It’s not uncommon in Providence’s music scene for a drummer to be involved in multiple bands. When a musician shows talent behind the drum kit, word gets out and the offers start coming in to help start a new band or join an established one.
That’s the situation for Cranston resident Al Diaz. When he’s not drumming, he’s writing music or playing covers on his acoustic guitar. On top of that, he also has experience being a dynamic frontman.
Recently, Diaz and I had a talk about the numerous aspects of his musical life, when MTV was actually good, being involved in the music scene since the ’90s and a reunion that’s on the horizon.
ROB DUGUAY: What do you consider to be the spark that made you want to make music?
AL DIAZ: For me, there were many moments in my life that were kind of musical sparks. I came from a house where there was always salsa and vallenato playing, so my appreciation for music started at a young age.
I’ve got to say, one of my best memories was when my dad took me to go see “The Blues Brothers” in the theaters. Seeing all those great blues and Motown greats in one movie stays with you forever, especially at such a young and impressionable age.
The birth of MTV, when it was cool, was also a music spark for me. We got cable in 1983, and at that time MTV was only two years old, so I would watch videos, especially the drummer, and I would mimic what the drummers would do. I started to pick up on the different sounds each instrument would make and I also started breaking down music in general. I started to isolate each instrument in my head and have my own “wow” moments. Music was a very vital part of my life, especially for a young, goofy, but shy kid who was also riddled with anxiety.
I have to say, what made me want to start playing my own music was when I saw Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video on MTV for the very first time. It came out at a time when hair metal was kind of on its way out. Don’t get me wrong, I love hair metal, but there was just something about it that didn’t appeal or talk to me as much as the alternative music of the late ’80s and early ’90s did. Seeing that rawness and intensity for the first time was what made me go buy my first drum set with my paper route money that I earned.
RD: That music video could very well be the most influential music video of all time. It literally changed popular music overnight.
AD: It definitely did for me.
RD: You write acoustic music as a solo artist and you also play drums in The Dust Ruffles, Consuelo’s Revenge, The Benji’s and SexCoffee. How difficult can it get to manage your time between everything you have going on?
AD: As far as managing all the time, it’s actually not that hard thanks to the Google calendars that we all share (laughs). I do have to say, my solo songwriting material takes a back seat because I'm such a busy drummer. I cherish the moments when I come home and I don’t have to go to practice and I can focus on just my songwriting material.
RD: You also used to be the frontman for the hard rock act Kanerko. What would you say was the hardest thing about being on stage with just a mic in your hand, and what was the most fun thing about it?
AD: I would have to say the hardest thing about that was not being able to see anybody in front of you, because I never wore glasses when I performed (laughs). I’m as blind as a bat! I would also say that the hardest thing would be my stage presence. I’m a silly person and really don’t have much of a stance when it comes to political things or being serious. I usually would say the most outlandish things on stage that would either win the crowd over or horrify them. Either way, though, I would always make a lasting impression.
The most fun thing would be when I used to sing in the middle of the dance floor, but that depended on how the mix sounded that night in the club. If there was a horrible mix, I would just set up the mic right in the middle of the dance floor and just do my thing, which also made a lasting impression (laughs). I also would bust out my weird dance moves, which were between a cross between James Brown and Cedric Bixler-Savala from the Mars Volta.
RD: I totally remember you doing those kinds of things. What do you think has changed the most in Rhode Island’s music scene from when you started in the ’90s to now?
AD: Well, for one, the technology and the way shows are promoted now. Back then, you’d go and make flyers on your printer until the ink would run out and then just plaster them everywhere. When I first started in the scene, there was a huge hardcore and metal scene – bands like Shed, Kilgore, Freakshow, Times Expired, State Of Corruption and so on and so forth. I’ve seen so many musical styles come and go.
One thing that I’ve seen, too, is most of the cats I used to play with have all settled down and don’t go out as much. I have my family, but they all understand that I need music to keep me sane. I bet half of the kids I play with in the scene must see me as a dinosaur, but this music and these kids keep me young. One thing that hasn’t changed about the scene in Providence is the utter talent in this city. I don’t care what people say, this city and the talent in it make me extremely proud.
RD: Going back to Kanerko, there have been a few hints on social media about a reunion. Can we expect that to happen soon?
AD: Yes! That's for sure. Right now, we’re just taking our time. Some of us have families and some of us are in like every band in Providence. When the time comes, we will make it known and it will be glorious.
To learn more about Al Diaz and his music, find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter (both @AlDiazMusic).