Hardcore | Metal | Punk
It all started when I was 10 years old, and I asked my dad to get me a guitar for my birthday. When my 11th birthday came, there it was, a black-and-white Peavey Predator (the Peavey answer to a bottom-rung Fender Stratocaster) with a little Peavey practice amp.
My mom signed me up for guitar lessons shortly afterward, and I began learning some basics–power chords to Nirvana songs, some more complex chords like in Stone Temple Pilots songs, and then within a year I graduated to some basic Metallica solos.
The first live show I ever played was about three years later, a garage show for my friend's 14th birthday party, with my band Lowlife, which later went on to become Finer Truth in high school. We hadn't quite gotten into Hardcore or Punk music yet, and I remember we played five original songs showcasing our bastardized, amateur mix of grunge rock and 90s metal, plus a cover of "Tyler" byThe Toadies!
A year later, we discovered bands like Earth Crisis and Sickofitall, which inspired us to begin rebranding ourselves as a metallic hardcore band called Finer Truth. We played our first club show ever at the legendary sleaze-bucket metal venue The Abyss in Houston during December 1997, but then technically broke up before playing any more live shows.
My friends and I became more involved in the spawning Houston hardcore and punk scenes throughout 1997-1998, and in my sophomore year, I brought Finer Truth back as a full-fledged Straight Edge hardcore band. We played our first show of that incarnation on my 16th birthday at Missouri City Park, December 20, 1998.
Finer Truth then recorded two demo tapes before signing to a Canadian record label in 2001 to put out our first full length album, Embrace the Day.
This catalog of my musical output below begins with that record and brings you up to date through all my work in my main band, Die Young, as well as my beloved side-squeezes, Tooth and Claw, Will To Live and the super-vegan Band of Mercy.
I quit college in 2002 to pursue my touring ambitions in Die Young, much to the horror and dismay of my parents, but after Die Young played more than 30 countries in its first seven years, my dad has since recanted his doubts about my choices, and only wants to take credit for buying me my first guitar.
Music has provided a meaningful path of exploration of both creativity and travel in my life, and there is still more to come.
I hope you enjoy these releases. (To learn about them in chronological order, start from the bottom of the page and work your way up. Click on each album cover or its title to listen to that album and read its lyrics.)
Dream of Ascension (2021)
TOOTH AND CLAW
Tooth and Claw is dream come true for me. In the beginning of the 2020 Covid lockdowns, I received an email from Earth Crisis guitarist, Scott Crouse, asking me if I would be interested in singing for a new project he was working on. Of course, without hesitation–or even hearing the tracks he was working on–I said YES. And from then on we worked steadily on crafting the 9 tracks which became Tooth and Claw, Dream of Ascension. Along the way we added James Chang (Undying, Catharsis, Sect) and Cameron Joplin of Magnitude to the band's lineup. Not long after that, we signed a record deal with Good Fight Music, taking this dream to an even higher level. It's been an honor to make this record with some of my hardcore music heroes. We got to explore musical elements and lyrical subject matter that we have not touched in any of our other bands, so I am especially proud of this one.
Volume I: Songs of Exile (2020)
Mainländer might be my least ambitious musical project of all time, but it sure is a lot of fun. Here is the idea: take classic folk/Americana songs and play them how you think Lemmy and Tomas Lindberg would play them in a punk/metal hybrid band. That's Mainländer–transformative covers of some of my favorite dark and melancholic tunes. Volume I features "Thirteen", which was originally performed by Johnny Cash, though it was originally written by Glenn Danzig (who later did his own version as well), and it also features "Desolate Hour" by King Dude, who is probably my favorite neo-folk artist.
Defective Machines (2019)
It only took Die Young a year to put out a digital single to follow up on our The God For Which We Suffer EP, but this epic track is more metal than Die Young has ever been, and I believe it was well worth the wait.
Die Young guitarist, Allan Davis, came aboard in 2016 to write and record the solos on No Illusions. In 2017 he took the reins as DY's chief riff-writer. I was essentially going through a divorce while living isolated by a national park in the desert of West Texas, and these songs Allan wrote gave me a chance to let out my pain lyrically. This EP is an epic despite being only three songs, and it is a strong breath of life and new direction for an old band. It was also an honor to team up with the European art-wizard, Pig Hands, for the album artwork on this one.
