Alex Kimball Williams is a student in the indigenous studies graduate program at the University of Kansas. Kimball Williams, of Lawrence, is a 2015 Haskell Indian Nations University alumna. She is a pianist, percussionist and drummer. Her solo project is “Bad Alaskan,” and she is a synthesizer in the band UltraVivid. Kimball Williams is a co-founder of BLACK Lawrence (Black Literature and Arts Collective of Kansas, Lawrence) and a member of activist groups in the community.
I challenge myself to write songs about really difficult subjects and things that I don’t hear talked about. And make them in a way that’s all-ages friendly and people who have had different traumatic experiences — or who feel like these things hit really close to home — can still listen to them.
I talk a lot about the social and environmental issues in Indian Country. And Indian Country is just the collective reservations and other reserves and just general urban Native populations when you add it all together.
I do a lot of performances for elementary, middle and high schoolers. The way I do it is I put a really difficult subject out there, and I’m like, “How can I talk about this with third graders? And how can I write these lyrics so I can do this in a high school setting?”
I’m inspired by people who write protest songs.
I feel really good when I’m playing. Especially when it’s a mixed crowd, and Native people get to feel centered for once.
The "Bad Alaskan" project is mostly non-Native friendly. I can play at a bar where there’s alcohol present, or I don’t have to be at a traditional or ceremonial setting to do that music. But I do have special sets that I play just at vigils or Native-only events.
When I am playing live, it’s really important to me because I’m not spending a lot of time recording.
For the most part, my set is public material. That’s part of why I don’t have a ton of recordings because a lot of Natives — not to speak for everybody — but generally, we’re not as into preserving things. Part of recording is that it prevents you from having to remember it and having to keep creating. So that’s not really ever been a huge part of what I do.
I want Native people to feel seen. Immediately when I start playing, they hear the elements of our music, Indigenous music, in the rhythms and the pentatonic scale that I’m using and the way I’m singing.