Josh Garza and Brandon Curtis Revive Their Band Secret Machines After 10 Years
Professional drummer Josh Garza, who was born Joaquin Garza in Dallas in 1976, has been part of the music scene since the late 1990s. Today, he is part of the New York City rock band Secret Machines that he formed with the Curtis brothers, Brandon and Ben. Brandon sings vocals while also playing the keyboard and bass. Ben has since passed away but focused solely on the guitar during his time with the band.
Josh Garza also plays drums for the Los Angeles-based rock group EFG. He formed that group with vocalist and guitarist Immad Wasif, and the two later recruited engineer and bassist Tom Biller to the band. Garza played for two pop bands early in his career, called Captain Audio and Comet.
Rock Music Fans Paid Attention to Secret Machines from the Start
Singer David Bowie is well-known today, but he was just another up and coming musician in 2004. That is the year Bowie blogged about how a CD called “Now Here is Nowhere” that was produced and recorded by Secret Machines blew him away. New Yorkers were accustomed to unique and hip bands, but Bowie and thousands of others felt that Secret Machines stood above most of them.
What did fans enjoy so much about the music produced by Secret Machines? One thing that members of online rock appreciation groups expressed over and over again was that Josh Garza and his band mates had a way of enticing the audience into a hypnotic groove before launching into an intense concert experience.
The terms winding arrangements and droning textures also came up a lot. Paul Banks, currently a lead singer of the rock band Interpol, describes attending a Secret Machines concert as a spiritual experience. Unfortunately, these accolades were not enough to keep the band afloat forever. Secret Machines did not have the stylistic components necessary to move from a niche audience to a more mainstream one at the time.
A Decade of Dormancy for the Popular New York City Rock Band
Ben Curtis decided to leave Secret Machines in 2007 to start a new rock band, School of Seven Bells. Josh Garza and Brandon Curtis carried on the best they could, producing three studio albums in 2007 and 2008. Garza and Curtis shut the band down in 2010, expecting the move to be only temporary. However, it would be another decade before they re-emerged with a new sound and energy.
Brandon Curtis always felt his brother would return to Secret Machines, and Josh Garza agreed. The reunion could possibly have happened if fate had not intervened. Ben Curtis died from lymphoma in late 2013 at only 35 years old. The disease was aggressive and took his life in a matter of months. Before he got sick, Ben Curtis was indeed working with his brother Brandon to produce new music for the band.
Josh Garza and Brandon Curtis Return as Secret Machines in 2020
On September 23, 2022, Secret Machines released its first recording since 2008. The digital album, titled “Awake in the Brain Chamber,” featured a reissue of a popular song from 12 years earlier, “The Fire is Waiting.” The two-member band collaborated with other musicians to provide additional sound for their new releases. Tony Visconti played the recorder during “The Fire is Waiting.”
Barely in their 30s when the band went on hiatus, Garza and Curtis returned as musicians in their mid-40s with less of a rock jam flair but the same intensity of sonic pitches. Music critics described Garza’s drum playing as powerful and commanding.
The duo finished recording “Awake in the Brain Chamber” at the end of 2019 with plans to perform live in early 2020. As was the case with every other live performance, the COVID-19 pandemic changed those plans. Instead, they released the digital album online and music fans could listen to it at their convenience.
What Did Josh Garza Do in the Decade Between 2010 and 2020?
Garza temporarily joined a few other bands during the 10-year hiatus of Secret Machines. He also got married and relocated to Los Angeles. While in Los Angeles, Garza did freelance assignments with various producers, completing session work. He hoped to become a permanent member of a new band in California, but that never happened.
Garza and his wife took a trip to New York City in 2016. They decided to watch live music at a club called Piano’s on the Lower East Side of the city. Brandon Curtis was on stage with a new psychedelic rock band he had joined called Cosmicide.
The couple just expected to watch Curtis play with his bandmates, but he did something that really surprised them. Garza had heard that Curtis might play a Secret Machines song titled “Alone, Jealous, and Stoned.” While the rumor he heard was true, Garza was shocked when Brandon Curtis brought him up on stage to sing the song the two had originally released with Ben Curtis in 2006.
By the end of the evening, Curtis was ready to leave Cosmicide and relaunch Secret Machines with Garza. The reunification did not happen right away, but Garza was recording his drum playing with existing music written by Curtis as early as 2017.
Both musicians admit that recreating songs Curtis had recorded for Cosmicide into songs that fans of Secret Machines would recognize was not easy. A self-described forceful drummer, Garza stated that the pre-written songs left him with dead air to fill with his drumming sounds. He worried about overpowering the lyrics and the work of other musicians, which never happened. Garza and Curtis each gave each other the space required to produce their own versions of musical magic.
The newly reunited band also fine tuned some of the songs they had originally recorded with Ben Curtis. The experience was emotional for them, even several years after his death. Brandon Curtis felt especially attached to his brother’s contributions, stating that he could not bear to cut them from new versions of the old band’s songs. With Ben’s guitar playing in the background, Brandon created a song about the changing face of grief as the years go by.
Josh Garza Describes His Drumming Style
As Garza was developing his own drumming style as a young musician, he looked to recordings of performances by John Bonham for inspiration. Bonham was the drummer for Led Zeppelin from 1968 until his death in 1980 at age 32. Rock fans around the world admired Bonham’s power and speed on the drums along with his ability to manage kick drumming with a single foot.
Although Garza was just four years old when Bonham died, he described his drumming in the 2020s as being from the same school. He states that it is important for him to feel unafraid when on stage or recording, and that his secret weapon is to find the perfect cannon sound and turn it up as loud as he can. Garza also states that Bonham may have influenced how he plays the drums, but he is reflecting his own style in the end.
Secret Machines as a band relies on Josh Garza’s intense drum playing to create its hard rock music. Fans seem to appreciate the hard rock as complementary to the more mellow sounds of guitar music produced by Brandon Curtis.