Artist Spotlight

The Wisdom and Power of White Mystery; An Interview with Miss Alex White

I first met Miss Alex White of White Mystery back in 2012 when the band was on tour with the legendary Shonen Knife. I was blown away with White Mystery’s energy and immediately became a fan. At the time, the band was touring almost 365 days a year. “We would look at a year being a collection of 365 days and our goal was to fill every one of those days with shows,” Alex explained.

From the start, Alex and brother, Francis, have looked at White Mystery from the business angle with every detail thoughtfully planned. They’ve never had management or a label and are true examples of DIY. “Back when we started in 2008, DIY was a dirty word. A lot of people told us we’d never make it without a booking agent, a manager and a label and that was how success was defined at that time. A lot of people did not take us seriously because of insistent we were on remaining independent, putting out our own albums and booking ourselves,” said Alex. But these setbacks have only made White Mystery work harder for their success and they can feel proud of the fact that everything they’ve accomplished has been a result of their hard work. “We’re lucky that we stuck with it because now, 10 years later, we own all the rights to our own music, we can look back on this and really thank our community for helping us and taking a chance on us.”

Photo by Diane Alexander White

Now, White Mystery is entering their 11th year as a band, an age that not many bands reach. But they’ve changed how they function as a band. No more touring 365, White Mystery is working on bringing the magic back home to Chicago. Alex said, “The turning point was when we toured Japan. It was such a lifelong goal. We really had to fight for it, work for it and finance it. It was kind of a sigh of relief. I think it changed our perspective on what shows mean to us.” As SXSW veterans (who often played as many as 17 shows during the festival) the duo stayed in Chicago this year. In lieu of SXSW they set up a pop up roller rink in their city and over 1000 people attended. “We got 200 pair of skates, put together a crew, opened it with a fashion show with our friends Crystal Gravy. In a way, we’re taking everything we learned and did and growing our roots even deeper in our hometown.”

In addition to setting up cool events, both Francis and Alex have become quite the experienced DJs. Alex started djing when she was 19 thanks to her friend, Monika, who invited her to join at a bar called Club Foot. From there, she continued on her own and while she started with full records now she only spins 45’s (which is quite the challenge). Alex said, “We now DJ our own after shows when we play concerts. Francis is also an awesome DJ and he has different taste from me so he’ll play metal and industrial.”

These changes only further develop the White Mystery brand. Speaking with Alex, it’s clear that they’ve had a thought out plan since the beginning. “After having been in so many bands with so many different people, having gained all of those experiences, I had a vision for how I wanted the perfect band to finally be. Due to the nature of how we play and what we look like, it became clear us what it should look like and what the balance should be…When we figured out what the logo was going to look like it just flowed from there. I’m very inspired from Andy Warhol so I took a lot of cues from pop art.”

With years of experience, Alex has been able to fine tune her gear. She learned to play guitar on a Danelectro but realized it was not dependable enough for live performances. When she was 15, she saved up money to buy the Rickenbacker that she stills predominantly plays today. “I’ve had it more than half my life now,” she laughs. Alex also uses Orange Amps and has a custom white Orange 412 cabinet and a Rockerverb 50 head. She also uses a Rockerverb 50 combo amp that she loves. To perfect her sound, she’s also used Big Muff pedals and finally developed her own signature guitar pedal called the Firekeeper made by Daredevil pedals. The guitar pedal is currently sold out.

As their tradition, White Mystery has magic up their sleeve for 4/20. They’ve played over 1,000 shows, put out 100 tracks and have spent 10 years releasing music on 4/20. This year, they’re playing a free concert in Chicago with Big Freedia in front of Dispensary 33. For their musical release, Unkle Funkle from White Fang has remixed a bunch of White Mystery songs turning their rock music into electronic songs. In addition, the movie White Mystery made back in 2015, which has only been shown at special screenings, will now be aired on cable TV in Chicago.  

The cool thing about White Mystery is that they’ve always thought outside the box. They’ve conquered many goals and now continue to expand in different ways with their pop up events and live shows. There are no boundaries to what they can accomplish as they continue to grow. Alex said it best, “We’ve called it a social experiment, we wanted to see if we could do it and really stick to our morals and our mission to go where no band has gone before. By establishing that we were in it for each other and for the greater purpose it kept us together and we’re really grateful that we made it to this point and to all the people that helped us and believed in us.”

As a special feature for the magazine, Alex took the time to choose her favorite White Mystery songs.

White Mystery Self-Titled (2010)– “POWERGLOVE” was one of the very first songs by White Mystery, and went on to be one of our most licensed tracks for commercials, despite all the swear words.

White Mystery Blood & Venom (2011)– “BIRTHDAY is a classic tune, created as a 21st century rock’n’roll song and video that people can share on their special day.

White Mystery People Power (2012)– “RAPID OVERDRIVE lyrics are based on the “ROYGBIV” and “CMYK” color systems. Each line starts with the first letter of colors from the rainbow.

White Mystery Telepathic (2013)– “SECRET GARDEN” is based on my favorite book of the same name, and the lyrics explore actual spooky concepts from the children’s novel.

White Mystery Dubble Dragon (2014)– “DUBBLE DRAGON the title track of the double album, and is special because it debuts spoken-word poetry of Francis, the drummer, and my brother.

White Mystery That Was Awesome (2015)– “GET BACK is on the soundtrack of the White Mystery psychedelic film, and the lyrics talk about how good it feels to return home to Chicago.

White Mystery Outta Control (2016)– “ALIEN VISION BOMB is one of best White Mystery songs of all time, written about the freaky tourist trap, House on the Rock, in Wisconsin.

White Mystery F*ck Your Mouth Shut (2017)– “FYMS, the title track, is written in Greek and based on a real catchphrase that is particularly relevant during the current political climate.

White Mystery Hellion Blender (2018)– “PAINT YOUR NAILS is the first ever White Mystery song to use a fuzz-wah pedal, a “Cock Fight Plus,” personally gifted by Electroharmonix legend Mike Matthews.

Izzi

An avid rock musician and enthusiast as well as a rock history buff.

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