- Surf Music
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Randy Holden was the lead guitar player for the short lived and somewhat obscure mid-sixties surf band "The Fender IV." However, if you were lucky enough to find their music, you were in for a special treat. Randy's playing was powerful and ferocious, with an intensity and mastery that rivaled Dick Dale. The Fender IV's mission was to play loud, clean, and fast, ensuring that no one could follow them on stage. They influenced a number of 3rd wave surf bands as witnessed by the numerous covers of genre defining songs like Mar Gaya, Malibu Run, and the barn burning Everybody Up!
Randy later went on to other bands and notably played and recorded one album with Blue Cheer. He left music for many years and became a skilled artist. He has recently returned to making music. Visit his website and check out samples of his music and artwork. Luckily for us, he has released a CD containing most of the Fender IV's recorded output, including some songs that were never released at the time.
This interview with Randy Holden was conducted via email on 2-July-2002. Special thanks go to Ivan Pongracic for helping me with the questions. And many thanks to Randy for his time.
1) What was it that attracted you to surf music? Do you remember the first time you heard it?
Surf music as I know it is the offshoot of Spanish mid-eastern mix melodies. Seeing as how I was exposed to that influence at an early age, it was something natural to my imagination.
2) Can you explain briefly how The Fender IV got started? What motivated you to start a surf band?
I got some school mates together in Baltimore, and I wanted to go west, they were game, so off we went.
3) The gear question. How important was gear to The Fender IV? What guitars did you use to record those classic songs (Mar Gaya, Malibu Run, Everybody Up)? A reverb unit? Dual Showman amp and? Jazzmaster? What gauge strings? Flatwounds?
Ahh gear - gear was all important - at first I used a Fender Strat, then switched to a Fender Jaguar (when I found a purple metalflake gold plated only one made - then the Fender Showman came out - single JBL 15", and I picked that up on credit account trading in my Bandmaster, then came the first Dual Showman, dual 15" so traded my single Showman in on that. Fender Reverb was a gotta have item - but all that gear was way ahead of the times in 1961.
4) Do you listen to any of the modern surf music, and if so, who are your favorites? Do you prefer the traditional bands or the bands that are 'pushing the envelope' and introducing more modern elements into surf music? The Fender IV are held in a very high esteem by traditionalists mostly, it seems.
I'm afraid I must admit I'm not terribly familiar with what is going on with Surf Music - I didn't know there was anything happening with it ......... I know what I enjoyed doing.
(Let's send Randy some examples of modern surf! - BN)
5) Were you influenced by ska music, since Everybody Up and Malibu Run both have a ska-sounding rhythm guitar part? Or was it somebody else in the band? Or maybe purely a coincidence? If it was you, how were you introduced to it?
It's an old Russian Folk rhythm with passion - now they call that Ska - what does ska mean? Vodska?
6) Besides Dick Dale, what other surf bands were influential on the Fender IV in the sixties? Do you still like them and listen to them?
"Pipeline" was an awesome song - I heard it on the radio a few months ago, and it has the most awesome feel imaginable - great song, tone, emotion - a stand alone work of art. Dick Dale's "Victor" was another just dynamic work of emotional art - incredible. Ventures gave instrumental guitar a vision.
7) What's the lowdown on the actual titles of the songs? There seems to be some confusion on this issue - is the song released on the Cowabunga box set actually called "Malibu Run" or is that an error?
Wow you're going back a long way, and I don't know what happened with that - to tell the truth I thought it was a Venture's song originally, but when I saw my friend Georgene after 35 years, she gave me the old set of Venture's albums, and the first thing I did was look for that song, but it wasn't there ...... I really don't know, and I don't remember naming the song what it is now - I have no idea what happened, and I usually have a memory like an elephant.
8) What does "Mar Gaya" mean anyway? The Sea God?
"Swahili" for "Crocodile" ......
9) Do you have any favorite cover versions of the Fender IV songs?
"Mar Gaya" ..... I always liked "Mar Gaya" as the song that moved me - I remember writing it at a beach house in Topanga Canyon where we lived at the time, and a great right surf break on the point looking out the windows, and we kept playing it over and over - the environment was awesome - we played a club in Santa Monica named 23 Skiddoo, held around 5 to 7 hundred people, it would be packed up 3 deep outside around the block waiting for our band to get there, and packed to the max inside wall to wall - I'd make my way through the crowd, guitar on head, and get up on stage, plug in and jump up on the rail around the stage, and open up with Mar Gaya, everyone would go utterly nuts ...... Fun like you can't imagine ....... I included a verse of it in the new "Prayer to Paradise" 23 minute instrumental I did.
10) Is Everybody Up! sped up at all? On the recording, it would appear that the key is just flat of F, which is a bit odd. In addition, the pace is so frantic, it would suggest that it was sped up a bit.
Hummm got me again - I don't recall what key it was in, and I'm too lazy to go pick up the guitar to find out ha ha ...... I tuned a whole step down, to key of "D" - that gave a more thundering sound.
11) Have you kept in touch with the other Fender IV members?
I saw Mike the drummer a few weeks ago for first time in 35 years - was no different than seeing him yesterday - Jac Ttanna is in touch frequently.
12) In general, how do you look back on the Fender IV days? Not too many people can look back on stuff they did at the age of 18-20 and say "Wow that was pretty cool!" Do you feel this way now? I think that material is very fresh and vibrant sounding.
Yea it was, and still is very cool stuff - it was powerful then, and still is. I'm glad young people enjoy it as much now as we did then - not a lot of music like it anywhere in history except in the ancient melodic concepts - maybe that gives it an ageless empathy.
13) Do you regret that the Fender IV were not around longer and released more material? I can't think of any other band that has so much respect and influence based on three songs!! Incredible.
Music changed rapidly at that time - it would have been nice to have more recorded of what we did, but was very difficult to get recorded in those days, and recording was poor quality then - it no where near accomplished reproducing the sheer power of the band. But we moved onto R&B influenced by the English version of R&B that was powerful ...... And so on ......
The Great thing about Surf Music, was the Fun it was - there was a Good Spirit about it, and about the Time it was done in - there was no cynical attitude in the time, and that was a radical change from the cynical attitude left over from WW II and the motorcycle gang cynicism as in the Marlon Brando thing of the fifties - it was like people were more in tune with a better spirit and linked it to the water with the surf concept - to me personally it represented a sense of particular freedom, and the element of ocean where all land meets the edge ..... And a fearlessness sense about playing in that edge most of humanity for most of history was terrified ..... And we were turning it into a playground of fun and respect....... Maybe that's what it felt like with me - a new energy that turned fear into a reverse sense of glad, confident in one with nature instead of against it. Something along those lines .....
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