Knife The Symphony / Swear Jar split LP CD Digital

Split_ThumbnailDesperately trying to catch up with posts around here, but true to my life up to this point, 44 years later, it’s been a struggle. It has something to do with the fact that at work, the tech guys blocked Mustard Relics with the firewall. The site is now considered a “social network.” Well I guess they are paying me to work, but damn, when you’re in the grind and you deal with the shit I do, you gotta have an outlet. Anyway…got this split (virtually…gonna have to hit them up and see if they’ve got a promo with my name on it) way back in May (see what I mean about being behind…highly unprofessional) from Jerry over at Phratry Records outta Cincinnati, Ohio. The Northern Midwest has a long history of memorable music, and Phratry has done their part making sure that legacy continues. They have singlehandedly educated me on the thriving scene in the surrounding area. This time around, “39th release in just under nine years” for Phratry, we have the Knife the Symphony / Swear Jar split. Swear Jar are no strangers to the Relics as I got them served on a silver platter in April of 2011, back when I first started doing reviews of newer stuff on the blog…here. They do not disappoint this time around either, in fact they are even tighter and more polished this time round. Upon listening to this thing, my first impression of both these bands is that this is a group of some serious musicians, these aren’t little boys dabbling in their instruments for the first time and as bands, practice has paid off, they play together like they’ve been doing it for 20 years. I don’t know how many takes in the studio it took to come up with these tracks, but these are THE ONES. This album plays through really quick, lickety split, one of those time flies when your having fun type of things, you know? There are slower and faster parts, but it feels like there are a hell of a lot of notes being played in a relatively short amount of time. Knife the Symphony comes up first with 3 tunes, and like I said , none of these musicians are slouches, but damn this drummer really beats the shit out of his set. In their press release it says that the band “owes a considerable debt to the music released by SST, Touch & Go, and Dischord Records”, which I can’t confirm or deny as I’m not familiar with anything but the oldest stuff from those labels, and even though they may have been influenced, they don’t remind me of Black Flag, Die Kruzen or Minor Threat…KtS, are brand new cutting edge stuff. Speaking of brand new, cutting edge, Swear Jar hit the nail on the head too. They serve up 5 tunes and where the drums stood out for KtS, the bass fucking explodes for Swear Jar. I have been known to be ignorant (on many occasion), but I don’t know if it’s the mix or not, but I can hear the thud of that bass guitar even on my shitty stock computer speakers. This is not three individuals though, separated by walls, these guys are all in the same room when it comes to playing great fucking music as a band. I found myself looking forward to every change up in each tune. The singer reminds me of someone, but my burnt out brain won’t let me come up with a name. Maybe if you could mush every Am Rep bands’ singer into a blob and form on singer, he would be it. On that note, the press release states, “RECOMMENDED IF YOU LIKE: Amphetamine Reptile’s noisiest and most abrasive work, NoMeansNo, Shellac, Minutemen and Crucifucks.” I am completely down with that. Anyway, you can give the whole a listen (and buy if you like) at the release’s Bandcamp or go directly to Phratry Records. Take your time and check out the other releases too.

Knife the Symphony’s hit, the bass player crushes on this tune…
http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=171130250/size=small/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/t=2/transparent=true/

Swear Jar’s hit…boo ya bass…
http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=171130250/size=small/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/t=7/transparent=true/

Knife The Symphony

Swear Jar

Sean Hogan interview

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First ran across Sean Hogan at his essential, yet (for now?) defunct Damaging Noize blog, a virtual hotspot for some of the finest and sometimes rarest of extreme music (specializing in Japcore). He had the comments turned off on the blog, but provided his email, so like a fanboy I got in touch with him. I started seeing Sean’s comments at some of the other better music blogs and one such occasion he singlehandedly and unknowingly turned me on to a whole different kind of Hardcore music in the form of Bloody Fist Records. Then I just happened to pick up a 7″, I forget the band’s name, that had Sean’ artwork on the cover…this hentai styled chick. In talking to him I found out that he played music and inquired about that, which led to a hunt and eventual purchase of his band Cthuwulf split with Death Sentence, which I loved. Anyway, long story short, Sean is an interesting, multi-talented, renaissance type guy and I wanted to ask him a few questions, so we have this…

You’re an old LA head aren’t you, born and raised, like me, what was it like growing up in the LA area?
— In hindsight, fairly uneventful. For all the shit I pulled (and certainly talked) I somehow skated a lot of the consequences some of my close friends and other associates received. So here I still am, arguably unscathed (and thankful for that).

