This week, the best-selling rock album ever recorded by a Portland band will be played in full at Crystal Ballroom. It's an event you might expect would draw old friends and veteran scenesters, eager to reminisce about the glory days of '90s alternative rock and salute the singer, who's still going strong on the nostalgia circuit.
Everclear's So Much For The Afterglow turns 20 this year. The band's third record followed its garage-y debut, World Of Noise, and major label breakthrough, Sparkle and Fade.
As its title suggests, Afterglow is a record with a chip on its shoulder. It's simultaneously a memoir of troubled family life, a victory lap around a scene that had been hostile to singer Art Alexakis and a sneer at those who doubt the band's ability to escape the buzz-bin overstuffed with one-hit wonders of the era.
Critics can argue about the quality of Everclear's So Much For The Afterglow, but the numbers don't lie: three hit singles, double-platinum sales, one Grammy.
Despite the success—or maybe because of it—Afterglow cemented Alexakis as the most hated musician in Portland, that durable title granted him by Willamette Week in 1995 and again by the Mercury 15 years later.
Art Alexakis declined to be interviewed for this story. But the two other members of the classic lineup, bassist Craig Montoya and drummer Greg Eklund, shared their memories. We also spoke with touring guitarist Steve Birch and Dave Loprinzi, the bassist in the wings when the band briefly broke up in Australia, as well as two co-producers and Alexakis' oldest friend, Lars Fox, who also served as the digital-track surgeon who readied the band for massive airplay.
I. "Zillions and zillions of alternative bands"
So Much For The Afterglow came out in October 1997. It was the golden age of alt-rock radio, an era when people still bought CDs and a year when the charts were ruled by one-hit wonders like the Wallflowers' "One Headlight," Meredith Brooks' "Bitch" and the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony."
Alexakis had his hit two years earlier, with "Santa Monica." It only whetted his appetite.
Before the mainstream radio success of "Santa Monica," Alexakis had planned to call the band's third album Pure White Evil, and make "a combination of even heavier songs, more punk songs, and then kind of more melodic stuff." But by the time Everclear had wrapped up the last club dates of the Sparkle and Fade tour, things were going a different direction. Alexakis got together with drummer Greg Eklund for rehearsals in a warehouse in industrial Northwest Portland to flesh out the new material.
Greg Eklund, drummer: We rented a room in a warehouse, oddly enough by Esco Steel, where I used to work, in Northwest Portland. We were literally around the corner from where I used to work in a steel foundry. I don't know how we found it, but it was in a really dilapidated warehouse down there. And Craig got, like, shingles and some weird flu that put him in the hospital or something. So I remember when we started working on Art's new songs it was just him and me.
Craig Montoya, bassist: I got shingles and we had all these radio festivals to play and rehearsals to do and I was really, really fucking sick. It was the worst pain of my life. I could barely fucking hold a bass. I didn't have a doctor or anything so I went to this urgent care. I said, "Look, I'm in a band, I've gotta go on the road and this thing's going on with my back." They did some tests. Really cool doctor, she's like, "You have this thing called shingles and it's gotta run its course. It's gonna be anywhere from two to six weeks. Can you come back in two weeks?" I'm like, "No, I'm a musician going on tour—it's booked, I've gotta go." She's like "OK." So she wrote me a prescription for this jar of like 250 pills of Vicodin. I was just fucking high for the first two weeks of rehearsals and shows, but I fucking plowed through it.
Eklund: Some of those songs on Sparkle and Fade were written previous to me, with Scott [Cuthbert, the band's first drummer who is now band director at Astoria High School] and that record was more just straight-ahead rock. I always had this kinda swing, kinda groove beat that I'd always done at home on my own recordings. There was something about "Father of Mine" and "Everything to Everyone," these songs that Art was bringing in that had a certain rhythm to them from his guitar playing that kinda became the Everclear record and he basically used them on every radio song after that. I remember him coming in and playing those songs and being like, "Wow, I have this thing that I've always kinda worked on at home that would fit perfectly with that." I remember showing him that in that warehouse and he really lit up. It was a weird thing, because from that point on, every radio single we had had that thing in it, whether it's "Wonderful," "Father of Mine," or "Everything to Everyone." And "I Will Buy You A New Life," is just a slowed down version of that same groove. I remember in our later years playing shows and being really embarrassed that I was playing the same beat for four or five songs in a row.
If Alexakis was seduced into overusing Eklund's "kinda swing, kinda groove" beat, it was because he was trying desperately to avoid the fate of Odds, Nerf Herder and Semisonic.
Alexakis wasn't especially opaque about his intentions, writing a song called "One Hit Wonder," about it: "He says he wants to live the kind of life/That will make the folks back home all bitch and whine/He knows if he ever even gets the chance/He'd sell his soul to make the monster dance."
To record Afterglow, Alexakis first tapped Jim Rondinelli, a seasoned engineer who'd worked on records including Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend, Weezer's Pinkerton and Wilco's Being There.
He also called up his old friend, Lars Fox. The two had known each other from their early 20s in Los Angeles. Fox was the roommate of the bassist in Alexakis early band Shakin' Brave, and the last of Alexakis's friends who knew him back when he used to drink. Fox was also the person who inspired Alexakis and his first wife, Anita, to move to San Francisco.
