Soundmaker Jeffrey Alexander guides listeners through sonic worlds in his genre-bending forays from the depths of the weird zone to the far reaches of the cosmos.
Jeffrey Alexander’s prolific soundmaking has created an expansive collective of musical projects including Dire Wolves Band, The Heavy Lidders and a who’s who of original innovators. His mind-expanding sonic landscapes trip through laidback psychedelic to experimental folk with a nod to cosmic rock and old-timer classics. His profound love of artistic exploration takes him to where happiness thrives, and he wants to share it all with you, every trippy vibe, each ecstatic beat.
Heads Lifestyle: Hey, Jeffrey, where are you now?
Jeffrey Alexander: West Mount Airy, Northwest Philadelphia.
HL: What do you do with your time?
JA: For many years, I worked in museums and art spaces. I was the Program Director of AS220 in Providence, Rhode Island. I managed the theatre at The Exploratorium in San Francisco. I also ran the A/V department at SFMOMA. But since relocating back to Philly from the East Coast in 2018, I haven’t had a day job at all. I cook, hike, clean, camp, and look after my two small kiddos. And I tinker with quite a lot of musical projects: The Heavy Lidders, DWLVS (Dire Wolves Band), solo recordings under my own name, and I DJ a show called Pome Pome Tones on Camp Radio/France and Electromagnetic Radio/USA.
HL: Do you get high when listening to music?
JA: To be quite honest, I stopped using marijuana decades ago. When I was in high school and university, I got high daily, usually starting after breakfast. But I needed to drastically change my lifestyle after ingesting several hundred doses of LSD. I was completely sober throughout the 90s and early 2000s, after which I started enjoying a bit of alcohol again. But that’s it. I do not disparage weed whatsoever—I love the smell and miss it a great deal, but it's just not a good fit for me anymore. I still have intense trails 24/7 and enjoy deep listening and body vibrations constantly. I no longer need to get high to expand my consciousness.
HL: Describe a typical music-weed session?
JA: It used to be bong hits and headphones, for sure. LPs mostly. At least the vinyl and the headphones haven’t changed.
HL: What is your earliest memory of connecting the dots between music and cannabis?
JA: Oh, yeah, the very first time I encountered weed was at a Black Sabbath/Blue Oyster Cult concert in 1980. I remember when the house lights came up during intermission. There was this sweet-smelling purplish/pink cloud over the floor seats below (me and my middle-school friend were parked way, way up in the cheap seats). We were asking each other what it was and some adult heads nearby heard us and laughed: “You’ll figure it out soon enough kids.” (It’s still amazing to me, after all these years, that my father (a church minister) dropped us off—a couple of 12-year-olds—to the Black and Blue tour in Landover and picked us up later.) Well, sure enough, I figured it out around 1982 when I was attending Old Mill Senior High in Millersville Maryland, thanks to some redneck classmates who were really into Molly Hatchet. But thankfully, I took my first eighth bag of self-purchased weed to a sci-fi fantasy convention in Baltimore where I stayed at the Marriott Inner Harbor for a few days and was turned on to heady jazz, classical and prog rock. A proper, welcoming, connecting of dots, even though I was dressed up as Adam Ant.
Pearls Before Swine
I Shall Not Care
I first stumbled on Tom Rapp’s music when I was in college. I had One Nation Underground and Balaklava on an Adelphi double-LP, which I also duped onto two sides of a cassette tape for my car. Simply the best ecstatic amalgamation of trippy vibes and killer folk music and weird zones. I was all-in; this was my vibe. Many years later, I curated three volumes of Pearls Before Swine cover songs, which are all free on my Bandcamp page. I was also extremely honoured to play in Tom’s PBS band a few times in the 90s and 00s. What a legend!
Yeah We Know
In the 80s, my absolute favourite label was SST; so many of those records informed my brain from Meat Puppets to Saccharine Trust to Tom Troccoli's Dog. But this Dinosaur LP was probably played more than anything else. For a long time I had a tape dub of this with Dylan’s New Morning on the flip side in one of my old VW beetles.
Dark Star live at the Fillmore West San Francisco 1969
One of my first cannabis/music/headphone experiences. Wow! This put me on the bus, literally. I jumped in a friend’s Westfalia campervan and travelled back and forth across the country for the second half of the 80s. Every Dead show, every JGB show, many rainbow gatherings, several old time music and bluegrass festivals, so much camping.
Spires That In The Sunset Rise
Perhaps the greatest band of the last 20 years. (Hmm, maybe a tie with Bardo Pond.) Spires inspires me so, so much! I was honoured to publish many of their albums—and a few of Ka Baird’s solo discs as well—on my old record label Secret Eye. My favourite album of theirs is Four Winds The Walker. This track is from their 2003 debut. I’m also incredibly honoured that Taralie (Tekla Peterson) from Spires has occasionally been a member of my DWLVS (Dire Wolves Band).
