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Karl Izumi and Hector Martinez of Spider were interviewed on November 18th 2022 at The Sardine in San Pedro, CA, (with a cameo appearance from Mike Magrann of CH3), after a show in support of CH3. My apologies to the band for taking so long to complete this interview; I lost the tape for a while.
Energy Gone Wrong sounds really great, and this is one Spider you cannot crush because it is a sonic whirlwind that will hit you first and hit you hard. Spider is a relentless barrage of skilled sonic power that rides the thin line between chaos and order. More than this, the band has taken the old-school thrash attack to a new level with intricate arrangements, angry-hornet guitar chords that often merge into echo and tremolo as it twists around the thunderous drums and pounding bass. Hyperbole you suspect? Not even close. Words simply fail when one tries to explain music this intense, tight, deep, and bursting with energy. If you are among the few who have achieved punklightenment, Spider will transcend…and you will know.
Marcus: I am here with Karl Malden?
Karl: “Karl Izumi”.
Marcus: Oh yes, the fucking tornado of an awesome guitarist for Spider!
Karl: [Laughs.] “I’m a tornado?”
Marcus: Yes. You are a tornado. Why the name Spider? Was that Hector’s street name back in his gang life days?
Karl: “Uh….[laughs] no. I don’t know why we came up with such a generic name. I think it was one of our friends just came up with a generic punk band name. We just wanted to put something together, and he came up with Spider, and we were just like, yeah, that sounds good. Later, we made jokes about it like: Oh yeah! Like Henry Rollins who played Spider the cop [in the 1995 film Johnny Mnemonic], or Spider the villain in Giant Robot [Johnny Sakko and His Flying Robot, 1967]. We’ll just come up with whatever story we want. The problem is, it makes it hard to find us [on the internet.]“
Marcus: I was told you all made a vow to never use a spider image in any of your flyers or products.
Karl: “Right. No spider image, no cobwebs, none of that.”
Marcus: Why? Because it’s so trite?
Karl: “I don’t know. It’s just bad luck [laughs.] We just don’t do it. It’s just Spider. Long Beach Spider!”
Marcus: Describe your band using adjectives.
Karl: “Aggression. Angry. Don’t give a fuck.”
Karl: “When we are tight. Most of the time we are.”
Marcus: How can you guys move like that onstage with such energy and ferocity but still smoke cigarettes?
Karl: “Well, we have been doing this since the ’90s, and back then we could all move a lot faster and more aggressively. It’s tough right now, but we still do it. I exercise and go to the gym. I quit smoking for like ten years, but then I started back up again. I think I am going to try to quit again.”
Marcus: That is a good idea. So, you started this band way back in the 1990s?
Karl: “Spider started in the late ’90’s. I was in a band called Mind Driver and a hardcore band called Walk Proud. Our drummer Alf was in CH3. We broke up in early 2000’s (not sure the exact year) Then we got Spider back together in 2016.”
Marcus: I imagine that as a guitarist, you play genres other than punk as well?
Karl: “Yeah, I play Spanish classical guitar. I was taught by a Catholic nun when I was ten-years-old. I can play classical music on an acoustic guitar. I could demonstrate that one of these days.”
Marcus: So, if you were at a Bar Mitzvah, you could step up.
Karl: “Yeah. I play a lot of blues, I can play some jazz…I just play punk rock because it’s fun and wild, but for the most part, I have been classically trained.”
Marcus: What are the goals for the band, because for most, punk rock does not pay the bills.
Karl: “For me personally, I would like to continue with my career in the machine manufacturing industry. I do well with that and they let me take off to go on tour because I am friends with the boss of the company. He’s like, let me know ahead of time and I will cover for you.”
Marcus: Why music? Do you just feel and overwhelming urge to do it?
Karl: “Pretty much. As long as we are capable and have the energy for it. If we want to go tour Europe or South America or somewhere, we’re gonna do it. We just came back from Europe. I think that was like the third or fourth time there, and we had a ball every time.”
Marcus: I would avoid Russia right now.
Karl: [Laughs] “Yeah! At least for right now.”
Marcus: I have been to Russia, and it’s pretty weird. There is always a sense of tension, even in good times.
Karl: “I wouldn’t mind going to Russia, as long as the politics doesn’t get involved, but there’s always politics involved.”
Marcus: Just be sure to leave your weed vape at home.
Karl: [Laughs] “Exactly.”
Marcus: Are you married and have kids and all that?
Karl: “No, but I have a long-time girlfriend and she’s sitting right over there.”
Marcus: Marriage is a frame of mind.
Karl: “We’re technically married. We’ve been together for 11 years. We have a perfect relationship and I can’t complain.”
Marcus: Someone told me that marriage is basically how many bad habits can you put up with.
Karl: “She puts up with a lot of bad habits with me.”
Marcus: When you toured Europe, were you supporting or headlining?
Karl: “We were supporting. We mostly tried to play festivals, like Rebellion [England], Brackrock [Belgium], Bay Fest [Italy], Punk Rock Holiday [Slovenia], wherever we can play. Usually in the summertime of August is when all of the European festivals happen. Whenever we’re playing, it’s always a good crowd.”
Marcus: Do promoters pay your way over there or do you have to scrape to get the cash.
Karl: “They pay us to play, but its kind of a wash, because we’re a small band and we try to recoup the money [for travel expenses] through merch.”
