That's probably the reason why on No Rest, No Peace the grim reaper seems to pop up on every corner. Throughout the record, he follows Hernandez, always remaining just out of sight, which in some ways, is even worse than knowing when he's coming.
In order to understand Hernandez's morbidity, punknews' John Gentile called up the vocalist where they talked about Hernandez's upbringing, the new record, metaphysics, and doing swan dives off of cliffs.
Click "Read More" to see how John needlessly works Amebix into another conversation, yet again.
The name Alpha & Omega can have a religious context. Likewise, a lot of the symbolism in your music is borrowed from religion. Are you exploring concepts of religion in your music, or do you use religious imagery because it can be a useful expression of non-religious ideas?
I think it's a little bit of everything. Nobody in our band is religious, really. I was raised in a Christian home. Both of my parents were pastors. But, I'm definitely not a religious person and I don't look up to a god or anything. The name we got from the Cro-Mags record, Alpha Omega. Imagery wise, I've just always been into that kind of imagery - devils and demons. Religious imagery just looks pretty cool. I don't think we've ever gone too deep into the religious stuff, I just like how some religious imagery catches my eye.
One of my all-time favorite bands is Amebix. One thing about Amebix is that the main singer Rob Miller, is a neo-pagan Celtic guy, whereas most crust punk is vehemently anti-religion. Likewise, a great deal of hardcore is anti-religion, but the Cro-Mags definitely explore religious concepts. Are you interested in engaging those concepts?
If I were to pick one of the two, I'd say we are definitely more on the Cro-Mags and Integrity side. We do use a lot of religious imagery in our lyrics. They do touch on religion, and everything that I write about is my own personal experience growing up from a child to now. A lot of that had to do with religion. I'd say it is more like that than the anti-religious stuff… but it is hard to describe. I would not say that we are religious, or have anything to do with religion or any kind of god, or promote anything like that, because we definitely do not at all. At the same time, it is involved in our lyrics because it does deal with my upbringing.
Do you get along with your parents?
Yeah, we're cool.
Are both your parents still pastors?
So they don't really have a problem with your music, then?
No, not really. They've never really paid too much attention to it.
Did you have a really strict upbringing?
Yeah. When I got into punk and hardcore, around 11 or 12 years-old, they kind of freaked out. They definitely didn't know how to take that. It was rough in the beginning, but I've always been the type of person that is going to do what I'm going to do. We definitely butted heads a lot because of my personality. I see something, get into something; I fully embrace something that I get into. Punk and hardcore - I was sold off the bat. My family, they tried to stop me or say "we're not into this," but they always knew I was going to do what I was going to do.
Where do you think that resolve comes from? I've always found that sort of dedication to be genetic, or if not genetic, then developed by close familial example.
You know man, I don't really know. My grandfather on my mother's side was very stubborn. I'd say it was from him. He came to America from Puerto Rico and from the ground up, started his own construction company from the ground up with a couple friends. He built up a pretty big company and built multiple houses for his family. He made a goal and he reached it. He was very strict and very stern and very stubborn.
Likewise, what is the goal for Alpha & Omega?
Just to put out records that we love and to write music that we would enjoy and listen to ourselves and tour and get out here. We love playing shows. We all love hardcore, punk, and metal. We just want to play shows everywhere. We just want to tour and play shows.
What I really like about your new album, No Rest, No Peace is that, unlike a lot of hardcore that gets bogged down by its own weight, your album never loses its momentum throughout the running time.
Honestly, we've always had a very similar formula. We've always written songs with a verse-chorus-verse-chorus type. We like to write it so songs stick in your head. A chorus that caches so after you're done listening to the record, you find yourself hearing it. We want each record to have its own personality. We want to start off fast, hit hard, and get heavier and heavier, and never let up.
Why don't you tell me about the title No rest, No peace?
It's based around a couple years ago, around 2008, a friend of mine passed away. A couple months later, another friend passed away. A couple months after that, a third friend passed away. Two of the friends were from California and the third friend was from the east coast. One day, I was on tour with Trash Talk, and I looked at the piece of paper they gave out at the funeral, and I saw that the friend of mine from the east coast had the exact same birthday as me and the friend before him had the same exact birthday as me and the friend before him was the exact same age as me.
