Portland, Oregon has always been a place well known for artistry and music. However, doing the early to late 90’s, a time dubbed by many as the Grunge Years, Portland came to prominence as a hotbed of musical talent—though with admittedly, smaller names than our sister Seattle, three hours to the north. From local bands like Pond, Heatmiser, Poison Idea, and well known Portland base/nationally known acts like Elliott Smith (Late of Heatmiser) and Everclear, Portland contributed to the musical conversation on a national level.
Art Alexakis was born in Los Angeles California in April of 1962. He moved to Portland, shortly thereafter, went on to form Everclear in 1991 with Craig Montoya (bass) and Scott Cuthbert (drums). Cuthbert was replaced by Greg Eklund about the same time the band was getting well known nationally), has been a staple of the Portland music scene for nearly three decades now.
The youngest of five children, Alexakishad a rough childhood which is often reflected in his lyrics (“Father of Mine” “Why I don’t believe in God). His father left the family when he was five, forcing Alexakis and his family to move to the projects outside of Los Angeles. When he was twelve, his brother George died from a heroin overdose. That same year, his fifteen-year old girlfriend committed suicide. He made a suicide attempt of his own, but claims that his dead brother spoke to him and urged him to live.
But his struggles continued—especially his battles with drug and alcohol addiction (reflected in the lyrics to his songs “Heroin Girl”, “Strawberry” and “Color Pit,). Thankfully clean and sober now, he has used these life struggles to create music that is relatable and, inspite of their dark content, full of hope and optimism. In 2000, he announced that he was no longer an atheist but was, in fact, a Christian. As quoted in Spin magazine and speaking of his then fiancée, he said: “She’s a Christian, and I’m a Christian—my ex isn’t—and so I was like, it’s okay to be a Christian. I’m not like a born-again… Well, I guess I am born-again, in a way. But I don’t knock people over the head with it. I just kind of use my spirituality to make my life better.”
Art Alexakis, a tattoo enthusiast, and Everclear personify artistry in Portland, Oregon. He has been able to use his painful upbringing and his difficult life path to bring hope and entertainment to millions of people around the world. Whether or not you consider yourself a fan of his music, he is one of the people that for better or worse, has put Portland on the national map. He’s part of what makes Portland, Oregon such a cool and interesting place to call home.