left Banke, The Buckinghams, The Turtles, Lou Reed. And in my genre: rock/alt/wave/powerpop, it's Kurt Cobain.

CHRIS: For me, there's Iggy (Pop), Bryan Ferry, Tommy James, the Germs, Holland/Dozier/Holland.

4. How would you describe your sound?

JOEY: Alternative power pop/Songwriter Pop.

CHRIS: But, what the hell does that mean?

JOEY: That it's melody and lyric driven, rather than noise and/or groove driven. It's a celebration of guitars and youth...

5. What are the majority of your songs about? Is there an underlying theme?

JOEY: Relationships.

CHRIS FRADKIN: Yeah, relationships with others; and with ourselves.

6. You mean between the two of you?

CHRIS: No. I mean between myself and me. Or me and myself, however you want to call it. The intrapersonal struggle, all right? [Exasperated.] This interview's for Psychology Today, right? [Leaves the room.]

7. What are your immediate music career goals?

JOEY: We're releasing a CD this Fall called SOME SONGS (1980-1983) on Airborne Monkey Records, my label that has been around since the late nineties, and Dennis Schraub's Squid Music, which is the home of such acts as the Bay Area 80s power pop darlings, The Finders.

CHRIS FRADKIN: [Returning to the interview.] Oh, the SOME SONGS CD: the 80s stuff.

8. What are your long-term music goals?

CHRIS: To be relevant; and in truth we've seen some of that. When you have songs you wrote almost 30 years ago that are still being rerecorded, then it appears you're doing something right.

JOEY: To continue to sculpt songs that are memorable. We've got samples on the myspace site for all your readers:

9. What kinds of instruments do you guys prefer?

JOEY: Chris carries a stethoscope and I got a big mouth.

CHRIS: I should also mention [counting on his fingers] the Hanging Cage, The Heretic's Fork, the Three-Beamed Harrow, Thumb Screws...

10. Explain your ideas of an ideal show?

CHRIS: It's actually a combination of the Thumb Screws and the Barrel Pillory, and we like to film it from several angles. Another favorite of mine is the Ducking Stool.

11. Yours and Dick Cheney's, but I was speaking of musical performance: a musical show.

JOEY: For me, it's one where people show up! Today I want to hear the music. In those days shows were tribal gatherings for me.

12. Out of all the shows you have played, is there one that stands out as a favorite? If so, please explain.

JOEY: Well, -play- is a funny term for this interview, but I can tell you that I have been involved with many acts and some truly infamous Hollywood shows. I managed bands like Haunted Garage and Duchess DeSade in the years that I managed or worked in the management-label end of the industry and those acts knew what a show meant.

CHRIS: Since we weren't on stage for many of those shows in the 80s, the playing we did mostly amounted to distracting waitresses and hitting on musicians' wives. You see, there are certain advantages to being behind the scenes as a songwriter!

JOEY: And when it comes to the Plimsouls, there were so many manic-alcohol and passion driven nights that Peter and the band were freaks of nature by the time they hit the stage. It almost seemed that the worse they played in their dazed and confused embodiment of rock and roll circa 1980, that the better the concerts went and the greater the passion of the crowd. It has always been my opinion that real rock and roll shows have no business being technically correct (e.g., The Kinks, The Who). God, you can see it in the footage from those days.

13. Who are some of your favorite bands to share the stage with? Can you name some of the bigger bands that you've played with if any?

CHRIS: As we mentioned, we were mostly writing for the acts. Now as for playing with musicians' wives [Edited for legal purposes.]

14. So, focusing on your writing careers as writers, what artists have covered your songs?

JOEY: Well, in addition to the catalog we wrote for The Plimsouls (A Million Miles Away, Lost Time, Hush, Hush, Hypnotized, Now), Chris and I have had releases by a number of artists. The Goo Goo Dolls, Ingram Hill, The Flamin' Groovies, Fergie, Phil Seymour, Paul Collins and the Beat, British blues legend Alexis Korner.

CHRIS: There was that Australian TV Host Daryl Somers, Wait For Nothing, Leroy Jones, James Lee Stanley...

15. Briefly describe your music making process.

JOEY: Chris and I usually started with a hook idea or a subject matter. Sometimes Chris would be noodling on the guitar and I'd jump in with an idea. But, every song has its own genesis and journey.

CHRIS: And seems, at times, that the time you dedicate to writing is disproportional to the results you get. I remember some weeks we'd work diligently, it was almost as if we had a job [laughs], but at the end of several months we'd have nothing. While at other times, like when I'd be on vacation, ideas would be coming to me like crazy.

JOEY: It's painstaking at times; it's like stone sculpture.

CHRIS: It's true. Songwriting is very much a subtractive process, in the way that sculpting is. You find your direction by knowing where not to go.

16. What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Were you able to overcome it?

JOEY: Not being a band. Probably not.

17. In that case, what advice do you have for fans who want to start their own bands?

JOEY: Don't start a band. Write songs!!!

CHRIS: That's right. It's less overhead; you age more gracefully; and you can afford to fix your teeth.

18. Why should people know about you? What sets you apart?

CHRIS: Besides our teeth? [Smiles.]

JOEY: We wrote, with Peter Case, what some critics have described as some of the most iconic power-pop songs of a generation: The Plimsouls' "Million Miles Away" and "Now". We write songs for real, and the upcoming CD, recovered and digitalized off a suitcase of old cassettes, represents our work, our attitude and in a sense, the spirit of the 80s, which is very present in the music of today (e.g., Coldplay, Death Cab For Cutie, Pink, The Jonas Brothers).

19. What's next for you guys?

JOEY: Well, I mentioned the CD, Some Songs, and we anticipate that the remake of Valley Girl as a musical (MGM Films) will re-endorse our writing careers. [The Plimsouls' "Million Miles Away" was one of the prominent songs in the original film (1983).]

CHRIS: We also hear that the Gin Blossoms may be releasing a version of "Now," which they have been closing their sets with around the country.

JOEY: But as for Alkes-Fradkin goes, we can only hope that people spell our names right in the credits. I wake up in the middle of the night, some times, worrying that Fradkin will murder some attorney or music supervisor some day!

[Sorry about that, guys. Let's try it again.]

Alkes-Fradkin at

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