Mel Gibson and Martin Scorsese have nothing on Everclear leader Art Alexakis when it comes to controversial depictions of Jesus.
Want to peep a side of the son of God you've never seen before? Check out the low-budget video for Everclear's "Hater," in which a very fallible Jesus smokes, drinks, gambles, does squat thrusts with a cross on his back, knocks over baby strollers, cavorts with strippers (who get fed communion wafers from an unconventional place) and rolls up his smokes using pages from the Bible.
"A lot of people get it, some don't and some just don't like it," said Alexakis, a self-described devout Christian, of the clip for the first single from the band's upcoming album, Welcome to the Drama Club, due September 12. "It's not trying to debase Christianity or Christ. The 'Hater' Jesus is the farthest you can go from what someone who is spiritual might think Christ would be. It's about showing hate in any form whatsoever — and the fact is, it's totally a breakup song."
Ah, yes, the breakup. It's been a couple of years of breakups and breakdowns for Alexakis. In addition to parting ways with his longtime Everclear bandmates bassist Craig Montoya and drummer Greg Eklund, Alexakis split with his major-label home of nearly a decade, Capitol Records, as well as his third wife and declared bankruptcy.
Any or all of these events might explain lines like, "It's got me sad, I'm kinda stressed/ You got me feelin' anxious, I'm always depressed/ I don't want to play this game of tug of war/ I don't want to be with a hater like you anymore," from "Hater." Despite its vitriol, the song is a remarkably upbeat slice of classic Everclear: chunky guitars, instantly hummable chorus and that signature slightly sleepy Alexakis vocal.
The clip was shot on digital video for about $15,000, guerrilla style, on the streets of Alexakis' hometown of Portland, Oregon, without any permits, using a local actor and lots of unpaid help. It quickly jumped into the top 10 list of music clips on iFilm and created a flood of comments on Everclear's MySpace page and the MySpace page the band set up for the video's protagonist, Hater Jesus.
A fan named "starr" posted a message of support on the Everclear page recently, saying, "I was just wondering why some people would question your 'Hater' video but not question the day-to-day hate that the video does depict. Especially from organized religion! If it comes from a 'godly' person's mouth, it must be true, seems to be a lot of people's rationale. Maybe 'Hater' will make just one of those persons stop and think for a moment. I know that I did."
But Alexakis said he's also gotten some pretty heady condemnation from "about 5 percent" of the people who've seen the clip, some of which he chronicled on a blog on the Everclear page. "You want my money ... but you're no longer getting it ... because you're an enemy of my religion. ... You hate Christianity, and I hate liberalism," wrote one seemingly former fan, while another told the singer, "The new song 'Hater' is totally untrue. Man, you guys have no idea, just because some Christians are like that doesn't mean all of them are. ... And to say that God hates people ... that's ridiculous. ...You should seriously read the Bible, man. ... You got it seriously wrong, bro."
As Alexakis explains further on his band's MySpace blog, "This cretin in the vid is not Jesus, he is the anti-Jesus. He is [the] epitome of what most believers would say they revile about humanity, but when you look at the contradictions that exist in all of our lives, this guy is the true example of a human life without love."
Though he's essentially starting from scratch with a new band and a new indie label, Alexakis dismisses suggestions that the video is a naked — and fairly successful — publicity stunt. "A 44-year-old guy walking around with bleach-blond hair is a more naked ploy for attention than this," he laughed. "I knew it would piss a lot of people off and get a lot of attention, but I wasn't even sure if it would be positive attention."
The new band — guitarist Davey French, bassist Sam Hudson, keyboardist Josh Crawley and former Everclear drum tech Brett Snyder — were more willing to go in the direction Alexakis said he had in mind for the album, a mix of classic Everclear grunge-pop and melodic old-school '70s rock.
"It's more R&B influenced, but it definitely has that Everclear sound," Alexakis said of songs like "A Taste of Hell" and "Shine." "No one is going to mistake me for Bob Dylan. We write decent songs and we're a decent band.
"At this point, I don't own anything — no house, no car — but I don't really care," he continued. "After working on the MySpace page and seeing the response, I think we have a viable career, and I don't know if it will be bigger than before, and don't care. I just know I'll definitely enjoy it more this time."