Kinbaku show by Naka Akira at Toubaku, Tokyo, JapanJade Hsu

How would you describe yourself, feel free to be as general or specific as you like?
— For all my terminal cynicism, I somehow still default to clowning, laughing, being sarcastic and gross. I live by an extremely simple mantra of “don’t trip on me and I won’t trip on you”.

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My first exposure to you was as a blogger, then as an artist, then as a musician, what came first, a love of art or a love of music and what events led up to that?
— Definitely art. I had high(ly misguided) aspirations to be the next Pushead. Ironically, all the guys who blatantly rip off his style the best these days completely deny any influence from him whatsoever…so maybe that’s a good thing I (mostly) gave up in that aspect. But yeah, music…it goes without saying you grow up on horror movies and comic books and doodling stupid shit constantly, you discover thrash/death metal and it makes you want to do album covers. It was as simple as that for me. My “talent” on the other hand is always up for debate, and I don’t feel I’m being self-deprecating or overly modest to say that. The day one stops questioning if they are an artist, is the day they cease to be an artist (or words to that effect).

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I’m sure you were a straight A student and a teacher’s pet, but did you study art all, to what degree are you self taught? What or who are some of your influences?
— I did every artsy type of class you could possibly do in high school (I was even on senior yearbook staff haha!), and the same in college (even going so far as to take a course where the entire semester focused on “ethics” in the design field). But considering how full of myself I was with my “talent” (I was sophomoric at best, yet failed to see this at the time), I consider my real classroom “in the field” so to speak. Real work experience, in the non-art facets of art, taught me that even when you are openly acknowledged as the pinnacle of your field, IT’S A FUCKING BITCH TO GET PAID! I learned so much in developing actual skill as well as the reality of surviving on art. So yeah, I really have to say I ended up being about 90% self taught, quite often (and I still do this) reverse-engineering techniques or effects I wished to achieve. Influences? Ultragore and existentialism (and anime 😉 ).

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As far as I know, your art was by hand, on paper and whatnot and by necessity I’m sure, as computers where fairly primitive when you were young, but it wasn’t that long ago that you made a transition from that medium to almost exclusively digital art…how did that come to be? Are you using Photoshop, or are there other programs you could recommend?
— My first exposure to Photoshop was in my first semester of college in the fall of ’91. So, the technology was there early on…just no one was taking advantage of it (and with most “new” technologies, a lot of oldschool artists I met were afraid of it). Hell, when I earned my digital design degree, they still made us do thumbnail roughs and lettering by hand! Regardless, though my parents were kind enough to set me up with my own Mac and arsenal of what were once industry standard programs (QuarkXpress and Freehand, Photoshop is the only popular survivor these days), if I wasn’t doing some bullshit magazine layout for a grocery store, I was only using the technology for logos or gradient shading in black and white (and very BASIC layout for the covers, scanning and cleaning my own drawn art). I’m not sure what set it off, my going completely digital. Maybe I was (very slowly) becoming curious with what I could achieve with using my mouse instead of a pen and paper. I did get really sick of the mess of smeared pencil lead, eraser shavings, and ink accidents…let alone my frustration in what I saw was becoming lazier and sloppier work on my end. In the 90s, I was notorious for getting something like a 10″ record’s entire layout hand-drawn and shipped to Finland within 2 days. Now, I take literally months to finish a 12″ sized cover. If it’s a basic 7″ cover, maybe several weeks. I’d rather move at a snail’s pace to coax noticeable growth in my skill than to race ahead halfass just to get it over with. Program’s now? Just the current version of Photoshop’s creative suite (aka: the 1,100 dollar version…yes, IT’S WORTH IT). I really need to learn InDesign for standard text-heavy layouts. It’s bundled with Photoshop, and I’m assuming is analogous to Quark in regards to “desktop publishing”, but I’ve never seriously had to consider looking into it until recently (laying in LARGE amounts of text in Photoshop is difficult and mind-murderingly slow). Other programs I use are some of the Alien Skin Software and Topaz Studios plug-ins, though I still feel a compulsion to tweak them and experiment with multiple overlaid effects, or bits of edits I choose to remove. I still use a mouse exclusively after all these years. So yeah, I’d have to say Photoshop’s CS package is all you really need (it also comes bundled with Illustrator for fine vector graphics, which if done correctly can blow your mind!). Shed the tears and buy it!

