Alexander Greenwald (born 9 October 1979) is an American musician, actor, and more recently a record producer. He is best known as the lead singer of the Californian rock band, Phantom Planet, which is on indefinite hiatus according to a blog posting on the band's official website.
Life and career:
Greenwald was born in Los Angeles, California and attended the UCLA Lab School. He is a former model for clothing retailer The Gap and has also acted in the past. He played the sociopathic school bully, Seth Devlin, in Donnie Darko, alongside his friend Jake Gyllenhaal and Seth Rogen. He has since expressed that he is a musician first, and that he has no interest in acting in the future. Greenwald formed Phantom Planet in his teens with four friends - guitarist Darren Robinson, bassist Sam Farrar, guitarist Jacques Brautbar, and ex-band member Jason Schwartzman in 1994.
In 2006, he collaborated with DJ Mark Ronson, to cover the Radiohead song, "Just". The cover appears on the compilation album Exit Music: Songs with Radio Heads, as well as the Mark Ronson album, Version. He appeared with Ronson at the 2007 Glastonbury Festival where he climbed up on to the lighting rig of the John Peel stage during the performance of "Just", and also sang "California". In 2010 he collaborated once again with Ronson on the new album Record Collection, on which Greenwald shares writing credit on six out of the eleven tracks. He recently became a part of Ronson's new band, The Business Intl. He was a member of another Los Angeles band, blackblack, until 2007. At live shows he is known for 1980s styled dance moves, which he got from watching David Byrne of the Talking Heads.
His band Phantom Planet is best known for producing the song "California", which was used as the theme song of the teen drama "The OC", which lasted four seasons.
Greenwald's mother is a large part of his musical education. "Music has just always been part of my life. My mom is a guitar teacher and an abstract painter -- an all-around artist and a wonderful woman. I would listen to records with her and take guitar lessons from her. Music has been an appendage almost. It speaks my language."
Greenwald was only a young toddler when his mother built her own harpsichord from a kit. It was his first memorable interaction with a musical instrument, and Greenwald was wholly fascinated.
"Why is my mom spending so much time away from me and building a musical instrument? It's probably something extremely special," Greenwald said.
As he grew older, Greenwald began to fiddle around with the piano by himself. "I was probably 4 or 5. Before I even really was interested in playing the keys, I noticed that the mute pedal and the sustain pedal on our piano would make noises, reverberating around inside of the wood of the piano if you stepped on it," he said. "I would stop those pedals to make a 'choo-choo' sound inside the piano -- that was probably my first musical composition."
Greenwald's mother then taught him to play guitar around age 10. He learned to play "California Girls" and became a huge Beach Boys fan. A year later he started writing songs. "I tried to write something similar, something about how summer was ending - a song complaining about having to go back to school."
"There was definitely a time in eighth or ninth grade when I decided that instead of skateboarding with my friends, I should go home and play guitar."
Greenwald is a vegan and has appeared in at least two ads for PETA. He once told PETA his reasons for going vegan: "In college I stopped eating red meat on a bet with my girlfriend at the time. She bet she could stop smoking, and I bet that I could stop eating red meat. She started smoking again, so I won, which I'm always proud of....I had been a vegetarian as a child for whatever reason. I guess kids sometimes follow their instincts...My friend dared me to go vegan as I was reading this book Fast Food Nation, which opened my eyes to a lot of cruelties....Ever since then, I've been vegan and enjoyed it daily."
When speaking of his lyrics, Greenwald says, "I think that every song is sort of like a study in the way that a song should be. Each one is a feeling or a sentiment or a time or a place or all that stuff combined."
Greenwald has recently co-produced and appeared on ex - Panic! At The Disco members, Ryan Ross and Jon Walker's new band, The Young Veins debut record, Take A Vacation!.
He has also produced a few tracks on the band The Like's new album.
In addition to the commercials for The Gap and his appearance in Donnie Darko, Greenwald appeared in two music videos for the electronica band M83-"Don't Save Us From the Flames" and "Teen Angst", the video for Uffie's "ADD SUV" and also in videos for Mark Ronson, including the video for "Just".