October 4, 2017 – Alvin DeGuzman (The Icarus Line) was born in Manila in the Philippines on December 3, 1978.
When he was 4 years old the family moved to the US.He attended Holy Family School in South Pasadena and graduated from Loyola High School in Los Angeles in 1997. He also attended Cal Poly Pomona.
Alvin was a talented musician and passionate artist. While in High School he became a founding member of the indie punk rock band The Icarus Line, where he played the guitar both left and right handed, and also played bass and keys. The Icarus Line was the successor to high school friend Joe Cardamone’s first musical effort named “Kanker Sores”.
As a modern echo of the rock & roll terror that was inspired by Black Flag and the Stooges, the Icarus Line offered a screaming wake-up call to the West Coast underground in the late ’90s. Coming together following the demise of a handful of aggro-punk projects in their Los Angeles homes, singer Joe Cardamone, bassist Lance Arnao, and guitarists Alvin DeGuzman and Aaron North went through several different drummers before finding Jeff Watson a year after their formation. Never performing without their signature uniforms (black shirts and pants with thin, red ties), the band’s self-given nickname, Red and Black Attack, was a reference to their stunning live performances which, more often than not, ended in bursts of chaotic destruction.
Mono In the musical vein of the Murder City Devils or At the Drive-In, the Icarus Line were first brought to a national audience by being added to a tour of goth underground legends Ink & Dagger before anyone in the band was 20 years old. Building a fan base through constant tours of the West Coast and the release of a handful of singles with L.A.’s street punk label Hellcat and L.A. upstart Buddyhead, the combination of the band’s manic live show with their dubious reputation gave them a deafening national buzz. After their New American Dream EP, the Icarus Line drew the attention of California’s Crank! Records. Crank!’s popularizing run with ’90s emo bands Mineral and Boys Life made the Icarus Line the black sheep of the Crank! catalog, but the label funded the band’s debut full-length, Mono, and slated it for an early spring release in 2001.
The recording, which was originally going to be engineered and produced by indie heavyweight Mark Trombino, was held in limbo due to creative differences between Trombino and the band, and halfway through the recording process, Trombino left the project, to be replaced by Alex Newport (At the Drive-In, Knapsack, Godheadsilo, Sepultura). With Mono completed and released in May 2001, the band embarked on a series of grueling and wide-ranging tours. The gigs definitely helped solidify the band’s rep, especially one in Austin at 2002’s South by Southwest, where guitarist North busted into a display case to “liberate” Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitar. However, crappy distribution of Mono was becoming a big issue. Enter Buddyhead. Known primarily as an Internet clearing house for cynical music gossip and hilariously mean pranks, the outfit was also a record label of sorts.
Penance Soiree Buddyhead reissued Mono in April 2003, generating more critical acclaim and a bigger audience for the Icarus Line in the process. The group next signed with V2 and began work on their second full-length. When Penance Soiree appeared in May 2004, it featured a reconfigured rhythm section. Former Ink & Dagger bassist Don Devore had replaced Arnao, and Jeff Watson — who’d momentarily disappeared from the lineup — had returned to the fold. But after the release, the band’s guitarist, Aaron North, left to join Nine Inch Nails, and the rest of the band took a break from the public eye. In 2007, the Icarus Line announced that they would be returning to play some shows with the Jesus and Mary Chain and also released Black Lives at the Golden Coast. Sessions for that record — which largely took place at L.A.’s Sunset Sound — featured DeGuzman on bass and Devore on guitar, before the latter musician left the band just prior to the album being issued.
Wildlife By the time of Wildlife’s 2011 release, founding member Cardamone had taken responsibility for the production, engineering, and mixing of much of the band’s material, and this resulted in a raw and somewhat unpolished record. The year 2012 brought a world tour, for which Arnao returned and Watson was replaced by Londoner Ben Hallett. This revised rhythm section was featured on that year’s Live in London and was also retained for both 2013’s Slave Vows and the following year’s companion EP, Avowed Slavery. In 2015, the band released All Things Under Heaven, a sprawling, fuzzed-out eighth album reminiscent of the Doors, Velvet Underground, and the Stooges.
However, Alvin De Guzman was diagnosed with a serious and rare form of bone cancer that year, and after the Icarus Line — without De Guzman — played a few shows opening for Scott Weiland (on the same tour during which Weiland died), a devastated Cardamone decided to disband the group, subsequently embarking on a solo career in 2016.
Sadly, Alvin De Guzman died on October 4, 2017, at the age of 38 after a 3 year battle with a rare bone cancer.
Icarus Line frontman Joe Cardamone gave the following heartwrenching eulogy:
“With tears in my eyes I say goodbye to my friend”
My closest friend and musical partner died last night. He had been sick with cancer for the past few years but in the last six weeks the illness really took its toll. I tried to visit him as much as possible in this time because I didn’t want him to feel alone. When we are up against the ropes alone is the default way to feel. Especially in illness, no one else can feel from your perspective no matter how bad they might want to take your place.
