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If I had one day in a year to hear and see live music in a year, I would go to one day of Desert Daze.

The festival once again returned to the 420-acre Institute of Mentalphysics, sandwiched between Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree, on Oct. 12-15. Gone was the “pitchfork” animosity yielded last year by some misplaced musical souls who did not understand this was a celebration of music done respectfully among the sacred joshua trees that surround this community.

Local artist Erica Svenneby summed up the excitement of the weekend thusly: “Fucking Iggy Pop in my backyard!” (See Brian Blueskye’s detailed review, with some of my pics, here.) That’s a slight understatement in my opinion, but a true reflection of the excitement of the festival. However, Iggy was not the only legend in attendance; John Cale was there to bring true musical balance to the utopian lineup, for example.

From the parking lot, attendees walk up a dirt path and run into a teepee sculpture made of wood branches— the go-to place for selfies. The structure was created by local artist Ben Allanoff, a recent transplant from L.A. who previously created sculptures for the Joshua Tree Music Festival.

Before I saw my first band, I ran into the Entrance band founder Guy Blakeslee and his fellow musicians.

If you got there early last Friday, you were able to experience Starcrawler—part glam punk, part garage rock that freaked the crowd out in a very good way.

My crush for the duo of Deap Vally continues; they practically ripped open the Wright Tent on Friday with sonic blasts coming from Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards with the perfect song, “Bad for My Body.” I spied the proud spouse of Julie Edwards, Phil Pirrone, with his year-old adorable daughter attached to his hip as he juggled baby-sitting duties with being the head honcho and founder of Desert Daze.

Ty Segall was back in the desert, after performing earlier this year at Pappy and Harriet’s, with a magnificent new tune “Alta,” and the wonderful song “Fanny” a song about his dog. Closing out the Moon stage on Friday was Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile and the Sea Lice, introducing fans to songs from Lotta Sea Lice, out on Matador Records, which relaxed the late evening crowd in a sea of love.

Jesika Von Rabbit sizzled on the Wright Stage during her early-afternoon performance on Saturday, featuring a new band and introducing a great song “Palm Springs Livin’.” There were plenty of familiar faces from the desert paying homage to the Queen of the High Desert music scene, including artist Bobby Furst, the owner of Furstworld, which hosts some of the best unground parties in JT.

I had no idea who the Gories were until I ran over to the Block Stage on Saturday. Hailing from Detroit, this band was the highlights of the festival. As I listened to “I Can’t Take It” and the cover of Suicide’s “Ghost Rider,” I smiled and asked myself where have you been all my life?

The great thing about being able to go to shows on a regular basis is you meet super fans like Amber, whom I met when the San Jose stoner gods Sleep played at Pappy and Harriet’s earlier this year. Sleep played the entire 1992 album, Holy Mountain; it took just less than 80 minutes to perform. The stage quickly filled with a fog of ganga that would rival the cloudy banks that cover the Golden Gate.

I don’t know whether Phil Pirrione made a conscious decision to book as many gods of garage rock at the festival as possible, or whether the magical earth of the Institute of Mentalphysics pulled in Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth to play on Saturday. No stranger to the desert, Thurston has previously played at Pappy and Harriet’s. Moore’s guitar talked with inspiring riffs of “Speak to the Wild,” played under the shadow of a joshua tree stage left.

Australia’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard was back for another Desert Daze on Saturday, with awesome psychedelic rock playing homage to the local fauna with the song “Rattlesnake,” a cautionary tale, perhaps, for those who chose to camp at the festival, with this sinister verse: “Vegetation aggravation found him hiding. Snake is smiling.”

The Eagles of Death Metal’s Jesse “Boots Electric” Hughes stole the show on Sunday with his rock ’n’ roll revival that made you a true believer in the power of rock, ending the sermon with a cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” featuring the shredding genius and sartorial splendor of Dave Catching.

After being pumped up by the Eagles of Death Metal, Spiritualized softened the crowd out—ending a perfect musical weekend.

Published in Reviews

As the Desert Daze festival has continued to grow, so has its profile and, therefore, so has the quality of the lineup. Well, the 2017 lineup was announced today—and it’s downright fantastic.

