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Watch > Episode > Michael Alago - Who The F*ck Is That Guy?

Michael Alago - Who The F*ck Is That Guy?

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The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago

Michael Alago is a former rock & roll A&R Executive whose life story is the subject of the Netflix documentary “Who The Fuck Is That Guy?”. He grew up in New York City during the 1970s and 80s, surrounded by artists like David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and the Cro-Mags. His obsession with music led to a 25-year career in the industry, during which time he managed artists like Metallica, Cindi Lauper and Nina Simone. After contracting AIDS and surviving substance abuse, he is now sober and healthy.

Michael Alago is a former rock and roll A&R Executive whose life story is the subject of the Netflix documentary “Who The Fuck Is That Guy?”. He grew up in New York City during the 1970s and 80s, surrounded by artists like David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and the Cro-Mags. His obsession with music led to a 25-year career in the industry, during which time he managed artists like Metallica, Cindi Lauper and Nina Simone. After contracting AIDS and surviving substance abuse, he is now sober and healthy.

In this revelatory London Real interview, Michael talks frankly about the party scene drugs and rock and roll excesses of the 80s and 90s and how he transformed his life, as well as reflecting on the beauty of being able to show up every day.

Born on December 19, 1961, in Brooklyn, New York, Michael Alago’s journey in the music industry began at a young age. His early exposure to the vibrant music scene of New York City sparked a passion for discovering new sounds and artists. Alago’s immersion in the punk and alternative music scenes of the late 1970s and early 1980s laid the foundation for his future endeavours as a music industry professional.

Michael’s breakthrough came when he joined Elektra Records in the early 1980s. Despite being one of the few openly gay executives in the industry at the time, Alago’s talent-spotting abilities and fearless approach to embracing diverse musical genres set him apart. He quickly rose through the ranks, ultimately becoming the Senior A&R (Artists and Repertoire) executive at Elektra.

One of Michael Alago’s most significant contributions to the music industry is his role in discovering and signing influential artists who went on to achieve legendary status. Perhaps his most notable discovery was the iconic metal band Metallica. In the early 1980s, Alago attended a Metallica performance at a small club in New York City, leading to the band’s signing with Elektra Records and the release of their debut album, “Kill ‘Em All.”

Alago’s keen eye for talent also led him to sign and work with other groundbreaking acts such as White Zombie, Faith No More, and Nina Simone, showcasing his ability to appreciate and support artists across diverse genres.

In recent years, Michael Alago’s life and career have been celebrated in the documentary film “Who the F**k Is That Guy? The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago.” The documentary provides an intimate look into Alago’s life, his contributions to the music industry, and his journey as an openly gay executive in a historically conservative field.

In addition to the documentary, Alago penned his memoir, “I Am Michael Alago: Breathing Music. Signing Metallica. Beating Death.” The memoir offers readers a firsthand account of Alago’s experiences in the music industry, his personal struggles, and the resilience that fueled his remarkable career.

Beyond his work as a music executive, Michael Alago has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and a visible presence in the cultural landscape. His success and visibility as an openly gay executive have broken barriers in an industry that has not always been known for its inclusivity.

Alago’s legacy extends beyond the albums and artists he helped launch; it encompasses his trailblazing spirit, commitment to authenticity, and advocacy for diversity and acceptance within the music industry.

Michael Alago’s impact on the music industry is immeasurable. As a talent scout, producer, and advocate, he has shaped the careers of iconic artists and helped redefine the industry’s parameters. His story, documented in film and memoir, serves as an inspiration to aspiring music professionals and a testament to the enduring power of passion, diversity, and an unyielding commitment to the transformative potential of music.

Chapters

00:00 | Trailer
02:33 | Brian’s thoughts on the episode
03:24 | Brian’s introduction
04:04 | Enjoying being back in London
05:12 | Love of music from birth leads to a job at The Ritz rock club,07:11 What Michael and other people love about music
08:23 | The importance of the A&R department in a record company and the famous artists he worked with
17:09 | How he was able to find new bands and artists with great potential
20:07 | Hearing heavy metal band Metallica and knowing he had to have them in his life
24:18 | How that signing changed everything for them until the present day
31:15 | The vibrant New York City club scene when he was young
32:43 | East Village life and burgeoning art scene in the early 80s
35:12 | Crossover between music, art and the theatre
41:46 | The scary arrival of AIDs from which almost everyone he knew died and which he also contracted
54:26 | Michael’s part in the 1980s and ’90s years of drug and alcohol excess until he knew he had to stop
1:02:03 | ‘What the Fuck is That Guy’ would not have been made if Michael had not changed his life
1:08:30 | The beauty of being able to show up every day, thriving and having a great life
1:13:24 | Michael continues to be involved in the music business, but now it’s about streaming and numbers
1:19:15 | The joy of the record album and vinyl
1:21:33 | Success secrets for young musicians
1:22:02 | What is Michael’s superpower
1:22:52 | His advice from what he learnt in business1:23:39 What makes a good producer
1:24:52 | Doing service in the world, one person at a time: we hope the world feels that
1:28:49 | What scares Michael now
1:30:33 | What he might be doing in ten years
1:31:45 | Phone call to the twenty-year old Michael Alago
1:32:56 | Best advice he ever received
1:33:42 | Advice to the young person listening
1:35:26 | Brian’s summing up.

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