Before he started the bar, Long Beach's Alex Hernandez was a punk rock kid playing guitar so much his folks still recognize Black Flag and Slayer on the first note. Then guarding the door to Long Beach basement shows so overheated that steam would breathe up the stairs behind him, and then he was learning how a rock 'n' roll venue should and shouldn't work at lost spots like the Clipper, the Foothill and Java Lanes. In retrospect, he spent his whole life getting ready to found and run Alex's Bar. This weekend, Alex's celebrates ten years since Hernandez originally maxed out his credit cards and traded an aspiring filmmaker location privileges for a PA. Now Hollywood (whether with Jack Black or the vampires of True Blood, who make Alex's into Fangtasia) regularly comes calling and it's the guy on the other side of the cash register who's maxing out the credit card. But Throwrag is still going to play, just like they did on Halloween 2000 for Alex's first-ever show--and maybe this will be the year you can listen to them on a Live From Alex's compilation album.
OC Weekly: You said once that bars are recession proof--'whether they're working or not, people drink.' Now that you've weathered the closest America has come to a second Great Depression, do you still think that's true?
Alex Hernandez: Definitely--we're profiting off other people's misfortunes.
Is that written into your business model?
You know--if you don't have a job, you get bored as shit and get drunk at a bar in the afternoon.
After ten years, what are you most proud of about Alex's? I know you're happy about bringing so many touring bands to Long Beach to play with the locals.
I'm happy that business has been increasing to this point. As far as touring bands, everybody knows where I'm at--they definitely know there's a place in long beach for them to play that actually promotes shows and pays bands fair wages and is basically a good place to play. When I started, the Foothill has just closed and Java Lanes was ready to shut down--I was pretty much the only game in town for a couple years then.
Who among the touring bands qualifies as an honorary regular? The Riverboat Gamblers seem like they should have their own barstools.
John Reis is one of my favorites of all time. [The Night Marchers] have been coming off other shows and rolling up here at nine without even a soundcheck because they know the room. There's always something every couple of months. Like, 'Ian Svenonious is coming in!' Or Hugh Cornwall, who I'm very excited about. It never ceases to amaze me who ends up playing--Joe Jack Talcum! Jack Oblivian is starting to do stuff again--he's got a new band and a new album. He's gonna probably tour out this way so I'm gonna be all over that!
How are the new Alex's regulars different from the originals ten years ago?
I don't recognize as many as the faces. But we're definitely attracting a broader demographic. We're not just one specific genre anymore. [Booker] Jackie [Ojeda] definitely brought a broader taste to the bar. Country's doing well--it's all over the place.
How about vampires?
We get a ton of 'em! A ton of True Blood fans--it's totally weird. Midwestern families will roll up in the afternoon. You can tell they're total tourists. They're always really tentative about coming in. Very polite, though: 'Do you mind if we come in and take pictures?' It literally happens a couple times a week. Last Saturday a girl had her True Blood-themed birthday party at the bar with twelve friends in costume. And Phil Shane.
What do vampires drink?
They have a blood orange energy soda thing. It tastes pretty horrible. It's generally that and vodka. The bottle is a spot-on duplicate of the bottles on the show, but I don't know what they were thinking when they formulated it.
What's the last time you turned down a movie gig?
I had several porn offers. I never got a title, but it was the punk rock pornography stuff. No way I could do porn in my bar--that's ridiculous!
You talked before about doing a Live At Alex's compilation one day--how close is that to happening?
I'm actually trying to figure out how to record the anniversary shows this weekend. I'd want it to have an even mix of local stuff and good touring bands. I'd love to have Watt. Riverboat of course. Throwrag. Bella Novela. Soft Hands--all the local bands. dios. Forcefield ON.
Think this could come out in 2010?
What's the next big milestone?
What will the world even be like then?
Flying cars and flying guitars--on Mars.
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(Editor's Note: Check out Rex Reason's 2005 Q&A with Hernandez right here.)
ALEX'S BAR'S TENTH ANNIVERSARY WEEKEND WITH THE RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS, JOHN DOE, THE ADOLESCENTS AND BLOCKAGE ON FRI., JAN. 29, AND WITH THE RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS, MIKE WATT AND THE SECONDMEN, THROWRAG AND WEREWOLF ON SAT., JAN. 30, AT ALEX'S BAR, 2913 E. ANAHEIM ST., LONG BEACH. 9 PM. $15. 21+. ALEXSBAR.COM.