Desert Daze announced that Iggy Pop would be the festival’s headliner. The Joshua Tree festival will also feature performances by BadBadNotGood, Ty Segall, Sleep (performing the album Holy Mountain in its entirety), The Gories, and Cigarettes After Sex.

This year’s Desert Daze will take place Thursday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 15.

These additions to the lineup joined already-announced acts including Spiritualized, John Cale, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, and Eagles of Death Metal, among many other well-known acts.

Shortly before the announcement, Desert Daze founder Phil Pirrone spoke to the Independent. When asked whether booking the festival is getting easier as it grows, he hesitated.

“I don’t know if it’s ever going to be easier,” Pirrone said. “What happens with the headliner search is that whoever is worth headlining, you’re not the only one who wants them. You have to get lucky with schedules and the stars aligning.

“I guess to a certain extent, with every year that we do this festival more and more, people are going to know about it, and agents will want to get their bands on it. In some areas, it will be easier. I think that there will always be some degree of difficulty of getting a headliner like Iggy Pop.”

Desert Daze will also feature a performance by Eagles of Death Metal. The Coachella Valley natives became a worldwide name after the group survived the attack in November 2015 at the Bataclan theater in Paris.

“After all that’s happened to them, this is going to be in Joshua Tree, and that’s going to be a beautiful moment,” Pirrone said. “We’ve been trying to get them to play for the past few years, and we’re glad it’s finally happening.”

In 2016, Desert Daze moved to October from the spring, and changed locations, moving from the Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca to the Institute of Mentalphysics in Joshua Tree. 

“I guess the short answer as to why is, ‘Lots of reasons,’ Pirrone said. “I guess the most positive answer is that the venue in Joshua Tree is so amazing. We were in Mecca for three years, and we thought it had run its course. We were on the lookout to find a new spot to expand and have more of a workable environment. As soon as we laid eyes on the Institute of Mentalphysics, we knew it would be the perfect place for the festival. We actually found it a couple of years before we moved the festival there. It had kind of been a dream of ours.”

Sunset Ranch Oasis, while nice and scenic, is an out-of-the-way location—with an occasional wind and dust problem.

“It’s night and day. No offense to the Sunset Ranch, but it was pretty rough there,” Pirrone said. “This new venue is beautifully maintained, and there are really lovely walking paths, labyrinths, water features and little ponds, and lots of beautiful prehistoric desert wildlife. It’s a really amazing property. There are indoor spaces, an indoor diner, and two performance halls that were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and his son … and we use those. There are places to get out of the sun. It’s very different from when it was in Mecca.”

Last year, Desert Daze featured performances from The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Primus, Television, The Sonics, and the Black Angels. The event was a success, even though the mega-event that was Desert Trip was happening down the hill. 

“We didn’t feel any impact from Desert Trip taking place, other than there being a lack of hotels and some other resources like that. I think Desert Trip was this mega, once-in-a-lifetime dream concert, and I wish I could have gone,” Pirrone said with a laugh. “But that thing sold out, and I think there are plenty of people who wanted to go to something like Desert Daze who weren’t going to go to Desert Trip. Desert Daze was traditionally always during Coachella during the spring, and I think they are different enough to where they can do their thing without impacting the other. It goes without saying that we’re a blip on their radar (compared to Goldenvoice’s big festivals). But I found being in the fall has had a lot of benefits, weather-wise. With all that said, I can’t say I’m disappointed there isn’t a Desert Trip this year, because it makes things easier. It’s always nice to have some breathing room.”

I asked Pirrone about his favorite festival-production moment thus far.

“I have to say it’s still Tinariwen back in 2013. That represented a turning point for us: It was the first time we produced the festival outdoors at a ranch, the first time it was like a real project,” he said. “It wasn’t, ‘Let’s do a show at a venue.’ It was the first time we had to get a permit; it was the first time we had to hire security and bring in our own bar company, and catering company, and organize everything. We did it and we got the permit. … We convinced this band from Africa to come over and play, and they got there. They played; people had actually paid to get in to where we had money to pay them; nobody got hurt. … It’s like a family restaurant (had) started with my wife and best friends, and when we succeed, we really feel it. During Tinariwen … nothing will ever top that.

