Ho Chi Minh Finds God

On a more concrete level, Diaz needed a band to play with. He credits the birth of Motorama to his introduction to Bobby MacIntyre, a drummer/ percussionist/ vocalist. MacIntyre was hosting one of his regular open-mike jam sessions at the late, lamented Stephen Talkhouse on South Beach and expressed interest in collaborating with Diaz after watching him play a couple of years ago.

Diaz, by now a guitar-slinging songwriter, performed that night in much the same way he does today. He took the stage alone, hunched over his guitar and practically laying his head in its nape. While he sang in a hushed voice, the guitar seemed to spin a protective shell around him with its huge sound. MacIntyre was so impressed by the music that he offered Diaz his services. "It was just him and his acoustic, and I was mesmerized by the songs," MacIntyre recalls. "I'd wake up in the mornings singing them, so after a couple of weeks I started learning them with him." (MacIntyre now lives in Chicago, where he hosts a songwriters' night at the House of Blues, but he still visits Diaz and performs with him on tour.)

When it came time to record the album, MacIntyre introduced Diaz to bassist Shane Soloski, with whom MacIntyre played in the band Jodi and the Rodeo. Though Motorama was completed in 1995, the album wasn't released until last month.

Diaz spent two long years passing out a cassette of the final master to local entertainment managers and promoters, hoping someone would put up the money to release the album on CD. Though some showed interest, no deals were finalized. "I did the waiting game," Diaz says. "I kept hearing the promises and things I should do and the things I shouldn't do. It got to the point where I got tired of waiting. I realized how many people in the industry are just full of it. It was time to move on with the thing."

Drawing from his own savings and those of his brother, Diaz self-released the eleven-cut collection on CD, not changing a note from its earlier cassette version. He now hopes to pursue his musical aims without a major-label contract and is currently finishing plans to create an independent label, Left Out Recordings. He is distributing Motorama to various independent record stores nationally and to local outlets such as Spec's, Borders, Blue Note Records, and Uncle Sam's. The CD is also sold through the Internet, where Diaz has focused most of his marketing. Both Music Exoterica (www.xme.com) and Joe's Grill (www.joesgrill.com) carry the disc.

Local sound engineer Luciano "Looch" Delgado recorded Motorama with Ho Chi Minh at his South Beach recording facilities called the Studio. He thinks Ho Chi Minh's music is better off as an independent release. "I don't know if his stuff would be accessible enough for the majors," Delgado notes. "He's totally fertile ground for an indie label because that's where you can take the chances. Most people like to listen to musicians that they can relate to something else. The more it sounds like some other band they like, the more they like it. His stuff is just very him. If you know him, then you know that he is his music. He's always searching for originality and the development of his limitations. To me that's what originality is. Some musicians are so versatile, but then you hear their original shit it sounds like everything else. Alex is a real visionary. I still listen to that record. It's almost religious to me because I hear the pain."

Diaz says he's happy if just one person hears the music and understands. Though he has played venues ranging from CBGB's to Chicago's House of Blues, Diaz's most memorable live performance came this past May at Churchill's Hideaway with only two people looking on, while soundman Frank "Rat Bastard" Falestra dozed at the board.

"There was a Dominican guy and this other black guy, and they were intently listening to my show," Diaz recalls. "After I played, we sat down, had a beer, and talked, and the Dominican guy ran out to his car, came running back with a copy of The Celestine Prophecy and says, 'Man! The third principal -- beauty -- that's you, man. That's your music.' And he told me something I will never forget. He said, 'You don't own this. This music is so natural it is ours.' And I said, 'You know, I never heard anybody say that, but, you know, there's nothing more true than that.'"

The Ho Chi Minh CD-release party will be Thursday, October 30, at Tobacco Road, 626 S Miami Ave, 374-1198. The show starts at 10:00 p.m. Admission is free.

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