'Lost in the City': Crash Midnight Guitarist Alex Donaldson Talks New Album and Les Pauls

by James Wood
Posted Dec 11, 2014 at 5:26pm

Fresh off tours with such bands as Sevendust and the Pretty Reckless, Boston-area rockers Crash Midnight are preparing a new sonic assault for the new year. It begins with the release of their debut album, Lost in the City.

Songs like "151" (which pays tribute to the notorious high-proof alcohol of the same name) and “Diamond Boulevard” have infectious energy and riffs that conjure memories of classic rock albums of old—but with a modern, 21st-century twist.

I recently spoke with guitarist Alex Donaldson about the new album, his technique and gear.

GUITAR WORLD: From a guitar standpoint, how would you describe the sound of Lost in the City?

We were really going for that classic rock kind of sound. One with the double-track rhythm guitars, the left and right panning and quite a lot of blues-influenced solos. For me, this entire album was pretty much just a Les Paul, a JCM800 and a cord [laughs]!

What was the recording process like?

We did a lot of Pro Tools sessions and tracking at my studio in Columbus as well as some sessions up in Boston. Kenny Lewis is a fantastic producer. He had the right idea with our sound and it was a treat recording with him.

I'd like to get your thoughts on a few tracks from the album, starting with "151" [See the video below].

Obviously, it's an homage to the strong liquor. But from a guitar standpoint, the song has a “Night Train" [Guns N' Roses] kind of vibe to it, with riffs everywhere. The solo is very Chuck Berry influenced with a lot of double stops. I'm a really big fan of doubling and tripling the lead parts.

"Diamond Boulevard."

That's probably one of my favorite riffs on the album and one that our vocalist, Shaun Soho, wrote. It has almost a half-time feel to it. A lot of time when I lay down a track the idea is to play as fast as possible. But for this solo I was able to go off a little bit and do my thing.

What was it like touring with Sevendust, Pretty Reckless and Adelitas Way this year?

It was amazing. Sevendust was one of the very first concerts I attended, so being on the road with them was pretty special. Touring with the Pretty Reckless and Adelitas Way was also a lot of fun. Taylor Momsen is the total rock star, and every guitarist on that tour really kicked a-- and pushed each other every night.

Do you have plans to tour in support of Lost in the City?

We took a little time off for the holidays, but we'll be hitting radio hard in January. From there, we have a few options for touring that we'll be confirming over the next few weeks. No matter what it is, it's going to be great.

Can you tell me a little about your musical upbringing?

I started playing guitar when I was in my early teens, and the first thing I got into was punk. I started out playing in a Dead Kennedys-influenced band that played some cool shows but really p---ed off our parents [laughs]. After that, I started getting more into the blues. I live in Columbus, Ohio, and the Columbus Blues Alliance really nurtured my love for it. When it came time to go to college, I really wanted to take it to the next level so I went to Berklee.

Were you one of those players who would lock themselves in a room and practice for hours and hours?

When I was in high school I took lessons and practiced a lot. But I think once you reach a certain point in your playing and get comfortable with it, there's not much of a need to practice eight hours a day every day. But having said that, there's still a guitar in my hand that many hours a day anyway. I may not be practicing, but I'm always playing.

Who were some of your early influences?

As far as blues influences, I'm a huge fan of theatrical guys: Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and [Fleetwood Mac's] Peter Green. You can also hear Slash and Joe Perry coming out in my playing. Berklee also turned me on to some great jazz players like Kenny Burrell and Al Di Meola.

What can you tell me about your live setup?

I use zero pedals live. I literally plug my Gibson into a Marshall, and that's it. I used a little wah on the album and actually tried using it for half of a show while we were on the Sevendust tour but just couldn't stand the compromised signal. I love the straight sound of a Les Paul going into the Marshall.

Why a Les Paul and Marshall?

When you're younger, you sometimes try to imitate the people you see. I started using a Marshall amp because East Bay Ray of Dead Kennedys played one. Then when I saw Slash I knew I had to get the Les Paul. Now I've found I can't play anything else. The sustain on the Les Paul is really unmatched from any other guitar I've ever played.

What excites you the most about this next phase of your career?

I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to get this music out. We've been a band for 10 years, so every show that we do is special. I'm just trying to enjoy everything that we do. I'm excited to take it all in.

For more about Crash Midnight, visit crashmidnight.com.

James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.