Alvin and I first met on a little league baseball team in 3rd grade. We didn’t talk a whole lot; I didn’t really know how to make friends back then. A year later we ended up at the same grade school. I was unceremoniously removed from my previous institution of lower learning and ended up at the same Catholic that he went to. Again, I didn’t really take to people very quickly so I was kinda on my own. At some point we got randomly grouped to do a paper mache’ puppet show project and that was where it all started. He made an alien puppet and I made a mini Axl Rose. We had to write and perform a story about Axl being abducted by an extraterrestrial. I’m pretty sure we had the room going during our performance. The next year I told Alvin I had bought a guitar and that I was going to start a band, 5th grade I think. I remember he looked at me and said “why?”. I knew he liked to draw so I employed him to do an album cover of my yet to be created first album. Shit I couldn’t even hold a chord yet. Two weeks later I asked him “hows it going with that cover drawing?” and he told me he wasn’t going to do it. He did however buy a bass and had learned a bunch of Led Zeppelin songs. I knew the guy was sharp as a tack but in two weeks? Ok, yeah of course Alvin.
We got to jam at his folks house because his mom worked nights and no one could tell if his dad was around. I remember seeing him play for the first time and wondering how the fuck he learned songs I could only day dream of reciting. This was one month in to his career as a musician. It was on. From there on out we were inseparable, a unit designed to figure out how to hit a target that seemed a million lightyears away from our realities. Where we came from no one’s parents were in the music industry. No one had a direct connection to getting up on a stage, forget even trying to record in a studio. We grew up in LA but not the LA that held inroads for sons and daughters of the connected. East Los Angeles might as well be a million miles from Hollywood. That didn’t stop us none though, for all we knew everyone had to start from zero. It was a dream and for us that’s all we needed to be something other than what we were constantly told we were.
The rest of it you could read about somewhere else. We slowly saved, sacrificed and scraped our way out of East LA on to stages. Our parents had meetings about us because they were worried about how serious we took this music shit. We fell in love with records and we fell in love with art. We became men together. It was never easy for us. There was not a day off. A lot of people came and went but no matter what I knew Alvin had my back. He had my back even when I didn’t. He had my back when the entire world had turned theirs on me. He never wavered.
Playing music with someone for 20 years, fuck, 1 month, creates a bond that nothing quite else can generate. You become the survivors of the mission. Like POW’s. Especially the conditions we had been subjected to over the years. I think it might be hard to explain and for others to relate. Its not just that you slept on a gas station parking lot floor together. Its that you all did it willingly with smiles on your faces. When Alvin went to jail for copping to someone else dope and the van had been taken back by the rental company, Alvin rode in the blackness of a U-Haul box truck with me back to Cali in the dead Texas heat. That happened more than once. Nothing was ever going to stop this train.
My group had always been vetted in cruel and unusual ways, new people had to slowly be broken in because everyone else (members) had been in the shit together. Suffered together. Beat the slim odds together. I can say with no degree of uncertainty that without Alvin, i would not have had the strength to press forward for so long. The new guy, no matter where he came from, whatever band, was applesauce compared to the pack of criminals that I ran with. Alvin being the saint, the moral compass, the exception. Success didn’t make a scratch of difference to him. When we had it all in front of 15k people at reading festival or when we had nothing a week later at bar to no one in arizona. Doing music was the same to him, fuck the circumstances. For 20 years Alvin turned up, played and knew my songs better than i did. On more than one night, I saw the smallest guy in a tribe of small warriors pack the van entirely by himself. I would be out of breath on the curb next to him, he didn’t phase. Alvin slept on the dirty motel floor for 20 years so that I could sleep in a dirty motel bed.
For years he taught the band to play my music. It’s completely impossible overstate what kind of sacrifice that is. There was no money involved, there was very little in the way of recognition, it was just what he did with his life. Alvin was a musician capable of playing at any station in the group(he played guitar both left and right handed, bass and keys). he manned all these stations according to who had left the band for greener or more vanilla pastures. It was his music too and he understood that. I have spent my entire life writing about those close to me and he knew that we were telling the stories of our friends. He knew exactly why it was important and never questioned it’s nobility.
Alvin showed up. Always. If I was getting thrown out of my house because of some messy split; I knew he was on his way over so that I could throw whatever belongings that were still in tact in the back of his car. He got me the fuck out of dodge so many times it’s obscene. His character as a human was unparalleled. His moral compass didn’t waver, which wasn’t always easy around a bunch of nihilistic thugs who just as soon burn the venue to ground as to do a soundcheck. If someone would get hurt Alvin was out. That was the only time he would ever back away, if it was going to seriously be at someone else expense. He kept me from going over the edge.
I know he did that for other people too. Once you learned to speak Alvin’s language you could count on an honest point of view. As long as you were smart enough to decode what the guy was saying to you. Even though he was shy and quiet those who took the minimal effort to get to know him understood what this dude was about. He was all love, even when he was being a hater it was out of love.
In the end he didn’t ever talk about how sick he was. There were no updates on his condition. Only third hand info that we obtained however we could. He didn’t want to talk about it. Not because he was scared to but because he didn’t want us to carry that shit with us all day. Like usual he was gonna carry this one, the last one. Less than two days ago I held his hand and told him he could go, I know he was looking at me for permission even though he didn’t need it.
It’s fucked up how life works, the strange asian kid I met in class making paper mache puppets became my life long protector. Girls, managers, members, friends, enemies…they all come and go. Alvin never went anywhere. He was ride or die every day, all day.
Before I met Alvin I never really had a best friend or really even knew that existed and after I met him I was never alone again.
With tears in my eyes i say goodbye to my friend, I love you homie, I hope we meet again.