“But who knows? Iggy Pop is playing our festival this year,” he continued. “That’s just going to be unreal.”

Last year, some people had concerns about a large music festival taking place at the Institute of Mentalphysics. Pirrone said attendees left the venue in pristine shape.

“I was very impressed with our audience and their respect for the venue,” he said. “When you’re there, you don’t feel like littering, because of the environment there being so beautiful. I like to think we put a lot of love into it. People cleaned up after themselves and left no trace. The Institute of Mentalphysics was very impressed with the cleanup. We also encourage people to carpool and keep fewer cars on the road. We work with Global Inheritance and ZeroHero to run recycling and green programs during the event, and they helped us divert 10,000 pieces of recycling from the landfill. We’re making a lot of efforts to be a positive festival in that regard.

“We love it in Joshua Tree, and we hope to be there for many years. We’re doing our best to be good neighbors up there.

Desert Daze will take place Thursday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 15 at the Institute of Mentalphysics, 59700 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Joshua Tree. Passes are $229 to $450. For tickets or more information, visit desertdaze.org.

Girls (Sunday, Feb. 12, HBO), season premiere: Yes, Girls creator/star Lena Dunham has made some astoundingly stupid statements on social media—isn’t that what social media is for?—but she’s also cranked out a half-dozen solid seasons of an HBO series, so she’s far more than just a “privileged snowflake.” Season 6 will be the last for Girls (though there may be a follow-up movie), and Brooklynites Hannah (Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) are totally different, and somehow exactly the same, as they were in the beginning. Girls’ infamously un-glam sex scenes and monologues continue, but it’s Dunham’s nimble comedy writing that deserves the attention—lines like “I don’t give a shit about anything, yet I simultaneously have opinions about everything” are as funny as they are instantly relatable (to some of us writers, anyway).

Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Monday, Feb. 13, HBO), documentary: Locally born party-rockers Eagles of Death Metal were a cult band, more or less, prior to the November 2015 terrorist attack at a Paris concert that claimed 89 lives—now, they’re a slightly more-notorious cult band who, surprisingly, still haven’t been sued by Don Henley of the Eagles proper. Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends) isn’t just about the Bataclan incident and the band’s subsequent return to play for Paris fans; it also explores the decades-long, yin-yang friendship between EODM founders Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme (of Queens of the Stone Age). It’s a sweet and sometimes harrowing story with a triumphant conclusion. If Nos Amis inspires some more sales of Eagles of Death Metal’s four excellent, ramshackle rock ’n’ roll records, even better.

Humans (Monday, Feb. 13, AMC), season premiere: Before HBO’s Westworld, AMC’s Humans was delving into lifelike-androids-among-us drama in a more understated manner. (Four whole episodes passed in Season 1 before someone had sex with a robot.) Busy London couple Joe and Laura (Tom Goodman-Hill and Katherine Parkinson) bought a refurbished “Synth” (a human-like robot servant, Mia, coolly/creepily played by Gemma Chan) who displayed flashes of organic emotion and passive-aggressive tendencies. (Never, ever buy “refurbished”; eBay 101.) What could go wrong? Everything, of course, and now Mia and her like-minded “family” of Synths are loose in the populace with the “consciousness code” (a backdoor switch that could make all Synths “wake up” and toss off their servitude). It’s going to be a looong time before Westworld returns—get some Humans in your life.

