Imagine my surprise on attending The Icarus Line’s concert at Buffalo Bar (London) and seeing Alvin DeGuzman – one of the original members of the band and whose absence from the ranks only served to remind me of how difficult it can be to maintain any semblance of congruence when it comes to interpersonal relationships.
Considering that The Icarus Line have had (more than) their fair share of band lineup displacements, I really did think the worst when I found out that Alvin wasn’t with the band on their last UK tour. So imagine how happy I was when I found out that Alvin was once again touring with The Icarus Line and that he’d be more than happy to be interviewed for this website.
What follows is a little “conversation” (more like an interrogation) between the two of us, during which I asked him about the band as well as a few other things that had been bugging me recently.
Enjoy the interview…
How are you doing, and what brings you back to the UK?
Well, I’m here to do the tour. We’ve got mostly continental European shows. I’m really excited about it, as I get to go back out on the trail and do some “hard rocking”.
So how long has it been since you last visited the UK?
Well, I had been here with a different band – The Holloys – and I’ve run my course in that group as well. I was grateful for the opportunity, but now I’m back with my main band and looking to bring back some of that old “motown madness”.
Lance Arnao briefly replaced you. Is his absence from The Icarus Line now a permanent thing?
Well technically, Lance is the original bass player for The Icarus Line. It turned out that due to work restrictions I couldn’t make the last couple of trips, but this time I managed to get the time off. That is what led to his return in the band to an extent, and I always felt that Lance should come back anyway – because of what happened in the past…
What did happen in the past?
Well, I think he didn’t really want to leave at the time when he did. I think it just makes it right for him to come back and do what he does for the group. This way everyone gets to contribute. We’ve always been good friends, and I’m really happy that everyone gets a chance to shine.
Will Lance be making any more contributions to the band?
Well, we have this support slot for The Cult coming up. I think he will be doing those dates as it’s a US tour. I might move to keyboards (if I learn how to play them in time). I’m looking forward to helping in any way, and it could be that we’ll be a five-piece for that tour. I doubt that I could do the entire tour, but at least the local shows. I’d like to try my hand at the old Dizzy Reed action, you know what I mean?
You said that you’re supporting The Cult in America. How did that come about?
Well, I think it actually came through Killing Joke. They’re doing support for The Cult as well, so I think The Cult were looking for some suggestions, and Killing Joke just went “hey, how about them?”. I’m just speculating as to how it happened. I’ve always been a big fan of The Cult, so it’s onwards and upwards I suppose…
What would happen if Axl Rose turned around and said “hey, come down and support us!”?
Well, that would be something. It would be really hard for me not to corner him and say “hey, why don’t you get some of the original members in – at least like… anyone”. I guess Dizzy Reed is still there…
How do you feel about Guns N Roses being inducted into the Hall of Fame, but (allegedly) not playing together?
Well, they were a huge influence on me. I’m not going to say that they don’t deserve to be (inducted). It’s just that I have nostalgia for the original line-up which I never did get to see. The closest was – the first show I ever went to – Metallica and Guns N Roses at The Colosseum. So it was almost all of everybody from the original line-up… Gilby and Matt: no offence, but you guys were not the original lineup.
Who’s your drummer at the moment, because I know that Troy Petrey went AWOL?
Troy had a little stint. But he had either work or family obligations and couldn’t do the tours. We now have Ben Hallett, who we know from another band that Joe worked with, and we just sort of fandangled him, and here he is. He’s a great drummer.
I hear that The Captain’s not coming back…
Yeah, The Captain is my supervisor at work.
You’re joking, right? Is he actually your supervisor? Is he still The Captain?
Yeah, he is. We’re actually the two employees there. He was the first employee, and I’m the second employee.
Where do you work?
BAE. They are the manufacturer of audio equipment. We do get calls about airplane parts all the time, but I always have to say “no, no, no. We’re British Audio Engineering actually”.
So you actually work with him?
I do. He’s my direct supervisor. He’s pretty much at the upper level of doing the tech work – he tests almost everything, and I’ll learn that too. It’s a good field, and I’m very happy to be able to go back there after this lengthy time off I’m on right now.
Word is that he’s retired from drumming in general?
No, he still plays. It’s just that his work takes up a lot of his time. Not only is he learning to be a tech, he’s working closely with Research and Design. He’s on the fast-track to being a very high level technician when it comes to that.
Will The Captain still play with The Icarus Line if you guys decided to play a local show in Los Angeles?
I would say no. I would say that Ben would do it, as he’s the current drummer.
So Ben Hallett is now the permanent drummer?
Well, I can’t predict the future. But for the time being, we’re putting pretty much all of the eggs in his basket. Good times…
Have you heard from Troy since he went MIA?
No, I haven’t talked to Troy. I kind of knew that he was going through similar troubles as me on that tour. I think it might have been a lot about work, but he’s also got a sort of family.
Yeah. I don’t know if it’s his kid, or whether he’s a step-father. I think those were all playing a role.
He didn’t want to be in that position. I’m like him too, in that I really don’t like confrontation. But I had to be straight at the time and say that I had boring work commitments that I would love to forsake in a perfect world, in order to fulfil my rock destiny. But it’s just the way of the world. You can’t always get what you want.
Well, you’re still young.
Relatively. I’m going to be 34. Some people have to be older, but as long as I don’t get to be the oldest in the band (laughs)… I might as well be the oldest in the band.
Apparently Joe is building a studio. I’ve seen photographs of his “work in progress” reports on Twitter…
Oh, it’s nearly done. It looks great. It’s about five times the size of his previous place, and it’s coming together really well. I hadn’t seen it in a while either until we had a little rehearsal before we left. It is really nice and state of the art.
Does that mean we’ll be seeing records come out from you guys on a more frequent basis?