The Chosen Path record brought Die Young some really cool opportunities, namely touring with some of our all time favorite bands (Catharsis, Madball), playing some key hardcore fests around America, and then landing a record deal with Good Fight Music to write and record this studio full-length that I am most proud of. This is a conceptually heavy record dealing with themes of philosophical pessimism that I delved heavily into in the wake of the drug overdose of our former touring guitarist, Randall "Rando" Watts. I had also moved back to Houston and was living in a poor area that had a horrific dog and cat overpopulation problem. I got involved to help make that situation better where I lived, but it was sad and terrible uphill battle that took an emotional toll on me that is distinctly reflected in the bleak outlook I portray in a lot of these songs. But hey, good art to me is not supposed to be something that makes you feel good–I think it should be raw and honest, and strike something deep about the way we deal with suffering and relate to the world. In that sense, I think No Illusions was a success.
BAND OF MERCY
The final installment of the Band of Mercy trilogy. It was released as a 7" EP and a CD discography that compiled all 3 EPs. One of my favorite parts of this record was teaming up with one of my biggest vegan hardcore heroes, Scott Crouse of Earth Crisis, on the song "The World Will See" (which is about fighting ag-gag/censorship laws).
In 2008, Die Young did more than a month's worth of shows in mainland Europe with our friends, Confronto, from Brazil. We were happy to save a few tracks from the Chosen Path sessions in 2013 to release on a small slab of wax with Confronto to commemorate our brotherhood of the road. The song "Scum" on our side of the record was written in response to the Texas governor and his administration in 2013 trying to pass laws with intention to financially cripple women's health clinics that provided abortion services, and thus restrict abortion access in Texas without banning abortion outright. Thankfully, the law still ended up being overturned at the federal level down the line.
In 2013 I was living in Philadelphia. I flew home on occasion to play shows with Will To Live, and I continued to write songs for Band of Mercy as well. Every now and then I would come up with some riffs I liked that weren't quite Will To Live or Band of Mercy. I soon realized these riffs couldn't be anything other than Die Young riffs. Meanwhile Die Young occasionally received offers for shows or fests, more than three years after our official break-up. I liked the idea that people were still interested in seeing us. That, plus the songs I had tucked away led me to reach out to some key members from the band's past. Everyone was excited about the idea of reuniting and recording new songs, so we began making plans to make this record come to life. Lyrically, I think this is the most positive Die Young record I've ever written. At the time, I was engaged, and I started thinking a lot about what it meant to grow up and accept responsibility for my past choices and mistakes, and ultimately that's what these songs are about–accountability.
WILL TO LIVE
When I first started going to hardcore shows in Houston in Spring of 1998, there were no notably active local hardcore bands, at least not that I knew of. The very first show I went to was to see Hatebreed play at The Abyss (the very same metal venue I played my first-ever club show at in Finer Truth). A lot of people were there in Scarred For Life t-shirts, passing out Scarred For Life demo tapes. Two months later, Hatebreed came back, opening for Earth Crisis and Madball, and Scarred For Life was the local band opening on the small stage downstairs at Fitzgerald's (another deceased Houston venue of local legend). Even at Scarred For Life's first show, the whole scene in Houston knew all their lyrics and was singing along. It was a magical thing to witness. Scarred For Life had already begun building a hardcore community, and their issue-oriented lyrics became the cornerstone of the Houston hardcore scene's collective consciousness immediately. By the time Finer Truth started playing shows half a year later, Scarred For Life had run into some legal issues concerning their name, and thus became WILL TO LIVE. Finer Truth often played with Will To Live, and later, when Die Young came about, we did a good bit of our earliest touring with Will To Live. In 2008, Will To Live decided to break up, and then in 2009 Die Young also broke up. By late 2010, Rob (vocalist) and crew were talking about getting Will To Live back together, and when I found out about this, I told Rob I was going to be in the new incarnation of the band on second guitar, and that he didn't have a choice about it. Chris "Conflict" Hatfield (Pride Kills) and I then wrote the guitar parts for this album, and put the compositions together with Mike "Fury" Arellano, who is easily one of the best metal drummers in Texas (who also became Die Young's drummer). Writing and recording with Mike taught me how to approach songwriting from a more metal perspective, so when Die Young reunited as a heavier, more metallic hardcore band in late 2013, Mike's influence should be thanked. It was a great privilege for me to join one of the bands that had a profound influence on me when I got into hardcore music, and to then contribute further to their catalog of Texas hardcore anthems. This is probably the heaviest record I've ever been a part of.
