Since arriving in NYC, Lex Sadler has established himself as a go-to bass player, synth bass player, programmer and musical director for a wide range of musicians. Currently on tour with Peter Cincotti and toured extensively with upcoming R&B artist Jordan Bratton, he’s also involved with his innovative project, Rhythm & Stealth – an eclectic mix of electronica, hip hop, samples, live instrumentation and drum’n’bass beats.
We caught up with him for a look at the artists who’ve inspired him, his love for sneakers and his appreciation for MONO aesthetics.
What was the moment that made you want to be a musician?
I think it was when I discovered Roland synthesizers when I was probably 10 years old. I used to sequence and compose on them, then save songs on a floppy disk.
Sweet! What synths did you have?
In the beginning it was the Roland D-20. I think it came out in 1988. It had an 8-track sequencer, plus rhythm tracks and some other interesting synthesis capabilities. I started learning how to program sequences on it by recreating soundtracks like the Ghostbusters Theme, and Axel F from Beverly Hills Cop. I wish I had some recordings from those years as I remember them being quite radio friendly.
Who are your musical heroes?
Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, Thom Yorke, Trent Reznor and Pino.
Do you find any of these artists influencing your most recent work? How?
Absolutely. I have a project, Rhythm & Stealth, which is an amalgamation of these artists. Squarepusher and Aphex Twin introduced me to the weirder side of electronic music back in the late 90s.
Tom Jenkinson (Squarepusher) is also a virtuoso bassist. I’m not sure if many people know that. His electric and sequenced synth basslines have a frenetic bouncy quality, yet they’re still incredibly tight and very funky. Same goes for Aphex Twin. I like the darkness and weirdness of his music; I used to love his music videos. They were creepy — Windowlicker and Come To Daddy especially.
Around that time I was heavily into Radiohead. I remember the backlash to Kid A when it released: where are the guitars? I loved the stark electronic sound. I loved Amnesiac too. Their guitarist Ed O’Brien described those albums to a tee “Kid A is like you pick up the phone, you call somebody, and there’s an answering machine on the other end. With Amnesiac, you get through to that person. And you’re engaged in the conversation”. Accurate.
Trent Reznor is a genius. I’ve always loved his work, I think his soundtrack to The Social Network is some of his best material. His live show is sick, I just love his commitment to production. The Tension tour lighting and visuals were some of the best I’ve ever seen. Plus, he hired Pino — the world’s best bassist. Can’t beat that.
What do you never leave home without when you’re on tour?
Jason Markk sneaker cleaner.
So you’re a sneakerhead?
Sneaker freak since the 80’s, Michael Jordan and slam dunk competitions. I usually travel with at least 8 pairs. Sneakers are such a great form of expression; they can make or break an outfit. Even if the gig demands a particular type of dress code, sneakers are the perfect opportunity to show personality.
These days I’m rocking Adidas Yeezy Boost 350s. They’re really comfortable and I don’t lace them up. Otherwise I might throw on a pair of Off-White Nike Air Blazers with mismatched orange and green laces. They’re fairly unconventional, which I really dig.
What’s your pre-gig ritual?
A nice glass of red does wonders. I don’t really have other rituals, I usually have enough to do as far as setting up, troubleshooting and the like — by then I’m just ready to play!
What accessory can’t you function without when playing live?
1000x keyboard stands.
Interesting! Can you tell us a little bit about your on-stage set up?
Sure. Most of the gigs I do these days are in a bass/keybass/MD/programmer role. So, aside from the electric bass, I need to set up a Moog Model D or Voyager, Ableton Push, Interface and Rack DI, and other bits and pieces. I’m always scouring each venue for spare keyboard stands for all this stuff!
What MONO gear do you use at home, in the studio or on tour?
I travel exclusively with my Vertigo case, and I use the pedal bag for my controllers and synth modules.
You mentioned The MONO aesthetic suits your style, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
I like stylish, well designed products. I love MONO’s branding, and the GO PLAY tagline. The minimal aesthetic, rooted in function, really works for me. In my other life I’m a graphic designer, so I really appreciate the way MONO carries common design elements throughout their product range, don’t overdo it with big logos and weird patterns, corny imagery or the like. MONO cases stand out. I always crack a smile and give a nod when I see another MONO player; I know that they’re a musician with great taste and style!
What’s your proudest achievement?
Playing on Letterman was a milestone. I used to watch that show as a kid and dream of visiting NYC. Aside from that, I released an album called Polytronic which I’m quite proud of.
Why of all releases are you most proud of this one?
Polytronic was really my first release as a producer/programmer and composer. I feel like it had some epic moments and is a bit of a journey in others. It has my brother in crime, Sydney Driver, on drums. He’s a machine on drums and he really captures the spirit of what I was trying to do with a live electronic record. It also featured some amazing guests like Cory Henry, Nat Townsley, Alex Han, BigYUKI, Kyla Moscovich, Raja Kassis and Ari Hoenig. The best musicians on the planet.
What would be your fantasy band line-up?
Cory Henry, Pino, and Ringo.
What’s one of your favorite albums of all time?
It’s a perfect album, start to finish. You can listen to it without skipping a single track. The songwriting is incredible, and the production is deep. There are so many layers to it. I love the fusion of the guitar/bass/drums rock sounds and electronic vibes.
That record really grabs you from the opening strings of Airbag down to the last bell of The Tourist. I love that bell — it just says “that’s it, we’re done, you just heard a masterpiece”.
Who was the last band you saw live?
I see a lotttttt of bands; recently I saw a punk rock band from Japan named The Molice and became a super fan straight away. We’re now friends. They’re awesome.