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You’ve done a lot of art for various bands, covers and so forth, can you name drop a little bit and I’ve seen some pretty wicked shit, is there one that you are most proud?
— Fear Of God, Protes Bengt, Napalm Death, Nausea L.A., Bloody Phoenix, Cluster Bomb Unit, Katastrofialue, Deep 6 Records, Bruce Banner, Death Sentence Australia, Goblin/Hideous Mangleus, The Helpless, Disleksick (real nice guys), Agathocles. Tons of shit I can’t even remember until I stumble on it on Discogs (hey man, I was drunk the entire ’90s). Some of these bands have been clients multiple times, and have sought me of their own volition (weird). My favorites? Even though it ended up being an unintentional parody of Dark Passages, the Goblin CD discography as well as Nausea’s new LP. The cut-off for my “Phase One style” is around Nausea’s LP cover, which I had finished in it’s entirety two years ago. Beginning with what I’ve been doing recently for Excruciating Terror and Nailed Down is my “Phase Two”, which I am finding more pleasure and growth with (maybe at a snail’s pace, but worth it). My absolute favorite cover stylistically is the “grind-collage-to-end-all-grind-collages” that became the cover for the Agathocles/M.A.D. split LP (there’s an even deeper story to this, but I’m being lazy). As an “Artiste” it would have to be coming full circle from being a 17 year old fan of Nausea, to being their borderline in-house art guy 20+ years later. I achieved my “childhood dream” in that way, and yet I know I could still go so much farther.

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Don’t be shy now, what is the lamest band, in retrospect, you have ever been a fan of? What made you see the light?
— No guilty pleasures my friend. I bump G’N’R and Terrorizer in my car with equal aplomb. And if anybody out there can’t see the fucking BRILLIANCE of Ritual De Lo Habitual, they can just chuggle my tumescence.

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What was the first live act you ever saw and what was your favorite (feel free to list more than one, I know I couldn’t pick just one)…and why?
— I was a late bloomer, I didn’t go to my first show until I was nearly 17. I was always bigger on having money to pick up more records. My first time seeing an underground band playing live was some no-name thrash metal band at a house party. But then a month later I think it was either Kreator, Morgoth, The Accused, and Excel (yeah, crazy bill!), or the first Grindcrusher tour. Autopsy’s west coast tour for Severed Survival, and Nausea’s first LP release party are in there as well. This would all be in very early ’91, the same year I graduated high school. ’91 treated me VERY well throughout the entire year! I’m one of those fudds who never has strong opinions on shows, no matter how “godly” some of the bands I saw were.

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What happened that you went from being a fan of music, to being a musician?
— I heard songs in my head that I wanted to hear in real life, but that no one else was playing. Doing Cthuwulf, I wanted a band that sounded like a mixture of Gai, Mob 47, and early Ripcord, and shakiness aside, we got that. I probably shouldn’t have made 90% of my musical journeys public, but it was all one big crazy experiment to begin with. I still don’t feel I am proper musician and will never call myself such.

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Can you give up a discography of the shit you’ve released? What are some of your favorites? And if you could pick one tune that was your best/favorite composition, which would it be?
— Honestly, I would like Cthuwulf to be remembered for just two recordings: the session that became the split 7″ with Death Sentence, and our 2006 “Gaishu Issyoku” demo. On those two sessions we were at our tightest, or fastest, we got the best sound we could on the absolute worst amateur equipment, we had energy, excitement, the recordings had vibe, I was happy with my guitar tones…just everything clicked. I still really enjoy listening to those sessions a great deal, we felt like a “real” band then, like we were channeling the turn-of-the-80s noisecore we mutually loved (and I don’t mean the trendy kind of noise these years). There’s other tracks I like in everything else we recorded, but those specific two are the most important to me. There’s also a couple demos I did programming hXc-techno (Mach Baron, and Pyrotoxxxn), they still seem to entertain me, and it’d be cool if others got a smile (or nightmare) out of them as well.