Lars Fox, sound engineer: Art and I were amongst the best of friends but we were never in a band together. I had an industrial noise band and we were doing pretty well in San Francisco. My band was doing pretty well and we'd tour all around. Every time we would come to Portland he would come out to see me. I remember one time he came out and he brought little baby Anna—she wasn't quite a newborn but she was definitely less than a year old—and I thought "Wow, he's done. He's done. The music thing is done." But he proved me wrong.
Just as Everclear took off, Fox's band, Grotus, floundered and broke up. He moved to Olympia with his girlfriend but stayed in touch with Alexakis.
Fox: Straight out, I got the job because we were friends. I didn't get the job because I was an expert with Pro Tools, though I became one within the first couple months. He called me and said, "I heard your band broke up, do you want to work with us on the new record?" I had become used to working on audio and computers from my own band, so it was all extremely familiar to me, but I'd never done it in any professional capacity. So it was like, "OK, jump in the water, figure it out!"
Eklund: We'd had some success with "Santa Monica" but there was a really big question mark whether we'd be able to continue that. You know what everybody says—you have 10 years to write your first record and six months to write your second. Art was a good songwriter, so I knew we had good songs, but it was sorta like, "Wow, if this doesn't go, this might all end right here."
Fox: You've gotta remember at the time, in the mid-'90s there are zillions and zillions of alternative bands that had been signed in the wake of Nirvana. Some of them were having hits. Most of them had a hit, and then they were done…The thing about Afterglow is, a lot of people didn't think it was going to be anything. A lot of people thought Art was a one-trick pony and it was going to flop.
Jim Rondinelli, first co-producer: He never came off to me like he was concerned with a sophomore slump. If Art had fear that he wasn't going to be commercially successful, I sure as hell didn't see it. If anything, Art veered more on the side of overconfidence.
Montoya: There's this pressure. And you either take it in stride or you freak out and I think there's a little of both going on with this record, with Art stressing and wanting everything to be right, with Art having to write the lyrics with his back against the wall.
Eklund: I just remember thinking, "We've got to make at least this record stick so that we're not the classic one-hit wonder."
Montoya: I always felt strongly that the band was going to go for a long time. I thought these songs would ultimately become classic rock. I thought they had staying power. I was in it for the long haul—until Australia.
Sparkle and Fade was recorded in two weeks at Butch Vig's Smart Studios and mixed in another two weeks. After two months of work in the studio, Afterglow wasn't close to finished.
The band returned to Portland from Los Angeles, working at the now defunct White Horse Studios. As the pressure started to mount, Alexakis struggled to finish writing his lyrics. Tensions between the co-producers started simmering to a boil.
Rondinelli: It became apparent to me that Art was not anywhere near having his lyrics finished. And I felt like that was a colossal waste of all of our time. So I tried to keep myself busy in the studio, but at one point I called Perry Watts-Russell, his A&R guy, and was like, "Look, Art simply doesn't have his lyrics done. I think it would benefit us to take a couple week break. I can find something else to do, you don't have to worry about me, I've got other people calling, I can find other records to mix or something. But let's not just sit here and have Art show up for an hour a day and burn studio time." Art was deeply offended.
Fox: The sense was that Rondinelli would sit in the lounge, on the phone, talking about what other thing he could do that was coming up. Which, now, I can go, "Oh, you're just scheduling what's happening later, which you've gotta do that." But [laughs] Art didn't take it that way. So Rondinelli just was not there one day.
Neal Avron, credited co-producer of So Much For The Afterglow: Art had actually started So Much For The Afterglow with somebody else. I don't know what happened but that person stopped working on the record and I got a call to come in.
Rondinelli: Look, it's Art's record so he can do whatever he wants to do. That's his right. I was just happy to be away from the guy because he could be a very unpleasant person to spend time with. In the end the whole thing ended up being a real blessing because the slot that opened up in my schedule when I left the Everclear record was immediately filled by the Tragically Hip. I was hired to mix their album, Phantom Power, and became really good friends with Gord Downie. That was a very important record for me, and I'm forever grateful that I got to work on that album.
When Alexakis did eventually finish lyrics, the results were impressive.
Avron: One lyric that sticks in my head: In "I Will Buy You A New Life" he says, "I will buy you a new car/Perfect shiny and new." And I did ask him why he said "new" and "new" right after each other, because that's typically not done and kind of odd. And he mentioned to me that for him, back in the day, a new car was actually new used car. For him to say "perfect shiny and new," he wanted it to be very clear that he was actually buying a brand-new car.
Eklund: "Father of Mine," especially, really resonated with people. It was intense for me when people would come up to me and say, "That song is my life." I can only imagine how intense it was for Art, since it's about his life. I remember, we were playing in Chicago, in one of the big dance theaters where they still have shows. Our bus pulled into the alley and we're going down the alley for soundcheck. There were these dudes going the other way down the alley and they were real tough looking dudes. They were like, "Yo, Everclear," and we were like, "Ugh, fuck." They followed us in the door and they were so badass that no one stopped them. The security didn't say anything. We went in and got our instruments. They came right up in front of the stage and they were like, "Play that 'Father of Mine' song." We played it and the guy who was sorta the lead dude goes, "Yeah, that's my song, right on." And they left.