BAND OF MERCY
The Vegan Power record brought Band of Mercy a fair following considering that we hadn't even played a show by the time it was released (as we didn't even have a full lineup to play live shows–all recording had been done by me and James alone). By Spring 2011, James and I got Eric from Die Young to play bass in the band, and we would import guitarists as needed to play shows and do a small bit of touring. We even played Sound and Fury fest in California that year, so we aimed to keep the fun and momentum going. In early 2012, we recorded this even more ridiculous, over-the-top, in-your-face EP based on the concept of vegans worldwide uniting to become an elite warrior culture that sets out to take over the world once and for all.
BAND OF MERCY
Die Young's demise in 2009 wasn't the end of my itch to write songs. I'd never sang about veganism in Die Young because rarely were all the revolving members of Die Young even vegetarian, let alone vegan, but singing about veganism was something I had been wanting to do for a long time. I had also been wanting to play a more stripped-down/D-beat punk style that wasn't quite compatible with Die Young's metallic style, so I wrote some melodic punk songs on guitar and teamed up with James, Die Young's primary touring drummer for most of Die Young's final years, and we recorded the first Band of Mercy demo in December 2009, which then led to our signing with Hellfish Family out of California in 2010 for the release of this 7", Vegan Power, in the later half of that year. My vision for Band of Mercy was to be a comical, shit-talking vegan punk band, as if Peter Steele's Carnivore or Motorhead had gone vegan and set out to engage in street level warfare for the movement of Animal Liberation. Of course I am joking in these songs, and of course I am NOT–at all.
What goes up must come down. Die Young rode a solid four to five years of upswing, but after two consecutive years of more than 200 shows per year that had taken us across four continents, I couldn't deal with the plateau we had hit as a band. It felt we had reached our ceiling in the US hardcore scene, and perhaps that the hardcore scene was not as open (as a whole) to the kind of dialogue I wanted to have in my lyrics and at our shows. I felt isolated in an already very niche subculture. Had I been older and wiser, we would have simply taken an unofficial break from Die Young, to utilize time away from the band to regroup and come back stronger down the line, but being in my emotionally volatile mid-twenties, the guys agreed me with me that we'd had a good run, and we decided to plan a bucket list for Die Young. That list included farewell tours in Europe, South America, and the US, and it included recording one last EP. We were happy to team up with Dom from A389 Records to do this one, and it seems to be one of our most highly praised releases to this day. I attempted to merge my personal and existential disappointments with my views about the prevailing political climates of the world, and I think the result was the most vulnerable and cathartic work we had done to date. We put out this record in Summer 2008 and toured internationally for one more year, eventually playing an official last show in Texas, October 2009.
This is the first proper full-length album I ever wrote with a coherent vision from beginning to end, especially in terms of the lyrics. The previous full lengths I'd written in Finer Truth or Die Young were more like anthologies than concentrated efforts with specific themes and statements to the audience. Graven Images was the culmination of Die Young's travels, my personal reading (with particular focus on the sociological, philosophical, and political), and all the conversations that our travels and reading had brought us along the way. It was meant to be an album to prod conversation, both outwardly and introspectively–to expand minds, much in the same the ways my favorite hardcore and punk records had done for me. I believe the release of this album marked the height of our popularity as a band.
2006 was a crazy year for Die Young. We toured Latin America (including the Caribbean), Eastern Asia, ALASKA, and most of Canada–on top of months and months of US dates, and by the end of the year, half the band quit on me. Nevertheless, all our hard work led us to start talks with multiple labels, as Immigrant Sun agreed we were outgrowing them. We eventually landed a solid deal with Eulogy Recordings out of Florida, and part of that deal was to put out a single on their imprint label, Double or Nothing Records, as a teaser for our upcoming full length, so we opted to do a split with INVADE from Long Island, NY. My favorite part of this release is our parody of One Life Crew's "Pure Disgust" (a belligerent anti-immigrant song), which I rewrote the lyrics for in support of all migrants seeking a better life by whatever means. We came home in the Fall and began writing Graven Images with a new lineup, and recorded this 7" during that time away from the road.
We recorded a couple bonus tracks during the Survival Instinct sessions, and we sat on them for half a year until we found a worthy partner band to release a split 7" with. Originally we were talking to political hardcore band, Make Move from Los Angeles, but they began having internal issues, and planned to break up. However, they told us their friends, 7 Generations from Orange County, CA, were more than on the level, so they put us in touch and a brotherhood was formed. 7 Generations are easily one of my favorite bands of the late 2000s era, and their passion for animal liberation personally played a notable role in me deciding to go fully vegan in November 2005, right when this gem of a record came out on Surprise Attack Records. Eric (E.M.S.) at Surprise Attack said the duo of Die Young/7 Generations made for the fastest selling of a vinyl pressing he'd ever done, and if you know S.A. Mob's history, you know he put out some great releases.
We aimed to keep the momentum strong as touring in support of The Message wound down in late 2004, so we made plans to record this EP for Immigrant Sun records in early 2005, and to then tour like crazy in support of a new release again. Touring throughout the later half of 2005 on this EP went so well for us that we began to receive offers to play internationally, in Europe, but also curiously throughout Latin America and Eastern Asia. When The Message got picked up for a licensed CD release in Thailand, it became apparent to us that we would need to quit our jobs by the end of 2005 in order to tour full time and internationally in 2006, so that's what we did. Survival Instinct was the record that brought us those opportunities. This record was also picked up for a vinyl re-release by Surprise Attack Records in 2009, which we sold on our final tours.
Die Young's first full-length, though not a proper one. We recorded four new songs to be exclusive to this release, and then compiled the Confessions of a Petty Thief 7" and the Songs for the Converted tracks to round out the CD version, although we had to go back and re-record the Songs for the Converted tracks at the last minute before sending everything off to manufacturing because United Edge Records threatened to sue Immigrant Sun if they were to put out the original 7" versions. The CD version of The Message came out in Summer 2004, and was then picked up for a commemorative LP/vinyl release on Surprise Attack Records (S.A. Mob) in 2007. For a lot of our old fans, the title track "The Message" is THE Die Young song.
While on our first East Coast tour in Summer of 2003, we met up with Brooklyn-based hardcore/punk label, Immigrant Sun Records (Saves the Day, Morning Again, etc.) and were ecstatic to work with a label of their history, caliber, and values. Pat and Sean who ran the label were also just great guys who wanted to put out bands with no rules about it, for all the right reasons. By the end of tour, we had planned to go home and record this 7" for Immigrant Sun as soon as possible in order to get it out for the masses by November 2003.
I spawned the idea for Die Young amid the death spiral of Finer Truth's touring in 2002. I just wanted to start a band that was a bit more punk-oriented musically in order to keep things simple, fun, and to be able to focus on touring more than Finer Truth was built to. I also wanted to try my hand at lyric-writing and being a vocalist. These four songs were our original demo that we recorded in November 2002, and I had never attempted to record my voice before. I was very self-conscious and intimidated by the task of laying down the vocals for these tracks, but our first shows went exceptionally well, and this demo then landed us a record deal to put give these songs an official vinyl release via United Edge Records the following summer.
Finer Truth was my first serious band–the first I made a professional recording with and toured with. I played guitar in this band, and most of my riff-writing was inspired by Straight Edge bands from upstate NY in the mid-to-late 90s (think Earth Crisis, Another Victim, One King Down, etc.). Some fun facts about this album: We were in high school when we recorded it, and we were privileged to record it in Doug Pinnick of King's X project studio with Brian Garcia (who strangely succeeded to go on to record commercial rock albums with Our Lady Peace and Avril Lavigne).