Another thing we have in common is a past life of debauchery, what was that like and do you miss it? You recently celebrated 10 years of sobriety if I’m not mistaken, how’s that going for you?
— 11 years sober. My life was shit and nothing but drama when I drank. I don’t miss it. I’m still shocked a decade later that I’ve never spent a day in jail for the shit I pulled when I drank (almost arrested several times though), and just as with the very first question you started this interview with…I’m fucking THANKFUL. Pot on the other hand… *shifts eyes side to side.

What kinds of things do you have in the works…future plans?
— Starting Radiation Therapy school, I keep talking out my ass about starting up c-beat catastrophe SICK WITH FEAR with Lalo & Marco (and maybe lil’ Fivel too), finish another hXc-techno/experimental album, restart the blog, doing covers for Eu’s Arse and a new LP for Excruciating Terror. The future looks like a lot of fun!

Thanx Sean!

Under a Broken Street Lamp – Michael Essington / David Gurz – short stories

UaBSLI’ve pretty much been a comic book fiend lately, not super hero stuff, except Mark Millar’s “Kick Ass”, more like adult novels with graphics (sometimes brutal). So when I read “Under A Broken Street Lamp”, a short collection of short stories, my first response to Michael Essington (of The Last One To Die) , one of the authors, was “loved the book Mike, all three stories were killer. Been reading a lot of adult comics lately Millar, Ennis etc. Yours and the Gurz stories would make great comics…Templesmith for the artist.” I don’t know if that would be a compliment to most people, but to me it’s huge. These three stories are dark, but my mind was lit up with detailed images of the characters. Both writers paint vivid pictures, but they ration their words, like a shipwrecked crew does water…you savor every drop.  The stories are deep but there’s no bullshit fluff to get lost in. These are not uplifting stories, you get two very real authors creating very real characters. “Gritty” is a word I’ve heard used with this style of writing. Gurz and Essington are similar in that respect, but they are two distinct entities, like Bukowski and Thompson. The cover image, a photo by the legendary Edward Colver sets the tone and really as a package, is the icing on the cake. As I said, this is a short collection of short stories, so it goes down pretty quick, like hobos sharing a bottle of wine. If I had one criticism, it’s that it’s too short. Not the stories themselves, they are perfectly complete, to add another sentence to them would be a waste of time. I’d like to see a collection of 5 or 6 stories from each author, but that’s the addict in me, one is too many and a thousand is never enough. Each story is a complete meal, so give a guy three meals and then you’ve got yourself a regular customer.  Once you read these, you’ll be like me, waiting to read more from these guys.  Here is the PR for the book in case you wanted something informative and not just my bullshit ramblings.  The book is now available on Kindle at Amazon for just 2 bucks. There are just 50 hardcopies, #d and signed, but you’ll have to get in line behind me to get one of those. Hahaha…go to Mikes Last One To Die, Facebook page and get one from him quick.

Freddy Alva interview

I’ve never actually met Freddy Alva (Me=NoWhere Kansas, Freddy=New York New York) but we’ve known each other for several years now. He is friends with Erich Keller (they’ve actually met in person), another internet buddy and we shared something in common, a love of music. He got in touch with me and asked if I’d like to review some records he had just put out on his newly revived and legendary, Wardance Records. It was already a well known fact that he had released some pretty epic stuff, but I’ll be damned if he wasn’t releasing some pretty killer stuff again. You can find several of those reviewed around here, the latest being the mind blowing Sacrilege demos LP. Branching out now too into publishing in the form of Lewis Dimmick’s “This Music”, and then maybe documentaries? Anyway, I’ve found him to be a hell of a nice guy and a very interesting character in our global scene, so I figured I’d interview him for MR (this being the second interview I have ever done). I got his picture from the Spark! Wellness page, not sure if that’s where Freddy works, that’s one of many questions I didn’t ask him.

