Living the dream: AK Free Fuel powers 'northern rock' sound

Posted: Thursday, July 08, 2010

Chris Beach, Pete Jackson and Nuson Smith are playing out their childhood rock star dreams.

Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Chris Beach, Pete Jackson and Nuson Smith are the band AK Free Fuel.

Their band, AK Free Fuel recently released a debut CD, will play a number of gigs this summer, and plans to record another record this winter.

"Luckily we all have great wives that let us live our rock n' roll fantasy," said Beach, 46, who plays bass in the band.

AK Free Fuel's sound is a brew of blues, alt-country and hard rock -- a rustic blend of the musicians' backgrounds.

"We're more northern rock as opposed to southern rock," said Jackson, 32, the band's lead singer and harmonica player.

Jackson said he gets inspiration from North Carolina singer/songwriter Nathan Davis as well as his brother Bob Jackson.

"I grew up in the 80s when it was hard rock and early heavy metal," said Smith, 39, the drummer.

Beach is from Des Moines, Iowa, where saw all sorts of well-known bands perform.

"I was at the concert where Ozzy bit the head off the bat," he said.

Their band also has somewhat of a political name, commenting on the high-cost of energy in the 49th state.

"It's more of a request than a band name," Jackson said, explaining the name came about a few summers ago when gas was about $4 a gallon.

With gas costs approaching that again, it's about time the band makes their plea -- and music -- heard.

Their first album, full of 14 original tracks co-produced by Scot Q. Merry, exhibits the band's wide variety of muses.

The song, "Karstetter" is about their friend who died in a car accident. There's also a love ballad written for Jackson's wife, Nina Jackson-Catalano.

"This day and age people are afraid to go there," Smith said about the band's ballad.

"It's just life experiences," Beach said. "You write them for yourself and hopefully they have a thread for common life experience."

AK Free Fuel prides themselves on playing their original songs, as well as mixing up their live shows with new twists on covers.

Audiences can hear them play renditions of Jimi Hendrix, Dave Matthews Band and Tom Petty tunes but they shouldn't expect them to sound the same.

"We try not to be a jukebox," Smith said. "It's stuff people like to tap their feet to while they're drinking."

Robb Justice, local musician in the band 907, said AK Free Fuel really experiments a lot with their music.

"They are writing original stuff which a lot of bands aren't doing around here right now," he said. "Their sound is just getting better and better."

"They've got a really big sound for a three-piece band," he added.

Beach said that the band really feeds off of playing concerts-- which, good thing for them, they have a whole line-up this summer including this weekend at Hooligans Saloon in Soldotna, and shows next month at the Talkeetna Bluegrass Festival and at Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse in Anchorage.

"We love to play live and we love the art of writing songs and we love audiences," he said.

"We just want to have fun," Jackson said. "We better have fun or else what's the point of doing it."

Their 10-year-old selves would be proud.

AK Free Fuel will play at 10 p.m. this Friday and Saturday night at Hooligans Saloon in Soldotna.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at

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