Posted by: D.A.S. Chicago | April 7, 2011

An Afternoon with Guitarist Alex Kinsel

John from DAS Chicago sat down with Alex before a musical jam session that took place in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove. Alex is an architecture major at Iowa State University. He’s also an avid guitar player who specializes in rock and blues. Currently Alex plays in the group The Rock Dogs.

John Leonard: When did you first pick up the guitar and why?

Alex Kinsel: I think I was in Junior High when I started playing. Seventh or eighth grade. I was listening to a lot of different kinds of rock music at the time. I was riding my bike past a little music shop in Woodridge and saw a guitar in the window that caught my eye. I raced home to tell my parents! I never got that guitar but they got me an old beat up used one. It wasn’t pretty but better then nothing.

JL: Did you ever perform in front of other people in those early days?

AK: No [laughs]. I’d basically lock myself in my room and jam to the radio. Nirvana, White Stripes, older Classic Rock, I’d be doing stuff like that. Nothing to hard or complicated.

JL: Has playing guitar influenced your lifestyle?

AK: Big time. Those were some crazy days in Junior High and High School. Playing guitar was something I could do for a while to forget about the outside world. Learning guitar also helped me learn how to focus. Understanding music and how different notes, chords, and scales interact is like strength training for your brain.

JL: What made you want to perform in front of others?

AK: Well, after I had been playing for a year or so I got bored just playing alone with the radio. I wanted to get better faster, so I started taking guitar lessons.

JL: Did the guitar lessons have a big impact on your playing?

AK: For sure! I went from just knowing a couple chords to learning scales and modes. This let me do a lot more then just play to the radio. I also learned how to write my own music and take solos. I learned a lot of blues theory and gained respect for that style. My teacher played a lot of gigs in the area, which made me want to do the same. He was one of those guys that played five nights a week and taught during the day. That seemed like the coolest lifestyle to me!

JL: When did you first perform live?

AK: At the Talent Show, Sophomore year of High School. I played “Texas Flood” by Stevie [Ray Vaughn] in front of the entire school.

JL: How did that go?

AK: Terrible! I was terrified and froze up. My fingers felt like mud. But I got through it and got better.

JL: So let’s skip forward to today. What have you been doing music wise recently?

AK: Well, I’m at school for most of the year, and Iowa doesn’t have a music scene like Chicago’s. I jam with a couple kids in Iowa but not to often. When I’m back here in Chicago I play a lot more with my jam group, The Rock Dogs.

JL: What kind of shows do The Rock Dogs play?

AK: Bar shows, benefit gigs, parties, that kinda stuff. Anywhere that’ll give us free beer.

JL: Do you still get nervous on stage?

AK Not as much as I used to. When I started playing live it was like a pit of impending doom in my gut. Now it’s like an excitement-induced adrenaline rush. Nothing feels better then standing in front of some drunk people and sending ’em into a dancing frenzy with an upbeat tune. We do a lot of popular covers that really get the crowd going. When you can tell an entire room is excited to see and hear you it has an amazing impact on your self-esteem.

JL: Do you have any gigs coming up? Where can people go for more information?

AK: Aside from occasional garage jams, we won’t have anything until the summer. We don’t have a Facebook or Myspace or anything like that, but if someone wants to contact me, they can do so at

JL: Thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk with me.

AK: Thanks for beer.

JL: Anytime.



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