Alex Chadwick is an extremely talented Saxophonist from London and he has been performing in the Alps for a number of winter seasons. We met each other at Dicks Tea Bar in Val d’Isère when I was the Resident DJ there and played in the club together for three seasons. I caught up with him by video call to ask him some questions for the TRG Community.
M: Which resorts & venues have you performed in?
A: Only Val d’Isère actually. No that’s a lie- I did one in Austria, but not St Anton… I can’t remember where. I did some gigs with Bands years ago. I’ve done 5-6 seasons in Val now- I’ve lost count of how many exactly.
M: What was your most memorable gig (in winter)?
A: When we did that ridiculous one outside the year before last. It was the Val d’Isère Snow Show*. That’s when my Sax kept freezing!
A: Obviously we’ve had some ridiculous nights in Dicks [Tea Bar] but it’s so many over the years and the decor doesn’t change so they all meld into one. I’ve had some terrible gigs in different places, but don’t write that.
*A large stage and Ski Jump are built on the Snow Front. I DJ’ed and Alex played saxophone while the Skiers & Snowboarders did a display. There is also a torchlit descent of La Face as the event happens in the evening after sunset. It was about -15 celsius and we performed for an hour and a half.
M: What about when you flew from the Maldives to Dicks Tea Bar for the 40th Anniversary party?
A: Oh yeah, that was mad. I played at a New Years Eve party in the Maldives and went straight to the airport. I didn’t have time to swap my clothes before the flight because of delays so I didn’t get my bags until I arrived in Geneva and then had to get straight in the transfer. I arrived in the Ski Resort in shorts and flip flops with white sand still on my feet. People were giving me some very strange looks. I had enough time for a quick shower and then went straight to the club, plugged in and started playing- after a quick tequila shot.
M: Are there any special things to consider when performing in a Ski Resort environment?
A: Broadly it’s the same as any other gig. You have to be more sure that your equipment is working because there’s no shops to grab a cable or anything last minute. *Sarcastically* Definitely don’t pour lighter fluid into your sax and set fire to it [Alex does this many of the nights that we perform together]. Take care of your instrument and dry it carefully before packing it away. You won’t really be able to get it maintained or serviced in the 5 months that you’re away for the winter season so you have to bear that in mind.
If you do an outside gig and play a wind instrument it will freeze and you can’t really wear gloves so I guess you have to consider that, but there’s not much that you can do.
DTB is particularly intense because it’s so busy. People shout requests at you while you’re playing- like “do you know that one ‘la la la’”- and they try to grab my Sax. I put cups in the end of the Saxophone and people drink out of it too.
Have spares. Turn up on time. Be nice. Treat it like any other gig and be professional but there’s often a lot more drinking than ‘normal’ gigs in a Ski Resort. Each year that’s gone by it’s harder to drink so heavily so I’ve cut back from 5 nights a week blackout drunk, to 3-4 times a month. That’s not much by Ski Resort standards. People are always giving you drinks so you rarely have to go to the bar, which is nice. You learn to have a ‘clarity’ to be professional while drunk. I won’t stand on the bar if I’ve had a bit too much to drink and will just sit down by the VIP tables and play there for a bit until I’ve sobered up. There’s a line that you learn not to cross.
M: How do you find gigs?
A: I have contacts now but originally I got the DTB contact when I was on holiday. I went on a last minute holiday with some industry friends and went to the club on one of the first nights. I saw there was a Sax player- who turned out to be Chris Sharp- and got talking to him. On the last night of the holiday I went in to say bye to Chris and suggested we meet up for a pint when he was back in London. I didn’t intend to network or anything, just make a friend. He said “I’ll chuck you some gigs” and it turned out that he really did. Within a few weeks I had some bookings for the summer. The following season I found myself in DTB!
I get a lot of enquiries on Social Media and when I’m in the club there’s often requests from people on the VIP tables to go to their Chalets and play. Word of mouth is good in that sense.
To be honest, I’ve been pretty lucky and never really had to try too hard.
M: Can you tell us a wild story?
A: Well, as you know, holidays are usually Saturday to Saturday. One season there was this group that came into Dicks Tea Bar on the first few nights and always were on the main VIP table. It was a group of guys ranging in their 20s-50s. They were all from Liverpool- or at least Scousers- and really nice guys. After the 2nd/3rd night, around the Monday or Tuesday, we had built up a bit of a rapport and they asked if I would go back to their Chalet with them to have an Afterparty. I was so hungover that night- I literally just got out of bed in the evening for the gig and was gonna go back to bed straight after- so I declined. They really insisted that I go with them and asked how much it would cost to convince me. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was a few hundred. I didn’t think that they’d say yes but they did and gave me 50 euros ‘deposit’ so I went with them. They were on their phones making calls and sending messages the whole way back to the Chalet. This was at the club’s closing time so it must have been about 4 or 5 in the morning.