We all were kind of connected. I saw that as a sign. I saw it as a weird way that my number was up. We all had the same birthday or were the same age. So, kind of, the next year of my life, I lived life recklessly, kind of not giving a fuck. I felt like "life is short - live it up while you can."
So many people would become even more careful in that situation. I'm surprised that you decided to be more wild.
I had three young friends die at such a young age and we had so much connecting us, I just wanted to live life as much as I could. It kind of set something off in my brain. It made me feel kind of crazy. I would just do things without thinking.
I'd get into fights. I'd do crazy things. I'd go hiking into the mountains alone. We'd go cliff diving and everyone would be scared to jump off the highest point, which was like 50 or 60 feet, I wouldn't even think, I'd just jump. Any kind of confrontation, I'd meet it head on. Skateboarding, I didn't give a shit, I'd go big, and I'd go head on. Anything in life, I didn't care. I didn't care about working I'd work, save money, and go on tour as much as I could. I'd go months without talking to people, because I was in my own world.
Have you stepped back from that point or are you still a wild man?
I feel like that has always been inside of me. I just went through a phase where I was over the top. It will always be in me, but I've kind of calmed down. I'm 26 now. I'm not old, but I'm not a young, young kid. I've been known to be a loose cannon, but I think I'm definitely calmer now.
It's crazy that those three people all died at once. I'm a superstitious person and would be weirded out by that. Are you superstitious?
Going back into the religion stuff, and shit like that, in the back of my head, there's always weird things that I might think about, but for the most part, I'm not superstitious.
You recorded the new album with Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory. What was that like?
Working with Chad was awesome. He's actually a very good friend of mine. When we started working on the record, we thought of him. I was able to sit in with him for his sessions with Trapped Under Ice. I really liked what I saw, so when we started writing our record, it was already in my head that's who we wanted to work with. Also, I just love working with my friends. Anything that I can work my friends into, I'll do in a heartbeat. There really was no question, and it turned out to be a really, really good experience. You hear things about producers, and you worry a little bit, and you don't know what to expect. Writing is a very personal thing and people can be very protective of what they do when they are writing music and it is a very vulnerable thing to do when you are writing music. He just came in and brought out all the song points of the songs we already wrote. He didn't change anything, or say "oh, this sucks." He just made the songs the best they could be.
You mention that writing music is a vulnerable thing to do. A lot of hardcore music is very passionate. Do you think that means that hardcore musicians are more sensitive than the average person?
I wouldn't say more than your average person. People like to say that hardcore is this tough guy music and that you have to act a certain way, or look a certain way. But realistically, when you're reading lyrics of bands like The Cro-Mags, Chain of Strength, Youth of Today, Judge- all these front men come off as big, bad strong dudes. But, if you read their lyrics, they come off as very emotional about how they feel. I think that hardcore is a very emotional type of music. It's filled with passion, anger, and frustration. It's definitely an emotional type of music.
Now, you can disagree with me on this, but I don't necessarily think being "macho" is a bad thing. Often, punk frowns on a macho attitude, but I don't know if it's a sin in all contexts, if you will.
I think a lot of people walk around and feel as if they need to lead their life to a certain script or role and they think acting tough is how they need to be. But, if can you recognize if it is true and real, or if it is just how someone carries themselves. If you see someone carrying themselves as a very strong, stern, somewhat aggressive person, that might be considered macho, as opposed to someone walking around in some sort of get up that isn't natural, acting in a way they think they need to act, and repeating what they think they need to repeat to appear as what you called "macho."
You've stated that the new album combines the best part of your first EP and your first LP.
After touring on Devil's Bed and Life Swallower you start to get a sense of what parts hit hardest, what parts flow, what parts feel good when you play them live. You pick the best songs from your records and play them live. I wanted a record that was like a set. It's just energy, fast, it hits hard, it's catchy, you want to pit, you want to move, you want to shake, you want to sing along. A record that makes you feel like you are at a show. I really think we did that on this record. The hard parts are heavier. The choruses are catchier. It's a well-rounded record.
I think the record's brevity is quite effective. It gets in, it does what it wants to do, and gets out. Was that something you were aiming for?
Yeah, definitely. I hate it when I get a new record from a band and the songs drag, or the songs melt into each other and it sounds like one long song. You get bored of it. You get like three or six songs into an LP and you don't even finish it, because you're over it. It's fast, it hits hard, it catches you, and it's over.