Ali Handal
Yahoo
9th December '03
   
Ali Handal is a prime example of what an independent artist should be - Not only is she a hard working, talented song writer but also an awesome guitar player with a voice and looks to DIE for!! Ali has accomplished a lot in a little time - in the last 3 years alone she has toured across the US & the UK, had a critically acclaimed, award winning debut album, songs placed in both film and television, and even auditioned for the likes of pop-punk diva, Pink!. Ali is tipped for the big time some time soon and that's a SkidMark prediction we have no qualms about putting money on - Ali rocks, period. Although busy working on her follow up album to "Dirty Little Secret", Ali, AKA Alivibe, kindly took the time out to chat with SkidMark's answer to Jerry Springer, SkidMcSkidder about her current scene and plans for world domination in 2004!!

SkidMcSkidder: Hi Ali, thanks for agreeing to be December's FAOTM and taking the time out to do this virtual interview!

Alivibe: It's my pleasure, Mark!

SkidMcSkidder: I know you've been tied up with a whole host of wild projects lately but before we talk about them it'd be great if we can start with a little background info on what make's you tick...

SkidMcSkidder: When did you first decide to pick up a guitar and start writing the awesome material you produce so well - what was the driving force?

Alivibe: Well, I always loved music, and I started playing piano when I was a little girl. I switched to guitar when I was 12 years old because all the music I loved was guitar based. I was listening to a lot of hard rock and early metal like Led Zeppelin (my all-time favorite band), Metallica, Van Halen & other stuff I'm not so proud of mentioning! (Laughs out loud)

SkidMcSkidder: Heh heh, some of us are still stuck in that time warp! (Laughs out loud). So at what age did you start serious song writing?

Alivibe: Not until about 1997. I was mainly a guitar player and a singer until then. And actually, I only sang in high school choirs & musicals -I wasn't really singing rock music until I started writing my own material.

SkidMcSkidder:Cool. And what was the first track you ever wrote?

Alivibe: Well, let's see. I'm not sure. I wrote instrumental guitar stuff at first - riff-oriented rock stuff. Lyrics and actual songs came a bit later.

Alivibe: Okay -I just got my first copyright form out, and I think the first song I wrote was this sad love song called "What Could Have Been." It wasn't the best song I've ever written, but it was a start!

Alivibe: Also on that copyright form is a song called "Love at First Bite," some kind of tongue-in-cheek vampire sex/love song! (Laughs out loud)

SkidMcSkidder: Is there something you're not telling us? (You don't avoid sunlight and sleep during the day do you??) (Laughs out loud)

Alivibe: Let's just say that I dig the whole vampire, biting the neck thing. Plus, vampires always seem to have long hair, which I find very sexy!

SkidMcSkidder: Damn! And I had my nipple length hair cut a few years back now! Heh heh. So what was you're first guitar?

Alivibe: It was a $100 Yamaha acoustic, which I still have. I don't play it, though, because now I have two Taylors that sound a lot better. But that Yamaha saw me through MANY hours of practicing and saw lots of stage time up until a couple of years ago.

SkidMcSkidder: Yeah, Yamaha make some excellent entry level guitars - I had a cheap one myself about 6 years ago which had a great tone, but unfortunately being a lefty I strung it upsidedown and I could never get the intonation right!

Alivibe: I also had a CRAZY Explorer guitar with a dragon air-brushed on it. I have pictures of me standing in my parent's driveway, dressed up like a crazy rocker-chick when I was about 15 years old, holding this guitar. That's about as far as that guitar ever got to being played onstage (at least with me). It weighed like 40 pounds - it was this huge, thick piece of wood!

SkidMcSkidder: Hah hah - I'd LOVE to see those pickies!!

SkidMcSkidder: You mentioned the Taylors plus I know you've a Fender Strat & a Les Paul - which would be you're all time favourite?

Alivibe: Gosh, I don't know how to pick a favourite! Recently I've really been into my baby Taylor--doing finger picking and stuff on it for the new record. But I also just got a new Epiphone archtop that I'm really looking forward to spending some time with and getting to know better.