You Me Her (Tuesday, Feb. 14, Audience/DirecTV), season premiere: Last year’s surprise polyamory rom-com (!) played wacky-to-serious-and-back-again hijinks out over 10 near-perfect episodes that rung comically real. Then, You Me Her was about an unexpected love triangle between bored Portland couple Jack (Greg Poehler) and Emma (Rachel Blanchard), and free-spirited escort Izzy (Priscilla Faia), and their anxiety over hiding this new relationship, whatever it was, from their friends and family. Now, in Season 2, it’s about going public and, perhaps even harder, dealing with Izzy as a full-time housemate. The only predictable aspect of You Me Her is that the guy is going to screw things up, and inadvertent third wheel Jack is right on schedule. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Doubt (Wednesday, Feb. 15, CBS), series debut: TV's latest attempt to make Katherine Heigl a thing is yet another pretty-lawyers show—but with a twist! Attorney Sadie Ellis (Heigl) falls in lust/love with her client, a charismatic doctor (Steven Pasquale) accused of murdering his girlfriend years ago. Did he do it? Can she trust him? Will CBS somehow drag 13 episodes out of this? Meanwhile, the rest of her law firm (which includes Dulé Hill, Elliott Gould, Dreama Walker and Laverne Cox) are … around. Doubt has all of the sexy banter, perfect hair and designer clothes required of modern legal soaps, but it’s all as empty as a showroom briefcase. Quit dicking around, and just get Heigl a Fox comedy (à la The Mick) or back on Grey’s Anatomy, Hollywood.

Published in TV

When I interviewed local music legend Jesse Hughes in August 2015, he was in good spirits and quite excited about the then-soon-to-be released Eagles of Death Metal album, Zipper Down.

“This album is like John Holmes, only with a bigger dick,” Hughes told me. “I’ve never been one of those dudes who has tried to change or do something different. I pretty much want to make Little Richard proud, and I feel that this album has gotten me closer to that goal than any other record.”

Sure enough, the Eagles of Death Metal made waves with the release of Zipper Down—the band’s first new release in seven years. In fact, the Palm Desert-born band was enjoying the most critical acclaim it had ever received.

This high would not last: On Nov. 13, 2015, during an EODM concert in Paris at the world-famous Bataclan, the venue was attacked by terrorists. While the band escaped physically unharmed, 89 people lost their lives.

A new documentary directed by Colin Hanks, Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends), was screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival on Saturday night, Jan. 14, at the Annenberg Theater. Both Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme attended the screening, as did Colin Hanks, who introduced the film and took questions afterward.

The film will air on HBO starting Monday, Feb. 13.

The documentary starts with Jesse Hughes at home in Los Angeles, about three months after the attack, on the day he and the rest of the band were slated to return to Europe to resume the tour. Gone is Hughes’ jovial, comedic attitude that he so often displayed while off-stage: He appears nervous as he packs his luggage and his manager hands him the boarding passes for the band and crew. He emotionally explains that the rock ’n’ roll music for which he’s always been known is now a huge question mark—because the tragedy in Paris will always be what comes up when people talk about the band.

The film covers the backstory of the band. Hughes and Homme talk about the first time they met each other, as kids in Palm Desert—and include an anecdote about Homme rescuing Hughes from bullies who had thrown him in a pool and wouldn't let him out. Homme describes Hughes as a guy who loves to talk about himself—although that talk is so amusing that you want him to keep talking.

Homme, who can't always tour with Eagles of Death Metal, was not with the band at the Bataclan. He describes being in a recording studio when he started receiving alarming text messages from the band at the time of the attack.

The band members each describe the attacks and their aftermath. While most of the members have already told these stories to VICE, Dave Catching—the band's guitarist and owner of the Rancho de la Luna studio in Joshua Tree—tells his story for the first time: He describes spending two terrorizing hours in a dressing room, hiding in the shower with the door barricaded. He said terrorists tried at various points to get into the dressing room—and that one of the terrorists eventually blew himself up nearby.

The final portion of the film shows the moment when the band finally plays again in Paris. Homme and Hughes are filmed greeting many of the survivors of the attack, shaking their hands and hugging. One man tells Hughes he saw the terrorists enter the Bataclan—and feels sorry because he didn't do anything to stop them. Hughes emotionally tells the man that he’s not at fault.

Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friend) is a heartrending look at Hughes, a rock ’n’ roller who lived through an event that would change him and his band forever. The film pays tribute to the victims in a beautiful way, and affirms that the terrorists in no way won anything as a result of the attack.

While the Eagles of Death Metal EODM will be associated with tragedy forever, the members confirm: They still believe in rock ’n’ roll.

Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends) premieres Monday, Feb. 13, on HBO.

