This is the True Story of Al Bloch starring in My Favorite Martian.
Anyone who knows Al Bloch, knows he likes playing in a rock band. Playing the bass guitar is no fun unless you’re playing in a band, he will tell you. Growing up in Seattle in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Al played in a few really good bands (Cheaters, Wenis, Deans) and was featured as a solo artist on the first song of the first release ever by Green Monkey, the Local Product compilation. Al moved to Los Angeles with Seattle favorites the Bombardiers in 1985, who fizzled later that year, and played in a handful of forgettable LA bands before landing the bass job in Concrete Blonde in 1988. He toured a bunch with Concrete Blonde, and appeared on one album (“Free” IRS records, 1989).
At the dawning of the 1990’s Al Bloch was suddenly without a band. He was working at a cool record store in Hollywood, Aron’s Records trying to figure out his next step. He was introduced to DC hardcore legends Pete and Franz Stahl (Scream), and Pete Moffett (Government Issue) who had relocated to LA and were also trying to figure out their next step. As I mentioned, Al Bloch likes to play in bands and these guys did too. Thus Wool was born in 1991. Right out of the gate, Wool was working . . . recording multiple singles and albums, and touring up a storm. Al played a lot of bass guitar in those years.
While Al Bloch likes to play in rock bands, he also likes to write rock tunes and sing them. He always has. Most of the bands he played in rocked at least a few of his songs. Wool had an abundance of songwriting talent with the Brothers Stahl, but they let Al offer up his tunes and even let him sing them here and there.
This is where the My Favorite Martian story begins. Al claims that he has always had a few tunes in his back pocket in case he had an opportunity to play them. In the early 90’s his back pocket would have been attached to his always worn maroon cords (seen above). In the Summer of 1993, Al found himself in Seattle recharging his batteries after a long Wool tour. As usual, he was hanging out with his brother Kurt Bloch (Fastbacks, Young Fresh Fellows) and they both thought it would be fun to put together a recording session. Al offered up a couple of originals, a few choice covers were chosen and Kurt called in ex-Fastback Nate Johnson (Flop) to rock the drums. They reserved a couple days at Barrett Jones’ Laundry Room at cranked out some epic sounds. Al christened the combo “My Favorite Martian”, and Bongload Records in Los Angeles released few songs as a single: “When The Anger’s Too Strong/Sometimes/Does It Hurt?” (Bongload 1993). All five songs recorded at the Laundry Room are included in the new My Favorite Martian CD Martian Chronicles, Los Angeles 1990’s, here on Green Monkey Records.
From Fall 1993 to 1995 Al went back to his day job in Wool. They recorded the critical favorite “Box Set” (London Records 1994) and touring the US and Europe with the likes of L7, Melvins, and Foo Fighters.
The MFM story continues in late 1995. At this point the narrative veers away from the band dynamic that Al preferred, and into a rotating musical collective of Al’s extremely talented friends. In 1995 and 1996 Al put together various recording sessions, choosing to record songs from his growing list of rocking little nuggets. These were the songs that would no longer fit in the back pocket of his maroon cords, urgently whispering to be heard. From these sessions, a couple of singles were released: “Real Fine Girl/More Than This” (1996 Fish of Death Records), and “Shining Down/Snake Charmer” (1996 Meddle Records). Also recorded during this period was, “Sand Point Way, Pt. 2”, which shows Al reflecting on his teen years in Seattle with his brother Kurt. The song also name checks Scott Dittman, singer for Al’s first band Cheaters. Associates on these sessions include the cream of the Los Angeles indie scene: Bryan Brown (Bluebird), Kevin Fitzgerald (Gereldine Fibbers), Louis Gutierrez (Three O’Clock, Mary’s Danish), Chris Wagner (Mary’s Danish), Jon Wahl (Claw Hammer), David Harte (Spain, Beck), Chad Fischer (Lazlo Bane), and Phillip Stevenson (Carnival of Souls).
Al’s songs piqued the interest of Los Angeles publishing company Rondor Music, who offered him a publishing deal in 1996. Al accepted that deal.
Al left Wool in 1996 to concentrate exclusively on his music. He attempted to put together a consistent band. Consistency eluded My Favorite Martian in 1996, but Al managed to gather great players and played quite a few club gigs while writing and recording. During this time, three songs were recorded at Duff McKagan’s (uhhh, Guns and Roses) studio, produced by Sally Browder: “Shining Down”, “Snake Charmer”, and “Everchanging Day”, all are available on Martian Chronicles, Los Angeles 1990’s.
By 1997, the earlier MFM lineups fell apart and Al was again looking for some musicians. Luckily, he ran into his old guitar playing buddy Mike Dimkich (Bad Religion, The Cult) who he had known for years. Mike was in between bands at that point, and liked the vibe Al was laying down so he signed on. Along with wickedly handsome drummer Wade Glenn, they produced what was to be the most stable My Favorite Martian lineup . . . and as it turned out, the last. This version of MFM made their LA debut in March before heading to Austin to play South By Southwest. This lineup was leaner and louder than previous lineups, with Al back on bass after playing guitar in previous configurations.
The MFM “power trio” made its recording debut that May, recording “All My Life” at Chad Fischer’s Cheswick Studios in Laurel Canyon. Al and the guys were very happy with the results and many LA club shows followed at venues including the Viper Room, Spaceland, and the Martini Lounge. In June, they once again pulled in Sally Browder to produce what they hoped to be their first full-length album. Recorded at Doug Messenger’s Studio in North Hollywood, these songs feature some great and very loud playing by Mike Dimkich. Most of these songs are featured on Martian Chronicles, including a raging take of the Modern Lovers, “Pablo Picasso”.
With 1997 winding down, My Favorite Martian also wound down. Various reasons were given, but the guys just moved on. Soon after, Al left Los Angeles.
Silence reigned until Al put together a My Favorite Martian comp together for his friends with help from brother Kurt in late 2009. Green Monkey recognized its brilliance and immediately made it Album of the Month!
Al gives most of the credit for these recordings to the excellent musicians who helped him, and who he was proud to call friends. But a good recording starts with a good song, and Al Bloch had quite a few of them in the 90’s. While the maroon cords don’t quite fit Al the same in 2019, his tunes still sound as fresh and spunky as they did when he pulled them out of his back pocket in the 90’s. Thankfully, the good folks at Green Monkey Records totally agree and are making these recordings available to all the world on CD for the first time. We are very excited to see what the genius of Al will produce next.
Top photo by Sal Owen