One of the most well respected names in all of popular music is the name Joshua Craig Podolsky. Joshua is a multi-talented musician who is not only a wizard on guitar, but also an excellent producer who has worked with some of the biggest names in rock and even pop music. While Joshua has been primarily known for his work with other artists, he has just recently delved into his own musical endeavour with his own band called The Alien Blakk. The Alien Blakk is a unique instrumental project that teams Joshua up with Dave Ellefson from Megadeth and Craig Nielsen from Flotsam and Jetsam to create some of the most original instrumental rock out there. PGA was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to talk to Joshua about The Alien Blakk as well as a few other items of business.
Let’s talk about the project you’re currently involved with. Your current musical endeavour is an instrumental project called The Alien Blakk. Where did you get the idea for this project and how did it ultimately come about? Joshua: Ok, let’s dig right in. The idea is something that I have had inside of me for quite some time and have only recently been able to make come into fruition. It came about due to me doing so many different things and not having any one thing be fully directed toward my full capacity of creativity to express myself. I did so much for other artists, that when it came time to do my own thing, I had quite a bit to say, I found out.
You wrote, produced and mixed the album Modes of Alienation on your own, but the rest of The Alien Blakk is rounded out by Dave Ellefson of Megadeth and Craig Nielsen from Flotsam and Jetsam. Did Dave and Craig come up with their own parts for the disc or was the album completely written by you? Joshua: The album was completely written by me. It was an evolutionary process over about 18 months or so. As far as every exact note, of coarse David did a great job with his interpretation of what I was looking for, as did Craig. They were both integral parts of Modes Of Alienation. Craig and I rehearsed for about 6 weeks on the groundwork of the rhythmical base and then David came in later. Dave and Craig both had the same CD from the start point though, so it wasn't like they didn't know what they were getting into! We all really worked well with the way we each had our own prospective on the music. I am really enthusiastic about the outcome.
The names Dave Ellefson and Craig Nielsen are certainly well known in the hard rock and metal community. How did Dave and Craig become interested in working with you on The Alien Blakk project? Joshua: Craig is one of my best friends, so that was easy, I just asked him. David on the other hand had approached me about the possibility of doing something about a year before. I approached him with some perspective projects but this was the one that really seemed the best fit for us.
On your official website, the sound of The Alien Blakk is described as “a frenetic mix of Frank Zappa meets Meshuggah.” Obviously, these artists are rarely mentioned in the same breath. Is your goal to make a completely original, unconventional sound with The Alien Blakk? Joshua: Yes. A goal is something rarely achieved in all forms of attention to any degree, but this was discovered and reached here by what I was going for I believe. In art, it is very hard; this is also why I named the last song on the release "Black Art". A Black Art is an enigmatic, esoteric type of expression which can go either way, good, bad or indifferent when it comes to anything in an artistic form. The type of packaging, kind of glossy stock on the Digipack and down to the order of the songs etc. was my conception. The reality is that it is never one guy though. It is a team of many, many people that helped me realize my vision. For this, I am grateful.
The disc Modes of Alienation was mixed at legendary guitarist Steve Vai’s “The Mothership” recording studio. How and why did you end up mixing the album at Steve’s studio? Joshua: I had the disc sent to Steve Vai's label unmixed. An A & R guy called me back and said he was interested in it. We talked about how much, where and who could help assist me in the process when it came to the mix. During this time period, I picked Black Lotus out of 5 other labels who were interested and had made offers, but the mix thing still needed to be done and the A & R guy was no longer at the label, so I still went ahead and went for it and did it there anyway.
Speaking of Steve Vai, he was of course a close associate of Frank Zappa’s and at times he even toured with Zappa’s band. Did Steve have anything to do with the Zappa influence in The Alien Blakk’s sound? Joshua: No. To tell you the truth, I own two Zappa CDs. I really respect the originality and landscape of sound he was able to come up with. Very respectable and appealing. I believe that the reference comes from a place of originality and obscurity and an expression made thru many different musical concepts without worrying about the hold-ups of the commercialism in the business of music.
The name of the project, The Alien Blakk sounds like it has some sort of story behind it. How did you come up with this name for your new band? Joshua: Here is the story on the origin of the name The Alien Blakk. Basically, when I was finishing college, I was living in Cape Cod and was staying with my father on and off. I was (and still am) a bit transient with where I call home. I was thinking of moving to California. My father mentioned how a lot of people out there have stage names. So, I thought if I was to have a stage name, what would it be? Alien Blakk was the idea. Alien would be the first name and Blakk would be the last name. I spelled Blakk with two “k’s” because if you Google the word black with two “k’s”, a lot less results come up than if you spell it how it’s supposed to be. It was kind of a funny joke, but I was actually thinking about changing my name! My dad thought I was out of my mind, so he kinda checked me and I put it on hold. Soon after I had moved to California, my Dad passed away and I was really looking for something that would pay homage in a permanent way directly related to my music. I remembered the name, and put it together. The word Alien means anything foreign or strange and unique and the word Blakk is just an enigmatic expressive term that I am familiar with in art, so... it could mean anything. I felt that the material that was written and recorded basically captured a broad scope of a lot of expressive emotions and esoteric things that I had come to create. So, I felt that The Alien Blakk was an aptly named title for that.
The Alien Blakk is of course an instrumental band which means that there are no vocals. Why did you decide to go a completely instrumental route on this project without any singing at all? Joshua: I did not choose an all instrumental album, it chose me. I had never done instrumental music before. I had always played guitar and sung on every song I had ever written. Something overcame me and this was what exited when I was writing for some reason. I believe that when something feels right, you need to go with your gut on it. This just felt right.
Different artists have different objectives for their music, some look to produce number one hit albums while others choose to make music simply for the love of it and to fulfill a self-vision. What would you say is the main objective of The Alien Blakk? Joshua: I would say personal expression for the purpose to be shared with others. I know that I tick a bit of a different way and some really want to know that being different in sorts is acceptable. There is a place for us all and The Alien Blakk is that place for me.
You have had a pretty substantial career in the world of popular music, working with rock artists such as Robert Trujillo from Metallica and Dave Ellefson of Megadeth to rappers Xzibit and Coolio to pop stars such as Christina Aguilera. Out of all of the artists and musicians you’ve worked with, who would you say was the most fun to work with and why? Joshua: Everyone is the best. I have learned so much from everyone due to the fact that I was open to it. I was also ready in most cases and some maybe not as much. This life brings so many different things at so many different times that you need to be prepared to take on a challenge when it is presented to you. The opportunity is yours for the taking, but only if you go for it when you are presented to do so.
The album Modes of Alienation is of course the debut release from The Alien Blakk. Where do you see this band going in the future? Is it simply a one album project or is it something you could see yourself doing five or even ten years from now? Joshua: It is an ongoing experience. The amount of releases will depend on backing and interest, of course. I see it being a cult kind of thing but it will have its own opportunity to grow in many different aspects. I have a music company where I design all of the guitar straps, shirts, patches, guitar cables and other forms of art. The Alien Blakk is about more than just music. It is about expression and the existence of excellence in being through sound.
What does the rest of 2006 hold for The Alien Blakk? Might we see some Alien Blakk tour dates at some point? Joshua: Yes. I will be touring. I am doing some acoustic shows next month at festivals. I will be opening for Rob Zombie, Cypress Hill, Lit, Flotsam & Jetsam and Bad Religion as well as some solo shows. September is when The Alien Blakk is going to Europe for a few weeks to do a headlining tour. Anyone that is interested in having us tour with them is encouraged to email us through our web site which is www.THEALIENBLAKK.com.