Name: Unsteady Freddie
Activity: Surf music fan extraordinaire, promoter, good-will ambassador, etc.
Interview: by email on 4/29/14
Previous Interview: February 2007
1a. How much more unsteady has it been since your last interview in 2007, over 7 years ago? Can you give us some milestones you have reached?
The “unsteadiness” has not gone away, that’s for sure!! But of course I speak of this term as a state of being, in a positive manner. Planet Earth (and for all I know, The Universe), is clearly unsteady. I’m just of the belief to get that information out in the open and out of the way, where it applies to me. My personal life has taken me on many world-wide journeys, many of them built around music festivals, bands touring, etc. In 2008, I started what is now a 7-year run as the Guest Emcee of The Surfer Joe Summer Festival in Livorno, Italy – a true honor, one which I take very seriously. I have come back from some of these festivals with over 100 videos from the performances at these Italian festivals. I have had the privilege of being asked to Guest Emcee or assist with the proceedings at many other instrumental surf festivals all around the United States, the highlight of course being the SURF GUITAR 101 CONVENTION every summer in Southern California. I had a regular run for a while on a major radio station in NYC, “The Joey Reynolds Show” (WOR-AM) – I’d stop by one late night the week prior to one of my SURF-ROCK SHINDIGs, and we’d actually present bands performing LIVE in the studio. It was very retro, considering it was on AM Radio when you think about it. I started shooting videos of live music, archiving instro-beat surf music performances from all over the world. My YouTube channel, as I write this, is closing in on over 6 million video views. The channel now contains music from a variety of niches. The website is http://www.youtube.com/unsteadyfreddie. And of course in 2014 I am celebrating my 10-Year Anniversary of presenting my Every-First-Saturday-of-the-Month “Surf-Rock Shindig” series. To celebrate this milestone of which I am so very proud, I am holding 2 special 5-band events for the months of May and June, 2014. One can read a summary about all of the celebrations going on by checking out this special story in the SURF GUITAR 101 Website, http://surfguitar101.com/news/story/934/.
1b. Let’s talk about Otto’s Shrunken Head Tiki Bar in NYC, the site of your monthly (first Saturdays) “Surf Rock Shindig”. What should fans expect at these shows?
Expect to have a blast! I set out in 2004 to create a “surf music scene” in the metro New York City area, and I fell it is safe to say I have met that goal, proudly. So many new bands have sprouted up, the spirit of these “regular places” to play has spread to other east coast marketplaces (I am not ‘taking credit’ for these, but I feel it certainly has been an influence). Bands that at first did primarily “covers” of popular surf classics, or turned popular vocal tunes into instrumental ones, have grown and grown, to the point where they have been writing and recording original material. I always say that “you don’t have to go to the ocean to hear the surf! You just have to swing by Otto’s Shrunken Head every first Saturday of the month!” Because there is now such a proliferation of surf bands, I try and spread out a band’s presence to at least 3 or 4 months between appearances, so as to allow as many different groups to perform at my Shindigs. Occasionally I allow a rockabilly, or “twangy” or “fuzz-based” bands to be part of the Shindig line-ups as possible. But keep in mind people are coming to my Shindigs to hear instrumental surf music, so I don’t get too carried away with other genres, even though I consider surf and rockabilly to be “musical cousins”, if you will. The shows tend to be packed, right out into the hallway between the music lounge and the bar. Spontaneously, dancing breaks out. The thing I really like to see is how many young people (to me, at the age of 62, everyone is “young”!!) come to the shows, and keep returning. Turning on a new generation to this wonderful genre of live music has always been one of my goals.
2a. How does a band get to play a Surf Rock Shindig?
Some bands contact Otto’s directly, and they are then referred to me via email. And of course there are my 2 Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/unsteady.freddie; and my ‘Public Figure’ Page, https://www.facebook.com/Unsteadyfreddiemanabouttown. I can be contacted via email, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org. I am very open to presenting bands that have never performed at any of my Shindigs, so I encourage artists to reach out to me, without fear, and with the expectation that I will find room for them in my monthly series.
2b. Conversely, how do you find surf bands for your monthly shows?
Outside of those who reach out to Otto’s or me, I find about bands through recommendations of other bands, and fans of the instrumental surf music genre. Often something is posted on my Facebook page, or I get a message in Facebook to check out a particular band, etc.
3. Since 2007, has there been an increase of bands interested in playing on the monthly Shindigs? Approximately how many bands do you have to pick from for these shows?
I cannot give you an amount of bands that I am able to choose from. Many of my shows are booked way in advance – so bands should be forewarned about that. And as stated earlier, the growth in the amount of bands now anxious to perform at my shows has grown dramatically.
