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Alex “Crankshaft” Larson cranks up the jams

With or without his backing band, the Gear Grinders, Alex “Crankshaft” Larson knows how to get audiences stomping their feet.

Alex “Crankshaft” Larson owes some thanks to Cowboy Mel, an Anoka barber and local character.

It’s one of Mel’s amusing anecdotes that provided the basis for the 11th track on Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders’ 2013 album, “What You Gonna Do?”

“Fill It Up” details the story of a cuckolded construction worker who gets revenge on his lady’s beau by ruining his car. Except, like any good Cowboy Mel story, it’s in a crazy way: The man fills the cheater’s Cadillac convertible up with cement.

Larson was bubbling with excitement on the phone with A&E — he actually got the chance to ruin a ’75 Caddy last weekend while filming the video for the song.

Romance gone awry, a spurned lover, a badass whip and an unexpected climax — it’s the perfect subject matter for Larson’s genre-melding music. That story makes bluesy rock ‘n’ roll with a punkish edge flat out work: He calls it pork neck.

“Basically people were asking me time and time again [what type of music I play]; it’s so hard to answer,” Larson said. “So I say it’s pork neck because I can.”

No matter what he wants to call the edgy, spiraling, Chuck Berry-influenced tracks on the album, people are listening.

He gigs all over the cities and the state, playing 7th Street Entry as easily as Bunker’s.

 There was a point when he wasn’t sure if itinerant gigging was the right move, continuing to run his own construction company up until 2009 while still playing 90-odd gigs a year.

Even when Larson made the commitment to support himself with nothing but music in 2010, he didn’t pull his contractor permit, his subconscious nagging at the musical decision.

Now, there are no regrets, and his experience in the world of wood-hewn beams and power tools came in handy for the recording of “What You Gonna Do?”

One of Larson’s goals setting out was to find a space that would allow him and the Gear Grinders to record live. (His engineer’s studio in Minneapolis is too small for live tracking.)

In the end, that requirement was filled by a small dairy barn that required quite a bit of work to get up and running — a veritable episode of “This Old House.”  

Larson recalls that even after all the wiring, weather proofing and general cleaning up, there was still a pigeon problem.

“Probably two-thirds of the instrumentals on the album were recorded with a couple of pigeons that got into the barn,” Larson said.

Just add those feathered friends to the growing audience of people falling for Crankshaft’s pork-neck stylings.

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