- With: Jared Colinger
- Where: Preservation Pub
- When: 10 p.m. Monday
- Tickets: $3
A little over eight years ago a visitation stopped Alex Diaz from abandoning his musical ambitions.
"I just thought, 'Why am I doing this?' I had always wanted to keep being creative and playing music, but I had kind of lost sight of why. I was not enjoying the process," says Diaz in a call from Atlanta.
He says it was while he was asleep that he received the message to keep going.
"In this dream I was shaken vigorously, as if I was a dust mat. Then I heard this voice in my head that said, 'The spirit of the Lord is upon you.' Next thing I know I'm face to face with John Lennon. I could smell the coffee on his breath. And he starts singing, 'Come Together.' I'll never forget that dream ... I will carry not only that dream, but his influence for a long time."
Diaz, who performs under the name Xela Ziad (Alex Diaz spelled backward), credits Lennon and the Beatles as guiding his music for years. He remembers spotting "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" in his mother's record collection.
"Just that album cover," says Diaz. "You start wondering, 'What is going on with this photo?'"
Diaz was born in Mexico City and his family emigrated to Panama before settling in Miami, where he still lives.
His Latin roots had little influence on his music. Instead he was drawn to classic rock - Aerosmith, Elton John and others, along with classical music.
He says that, like many kids at the time, his "first instrument" was a tennis racket.
"Pretend jam sessions, pretend rock concerts, we were getting all dressed up and listening to Van Halen and Aerosmith and jumping around the room."
Diaz "got tired of playing pretend" and started learning how to play a real guitar in the eighth grade. However, he had trouble sticking with the school program.
"I was going off in my own direction and making up songs," he says. "They put me in a separate room, apart from the class. My teacher would always get on me."
While Diaz's teacher insisted he work on what the rest of the class was studying, the young upstart was bored with standard tuning and began tuning his guitar to suit himself.
"I just didn't want to sound like everybody else. When I heard Sonic Youth's 'Daydream Nation,' I thought, 'Wow! How are they doing this?'"
Diaz began his music career performing on acoustic guitar at a floating raw bar and eventually gravitated toward electric guitar and formed a rock band.
His group, though, was not what was popular at the time.
"In my city in the '80s all the bands were cover bands," says Diaz. "There was no original music scene. You'd see cover bands playing Led Zeppelin, almost as good as Led Zeppelin, but I thought, 'This is great, but I gotta do something original.' You should create something uniquely your own."
Diaz says that while he still performs with electronic effects for some songs and enjoys playing with a band, he generally tours as a solo artist and is drawn to simplicity.
"With all the things we go through and are influenced by, we always come back to our roots," says Diaz. "I've done the electric guitar thing and the band thing and the experimental music thing. Now I'm kind of back to where I started."
© 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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