Interview~ ALEX DONTRE--PSYCHOSTICK--Reveals Inspiring Autobiography, Dichotomies And He Answers a Few Questions For Us!
ALEX DONTRE, drummer for acclaimed comedy-metal band PSYCHOSTICK, reveals all in his new autobiography, Dichotomies: Lessons from a College Life on Tour. A must read for any musician and / or college student, Dichotomies tells the unique story of the drummer’s simultaneous musical and academic achievements through the artist’s unique mix of humor and self-perception.
The touring band life of a full-time student is full of dichotomies. From 2011-2017, Alex Dontre performed 505 concerts with his band PSYCHOSTICK while simultaneously pursuing a college education. It culminated with a master’s degree in Business Psychology from Franklin University, at which time he gave the commencement speech at his graduation as valedictorian.
We asked Alex a few question that we thought you would love the answers to..So check them out!!
- Tell us a little bit about Psychostick: how long you have been together for some of our readers that may not know about the band?
Psychostick is a group of time-travelling musicians from the 24th century. We figured out that “comedy-metal” wasn’t a thing yet in the distant past, so we got in our Time-Van™ and set the dial to 2000.
- Tell us about the new video, “Zombie Clause.” How did that creative process work?
First, it’s Zombie Claus, no “e”! The video process is pretty much the domain of our secret weapon, Murph. Once he gets an idea in his brain, we are forced to carry out harrowing tasks that will absolute come back to haunt us when we’re all 70. You may not know this, but Murph once made me shower using a taco as soap. He was zooming in with his camera and kept gagging. He’s a madman and must be stopped!
- What got you into music and what keeps you going night after night playing? How did you also choose to be a college student while touring and all of the rest with such an active band schedule?
My first concert was a big festival show with Primus, and seeing Brain play drums made me go, “yep, I need to do that.” Then I discovered other incredible drummers like Travis Barker, Tomas Haake, and Chris Pennie. “Trying” to play along to music like that is how I developed my style.
I decided to enroll in college for the first time in 2011 because my life felt a little complacent at that point. Touring was still enjoyable, but it was no longer a challenge for me. So to push myself to try new things I thought, “I know, I’ll do homework AND tour! That’s a reasonable thing for a human to do!”
- Did you plan to be a music or academic first? How involved do you plan to be in the academics vs. music? And how will you balance the two?
Music, absolutely. In fact, I hated high school so much I figured out how to graduate a year early at age 17. It was very much a “do this because I said so” kind of environment. I do not thrive in that scenario, to say the least. I did not enroll in college until a full decade later.
As for balancing the two, I am quite involved in both! Psychostick is recording a few songs this weekend. We’re also booking some U.S. shows in the coming months. Plus, I am filling in on drums for the band Dog Fashion Disco for their June tour, which should be a blast. On top of all that, I am currently teaching online at Franklin University, where I got my master’s. I’m currently in the middle of Neuropsychology, then Social Psychology is the next class, and Principles of Motivation after that. To balance them, I just carve out time each day to work on both, much like making time for eating and sleeping.
- How does the stress of academics compare to the stress of touring?
They are very different beasts, of course, but there are also a lot of surprising similarities. Academics and school projects are usually a one-person game, although it takes of ton of research into the literature of others. (Professional research is much more collaborative). Music is very collaborative in nature, although I write my drum parts by myself initially. I might change some things later on with input from my bandmates, but it starts out solo. Thus, the stress is related to the responsibility of either individuals or groups. However, not all stress is bad. It’s the prolonged worry about things out of your control that will kill you, not the short-term adrenaline. To mitigate the whole issue, I just give myself plenty of time to work on things! Cramming doesn’t work very well when it comes to memory, so I always work ahead of schedule on papers. It’s the same for learning new songs.
- Who are you inspired by musically and academically?
There are lots of incredible musicians that I am inspired by that don’t necessarily play metal. A lot of the time it’s the attitude of the group that moves me. Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah, Punch Brothers, Primus. They are all masters of their respective crafts, and they are all quite different musically.
Academically, I am very inspired by a lot of the people working in behavioral economics. Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler each won Nobel prizes for their work, and their books are both incredible. I also really love Dan Ariely, another behavioral economist, but he has TWO Ph.D.s. It takes a seriously committed person to complete multiple doctorates, and I really admire that. I am also a huge fan of Brian Cox, the particle physicist from the University of Manchester and CERN. I’m currently reading his recent book, Universal, and struggling with the complexity a bit, if I’m being honest! I’m expanding my perspective, however, which is wonderful.
- What is the weirdest or funniest question you have ever been asked?
An interviewer in Wales gave us a sheet of paper with various sheep printed on it. He wanted to know which one we found the most attractive. Just amazing.
- If you can have your fans remember you for one thing, what would that be?
That I’m always doing more than one thing.
- Do you think you can get any better as a musician/singer? And if so, How would you achieve that?
Of course! Everyone has the opportunity to expand their knowledge and develop new skills, regardless of the person’s level of mastery. People achieve that though focused practice. Not just slopping through whatever you’re trying to learn, but intently focusing on truly doing something magnificently. The goal should not be perfection. The goal should be continual improvement.
- If you could give your fans one random fact about you that you think they should (or should “not” know) about you what would that be?
Franklin University is enrolling new students all the time, and my classes have openings for you if you want to learn some crazy psych stuff. Also, my favorite hot sauce company is Yellowbird.
- You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?
I would commandeer an already existing color with a crappy name. I just looked them up and found a bunch of nonsensical names like Atomic Tangerine. What does that even mean? It sounds super metal, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Tickle Me Pink? Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown? These are terrible names! Kids don’t need more colors; they need improved naming conventions.
- What’s an average day like for you?
I start out by writing everything I want to do that day on one of those hotel notepads. As I complete the tasks, I cross them off the list. It’s very satisfying. Today’s list has 8, and I’ve already crossed out 5. After this interview, I’ll cross off another!
- Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans
When it’s online, it all depends on whether or not the person put any effort into the question. If I get a message that reads, “Hey” or “Come to my town” I probably won’t respond with much or at all. If it’s a thoughtful question, however, I’ll respond in kind. In person, I am much more generous with my time. If there are a bunch of people around all asking questions, I try to target the quiet ones to ask if they have a question or want a picture or something. The polite, quiet ones get drowned out by the drunk extroverts, and I do my best to turn the tables in favor of the nicer ones.
- Tell me about your favorite performance venues
They have fucking PARKING. If your club doesn’t have parking, your club sucks.
- What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Do what motivates and moves you. That’s how I got into music initially, and now I have a career because of it. But once you develop a career, don’t limit yourself to just one thing if you aspire to do more. You can find a million critics out there that will tell you a billion reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t. Remember, music critics are just failed musicians. Movie critics are failed actors and directors. I perceive zero value in someone talking shit for a living with nothing to contribute. Block out the noise and do what gets you excited. In the short term, daring to fail can be terrifying. But remember what the real goal is. Focus on the long term.
Hardcover & Paperback
United States: Psychostick, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & Powell’s
Canada: Amazon.ca &Indigo
United Kingdom: Amazon.co.uk & Blackwell’s
Netherlands: Amazon.nl & Bol
Spain: Amazon.es & Agapea
Australia: Amazon AU & Fishpond
New Zealand: Fishpond
United Arab Emirates: Amazon.ae