Name: Unsteady Freddie
Activity: Surf music fan extraordianiare, promoter, radio host, etc.
Interview by email on 1/30/07
Actually I gave the name to myself. If I didn’t, surely someone else would have. right??!! I believe it goes back to the mid 1980’s. My Wife Leslie was celebrating her 30th Birthday, and for the surprise party that some friends and I threw, I had created a mock ‘People’ Magazine cover, and I believe it said, ‘Unsteady Freddie Presents’ on there. Perhaps that’s why we got divorced in 1994? Speaking of which, the divorce process commenced in 1992, my Daughter was only 3 years old....to say the least, this was a most painful time for me; and to make a long story short, it threw me into a deep, dark place for almost 6 years. I mention this because during that period, I ran around New York City night after night, making sure everyone knew me as ‘Unsteady Freddie’, everywhere I went. Perhaps it’s best not to talk in much greater detail than I already have about this period of madness and mayhem that engulfed me. But, in 1998, to quote Justin Hayward, “out of the dark I stumbled, into the light”, and I have not looked back. And I love the name, it’s rhythmic flow. It’s me, yeah, those 2 words speak volumes about who I am. I mean, we’re all slightly off, aren’t we? I am just admitting that fact, up front!! And it’s stuck, despite the protestations of ex-girlfriends and my Mother. I think “Unsteady Freddie” is up to 12 or 13 pages in Google, for God’s sake! And my poor Mom....if you put “Unsteady Mom” in Google ‘Images’, there’s pictures of her with my friends, Procol Harum, taken at The Bottom Line in New York City in 2003!!
My goodness, it could take me all day to answer that! Growing up in the New York City area, my earliest memories are AM Radio and TV shows that featured musical artists like ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’, and, believe it or not, “The Lawrence Welk Show” (I just saw a video on YouTube that showed The Chantays on there doing ‘Pipeline’ !!). The earliest group that stood out for me was ‘The Everly Brothers’. Those harmonies! Those songs! Does it get any more beautiful than ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ ? I remember in the early 1960’s how boring and unadventurous AM Radio was, until....I heard those surf-rock instrumentals. They stood out, radiated coolness. ‘Walk Don’t Run’ (the original version) by The Ventures I remember a little when it first came out. I think, though, I really started getting into music in a passionate way when The Beatles and the ‘British Invasion’ bands hit the airwaves. It shook everything up, and nothing was ever the same. I recently got to run around with The Searchers – one of my original faves and musical heroes – these guys are in their mid 60’s and still rocking and are so incredibly professional and great guys to boot!! Too many bands to mention here. At that same time I loved surf music as well...I still have my 45’s of Jorgen Ingmann, The Ventures, The T-Bones, The Chantays, The Pyramids. I particularly remember when I first heard ‘Walk Don’t Run ‘64’ by The Ventures. That unusual yet distinct sound, which I later learned was known as a “wet sound”, totally intrigued me. I couldn’t quite figure out how they got that guitar to sound like that. It sort of made me think that someone was snapping giant rubber bands!! The same thing with ‘Pipeline’ by The Chantays. I am a huge fan of “modern” surf, of which there are so so many – artists, besides the NESMA members, include The Aqua Velvets, The Mermen, The Insect Surfers, Satan’s Pilgrims, The Razorblades, The Nebulas, (can I include Dick Dale here, b/c he still rocks!!).....And I loved the ‘garage/Farfisa/Vox’ sound as well!! Killer times. And AM Radio played it, mixing it up, with movie soundtracks, rhythm and blues, Motown pop. Other genres and artists I am fond of are flamenco, gypsy jazz guitar (all hail Django!!), Link Wray, rockabilly, Los Straitjackets, and classical music.
3. How did you get interested in surf music?
I already partially answered that in question 2. But I think ‘getting interested” is a misnomer. I will elaborate. Somewhere around 1999, for whatever reason, I suddenly found myself being inundated with surf melodies in my head. Aliens? Nah, Higher Power!!! You see, when this started happening, it was right around the same time I stopped living this horrific lifestyle. Perhaps it was simultaneous? In other words, it was ‘connected’, and no coincidence. Yeah, most likely it was. Around that time I had Napster on my computer at work, and would search like a lunatic all the time for ‘surf’ music. I tried different ways to find the music, using different words in the search engine. I believe when I started doing this, I discovered there was a ‘modern’ world of surf musicians, and wondrous music out there for taking. I really had no idea that the genre was that big. And my knowledge and thirst to learn more started to grow in leaps and bounds. It eventually led me to the Yahoo Groups that dealt with Surf Music, like Reverborama, Cowabunga, NESMA, Surf Guitar 101, and the ones for Davie Allan & The Arrows and Los Straitjackets. I went to websites like ‘Cowabunga’, and ‘Tsunami Soul Surf’, and used their links feverishly to ‘surf’ band websites and download whatever I could get my hands on. I started seeking out live surf music in the New York City area. I distinctly recall going to see The Coffin Daggers at CBGB’s in 2003 and completely freaking out! I frankly could not believe the playing of this band, the intensity. Amazing. I came upon The Howlin’ Thurstons, and would run to see them all the time, then The Supertones, and Mister Action and the Boss Guitars. At some point this led me to the North East Surf Music Alliance, and I started going to see The 9th Wave, and then along came The Clams. In a nutshell, surf-rock music is aloe vera for my soul. And whether it’s fast, intense surf, or ‘slow twang’, the net result is the same. It calms me. The music is now deeply imbedded within me. It ALWAYS sounds great! Great music to drive a car to, but everyone reading this already knows that!
