When he was a first-year at UOW, Alex Young spent his time out of classes playing at Splendour and Peats Ridge festivals. It’s not typical, but to be fair he’d come to uni a little later than most because he was busy with a music career.
In 2010 Alex was playing with Steve Spacek and Katalyst collab group Space Invadas. Two years before this he’d fronted the third and final album for Australian soul/hip-hop game changers Good Buddha. At least some of the standard reasons people have for studying at uni apparently didn’t apply.
“Well, I didn’t study to get a job!” he jokes. “I chose to study at UOW because it seemed like an interesting platform for musical development.”
“UOW puts more focus on composition—it’s also a really interesting centre of ideas, compared maybe to some more commercial “chew ‘em up and spit ‘em out” music schools.”
Make a timeline of Alex’s career as an artist and university study fits perfectly into a long chain of musical evolution and reinvention.
His latest musical collaboration is Jim Moginie’s guitar orchestra—where he plays as one of a sextet of guitarists making music composed by the eponymous Moginie, best known for his work with seminal Aussie rock group Midnight Oil. In some ways it’s a far cry from Alex’s post-HSC days in Sydney’s Inner West as MC Xela where he formed Good Buddha with schoolmate Andy Lane.
“I love being a part of someone else's vision, performing with such incredible talent. Very often the music I have been making with others feeds in to my own practice.”
“Music is all about collaboration.”
In the orchestra his bandmates include rock, punk and pop music luminaries from the last 40 years of Australian music. They’ve recently performed Moginie’s Colour Wheel at venues including the Sydney Opera House.
“It’s definitely a step away from what I usually do in my personal artistic practice, but I feel like I am more comfortable after completing my degree to try these new things.”
His latest solo project, A Wyre, leans heavily into his soul and funk influences.
“I hope to take it into more experimental territory with a live improvisational element,” he says of the project, which continues his thematic and stylistic evolution. Early Good Buddha lyrics were unabashedly political, before turning towards music listeners could escape into. A Wyre’s EP Satsuma has an RnB bent with intimate tracks like I’m Yours.
“I guess you put yourself on the line,” he says of solo work. “And the feeling you get when your music is being performed well by others is extremely gratifying. Though it can really knock you around when things don't go the way you think they should,” he adds.
“But in the long run that makes you a better person.”
After the orchestra inevitably runs its course, Alex will doubtless do something new, but it’s hard to image it will include stepping away from music for any length of time.
"I was playing gigs all through my degree, so I never really took a break,” he says, and his eyes light up.
“But I’ll play music ‘til the day I die, you know?”
Does the music sound better with you? Find out more about studying music at UOW...