Marcus: And then you get to travel Europe, and people tell you how much you like the music in a language you do not understand.
Karl: “Well, for the most part, they speak English. Oh, Hector’s here, so rock on people!”
Marcus: Sorry Hector, Karl took all the good questions.
Marcus: Let’s start with what you are singing about. I can feel it, but I am not sure what you are saying.
Hector: “I am channeling life experiences. For example, one of our new songs is called “Tabula Rasa,”which means “blank slate,” I was a philosophy major in college, so that kind of resonates with me. One of the crazy things that happened was after our last tour in 2019, before COVID-19, we were flying back home from Italy, we were on Norwegian Air, and ten minutes into the flight, the left engine start smoking. It just died, so we get this message [from the pilot] that we were going to have to circle around a bit, dump some fuel, and make an emergency landing.”
Marcus: Oh, so nothing to worry about.
Hector: “Everybody is freaking out. People were praying out loud, people are screaming, and we were just looking at each other like…what the fuck is going to happen? We didn’t think we were going to make it. There is a reference point to that in “Tabula Rasa,” mixed in with a bunch of other vignettes and metaphors. So, the engine finally blew out, shrapnel went flying, and it fell all over cars in the city. If you Google “Norwegian Air Italy damage,” you will see all the damage it did. We finally landed, but the front landing gear did not go down, and there were all these fire engines, like twenty ambulances, and we got out safely, but we were on our own. We were stuck in Italy trying to find another way home. Of course everybody spoke Italian, but we didn’t, it was just chaos. We saw the price of plane tickets suddenly exponentially grow, from 500 to something like $3,000 just to get home.
Marcus: Readers, avoid Norwegian Air. They have problems with engines and landing gear.
Hector: “Yeah, and I name-checked them in that song.”
Marcus: On another topic, you are a legal guy at Epitaph Records, and have some very impressive sounding academic degrees.
Mike Magrann from Channel Three: “Okay guys, goodnight!”
Marcus: Mike Magrann just barged in on our interview to shamelessly plug his new book and the release of the Channel Three anthology entitled “40.” What is the name of your book?
Mike: “I don’t know yet. I have to title it soon before people start losing interest in reading.”
Marcus: Too late for that. Is it as lurid as Jack Grisham’s book?
Mike: “It doesn’t have any gory details of drug overdoses, but it is the story of two kids were fans that somehow got to stand on the stage.”
Marcus: Hector has a law degree. He’s telling me about that now. He’s got an LLC or something.
Hector and Mike: [Laughs.]
Marcus: You have two law degrees?
Hector: “I have a JD [Juris Doctor] and an L.LM a Legum Magister[ Master of Laws].”
Marcus: You are the go-to guy at Epitaph if someone wants to use any of the Epitaph catalogue in…?
Hector: “Any film, television, video games, commercials, compilation albums, that sort of thing. I’m the let’s make a deal guy.”
Marcus: Epitaph is churning out a lot of product.
Hector: “It’s crazy because this week we have put out 14 singles and two albums. Usually, we put out like five singles and maybe an EP or an album per week. It’s a constant stream. Right now, there’s some reissued vinyl that just came out such as the Transplants 20th anniversary album.”
Marcus: You have one EP available called Energy-gone-wrong, which is great, but do you have any new music in the works?
Hector: “We recorded a six song EP entitled: Death March, that will be available sometime in early to middle of 2023.”
Marcus: What does the reading public need to know about Spider other than to come see Spider live?
Hector: “We are going to keep playing, hope people show up, and we are grateful to those who do. You know, the most precious thing we have is our time, and if we can share that on a night when we are playing, in the same room together, sharing that same experience, that is what means more than anything.”
Marcus: I firmly believe that music is magic, and what you do is quite a trick.
Hector: “I am glad to be a part of it, but I can’t take credit for 100% of what we do. I have great band mates, great cowriters, with all that, there is an element of magic in the process that I have no control over, I accept it.”
Marcus: It is a powerful form of transcendence you do.
Hector: “I appreciate that. Thank you. I think that [potential] its within everybody, and I encourage anybody to play music, write words, write lyrics, collaborate with friends, and create art. It’s all about the process of just doing it. It may suck…I know I’ve written a lot of songs that just suck, but the process is really fulfilling and gratifying.”
Marcus: The things we create outlive us.
Hector: “That is true. That is something I think about. That is so weird, because I think about how at one point in time I am going to die, and these things [I have created] are embodied in a digital configuration that really do not have a shelf life, as far as I can tell, so it will all outlive me.”
Marcus: Readers, come see Spider live…before Hector dies.
Hector: [Laughs] “Well, come see Spider live if you want to. We’ve got a new EP coming out this year on Devil In The Woods records, keep an eye out for that. Go out and create music, and enjoy the now.”
Now dear reader, make it a point to experience Spider live when you can, and be sure to stay alert, because when Hector throws out the microphone before suddenly snapping it back to his hand, it just might hit you in the face. Slam dance if you feel the urge, but you might forget about doing that as you stand there enjoying the punk rock bliss.
You can find Spider on Facebook and Instagram and purchase the Energy Gone Wrong EP via Bandcamp. Their new EP, Death Match, has been recorded by Dave Klein (Agent Orange) and will be released soon. Spider will be playing live throughout 2023 including appearances at Burning Beard VII and this years Punk Rock Bowling festival in Las Vegas.