Against the back wall of the Black Cat, I sat down with Josh Garza, the drummer from rock group The Secret Machines, just before his performance with the Blonde Redhead. Sipping on his triple shot of Bombay Sapphire, Garza set the tone for the intense show I was about to witness.
Hatchet: When did the Secret Machines form as a band?
Josh Garza: This band got together in 2000. Me and Brandon (Curtis, keyboard and vocals) were in a band called Captain Audio for a couple of years and then moved to New York. One of the members couldn’t make the move with us but we said, ‘We’re going’ – the bright lights, the big city, that whole trip – so we got Brandon’s brother Ben to play with us on guitar.
H: What made you decide to move to New York?
JG: It took a while to figure it out. The options for us were New York, Chicago, (Los Angeles) and San Francisco. We knew that L.A. and Chicago, with the car culture, would just be larger, nicer versions of Dallas. But something about New York is that everything is different. You don’t need a car, and people are always out on the streets. They say if you make it here, you can make it anywhere.
H: How did living in New York affect the creative process?
JG: In New York, we all lived in a loft together. It was like a monastery, just one big room with beds and our equipment on the other end. Basically we’d wake up, go to work, come home, practice, smoke some grass and then listen to music. We were broke and had to entertain ourselves the old fashioned way.
H: Any particular New York bands affect you?
JG: On a personal level, the Black Dice (and) Plate Tectonics, who opened for us a week ago. We tend to gravitate toward the avant-garde, bordering on noise rock bands. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can do it and keep it going, whereas in Dallas, your 12 buddies will show up and get high and drink all the beer and it will never get outside of that. This new record is definitely Dallas meets New York. People who have a lifetime in Texas don’t realize that New York is the opposite, if that’s what you want.
H: Was this band ever striving to be a part of the current no-core of New York?
JG: Yes and no. We had a plan to affiliate with the cool bands. Most of them were bad bands, not our cup of tea. Sometimes it was good, but a lot of the times we didn’t fit the groove. The garage bands didn’t want to play with us because we were too psychedelic, and the psychedelic bands thought we were too loud. We were not being aggressive just because we were playing loud. When Dylan plugged in in ’66, he wasn’t being aggressive, there is just a level of intensity with it. We try to take it to a level of anxiety for the audience, where anything can just fly off the handle at any moment, like you could just throw a piston in there. You’re almost scared for your life.
H: Is that level of openness why you play with a band like Blonde Redhead?
JG: Definitely that level of openness that each of us brings to the stage. Though we are different, we are where they were so many years ago, when Blonde Redhead was still a rock band. Like the Lips now, they’ve mellowed out. But I know where they come from so I still understand and appreciate it.
H: Do you think that is natural progression? That mellowed out, textured sound?
JG: I think it happens to everybody. One of my favorite examples is Beethoven. I’m a huge fan of Beethoven. His sonatas and his symphonies were all amazing, but his last one was his Sgt. Pepper’s. Listening to him, there is a strive for him that only he knows about. In his music there’s something that you can hear that you understand.
H: What are the most important aspects of playing live, besides playing loud?
JG: Establishing a mood and establishing ourselves in a space, like an artist in a gallery, making the space correspond to what we want it to be. That set is your room, and everybody knows it. That is the most important part of establishing yourself on stage. Being loud is a part of making that happen. Like an avant-garde short film, it’s visually stunning.