Published in TV

Sinner Sinners is one of those bands you really should be listening to—even though you’ve probably never heard of them.

Thanks to tours with Eagles of Death Metal and the reunited Refused, however, the group is starting to get some much-deserved attention.

Sinner Sinners will be playing on Saturday, April 16, with the Mojave Lords (featuring Eagles of Death Metal guitarist Dave Catching), Boots Electric (featuring Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes), Fatso Jetson, Chris Goss and others at Pappy and Harriet’s. It’s very likely this show, co-presented by Rancho de la Luna, will sell out.

Originally from France and the Netherlands, Sinner Sinners now call Los Angeles home. The brutal punk-rock sound has earned the band accolades, and both the video for the song “Modern Man” and the album Cardinal Sins have received write-ups in publications like Rolling Stone and Maximum Metal.

During a recent phone interview shortly after returning home to Los Angeles from a European tour with Eagles of Death Metal, Sinner Sinners frontman Steve Thill said the fact that the band is not currently signed to a major label has not been a problem.

“When we released the first demo, almost right away, we got a deal with Universal Publishing in France,” Thill said. “They signed us, and they were looking for a label for us, and they couldn’t find one. So Universal couldn’t find us a label, and we figured that finding one ourselves would be even harder. … We just figured we’d put (our album) out ourselves, and it’s been doing good. I think the one thing a label can really do for you is help financially to record and (with) PR stuff, but we pay for recording, and we have a PR agent to help promote the album when it came out. We don’t get all of the cool magazines, because it’s a self-release.”

Thill’s wife, Sam, has incorporated the keyboard into their brutal sound, which reminds of another well-known punk band.

“When we started the band, we were really into The Damned, and I think that’s where it comes from,” he said. “We’re more into their goth era, or more like the Machine Gun Etiquette album. It’s one of my favorites, and when we first started, we were playing some of their covers. It was going to be like Sisters of Mercy kind of stuff, with a drum machine, but during the first rehearsal, we (realized we) wanted a drummer.”

How did the Thills choose Los Angeles as their new home?

“We came over for vacation first, and came back to record a few times,” Steve Thill said. “We began staying longer each time, and we figured we should be here, because there’s more happening here musically. We eventually moved here. We come from a really small town in France. It’s cold all the time, and it’s raining all the time. Los Angeles was pretty appealing to us.

“We were in our hometown in France last week while we were on tour, and it was so fucking cold.”

Both Steve and Sam were shocked when they heard about the Nov. 13 terrorist attack in Paris—and horrified that it happened during a show by some of their friends.

“Nothing like that ever really happens there, and you don’t ever hear about gunshots or anything, because it just doesn’t happen,” Steve Thill said. “When we heard about it—that it was an Eagles of Death Metal show, that our friends were there, and we had just played with the Eagles a month before—it was completely insane. It’s one of those things you think only happens to other people. You hear about things like that on the news, and you never think it would happen to your friends.”

It is no surprise that Sinner Sinners are taking part in the Play It Forward campaign, which features various bands recording a cover of the Eagles of Death Metal’s song “I Love You All the Time,” to help raise money for the victims of the attack.

“We thought about it, and we thought—especially being friends of Jesse Hughes and his girlfriend, Tuesday Cross; the fact we’re neighbors and have been friends for the past six years; and we’re from France—there’s no way we couldn’t do it,” Steve Thill said. “It would be fucked-up and insulting if we didn’t do it. We got together, and we did it, and it was the first time we were playing music after it happened.

“For us French people after that whole thing happened, especially being here, we couldn’t really get a feel for what was going on, and we were watching the news as much as we could to figure out what was happening. It was probably not the best idea, because the news channels here are always pushing everything and keep showing the same videos all day, and ‘Terror! Terror! Terror!’ According to our friends there, people never really stopped going out and stopped going to bars or clubs, even after the first few days after the events. The attacks were as bad as they were saying, but the state of Paris wasn’t as bad as they were saying. When we went back three weeks ago, people were actually going out of their way to go to shows and were super-pumped about going out.”