Freddy-AlvaIn this virtual age, you are yet another one of those valued friends that I have never actually met, what’s your story Freddy, where do you come from?
Well, my story goes like this: Born in Peru, moved to NYC when I was 8 years old. Grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens. I believe we are all the sum total of how our parents & surroundings mold us growing up, so I feel lucky to have had an extremely diverse upbringing that’s influenced a good chunk of the choices I’ve made in life. I also value our virtual friendship. I remember reading a quote somewhere that it’s really hard for men to make other friends of the same gender once we hit our 30’s & 40’s. Glad to see that’s not the case here, hope to drink a couple of cold ones in person one day!

You are a man who wears many hats, how do you define yourself?
I am an Acupuncturist by training, a HC/Punk music aficionado by choice, a Peruvian/American by identity & an NYC “lifer”. I’ve lived here for 35-plus years, so I think I get to call myself that. As far as personal politics, religion & what have you; it’s a moot point, I’ve always been non-denominational in regards to those issues.

As a fellow music lover spanning many genres in several decades, I’m curious about what was your first exposure to music?
My earliest musical exposure that I can recall is of the melodramatic Spanish pop music best exemplified by Julio Iglesias/Camilo Sesto & others of their ilk. My cousins used to play them to death back in Peru during the mid-1970’s, so I’ve always had a soft spot for them. I also still dig old Peruvian waltzes that my mom used to play when I was child, to this day; I’ll be transported back in time whenever I hear those sounds.

Hardcore punk, metal or hip hop, can you live with just one?
Don’t think so! I will say that I still find some current bands in the HC/Punk/Metal spectrum interesting. Sadly, I can’t say the same for the current state of hip hop. I think the last good rap records were released in the mid to late 1990’s. There’s too much commercial gloss in hip hop today plus the effort to fit into an “Urban Contemporary” niche has really watered down the original feel of hip hop & this is coming from someone who was a b-boy in 1982, rocking Adidas track suits/shelltop sneakers & going to all the early rap concerts.

First memorable show? Or feel free to list several.
Ok my first shows-
In Hip-Hop: Affrikaa Bambatta & the Soul Sonic Force in 1982.
In Hardcore: Raw Power in 1985
In Metal: Slayer in 1986
All three impacted me deeply for varying reasons. Whether it was my age at the time, catching them at their prime or living in a vastly different city to the way NY is now; I really can’t say. Unless some totally breathtaking new genre of music appears & blows me away. I am always gonna have these 3 reference points as the gold standard. Of course I’ve listened to every conceivable strain of music under the sun, but I’ll be a bit dogmatic & hold on to these as the prime movers.

Did you have anyone you looked up to, or who sort of showed you the ropes in the scene(s)?
I got into HC my sophomore year in High School. I’d discovered punk through listening to a local college new wave station. There was a small group of skinheads & metal heads at my school. I became good friends with this skin named Leo from Brooklyn & started hanging out with him & the band he played in, called Occupied Territory. Those guys worshipped the Bad Brains, Scream & Minor Threat so I’m forever grateful for being introduced to those bands. It was also through them that I met people in the scene & started going to the HC matinees at CBGB’s.

What are your top five bands, of all time, in any genre and why?
For HC: Black Flag, Minor Threat,   Bad Brains, Discharge & the Dead Kennedys.
For Metal: Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motörhead, Slayer & Venom
For Hip Hop: Afrikkaa Bambataa, Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy
One can arguably trace the lineage of any current bands or performers in those genres down to these trendsetting acts.

You teased me a while back with a tune from a band you played in (dying to get a full rip of that to post), what is your history of being on the stage, the observed as opposed to an observer?
Well, we never made it to the stage, just some practices & we recorded 1 song at Don Fury’s studio. The story goes like this: I was compiling material from bands that would end up on the New Breed Tape Comp. I wanted to form a band to be included on it, never mind the fact that I can’t & never will be able to play any instrument. Undaunted, I put a flyer looking for band members, got some cool responses & met people that could actually play. They came up with a song & I wrote the lyrics to & recorded it but the end result didn’t blow me away so we shelved it. Listening to said track 25 years layer, it actually doesn’t sound all that bad, certainly no worst than other stuff from that time. The guys in the band, we called ourselves Last Cause, are saying that we had a couple of other tunes that I can’t for the life of me remember. When a good tape of them pops up, a link will come your way, just don’t be too harsh on them!

