Born and raised in Berkeley, California, Alex began playing the guitar at age nine, inspired by Kiss and The Beatles. Though he’d originally dreamed of becoming a singer/guitarist, Alex immediately shifted his focus to lead guitar upon hearing guitar virtuoso Eddie Van Halen, as well as the Ozzy Osbourne band’s late guitarist, Randy Rhoads, whose plans to one day attain a university music degree would inspire Alex’s own ambitions.
Reading interviews with his guitar heroes of the 80s led Alex to research their own influences; soon he was absorbing the work of rock and blues greats from the 60s and 70s, such as Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Leslie West and others. Later, his influences would include jazz improvisers such as Pat Metheny, Wes Montgomery and John Scofield as well as world music artists such as Paco DeLucia, Al Di Meola and Strunz & Farah.
Alex’s parents, Jerome Skolnick and Arlene, were Ph.D graduates from Yale University and on faculty at UC Berkeley where his mother was a research psychologist and his father was a tenured professor of sociology. Visualizing a similar path for their son, a music career was frowned upon, although guitar lessons were begrudgingly accepted. Alex studied the basics on an old acoustic instrument with Berkeley folk/children’s artist Gary Lapow, before moving on to local rock and blues teachers who played electric guitar. By his teens, Alex had become a student of master virtuoso Joe Satriani – then a full time guitar instructor in Berkeley and not yet a household name. Alex would become one of many Bay Area guitarists who studied under Satriani to achieve recognition (others include 8-string jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter, Larry Lelonde of Primus and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett).