Subtle Amnesia is a one-person band prioritizing new sounds. With these sounds, I introduce philosophical ideas and the more grim aspects of reality to my music. I am a spiritual person who has had my fair share of mental health issues, and that ingrains itself into my music quite heavily.
Bugs are really cool. I own a bunch of bugs encased in glass and you can look at them and go “Wow, that’s cool.” My favorite is a flower mantis that sits atop one of my shelves. I like how it looks. I wanted to make songs about bugs, so I did. In my opinion, you wouldn’t call a crab, a spider, or a shrimp an insect, but I’m perfectly comfortable calling them bugs. I even think I am a bug sometimes too. We’re all bugs if you really think about it.
Penelope Arvanitakis and I go way back to 2005. I would spot her at open mics in mysterious and leafy Belgrave, the creative centre of the Melbourne hills, and simply marvel at her talent. The cadence of her voice was like no other, her piano playing was so highly advanced for one so young, and her songs were quirky, honest and deep. She was a cut above the rest.
In 2007 we recorded three songs together at her parents’ house, one of mine and two of hers, and then … we promptly fell out of touch for 16 years!
I have been a Prince fan since I was 8 and first heard Let’s Go Crazy, with its ear grabbing pyrotechnic guitar ending. Since then, I’ve learned from him, copied him and even just ended up doing the same things as him by osmosis or naturally. His work ethic, energy and diversity are three touchstones of my own ‘career’ and I have many strange ethereal intangible links to prince and ‘signs’ attached to many of my fondest moments in music so far that it’s almost as if he’s been a musical guardian angel since his passing in 2016 – an event that hit me so bad that I bought a streaming package, set up a little shrine on screen and DJ’d for 3 days straight, so fans had a place to hang, and I had some way of expressing my own sense of loss and gratitude for him voluminous output and inspiring presence in my own life. My phone went off non-stop that first day, I was associated with him so much by my circle of friends, they were checking that I was ok!
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I have the language. I can talk about what a particular song means to me, or I can talk about what that drummer is doing on the hi-hat that makes you know it’s them. Music history is an easy one – I’ve devoured all the rock bios, read all the critical analysis, seen all the interviews. I eat, sleep and breathe music. So why does it feel hard to talk about?
Not to sound all new-age about it, but music is elemental. Larger than life. When I was a kid, like most kids, I was into superheroes. The bright colors, the high stakes, the every moment of a story that meant something important to the larger narrative. As I grew up, music was the only “adult” thing that felt that exciting, that vital, that universal and yet intensely personal.
For those who don’t know my name is Alex Black, but I go by many names. I’m Alex Black. I’m Flash The Stampede. I’m Johnny Louisville. Hence the The Man With Three Faces moniker. When I practice martial arts I’m Three Chāoláng (超狼) LOL. My main creative persona is Alex Black, however. I’m an artist in every sense of the word. A dreamer, hard worker, flamboyant, charismatic, experimental. I’m gorgeous, and one of the most dopest people walking this planet. I’m one of one, I do what I want, when I want & how I want which confuses people.
I’ve said this somewhere else but people see a 6’5 dude from Brooklyn, muscular, with an androgynous pretty boy style, constantly rocking something flamboyant. They’ll see this dude pull up in a streetwear brand from London, or maybe he’s rocking some vintage designer clothes from the 80s and 90s, mixing it with crazy footwear and eyeliner. An eccentric human being, but his talent and charisma is undeniable. That’s who Alex Black is.
A few years ago I found myself banging away on a $12 Casio from goodwill in a basement in Edmonds making some weird experimental pop songs. Soon a pandemic was upon us and I decided to buckle down and learn how to make beats and use Logic to record. Some friends gave some pointers and drum kits to download, and soon I was off and running, making beat tapes and collaborating with vocalists over the instrumentals.
Music is something very intimate and personal, so it’s not easy for me to write about it. On the other hand, it is essential to me; it is something I want to share and what I want to talk about.
To describe this experience, the language of poetry would be more appropriate. On the other hand, such a language would be too hermetic and, as a result, incomprehensible. Besides, I can’t write poetry. Music is my poetry.
Two years ago, at 17 years old, I would be exposed to crucial elements that would rock my understanding of myself and my place in this world.
I was first introduced to Erik, my best friend and co-founder of Tiki Bar, through mutuals at a house party. At that point, we didn’t have many similarities: He was the embodiment of a modern-day hippie, and, unbeknownst to me, I was still searching for a purpose to assign me individuality.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson – the great American Individualist and Transcendentalist – once said: “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better”. And so, the new Zonn mini-album “Songs Of Truth And Freedom” started off, as many experiments do, with the inventor watching the world around and perceiving that something needed to be done. This approach, coupled with my fondness for re-writing old tunes, led to the interpretation of a 1980s new-socialist stalwart into a novel anthem for the 2020s.