Q&A: Greg Fox On How A Rasta Alien In A Yellow Adidas Tracksuit Handed Him The New Guardian Alien Record While He Was Meditating In A Van On Tour

Rebecca Smeyne
Greg Fox, drummer extraordinaire for the sonic-spiritualist psychers Guardian Alien, is chowing down on grub at Cong Ly on Hester Street, and with the exception of a small dose of displeasure regarding the econo cuisine ("Weird. I feel like they used different noodles today or something"), the vibes emanating from him are truly copacetic.

Guardian Alien—the band Fox anchors with Liturgy guitarist Bernard Gann, vocalist/synthtress Alex Drewchin, shahai baaja-ist Turner Williams Jr. and bassist Eli Winograd—just released See the World Given to a One Love Entity (Thrill Jockey), a 40-minute Herculean composition bursting with rapturous skronk chaos, righteously percussive pulverization, soothing angelic voices and gorgeous synth swells from the otherworld. The album is up there with Black Dice's 2002 apotheosis Beaches and Canyons in the annals of mind-frying spiritual sound deconstruction.

Fox's forever grateful and positive aura manifests itself in multiple ways: on the epic See the World..., in the meditation practices that helped spawn the record, and in his deep association with Kid Millions in Man Forever. Sound of the City sat down with Fox to talk Guardian, meditation, Liturgy, peace and love, and how his parents were stoked on his being named "best drummer in New York" by the Voice—although in true Fox fashion, he happily demurred, giving that honor to his percussionist peers.

I saw you playing with Man Forever recently at Issue Project Room.

That was such a good show; it felt amazing. I love doing Man Forever. I did one tour way back; it was short, it was like two or three shows and it was when everybody was playing full kit. When I started doing MF, it was this piece where everybody was playing a drum set, so there were six or seven drum sets on stage.

Do you prefer that setup more than now?

No, actually. I like the current one a little better, even though that one was a lot more physical. I find that when I do this [version of Man Forever], it's objectively some of the best exercise I ever get, regarding both drumming and also internal, meditation-related practices. I find I'm able to adapt whatever different practices I've been doing, and apply them while we're playing the music. In Man Forever I'm focusing deeply on my hands and my feet, and that focus allows for marked improvement, which I notice after almost every performance. It has helped me to realize certain aspects of technique because of the repetition and focus. I don't usually practice drumming that way on my own, so it allows me to realize things about what my hands do or don't do right, and make corrections.

You look like you are totally in a zone when playing a Man Forever show.

I love it. I absolutely love it. Those guys—Kid and the people that he invites to do it, their approach to playing music and being musicians, I really respect, so I feel like I learn a lot from them.

What came first: Man Forever or Guardian Alien?

I think I was doing Guardian Alien shows before I did my first Man Forever show, but to be honest I can't remember. Guardian started off basically just being me inviting different people to play when I'd get booked to do my solo stuff (GDFX).

In the Voice's oral history of Man Forever with Kid, you spoke about being at the Boredoms' Boadrum show and sitting near Kid and how that changed your trajectory completely.

The Boredoms' 777 Boadrum blew my mind, and I was sitting directly behind Kid during the performance. That show was major, because all I ever wanted was to be a musician. I grew up in New York City, so I'd been exposed to all these people and this music. To find myself years later playing in their company, it's just super affirming. Imagine anything you ever wanted to do and people you look up to who do that patting you on your back and being like "Word. Hang with us."

Was Guardian Alien getting on Thrill Jockey because of your association with Man Forever?

I think that had something to do with that and also definitely the Liturgy record—that came out on Thrill Jockey, too. I got to know the [Thrill Jockey] folks mainly because we did the Liturgy record with them. But I also have a lot of friends and acquaintances who have been on that label for a minute, like Dustin Wong, Future Islands, Zomes, Double Dagger... it just always seemed to me a friendly label to work with.

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