Michael Alago
Credit: Samuel Orrego

On a beautiful sunny Monday in October while I was in New York City, I had the opportunity to meet with Michael Alago.  In previous conversations, he had expressed interest in photographing me for Rough Gods.  When we first began to talk, I had no idea that he was the person who signed Metallica to Elektra Records and that his career was so multi-faceted.  But from the moment I saw him, it was evidently clear that he was the epitome of a true eclectic artist.

As I entered his apartment in the Chelsea district, pictures and paintings lined every wall.  One of the walls had a hand-painted mural that was done by Richard Hambleton.  Tom Jones was playing softly in the background, and as I glanced at the hundreds of albums in his music collection it was as varied as the man himself.  He is also a toy collector and I noticed some classic He-Man ones.  I picked them up and admired them while he told me about the day he bought it and nonchalantly explained how he bumped into Michael Jackson, who apparently was a He-Man fan as well.

After getting to know each other a little, we ventured out into the city.  We walked through the Meatpacking District, and all the while he shared with me what it was like living there.  “During the 80’s, it was an entirely different place” he exclaimed.  He walked me through the alleys where the hustlers would line the streets waiting to be picked up by men.  He showed me where all of the gay bars used to be located.  We even passed The Jane Hotel where Hedwig and the Angry Inch got its inception.

We spoke about all of the different artists he had worked with during his career.  From Metallica and White Zombie, to Johnny Rotten and Cyndi Lauper.  He told me about the time he had a private rehearsal with Lynyrd Skynyrd and their manager Bill Graham as they were trying to get signed to a new label, and how he had requested that they play “That Smell”.  There was no vanity in his voice, only pride at the work he had done and the people had had met.  This man had such an interesting story and life that there is a documentary dedicated completely to him!

Every street, every building, every store front had a whimsical anecdote.  During lunch we ran into Damien Echols, one of the Memphis Three.  Michael excused himself from our table, then went and sat with Damien for a while, introducing himself and just reaching out to him.  He had no agenda really. He just wanted to meet him.  Shortly after lunch we walked back to his apartment, talked a little more then I left.  He walked me to the elevator, gave me a big hug and a kiss and sent me on my way.

This is who Michael is.  The quintessential independent, quirky, delightfully entertaining, opinionated true New York artist.  I hope you find him as intriguing as I do.

Michael Alago
Credit: Ron Amato

You have worked with everyone from Metallica and Rob Zombie to Cyndi Lauper and Nina Simone. Is there anyone that you haven’t worked with that you would like to?

Yes, I adore Alice Cooper and then there’s Tom Jones, Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith.  This list could get very long. LOL 🙂

Let’s talk about your new documentary film that will be released.  How did it come to fruition?

Who The F**k Is that Guy? The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago came about a few short years ago when Drew Stone from Stone Films NYC gave me a telephone to say he had been following my musical career for many years and thought that my life and my stories needed to be told. Soon after that, our executive producer Michael Alex came on board and we started filming. We have been blessed to have the documentary picked up by XLrator Media/Rugged Entertainment. We hope to show the film in a few art houses across the United States and have a Netflix release sometime between July and September 2017.

What other new projects do you have coming out in 2017? 

I look forward to working on a new ‘Rough Gods’ photography book.  It will be made up of Polaroids that I shot in the 1980’s and 90’s that include one night encounters with hustlers, escorts and men i met on the street.

I’m hoping to get back in the music business again, but very much on my own terms.  Right now, there is a 20-year-old pop vocalist I’m crazy about and a Broadway actor/singer that I think would make a great record.  I am also chasing around a 22 year old rapper with a filthy mouth.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

My proudest accomplishment has to be getting clean and sober. One day at a time. I was a functioning alcoholic but I was actually a mess who was spiritually bankrupt. At 47 years of age I found AA and that saved my life. I love the principles of the program and that immediately connected with me. I go to meetings at 9am Monday to Friday and that helps quiet my mind and gets me all fixed up so that one day at a time I can conquer the world.  Sometimes in a very small way and sometimes in a big way. We laugh and cry in the meetings when we share and it really is a holy encounter. I’m coming up on 10 years October 21st.

You are very vocal about your sobriety and your spirituality and they seem very important to you.  What role do they play in your day to day life? 

Sobriety and spirituality go hand in hand for me. Both of those things have given me the wonderful life that i live today.

You are stranded on a desert island.  What 3 albums do you bring with you and why?

I love the question and the answer will change depending on my mood but today I will cheat and tell you about 5 albums that are coming along with me to that desert island.  Nina Simone her Colpix recording “Nina’s Choice” is a gem. Jo Stafford “Swingin’ Down Broadway”, Alice Cooper “Killer”, Metallica “Ride The Lightning” and Slayer “Reign In Blood” would be my choices.  Yes, diverse but that’s my style.

Michael Alago
Credit: Michael Alago

Who is your role model?  The person you look up to and want to emulate? 

My mom, Blanche is my role model. Mom just passed away February 2nd 2017 and its been a sad, surreal and difficult time. Mom taught me about being independent and strong. She taught me to have faith in God and to be kind to everyone. Blanche was a very proud and strong woman with a great smile and laugh and I thankfully inherited that from her as well.

You appear to enjoy being single.  Do you believe in soul mates and if so are you interested in finding yours?

I love being single it gives me great joy and freedom to experience life on my own terms. I have marvelous friends in my life and then i enjoy my solitude to sit at home and read or travel the world and explore.

For more information on Michael Alago’s documentary, check out the official Facebook page.