Art Alexakis grew up in a housing project in Culver City, Calif., the youngest of five kids raised by a single mother. He attended Santa Monica High School, where his classmates included Sean Penn and Emilio Estevez. At 25, he moved to San Francisco and had a hand in founding two record labels, becoming the house producer for one of them, Shindig. He flirted with everything from country-punk to Big Black-style noise in a number of different bands, but it wasn’t until he followed his pregnant girlfriend back to her hometown of Portland that he got his first big taste of rock-star success.
Everclear, the band Alexakis launched in 1992 with the help of the want ads in a local weekly, went from being just another aspiring Portland band to the city’s biggest national rock attraction in less than three years, and Alexakis from a nonentity newcomer to the city’s most reviled musician. It wasn’t Everclear’s music that prompted either development, say detractors—it was Alexakis, a shrewd careerist in a scene that prides itself on diffidence.
Peter Krebs, singer for Portland indie fixtures Hazel, launched a grassroots, word-of-mouth campaign to out Alexakis as a corporate contaminant, a grunge mercenary exploiting the scene to his advantage. Things got pretty personal: One of the biggest shells in Krebs’ arsenal was a December 1993 incident in which Alexakis allegedly slugged Jenny Dodson—the formerly pregnant girlfriend—in the arm when she threatened to leave him and take the couple’s toddler daughter with her. Oddly enough, though, it was Krebs who got his turn at public humiliation when Spin magazine broached the incident in a 1996 Everclear feature. Dodson and Krebs had briefly dated; Dodson and Alexakis were already married, and her comments to the magazine were scalding on the topic of the man—Krebs—who was allegedly trying to protect her from further abuse.
Arm-punching incident notwithstanding, Alexakis’ most grievous offense against Portland was apparently to be an aggressive businessman with an unfashionable ear for mainstream success and an eye for image. Fitting, then, that in less than 10 years since the grunge-lite of “Santa Monica” rang from every FM station across the country, he’s the only original or even semi-original member left in the band (drummer Greg Eklund and bassist Craig Montoya quit late last year), and the current incarnation of Everclear is touring to support that most dubious of “new” albums: the greatest-hits collection. Alexakis, at least, is still going strong.
Everclear plays the Wilma Theatre Monday, Nov. 22. Doors open at 6:30 PM; show at 7:30 PM. Tickets cost $21.50.