While the Sinner Sinners are currently working on a second album, Steve and Sam are happy to be returning to the desert for a performance at Pappy and Harriet’s. The last time they played in the desert was in September 2014, at the Palms in Wonder Valley, with Jello Biafra and Spindrift.

“It’s weird, because when we started the band in France, we were following the whole desert-music scene and listening to those bands we’re playing with,” Steve Thill said. “We’re the outsiders, and it’s really an honor to be on that (Pappy and Harriet’s) show—and scary at the same time.

“Last time we played in the desert was really weird with Jello Biafra and Spindrift. It was definitely a strong memory, and I remember we saw some scorpions when Jesika Von Rabbit was playing. It was a really rad experience. You hear about the desert on TV and never think you’ll find yourself in one, and even though we’ve been here a few years, it’s really strange for us.”

Sinner Sinners will perform with the Mojave Lords, Fatso Jetson, Chris Goss, Alain Johannes, Boots Electric and Strawberry Smog at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 16, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

Friday the 13th of November 2015 will forever be remembered by fans of desert rock.

Of course, we all know what happened on that day: Armed gunmen shot and killed 89 concert-goers, and wounded more than 300 fans, at an Eagles of Death Metal show at the Bataclan in Paris. It was the worst of a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Paris that night.

The hard-edged pop band features frontman Jesse Hughes, with Josh Homme—frontman of the platinum-record-selling Queens of the Stone Age—on drums; both grew up in Palm Desert. The band also includes guitarist Dave Catching, who resides in Joshua Tree at his world-famous recording studio Rancho de la Luna. While Hughes and Catching were on the Bataclan stage on Nov. 13, Homme was not; he had been on the European tour but had returned home to be with his wife, who is expecting their second child.

It was an hour into their set when gunfire broke out. The band was quickly ushered offstage and escaped harm’s way. However, the band’s merch manager, Nick Alexander was not so lucky: The 36-year-old British resident was shot and killed—and a wave of shock is still resounding in the music community here at home.

“I spent a lot of time with Nick, but the thing about the touring merch job, it’s one of the more thankless jobs,” drummer Patrick Carney of The Black Keys told Rolling Stone; Carney had worked with Alexander, but was not in Paris during the attacks. “You do it because you just want to travel, and you’re interested in meeting new people, and it’s really hard work. It’s not the job you take if you’re into partying. … He was just a sweetheart, that guy.”

Within 24 hours, fans started a social-media campaign to launch the Eagles of Death Metal single “Save a Prayer” (a Duran Duran cover on EODM’s latest release, Zipper Down) to No. 1 on the charts. Within 24 hours, the single had risen to No. 5 in Norway, and was No. 1 on Amazon. Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon said all proceeds from the song would be donated to a charitable organization.

Anyone who didn’t know about the Eagles of Death Metal before the attacks certainly knows about them now. Unfortunately, that includes some morons. At the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., Pastor Steven Anderson—who has clearly never heard one note of the band’s music—gave a sermon, posted online, in which he referred to EODM as a death-metal band, and the group’s fans as Satan worshipers.

“When you go to a concert of death metal, somebody might get killed!” he said. “You know, you’re worshiping death! And then, all of a sudden, people start dying! … Well, you love death so much; you bought the ticket; you love worshiping Satan! Well, let’s have some of Satan’s religion come in and shoot you! I mean, that’s what these people should think about before they go into such a wicked concert.”

Believe it or not, after saying he didn’t condone the shootings, Anderson’s rhetoric then got even worse: “But you know what? Nobody should be at a concert worshiping Satan with this drug-pushing hillbilly faggot. And that’s what he is.”

Here at home, we are happy our friends escaped safely, yet deeply saddened by the loss of the lives of Nick and all of those fans. It’s a testament to the state of affairs in our world that you never know when your time on the planet is up; it could even end at the next desert-rock show.

Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

In October, Eagles of Death Metal will release a long-awaited new album, Zipper Down.

It’s been almost seven years since Eagles of Death Metal released Heart On, heretofore the Palm Desert group’s latest album. What in the heck took so long for Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme to record Zipper Down?

