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'Lost in the City': Crash Midnight Guitarist Alex Donaldson Talks New Album and Les Pauls


Fresh off tours with such bands as Sevendust and the Pretty Reckless, Boston-area rockers Crash Midnight are preparing a new sonic assault for the new year. It begins with the release of their debut album, Lost in the City.

Songs like "151" (which pays tribute to the notorious high-proof alcohol of the same name) and “Diamond Boulevard” have infectious energy and riffs that conjure memories of classic rock albums of old—but with a modern, 21st-century twist.

I recently spoke with guitarist Alex Donaldson about the new album, his technique and gear.

GUITAR WORLD: From a guitar standpoint, how would you describe the sound of Lost in the City?

We were really going for that classic rock kind of sound. One with the double-track rhythm guitars, the left and right panning and quite a lot of blues-influenced solos. For me, this entire album was pretty much just a Les Paul, a JCM800 and a cord [laughs]!

What was the recording process like?

We did a lot of Pro Tools sessions and tracking at my studio in Columbus as well as some sessions up in Boston. Kenny Lewis is a fantastic producer. He had the right idea with our sound and it was a treat recording with him.

I'd like to get your thoughts on a few tracks from the album, starting with "151" [See the video below].

Obviously, it's an homage to the strong liquor. But from a guitar standpoint, the song has a “Night Train" [Guns N' Roses] kind of vibe to it, with riffs everywhere. The solo is very Chuck Berry influenced with a lot of double stops. I'm a really big fan of doubling and tripling the lead parts.

"Diamond Boulevard."

That's probably one of my favorite riffs on the album and one that our vocalist, Shaun Soho, wrote. It has almost a half-time feel to it. A lot of time when I lay down a track the idea is to play as fast as possible. But for this solo I was able to go off a little bit and do my thing.

What was it like touring with Sevendust, Pretty Reckless and Adelitas Way this year?

It was amazing. Sevendust was one of the very first concerts I attended, so being on the road with them was pretty special. Touring with the Pretty Reckless and Adelitas Way was also a lot of fun. Taylor Momsen is the total rock star, and every guitarist on that tour really kicked ass and pushed each other every night.

Do you have plans to tour in support of Lost in the City?

We took a little time off for the holidays, but we'll be hitting radio hard in January. From there, we have a few options for touring that we'll be confirming over the next few weeks. No matter what it is, it's going to be great.

Can you tell me a little about your musical upbringing?

I started playing guitar when I was in my early teens, and the first thing I got into was punk. I started out playing in a Dead Kennedys-influenced band that played some cool shows but really pissed off our parents [laughs]. After that, I started getting more into the blues. I live in Columbus, Ohio, and the Columbus Blues Alliance really nurtured my love for it. When it came time to go to college, I really wanted to take it to the next level so I went to Berklee.

Were you one of those players who would lock themselves in a room and practice for hours and hours?

When I was in high school I took lessons and practiced a lot. But I think once you reach a certain point in your playing and get comfortable with it, there's not much of a need to practice eight hours a day every day. But having said that, there's still a guitar in my hand that many hours a day anyway. I may not be practicing, but I'm always playing.

Who were some of your early influences?

As far as blues influences, I'm a huge fan of theatrical guys: Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and [Fleetwood Mac's] Peter Green. You can also hear Slash and Joe Perry coming out in my playing. Berklee also turned me on to some great jazz players like Kenny Burrell and Al Di Meola.

What can you tell me about your live setup?

I use zero pedals live. I literally plug my Gibson into a Marshall, and that's it. I used a little wah on the album and actually tried using it for half of a show while we were on the Sevendust tour but just couldn't stand the compromised signal. I love the straight sound of a Les Paul going into the Marshall.

Why a Les Paul and Marshall?

When you're younger, you sometimes try to imitate the people you see. I started using a Marshall amp because East Bay Ray of Dead Kennedys played one. Then when I saw Slash I knew I had to get the Les Paul. Now I've found I can't play anything else. The sustain on the Les Paul is really unmatched from any other guitar I've ever played.

What excites you the most about this next phase of your career?

I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to get this music out. We've been a band for 10 years, so every show that we do is special. I'm just trying to enjoy everything that we do. I'm excited to take it all in.

For more about Crash Midnight, visit crashmidnight.com.

James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.

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