4. In what ways does Unsteady Freddie promote surf music?
Countless ways. I think I first started some websites to keep people informed, and show some of the pictures I took at shows I attended. http://www.catch-the-waves.com is a site that lists upcoming concerts. www.reverbsuperb.com was created, as I said, to post photos of live surf shows. I later added www.readyunsteadygo.com, which essentially also is a site that I put my pictures on. In 2004, I would say that’s the real ‘turning point’ year, I really kicked it up. I was in a long-term relationship at that time, and I remember telling my then-girlfriend some very profound things: 1) that I don’t have any ‘real friends’; 2) I want to single-handedly create a ‘live surf music scene’ in New York City. One night I headed out to a couple of tiki bars, and tried to stir up interest in live surf music. When I got home that night, my girl-friend was angry about all of this (looking back, I think she was nervous about something, but probably didn’t even know why). I think she saw this intense passion that was sweeping over me. I told her, “I have to do this. It’s a calling. I feel it. I know it”. I went on the internet, and found a bar called ‘Tavaru’, named for a Fiji Island beach, I believe? I went there the next day, and sold them, on the spot, for 2 shows, 2 weeks in a row! First up, it was The Supertones; second, it was The Clams. And we had pretty good turnouts! My desire to bring live surf music show presentations to NYC was now a reality. I should add that my then-girlfriend never got to see any of these shows. I think this all freaked her out; perhaps she was jealous of this sudden ‘new life’ that was emerging all around me?” And ‘friends’? Oh man, did I ever make new friends! Later that year I was approached by a stranger by email who had seen my posts in the Yahoo Groups. His name was Dan Coleman. He asked me if I would be interested in doing a ‘segment’ on an internet radio show about surf music, like a ‘local reporter’. This was September 10th, 2004. I wrote him back, flipping out. I always wanted to be ‘on the radio’, playing music that turns me on, and playing it for others to dig. ‘Twang Shebang’ was born that day (again, the name just rhythmically flowed, like ‘Reverb Superb’ and ‘Unsteady Freddie’). People like BigWave Dave were calling me ‘Lo-Fi Freddie’ back then (I was recording the show over the phone). To this day I have never met Dan Coleman...and when we ultimately do, it’s gonna be quite the moment!! Regarding that fateful September 10th day, I left my office in a daze, heading to the NYC subway system to go see Laika & The Cosmonauts at a club called ‘Pianos’. As the doors were closing on the train, someone called out, “hold it!”, and I did just that. Lo and behold...some dude got on the train carrying not one, but two surfboards!! Was this a sign from “the tiki gods”? You bet!! I was blown away by that, and still am, actually. Later that month I went to the ‘Wipe Out Festival’ in Calella, Spain, which was one amazing time. I got to meet, hang out with, and watch these artists perform: Eddie Angel (with the Neanderthals), Robi and The Bitch Boys (and his girl-friend, who I dubbed, ‘The Goddess’!!), Davie Allan and The Arrows, Lost Acapulco, Ray Daytona and the Googoobombos, The Hawaiian Astro Boys, Not of this Earth, and so many other great artists. We eventually added music and my Radio Shack microphone to ‘Twang Shebang’. Plus I do live, on-the-scene interviews with artists with my ‘magic dictaphone’. I am so proud of so many of the shows I have done, with artists like The Searchers, Pete Best, Davie Allan, Steve Hackett, etc. Back to my live shows....I kept searching out and booking different venues, trying to get a ‘regular gig’ going. Some of the venues I brought live surf music to included ‘Makor’ in Lincoln Center, ‘The Coral Room’ (with its giant fish tanks that featured a live mermaid!), ‘Pianos’, ‘The Cutting Room’, ‘Satalla’, ‘A & M Roadhouse’, ‘Galapagos’. And then I approached ‘Otto’s Shrunken Head’, and as they say, the rest is history...Steve Pang and Nell, who own the club, have been so so supportive. We have a great buzz between us. After ‘Twang Shebang’, I started a second show called ‘Elemental Instrumental’ (there’s that ‘rhyming thing’ again!) – essentially the concept was a surf music show for kids...to teach them surf music by the alphabet, letter by letter. The show is on hiatus and will be returning soon. Last year I started a third show with Dan Coleman, called ‘YourSpace Radio’ – where I play original music by MySpace artists. On every edition of the show, I feature surf music. I was interviewed live on KFJC in California by Phil Dirt in 2005, which was such a joy and honor. And I must speak a little about MySpace. When I started making the move to upgrade and add pictures to my website, my site just, well, literally took off. Remember when I said earlier that I thought I “didn’t have any friends”? Well, as they say, watch what you wish for! Last count I was well over 17,000 friends!! Amazing, right? This is a great place for me to network, and get the word out for my live shows, and my internet radio endeavors.