There were more women than guys by the time we got to the Chalet- obviously professional ladies that they had been calling. There were bowls of ‘exotic material’ everywhere and they told me to ‘dig in’. I declined. Everyone started taking their clothes off while I was trying to connect their bluetooth speaker to my phone. Meanwhile, there was a shit french radio station playing while people... procreated all around me. I felt awkward being dressed so I took my t-shirt, shoes and socks off and later borrowed some swim shorts from someone. Everyone was shagging everywhere you looked. There was a window to the sauna and and one point I saw someone’s bum pushed up against it, but I’m not sure if male or female because everyone was waxed and fake tanned. I walked around with my saxophone and played about 3 notes the whole time, before leaving. I kind of did a runner rather than officially leaving. I saw lots of things, but I will say that this group of guys must have been very trusting in each other’s sexual health. I saw them a few more times throughout the week and they were very awkward although they did invite me to another party at the Chalet at the end of their holiday. I didn’t accept the second invitation though.
M: Which was your favourite Winter Season?
A: For excitement it was definitely the first one. Everything is new. I didn’t even mind the accommodation for the first season. [Seasonaire Accommodation is notoriously bad.]
I was a similar age to everyone- we were all in our early twenties. Now I’m older than lots of the Seasonaires and I want to go to bed earlier so that I can get up and have a good ski in the morning!
The Pistes were new to me too whereas now I know them all so it’s not as exciting. That said, I enjoy it just as much now because I know the regulars- both Workers and ‘Punters’ [Tourists]. You also know the best way to do things after a few seasons. Local knowledge helps a lot!
M: Can you give us some of your tips from your winters?
1. ‘Punters’ should make friends with everyone, especially Bar staff. The people who serve you drinks and food have the ‘in depth’ knowledge of the Resort. You’ve got a week to build a good rapport with people. Ask their names and make friends. They’ll give you tips like where to Ski for certain weather conditions, like the best routes and other stuff.
2. Make an effort with the local language and be persistent. The locals will speak back to you in English, but keep trying. Figure out where it’s appropriate to just speak in English and not try to make an effort in the local language. Figure out the native Bars and be respectful.
3. Make packed lunches and eat at your Accommodation as much as possible to save money. That said, supermarkets are so expensive in Ski Resorts. Absolutely make sure that you bring tupperware! You’ll use it loads of times. There’s so much unnecessarily wasted cling film & tin foil. That’s definitely a top tip!
4. Whatever you budget for your trip, double it.
5. You don’t need the latest skis unless you’re an absolute Pro. Equipment is so well maintained by the hire shops that you don’t need the latest stuff so there’s no point spending extra.
6. Everyone’s got friends who go skiing so save money by borrowing gear [Jackets, Salopettes, Gloves etc]. If you’re going to Ski more than once then go ahead and buy your own… but not from Sports Direct. If you buy a 60 quid jacket you’ll be wet and cold. Spend 200 and you’ll be comfortable and it will last a long time. You really get your money’s worth.
7. Don’t drink so much that it affects your Skiing the next day. You can drink anywhere in the world but you can’t Ski anywhere. Don’t get so wasted that you miss the opportunity for an amazing day on the mountain. It’s a big waste of money on an expensive holiday to be hungover. It’s also dangerous and if you’re still a bit wobbly on your feet in the morning you’re at a higher risk of injury.
8. Don’t take what Kely Starlight says literally.
9. Keep your eye out in Val d’Isère because there’s always famous people about.
A: What do you think the Winter Season will be like this year?
Hmm. Not existent to begin with. Actually, that’s a lie. I think people will go specifically just to ski. There won’t be much of a Social Scene though. Once lockdown is lifted and we can travel again people will go specifically to a Hotel/Apartment, Ski and then go straight home. There won’t be the same scene in the Bars and stuff. It won’t be about the ‘life’ in the town so much. There will probably be about half in terms of Apres Ski as there will be far fewer people. People’s budgets are also probably not going to be the same as usual too and so people will go to smaller, cheaper resorts. People will also probably leave booking to the last minute.
M: Have you got any closing comments?
A: I’ve been lucky. Performing in the Alps has afforded me some very long, free ski holidays for the last 5 years. There are very low and very high points every season. In March I always think that it’s enough and I’m not going to do any more. By July, I’m thinking about doing another one.
Find Alex on instagram at @chaddysax or on his website, www.chadsax.com