An artist strives to reach people, to communicate with a message, to be intriguing yet understood. Alphanaut’s Mark Alan carries a distinct artistry that accomplishes all this and more.
On Sunday, January 31 he appeared live on CBS/KCAL’S weekend show. He brought his distinct sound, his musician friends and his passion for pushing boundaries with him. He also brought an original voice along with the power and inspiration of some brilliant influences. Here, he discusses the live television performance, activism, and the impact of David Bowie.
Will Engel: What was your favorite aspect of appearing on live television on Sunday, January 31 (on CBS/KCAL’s weekend show)?
Mark Alan: I really loved the challenge of taking the songs, which are both composed around electronics, and stripping them down acoustically. You always discover something new vocally when there’s so much room for you to play around with in a simple arrangement. Working with my talented friends Jorge Villanueva and Salvador Villanueva is always a pleasure, and I couldn’t have done it without them. It was also my first time on television, so it’s very exciting to be able to reach out to more people with my music.
WE: Your music makes powerful statements. What role do you generally see activism as having in the world of music? Is the music itself a form of activism?
MA: I’ve always been drawn to artists who push boundaries in their work, be it music, photography, painting or any other media, even if it makes some people uncomfortable to experience it. Those individuals ignite and propel a social dialog about the world around them at that point in time, and inspire others to create and expand the conversation through their own art. I feel the very nature of music is an impactful way to carry a message – music affects all our lives, and a really great song gets under your skin. When combined with a powerful social message, a song has the ability to motivate action. Recording artists like John Lennon, Marvin Gaye and Nina Simone have always had a major impact on the way I think about my own lyrical content.
WE: Your music garners comparisons to David Bowie – what are you thoughts on Bowie and what impact does his artistry have on you?
MA: Wow, that’s a big one! I’ll try to keep it brief. First of all, any comparison to Bowie is such a massive compliment that it’s a bit intimidating really. Like many people, I’m still shaken and processing his loss.
David Bowie’s music first came into my life as a kid with his Heroes album. To be honest, at that time I had just a vague idea of who Bowie was. I grew up in a very small town, and he didn’t get played much on the commercial radio stations there. However, that iconic black and white cover image of him looking hauntingly mannequin-like is the reason I purchased the record. The moment the needle hit the first song and traveled across the vinyl my view on music was forever changed. The songs were hard, dancey, and otherworldly. Plus, it had all these surreal instrumentals that I wasn’t prepared for. I was hooked! With each Bowie record I discovered, my mind kept expanding and was inspired how one artist could constantly evolve in their craft. In my teens, I created a character named “Beauford Q,” a plaid pants, bottle-glasses wearing outsider who becomes a rock star. I’m actually laughing at myself as I write that! At 18 I went into a local studio and recorded a couple of the songs that were going to be from my own concept album (which I hope never surface). My own Ziggy was not meant to be.
For me I like to approach each album like directing a film. I have a vision for the sound I want to create, and cast musicians to best achieve that goal. I always want push myself to explore and discover new avenues creatively, and I can’t thank David Bowie enough for so much inspiration.