|Ever since he was eight years old, Gabriel Garcia knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life — write songs, sing lead and play shredding guitar for a hard-rocking band. "My cousin used listen to Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Pantera and all that stuff," Gabriel remembers. "He played it for me, and he taught me how to play guitar. And then I just practiced my ass off." Gabriel learned fast; six years later, at an age when most budding guitarists are still getting their chops together and dreaming of future stardom, his band Black Tide has already opened for Ozzy Osbourne and Lamb of God on the mainstage of OZZfest 2007, and are preparing to unleash Light From Above, their debut record for Interscope.
Don't let Black Tide's youthfulness fool you; Gabriel may be only fourteen, and his three bandmates all under twenty, but this Miami-based band is unquestionably the real deal. Gabriel, guitarist Alex Nunez, bassist Zakk Sandler and drummer Steven Spence hit the stage with a street gang's confident swagger, and back it up with a combination of raw power and highly developed chops that would easily shame bands ten years their senior. "We're young, and we come from Florida," says Zakk, "but that doesn't mean we're a boy band or a novelty. We rehearsed our album every day in our guitarist's garage, in the middle of the summer in Miami. We weren't working on our choreography, and we certainly weren't waiting around for our next song to come in the mail!"
Though they're too young to remember the Eighties, Black Tide's music draws from the best hard rock and thrash from the era (think Guns N' Roses, Megadeth, Metallica, Iron Maiden and Skid Row) while giving it a 21st century kick up the ass. "Shockwave," the band's calling card and the album's opening track, is an utter classic — all bloody-knuckled thrash riffs, squealing guitars, rampaging drums, in-your-face vocals and an instantly memorable chorus. The rest of Light From Above is up to the same impressive standard; anthemic, take-no-prisoners tracks like "Shout," "Black Abyss," "Let Me," "Live Fast Die Young," the Maiden-esque "Warriors of Time" and their spot-on cover of Metallica's "Hit The Lights" will punch any metal fan squarely in their pleasure centers.
Despite the obvious influences, what makes Black Tide's music sound so fresh is the fact that all four members harbor vastly different musical obsessions. "We all agree with the Iron Maiden, Pantera, Megadeth — everyone's into 'em — but we all kind of branch off from there," Zakk explains. "Alex is really into grind and crust-punk, and he loves bands like Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys and Phobia. Steve is into Rush, Dream Theater and newer metal stuff like Killswitch Engage and All That Remains. Gabriel's into Satriani. Vai and Death, all that shred kind of stuff; and I'm into Meatloaf, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Doors. Things that really don't make sense together, but it works for us!"
Black Tide first started playing Miami-area clubs about four years ago, shortly after Zakk — at the time, a lead guitarist for a rival group — agreed to fill in for a couple of gigs on bass. ("How quickly two shows become four years," Zakk laughs.) Though Gabriel was only ten at the time, none of the older guys were remotely fazed by the idea of playing in a band with him. ""It wasn't weird at all to be in a band with a ten year-old," Zakk explains, "Because it was just like, 'This kid is fucking talented!'"
After playing countless house parties and club gigs, Black Tide scored their big break when they talked their way onto the main showcase at the 2006 Florida Music Festival. "We did three songs in front of all these industry people, and everyone was like, 'What the fuck was that? Who were those kids?'" Zakk recalls. "All of a sudden, we started getting all these calls from major labels."
Interscope signed Black Tide and flew them to Chicago, where they recorded their debut album, Light From Above, at Groovemaster Studios, with Johnny K (Disturbed, Machine Head, Soil) producing. "They took four Miami boys and threw us into the middle of the Chicago winter," laughs Zakk. "There was nothing we could do except work on the record day and night." After the album sessions wrapped, the band scored their coveted main stage slot on OZZfest 2007. "It was crazy, man," says Gabriel. "Sharing the stage with Ozzy and Lamb of God, it was just an awesome feeling. I've been listening to Lamb of God constantly for the past two years; then we got to meet them, and they turned out to be really cool." "We learned so much about touring on OZZfest," adds Zakk. "We learned what the pros do. It was our first real tour, so it was like, 'Okay — this is how you properly soundcheck; this is how you properly sing into a mic; this is what you should never say to a crowd in Detroit!'"
After ending 2007 on another high note — a six-week tour with Avenged Sevenfold — the band is ready to take it to a whole other level with the release of Light From Above. You read it here first — 2008 is the Year of Black Tide.
— Dan Epstein