Montoya: One of my favorite songs on this record is "One Hit Wonder." It's this simple little song but it's got this kinda cool positive line in there: "They can't hurt you unless you let them." That will stick in your head all day long. What a great thing to have stuck in your head. I think that's really powerful and really cool. I love this record.
II. "They're a bunch of carpetbaggers!"
As Everclear struggled with the record, many Portland scenesters were openly rooting for them to fail. The feud between Alexakis and Hazel singer Pete Krebs had not only been exposed in a WW cover story in March, but broadcast around the world in Spin's August 1996 cover feature, which also touched on Alexakis' wife, Jenny Dodson's, past allegations of domestic abuse.
Alexakis started beefing with the Portland press. Specifically, with WW music editor Richard Martin, who had a history with Everclear dating back to his time with his short-lived bi-weekly newspaper, Tonic.
Richard Martin, former WW music critic: I went in with an open mind, but about halfway through the interview somebody called from one of the opening bands that he had invited to play at La Luna for their big record release party. He basically was such a dick to this other musician that I was like, "Wow, this guy really is a piece of work." There was all this stuff with his then-girlfriend, later wife, and like any good journalist I asked about it at the end of the interview, and that was very awkward. He invited me to his house with, I think, good intentions, and with me turning against him I think that was his first taste that he wasn't going to manipulate the press the way he maybe manipulated his fans.
Tonic folded and Martin moved over to Willamette Week, where he was the music editor. His pitched a cover story about Everclear that hit on eve of their first performance on Letterman.
Martin: It's not like [WW editor Mark] Zusman knew anything about the music scene, but because there was controversy involved obviously he was interested. When that article was being written Art got wind of it, I think maybe I put in an interview request, and he started calling my editor, Audrey Van Buskirk, and basically trying to get the story killed and he claimed that I had this big bias against him ever since I was at this other paper and that I was out to get him. It really wasn't the case. I just thought, "This is interesting. Most of the bands here are content to, like, play these shows at La Luna and Satyricon and have a local following. Here's this guy who wants to be the next big rock star."
Fox: Even without Jenny and the Pete Krebs thing, it was just a culture clash. The dynamic of a careerist, somebody who's trying, did not work with the culture of independent music in Portland. Seattle was a big deal and Portland was an up-and-coming younger sibling. Here was this perfect symbol of what they were against embodied in one human being who, goddamn it, had success. It was just the perfect storm.
Martin: In that era Portland was very much the anti-Seattle. You had everybody in Seattle trying to find the next Nirvana. Some of those people were coming to Portland looking for that. And everybody in Portland was like "Fuck you, we're not like that." You could make arguments either way that Portland would have maybe been accepting if [Alexakis] had been a really stellar stand-up dude—but he wasn't, so we'll never know.
Just as he had with "For Pete's Sake," the song in which he said that he and Hazel frontman Pete Krebs could have been "the best friends that we never had," were it not for their battle to win Dodson's affections, Alexakis wrote a song that was a very literal takedown of the Portland scene for So Much For The Afterglow. The song, "California King," closes the album with open threats of physical violence against the scenesters who slighted him:
Alexakis has told different people different stories about the subject of the song.
Fox: He said to me, "You know, Pete Krebs is from California, too." He specifically said that "California King" is about him, Courtney Taylor and Pete Krebs.
"California King" also includes an interlude where an old mossback complains about California transplants—the speaker is a California transplant, Lars Fox.
Fox: You know where there's a guy talking? That's me. He said to me, "I want a little breakdown here where somebody's talking, with the Portland thing about Californians." So I was like, "All these Californians coming up here, changing everything. They're a bunch of carpetbaggers. I want them all to just go, go go." That's me. I wrote the words. I think I was reading a book about the post-war south and carpetbaggers, so that's where that idea came from.
Avron: Drama definitely seemed to follow Art around. I remember telling me about the fact that he didn't feel welcomed by the Portland music community so much. But he got to buy his house, just like "I Will Buy You a New Life" says.
The vocal samples weren't the only technological flourishes on display. Art also used his generous recording budget to have Fox do lots of touch-up in Pro Tools. This also explains why Art's voice seems to have aged so much in the last 20 years—the recorded version was unnaturally high thanks to sped-up tape.
Fox: If you see a band live and they suck it's because an army of dudes like me are tightening people up and making them better than they are. I think of it as the crutch. We can make things so much better with the technology than they actually are.
Avron: On So Much For The Afterglow—and I think all the Everclear records—Art would speed up the tape when we were done recording. If you've ever tried to play along to an Everclear song you'll notice that you're out of tune. That's because we were speeding up the tape on pretty much every single song after it was recorded, and at the time we didn't have the ability to do that without changing the pitch, like we do now. If you listen carefully you'll notice that. I think Art did that because it helped give it a little more energy, and it helped give him a little more of a youthful sound as a singer.
Fox: It makes everything sound a little peppier and a little brighter. Like, actually brighter EQ wise—it gets a little more high-end to everything. It's not an uncommonly done thing. But I think "Everything To Everyone" is up, like, 10 percent, which is huge. Like, if he'd sung it and sped it up that much he'd sound like Mickey Mouse. He'd sound like a chipmunk. So he sung it with the track already sped up some percentage.