Hopefully. We have the facilities. I know that Joe is always busy, and he’s always going to be as he’s in demand. Yeah, I’d love to have another record out in a year (or less). That would be great…
Would it still be on CD, or would you be looking to release future albums/songs on vinyl or in MP3 format?
I still think it would come out in a proper format on CD and vinyl. I would hope, not that anybody listens to music that way anymore. We want something for people to hold on to and to look at. If they are going to upload and listen to it immediately on their iPod… well, what can I say? I do it too.
How do you think the digitization of music content has affected your band?
Well, certainly the obvious answer is the big reduction in profits. But at the same time, you can look at the silver lining and say that it’s much easier for someone in a remote part of the world to access our music and media.
You don’t have to travel to HMV anymore…
Right. You just get up on the blog and just upload it from your favourite file-sharing site. But I hear that those are on the way out…
You guys are associated with Travis Keller again, and I read on Wikipaedia that he co-manages the band…
Well, I don’t know. That sounds like an internet meme there. Travis is more of a myth, than a legend. You know what I mean? Nobody ever saw it.
Actually, I like Travis a lot and we’re good friends. I haven’t seen him in a while. We’d hang with him at his DJ spinning sessions, and I’m sure I’ll do that again, and I wish him the best. But no, he’s not really having any managerial input in the group.
What about putting out your guys records?
I don’t know much about that either. That would be cool. If we can have a working relationship like that, then that would be great. But I don’t know anything about it, and can’t confirm or deny anything about him putting out any of our stuff.
Do you still see Aaron North?
Aaron? No, not in the least… I think I heard him, in the next room, where I live. I think that was him a few months ago, because he’s friends with Annie (from Giant Drag) and I rent and live in her family’s house. She rents me a room. She was living there until recently until she moved back down to San Clemente with her family.
Yeah, I would see him from time to time. You know, I don’t have neither…
I might have been jealous of his success at one point, and I told him that. You know, who wouldn’t be? He was pretty damn successful at one point there. With that being said, we’re down for a peaceful co-existence.
Do you know as to what is happening with his Jubilee band?
That, I don’t know…
Because you could probably argue that Jubilee is like the trough to his NIN’s peak…
Well… yeah. I would have been expecting something a little bit more along the lines of his previous employer. But what can I say? That guy’s full of surprises…
Considering that Lance has had some sort of involvement with the band, and so has Travis and Troy, do you think we’ll ever see the return of Aaron?
Will we see the return of Aaron? Well, never say never I guess. We jammed a bit, and he knew all the relevant material of his era – better than any of us. I don’t want to speak for the whole band, but I’m not in any hurry to play that stuff. We still play a song here and there, but I’d rather stay “current” with the material and leave the re-hashing of previously released material to bands that advertise it (like Rush, Moving Pictures etc).
You spoke of Annie. She was meant to be the unofficial member of the band at one point. Do you know as to why her involvement has “diminished” somewhat in recent months?
She was playing keyboards with us for a little while there – a couple of gigs – and it was great. I think she’s got commitments to her own band, and she’s going to be focusing on that right now, so it looks like I’m going to be the keyboard player. It looks like I’m going to be stealing her job. Stealing it (jokingly laughs)…
Now that you’re looking to play keyboard within the band, how do you think this will affect the sound and future output of the band?
I think it’s just a natural progression. We’ve kind of gotten away from the two-guitar attack…
Does that mean you’ll be writing more melodic songs, almost like the kind of songs on Use Your Illusion by Guns N Roses?
Well, I don’t know about that. I think we do have a few songs that resemble the Guns N Roses style. I think as I’m getting older I’d like to think that it’s a little bit more dynamic to have a keyboard and a guitar versus the two-guitar attack, even though it’ll be a hell of lot easier for me to pick up the guitar and be the guitar player. It’s not about taking the easy way out… I’m looking forward to it.
You talk about not taking the easy way out. Do you think your unwillingness to compromise has affected your ability to receive the necessary mainstream exposure, and be as successful as you needed or wanted to be?
Yeah, absolutely. But I don’t have any regrets really. I think things happen for a reason. You know I’d much rather do what I feel is artistically stimulating, and if that means we’re not going to be on the cover of Kerrang, then so be it.
Has Kerrang ever contacted you over the last few months?
No, not really. But that’s fine, because I’m not really too big on the whole Kerrang scene. I don’t do a lot of Kerrang reading. I guess I don’t read too many rock magazines any more these days. I think I like Mojo… They tend to review the more obscure stuff, which is what I’m usually after anyway.
I still remember that front cover which featured The Icarus Line (Joe), Rival Schools and Alkaline Trio. How did you guys go from being cover stars to where Kerrang don’t even mention you in passing anymore?
Don’t know. I guess we got too old or something. I don’t think they control as to what is “in”. I think they just report on what is “in”. I don’t know if that is either praise or an insult to them.
Do you think you’re too old?
Well, no. Sometimes I feel like I’m old, you know, when I see my waist size go in the direction that I don’t want to. But what can you do? Your metabolism slows down, and I still eat like shit. So what do you expect?
To be fair, Garbage have just reformed and they’re being treated like cover stars. And Avenged Sevenfold are still garnering all the column inches in the press. And if I remember correctly, didn’t The Captain take all of them on single-handedly?
Um… I think it was mostly with the guy that’s now dead. The touch of death. Jeff’s a big blood-sports fan. The “death-touch”. It wasn’t so much that Jeff won that fight, as it was that the fact that the guy came in contact with the him, which set in motion a chain of events where that dude is now in his grave…
Nah, I’m just kidding. It did happen. A little altercation. It just so happens by coincidence that that guy has now passed…
How did Jeff react to the news when he found out that The Rev died?
That’s his joke. I’m just transposing it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve got to finish my beer now…