5. What geographic region do you cover with your activities?
I would say and like to believe it’s world-wide, though the primary focus is in the New York Tri-State area, and the North East of the U.S. The internet radio shows feature artists from all over the world. And, of course, there’s the ‘Surf-Rock Shindigs’ at ‘Otto’s’. I have hosted a ‘Monster Surf Bash’ in Portland, Oregon, in 2005, and MC’d the ‘Surf Fest’ in Clarkston, Georgia, last year. Just last weekend I co-promoted a ‘Winter Surf-Rock Wonderland’ in Bladensburg, Maryland; back in 2004 I did a live surf music event in Springfield, Virginia.
Can you rank the importance of the various promotional activities that you do?
How do bands get their music to you for airplay? How do bands get on one of your
"Surf Rock Shindigs"?
Dan Coleman has set up a sister website to the site where my radio shows are streamed from. The shows are heard at www.myrealbroadcast.com. Dan has set up MyReal Talent as another avenue for artists to have their music, their image, their live concert dates, promoted. The site is www.myrealtalent.com. Going forward (this is a fairly new prerequisite), in order to get one’s music heard on ‘Twang Shebang’ and/or ‘YourSpace Radio’, one has to create a ‘Profile’ at MyReal Talent. Artists send me their music via my email, firstname.lastname@example.org, in mp3 format, and can send me their promo CD’s to my snail-mail address: Unsteady Freddie, ‘YourSpace Radio’, 676A Ninth Avenue, New York, New York, 10036. These addresses can be found at the radio show’s companion website, www.yourspaceradio.com. There is also a companion site for ‘Twang Shebang’, naturally called, www.twangshebang.com.
I post available openings for upcoming ‘Surf-Rock Shindigs’ in the various Yahoo Groups and in bulletins I send out in MySpace. I am presently booked through June, 2007!!
Interesting question. With surf music, generally speaking, inevitably one will hear covers of ‘trad’ surf tunes. Bands like Mr. Action & The Boss Guitars and Venice Beach Muscle Club will often do 1960’s pop and rock tunes in a surf style, and make them sound fresh and exciting. That works for me. And I have watched so many bands mature, and they are starting to incorporate new original numbers into their repertoire. Bands that come to mind are SPF-4, The Surfalicious Dudes, Tarantinos/NYC, Mister Neutron...and so many others. Cannot really give you an answer in percentages. But I think it’s important, no, make that essential, that a band move away from being strictly a straight cover band, to one that incorporates original material into their shows and recordings. It helps one stand out from the pack.
Thank you for saying ‘passion’, by the way, because it’s not an obsession, for me. It’s joy, it’s bliss. Considering, at last look, I have lost over 55 pounds (since September 2006), I don’t think I have a ‘favorite food’ that I relate to listening to or experiencing live surf music!! Plus they don’t serve food at ‘Otto’s’!!! And since I haven’t had an alcoholic beverage since 1998, and I quit drinking soft drinks (even diet sodas!), I guess it’s club soda with juices (if this sounds boring, for me, it works; I can never go back to the way I behaved, nor do I wish to ever see the sequel to that!)
How did you discover NESMA?
My Higher Power brought us together. I firmly believe that.
What do you hope to get out of your NESMA affiliation?
What's next for Unsteady Freddie?
Well, a lot of that is in God’s hands. I have a record company called ‘Lifeguard’, and it finally is coming to life. And this is exclusive public news...not announced anywhere else. I will kick the label off the ground with a surf/instro compilation of original tunes by various world-wide artists....and here’s the most amazing part of this – Lifeguard will release records through and in conjunction with Eddie Angel’s ‘Spinout Records’ !!! I mean, how cool is that??!! Hoping to get the first compilation out in time for Summer, 2007.