A bi-weekly column on the perks and perils of vintage record hunting.
“I dig for records.
Not so much in the more conventional way that may come to mind for most music fans. If readers are picturing a nonchalant stroll through Kobey’s Swap Meet at 9 a.m., long after the sun has made its debut, thumbing through a stack of vinyl at the tempo of a Morphine song, then let me assure them that this not the case.
Not to romanticize it, but there are moments when I feel like an archeologist participating in the last gold rush on the frontiers of America. On my most recent score, I found myself hanging off scaffolding from a height that could have compromised my existence had things gone awry. I was stretching my arms like DC’s Plastic Man, flashlight in hand, trying my hardest to reach a box of records. I wondered for a second if this was how I’d die. At the moment I finally reached that box, I’d misstep and fall to my demise. With my last exhale, I would open the box to find out it held Loggins and Messina records, disappointment punctuating my life with a sour exclamation point.”
Alfred Howard knows what it’s like to perform in front of a rough crowd. The lyricist, percussionist and independent record label guru got his start performing spoken word in venue parking lots around San Diego, hoping to catch the attention of random patrons searching for their cars. But while most performers would struggle to find an audience in a dingy parking lot, Al thrived. His skillful wordplay quickly attracted musicians, poets, and fans alike, and Al became a sought-after lyricist and percussionist for bands around San Diego.
In 2015, he decided to take his passion for poetry and music to the next level, forming an independent record label collective called The Redwoods. The idea behind the label is simple: To bring together a core group of the best performers in San Diego and make amazing, vintage-inspired tunes. If The Redwoods are a body, then Alfred Howard is the brain -- for the seven different bands on the label’s roster, he contributes lyrics or beats, playing to each performer’s strength and encouraging constant experimentation. The Redwoods’ music ranges from soul to psychedelic to spectral folk, and every musician brings a fresh perspective to these records. The result is an eclectic collective of bands that aren’t afraid to evolve and blend together unusual genres. Alfred has inspired a group of heavy hitting artists and in doing so, has lead The Redwoods to become San Diego’s musical lifeblood.
the autobiography of no one
A book of lyrics and stories, The Autobiography of No One, it's full of some gold-medal zingers (and more earnest, serious parts, of course). Here are seven quotable highlights:
On the sacred duties of being in a band: "As a musician, it is your duty to sign a boob, no matter whose boob, or whose mother's boob it is, whether you want to or not."
On racial stereotyping: "Dear white people shopping at the record store, this photograph of Lionel Richie hanging at the store is not me. Please stop asking."
On being confused for a homeless person: " My girlfriend mistook a homeless guy for me outside of the House of Blues. To her credit he did look a lot like me and had a similar wardrobe. Hopefully he only got some spare change out of the mistaken identity."
On what he'd rather do than hear Christmas music: "I'd rather be Ol' Dirty Bastard's road manager. I'd rather live in a state that banned bacon and played Barbara Streisand [sic] exclusively on the radio. I'd rather be a Steely Dan fan, the dildo and the group. I'd rather relive watching the sex scene from "White Men Can't Jump" with my mom again, that was uncomfortable."
On Spotify's business model: " [T]hey know that by interrupting the spiritual quality of Nina Simone's voice with the nails on a chalkboard of a Britney Spears remix CD is literally the one chance they have at getting my cheap ass to give them 10 bucks a month to shut up."
On irony: "This morning I woke up in a town called Liberal, Kansas. The only thing liberal about Liberal, Kansas is their liberal use of the word liberal."
On souvenirs in the middle states: "For a mere $50 you can purchase an electric Jesus with a neon glowing fiber optic crown / halo, on sale at your local Oklahoma gas station. I believe he both spins and saves."