As the sessions wore on, Alexakis grew more comfortable with delegating. At one point, he entrusted new co-producer Avron and the rest of the band with writing the album's opening, a Beach Boys-style vocal harmony that would give way to the crunchy riff that accompanies the first lyrics, "This is a song about Susan…"
Eklund: I remember Art saying, "I really want a Beach Boys open, start really pretty and pristine, and then dig back into the dirt and grit of American life." And then him saying, "OK, you guys do it, I'm going away for the weekend." We were just looking at each other, like, "How are we going to do this?" Craig and I wouldn't have any idea how to do that. Neal was like, "OK, let's go get something to eat and we'll figure it out."
Avron: He was like, "I want to do a Beach Boys kinda thing on this, and I gotta go." Thankfully, I got a degree in music, I read and write music, I'm a horn player, so writing music is right up my alley. So I kinda wrote it on some manuscript paper for them and then I would sing parts to Craig and Greg one at a time and we just kinda started laying them down.
Fox: Art wasn't there at all. Neal had been given this task so he sat down at the piano and was like, "OK, how are we going to structure this out." He wrote, on the piano, different lines that would all come together in that way. So we were all assigned a particular thing. Neal was like, "OK, Lars, go out and sing a low part," because I typically sing with a low voice. After about 30 seconds he said, "OK, you're fired."
Eklund: We recorded like a skeleton version of it, and then when Art came back were were able to play it for him and he was like, "That's really cool," and he was able to record a ton more vocals over what was already there including the lead vocal.
In other cases, Art delegated even more. The instrumental "El Distorto de Melodica" was composed by Fox in Pro Tools, using techniques he'd developed while with his band, Grotus.
Fox: My band was a total cut and paste band. We would jam and sample ourselves and kinda build songs out of it. Which is an interesting way to do it when you don't have a particular thing in mind. It's just like, "OK, this sounds cool, let's put this here and repeat it." Art wanted to do that. I wasn't there, but they just started jamming. At the end I arrived, Art said, "Here, check this stuff out, I want you to do what you did in Grotus, just chop it up, make a cool thing out of it." I had all kinds of little versions of stuff and he's like, "OK, I like this, I like this, I like this. Let's make that a verse, do this here, let's make it a chorus."
There were worse fates than being left alone in the studio by Alexakis.
Rondinelli: Once we got to White Horse he would rarely show up to the studio and when he did show up he'd show up four or five hours late and he wouldn't have written the lyrics that he said he'd write overnight. And if the band guys didn't show up on time all of a sudden Art would turn into Buddy Rich.
Avron: Art, like anybody, is a quirky dude. He was very much in charge of the process and the writing and everything else. Slightly authoritarian in that way. Probably there could be some tensions in that way, though I have to say, Craig and Greg were always very amenable pretty much to anything.
Fox: The age difference between those dudes was really significant. I would call it a generational difference. Both of them, even though they weren't truly Portlanders, they were Portland. Sorta easy going. Being in a band is a fun thing, and some artistic expression, it wasn't something you tried to have a career with. [Art] also felt like he was pulling them along. Those guys were in, like, grade school when Art and I met—maybe even literally. So he never put that shit on me. Sometimes he would yell at people and then we'd go to lunch or something. Which I felt uneasy about, but how do you deal with that?
III. "I will never, ever fucking steal your job."
The first two singles on Afterglow, "Everything to Everyone" and "I Will Buy You a New Life" were released in September 1997. Everclear was scheduled to tour in support of Afterglow starting the next month. The first tour was a series of intimate in-store appearances at record shops around the country, including Music Millennium in Portland.
The band was looking for roadie help. Enter Davey Loprinzi, a fourth generation Portland native, part of the large Italian family that started the gym off Division Street. Loprinzi was the band leader of Sweaty Nipples, another local band that didn't share the earnest, indier-than-thou sentiment that pervaded the Portland scene at the time. He later went on to form the Balls, Storm Large's original backing band, where he again played briefly with Eklund, who is Large's current touring drummer.
Sweaty Nipples was like party band version of Alice In Chains, known for its high-octane shows and aggressive blend of funk, metal and alt-rock.
Dave Loprinzi, bassist: I knew Greg from [his former band] JollyMon. He was a kid and we kinda snagged him and he played in Sweaty for awhile. Sweaty used to play in Spokane all the time back in the day. Craig Montoya, one of his favorite shows and main inspirations was when Sweaty Nipples would come to town. I was one of his core inspirations for becoming a bass player. Which I didn't know at the time, he was just another kid in the crowd. Greg got out of the Sweaty thing—he only did a couple months with us or something—and then they did the Everclear thing.
Sweaty Nipples was nearing its end—hastened by the rise of Everclear.
Loprinzi: At the beginning [Everclear] wasn't all that—World of Noise was World of Noise. They were just kinda a "couple hundred people draw" band. We were doing way bigger things than they ever were. Then Sparkle & Fade came out and boom. They shot fucking off and up. So basically all of my crew, one by one, went to work for Everclear. It was a chance to get on the fast train. So I lost all my killer guys who'd lost all their experience with us. One by one, they all jumped ship and went over there. So there was actually a little bit of resentment toward Everclear because they were stealing all of my friends went to work for them. Deep down, I'm happy for those guys because they're getting the opportunity to do something we'd all strived for. But here I was, trying to scrape together enough people to go on tour anymore…Ultimately, at the 10 year mark, we decided to call it quits. At that point, everybody was working for Everclear.
Loprinzi had never met never met Art Alexakis.
