Alex Lukashevsky

Alex Lukashevsky
Alex Lukashevsky is the kind of musician who lets his guitar-accompanied songs flow from his heart and soul. Rather than a lot of folks who write songs like an assembly of riffs with vocal lines laid on top, Lukashevsky prefers to let his solo works develop "like when you’re growing a double stemmed flower — the verses intertwine with the music and the two kind of grow together.”

Connexions, Lukashevsky’s solo debut (released by North East Indie), features songs that are as steeped in old traditions of songwriting as they are in the personal language of musical expression he’s been developing over a lifetime spent pursuing the stuff of sounds. Quite unlike the rhythmic feasts he cooks up for his band, the long running and respected Deep Dark United (which he tends to compose on piano), Lukashevsky’s solo material is whittled down (almost the entire album consists of him accompanying himself on guitar) and, at times, wholly singular.

Born in the Soviet Union, Lukashevsky began playing the violin as a young child, and went so far as to study the instrument in a conservatory there. By the time he was 14, his family had relocated to Calgary and, much to their dismay, young Alex decided to stop playing the violin. But his musical spirit could not be snuffed, and two years later Lukashevsky turned his attentions to the steel-string acoustic guitar, and eventually picked up an electric as well. Before long he was riffing on Floyd and Zeppelin and playing in bands.

In 1992, Lukashevsky moved to Toronto, and took to performing his songs regularly. "I had a really hard time learning how to play live with my guitar,” he says. "It took me a really long time to figure out how to get it to sound good on stage. I’ll never forget the first show I ever played with electric guitar, it was crazy! It was at Sneaky Dee’s [in Toronto] and it just felt like I couldn’t get it to sound like anything.”

In retrospect, he even admits to not liking the instrument much. "For a long time I didn’t like guitar, I just played it. I don’t know why I played it, but I didn’t like it,” says Lukashevsky. "I actually only started to like it about five years ago. I kind of started to think I understood something about the guitar I was interested in.”

What interested Lukashevsky was how old blues players like John Lee Hooker, Son House and Howlin’ Wolf accompanied themselves so fully. "They weren’t just laying down a grid to sing over,” he says. It interested him so much in fact he traded in his steel-string acoustic for a nylon string and taught himself to fingerpick.

Upon first listen, Lukashevsky might sound like he’s working on a logic all his own, as his songs are as far from your standard verse-chorus-verse construct as you can get, but he’s tapping into a longstanding musical language.

"If you’re thinking about writing and why you write in an organic way, rather than using presets, which would be recordings and all of the history of music, then it just becomes obvious in a way, like you just start to hear it, and to me it’s not weird or anything like that,” said Lukashevsky.

One of the things that make Lukashevsky’s solo guitar work so extraordinary is how he finds a free-flowing dialogue between his picking and his incisive, literate and articulated lyrics. "There’s the meaning of the words, but then there’s also the meaning of how the words sound, and also how the guitar or melody plays against that, whether it’s accompanying it or whether it’s mocking it,” said Lukashevsky. "But there’s definitely a dialogue — they’re both talking at the same time, it’s not necessarily an accompaniment that I just sing over. I try not to think of it that way, even in the traditional songs, I try to — especially when I perform — kind of entangle them more so that they’re both creating these two elements that collude or collide and create one meaning. And a lot of it’s instinctual, too, like I’m obviously not super-scholastic about it. A lot of it is just like, ‘Oh yeah, that feels like the right thing.’”

It’s an open-ended approach Lukashevsky also shares with his audience in a live environment. "Every night’s got its own thing — the venue changes, people change, your moods change, the room is different, the way your guitar and voice sound is different. I think you just have to address those things every time you play. It’s just an approach, like anyone else’s. It’s not the focus, it’s just a way to get to some kind of clear expression.”