‘Love’s a Bitch’: Eric Alexandrakis and translating trauma into art

Eric Alexandrakis. (Courtesy of Minoan Music, Shelby Pogue)

Grammy Award-nominated musician Eric Alexandrakis has recently released his new EP, Love’s a Bitch. A quirky, psychedelic rock album filled with playful synthesizers and jangly guitars reminiscent of the music of the Flaming Lips, the Stone Roses, and the Beach Boys, the EP is his newest release in a series of albums that were released after recovering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma for the second time.

Alexandrakis was classically trained in piano from the age of six and spent his college days at the University of Miami in the company of famous musicians such as Duran Duran’s John Taylor, who helped him produce his debut album, 9 Demos on a 4 Track

“When I was about 22 or 23 in grad school, I was producing an album for the school’s record label,” Alexandrakis explains. “During recording sessions, I was producing for five different artists all at once and we could only use the recording studio at school for overnight sessions. Basically, every weekend or so I would have to stay up all night.” 

It was about this time, however, that the first signs of his cancer appeared.

“I’d chug an entire 12-pack of Coke every night, and that would keep me awake. What I didn’t realize was that the amount of sugar in that Coke ended up contributing to my lymphoma since cancer cells love sugar,” says Alexandrakis.

“Along with the exhaustion weakening my immune system, I developed a fist-sized tumour in my chest,” he continues. “In the next three months, I had a biopsy and chemotherapy every two weeks. It was pretty rough; it came to the point where just coming into chemotherapy and catching the smell of alcohol and tourniquets would make me throw up.”

Subsequently, he would spend the next two decades out of the limelight, starting a music production company called Minoan Music. Soon after, however, his cancer would come back. The experience left Alexandrakis shaken, but he was determined to start releasing music again. Culminating in the albums Terra and Love’s a Bitch, the latter of this music mostly consists of tracks from Terra.

“This release includes pieces from an album I released three months ago called Terra, which is about the aftermath of dealing with the remnants of having had cancer twice. When I had cancer the first time, I underwent treatment for ten months. After I was done, I was like, ‘you know, life is what it is. So what if I crashed a car or ripped a new pair of pants?’ But after my cancer came back, I became more paranoid and very impatient.” 

Alexandrakis explains that most people don’t realize it’s not just the “physical scars that affect you,” but also the emotional scars, “which create some sort of PTSD.” He goes on to explain that for about two years after that relapse, he adopted a sense of “urgency to do everything at once.”

Alexandrakis has cited his experiences with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which he first contracted in 1998, as being a major inspiration and a catalyst for his music career. His Grammy-nominated audiobook, “I.V. Catatonia: 20 Years As A Two-Time Cancer Survivor”, details his experiences during and between both times he suffered from cancer.

However, he states that he is less willing to incorporate them explicitly in his music.

“I never felt like I wanted to write about cancer; if I did, I’d write it in code because I wasn’t comfortable having people know what I’d be writing about,” the musician explains. 

“On the other hand, all of my music is influenced by it because cancer influenced everything I do, but nothing direct or explicit. I didn’t really think it would be in good taste to talk about it.”

Alexandrakis describes his music as being completely different from contemporary pop in that it embraces a more lo-fi aesthetic, opting to record everything in one or two takes and using a four-track recorder rather than professional studio equipment.

Duran Duran bassist John Taylor, The Heartbreakers drummer Steve Ferrone, and Smashing Pumpkins member Kirk Kelsey, and even Alexandrakis’ teenage son all played a part in recording both Terra and Love’s a Bitch.

In the future, Alexandrakis plans to release an audiobook version of Terra, which discusses how trauma from cancer treatments goes unrecognized in society.

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