By Erin Finnegan
On Friday September 2, 2011 The Institute of Production and Recording welcomed the ever so talented, one man band, Alex Crankshaft to Adam Levy’s DIY-360.
Showing off his style by sporting a fantastic pin striped suit, complimented by a light blue tie, Crankshaft made it clear he was all about the 50’s. He opened the day with “Rust Bucket”; an original song rooted in the style of Mississippi Blues. While Crankshaft shared his musical journey the DIY crowd listened intently.
As a kid, Crankshaft admitted music was something that consumed his life. Unlike his peers, however, Crankshaft was drawn toward old school rhythm and blues. “When people told me ‘this is the best guitar player [insert reasoning here]’ I never believed them. I always loved and still do love finding who the real first tough guy was.” And it was obvious, from his own playing style, that Crankshaft’s influences didn’t mirror those of other musicians his age. Even so, he admitted to playing in a surf punk band with his brother,”… it’s a middle ground for the two of us.” Even so, it’s noticeable that punk holds an informing influence over his one man band; there is nothing careful about the way he approaches his performance.
Before launching into his song “Neighborhood Boys”, Crankshaft offered a little backstory. “I just bought a house with my wife in Anoka” he said. “My neighborhood is full of little kids, and they love to spend time at my house. One day they asked me to write a song for them so I wrote them this.” He then struck up “the band” again, this time with a kazoo. If you’ve never seen one man play a drum kit, using both feet, and strum a guitar, for the purpose of accompanying his own singing, you’re missing something extraordinary. Amidst all his business, he’s a believable performer who brings the crowd along with him. But he admits there is a learning curve to what he does.
When asked about touring Crankshaft humbly admitted he’s played more than one hundred live shows; it has taken a lot of practice to be a good one man band, “There is much more ammunition being a one man band. At first I was nervous because it’s all on me. But playing guitar is like learning how to hit a nail with a hammer. The more you practice the better you will become and the sooner it will become an unconscious effort… If I’m not having fun, people will see that.” And they have; he’s finally in a place where his performance is technically polished, and he’s no longer working a “day job”. He added that he’s getting ready to hit the road for a thirty-day tour later this month.
To close the day, Levy posed the question, “Are there any musicians you listen too/like from today?” After a brief pause Crankshaft responded with a simple “not really.” He continued, “It’s really hard for me to find someone who I truly like from today’s music. It’s never anything original. Someone has already done that and has done it better.”
Though Alex Crankshaft draws from a traditional American musical style, he clearly brings something altogether unique and personal to his interpretation. With passion and a solid work ethic, anything is possible… even a one man band. Crankshaft left IPR students inspired by his performance and informed by his musical journey.