“We had a lot of bodies to bury. No, I’m kidding,” Hughes said, with a laugh, during a recent interview. “We’ve been asked that question, and it sort of took Josh and me by surprise, because we hadn’t realized it had been that long. It seemed like it was a couple years, but then it was like, ‘Holy shit, it’s been that long.’ We don’t really believe in a concept of a certain time. … Josh made the Them Crooked Vultures album and a Queens of the Stone Age album, and I made a solo record, and the right time didn’t pop up until right about now. It wasn’t intentional; it just occurred that way. But I do promise we will not let it go that long again before we put out another record.”

What makes this record stand out compared to previous albums?

“Have you ever heard of the adult film actor John Holmes? Well, this album is like John Holmes, only with a bigger dick,” Hughes said, quite incredibly. “I’ve never been one of those dudes who has tried to change or do something different. I pretty much want to make Little Richard proud, and I feel that this album has gotten me closer to that goal than any other record.”

Little Richard? Hughes has long cited the music great as one of his biggest influences.

“Little Richard, to me, is like what I do: He’s a sleeper,” he said. “You wouldn’t expect a dude who’s dressed so fancily to be a bad-ass rock ’n’ roller. He’s essentially the first death-metal artist to show up, and they burned his records. That’s one of the things I love about him: He can sing ‘Tutti Fruitti’ and make everyone in the room horny, and that’s really all I want to do—stay horny.”

Hughes got to meet Little Richard.

“It was a surreal moment,” he remembered. “I was introduced to him by a mutual friend who told him I wanted to meet him, and he was like, ‘Oooh, child!’ And then right in the middle of talking to me, he excused himself and started screaming at photographers: ‘You motherfuckers have been taking my picture my whole life and stealing from me!’ He went into this rant about how the photographers had been ripping him off and stealing from him. After the tirade, he stopped, smiled at me and said, ‘Nice to meet you.’ I was like, ‘Wow! That’s Little Richard.’

“When it’s a dude like Little Richard, you have certain allowances. He can be the craziest queen of rock ’n’ roll if he wants to. As long as he goes into ‘Lucille,’ I’m happy.”

It’s been 17 years since Hughes appeared on the Desert Sessions, marking the beginning of his music career, after working as a manager for Video Depot and as a journalist. Hughes said he never saw a music career in the cards.

“I honestly never did—but Josh always did,” he said. “He always had this in mind when we made the first Eagles of Death Metal song. It was for the Desert Sessions album back in 1998, and Josh even then was like, ‘Dude, you really need to be in a band!’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, this is a waste of time.’ The whole time, he always had this vision.

“The Coachella Valley music scene, at least when I was a kid, was very eccentric and very serious. Los Angeles was pop music, and the Coachella Valley was Frank Zappa. I’ve achieved the things I’ve achieved because I have a Coachella Valley attitude about it. The whole world might be smaller than Los Angeles, but it’s still the whole world to me. People like Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson, making the music they made when I was a kid—it basically helped me pull off … what I’m doing now.”

Hughes said that while he goes back and forth between the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles, he technically lives in L.A. now.

“Josh and I always try to say in our heads that we live in the desert; we’ve never changed our phone numbers, and they’re still 760 numbers,” Hughes said. “But you kind of have to be close to Los Angeles to ride the animal. You know what I mean?”

However, today’s music scene in the Coachella Valley has captured Hughes’ interest.

“I’m happy about it. I’m not going to say I was worried, but there was a moment when a lot of the talent had left or moved on,” he said. “I was worried that the desert would fall prey to the Los Angeles suburbanitis. … It gets to be 120 degrees in the summer, and no one is crazy enough to really want to live there, so that sort of insulates us from too much change. My son is also part of this new Coachella Valley music scene, and I’m incredibly proud of him.”

Hughes credits the way of life in the Coachella Valley for the positive changes in the burgeoning local-music scene.

“I’ve thought about this: At first, when I was a kid, there weren’t any places like The Hood,” he said. “For whatever reason, the desert ended up with a lot of veterans and a lot of really heavy go-getters—the people who can survive in hot weather and have nothing else to do but be hot. Music is a good place to go to, because you don’t have to go anywhere to hear it or to play it. When you’re in the desert, you’re responsible for your own entertainment. There’s not a Hollywood Boulevard—there’s Indio Boulevard and Highway 111. I always felt like the Coachella Valley was like the Australia of America, because it’s its own island, and you have to make everything. Otherwise, it’s an import.”