SkidMcSkidder: Oh yeah, that's right - you've just been endorsed by Epiphone guitars - how'd that come about?

Alivibe: Well, the woman who contacted me said she found me online, and I also have a friend who works at Gibson who said he forwarded my website to her, so I'm not sure exactly how they first heard about me, but they wanted me to participate in the 2004 Epiphone calendar and start using their guitars. So now I have this beautiful archtop that I get to play with, and I'll be using it at a showcase I'm doing with Gibson & Epiphone at the NAMM show in January (that's an annual industry tradeshow for music merchants).

Alivibe: NAMM = National Association of Music Merchants

SkidMcSkidder: Fantastic! And for all those drooling Ali fans (including me!!), where can they get their hands on the calendar? (You're Dec's girl right?)

Alivibe: Yeah, I'm December. I'm hoping to have the calendars for sale through my website, but I don't know when they'll be available. I do have a couple of the photos from the shoot I can send you! They'll be a Skidmark exclusive until I can get my web guy to post them on my site! (Laughs Out Loud)

SkidMcSkidder: Excellent!! (Although I don't know if I'd want to share 'em!) Heh heh. You mentioned the new album you're recording but before we talk about that we have to talk about THE definitive Indie rock CD of 2001 "Dirty Little Secret"!

Alivibe: Gee, thanks! What do you wanna know?

SkidMcSkidder: Where do I start?....

SkidMcSkidder: Without a shadow of a doubt DLS was easily the best CD I received through the SkidMark mailbox in 2001. From the instantly catchy, rock tunes to the superb production quality of the entire album, DLS has it all. Especially SEX! There's some damned erotic stuff in your lyrics Ali - any of the songs based on experience??

Alivibe: Pretty much all of them. And definitely all of the sexy ones!

SkidMcSkidder: Awesome!!

Alivibe: It's dangerous to go out with me, or any songwriter, for that matter! Your private life tends not to be so private - especially when things go wrong! I guess it's one of the drawbacks of dating a musician!

SkidMcSkidder: Too true - my problem is I tend to write about the melancholy stuff Heh heh

Alivibe: Yeah, I think we all do. Sometimes the challenge is finding a positive spin on something melancholy. Most of my songs tend to be bittersweet, or sexy with some sort of dark side. I tend not to write songs that are 100% depressing or 100% happy. With the exception, of course, being "Indy" (who's on my lap, purring, as I type--makes it a bit awkward, but at least he's not sitting on the keyboard!)

SkidMcSkidder: Hah! That's a coincidence! My she cat Holly is currently asleep against my foot! Hey perhaps we should introduce them - it might be the start of something beautiful.... (Laughs out loud)

Alivibe: You never know! Indy's very friendly!

Alivibe: Indy just sat up and started checking out the computer. Maybe he senses Holly's presence! (Laughs Out Loud)

SkidMcSkidder: Heh heh - he'd be okay making out with her too - she was very much like me when she was younger so I had to get her neutered!! (Laughs out loud)

SkidMcSkidder: Back to the album - DLS has won plenty of awards over the last couple of years - any that really make you proud?

Alivibe: Well, I think the most prestigious award was a placement in the John Lennon Song writing Contest for the song "Distance." What made it even more meaningful was that fact that one of the judges for my category was Ani Difranco, who is one of my all-time heroes!

SkidMcSkidder: Very cool! That's the beauty of the CD - the songs range from solid rock to some really beautiful ballads - my favourites are "Slave to ambition" & "What are you waiting for"

Alivibe: Thanks!

SkidMcSkidder: The new acoustic album - is it a change of direction from the previous CD?

Alivibe: Yes -more songs along the lines of "Distance." It's the sensitive side of my song writing, and I'm playing acoustic guitar, along with Wes Wehmiller on bass and David Leach on percussion.

SkidMcSkidder: These are two of the guys from your new backing band right?