wardanceWhy release records and what’s the story behind calling it Wardance Records?
I decided back in ’89, since I can’t actually play music, why don’t I do the next best thing & help release it? The New Breed tape was the first production I was involved with. The explosion of bands centered around Abc No Rio in 1990 influenced me to document on vinyl some of the ones that I thought were amazing. I stopped in ’94 & brought the label back to life in 2010. It now functions as a reissues/put out records by friends label. I’ve done these formats in my releases so far: vinyl, tape, cd, 8-track, t-shirts, poster & even a book. I hope to still do a VHS, DVD & flexi sometime in the near future. The label’s name comes off a song title from one of my all time favorite lp’s: Killing Joke’s debut record.

Is there any secret unreleased material, that never came to be?
Not stuff that was supposed to come out on Wardance, but I always wanted to put out related material like the band the singer & drummer from Citizens Arrest had in ’92, called Colossus, did an amazing 5-song demo or the Rorschach demo before their 1st Lp w/unreleased songs. I’ll keep pestering them about some kind of future release involving that stuff.

Any future projects in the works?
Right not I’m trying to finish this video documentary on the New Breed Comp that me & my friend John Woods have been working on for the past 2 years. We’ve done about 14 interviews with band members/zine editors & record label dudes that were involved with the comp in 1988. The editing process has been slow but we finally got a good editor. The plan is to finish a 45-60 minute documentary & have a screening @John’s Nitehawk cinema in Brooklyn with guest speakers/giveaways/music, make an event out of it. We also plan to put it on VHS/DVD & online for download.
The other release I’m working on is a reissue of a NYHC compilation from 1985, but that’s still in the early stages.

How did you get involved with Qi Gong and acupuncture?
I studied Wing Chun Kung Fu when I was 15 & my teacher always had these chinese herbs lying around his workout space, to be used for any training related injuries. That sparked an early interest in Traditional Chinese Medicine. As I got older, I transitioned into doing Tai Chi & learned its related art of Qi Gong, which is like Chinese Yoga. These modalities influenced me to go to Acupuncture school. I’ve been an Acupuncturist for the past 10 years now, currently in a great practice that treats all kinds of medical conditions. A lot of people our age regret the life choices they made, for whatever reason(s), but I’m very blessed to have found my calling early on & made it a career that I love, couldn’t think of doing anything else.

What new stuff spins on your turntable these days?
Some current faves:
– I really dig the new Villians Lp, they’re a NY band that plays a nasty fusion called “Street Metal”.
– Tony Tears from Italy play doomy melodramatic dirges like Paul Chain/Death SS, good stuff.
– Sick People from Australia just put out a cool 7″ that sounds like an old band on Mystic Records crossed w/NYHC.
– The new Carcass Lp sounds massive, a great return to form.
– Chamanes from Peru. Put out a killer cd earlier in the year, of heavy garage rock w/ ultra gruff vocals.
– Kings Destroy are a local band of old friends playing Sabbath/early Soundgarden-like tunes, new lp rules.
– Zebras from Wisconsin, an awesome, hard to categorize band you turned me on to, thanks!
– Las Otras from Barcelona, Spain. Really snotty punk work with an unapologetic feminist bent.

Any additional words of wisdom?
Well, a maxim I’ve always tried to live by, especially when rushing about NYC or any other busy metropolis, is this: “Better to lose a minute of your life, than your life in a minute”. So I always keep that in mind during my everyday commute, life is fleeting, no sense in speeding along the hour of one’s (eventual) demise. On that cheery note, thank you so much for the interview buddy, looking forward to reading your new blog postings & musical recommendations!

Was searching the web for pics of Freddy (there’s some really cool mug shots of another Freddy Alva) and came across another interview of him (I could learn a lot from that interviewer.  Check it out at, Some Will Never Know.  If you’re in the market for some good music, do yourself a favor and check out his Wardance Records, and if you’re just down to do some listening check out their Soundcloud.

And in case you were wondering about that one tune that Freddy recorded with his band Last Cause, really a badass tune, it’s a shame they didn’t go on to do more, you can listen to that…