Interview w/ Alfred Howard


Not to make this introduction sound like a hagiography, but Alfred Howard’s importance in San Diego is inimitable. The songwriter, musician, podcaster, record enthusiast, poet, and author tirelessly works for the betterment of the city. I could spend roughly thirteen hours listing the projects Howard is in, but this Dani Bell and the Tarantist video is both a sample and sundial for greatness. In shorthand, the dude has a great mind. In wanting to bother one of my favorite people, I decided to ask him about the carnival of terror that was 2016, the social relevance of Myspace, and the greatness of The Redwoods


Rob Patrick: Tell me about NYE Psychedelic Masquerade at The Lafayette, because it looks super rad. There’s also an enforced dress code mandating that attendees must wear proper masks – what sort of headwear should guests avoid?

Alfred Howard: It’s gonna be epic. Thanks for lobbing in that promotional opportunity softball with the first question. You can dress as something scary like the Donald Trump’s cabinet, or you can just glue some feathers to your face, it’s up to you. I wear a mask every day, I’m actually a white guy named Bradley Wilkins, so I’m gonna go as him to the ball, but then I also wear a mask in one of my bands, so I’ll be double masked, it’s totally mad.


Why does Ian Owen like Dr. Dog so much? In 2008 he cornered me at Claim Jumper and would not let it go.

Ian only dreams premonitions of future Dr Dog songs and then he sits down to write them, only to hear them on the next Dr. Dog record, killing him a little bit each time. I think that has something to do with it.


Not to be aggressively positive, but the world is garbage right now. If the new A Tribe Called Quest album was bad, on top of everything else, the earth would have turned into the goddamn Death Star. So, what do we do from here?

This was all just a campaign to make stand up comedy great again. Bill Hicks will come back to life and it will be hilarious and totally worth it. So if you’re a Muslim in rural Arkansas and a crowd with pitchforks is chasing you through a field and hurling stones at you, don’t worry, the laughs are coming soon, your patience is a virtue. But seriously, the week Donald Trump was elected, I had $700 of equipment stolen from my van, Leonard Cohen’s light went out and I started having severe stomach pains. Everything is shit now, but I heard there will be a Deadwood movie.


Even though 2016 has been a Dexter-like kill room, music has been pretty good this year. What were your favorite releases?

2016 was like the last season of Dexter and that’s basically the coldest thing I could say about anything. I didn’t listen well this year. I wanna lie and just copy some answers from someone relevant, but I don’t even know who that is, is that still Pitchfork? I really got into the Andy Shauf record The Party, the last Bowie album resonated with me, Margaret Glaspy had a cool record, Angel Olson’s record was cool, actually I haven’t heard all of it, but I just like her. What else happened this year, all I can remember is November and all my favorite artists deciding that this world was such a shitty place that they should try something else out. I don’t even know if I like things anymore.


When your name is typed into Google, an interview you did with Cinema Spartan shows up next to your old Myspace page. Please rate this experience.

Well, all ‘n all Myspace was a pretty good time for me. I was younger and slightly healthier. I had a solid top 16, Tom wasn’t in it. I was in a rap rock band and I had dreadlocks some of which were long enough to have been time dyed rust by the sun. Our band had a application (we called aps applications back then cause we weren’t so rushed) that would generate friends for us illegally, so we seemed like we were way more popular than we were. The Bush years, a folly I may well look back on fondly come January.


The Redwoods is very much an essential part of San Diego’s artistic fabric, but it also drives communication, creativity, and care within the community (too much alliteration there). How has the label changed you on a personal level?

Well, I haven’t changed much since I became a music industry mogul. The only thing different about me is that I purchased a dictionary and looked up mogul and decided to use it in an ironic way. I had a really funny interaction with a person who thought I was actually famous and then ran into me working my minimum wage record store gig. I couldn’t convince him that I actually worked here, I think he thought I was method acting and preparing for the Spike Lee reboot of High Fidelity. But I digress, the redwoods is the shit, in Trump America, it is literally the saving grace of existence. I’m heavily involved in all the bands on the nascent label, so it leaves time fairly scarce, but I prefer the busyness of it all. I’m really proud and fulfilled as an artist for maybe the first time ever. I’m proud of my friends and what we get to share and create and I’m proud of the quality of what we’ve been able to put out.


You’re currently working on your second book. What’s the process like this time around?

Basically I go outside my room and place myself in awkward situations in the People’s Republic of Ocean Beach and then reflect on them. Then I try to reference a television show from the late 80s to early 90s and then use it in a simile, like “she was about as old as Hill Street Blues” or something involving David Leisure of Empty Nest and then I make it about racism, dystopian reveries or the the American dream deferred. Then I put a stamp on it that says “literature” and then it’s done.


Not to get too personal, but will I ever date Este Haim?

I’m assuming this is one of the members of Haim. I’m going to consult google now. Be right back. I still write out “Be Right Back”, so I guess I’m not that busy, since I have the time to do that. Alright, I’m back. The bassist. You will not date, but you will meet her in the bathroom line at a Jane’s Addiction New Years Eve after party in the Hollywood Hills. She’s going to ask you “is that Rob Zombie drinking eggnog” and you’re going to nervously say “yeah, I think so” and she’s going to walk away, but the correct answer is “More like Devil’s Eggnog, am I right” which diffuses the awkwardness and leads to a long conversation and 7-year relationship ending when her desire to have a child creates friction.


Since you’ve made many of them, I have to know what’s most critical when creating a thoughtful, well-organized, and seamless playlist.

Always put one group on there that no one has ever heard, even those asshole record store people who expect you to know infinity. Doesn’t even have to be good, just interesting. Put one Kinks song on there, cause no one hates the Kinks and if they do, Fuck Them. If you put a Beatles song on there, make sure it’s not one of the number 1 hits, use Hey Bulldog. But one jazz song on there so they think you’re smart and cultured. If you’re trying to go from Ambient to Rap, use the Bjojrk song with Rahzel as a bridge. There’s always a bridge to link your divergent genres.


Lastly, will you finally play in Fullerton so I can drive up from San Diego and see you?

I played the Fullerton campus once with the Heavy Guilt and there was a bowling alley on campus. That shit was bananas. How do you even attend class when there’s just a bowling alley that close. In Boston they had candlepin bowling and now that I’m thinking of it, is that a real thing, I’ve never seen it anywhere else. Is that just a place my mom took me cause I was special and lacked the athletic physique of a bowler. Does Donald Trump do candlepin bowling cause he can use his little hands. I’ll be right back. I looked it up, candlepin bowling is a real thing, it’s just not in California yet, which makes it not a real thing I guess.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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