By Lisa Morgan
Decades ago, in the heyday of big corporate record labels, 14 year old Zach was beginning his own music adventure. That journey, with best friend and future wife Erica, would ultimately declare an audible “Fuck You” to the suits that held many other music makers and dreamers hostage. Rocking the paint off the walls at the old J.C. Frey building with musicians of kindred passion, the ideals and attitudes of that Punk Rock era of music would resonate in their very soul, and become a way of life for the Huskey’s. Always a pioneer and entrepreneur, Zach published a music magazine on his parents xerox machine. He could be seen handing them out to anyone with green hair or who showed any signs of interest in his music. For him, it was just another form of expression. Zach and Erica have carved their own path ever since, answering to nothing but the voice in their soul. These independent, “DIY” (Do It Yourself) artists were grafting the grooves to the vinyl of their music career long before it was a common industry term symbolic of being executors of their own authenticity. These artists are receiving CV Weekly’s Trailblazer award for more than just their incredible body of work done self- produced and promoted, but for the ideal and spirit of independence that they embody with absolute integrity and the inspiration it has ensued.
Erica: “When we started out, there was no internet phone directory. We were writing down addresses from the back of magazines.”
Zach: “Now the market is over saturated. It’s common for people to do their own. There are people who have been on labels all their life, doing it themselves now, and they’ll call and ask me, ‘How’d you do the printing? Where’s the mastering done? I won’t mention any names, but these are some well-known people. I always tell them, ‘Don’t ask me, I just write the music’ and hand the phone to Erica. I’m a great delegator,” he grinned.
I asked Zach for his observations and perspective of music and the DIY method, and the music industry that he has watched change drastically over the last 30 years.
“I think, first of all, the idea that you’re gonna make money and be rich and famous, catering your music to that goal, is ridiculous in the first place. Songwriting and music – well, it’s an expression. You either have to do it or you don’t. And if you have to do it, why not have full control over it. It’s harder. You have to have money. You have to work. You can’t party as much, and have to save your money for studio, for the release, advertising and whatever else. It’s a little bit different than way back when, where you’d have to pay for it to be in a magazine. But if it’s real, you just do it. Now days there’s a bunch of indie labels. At the big shows like SXSW, you can’t even really tell who’s the independent, garage, rock real kid, from the big indie labels there promoting their racks… and some of them aren’t independent anymore. They’re a subsidiary to a major label. It’s just another guy in a suit and tie.”
“Today DIY is easier, definitely. Back in our early years, we worked on tape. You had to go to a studio; you weren’t doing it in your house. At the same time, because everyone can do it, the market saturated with crap. You really have to dig through all the stuff to find the good stuff. A lot of the kids are so techy they don’t even play instruments anymore. Or their sorta good on guitar, but that’s not what they really want to do. Back in the 80’s punk rock bands, there were shining guitar, bass players and drummers.”
“I see a lot of catering to crowds, rather than doing their own music, whether the ‘crowd’ likes it or not. In my opinion, you write and play a certain way because you’re influenced by some music, and you have 4 friends who like it. You reach other people by just constantly doing it. I’m really bothered by the music that caters to a crowd that’s already built in. All of a sudden, everybody’s a grunge or stoner rock band. That’s NOT the way to do it. I never made money at it. After 20 albums, we’ll never make the money back. But the reason we did it was to document where we were at in that place and time. It’s like an expensive picture of what you were like at a certain time, and you share that picture the best way you can. That’s the way you do it.”
“For example, Jim Morrison: is he a poet because he published his own stuff? Of course! Is he very good? Who knows…but he did it, and you didn’t so fuck you. If you think some guy in a suit, representing a label and wants to make money off of you will think, ‘Oh! You’re doing this to express yourself!’ You are wrong. You’re a product. What you put out is a product. And if you’re a product it’s like being an inmate; they don’t care. You separate yourself from that by creating your own music, even more so when you start your own label.”
“I don’t know the gimmicky thing to do to get your music out there. I guess the best ‘gimmick’ is to be the best at what you do. What’s the gimmick behind Nirvana? There is no gimmick. It’s just the songs.”
As my interview with Zach came to a close, he voiced that he felt there were a lot of other artists doing a lot to earn the title of “Trailblazer”. I asked him if he wanted to name them. He laughed and asked, “How many do I get! There’s Herb Lienau, Sean Wheeler, Tony Brown, Alfredo Hernandez, Scott Reeder, Dan Lathom, Mark Anderson, Joe Dillon, John Summers…” The list went on faster than I could type. Bottom line, Zach is no egocentric rock star. He has a deep admiration for his fellow sojourners who bleed their music for the sole purpose of leaving their unique sonic footprint and this arid landscape. But these very people will be the first to concede that Erica and Zach Huskey are executors of their own musical authenticity. Those who take the time to listen to the arsenal of music they have created will hear the sonic pictures they have captured. In all, their work screams, “Zach and Erica Huskey were here! This is what it sounded like.” I suggest you play it loud.