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"It's like a marriage," Galvez says of his arrangement with his ex-bandmates. "You get married and make all these vows, but the minute you start breaking those vows, the marriage doesn't mean anything anymore."
Alfredo and Rafael Galvez grew up in Peru and relocated to Miami in 1984. The brothers opened a skateboard company while still in middle school and held jobs illegally at first, using fake names, to help their parents. A decade after arriving in Florida, Al moved to San Francisco to attend art school, where the acoustic essence of AKIAV began. When he returned a few years later, he began the Al Galvez Band, which later morphed into A Kite Is a Victim. Rafael, intrigued by the Washington, D.C., punk scene, absorbed his art education in Maryland and decided to bring some of the DIY spirit, espoused by labels like Dischord, back home to Miami.
In 1994 Al Galvez began writing the songs that would surface on Home-- AKIAV's lone album -- in 1997. Later that year Al, Rafael, and a friend, Sander Willig, rented a warehouse just off the Palmetto Expressway in Miami and started Space Cadette, dividing the space into rehearsal rooms, offices, and a studio. Intrigued by the possibilities and Al Galvez's vision, talent, and business acumen -- not to mention the dirt-cheap rate of $5 an hour to rent rehearsal space, $25 an hour to record there -- musicians flocked to the operation. Space Cadette began hosting an inexpensive multimedia event every month called the Two Dollar Project. The small space was soon filled with bands practicing day and night. With them came an inner-city, community-activist spirit bidding welcome to nonprofit environmental groups, seminars on abortion rights, music and art workshops for kids, and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. Space Cadette even hosted a women's self-defense course.
Now Space Cadette's performance space is gone, as is its art gallery, and no longer do the label's tentacles snake out into the community. Its roster has dwindled to AKIAV and Zedashe, a traditional Russian choral group. Rafael Galvez recently returned from a journey to the former Soviet republic of Georgia to record with Zedashe's members and is undertaking a similar expedition in December, when he will venture to Guatemala to document ancient Maya music. For now that's the extent of his involvement with the label.
"Space Cadette is not what it used to be," Rafael admits. "It's a ghost of what it once was."
What happened? Many of Al Galvez's former associates profess that the singer had a dark side just beneath the amiable, self-deprecating veneer. Carl Ferrari's band, Swivel Stick, recorded an album for Space Cadette, but now the guitarist has little contact with Galvez.
"I didn't want to work with him anymore for obvious reasons," he says. "He has a way of getting on people's bad side really quickly if he wants to."
"His explosive temper drove away people who were hard-working, loyal, and put their lives on hold for Space Cadette," says Ed Matus, a Miami guitarist-cum-electronic musician who creates under the name Halo Vessel. In the early 1990s, Matus and both Galvez brothers played briefly in a band called Fuselage that combined Andean tonalities with primal rock. "We rehearsed three times a week," Matus remembers, "and we never made it through once without him getting mad at me or his brother. I've worked with a lot of other people who are much more talented and know how to keep themselves together when shit goes wrong. And Al will get personal with you. He'll insult your family."
Matus was also part of a Miami-based band called Subliminal Criminal, which coupled punk fury with prog-rock complications. An untitled album from 1997 is still available on Space Cadette's Website, but neither Matus nor Al Galvez has fond memories of the project. Galvez, whose voice becomes thin and cold at the mere mention of Matus, says, "What was the name of his band? That's how uninterested I am."
Matus recalls feeling delighted when he realized the best label for Subliminal Criminal was right in his own hometown. "Space Cadette were very ambitious and artistic," he says. However, after the band was signed to the label, he charges, Galvez began to demand that the band change the way it sounded, looked, and performed. "That was the ultimate insult. I walked out of Al's office, and all hell broke loose. He stopped talking to me for months."
Predictably Galvez's recollection of Subliminal Criminal is markedly different. "They refused to go on tour because [Matus] lived with his mommy and he had to eat his food and have all his drugs handy," he snarls. "And guess what happened to his record? Nothing. They're taking up room in my closet, while A Kite Is a Victim is already on its third printing." In fact, Galvez says, he's tired of trying to find South Florida bands that might be compatible with Space Cadette's ethic. "I'm in a no-nonsense mode," he says, "and a lot of these bands, unfortunately, are nonsense."
His brother is only slightly more diplomatic. "It's hard to pin down what really happened," Rafael says. "We all have a little ingredient in ourselves that can propagate those wrong things. We got taken advantage of by so many people. It started going down the drain, and our hearts really sunk. I'm surprised I'm not as directly related to it as I was before, but I was tired of working with unmotivated, lazy musicians in South Florida who wanted everything done for them."