Loprinzi: One day, right when Sweaty pretty much broke up, my old guitar tech, Sean Cox [Everclear's roadie], who I'd worked with for years, my whole career, he's like, "Hey, we're looking for a bass tech." And I was like, "Hmmm, a tech." I'm the one who taught all those guys how to tech. I know everything about fixing guitars and maintaining guitars. I used to do all my shit, all my bandmates' shit, I taught all those guys how to do that shit. So I was like, "Hmmm, that's interesting, but would it be weird to go from being on the top in Portland to being on the bottom behind the scenes?" But I was like, "It sounds interesting, I'm having a kid and I need the money. Maybe I'll try going on tour as a tech."
Craig Montoya was not in favor of this.
Loprinzi: He was like "No fucking way can you work for me. There's no way." And I'm like "Why?" And he's like, "That's like having Eddie Van Halen come and be your guitar tech for you. You were my idol as a bass player and I can't imagine you coming to work for me." And I had to break it down and be like, "Dude, this isn't about any kind of ego or who liked who or who's better than who." He felt really insecure. He was like, "You're going to steal my job. That's what's going to happen. Art's going to figure out who you are and what you are and how good you are and you're going to steal my job."
Montoya's personal history may have been factor in his paranoia about Loprinzi supplanting him as bassist.
Montoya: I moved down from Spokane in '91 with my band, Soul Hammer. We started playing around and we all lived in this house with this one other guy. They fired me and hired that guy to take my spot. So it was like, "What the fuck, man?" It just felt like a slap in the face. So I just got super driven and would answer any ads and play with any band that would have me, just to get my chops up and learn from other people. [That's why] I answered the ad that Art had placed in The Rocket. He named some bands that I really didn't even know but it was, "Hey, I'm going to join another band."
Loprinzi needed the tech job, so he made Montoya a promise.
Loprinzi: Before I even met anyone else, I swore to him. I said, "I will never, ever fucking steal your job. No matter what comes my way, I promise I'll never steal your job. You have that as a brother to a brother." And so he's like, "OK, now that I got that off my chest it would be pretty cool to have you in the family." So I was a bass tech.
Sweaty Nipples played its last show was September 1997 at La Luna, a few weeks before Loprinzi started touring with Everclear as the bass tech. The opening band? Everclear, billed as the Hesher Kings.
Loprinzi: "Santa Monica" was still on the radio. They were totally huge at that point and Art's like "We'd love to open for your going-away show!" I was like "Fuck yeah, why not? Let's have a big party!"
Richard Martin, in his "Timbre" column, Sept. 24, 1997: "Portland's most successful band in terms of record sales, radio airplay and all-around modern rock stardom, Everclear, played a surprise gig Saturday at La Luna. Billed as the Hessier Kings [sic], the quartet opened the Sweaty Nipples' farewell appearance, even dedicating a cover of Kiss' 'Sin City' to the disbanding Portland veterans…The band seemed sluggish at times in its first Portland show since turning up as an unannounced guest on a bill with Cheap Trick earlier this summer, but each time it lagged, Alexakis played off the uncertainty, adding a welcome rawness to Everclear's sometimes overly pronounced melodies and hooks."
IV. "The Worst Kind of Convicts"
After their short American tour of small venues and record stores, Everclear was slated to fly down for large outdoor festivals in Australia during summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
At this point, the touring version of the band was the three main members, with Steven Birch touring as a second guitarist. Birch was a fixture in the local music scene and a member of local bands Sprinkler, Slack and Oblivion Seekers. Birch was a local graphic designer and did the album art for Everclear's first three records, as well all the Dandy Warhols albums and merch while they were on Capitol. He currently has a design company called Servo Music & Graphics.
This was the height of alt-rock radio, and large outdoor festivals were orgies of drunken moshing and flying shoes. Art's concerns about the dangers of this were informed by an incident in Boston in November 1997. Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe took a stage dive at an Everclear show and broke a woman's back, leading to a major lawsuit which cost the band $125,000 in damages.
Alexakis was in no mood for the boorish Australian festies and the tour was described Down Under as an "unmitigated disaster."
Indeed, Alexakis didn't return to Australia with his new backing band until 2012, 15 years after the band broke up after fighting on stage during an ill-fated set in Woolongong.
Loprinzi: We were on the road non-stop pushing Afterglow. We were touring like mad. When you do that grind everyday, 24/7, it can wear on you. There was always a little bit of friction. That's what makes something good, when there's a little bit of friction. But after awhile a little bit of friction turns into a lot of friction. Everyone was just frazzled—sizzled and burnt out. I'm trying to remember what the igniter was…
Alexakis, to Junkee in September 2012: The problem wasn't with me. The problem was that the other people were having a hard time. Look, I love Australia! Especially Melbourne. Every time I go down there, I almost don't wanna come back. I love it there.
Eklund: That's complete bullshit. That's complete bullshit. That's a retelling of what happened. I love Australia, too. It's one of my favorite places in the world. That's not what happened.
Montoya: I don't know if you've ever been, but Australia is so fucking cool. It's one of the coolest places you'll fucking ever go. We loved it down there. Every show we played was awesome. People were going fucking crazy. It was the '90s—every show you played, people wanted to mosh and get up on stage and dive and get fucking wasted and crowd surf. It was the '90s—that's what you did when you went to a fucking rock show. Everybody wanted to feel like they were in the fucking "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video.
