Arts & Culture Music Theater TV & Film

Alex Mak: Masterful Guitarist Making Waves from Toronto to Late Night With Seth Meyers

Alex Mak has been making waves in the music industry with his exceptional guitar skills, and his recent performance on Late Night With Seth Meyers has only solidified his status as an acclaimed guitarist.

As the guitarist for Titanique, a jukebox musical parody of the 1997 film Titanic featuring the music of Céline Dion, Alex performs at the Daryl Roth Theatre, an Off-Broadway performance space in Union Square, Manhattan, known for hosting award-winning productions.

Titanique has been a huge success, consistently selling out 90–100% of its 270 seats and garnering recognition from major media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and People Magazine.

On November 22, 2022, Alex performed with Titanique as the musical guest on Late Night With Seth Meyers, a popular American late-night talk show broadcast globally on NBC. This performance supported Titanique’s recent transfer to the Daryl Roth Theater in New York City and featured an original medley of songs from the show, including “Taking Chances” and “My Heart Will Go On.” 

During the performance, Alex showcased his talent and expertise on both electric and acoustic guitar, programming all electric guitar tones. His seamless transitions between the two instruments created a beautiful sound that perfectly complemented the vocals of the performers.

Late Night With Seth Meyers is a highly acclaimed show that has received seven Emmy nominations and is taped at the historic 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York. And we had the opportunity to speak with Alex to gain more insights about his experience.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you first got into music? 

I was born and raised just outside Toronto, Canada. From a young age, my life was filled with music, whether we were listening to tunes in the car or watching concert DVDs with my dad. I started playing piano and guitar early on, fueled by a desire to reproduce the music that was always around me. Gradually, that dream began to take shape as I started playing in bands.

Later, I attended a specialized arts high school where I studied classical double bass. After that, I moved on to Berklee College of Music in Boston. There, I further honed my skills, focusing on guitar, writing, and production.

How did you come to collaborate with Titanique on Late Night With Seth Meyers? 

Since November 2022, I have held the position of guitar chair and programmer for Titanique, clocking up over 100 performances since I began as a substitute in July of the same year. What a journey it’s been! Over that summer, the show gained significant momentum, with growing press coverage and increasing audience numbers. Ultimately, this led to the decision to move to a larger venue to accommodate the demand.

Upon our transfer to Daryl Roth, we aimed to make a significant impact. However, until management announced our performances, I could scarcely have imagined the magnitude of the changes that were about to occur!

What was your experience like performing on such a well-known and highly acclaimed talk show? 

It was a surreal and humbling moment! Approximately five years ago, while still in high school, I visited New York and watched a taping of the show from the audience. To return to the studio, but this time on the other side of the lens, felt like a complete full-circle experience. I was lucky enough to have my dad there to witness the taping. The show operates like a well-oiled machine, and it was truly impressive to see it in action.

How did you prepare for the performance, and did you encounter any challenges along the way? 

Having never performed on television before, there were many logistical elements to consider leading up to the show. The rehearsals and programming the guitar sounds were relatively straightforward, but dealing with a TV recording contract was new territory for me. I had to set aside some time before the taping to fully understand the terms and benefits of the agreement. It was an invaluable lesson in self-advocacy! If you ever find yourself doing theater, TV, or recording work, I highly recommend getting to know the musicians’ union. They are an excellent resource!

You played both electric and acoustic guitar during the performance. Do you have a preferred instrument, or do you enjoy playing both equally? 

I adore both of them; they seem to me like two distinct instruments each offering unique possibilities. I started on the electric guitar, and I’ve always loved the diverse tonal possibilities that arise from amps and effects. Many of my favorite guitarists, like Eddie Van Halen and Jeff Beck, are known for their electric playing. However, many of my favorite songs have been written on acoustic guitars, including works by Joni Mitchell and Jimmy Page.

Sometimes, learning something on the acoustic guitar inspires an idea for the electric, and vice versa. It’s truly wonderful to have access to both.

You also programmed all the electric guitar tones for the performance. Can you walk us through your process for creating those tones? 

I utilize a Kemper Stage floor unit, which is currently one of the most widely used modelers in theater. It allows me to create distinct sounds for each of the guitar parts and organize them for quick transitions.

To develop these sounds, I initially listened to the original Céline recordings of the songs, trying to discern the gear used to create those unique tones. This listening process helps me understand the roles of the various parts and enables me to create sounds that are inspired by the originals, while also being mindful of the context in which I’m playing.

Unlike in a typical live concert featuring one or a few singers, I’m tasked with ensuring my sound cuts through a large ensemble of vocalists. Concurrently, I’m careful to ensure my sound doesn’t overshadow theirs. In a musical, prioritizing the clarity of the lyrics is key when mixing.