Alivibe: Well, David Leach played on my first CD, and we were in a band together back in the late 90s, before he went on the road with Ben Harper for four years. (I'm proud to have been the person who turned him on to Ben's music!)

Alivibe: And I just started playing with Wes last year. His first professional gig was replacing John Taylor in Duran Duran and touring the world - He's absolutely incredible! So I'm playing with some really inspiring musicians!

SkidMcSkidder: Wow! You certainly move in the right circles! And are you playing live much at present?

Alivibe: Yes and no. I'm not doing any Ali gigs - I'm doing my best to focus on getting this record done. But I still have to pay the bills, so I work as a singer and guitarist for other bands. Tonight I have a gig with my friend Jamie Green, who is really talented. My percussionist David will be playing, along with bassist Orlando Sims, who also plays on some of my gigs. I'm really lucky to have such talented friends - It's so much fun playing with them!

SkidMcSkidder: Being paid to enjoy yourself - you can't beat gigging! I was lucky enough to catch you live on the UK leg of your "Kindness of strangers" 2001 tour - how did you find the British audiences compared to your home fans?

Alivibe: I find that audiences are pretty similar everywhere - they want to have a good time, be entertained, and feel a connection with the performer.

SkidMcSkidder:I was amazed that although you were playing a solo acoustic gig you still managed to fill the entire venue with sound - it was also especially cool to hear a different hook on my favourite Ali songs - my only regret from that gig was having to rush off to catch my train back to SkidMark HQ - when are you coming back??

Alivibe: As soon as my new CD is done, I'll start touring again. I don't know exactly when that'll be, but I'm hoping for Summer 2004. I can't believe it's almost been three years since I've been to the UK! I can't wait to return. I have a sister who lives in London and I have yet to meet her little pug Sid.

SkidMcSkidder: Well that's something to definitely look forward to (I'll bring a digi camera that works properly this time too!)

SkidMcSkidder: You've had a number of tracks used on both TV & film soundtracks including popular series such as "Sex in the City" & "Dawson's Creek" that must be a cool feeling!

Alivibe: Yeah, it's a great feeling, especially to be on "Sex in the City," which is one of my favourite shows (despite the fact that I don't have a TV!)

SkidMcSkidder: Really? I don't think I know anybody who doesn't have a TV!! Any particular reason??

Alivibe: Lots of reasons! Commercials disguised as news & programming, and then there are the actual commercials, and the enormous amount of time wasted watching television.

SkidMcSkidder: Yes, that's one thing I noticed when I was in the US was the amount of commercial breaks in the programming!

SkidMcSkidder: So how did you get the tracks noticed? Were you approached by agents for the programmes or do you have somebody canvassing on your behalf?

Alivibe: My producer Tim Bomba is also a music supervisor, and he has helped me get my music to other supervisors. Those are the people in charge of putting music in films & TV shows. I also go out and meet as many music supervisors as I can, and just network like crazy.

SkidMcSkidder: Cool. Didn't you also have a song used in a soundtrack for a film starring Darryl Hannah?

Alivibe: Yeah, it was a movie called "Dancing at the Blue Iguana."

SkidMcSkidder: Did you attend the premiere? Red carpet, etc??

Alivibe: No, but I did go see the movie in the theatre. It was cool, except that a different song played during the movie than the one we had originally licensed to them, so we had to straighten that out after the fact. That kind of thing happens all the time.

SkidMcSkidder: Heh heh it must've still have been way cool sitting there watching with a theatre load of people and hearing your music playing!

Alivibe: Yeah, it was pretty cool.

SkidMcSkidder: I'm surprised you haven't been snapped up by a major label yet with all the exposure your music has had through various media's - in fact tell us about your recent audition to be PINK's bass guitarist!