Add a Comment

Similar Guitar News

Kirk Hammett Talks About His Prize: Peter Green and Gary Moore's Les Paul — See It In Action (11/30/2015)
Metallica’s Kirk Hammett owns one of the most iconic and revered electric guitars: a 1959 Les Paul Standard that was previously owned by Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green and, subsequently, by his disciple, Irish rocker Gary Moore. Hammett, a fa...
Top Five Gibson Les Paul Facts You Probably Didn't Know — Video (9/30/2015)
In this new video—which was posted to YouTube September 26), Mark from Guitar Nerds, a U.K.-based website for guitar fans (and nerds, we reckon), counts down the top five Gibson Les Paul facts that you probably didn't know. This new video comes...
Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Joe Bonamassa, Warren Haynes and More Honor Les Paul in New York City's Times Square — Video (6/10/2015)
Yesterday, June 9, 2015, was the 100th anniversary of the late, great Les Paul's birth. To celebrate the occasion, the guitar community threw one hell of a party in New York City's Times Square, not far from the Iridium, where the legendary guit...
Review: Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro Guitar (7/16/2015)
I’ve always preferred the Les Paul Custom over the Standard for several reasons. The main reason is the smooth playing action of its “fretless wonder” design, which is one of the reasons why shred-centric players like Al Di Meola, Randy Rhoads,...
Les Is More: Les Paul's Top 10 Guitar Moments (6/9/2015)
To say Les Paul was an innovator would be the greatest of understatements. Although we might take his inventions and ideas for granted in 2015, his influence on the development of music—and the way it is recorded—is immense. He saw the technol...
Gibson Custom Launches Limited Edition Peter Frampton "Phenix" 1954 Les Paul Custom — Video (10/23/2015)
Gibson Custom has announced a collaboration with Peter Frampton for a limited release of the Peter Frampton “Phenix” 1954 “Triple-Pickup” Les Paul Custom. A detailed and extensive replica of Frampton’s storied guitar, the limited run celebrate...
Forgotten Guitar: Les Paul’s Incredible Rendition of “Lover” Live in New York City in 1988 — Video (11/19/2015)
In 1988, guitar legend Les Paul was honored at a concert staged and filmed live in New York City. Its aim was to celebrate the guitarist's career to date. The show featured performances of the music that earned Les more than 30 gold records—not...
Kiss Guitarist Tommy Thayer Discusses Epiphone White Lightning Les Paul, Momoiro Clover Z and More (3/17/2015)
Kiss guitarists and Les Pauls just seem to go together. Just ask Tommy Thayer, who just introduced his new Epiphone White Lightning Les Paul. We caught up with Thayer—just days before he headed out on a whirlwind tour of Japan—to discuss the ne...
Les Paul's 1954 Gibson "Black Beauty" Guitar Sells for $335,500 at Auction (2/20/2015)
Last night, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay paid $335,500 for a controversial guitar, Les Paul's very own 1954 Les Paul Custom "Black Beauty." According to The New York Times, Irsay's guitar curator, Christopher McKinney, placed the bid at th...
Is Les Paul's Gibson Black Beauty Guitar the "Holy Grail"? Join the Debate (2/9/2015)
Guitar Player’s February 2015 issue features a cover feature about Les Paul’s 1954 Black Beauty. For those unfamiliar with the story, the Black Beauty is the very guitar on which Les performed many modifications over the years as he sought to i...
Joe Bonamassa Posts Fretboard Knowledge Lesson Video for Les Paul Forum (2/6/2015)
Last week, Joe Bonamassa was feeling a bit under the weather, but he still had time—and the desire—to whip up a quick lesson video for the gang on the Les Paul Forum. "At home nursing a pretty good head cold and sinus infection," wrote Bonamassa...
Old gold: 1972 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe (2/6/2015)
Read more about Old gold: 1972 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe at MusicRadar.com The chequered history of the Les Paul Deluxe model began with the demise of what is today regarded as the Holy Grail for collectors: the '58 to '60 Sunburst Les Paul Standar...
Duane Allman’s Three Beloved Les Pauls Are Reunited Onstage for the Allman Brothers’ Final Stand (12/10/2014)
Duane Allman had three primary Les Pauls during his time with the Allman Brothers Band. The 1957 goldtop he played on the band’s first two albums as well as most of the Derek and the Dominos Layla sessions has been on display at the Big House M...
Gibson Introduces Robby Krieger 1954 Les Paul Custom Guitar (11/12/2014)
Robby Krieger’s 1954 Les Paul Custom became a constant writing companion, workhorse, performing partner, muse and musical soul mate all rolled into one right from the time he acquired it used in 1968. Nicknamed “L.A. Woman” after its use on tha...
Gibson Introduces Collector's Choice #26 1959 Les Paul "Whitford 'Burst" Guitar (11/12/2014)
In his unwavering pursuit of success, particularly through the challenges of Aerosmith’s early years, Brad Whitford displays a kinship to the ultimate tenacity of the Les Paul design: the time-will-prove qualities and heroic achievements of a gu...