4. How far have bands traveled to play on a Shindig? Have you had international bands perform?
In fact, I often feature bands visiting NYC from all around the world, including Italy, Germany, Mexico, Russia, Spain, and of course all over America. Some bands build American tours, and try to schedule them around my monthly Shindigs.
5. Besides hosting the monthly Shindigs, how has Unsteady Freddie promoted surf music since your last interview in 2007?
I’d say through several means: Facebook (my 2 pages), my YouTube channel, being part of the film, “Reverb Junkies”, and acting as a Good Will Ambassador for the North East Surf Music Alliance (NESMA) and the “NYC” and “East Coast” surf music scenes. Live music is my true Zen; I am out and about in NYC and the surrounding metropolises to support many live music shows (though not just surf music). And as stated earlier, I have been ‘”active” as a Guest Emcee in different pockets of America where live surf music festivals take place. I create a separate “event” in Facebook for every one of my Shindigs. I also post on the pages for each band that has a Facebook page when they are performing at my Shindigs. There are multiple “surf” Facebook pages that I also post to. And I try and keep up-to-date on the Surf Guitar 101 website.
6. What media outlets do you use to promote your surf music activities, and how has it helped you to achieve world fame?
Facebook (my 2 pages), my YouTube channel, “local” ‘daily’ and ‘weekly’ publications, websites, and blogs. And again, by getting opportunities to travel and show up at surf music events, archive some videos, maybe get up on stage….it all adds up.
7. As of 2014, who are you in regular contact with that's important to your surf music activities?
I’d say the good people at NESMA, Jeff “Big Tiki Dude” Hanson (of California, and coordinator of the Surf Guitar 101 Convention), Tiki Tena (CA), Linda and John Miller of The Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, Lorenzo and his brother Luka Valdimbrini in Livorno Italy, as well as maintaining friendships with so many surf musicians, such as Dick Dale and his wife, Lana. Folks like John Blair (of California, surf musician and surf music historian), and a list of musicians that is too long to list here. Are people aware that I am known as Los Straitjackets’ “Uber-Fan”?
8. Tell us about some of your travels in the interest of surf music.
These last couple of years I have scaled back my traveling, for a host of reasons (health, demands at home, economics, etc.). Besides America, I have been blessed to get to surf music events in Canada, Italy, and Spain.
9. Tell us about your amazing library of YouTube videos of live surf music performances!
As I stated earlier, my YouTube channel is hitting 6 million video views. I started archiving my videos in 2008 with “The Magic Camera”, as I have so aptly named it (a fairly simple 2008 Canon digital camera, with a killer sound filter). I have since bought 4 more on eBay, and plan on picking up a few more. Pretty soon it will be time to upgrade. I like the viewer to feel as if “they are there, in the thick of it”, when I shoot my videos. This is especially true of the Shindig shows I put on at Otto’s. I move in and out and around the musicians. I have nothing against what I call “stick videos” (i.e., where a camera is simply mounted on a tri-pod, and shot fairly straight-forward from a distance, with some close-ups, and pans, etc.) I think the way I “fly the camera”, as I call it, gives my videos a somewhat distinctive look and feel.
10. What percentage of covers vs. originals do you now prefer to hear when a band plays a Shindig?
I have no preference, to be honest, because it all “sounds good” to me!! As long as it has “reverb” – “more reverb!!” – I’m happy. I encourage artists to exchange set lists prior to each show, but even that is not a strict requirement.
11. What's your favorite food to fuel your surf music passion?
No preference. Then again, when I’m in Italy, well, what can I say? PASTA!!
12. How does NESMA help your cause?
I believe NESMA helps my cause, and vice-versa. NESMA has so much to do with the growth and success of surf music up and down the American east coast (and out into the heartland, somewhat). The website lists all of my shows. I in turn try to do the reverse of NESMA. With so many followers in Facebook, I am happy to list forthcoming NESMA shows, even if I am not directly involved with these shows.
13. What's in store for Unsteady Freddie in the next 5 years?
All I ask from The Great Spirit (and The Tiki Gods) that I’m given: (a) another day, each day – because “every day is Thanksgiving”, IMHO; and (b) the strength to face whatever the day is going to bring. Beyond that? I really do not wish to speculate. But I suspect that for the balance of my life (and maybe beyond?), instrumental surf music will always be an integral part of my life.
14. Anything else?
MORE REVERB!! And Godspeed to so many wonderful people who have passed on from this very special genre of music, with a very special shout-out to my ‘Reverb Brother’, BAJA MARTY.