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Black Tide's Gabriel Garcia talks Florida hardcore, classic metal and opening for Iron Maiden




It’s safe to assume no 18-year-old in America is more psyched about this weekend's Iron Maiden concerts than Gabriel Garcia.

Garcia is the singer and guitarist of Black Tide, an acclaimed Miami metal band handpicked to open for the rock 'n’ roll legends at shows in Tampa and Sunrise. For the precocious Garcia — a burgeoning metal hero in his own right — it’s the gig of a lifetime.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Garcia. “We’ve played with them at a couple of festivals in Europe, but this is crazy, opening for them directly.”

Black Tide’s debut album, Light From Above, and its self-titled sophomore album, due this summer, owe a lot to metal giants of the ’70s and ’80s, including Metallica, Judas Priest and, yes, Iron Maiden. Black Tide has always cited the British group as an influence, even covering the song Powder for an Iron Maiden tribute album.

We talked to Garcia recently about South Florida hardcore, the best classic metal albums and how it feels to open for your idols.

Where does this rank in the career, in terms of cool gigs that you’ve had?

This is probably number one. Some U.K. festivals are probably up there too, but this is pretty awesome. We were the biggest fans of this band for the longest time.

You guys are so young. When you meet or spend time around a band like Iron Maiden, I wonder what you guys have in common. What do you talk about?

It depends. The people we’ve really connected with are more from this generation, bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium. Those are the two we really get to hang with and actually get to talk to. They just tell us their story and how they went about becoming a great band. That’s what we’re trying to learn.

We met Metallica and Rage Against the Machine at the Kerrang Awards a couple of years ago, and that was crazy, because we won best new artist, or something like that, and it was cool to be congratulated by these f---in’ rock stars. So that was a good feeling, right there, them congratulating us and telling us we were on the right track.

Iron Maiden — does that mean anything to your friends, the people you went to school with and your friends from childhood? You seem to be outliers among 18- and 19-year-olds.

Oh, definitely, man. You know we’re getting calls, “Get me into the show! Get me free tickets!” It means a lot to everybody. They’re stoked for us, our family, our friends, everyone.

If you were trying to get a young kid into classic metal, what songs or albums would you play for them?

As far as Maiden goes, I’d probably, I love their record Somewhere In Time; it’s one of my favorites. Metallica, Master of Puppets. Pantera, Cowboys From Hell. I don’t know — there’s so many good records out there. But those are the bands that really got me into it.

Do you know if Iron Maiden’s heard your cover of Prowler?

I don’t know, actually. I’m sure a couple of them picked up that tribute record, you know? If somebody made a tribute record for me, I’d probably pick it up. (laughs)

What’s been the best and worst thing about entering the spotlight so early?

The worst part about it is I went into it not knowing anything. I didn’t know anything about music, writing songs, going onstage and really giving it my all. I just got put on a pedestal, and I didn’t really appreciate it. These huge things I was doing, I didn’t realize how big they really were. I guess that’s the worst part. The best part is, now I’ve learned from that, and I’m still young, and I still have a lot of time to make up for it.

Has being in the spotlight since you were 14 influenced your songwriting?

Oh, definitely, man. I feel like it was meant for me to travel the world and do everything I did and experience everything I did so I could have s--- to write about. That first record, I hadn’t lived yet. I didn’t have anything to write about. This new record, I feel like I’ve lived now, and I have something to say. It definitely inspired this new record and changed me completely.

Do metal fans treat you with kidgloves because you’re so young?

Not really. At actual shows, every fan is always great. We’ve never been booed offstage, had s--- thrown at us. It’s never bad at actual shows. But as far as people talking online, definitely. We’ve felt that hostility, just because we’re young and kind of jumped into the game. But it’s all good, you know? People are gonna talk. I get it. I’d probably talk too if I saw someone (who) jumped in the game and had everything just handed to them. I get why people are mad. But it’s cool.

The South Florida hardcore and metal scene can be kind of insular, kind of its own living being. You kind of got out at an early age, but you’re still in South Florida. Do you ever feel any of that?

Definitely, man. People around here are totally like that. If you’re not in with a clique, you’re screwed. People definitely just hop around bands, and it’s all the same s---. It’s real exhausting, to be honest with you. I don’t even hang around it, but it is just a big clique. Which is cool to some peopel, but I’m not about it. I’m all about being open-minded, and all these people in this hardcore Florida scene, it’s real closed-minded people.

Why did you end up gravitating toward the style of metal that you do?

I don’t even know. I don’t want to be closed-minded, so I don’t want to just consider myself a metal person. I listen to everything. I don’t ever want to limit where I’m going. If I want to be a f---in’ pop artist someday, it doesn’t matter. Where I feel like going is where I want to go. That’s the thing I didn’t like about that whole scene, is just that people close their minds — they have to be this, they have to just live to expectations of people around here, whatever. They try to fit in. I’m not about fitting in. I just do what I want, and if people like it, that’s awesome. If they don’t, that’s great too.

So you say that you’re open-minded. What other kinds of music are you listening to that’s not metal, that’s not rock 'n’ roll?

I listen to everything, from Lil Wayne to Justin Timberlake to Incubus. Everything, man. I’m one of those guys who puts on pop radio when I hop in the car. I can’t even really listen to metal anymore. But I love it all. I’m in a metal band right now, but that doesn’t mean I’m not gonna do all these other things eventually.

People have said that Black Tide is the future of heavy metal. Where do you see heavy metal going? How do you see your own sound evolving?

I don’t know if you’ve heard any of this new record, but we did start to change our sound. But as far as Black Tide goes, it is what it is — it’s a metal band. We’re always gonna try to keep it that way. If we want to venture off into other things, we’ll venture off into other things.

How do you feel like you’re going to be received by the Iron Maiden fans?

I feel like Iron Maiden’s fans go there to see Maiden. They don’t care who the f--- opens up. It could be anybody. But it’s just cool for us, a good experience for us. And we are from here, so people should know us. It should just be a good time for everybody. Maiden in town? F---in’ party it!

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 5:55pm]


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