Del Osei-Owusu interviews Alex Bone…
Hello Alex how are you?
I’m good thank you 🙂 Hope you’re well!
I’m great, thank you for asking! You’re a saxophonist, composer and producer, originally from the North of England. How did it all begin for you?
Both my parents are musicians (my Mum’s a singer and my Dad’s a saxophonist) – I constantly heard them playing and teaching in the house and was always inspired by it. I started hinting to my parents when I was 5 that I really liked the saxophone. I got my first sax on my 6th birthday (a tiny curved soprano sax) and my dad started to teach me.
What did you listen to growing up?
A huge variety of music! I grew up hearing my parents play loads of different styles – pop, rock, jazz etc.
I always loved funk and electronic music. The first CD I ever bought was a compilation of Fatboy Slim’s greatest hits. I also loved collecting Ministry of Sound compilation CDs – which ranged from current and classic Electronic and House music but also Disco / Funk / Soul from the 60s / 70s / 80s. I discovered so much fantastic music through these.
Through playing the saxophone, I was also discovering lots of jazz and soul music. Some of the sax players I was into included Cannonball Adderley, Art Pepper, Charlie Parker and Maceo Parker.
Congratulations on your track “In Dream”, a collaboration with Nile Rodgers, how did it come about?
Thank you! I first met Nile a few years ago when I had the opportunity to work in RAK studios in London as a sax player. It was my first time going to London! Nile was incredibly inspiring. We kept in touch and he was kind enough to listen to music I was working on and give feedback! About a year ago, I sent him a demo of this track and he really liked it, so I asked if he would like to play on it. A couple of days later, he emailed back with his guitar stems!
You’ve won awards from BBC Young Musician to accolades in the jazz community, what’s been a real pinch me moment for you?
I’m incredibly grateful for the awards I’ve been given! I find that a big part of being a musician and composer is trying to work out best what you want to express musically. It’s a search that never finishes I think. But to be given an award is lovely because it gives you a kind of confidence boost that someone likes what you’re doing!
I have lots of happy memories where I’ve had to pinch myself – but honestly, going through the process of releasing my first singles and debut album right now feels like a big pinch me moment. It’s been a real journey to get here, so to have that culminate into this first release feels really exciting.
You have performed twice on the proms, what was the highlight for you on that?
Working with an orchestra is always a very special experience – there’s nothing that matches the feeling of playing with 50+ musicians behind you. The sound is so rich and full, yet completely acoustic. It’s incredible.
Both times I’ve played have felt very special. Playing in the Royal Albert Hall was a definite highlight however.
You are an arranger and have done your own arrangements of Chaka Khan and Gene Wilder songs, how do you approach an arrangement to give it your own twist?
There’s so many approaches and directions that you can take to an arrangement. But I always enjoy taking the melody and re-harmonising it with new chords. Or changing the groove or feel of the tune.
What saxophones do you use?
I use Yanagisawa saxophones – all 991b models.
You’ve performed across the UK and Europe, what was your favourite place to visit?
I absolutely love travelling – it’s the biggest thing I’ve missed over the past year since covid hit! I don’t have a particular favourite. I spent two weeks touring Czech Republic in 2018 – I’d never been to this side of Europe before. Everyone I met was incredibly kind and welcoming, and the musicians I played with there were incredible.
I always really enjoy going to Italy too (I could happily eat Italian food three times a day).
What artists are getting you excited at the moment?
This changes on pretty much a weekly basis, but as a snapshot of right now – Chris Potter & Shai Maestro (discovered these beautiful live duo videos on YouTube), Porter Robinson (new album Nurture), Flying Lotus (new album Yasuke), Sam Gellaitry (his new EP ‘IV’), Jacob Collier (the man never seems to run out of creative ideas!).
I recently started a Spotify playlist called “Top Notch Tunes” where share all the music I’m into.
COVID had a major impact on the creative industry as a whole, what kept you motivated?
Well, to be honest, I’ve gone through stages of feeling really energised and motivated, then other times where I’ve felt the opposite. I think we find inspiration through new things – visiting new places, meeting new people… and the lack of that over the past year has sometimes made finding inspiration a little more difficult. But finishing my album kept me really motivated, along with checking out new music / TV shows online. Basically trying to keep that exploratory state of mind as best as possible, whilst being pretty much in the same place for a year!
2020 has been a time to reflect. What did you learn about yourself?
There’s been so much to reflect on and try and make to sense of as best as possible… but personally, I’ve learnt that I should trust myself more and have more faith in my own ideas.
What’s next for you?
I have two more singles coming out in the run up to my full debut album dropping in July!
I’m also planning lots of things for after that I’m really excited about, but I don’t want to rush too far ahead of myself yet.
I can’t wait to perform the music from this album live! That will be really fun.