Name: Alex Louloudis
Occupation: Drummer, improviser, composer
Current release: Alex Louloudis's Words is out via Off.
If these thoughts by Alex Louloudis piqued your interest, visit his official website.
Tell me about your instrument and/or tools, please. How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence the musical results and your own performance?
Sometime ago I heard that the practice of a musical instrument humbles a person and that thought alone has helped me come to terms with the way I play the drums, why I do what I do as an artist, why I hear music the way I do, and so on. The very same thought helps me process things in my everyday life as well.
One of the things I learned from my mentor, Mr. Michael Carvin is that a person can gain a broader understanding of the way things work in life by reaching a higher level in her/his practice in the arts. So, by approaching my instrument in a humble way I’ve become a more mature and honest performer and composer.
What do improvisation and composition mean to you and what, to you, are their respective merits?
Improvisation, composition, and the approaches they birth when combined give us different paths we can take in order to reach our goal, which is self expression. We are multi-faceted beings and we have to use all these approaches, at different times, in order to express ourselves in more accurate ways.
Derek Bailey defined improvising as the search for material which is endlessly transformable. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his perspective, what kind of materials have turned to be particularly transformable and stimulating for you?
I find Derek Bailey’s statement resonating with me.
There is an infinite amount of material we find, use, and transform when improvising. One thing I realized is that I need to have a firm base, a starting point when I am navigating through these materials. I find it stimulating that my train of thought gives me different and unique musical results when I am improvising.
My education, aesthetic preferences, up-bringing, limitations, and many other factors influence the way I treat the material I find, and I understand that all the above factors are transformable.
Purportedly, John Stevens of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble had two basic rules to playing in his ensemble: (1) If you can't hear another musician, you're playing too loud, and (2) if the music you're producing doesn't regularly relate to what you're hearing others create, why be in the group. What's your perspective on this statement and how, more generally, does playing in a group compare to a solo situation?
Personally, I try to avoid rules. Anything can work or be appropriate at one moment and inappropriate in another moment. I feel that this approach of judging what is ok in the moment can work both in a group and in a solo situation when there is trust amongst the musicians.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind for your improvisations and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I don't really do anything special before I play, as my friend and teacher Gene Jackson once told me ‘’the music has all the information you need to play it’’. So there isn’t much for me to do before I hear the first sounds, once I hear them, feel them, I’m ready.
Can you talk about how your decision process works in a live setting?
There is this theory that says that when a person enters a state of emergency, its body takes charge and she / he takes no conscious decisions but the body does everything in an automatic way in order to preserve itself.
The decision making process on stage works in a similar way.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and performance and what are some of your strategies and approaches of working with them?
Everything starts with your objective about the performance, what are you planning on saying and how. Second comes the question of how you can achieve your performance goal in a given space. Third comes the actual production of the sounds, which depence on the musician and her / his ability to manipulate instrument and technique in order to produce the desired sound inside the given space and achieve the performance goals.
It may sound like a long and labor intensive process but an experienced musician or engineer can understand what needs to be done and have the expected results in seconds.
How is playing live in front of an audience and in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally?
To me, there isn’t much of a difference. In both situations we are called to serve, we are called to provide ourselves and the people around us with some joy.
What is different and equally interesting is the process of making a record and the process of presenting something in front of a live audience. I find both situations extremely pleasurable, and of equal importance.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
There was a moment I realized that all art is one, connected, and in a common trajectory. My dream was to perform at the Museum of Modern Art in NY which is one of my favorite places on earth, and I was lucky to participate in a sold out performance at MoMA in 2017.
The same year, Rafael Statin (Rafael Leafar) and I released our duet album Elements Brought Together By Love. Next to him I could play the way I wanted, play the music as I was hearing it. Our collaboration gave me confidence about my drumming and enabled many things that came later.
[Read our Rafael Leafar interview]
Words, my latest album featuring Rafael Statin, Dean Torrey, Aaron Rubinstein, Rosdeli Marte, and Kaelen Ghandhi was released in March of 2021 by the Off record label. The album features a selection of compositions I wrote in a period of four years and it touches a lot on the musical relationships I formed in that period.
Everyone playing on the album I met and played intensively during that period, and I feel safe to say that the album is a great representation of my life at the time. It has everything I can ask for in a work of art, honesty.
The release of the album has helped me gain more confidence as a composer, drummer, and artist.
In a way, improvisations remind us of the transitory nature of life. What, do you feel, can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
All art can express the esoteric qualities of things and situations. As a consequence, through art, we can experience a kind of death, we can experience a kind of life, and everything there can be in between.