We Culture. We People: Alix “Sandman” Aird
by Lou-Ann Jordan Aug 14, 2019
We hear the beats, the booming voice and the funny lyrics and we’re engaged. Each Carnival we eagerly anticipate the renditions proffered by our talented local soca artistes.
It’s easy to simply focus on those at the forefront—the energetic singers, but what about the songwriters and music producers? All of them work together to create our beloved Grenadian soca.
Interestingly, we have one who does it all. Alix “Sandman” Aird wears all of those caps. Alix is not only a soca artiste presenting imaginative stories with his deep, riveting voice; he’s also a writer and music producer.
Yello met up with the multi-talented soca artiste and father. Alix, who hails from St. George, took time out to share a little about himself, his professions and love of Grenada. We’re sure you’re going to discover a few things you did not know about Grenada’s “Sandman”.
What inspired the moniker “Sandman”?
I was at the beach one day, sitting in the sand. A tourist passing by accidentally tripped over my outstretched legs. She apologised by saying that I blended so well with the sand that she didn’t recognise my feet was in her way. It struck me, ‘Sandman’. I felt it was a suitable moniker for me to adopt. I had been in search of the right sobriquet—one that depicted my ability to conform to different musical genres the way sand conforms to its container.
What prompted you to get involved in the music industry as a whole, and also in soca as a performer?
When I was young, I was always keen on playing my favourite songs on the family piano. I guess this ongoing process provided me with an ear and understanding of music because I had no formal training on a piano.
I believe my involvement in music sprung from those early beginnings. As I grew up, my musical interests were in rap and reggae. Back then, I wasn’t greatly exposed to soca, so I didn’t gravitate to it. Also, the fact that I had almost no rhythm didn’t make me fonder of the genre. Eventually, my peers at secondary school encouraged me to give soca a try.
As a soca artiste, what is unique about your style?
My style is deep, dark and mystical. I enjoy the storytelling aspect of music, and I believe a dash of humour is always a welcomed ingredient.
What aspect of producing music do you most enjoy?
I’m not a musician, so for me, the production aspect can be difficult. However, I know what I want to hear, and I work towards that. For me, after all of the work is complete, and the music is released, the appreciation from the listeners is what is most rewarding.
What is one thing you listen for when listening to a new recording? How do you know when a song is ready for the airwaves?
Generally, the first ten seconds of a song usually determines whether or not it’s ready to be effectively released. Other important factors are a subject matter, catchiness, good mix and master, vocal clarity, arrangement and the overall quality.
In what way does being a music producer enhance your work as a soca artiste?
No one knows what you’re thinking better than you. As a music producer, I get to craft my music without feeling constrained artistically. As such, the end product is always what I want; it’s authentic—distinctly, me.
Past or present is there anyone you would like to work alongside, and why?
There isn’t anyone I’d name, because I’m open to working with anyone once the vibe is right. Energy plays an essential role in the selection of the people with whom I work. So once the energy flows, it’s a ‘go.’ Ultimately, good resonance between artist and producer quite often yields the best product.
It’s natural for music to evolve, and as a music producer, you are centre stage to these changes. In what significant way is this year’s soca different from last year or two years ago?
The quality has definitely maintained its ascension. Artist and producers are taking music more seriously as they’ve come to witness how big of an impact Grenadian music has on the world. Also, lately, the songs that are getting out are more authentic to Grenada. I don’t hear as much external influences in our music, as I used to.
Jab is featured a lot in your music. Why?
I have always enjoyed our cultural lore. As a child, I used to look forward to hearing bedtime stories from my grandfather every night. Hearing his stories about the mythical beings and what they did piqued my interest. To this day, Jab Jab evokes those memories, and interest resoundingly remains. Today, I take great pleasure in sharing my interpretation of the sound of the menacingly, mysterious figure of the Jab Jab.
The 2010 single, No Prisoners, brilliantly personified the Jab Jab character. Your flair for storytelling was enhanced by the controlled tempo and the incorporation of traditional instruments. How has No Prisoner influenced Grenadian soca?
No Prisoners was the first Jab Jab song that I recorded and produced. It received much acclaim because its ‘sound’ was very different from what was prevalent at the time. It was unique, the song’s lethargic tempo, the deep, dark vocals, thought-inducing lyrics, as well as, the dragging chains and overall dark yet invigorating feel. Truth be told, I had no idea what I was doing. At the time my musical tastes were heavily influenced by hip-hop, so that spilt into the project and made it what it was.
In terms of instrumentation, I wasn’t picky. I just went with what I was feeling at the time. While working on the song, I envisioned myself sitting in a graveyard—with vampires and werewolves.
Today, I can identify significant traces of No Prisoners in several songs, including some huge hits; from its slow, chipping tempo to the phrase “black and greasy.” I’m honoured to have influenced our culture and intend to do so until my final exhale.
You write, produce and sing, if you were forced to choose, which would it be, and briefly explain why?
Although very close, I would have to choose production over writing. Music is much easier to get off the ground as opposed to writing. For me, there are many more avenues of inspiration that are present during the music-making process. For example, simply searching through tones while looking for the right sound; just one tone can re-channel your inspiration, often resulting in the conception of a completely new project. It’s like an incessant stream of inspiration that can veer off in any direction without a loss of “vibes.”
Writing is more of a challenge. Being that I’m big on originality, finding new and relevant subject matter is paramount for me. Those features always place the song at an advantage, allowing ease of traction and better marketability. However, the downside is that if the ideas don’t flow, the process can be both time-constraining and frustrating.
What is your favourite genre of music?
It’s got to be—hip-hop, but #SocaNice.
During the Spicemas Grenada is overrun with visitors, what experience would you recommend as a ‘must’ to a first time visitor to the island?
J’ouvert—all day, every day!
After the excitement of the Carnival season, where in Grenada is your favourite place to unwind and recharge?
None other than, Grand Anse Beach.
Describe Grenada in three words.
Beautiful. Blessed. Home.
Yello thanks Alix “Sandman” Aird for chatting with us. We and the rest of Grenada, look forward to hearing your beats and enjoying the ‘vibes’ you proffer for Spicemas.
Be sure to hit Alix “Sandman” Aird up on Instagram.