Steven Birch, touring guitarist: Wollongong was packed, and the crowd was rowdy as hell—as were most of the Aussie crowds. The Tasmanian crowds were even rowdier! They hardly ever got bands to tour down there, so they were just so damn happy to see a real rock show.
Montoya: Art wanted to be taken seriously. He got sick of people throwing things at his face or pulling on his guitar. He wanted to play his songs and be respected for that. And I respect that, and I understand that, but I also come from a different school where, I remember seeing pictures in Rolling Stone of guys getting hit in the face with bottles and blood coming out and they're just going strong, they don't miss a beat. I often thought, "What would Steve Harris from Iron Maiden do?" You don't hear Steve Harris on the microphone going, "Hey, you guys, knock it off!"
Eklund: I don't even know if they were throwing them at Art. That's what you did back then. You threw boots or shoes.
Montoya: He had built this habit of stopping shows for things that were happening that he didn't like, or that he wanted something to say about. Sometimes he would stop the show because somebody was hurt coming over the barricade. Sometimes it was just somebody throwing something. When you stop the show, it really pulls the rug out from under the whole band. Especially if it's during the first two or three songs. You come out, you're excited, you're coming out hard, you're hitting it, you're setting the stage for the rest of the night. And then you stop the show? I'd gotten used to this. Instead of being embarrassed and just standing there, I always had a six-pack of beer on my amp, so I'd just go back to my amp, drink some beer, wait for him to get it out, and eventually we'd start playing again.
Birch: A few songs in, some kid lobbed a big white high-top tennis shoe, and I followed its arc as it directly hit Art's mic as he was singing. Immediately he stops the show. His lip was bleeding a tiny bit—later he said he had a tooth knocked out, which was utter bullshit—and after yelling something like, "Who threw that? Who fucking threw that shoe?" to the crowd, he turned to me and yelled, "Steven, what do you think about people that throw shit at shows?" I replied something like, "I don't like it! I think it's total bullshit!" This is all through a cranked PA, mind you. He then turns to Craig and yells the same thing. Craig said something like, "I don't give a fuck, I'm just here to play some fucking rock'n'roll!" And that's when Art got really weird…and then gave him a shove. It didn't seem like that much of a shove, but Craig wasn't expecting it at all, so that's why he fell down.
Montoya: He's up there yelling at the kid or doing whatever he's doing and he comes over and starts talking to me, yelling at me. What I recall him saying was, and I'm paraphrasing, "Why don't you ever support me when shit like this happens?" And I'm like, "Hey, man, when you're ready to play, I'm ready to play." That's not what he wanted to hear. He shoved me and I fell down. That's the last thing I fucking expected him to do. I got embarrassed. He got embarrassed and walked off. The first thing I did was I took my bass off and fucking threw it at him.
Alexakis, to music.co.au, in October 2012: We were touring so much, and there were certain members of the band drinking and drugging too much, and just the travel caught up with us as well. We kind of bumped heads and people went home and everyone made a big deal about it—I knew it was just a temporary thing.
Loprinzi: There's still two more shows to do. They're like "Fuck it, we're done." The promoter was furious, they're like "You can't back out on these two last shows. If you don't do these last two shows, we're not paying you for any of those shows." There were meetings in hotel rooms.
Birch: Backstage, we were all flabbergasted, but also just fucking over it. Craig said, "That's it, man. I am done," and I said I was totally with him. We all said we were with him. Fuck him, fuck the band, fuck the tour. There were at least four more shows, two at theaters and the final two at huge festivals, the final one being Big Day Out. The theater shows were cancelled, but management said if the festivals were cancelled, not only would the band lose a small fortune, but the promoters were going to sue for really big bucks. So, the hotel room wrangling began.
Montoya: Our manager flew out and there was this big meeting and it got really weird. Our manager was like, "OK, for the rest of the tour, you guys are separate. Art's going to go to the club in this car, you're going to go in this car. And you'll have your own dressing room and you'll have your own dressing room but you have to do these shows because we'll lose a lot of money if you don't." And we did it—we stayed separately, we didn't talk to each other, we just played the shows.
MTV News, April 28, 1998: "Claiming that she had heard nothing about any onstage scuffle, [band publicist Donna] Salazar, from the trio's Capitol Records label, said the band returned home early because one of the members had to go home for personal reasons. She refused to elaborate on the reasons or say which member needed to return early. 'I don't know where those rumors got started,' Salazar said of the alleged onstage scuffle. 'That's not true. The band went home early because one of the bandmembers had a personal situation to deal with in the States.'"
Eklund: We actually broke up in Australia. Like, broke up—"see you later, we're not doing this anymore."
Loprinzi: It's like "Holy crap, shit's off." We're canceling the tour, everyone's going home. England's off. I call my wife and I'm like, "I'm coming home, the tour's canceled." I have a newborn kid and my wife's, like, pulling her hair out. She's like, "Thank God, I'm so glad you're coming home."
MTV News from May 1998: "Media reports from down under reveal that Montoya's bass was stolen at the Extreme Games concert on the Gold Coast; a firecracker or pipe bomb was thrown on the stage in Melbourne; and that Alexakis was hit in the face by a shoe in Wollongong. [Australian music industry columnist Christie] Eliezer's column also reports that following the theft of the guitar, Alexakis swore at the audience, made a reference to 'the worst kind of **** convicts' and dropped his pants and dedicated the final song to the cursed thief."
