XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news?
Michael: I’m releasing a cassette EP on March 31st and starting out with 200 copies. I probably won’t make anymore because if the demand is there, I will put it out on vinyl.
XS ROCK: How long has the band been together?
Michael: I started writing tunes for this project around 2006. A lot of things occurred in between that kept me from finishing the songs. I joined a bunch of bands that ultimately went nowhere. I went to grad school which took 2 years to prepare for and 2 years to complete. I lost a lot of finished music to broken hard drives. I also had someone lined up to play guitar and bass but he ended up moving away. I now feel like I hit my stride and with the advent of solid state drives I feel unstoppable.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for starting or being in a band?
Michael: I started the band because I previously played in a lot of bands that never really did very well. I always felt that I knew what we needed to do to take us to the next level. However, the people that I played with were not interested in doing those things. I also felt that there were a lot of things that I wanted to experiment with that were not interesting to the people that I was playing with. I had to work these things out on my own. A really long goal of mine is to write music for chamber ensembles so I approach this project in a similar manner. The main idea for this project is to write the music like a string quartet.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Michael: I first became obsessed with music when I was a kid and the first break dance craze came around. I was really interested in Electro and then after that I got really interested in hip hop. I started playing the drums after I saw the video for “The wild and the Young” by Quiet Riot. Frankie Banali did a drum intro that blew my mind! After that, I started getting into punk rock because of Megadeth and Metallica. I started reading a lot of drum magazines that would talk about jazz drummers and jazz music so I started getting into jazz. That ultimately led to my decision to go to college to study jazz. I went to University of North Texas for my undergraduate degree and then moved to Austin after graduation. Somewhere around this time, I played in a few emo bands and electronic-hybrid bands. Those bands didn’t pan out and I eventually got a job teaching drums at a community college and loved it! That led me to get my Master’s degree in jazz performance at the University of Texas so back to the Jazz scene I went. Keep in mind that I loved metal this entire time (except for the 90s when nu metal was around).
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
Michael: I hope that some people find my music to be cinematic. I think that I’m trying out some concepts that are not common in metal. So, I’m hoping that my music conveys a portal to a new dimension. A utopia perhaps, which is why I also want to bring attention to social and political issues. Hence the name Huelga, which means “Strike” in Spanish. Whenever there is a strike there is injustice occurring. Ever seen billionaires go on strike?
XS ROCK: What are your immediate music career goals?
Michael: My immediate goals are to open up for touring acts here in Austin and to book out of town shows that I could fly to. Since I don’t have a band to worry about, transportation isn’t as big of an obstacle.
XS ROCK: What are your long-term career goals?
Michael: My long term career goals are to have guest artists play on my recordings. I also want to do a series of split 7″ with bands that I like. Mainly, I want to tour. I love touring! I just want to be in a position where touring goes from being a vacation to being a vocation.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Michael: I love all 3 aspects of music. I love writing songs but the biggest drawback is that I basically forget to eat or sleep. I get so wrapped up in it that I don’t know when to stop. I love recording music but there is the financial drawback. I also love playing for a live audience but right now I don’t have enough songs to play a set so It’ll be awhile before that happens.
XS ROCK: What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Michael: When I look at all the different sub genres of metal the common thread is anger. I live a pretty comfortable lifestyle and I have nothing to be angry about in my life. However, the things that really anger me would be things like racism, income inequality and gentrification.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road?
Michael: It was a beautiful winter day and we were in Cline’s Corner,New Mexico. I had just joined the best band in Austin that I had ever seen. It was my first time to drive on this tour and as I’m about to get on the highway, we heard a noise. We turned back into the parking lot to see what it was. When we couldn’t see anything wrong, we decided to forge ahead to Albuquerque for the first show of the tour. As I sped up to get on the interstate the wheel falls off! The entire spindle, rotor and brakes come off! Luckily, I was only going around 20-30 MPH. Little did we know that this was only the beginning to an epic odyssey that would contain jailbreaks, an encounter with a half man,half cat and days of waiting around in Albuquerque.
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Michael: I was playing a house show once and a friend of a friend was so impressed with my band that he came up to me as soon as we played the last note. This was probably one of the first times he had ever gotten drunk, mind you. So he loudly proclaims “Show me the Basic!” and I was like sure “I got some free time next week”. NO, he meant right here at the house show on my kit before I tore it down. “Show me the basic!”
XS ROCK: Were your parents supportive of your aspirations to play in a rock band?
Michael: Not even a little. I grew up poor in a single parent household. There wasn’t a chance my mom would have bought me a kit even if she supported my playing. Even my percussion teachers at my high school discouraged me from applying to music schools. To tell you the truth, all that resistance made the whole lifestyle way more attractive.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Michael: I haven’t played any Huelga tracks live yet. I’m currently writing music to fill out a set’s worth of time. When I do I’ll let you know.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform?
Michael: I have been obsessed with music since I was a little kid. My first memory of “performing” was when I was around 5. I would lock myself in the bathroom and sing Michael Jackson songs and try to mimic his moves.
XS ROCK: Why?
Michael: I think I wasn’t a typical masculine kid and growing up in the projects was a dangerous trait. I think I saw Michael Jackson as an archetype for being successful, accepted and loved for who he was. I felt that could be me.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
Michael: Well, opening up for Slayer would have been cool. I Like so many sub-genres that it would be hard to list them all and wouldn’t make sense. If I were to choose a cohesive bill, it would include Carbomb, Revocation, White Chapel, something like that. I personally don’t like super long line ups or festivals so I would keep it to 3-4 bands.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Michael: I finished an EP where I wrote all the music, played all the instruments, got the recording,mixing and art all lined up. I was scared to death doing even just one of those things before. It was a very long process but it is very satisfying to be able to talk about a finished product.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Michael: I already teach music and drums at a community college. If I were to do something completely unrelated to music, it would probably have to do with the customization of cars. I watch every show having to do with customization or dragracing on Velocity and Discovery Channel. I own a ’63 C10 that I’ve been personally modding out for a while.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
Michael: I like the idea of being able to bring a drum kit and a laptop to shows. I might throw in a projector but I want to have the freedom to move my setup easily. This makes a huge difference for touring. I could tour in an SUV or fly out for one-off shows. That will be my first attempt. If I feel people are not into that, I have a few other ideas. Of course,I might have a full band at some point.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Michael: I love it! There has never been more access to music than now. I feel that since we don’t have “gatekeepers” anymore, we are free to discover anything, from anywhere, from anytime (except the future).
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Michael: I have a lot of answers for this, but I think the most popular thing that people are surprised to learn is that I was a freight train conductor for a year.
XS ROCK: If someone had never heard you before, how would you describe your sound?
Michael: Imagine Frank Zappa but pissed and not funny. Or another description could be like when Meshuggah gets all artsy but without vocals and more contrapuntal aspects.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Michael: Yes, don’t forget to pre-order your cassette EP at: https://huelga.bandcamp.