Rus Martin (vocals);
Gabe Garcia (guitar);
Chris Strauser (bass);
Brian Borg (drums).
The members of Hotwire began with one thing in common: music changed
their lives. As a child, singer Rus Martin was raised on Bing Crosby and The Rascals before realizing rock n' roll wasn't the "devil's music." He subsequently moved on to D.R.I., The Buzzcocks and Slayer, as well as authors Hunter S. Thompson and Edgar Allen Poe.
Bassist Chris Strauser’s first concert was Michael Jackson at Dodger Stadium. The fact that there was an entire stadium full of people who were there “just for music” had a huge effect on the then 5-year-old. Soon, Strauser was skating to the Dead Kennedys and The Sex Pistols.
Guitarist Gabe Garcia, who has logged stints as a philosophy major and a painter, picked up guitar at the age of 4 (after giving up violin), grooving to Jim Croce and Metallica.
Brian Borg saw a friend behind the kit at a school talent show, performing Guns N' Roses' "Paradise City," and knew he had to be a drummer.
On Hotwire's full-length major-label debut The Routine, those life-changing influences from these long-time friends coalesce into something musically new. Cohesive and intense, melodic and metallic, punk and provocative, hardcore and heavy, Hotwire's sound is likewise nurtured by life in the vacant, vaguely hostile L.A. suburbs. The Routine’s dozen songs, produced and mixed by Matt Hyde (Porno for Pyros, Fu Manchu, Slayer, Hatebreed), mark the debut of a young band with old souls and a fresh sound.
Lyricist Martin describes stellar cuts like the raw rave-up of "Magazine" and the sinister "Invisible" as "someone's delusional journal that you found.” He explains, “You don't know who they are, but you develop a sensitivity for them. It's teasing, bending and stretching the truth and telling white lies.” Musically, Garcia says "it's a displacement of energy, an evolutionary, bouncing-off-each-other process. We have a chemistry where the sum is greater than its parts."
Proof positive on The Routine are cuts like "Nice Profile," with its heavy, insinuating groove and "Neuro Girl," one of the first songs written by the band, which has morphed into its present, ultra-cool state. The soaring but aggro "Hands on You" boasts whisper-to-a-scream dynamics and a deceptively lyrical melody, while "Tweaked" is a ruling metallic onslaught. As one critic observed: "Think Jane's Addiction meets the Deftones, with a hint of The Buzzcocks thrown in for good measure."
After forming in 1999 in remote and nightlife-deficient Newbury Park/Thousand Oaks, California, Hotwire--all born after 1978--progressed rapidly as songwriters and a band. The members had adopted a DIY approach in their lives and music early on. Martin enjoyed previous underground success and respectability with the hardcore band Eyelid, while Garcia and Strauser logged club dates across the country with Countervail. After Hotwire's debut show in front of 300 kids at a warehouse, recordings, gigs and day jobs ensued. A hard year later, persistence prevailed and Hotwire signed with RCA in late 2000. By summer, the band's first serious recording--a self-titled four-song EP--hit.
Produced by Mudrock (Godsmack, Powerman 5000), Dave Jerden (Jane's Addiction, The Offspring) and Malcolm Springer (Full Devil Jacket, Sinch), the EP found a wide audience of critics and fans alike. Hotwire embarked on seven months of gigs and tours with groups including Dillinger Escape Plan, Hoobastank, Poison The Well, Wu-Tang Clan and Injected. Hitting the road in their "short bus," a modified airport shuttle van, the best friends became even more tight--musically and personally.
"When we first started writing, it was separate, all bringing in parts, like a puzzle," analogizes Garcia. "Then we learned how to work with each other. Russ playing guitar wildly changed everything, and we'd record all the time, and now listening to all those tapes is like a Darwinian chart of our evolution."
In October 2002, Hotwire was ready to record their full-length debut choosing Matt Hyde to helm the record at L.A.'s legendary Sound City. While weaned on bands from Sex Pistols to Helmet to Motley Crue, the foursome's singer-songwriter childhood influences creep through, as Garcia explains. "Melody is essential in this band. We try to create strong melodies that shine through...it makes the songs more timeless."
Martin concurs: "My dad would listen to The Rascals every day, and I had Disney records, like The Bear Necessities and The Jungle Book. Maybe that's the whole key to some songs," he muses; "making them sound like nursery rhymes." Martin's lyrics and vocals, too, possess an ageless, unformulaic quality. "Bass taught me rhythm and tempo, then the guitar taught me color and adjectives, and I put those things together and sing them," he says.
Strauser notes, "Groups like Black Flag changed my life--such strong lyrics coming out of a mic. As a kid, you don't realize how powerful and influential people can be through a microphone. Hearing songs about rebelling--not toward hate or violence--but screaming out for change against things that are wrong."
But one thing Hotwire wants to make clear: they are not a political band. "I don't write songs to tell people stuff, to tell them to change or that we need to legalize weed," says Martin. "Yet we are--and I think people should be--very goal-oriented. Never live your life without goals."
One of their goals is to buck "the routine." For the CD title, recalls Martin, "I was thinking of the most annoying thing a person could get themselves into being in a certain routine. Some people have to do that--worker bees. Our music makes me get excited and want to break out. I always want shit to be switched up." But for those who don't grasp Hotwire's philosophy, the band cops a phrase from genius drummer Buddy Rich, whose legendary tapes they listened to while making The Routine. Apparently, Rich was infamous for his overly-critical rants toward his band members, but his most useful piece of advice was adopted by Hotwire: "If you're not having fun, fuck you!” Amen to that.