Loprinzi: On the flight home, Art's like, "What do you think about playing bass?" And I'm like "Oooooh man. Fuck this!" I made a promise to my brother that I wouldn't do that. So I was like, "Oh my fucking God, I can't believe this is falling in my lap. I do not want to be me right now." And so I was like "I seriously need to think about that, there's a lot of implications." Art's like "What do you mean?" Of course he wanted to know. So I say, "I told my wife I'm coming home. She's ready to leave me. I told her I'm coming home, now I've got to tell her I'm not coming home?"
Montoya: We were supposed to go to England and do a tour of England, Ireland and Scotland. And I'm like, "I'm not doing it, I need a break from you, I need to fucking get away."
Loprinzi: As soon as I got home and landed, I called Craig. I said, "Dude, you and I both know what's coming." He's like, "He already asked you to play, didn't he?" I was like, "He didn't ask me to join, but he asked me to fill in for the U.K. tour because evidently you guys are in a lot of hot water if that tour gets canceled." And they were. Elektra, who carried them over there, had been building promotions for this for two and a half years. And they're like, "If you fuck us on this tour you've lost all your European momentum. We're not going to support you and you're dead in Europe."
Montoya: They fucking called me and were like, "Well, is it OK if Davey plays?" Davey called me up and is like, "Look, I'm not going to do this if it threatens you in any way, and I'm only going to do this, if they ask me to go further I won't." And I'm like, well, here it is. I'm out.
Loprinzi: I told him, "I'm here to help you. I'm here for your band. I'm not here for my own best interest. I told you that and I swear by that. If you want, I will not do this, I'll tell him no tomorrow and I'll lose the job altogether." Because I felt like my job was threatened, too. I figured he'd send me home too. "What, you don't want to play bass? I guess you don't want to tech either." That's how I thought it was going to go down. I told Craig, "This is 100 percent on you. I'm your follower on this. Whatever you say is what happens, so you let me know. I don't give a fuck what happens to me, I'll take it because I swore to you as a brother."
Montoya: He's an amazing bass player. He's five times the bass player I am. And he's super funny and great to be around and a huge treat. The water level was really high for me at that point.
Loprinzi: Craig says "Let me call you back." A day goes by. Craig calls me and says I don't want anyone—anyone—going out and playing in my position on this tour. And I'm like, "Got it." But, "If anyone's going to do it you're the only guy who's going to do it." So I'm like, "So what are you saying?" And he's like '"Go ahead and do it." And I'm like "OK, I'll let those guys know…"
The band's breakup had been reported by Australian alternative music radio station Triple J. Everclear's management sent an email to Everclear fansite whitelightning.org to deny the report: "Craig is physically exhausted after six months of non-stop touring… Craig asked his bass tech, who is a close friend of his and who knows all the Everclear songs by heart, to fill in for him on the UK tour… Hopefully, this will put to rest the false rumors that Everclear are breaking up or that Craig is leaving the band. He's just tired."
Loprinzi: Now it's only 24 hours before the flight to leave. I have had zero practice. I've never even tried to play these songs. I've heard them, but I've never tried to play any of them. I don't know what keys they're in, chord progressions, nothing. On the plane ride over, I'm on the plane listening to the fucking records and I just like ask, "Does this start in G? Yeah. OK." I play it in my head for the whole flight over, eight hours, I'm just imagining the songs. We get off the plane, rent gear and go to soundcheck. No hotels, no rest, no nothing. Two hours later, I play the first show completely cold. No soundcheck, nothing. Six hundred people, lights come on, and the first note, "This is a song about…"
Montoya: I always had this kinship with Art. I felt there was kinda this older brother-younger brother thing with him I that ran pretty deep. Him and I started this thing together, and that he pulled me to help him get his songs up and running and I always gave it 1,000 percent. Unfortunately, there was never really any resolution where Art and I got together and were like "OK, I feel this way and I know you feel this way and let's try to work it out and compromise." I think if that would have happened we could have totally repaired our bond and more successful albums could have come in the future.
Eklund: I don't think we ever came together in the same way we had been earlier. We were on a ride and we were going to finish it. It became more of a job at that point. Not that there weren't fun times, but that was the break. In order for everybody to come back everybody had to sorta put up some walls. But at that point it was a runaway train, and you were just trying to not get knocked off it. For the first time we were starting to make some real money.
Loprinzi: Those guys were constantly like "Fuck this I'm going home!" And I'd be like "OK, tell me what's your on my mind." I'd be the band therapist. They'd tell me, they'd vent, they's fucking chew one ear completely off. They wanted to quit way before they did. So I'd be like, "All valid arguments, I totally get it. But let's look at the big picture: Let's pretend this is a wave and we're all on this surfboard together. None of us know when the next breaker's coming. How about we all kinda band together and let's keep on this until we hit the sand, then we'll figure out what we want to do?"
Steven Birch wanted off the metaphorical surfboard. On July 25, 1998, he played his last show with the band at Altamont Fair Grounds in New York. After he quit as guitarist, he also quit as the band's designer. He went back to designing album covers and comic books, and formed the band Audio Learning Center with Chris Brady from Pond."