Alice Coltrane featuring Pharoah Sanders
Something About John Coltrane
This is another all-timer recording that I was lucky enough to be turned onto very early in my weed-smoking days (much like most of this playlist). She is simply one of the greatest musicians and her work truly resonates with me. I even named my youngest child after her. And Pharaoh is just too much. Just the best vibes! This record and most of Alice and Pharoah’s catalogues are truly eternal. There is an incredible episode of Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz from 1981 featuring Alice Coltrane that I wholeheartedly recommend.
What’s The Most Exciting Thing
What’s the most exciting thing about life? It's L-O-V-E, it's love, I’m incoherent my dear, Oh happy happiness.
Love Is Peace
Speaking of love, love is peace, freedom is harmony. Another one of my all-time favourites! I discovered Amon Düül and Amon Düül II while working at Baltimore record stores in the early 90s. I’m partial to I over II, but they both have some burning trails.
Amazing, slow, funky, bluesy, Avant-Garde anthem from her debut 1972 album. She used to hang out with Timothy Leary and Ram Dass, toured with Albert Ayler and was given early analog synth prototypes from Robert Moog. And she appeared on Johnny Carson, too!? Yowsa!
Third Stone From The Sun
What can I say? Sometimes you just have to bow down to the classics. Stone-cold classics. Doesn’t get any better than this.
Fit & Limo
Introducing The Colours
Fit & Limo were a fantastic free-folk, experimental, free-jazz duo based in Altdorf Germany, outside of Nuremberg. Their work traversed bedroom synth pop to The Incredible String Band-inspired quirks to droned-out spacious vistas. I had the privilege of staying at their home in the 90s and again in the mid-2000s, and collaborating with them on a few recordings. My absolute favourites are The Serpent Unrolled and (especially) Ginnistan (holy moly, what a record!). Please search them out.
Speaking of free-folk, I went down a very deep rabbit hole of out-folk and trad zones in the 80s, somewhat related to old-timey music exploration as part of my Cold Rain and Snow Grateful Dead travels. Collections from Folkways, Harry Smith, Alan Lomax, Shirley Collins, turned me on to the British folk revival of course, and how folks like all-timer faves Fairport interpreted those vibes through the lens of West Coast Avalon ballroom Airplane jams kind of blew my teenage mind. And this was all way before the Internet. I just had weed and a good record store to show me the way. So yeah, it’s too hard to pick a favourite but I always go back to Pentangle more than any other, and have continued to do so for nearly forty years now. Jacqui’s vocals are perfect. Bert and John’s interplay, the fusion of folk and jazz, impeccable rhythm section from Danny and Terry—it’s all just so great! I don’t even mind some of the New Age 80s stuff when everyone in the band played a DX-7.
Träd Gräs Och Stenar
One of my biggest all-time influences. I was super psyched to play a few shows with them in the early 2000s. This live Stones cover from the legendary Gardet festival in Stockholm is just so raw and moving. I can somehow smell the weed coming from the speakers every time I listen to it. The best. Miss you Torbjörn.
Mstislav Rostropovich, Sviatoslav Richter
Cello Sonata No.5 In D Major, Op.102 No.2: Adagio Con Molto Sentimento D'affetto
Ultimate deep listening, recorded in Vienna in 1963. Headphones required, lying in a hammock if possible.
Jeffrey Alexander is a full-time papa and some-time soundmaker in the psychonaut groups DWLVS and Jeffrey Alexander + The Heavy Lidders. He also occasionally creates homespun fake-jazz solo recordings. According to Aquarium Drunkard, "for decades now, Alexander has been a fixture in the psychedelic mutant underground." That's true, especially when you consider his previous work with the likes of Black Forest/Black Sea, The Iditarod, Jackie-O Motherfucker, and even the Finnish freaks Avarus, to name a few. He has performed live in over 20 countries, curated several international music festivals, been a carpenter, booking agent, commercial FM disc jockey, espresso bar cafe owner, record label owner, driven an Amish farm truck, worked in record stores in three states, and lived in a van on tour with the Grateful Dead for several years.
Jeffrey Alexander + The Heavy Lidders / Bhajan Bhoy (Amsterdam Netherlands) - October tourWed 10/4 - New London CT - 33 Golden St with Slyne Family Stoned, More Klementines
Thurs 10/5 - Turners Falls MA - Shea Theater with Major Stars
Fri 10/6 - Kingston NY - Tubbys - Raven Sings The Blues 17th anniv show with Stella Kola
Sun 10/8 - Brooklyn NY - Mama Tried with Theoxenia
Mon 10/9 - Flemington NJ - Flemington DIY with Human Adult Band
Tues 10/10 - Philadelphia PA - Century with Aaron Dooley Band, Ex-Reverie
Jeffrey Alexander (solo)Sat 10/7 - North Adams MA - Belltower Records anniv party
Fri 11/10 - Philadelphia PA - Century with Seawind Of Battery
---- RECORDS ----
Jeffrey Alexander- NEW LP on Feeding Tube / Ramble Records October 2023
- NEW cassette on Aural Canyon August 2023
DWLVS / Dire Wolves Band- NEW LP on Centripetal Force / Cardinal Fuzz / Ramble Records October 2023
Jeffrey Alexander + The Heavy Lidders