Alivibe: That was a great experience! David Leach, my percussionist, called me when I was visiting my sister in Colorado and told me about the audition. I was scheduled to return home the following day, which was two days before the audition, so I bought Pink's CD that night and started learning the songs. As soon as I got home, I went out and bought a bass, coloured my hair, painted my nails black, and two days later I was playing with Pink's band! Even though I didn't get the gig, I did really well in that I got a call back, and this is after only playing bass for a couple of days. I was inspired to start really learning to play bass! Of course, there's always so much I want to do and never enough time to do it all...

SkidMcSkidder: I know that feeling! (Laughs out loud) So there's potential of you moonlighting as the coveted stereotypical rock chick with a bass occasionally??

Alivibe: What's stereotypical about a rock chick with a bass? Is it more stereotypical than a rock chick with a guitar?

SkidMcSkidder: It's a Brit-pop thing - a lot of band's I know think that one of the "must have" ingredients of making the big time is a "chick playing bass" in the line up - beats the shit out of me why!

Alivibe: Oh really?! Hmm... Well, if I like the music and they want a bass player who can sing (and I'm using the term "bass player" loosely - (Laughs Out Loud)), why not?

SkidMcSkidder: Let's talk about every independent musician's Godsend - the internet. How long has www.alihandal.com been online?

Alivibe: Since about 2000, I think.

SkidMcSkidder: You had it revamped not too long ago and it's looking hot at present (especially the photo section!!) - how do you find the web site has helped further the Ali Handal cause?

Alivibe: It's just nice to have a place where people can stay in touch with me, see photos, hear music, etc - especially if they can't see the live show because they're far away. Actually, I have plans to update the site, but it's just another one of those things I'm trying to make time for!

SkidMcSkidder: Do you feel you've gained a much bigger fan base as a result of the site?

Alivibe: It's definitely helped. The other main ingredient is playing live & touring, which I'm eager to get back to!

SkidMcSkidder: Out of interest I ran the search words "Ali Handal" through 4 of the major search engines today and was amazed at how many sites turned up with references to either you or your music (Altavista = 392, Yahoo = 1390, Google = 1390) you're taking over the web slowly!!

Alivibe: (Laughs Out Loud)! That's good!

SkidMcSkidder: I was also psyched to see that your SkidMark promo page came consistently high up the results list when searching for "Ali Handal"! (Altavista = #3, Yahoo = #5 & Google = #7) - In fact on Altavista it got a higher ranking than alihandal.com ! (Laughs out loud)

Ali Handal: How funny! I must confess, I don't know how all that ranking stuff works.

SkidMcSkidder: Nor me! Those search engines are a law unto themselves - the point I was making was I'm pleased that the pages I prepare for you the artists are listed and available to potential fans to be found. 8-)

Alivibe: Yeah, that IS awesome!

Alivibe: The internet is really cool... I just got an email from a fan who found out about me on www.bumpskey.com. She won my CD in some contest way back in 2001 or something, and I had no idea she was listening until she wrote me last month.

SkidMcSkidder: Hah - you pre-empted my next question: How important do you feel internet radio stations such as the incredible www.bumpskey.com are to promoting unsigned acts in comparison to say commercial radio?

Alivibe: Well, there's no comparing internet radio with commercial radio - you basically have to pay LOTS of money to get any significant amount of air time on commercial radio stations, and the payoff is potentially HUGE. That kind of airplay is generally out-of-reach for an indie artist. But internet radio stations can be wonderful for gaining exposure, even though, from my experience, the audience is currently pretty small.

SkidMcSkidder: So what gives you the biggest buzz - hearing the final mix down of a brand new track for the first time in the studio or the reaction of the crowd to it when first played live?

Alivibe: I enjoy both, but I think playing live in front of a rapt audience is the ultimate high for me, music-wise.

SkidMcSkidder: Yeah, that is a great feeling. So what're your main targets for 2004 musically?

Alivibe: Finish and release my second full-length CD, and keep on keeping on! Writing and co-writing with talented people, touring, just doing more of what I do now.

SkidMcSkidder: Well, I hope to see you in the UK again next year and I'm definitely looking forward to your next album - if it's anything like "Dirty Little Secret" it'll ROCK!!!

