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VALLEY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

Band From Another World: N.J.

Launched from the Garden State, Ambush members portray visitors who dropped in from outer space.

July 25, 1996|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ambush may look like a band from another planet, but actually they're from New Jersey.

These visitors from the Garden State, who are performing at FM Station on Friday night, are more than just a band. They've turned themselves into an entire sci-fi fantasy movie, only without the benefit of a camera.

They've created fantasy characters for themselves, each with an extensive history. They wear masks and elaborate costumes. Their names have been changed to protect the innocent.

"We're all into fantasy," says drummer Dr. Shock, a k a Sal Flamma. "It's great, like a free-for-all--you can go anywhere with it--it's a lot of fun."

Other members of the band are bassist Billy Atoms, guitarist-singer Steve Russo and lead guitarist Spike.

Ambush's basic concept is this: Long ago and far away, in the void where time has no meaning, the band was formed. And now?

"We cruise the void looking for new worlds to conquer," Flamma / Shock says. "We go from planet to planet to play and spread the universal language of music."

Now, it's Earth's turn.

The band's latest CD, "King of the Dogs," is scheduled to be released in early August, and the guys are shopping it around to the major labels.

Wearing those space costumes is OK for cruising the void, but performing onstage in a dance club is another story.

"It's kinda hot up there sometimes; I can't move in it," Dr. Shock admits. "It gets kinda crazy, so I just wear the mask.

"Everybody really gets off on it. It's like Halloween all the time."

* Ambush plays at 10 p.m. Friday at FM Station Live, 11700 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood. $10 cover. Call (818) 769-2220.

*

Coffee, Tea and R & B: Floyd & the Fly Boys are a nine-piece band that has a big, horn-driven R & B sound.

Steve Zelman, a k a Steve Floyd, says his band draws its inspiration from a veritable fruit salad of different musical styles. But the primary one seems to be Southern soul, specifically the music of New Orleans-based artists Professor Longhair and Dr. John.

Not surprisingly, Zelman has spent some time in the Big Easy and says there's something special about the musical scene there.

"Part of it is an attitude," he says. "One of the greatest things about New Orleans is the openness between the cultures.

"African, French, Indian, Creole, Caribbean--all come into the sound--it's something you can feel. It's the opposite of what you see in most other cities."

The band, which plays a variety of original and cover tunes, was rated No. 1 in the R & B category among the top 100 unsigned bands in Los Angeles in a poll conducted by Music Connection magazine in 1992. With nine pieces and hungry mouths to feed, the band tries to book fewer clubs and more festivals, fairs and concert gigs where the stages and the paychecks are bigger.

Although the horn section has had numerous personnel changes over the last six years, the band's rhythm section has remained stable. Along with singer Hubert Tubbs, the band's core includes Zelman on lead guitar, Richard Diamond on drums, Ric Mandell on keyboards and a rotating pair of bass players, Dave Grover and Chuck Fiore.

The band is currently working on a new CD, tentatively titled "Better Late Than Never." Zelman writes a lot of the group's songs and all of its arrangements.

"There's no wingin' it with the horns," Zelman says. "The arrangements are set in stone, it's very consistent."

* Floyd & the Fly Boys play Friday night at Cozy's Bar & Grill, 14058 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. $5 cover. Call (818) 986-6000.

*

Best Band: Mancini's is hosting a battle of the bands of sorts Wednesday, featuring three of the most popular bands to play the club in the last few months.

Performing in the "Jagermeister Rock Hunt" will be local L.A. bands Swamp Boogie Queen, Native Tongue and Hair of the Dog. The event will also feature Hank, a band now with Buzzsaw Records, which will be performing but not competing.

Hank is being showcased by its New York label at similar rock "hunts" at dance clubs around the country.

Swamp Boogie Queen and Native Tongue both have a Southern hard-rock sound, while Hair of the Dog has more of a metallic edge.

* Swamp Boogie Queen, Native Tongue, Hair of the Dog and Hank perform Wednesday night at Mancini's, 20923 Roscoe Blvd., Canoga Park. $5 cover. Call (818) 341-8503.

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