5 Questions with Rags #75 - Alexis Tucci
A couple of years ago, in the middle of that lull between Christmas and New Years, I saw Alexis Tucci lay down a ridiculous set of disco/house goodness at Lucky Bar here in my hometown Victoria. I knew nothing about her when I got there, but was instantly elated with her DJ ing, her very shiny jacket and, most of all, the very obvious joy she was taking from playing for the sweaty mass in front of her. Since then I've found that she's basically a legend in St. Louis. (And if you want to dispute the use of the term 'legend', you don't make a 30 year career in music, playing or promoting it, without being some kind of legend.) It's taken a couple of years but she's finally back in Victoria (Unless I just missed her some other time in between...) except this time she's here for Halloween instead of Christmas. “I love Halloween. I love the celebration. Everybody gets to act like somebody other than themselves, let loose and be weird,” says Tucci, from her hometown St. Louis. “I wish it was like that every day. But it's the one holiday that really puts the exclamation point on it.”
Usually at this point in the 5 questions I'd present some more thoughts, feelings and/or facts about the answerer. When I talked with Tucci she told me an incredible story about building community through music, that I think really encapsulates what makes the work she's doing, in DJ ing and in promoting, something very special.
“I went to AfrikaBurn, was brought in through a group of South Africans that had met me at Burning Man a few months prior. I had known since Burning Man that I had this invitation to go to AfrikaBurn to play for this brand new camp. They'd never built a sound camp and were building this camp for my arrival. But I couldn't fully confirm because my father was very ill and he ended up passing two weeks before Africa Burn was supposed to happen. So I decided to pack my bags after his passing and head out there. The people who actually brought me out I had never met before and they had never me but obviously we were connected through music. The camp they had set up for us – the soundsystem, the way that it was laid out – was so perfectly crafted and hand built, small and intimate, very much the way I would have done it myself. Out in Africa. It was just perfect.
After the first night of dropping my first track, the place exploded. And everything that we've been building in St. Louis, I felt reflected by all of these strangers from all over the world in front of me. Because I was basically the only DJ for the sound camp – there were a couple other people they knew of, but in general I held down all the hours. Anywhere from 4-6 hours a night. The last night I played 10 hours back-to-back with this South African DJ. Every night from the second the first record dropped to the second the last record played, I had a totally packed crowd in the middle of the desert, with the wind blowing in this tent. The relationship with these people was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before and it was the best DJing I've executed, ever. Completely free of trepidation, fear or self-consciousness or anything. It was so comfortable.”
** A little groovy reading music direct from the Playa ** (Also it’s two hours and this SHOULD NOT take you two hours to ready. So keep listening after reading for optimal groove!)
1. What's the first album you bought with your own money?
That's a really tough answer. I really can't remember so I'm going to give you a different answer. Thievery Corporation and Dub Syndicate, because those were the records I started buying. I did buy a ton of disco and funk. Disco has been the foreshadowing tone of my entire 30-year career. It makes me laugh, every once in awhile I'll remember another something that happened eons ago when disco music was a priority for me, and I forgotten about it, and here I am making a career out of it. Frankie Knuckles “The Whistle Song” was the very first track that I was really able to identify with and geek out. Once I was going to parties – you know once you get past the point where it sounds like one long song and you really can start differentiating between DJing, what you're listening to – that song was the one. Frankie Knuckles is the godfather of House. He's the man. If you listen to the song now it sounds so dated, but those are the foundations, when disco switched over to house music.
2. If you could spend the day with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?
I love George Carlin and for whatever reason he keeps coming up in conversation and videos keep popping up, people are reposting stuff. That guy was a genius. His matter-of-factisms, his approach towards politics, life and us being human beings, functioning like human beings, is a personality that I would subscribe to like religion. He was so chill. His humour narrates the thoughts that go through my head, both back in the day and present day. I can only imagine the field-day he'd have with what's going on in the States. We would sit around and drink coffee or whiskey and I would listen to him chat about it for hours.
3. What's the last thing that made you cry or shed a tear of joy?
Playing in front of my people here in St. Louis. These Nightchaser parties not only are the creations of rooms that I get to build where people are immersed in the experience – which in and of itself is joyful – like for example the Circus, or even the Science Centre, when I've been on these platforms in the midst of all of this creativity we've built collectively and to also get to play music within the perfect environment that I created and then to be received by the people I'm playing music in front of is just... really overwhelming. It's really, really, really, really overwhelming. The most creative parts of me are building rooms and playing music for people and hoping it's narrating some sort of story they can relate to. When they're relating to my stories both in installation work and as a DJ simultaneously, and they're giving me the emotion back based on the body language or their own tears – it just rocks my socks. It's powerful.
4. What's the memory you have of a teacher growing up?
My father was the best teacher I've ever had. He was my best friend and my partner and my confidant. He really taught me how to love freely and how to live freely. How to not sweat the small stuff. How to fight for what I believe in and follow my heart and my passion. In the end if you're doing what you love, you need to figure it out, stick it out, work hard and push through. That's probably the thing I take away with me the most.
5. Have you ever seen or felt the presence of a ghost or other supernatural entity?
There's often some sort of “presence” around me for whatever reason, not all the time or any kind of being or anything. Especially with my dad passing, there's certain moments in the day where, for whatever reason, there's an energy that makes him feel present, that's different. I don't know if it's my mind or heart or something serendipitous. I was in a flower shop, chatted up with some lady one day when I was having a really rough time missing my father. She wanted to show me pictures of her flowers, so she's going through pictures on her phone and as she's going through the pictures a picture of my father pops up. I'd had multiple conversations that morning about how hard of a time I was having. It wasn't just in my head, like thinking about my dad once – I was going through a huge process that day. I went to the flower shop to hide and rummage through plants...to me that's some crazy shit. And she knew my father. It just so happens she was showing me pictures of her flowers.
The only time I felt like a real extra presence...I had lost a friend many years ago, one of my best friends. I was performing right after she'd passed and in the middle of the set with my full band, I had kind of closed my eyes and when I opened them, right before I gained clarity, she was standing right in front of me. Again, it could come from somewhere inside that has to do with just really missing someone. As much as I'm a believer, I'm a realist, so it could have been something from my own intentions.
6. So the guest question is a bit strange for this one. The last question was so complicated that I couldn't even actually write it down. The gentleman had asked the notes in a very specific, very complicated jazz chord and while I know a bit about music, I don't know enough to even write down the chord. So I went back and grabbed a random one from a past guest. This is from Dan from Funkanomics...What means “Love” to you?
That's the perfect hardest question for me. I lead with love. That's my motto. Leading with love, building love and creating love. So what means love? It's connectedness. It's purpose. It's belonging. It's understanding how to appreciate, respect and accept human beings as being one person. I think it can be minuscule down to two people who love each other, which provides freedom and purpose between two people. All of those words can also be applied to the enlarged large version of what loves means, which means having that same connectedness with the people around you, your community and your environment. If you allow yourself to connect with people intimately like that, you're genuinely generating love.