Alivibe: Well, ROCK may not be the exact term, but it's sounding pretty beautiful so far.

SkidMcSkidder: Cool

Alivibe: Thanks so much for being so supportive of my music - It means so much to me to have friends in the UK!

SkidMcSkidder: You'll always have a dedicated supporter in SkidMark!

SkidMcSkidder: Okay, time to find out a little about your preferences... So if you'd like to answer one or the other of the following....

SkidMcSkidder: Long hair, leather jacket or lumberjack shirt & stubble?

Alivibe: DEFINITELY long hair, leather jacket (though I can do without the leather)

SkidMcSkidder: Harley Davidson or Ford Mustang?

Alivibe: Ford Mustang

SkidMcSkidder: Milk or dark chocolate?

Alivibe: Dark, melted, with strawberries & cream fondue

SkidMcSkidder: Oooh stop! I'm getting hungry now!! (Laughs out loud)

SkidMcSkidder: Er...

Alivibe: Ha

SkidMcSkidder: Californian sun or French Alps Snow?

Alivibe: How about the French Riviera Sun?

SkidMcSkidder: The angle was you like it hot or cold?

Alivibe: I like it hot, but I like it French!

SkidMcSkidder: Goddamnit Ali!! How the hell am I supposed to think of any further questions with that thought in my head now??? (Laughs out loud)

SkidMcSkidder: Let's see....

SkidMcSkidder: Island cruise or road trip adventure

Alivibe: Hmm.......Road trip adventure, unless the island cruise was on a TINY ship--no Love Boat for me, thanks

SkidMcSkidder: Denim jeans or denim mini skirt

Alivibe: Jeans

SkidMcSkidder: Vogue magazine or Keranng?

Alivibe: Neither...I prefer Bitch magazine!

SkidMcSkidder: Laughs Out Loud

SkidMcSkidder: What's the most bizarre thing to have happened at one of your gigs?

Alivibe: While I was singing "Indy" at a Starbucks gig, an adorable little girl - probably 5 years old or so - started meowing (I was egging her on, of course). Then, she got on her hands and knees and started crawling all over the coffeehouse, meowing her head off! It was REALLY hilarious and cute!
alivibe: Also, I've had three audience members propose to me while I was onstage. Of course, none of them knew me! (Laughs Out Loud)!

SkidMcSkidder: Well, I can definitely sympathise with those guys - what size is your ring finger again? (Laughs out loud)

SkidMcSkidder: Finally, and it's connected, are you dating at present? And if not are you looking for Mr Right? (Or is that Mr Rock?!)

Alivibe: I'm not dating right now. I wrote a song called "Mr. Right Now" while I was on tour in 2001, which was my mindset at that time!

SkidMcSkidder:Damn! And I had to run for my train that night in Manchester too!! Ha ha ha!!

Alivibe: Aren't you happily married already?

SkidMcSkidder:I am now - I was still single then

SkidMcSkidder: Actually no I wasn't!!

Alivibe: Oh!

SkidMcSkidder:I got married in '99!! DOH!!

Alivibe: Wait - My tour was in 2001, so you must've been married, no?

SkidMcSkidder: Yeah - must the Ali effect - I'd just forgotten I was married! (Laughs out loud)!

Alivibe: (Laughs Out Loud)

SkidMcSkidder: Well, Ali....

SkidMcSkidder: Thanks for enabling me to finish 2003 on a high with not only you being SkidMark's FAOTM, but hanging out with me online and providing SkidMark visitors with yet another great interview to read

Alivibe: It was my pleasure, Mark! Now it's time for me to start practicing for my gig tonight!

SkidMcSkidder: Well best off luck for tonight and even more for all of next year's projects, including the new album and hopefully a UK tour. Thanks again for hanging Ali & take care of yourself and Indy!

Alivibe: Will do Mark! Bye!

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Virtual Interview conducted using YAHOO instant messenger 09-12-2003
SkidMark Multimedia Productions MMIII