Birch: I was just sick of how everybody was being treated. I realized I could not live in Art's world anymore. I was a grown-up and I could not live that way anymore. It was definitely good money but it was just—ugh.
After eight months as a roadie, Loprinzi was back onstage when Everclear returned from a short hiatus to play a San Diego club on September 12, 1998.
Loprinzi: Art said, "Wanna go out to eat?" I we go out to eat and he said, "You wanna play guitar?" And I was like "Sure, I mean, I like guitar." And he was like "No, do you wanna play guitar in Everclear?" And the rest of the day is blank.
V. "You never know the full story about anything.
After the U.K. tour the band had some downtime before the next round of promotion on Afterglow. Whether they would reform was still up in the air. Everclear negotiated a truce and reconvened to shoot the "Father of Mine" video, the third single, which went on to be their become their biggest and most enduring hit.
Eklund: That's how you did it back then, you released your street-cred song first and then your second song but the third song was the third song that was really going to your hit.
Avron: I remember the A&R person, who was Perry Watts-Russell, coming to the studio and he was asking me what I thought the singles were. And I said, "I don't know what the singles are but the song that always hits me is 'Father of Mine.'"' He kept saying to me that he didn't hear that as a single. And I thought that was odd.
Everclear were children of the grunge era, but found themselves competing against pop acts of the day for video play. Music videos were high-risk, high-reward propositions. Bands would spend millions to shoot the video hoping to be one of the 20 or so added to MTV's rotation every week.
Eklund: We're now entering into the Biggie Smalls-Puff Daddy era where every video had to cost like $2 million. In order to get on MTV you had to have the same production values. Normal videos—not anything with helicopters and explosions—would cost like $1 million dollars. We went from like "Heroin Girl," where we had, like, 16 Super-8 film cameras and we gave them to skaters at the skate park and they filmed to having full production sets with trailers and makeup artists and costume people and all that stuff. That all costs money and that it all comes out of our share. If it works, like "Father of Mine," that's great. But if it doesn't work, you've spent a lot of money on nothing.
Everclear made one very expensive mistake on the first draft of the "Everything to Everyone," which was shot at the mansion where many Hollywood movies, including The Big Lebowski, were filmed. The video, starring Rose McGowan, has never been released.
Montoya: Art would decide what was best for his songs as far as the video would go. He would kinda run it past us and we were never like, "No." With "Everything to Everyone," we had to do it twice, because the first version was bad. It didn't make any sense from what I remember. But we were like, "In a mansion? Catered? With Rose McGowan? Fuck yeah, let's do it." We were in this little room jamming. I didn't really follow the storyline with what was going on with Rose McGowan.
Eklund: She was up-and-coming. She hadn't quite dated Marilyn Manson yet, but she was one of the new starlets in town.
Montoya: They edited it and brought it back to Capitol. Then Art was like, "Hey, Capitol hates it. They fucking hate it. And we're going to do another one, with this camera that's on this stand and it's computerized and it's going to do this sequence of turns and it's going to record that several different times and we're going to stand in this blue room in different situations and we're going to record this sequence of turns and we're going to record this and they'll take all those sequences of turns put it into a video." And it's like, "OK, what do I need to do? Just sit and play guitar?"
Eklund: The video where we're in that tiny blue room is just because we didn't have any money to shoot another one. They just lined us up in a blue room and shot it in like a day with the scraps money we had left.
Alexakis was never one to skip on expenses—something that became clear when he had to declare bankruptcy following his third divorce. Sometimes, that manifested in generosity toward his bandmates. He bought every meal when they went out to eat and bought plane tickets for Loprinzi so he could see his young child.
Loprinzi: He was a parent, and he fucking got it. That guy took fucking care of me. He would buy me first class tickets and fly me home if there was anything more than a two or three day break. No one else knew about it. I was the only other one who had a kid. He'd be like, "You're going home" and hand me a plane ticket. I'd be like, "Is anyone else going home?" And he's like "No, and don't say anything."
Fox: Whenever we would walk by some homeless guy or woman, Art would usually give them five bucks. Which, for me, when this was going on, I couldn't afford to do that too often. But he did it all the time. I remember one time I was like, "You're pretty generous with people." And he was like, "That's somebody's kid."
Today, Alexakis lives in his native Los Angeles and tours with a new backing band he calls Everclear. Eklund tours with Storm Large. Neal Avron still works as a producer and mixer, having recently worked with 21 Pilots and on last year's well-regarded Blink 182 comeback album. Jim Rondinelli is a consultant who works on music licensing deals.
Four other the key players from the Afterglow era still live in Portland. Davey Loprinzi is a machinist. Steven Birch is a graphic designer. Lars Fox is a music engineer who gets to live his dream of being part of the music industry in L.A. without having to live there. Montoya works as a manager at CD Baby and lives with his girlfriend, Kayte, in deep Southeast. He has two daughters Gia and Josie, and two stepkids, Omri and Orion.
Montoya says he was bitter for a long time, but that he's come to appreciate his time with the band. If he could say anything "to that kid in his 20s, who was acting like he was 17," it would be to work harder on empathizing.
Montoya: I just feel like you never know the full story about anything. There are so many sides to every story, that you have to kinda color it differently. You never really know the truth about anybody or anything. That's kind of the beauty or songwriting and music, I think.
Everclear stories from the WW archives…