“WHO THE F**K IS THAT GUY?” takes viewers inside the incredible life of Michael Alago, a gay Puerto Rican kid from Brooklyn who went on to shape and reinvent the world’s musical landscape — first as a 19-year-old talent booker at the legendary Ritz nightclub in New York City and then as a 24-year-old A&R exec who signed Metallica, White Zombie and worked with other notable artists including Nina Simone, John Lydon and Cyndi Lauper. The film tells the tender, loving and sometimes self-destructive story of a man who “just loved music.” He had the passion to bring it to the world on his terms and lived to talk about it. Barely.
Katie sat down with Michael Alago to chat about the documentary, music and his inspirations ahead of the release of “WHO THE F**K IS THAT GUY”.
Congratulations on “Who the F**k is That Guy”! It’s a great documentary and gives a good insight into your journey within the music industry. How did the doco come about?
Drew Stone and I had a few meetings. It stroked my ego [laughs] So I said yes!
What made you want to work in the music industry?
Since I was about 12 years of age I was passionate about music.
I listened to a lot of AM radio and that informed me early on a variety of sounds from Grand Funk to Aretha Franklin.
I grew to love all styles of music from The Great American Songbook to classic rock and heavy metal. I knew then that music would take over my entire life.
You describe East Village in the 80s as “electric”. How does the music scene differ now to when you were younger?
When I talk about the music scene in NYC in the 80’s I am talking about all the clubs that were happening places to hear all kinds of music from CBGB to Cat Club to Dancetaria ( technically in Chelsea). We were out every night and every night we would wind up going to at least 3 or 4 events until the wee morning hours. I don’t think there is a real music scene now in the city. With all the gentrification these days those clubs don’t exist and the city has a mostly corporate feel to it. Damn they even tore down Roseland!
Who has been your favorite musician/band to work with?
It’s like asking who is your favorite child. Nina Simone, Swans, Metallica, Cyndi Lauper, and the list really does go on.
Is there anyone that would’ve loved to have the opportunity to work with, but haven’t had the chance?
Jo Stafford (RIP) and Patti Smith (there’s still time) [laughs]. I can dream can’t I?!
What have been some of the challenges spanning your career?
I think challenges happen when you record an album and the entire record company is not on the same page and you have to work like a dog to make the record happen and if the record is not a success, it becomes a major disappointment for all involved.
What films have been inspiring or influential to you?
I am always inspired to see Raging Bull, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Sebastiane, The Decline of Western Civilization, The Godfather and Pink Flamingos for starters.
I have been inspired by my late mom Blanche my entire life. She taught me to believe in myself and to always keep the faith.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
To stay true to yourself. Be open and honest and to always show up for your life.
On a personal level, who is your favorite band?
I have many favorite bands. I currently love Black Anvil, Fucked Up and Scour.
And finally, do you have any other exciting projects on the horizon?
I’m currently working on a book of vintage erotic Polaroids that I took in the 80’s and 90’s for 2018 release.
“WHO THE F**K IS THAT GUY?” features interviews and archival material with Metallica, White Zombie, singer/songwriter Nina Simone, vocalist John Lydon (Sex Pistols, Public Image Ltd), singer/songwriter Cyndi Lauper, Metal Church, and Misfits. The film is directed by Drew Stone (All Ages: The Boston Hardcore Film).
WHO THE F**K IS THAT GUY? will be released in theaters on July 21st and on VOD and iTunes July 25th.
Check out the trailer below: