Compared by Billboard to “trailblazers such as Prince, David Bowie, and Donovan,” Davíd Garza’s 1998 Lava/Atlantic debut, “this euphoria,” marked the arrival of a stunning and unpredictable new artist. Now the Austin, Texas-based musician has delivered on that promise with the explosive “OVERDUB.” This striking new collection finds Garza continuing to break down musical boundaries, offering both intimate pop songwriting, and full-on power trio rock n’ roll alongside the virtuoso rhythm section of bassist Doug Wimbish and drummer Will Calhoun. Tracks such as the incendiary “God’s Hands” combine potent grooves with Garza’s slashing and imaginative guitar work, just as riff-happy punk pop numbers such as “Blow My Mind” and “Crown of Thorns” demonstrate this versatile songwriter’s gift for wry lyrics and unstoppable hooks.
Garza – who recently issued “KINGDOM COME AND GO,” the 11th release on his own Wide Open Records – is renowned for his mastery of instant 4-track recordings, and the self-produced “OVERDUB” features its share of small gems, such as the achingly tender “Too Much.” But the album’s heart ultimately can be found in the massive axe-fuelled soundscapes of songs such as the windswept epic, “Soul Custody.” In both vision and volume, “OVERDUB” is Big Guitar Rock for the Here and Now.
“OVERDUB” was recorded during April 2000 at Dreamland Studio in bucolic Woodstock, New York. “It’s a church built in the late 1800s,” the Irving, Texas native says of the evocative recording facilities, “a big old church with the original floors and ceilings and stained glass. I was looking for a big room for big guitars.”
Davíd’s idea was to work with a rhythm section in the tradition of Sly and Robbie, or Duck Dunn and Al Jackson Jr., a bass-and-drum team that operated in perfect harmony. The idea was to create a solid-grooving sound that combined funk-inspired tightness with the improvisational vigor of hard rock.
“I was thinking back to Hendrix, especially when he was with Band of Gypsies,” Garza says. “With the Experience he was doing much more of the crazy, stylish stuff, but when he got with Band of Gypsies, it was three equal parts just moving together, this big beast, like a three-headed monster.”
Enter Doug Wimbish and Will Calhoun. The bassist (known for his work with Tackhead, the Sugar Hill Gang, and the Rolling Stones) and drummer (Living Colour) had developed a rep as New York’s best rhythm combo and were plainly the ideal duo to accompany Garza to Dreamland.
“Doug is definitely a madman,” Davíd enthuses. “He really set the tone for a lot of the record’s vibe. I learned a lot from him, he was very solid and very cool.
“And Will, Will is this rush of thunder coming from whatever part of the room he happens to be playing in. He has incredible consistency. He tunes his drums beautifully, he definitely has a great tone and I like that.”
The combination of Wimbish and Calhoun’s roaring rhythms and Davíd’s ingenious guitar playing is remarkable, a supple and fluid sound that flexes and breathes, with each player’s performance distinctly displayed, yet always blending into one richly textured wall of sound. Garza – who studied classical guitar at University of Texas-Austin – leads the trio through a range of emotions, coming off lithe and muscular on the Bic-held-high power ballad “Alone,” or dynamic and upbeat on the New Wave-styled rocker, “Crown of Thorns.”
“It was very daunting,” says Garza. “As a producer, I decided to use these incredible musicians, and then when it came time for me to jump into the water with these guys as a guitar player, it was frightening! But we made some real deep connections.”
In addition to his six-string glossolalia, Davíd also demonstrates a remarkably free vocal range, veering from blues growl to trembling croon to swooping falsetto, often in one single verse. Garza credits his unbridled approach to the influence of singers such as the Incredible String Band’s Mike Heron and Robin Williamson, or his great hero Joni Mitchell – “people that weren’t thinking about recording vocals for radio mixes, that were just singing. I think more about other things than the voice. The more you think about it and labor over it, the less real it’s going to be.”
A third generation Mexican-American, Davíd’s work has always been liberally painted with the agony and ecstasy of his Catholic upbringing. “God’s Hands” sets Eastern-infused guitars amidst a Spaghetti Western landscape, marked by Garza’s hellfire-and-brimstone sermonizing. “Sometimes I’m very angry with our godhead figure,” he says, “sometimes I’m very happy with him. Or her. ‘God’s Hands’ and ‘Drone,’ they’re in the angry category.”
Garza’s substantial ire is also fuelled by the current musical climate. His beloved church of rock n’ roll is in a state of disrepair, victim to corporate marketing and a generation that doesn’t know any better. The riffy punk of “Blow My Mind” and the majestic desert rock of “Soul Custody” – with its climactic sandstorm of desolate guitar – are Garza’s way of rekindling the flame, of reintroducing the power and the glory missing from much of what passes for rock n’ roll in the 21st Century.
“The music today, some of it offends me to the point of anger,” Garza says. “There’s something that hurts me about it. Kids in the middle of America don’t know what a real rock band is; they listen to all this homogenous garbage and think that that’s what rock is! Maybe the solution is just not calling it rock n’ roll. Because it’s not.”
A devout student of the genre, Garza is well aware that the best rock n’ roll comes in many shapes and sizes. A number of the most compelling “OVERDUB” tracks were recorded solo, with Davíd performing on all instruments. Of these songs, the scathing “Say Baby” is a particular marvel, juxtaposing a magically delicious pop melody with a hardcore lyrical assault on an industry where “soul is a four letter word,” condemning superstar artistes for whom “soul is a four letter scam.”
“People talk about selling out,” Davíd says. “Well, I forget who said it originally, but once you take your guitar out of your bedroom, you’re a sell-out.”
Davíd first emerged from his bedroom more than a decade ago, touring the American Southwest non-stop and releasing a series of self-made tapes and CDs on his own Wide Open Records – with total cumulative sales now reaching close to 30,000. The “OVERDUB” CD unveils Garza’s creative roots by including “UNDERDUB,” an exclusive MP3 which features the embryonic lo-fi demo recordings of every song on the album. “It lets you see how big the album’s sound is,” Garza says of the “UNDERDUB” tracks. “It gives you a different point of reference. When you have an idea for a line in a book or whatever, you jot it down on whatever napkin you have. These are pretty much my napkins.
“That sound, that stripped-down lo-fi thing, is really what’s closest to my heart,” he adds. “But I don’t think of the record as showing two sides of me; I see it as all one thing.”
Earlier this year saw Garza making his first foray into film scoring, laying down instrumental tracks for Robert Rodriguez’s hit action-adventure, Spy Kids. “It was easy,” he laughs. “Just watching TV and playing guitar – how much more fun can you have?”
From lo-fi to Big Rock, Davíd Garza is creating rock n’ roll music that is free in spirit, rich in genuine soul, and formidable in its political fury. The raw, heartfelt “OVERDUB” makes it abundantly clear that this is one modern rocker who steadfastly refuses to play by anybody’s rules.
“Rules are for school, man,” Davíd laughs. “Making music is the ultimate statement of freedom in our society.”