By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Last time I saw David Garza, he brought me to my knees.
Quite literally — a park in Austin, a year and a half
ago, and Garza strutted onto the outdoor stage under the
black clouds of a brewing storm and dared the lightning
bolts to fly by the bald audacity of his guitar playing.
All he had at his disposal was his clipped, cat-like voice
and a revved-up Rickenbacker guitar, but no plaintive
singer-songwriter was he. All by himself he rocked harder
than every lineup of Starship on a single stage, yelping
and growling and playing that guitar so hard and fast and
with such conviction and clarity, well, I actually worried
he was hurting himself.
But he brought all the layered, looped tracks from his
Atlantic debut album to life with the sweat of his brow
instead of the flick of a switch, and by the time he
finished "Discoball World" I was on my knees at the edge of
the stage, clawing at my face and bellowing. Fortunately, I
was not alone.
So if you're headed down the 'pike this weekend to catch
matchbox 20 (whatever) and Train (snore), don't linger in
those overpriced Bricktown restaurants too long and miss
the opening act, 'cause it's David Garza (that's dah-VEED
to you, gringo) and that same, lone guitar, and I guarantee
he'll justify the ticket price and the gas money in 30
"Yeah, that's what I'm doing on this matchbox 20 tour,
and it's real fun," Garza said in an interview last week
from a tour stop in El Paso, Texas. "I'm coming off a string
of shows in clubs, solo stuff, you know, but you don't get
to bring out the loud amps in these small clubs. On those
outdoor stages and in those arenas, I can crank it up."
He says this with an obvious timbre of relish, even
though Garza — Billboard magazine compared him to
"trailblazers such as Prince, David Bowie and Prince" — is as
gut-wrenching with a slow hand as he is when he's smokin'.
His particular oomph makes him a bit of an anomaly in the
laid-back, folkie Austin, Texas, music scene from which
he's been based since landing at the University of Texas on
a classical guitar scholarship.
After dabbling in cover bands — "playing Billy Idol and
INXS and Big Audio Dynamite for dances" — Garza thrust a band
called Twang Twang Shock-a-Boom into the scene where the
likes of Asleep at the Wheel shuffle along as politely as
possible. Record label execs showed up at his shows like
lawyers in an emergency room — so fast that Garza rebuffed a
few offers until he felt his songs were ready for the big
"I guess it happened somewhat fast back then. I got my
start playing solo guitar at an Italian restaurant. I was
the guy who wandered from table to table, and I had to hold
my own with the single instrument," Garza said. "Now that I
get to travel a little farther and wider, I try to push it
a little. So much music today is so dense and thick, with a
lot of beats and loops and programs and samples. For me
personally, the most revolutionary thing I can do is play
unaccompanied, loud electric guitar."
His affection for stripped-down r-a-w-k rock only hints
at the irony of his latest album title, "Overdub," his second
release for Lava-Atlantic Records. A chunkier, rougher
record than the previous two — "This Euphoria," his dreamy
debut for Atlantic, and "Kingdom Come and Go," a solo
acoustic record on Garza's own Wide Open Records label --
"Overdub" symbolizes more personal philosophy than studio
"A lot of what I've done over the last 10 years is
overdub things. You know, there's a redemptive idea in
overdubbing. Spiritually, lyrically — as I'm growing older I
start looking at how to fix things in my life, similar to
the recording process. It's not as clean in real life. You
don't get to fix your mistakes by patching in an overdub,"
"This album sounds rougher basically because I got to
produce it. I had the time and the budget, and I got to
work with bassist Doug Wimbish (Tackhead, Sugarhill Gang)
and drummer Will Calhoun (Living Colour). When those guys
step, the earth shakes. That sound is the crumbling of
buildings as they're ringing their terror in the tracks. We
got a bold, old rock sound — just three humans playing in a
"It's different from the way most albums are
made, and have been made for since '92 or '93 — the whole
building of tracks, not necessarily the performance of a
song. It starts with that perfect time loop, over which the
drummer plays some funky drums. Then the bass player stops
playing Nintendo and puts in his line. Then you call the
guitar player on his cell phone and tell him to come in do
his guitar parts. Then you wait for your special guest
stars to come in from the limo. The way this was done was
we three guys shook hands and started playing rock 'n'
roll. `Bloodsuckers' was the first thing we played
together, and I said, `Oh yeah, this is going to work.' "
There were a few guest stars in this process, though --
Craig Ross, a fellow Austin rocker who contributes much of
the six-string stomp heard on his phenomenal 1996 release
"Dead Spy Report" and everybody's favorite lovelorn indie
waif, Juliana Hatfield, whose bright voice adds to the lilt
of "Keep on Crying."
For now, though, Garza's on the road by himself,
standing on the shoulders of giants even though his sound
is just as tall.
"Like I said, I can turn it up on this tour," he said, "and
man, if I can make your ears bleed, I'll go for it."
Matchbox 20, Train and Garza play at 7 p.m. Wednesday
(Sept 12) at the Myriad Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
Call (405) 297-3300 for information and tickets, or buy
tickets online at www.tickets.com.
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.