Producer Alex Gerst Talks Tandy, Slow Roosevelt and the Cyclical Health of Dallas Music
Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans, where we get to know the people behind the scenes in Dallas/Fort Worth music.
Alex Gerst has been mixing some of the best (and most historic) Dallas rock for well over a decade now. On Fair To Midland's latest LP, Arrows and Anchors, you can hear his contribution on single "Musical Chairs." His work dates back into the late '90s and beyond: Doosu, Spoonfed Tribe, The Feds, Slow Roosevelt. The list goes on.
The Observer nominated him for Best Engineer/Producer for his work on Slow Roosevelt's 1998 Throwawayyourstereo LP, and heck if he isn't a three-time award recipient from KEGL's local show (back in the days when the show doled out awards).
Equally neat is the random tidbit from Gerst's background: His father Harvey got the Tandy TRS-80 personal computer off the ground, and was responsible for writing the manual for those old suckers.
Of course, no one can wax ecstatic about Alex Gerst like Gerst himself. He's as much of a bright-eyed and enthusiastic kid about it all as he was when TRS-80s were a new thing.
Back when I was on the air at KDGE, the first song I ever got to spin was from an LP you produced: "Cake" from Slow Roosevelt's Throwawayyourstereo, and it sounded large. Did you ever get to hear it on the air?
Yes, I did! It was a proud moment for me. I would, from time to time, get calls from bands I would record saying, "Hey, we're gonna be on the Cock Fight. Make sure and listen." I always get a smile on my face when I hear my work on the airwaves.
And your dad was one of the men behind the TRS-80. My first-ever PC. Did you have several in your house as a kid?
Yes, we did. I was the unofficial tester for a lot of the games that were made for it. Also they had one game called Bedlam. They had a pic of my dad on the cover as the "crazy guy" in the game. My dad was also very well-known for designing guitar amps and speakers back in the '60s and '70s.
Did being a computer kid lead directly to wanting to be a band kid?
Well, that's kind of tricky. I really wanted to do the whole "band thing "growing up. I'm a drummer, so I wanted to be in a successful band and go on tour and become famous. You know, the musician's dream! But, as with most bands, internal differences always prevailed.
So, that led you down an engineering path eventually?
Well, at home growing up we always had a recording studio. My father had at great set-up to do demos. I'd always record whatever band I was in at the time. So, other bands would hear our stuff and always ask where I went to record. When they found out I did it myself, they'd ask if I could record them.
In 1992, I saw Metallica's documentary on the 18-month making of the Black Album. That really struck a note with me. I loved the sound and was really interested in whole process of it all. From there, it was Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Steely Dan, Radiohead, The Beatles, Muse and a bunch more that inspired me.
Are you such a busy guy that the only local music you get exposed to is the stuff that comes your way? Or are you able to catch shows/absorb sounds?
Well, I try and make an effort to check out local music. It's sometimes hard to get out when you work with groups that mostly like to work on the weekends but it's such a great way to check out new talent. Also I love the energy that a band puts off on stage.
Do you have some local rock heroes?
Slow Roosevelt had such a raw energy on stage. Such fun guys to hang out with. We did three records together and they really helped me get noticed in the studio thing. Same goes for The Feds. Then there was Fair to Midland. Oh, man. These guys, nothing else around like them. Doosu was one of the first bands on One Ton Records. I did their first record. One Ton was a staple in the Dallas scene for years and always churned out great bands. Also, Jibe were great. Spoonfed Tribe are super nice and talented. The last record I did with them is probably my most experimental album I've made in a studio.
How about some more recent acts?
The Better Death. Fairly new band made up of some great players from some past bands. A really cool sound and amazing technical skill. It's a treat to see them play live. Also, Moving Atlas are real pros. I've done three records with them and each one outdoes the last.
You have an interesting theory about the cyclical health of the Dallas music scene. Share.
I always think the Dallas music scene goes in six-year cycles. I think right now it's coming back, with the whole Deep Ellum club scene reopening and new clubs to play.
But again, it's up to the bands to get out there and promote themselves.
In a way, it might be easier now with the Internet, but to me it's a double edge sword.
There's so many new bands. It's hard to sift through all of the new music and bands that are putting themselves out there vying for your attention. With the record industry being so fickle right now, I think even more creativity will be needed from the bands to make them stand out. But I will say this. Dallas is one of the best supporters of live music I've seen. I've been all over the country, and just about everywhere else the clubgoers are not as warm and enthusiastic about unsigned bands and supporting them. We don't have it so bad here.
Gerst is always on the lookout for his next project. Reach him at Indian Trail Recording Studio.