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A Dirty Dozen with ALFRED HOWARD from ALFRED HOWARD WRITES – October 2020

| 9 October 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Alfred Howard, an institution of the San Diego music scene, has launched a new project born out of the coronavirus pandemic called Alfred Howard Writes. Howard, the lyricist and percussionist for more than six different San Diego-based bands, has found a renewed passion for his writing and music through the isolation of the pandemic and the monumental events we have been living through over the last six months. Alfred Howard Writes is a multimedia collaboration taking place virtually with fellow musicians and performers around the world. He plans to release 100 songs (two per week) over the course of a year.” We get Alfred to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

Photo credit: Kristy Walker

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

I’ve taken on this project where I’ll be releasing 100 songs over the course of the year, two per week. One song is by an artist named Francis Blume. It’s honestly one of my favorite songs I’ve ever had a hand in. I was working with a San Diego singer named Kimmi Bitter, and as we were wrapping up her song, she asked if I had ever heard Francis Blume. “He’s the real deal” is what she said. On my drive home from the session I looked up “Frances Bloom,” and I spelled it with an E since I only knew the name phonetically. To my surprise, it was this ripping metal group. Kimmi had described him as a modern-day Roy Orbison. I was confused until I realized that spelling is apparently super important. I got in touch with Francis Blume and was totally enamored with his voice. This was the first of hopefully many songs we write together.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

When I heard Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence” I was a little kid and that line just really hit me – that was the moment. Made me pause for a second and think about that concept. Does silence have a sound? I went down the rabbit hole of thought, took it as deep as a 7-year-old could. But I thought words could be fun to mess around with from that moment on.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

One time I got fired from my job. In a past life, I used to drink in excess and I worked a shift at this coffee shop in Boston at 5 a.m. I probably drank ’til 4 a.m., and then showed up at work leaning a little too hard to the left. They fired me, and it was perfect timing because I suddenly had the weekend off. I sobered up and drove to the Tibetan Freedom Festival at RFK Stadium to see Radiohead. They were touring OK! Computer, and my life had already been changed by that record. I didn’t get to see Radiohead the day I expected to because lightning struck the woman sitting in front of me, and they had to postpone the show (that’s a whole other story, but I’m trying to entice folks to sign up for my short story and music subscription page because that’s a good one). The following day, I got to see Thom Yorke do an acoustic performance of “Street Spirit” on the Capitol Building Steps. That one stuck with me.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Radiohead, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, and Leonard Cohen.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Jeff Tweedy. Because he’s alive. And he’s tremendous. There’s a characteristic in his voice and demeanor that makes him sound like a friend. Like, if we met, we could just pick up where we left off in conversation even though we hadn’t started yet. And since he’s in frigid Chicago, he’d never see me shirtless and realize I have a Wilco tattoo. That would be like wearing the Wilco shirt to the Wilco show.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I try to make good music. That’s the most vague statement I’ve ever made in my life. I get to make music as something of an outsider. I don’t sing, I don’t play an instrument (in any traditional way). I listen, I write, and I’ve worked at record stores for more than half my life. And it’s pretty simple. Some music is good, some isn’t. I like a good song, a good vocal, and ageless tones that don’t get obsolete from the fleeting whims of trend. I don’t subscribe to any single genre, I just want to make things that sound classic.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Ha, this is sadly the age of COVID, so I haven’t seen any of those cats for more than a minute. It’s been so long that I don’t recall our roles. Perhaps when all is said and done, we can establish new roles, and someone will cook some food, ’cause I don’t think anyone ever did that.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I’m funny. Musicians don’t get me starstruck. I’ve had a philosophy that I’m on the same level with everyone. Not in an egotistical way, but you have to have that mentality going into this. Carry yourself like your heroes. Having said that, if Paul McCartney walked into a room, I’d probably pee my pants. He’s a Beatle. That’s different. But for me, I’d turn into a teenager if any member of the Golden State Warriors walked into a gig. I’d probably faint if I met Steph Curry.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

I’m a lifer. I tried to walk away once, and it didn’t take. I don’t know how to do anything else. Best part for me is the creative side. I like writing a song and finding the right line to complete it; conjuring puzzle pieces that didn’t previously exist is a special feeling. The performing side of things was the best when I was younger. I’ve had chronic Lyme Disease for 26 years, and the late nights don’t treat me the same as they used to, but there’s a magic in a band hitting on all cylinders and listening and taking it to the stratosphere beneath the red lights. When I was in college in Boston, I delivered pizzas, and it was the best gig I ever had. Drove around, listened to Pink Floyd, ate pizza, met folks, got weird.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Whenever folks ask me what I’m listening to, I draw a total blank and forget every band that ever existed. I always want someone to ask me what I’m listening to. Right now, I’m stuck on Timber Timbre’s Hot Dreams, Black Pumas, Andy Shauf’s The Party, Grapefruit’s Around Grapefruit, The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle, Michael Kiwanuka’s self-titled record, Run The Jewels’ Run The Jewels 4, and Jolie Holland’s Catalpa.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Missteps every step of the way. Missteps are the best. You learn from them and move on. The moment they stop feeling like mistakes is the moment you stop growing.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I’d like to be a fly on the wall when The Beatles recorded Revolver, specifically “Tomorrow Never Knows.” They were in touch with the future in that moment, and it would have been amazing to watch them get there. They were inventing new sounds that would change how music was made. It was history.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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