Following his win at last month’s Ruby Awards, we spoke to Adelaide drum dynamo Alexander Flood about his amazing career so far, plus his hot tips for emerging SA artists.
What are The Ruby Awards?
Named after late arts patron Dame Ruby Litchfield, the annual Ruby Awards are awarded across 11 categories at South Australia’s biggest arts and culture award ceremony each year. The awards recognise artistic excellence, creative achievement, innovation, community involvement and inspirational leadership in SA’s incredibly diverse arts and culture sector. Read more about them and the nomination process here.
Young achiever, Alexander Flood
The Frank Ford Memorial Young Achiever Award at the 2023 Rubies went to Adelaide-born and bred beat-master Alexander Flood. Alexander’s still in his 20s, but his resume is already packed with amazing achievements. He’s a drummer, bandleader, composer, producer and educator whose music has taken him to more than 20 countries – and counting.
His music is a hybrid of nu-jazz, house, broken beat, drum n bass, funk and experimental sounds, and along the way he’s performed and collaborated with some seriously big names in the jazz world, including a stint as tour drummer for one of his biggest musical heroes – six-time Grammy-nominated Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah. On top of that he’s recorded and released three albums of original work, after signing to US label Stretch Music in 2020.
Starting out in the Adelaide ‘burbs
It’s all a long way from the spare room of his family’s suburban Adelaide home, where he started learning music and banging drums at just eight years old. Alexander knew early on he’d found his passion in life: “I’d say from about 10 years old I was pretty serious about pursuing music – nothing was going to stop me,” he says.
During high school Alexander doubled down on his commitment to a career in music, making money on the side by gigging around Adelaide. From there he went on to study at the University of Adelaide’s Elder Conservatorium, graduating top of his class with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance (jazz).
That’s when he began filling his trophy cabinet. Over the years Alexander has been the recipient of many impressive awards, including Australia’s Best Up and Coming Drummer, the John ‘Slick’ Osborne Scholarship and the Langley Award for Jazz.
Living the dream
Since uni, Alexander has made a full-time living from “hustling in music” – both locally and internationally. Alexander’s two passions in life are music and travel, so being able to forge a career playing and recording with artists around the globe has “been a dream,” he says.
As well as Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah, Alexander has collaborated with celebrated artists including Àbáse, Horatio Luna, Vivian Sessoms, Nelson Dialect, Zayn Mohammed, Kate Ceberano and Rob Edwards. He’s performed interstate with both the West Australian and Queensland Symphony Orchestras. Closer to home, he’s played live with his band at WOMADelaide, curated an event for Adelaide’s Umbrella Festival and collaborated with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
Adelaide’s music scene
“Adelaide has such a beautiful, diverse, well-connected music scene,” Alexander says. Its small size allows “more cross-pollination between different sub-scenes, and a tight-knit web of artists that support one another”.
“I do what I do because I love it, and because it gives me a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment, but beyond that, it’s also incredibly rewarding to be a part of something much bigger, a puzzle piece and contributor within the South Australian arts ecosystem,” he says.
Alexander says Adelaide is lucky to have so many incredible unique artists, but if he had to pick a few favourites he would recommend checking out Rob Edwards, Maryam Rahmani, Elsy Wameyo and Wanderers.
What winning a Ruby means
The amount of blood, sweat and tears that every artist invests behind the scenes is often overlooked, so it’s special to be recognised by the South Australian Government for his hard work, artistic achievements and contributions, says Alexander.
“I’m very grateful for the ongoing support that the Government has given me.
“It’s so very important that we, as a community, continue to support the arts, the artists, the venues, and the organisations that enable our arts industry to exist, and it’s also vital that the government continues to fund and support arts projects and organisations to allow us to keep creating great South Australian art.
“The Ruby Awards is an opportunity for local artists and organisations to receive recognition for their output.”
Tips for Adelaide artists
He also encourages artists to nominate themselves for the Ruby Awards when they open later this year. “Take a moment to recognise and reflect on your own hard work, achievements, and how far you’ve come with your artistic works and career,” he says. “It’s important to be able to value your work, and important to be recognised for it!”
What’s next for Alexander
This month Alexander’s busy recording a new album with some of his favourite Australian musicians before heading back to Europe for another live tour and more recording later in the year.
But he doesn’t have any plans to leave his hometown behind. Somehow, Alexander will also find time in 2024 to fly home for local shows at the Adelaide Fringe, WOMADelaide and with local bands and collaborators throughout the year, doing what he loves – playing live music to a crowd of South Aussies.
The 2023 Ruby Awards winners are:
- Outstanding Community Event or Project: Wild Dog, Jacob Boehme
- Outstanding Regional Event or Project: Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black), Derik Lynch and Matthew Thorne with Switch Productions
- Outstanding Work, Event or Project for Young People: the Boy & the Ball, Stephen Noonan
- Outstanding Work or Event Within a Festival: Talk to Me, Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou, Adelaide Film Festival 2022
- Outstanding Work or Event Outside a Festival: Beep and Mort – Series One, Windmill Pictures
- Outstanding Collaboration: Adelaide Film Festival EXPAND Lab 2022, Adelaide Film Festival, Samstag Museum of Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Illuminate Adelaide, The Balnaves Foundation
- Outstanding Contribution by an Organisation or Group: The Mill Adelaide
- The Geoff Crowhurst Memorial Award: Tony Hannan
- The Frank Ford Memorial Young Achiever Award: Alexander Flood
- The Stevie Gadlabarti Goldsmith Memorial Award: Natasha Wanganeen
- The Premier’s Award for Lifetime Achievement: Diana Harris and Nigel Levings