Alex Cameron on love, change, and eating ass

Writing Alex Cameron off as a shock jock for his lascivious lyrics is taking the easy road out. Actually digging through the prose about STIs, cybersex, and strip clubs will reveal an earnest storyteller who, in all honesty, probably couldn’t give a rat’s ass what you call him.

On the eve of his new album Miami Memory hitting the airwaves, we caught up with Alex to chat about the good stuff.

This interview appears in Happy Mag Issue 12: The Sex Issue. Grab your copy here

alex cameron miami memory eating ass happy mag

Being a fan of Alex Cameron means being acquainted with lyrics such as “eating your ass like an oyster”. For him love is love, no matter which words you wrap it in.

HAPPY: Alex, today we’re interviewing you because Happy Mag is launching a Sex Issue, a topic you’ve never been scared to flirt with. What does sex mean to you?

ALEX: Sex is as much about giving pleasure as it is about receiving it. Songwriting has that same dynamic, like ‘I’m about to do this because it feels good. But I’ll only do it because I know in some way it feels good for everyone involved.’ I guess for me sex is a form of communication. It’s how I make sure everything’s OK. With my girlfriend, with my body, with my mind. It levels me out. It’s a way of saying the unsayable. How am I connected to her? How old do I feel? What excites me about life? These are questions I think are somehow answered by sex.

HAPPY: You treat sex and sexuality very transparently, what’s your elevator pitch on that decision?

ALEX: If you’re talking about my mind being an elevator and ideas being a hopeful writer, then I guess it’s kind of like ‘This will make your girl laugh and cry at the same time. This will connect with her and she’ll understand you for a brief moment.’

HAPPY: I guess I wanted to know what you believe differentiates you from others who sing or write about sex?

ALEX: I found something new in the subject of sex and love in the context of the contemporary family dynamic. New love blossoming in a place traditionally represented as the tiring, sexless life of parents. Regarding sex overall, I’m just trying to add to the conversation, with notes from my own perspective. Trying to find ways to write about desire without falling into the over-trodden popular male gaze. I think the kind of sex I sing about is more in-line with the sex I’d read about in a book.

Short stories and novels are my favourite places to read about sex. Reading older literature that is completely untethered compared to today’s rigid standards is so comforting. To know that whether or not something is improper depends entirely on context. And that stories live for as long as they’re read, or listened to. Ideally I’d make work that outlasts the standards it was judged under, so my music could be up in the clouds waving down at my step children’s children 50 years from now.

HAPPY: This extends to aspects of sex that some consider unsavoury, like cybersex or chasing a 17 year old. Are those stories more important to you? Why?

ALEX: I stay focussed on areas that interest me regardless of how much they’ve been covered. Discovery is for scientists. I’m either writing about a character that exists, or I’m writing about myself. My priority is good stories. Reflecting events back at themselves. Moments that are more like realisations of a thing that has existed forever. We just need to be reminded of it.

HAPPY: What’s a symptom, intricacy or other aspect of sex that you feel is critically underrepresented in art or by society?

ALEX: I think fundamentally the independent sex work industry is criminally underrepresented in conversation generally. Here we have an industry that’s discussed less than say the treatment of livestock. I think that if people were educated on the existence of sex work, the legitimacy of the independent sex work industry, and it was lifted from the sort of taboo discussions reserved for when the microphones are turned off, then we’d have a society on the way to calling itself healthy.

HAPPY: Onto Miami Memory and #eatingassinthecharts. Tossing salad is a little more in vogue than the rest of it, but still spicy to some. What can you share about this song?

ALEX: I remember writing that line you’re referring to. It’s a love song. About dedication and time. About how certain cities have important memories stored in them, in hotel rooms, or on beaches. A lousy strip joint can provide magical memories when you’re in love. That was my way of saying, ‘I don’t care if the whole world knows it, I’m in love with you.’

HAPPY: Where were you when you wrote it?

ALEX: I was living in Far Rockaway Queens in New York. I was in a small apartment sitting at an old amplified piano. My girlfriend Jemima was sleeping in the bedroom, but it was so hot, and we didn’t have AC, so all the windows were open and the fans were encouraging the breeze as much as they could. It felt like the carpet was sweating. I was drowsy and my muscles were relaxed. I didn’t have the energy to censor myself. So some real words were coming outta me.

HAPPY: Are we walking towards a future where kinks are less stigmatised?

ALEX: For me to write that song and for it to be a proclamation of hetero-love is, from the response, probably the only confronting thing about it. It’s also what people have connected with. I’d much prefer to look back in retrospect on what my songs have done, with a great deal of time between me and the moment it was written, or released. My interest now is in day-to-day satisfaction and making sure people have a good time at my shows.

HAPPY: Where does humour figure into this whole picture?

ALEX: I have an interesting relationship with laughter. I laugh hysterically at a beautifully played piano. I laugh ’til it hurts my stomach at a dog expertly rounding up a herd of sheep. I just like to see things done well. I hope if there’s laughter because of my songs it’s somehow tuned into that same response to a thing being done properly.

HAPPY: How do you react to something being done improperly?

ALEX: Frustration. Disappointment. Disinterest. If I’m the one doing it, then I feel motivated to fix it. If I’m hearing someone else’s work and it’s popular I’ll probably feel some kind of envy or disbelief, that won’t last long. I try to stay focused on my own work and not be too judgmental of others. I just want good work, for everyone, not just me. If I have access to the person who made the work, and they’re asking for my help, then I’m happy to sit down and give my perspective. I’ve done that before, sort of acting like a fixer of songs that are unfinished or directionless. It’s not easy and I often fail. But when it works it’s really good.

HAPPY: Your upcoming album Miami Memory is “a gift to your girlfriend” Jemima. What has she taught you about love that others couldn’t?

ALEX: Jemima has taught me how to give, without the act of giving ultimately being about myself. She’s taught me how to balance pleasure and duty. She’s taught me how to look good forever, not just for one night. And she taught me how to hold a child when they’ve fallen asleep, and need to get to bed.

HAPPY: On your previous work you’ve inhabited characters to tackle these topics, but now you’re just you, speaking about sex with your own voice. What changed?

ALEX: I did. I’ve got a very real connection to change. People chastise politicians for changing their minds for the sake of progress, or during a break up will accuse their partner of changing. I love having my mind changed. Or disconnecting from old ideas. I find it hard looking back at old photos of myself, I’d rather take some new ones.

This interview appears in Happy Mag Issue 12: The Sex Issue. Grab your copy here


Miami Memory is out September 13th via Secretly Canadian. Grab your copy here.