Jam in the Van is an Internet music program that’s taking the music world by storm. It is quickly becoming as recognizable as the giant music festivals to which it travels. What MTV was to music videos in the early ‘80s, Jam in the Van is to music festivals and independent artists today.

The van is a moving piece of art, covered with colorful portraits of rock legends and wallpapered in memorabilia from shows gone by. It is also a solar-powered recording studio that travels to the hottest music festivals. Parked outside of Bonnaroo, High Sierra, SXSW and Bottle Rocket, JITV entrepreneur Jake Cotler and his crew invite performing artists inside for a three-song set, documented with state-of-the-art recording gear by pros who are passionate about capturing the magic.

The concept was born in 2011 in the expanded consciousness of Jake Cotler. In a psychedelic haze at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tenn., beneath the starry sky on top of their rented RV, Jake and his and partners, Dave Bell and Louis Peek, thought, “What if we could bring the music to us?” The young festies had been attending Bonnaroo since 2002, and each year, they rented an RV to the tune of a couple of grand. They began contemplating what would happen if they bought an old RV, loaded it with recording gear, and got the bands they were traveling to see to record live sets inside the van. They bought the first jam-van off craigslist for $800, parked it in the alley behind Cotler’s Venice Beach home, and began inviting bands to come play.

Cotler remembers the first time they were invited to park the van backstage at Bonnaroo in 2012.

“Everything but the engine is powered by the sun,” he said. “The studio is fully solar-powered, amps and all. We use four-domestic sized solar panels on the roof of the van to run everything. That’s why we can pull up literally anywhere and film our sessions.

“… The first Bonnaroo we worked at was pretty surreal for us. That was probably the last year that Bonnaroo was really awesome, 2012. Just three months prior, we’d been on the side of the road in Fort Stockton, Texas, broken down in a 1984 Jam Van that died on us on the way back from SXSW. We had to sell the van to a sheriff on the side of the road who was going to use it for storage and to let his nephew sleep in. We packed everything up in a U-Haul and drove back to L.A. with two choices on our minds: Throw in the towel and say it was fun while it lasted, or crowd-fund a new van, and make shit happen. We went with option B, because we don’t quit shit, and we succeeded.

“In the midst of our crowd-funding venture, we signed a deal with Bonnaroo to be part of the festival and film bands backstage. So that first time we … got to be backstage at the festival that started it all. That was really a good feeling.”

The show has picked up sponsors and has filmed hundreds of live music segments. The crew visits major music meccas and music festivals. In April, the crew visited our high desert for a two-day shoot before making their way down to Coachella to record some of this year’s best acts, wrapping things up with desert-based War Drum.

Day one took place outside the van at desert rock icon Brant Bjork’s Low Desert Punk studio in Joshua Tree. The shoot started off with several songs by Brant’s band Low Desert Punk, fresh off this year’s Coachella stage. They included a track from his recent release, Black Flower Power. Next up was DRUG, a surf-punk trio featuring Jamie Hafler on guitar and bass (using a custom built double-neck guitar, allowing him to pull off the feat), and the dramatic impassioned vocals of frontwoman Cristie Carter. A last-minute addition to the lineup was Gram Rabbit songstress Jesika von Rabbit, who took the intimate route with her vocals and guitar. The grand finale featured The Atomic Sherpas.

Day two occurred inside the van at the world renowned Rancho De La Luna Recording Studio in Joshua Tree, where the cream of the desert rock crop gave the crew a taste of what our underground music scene is all about. Guitarist Bobby Nichols (Inner Planetary Monks), drummer Rob Peterson (The Pedestrians) and bassist Armando Flores (The Pedestrians, Blasting Echo) recorded as Sundrug Experiment. They set the mood for the day with fiery psychedelic jams. Next up was Americana indie-band Gene Jr. and The Family, making Joshua Tree proud with its polished pop-infused rock. Waxy then delivered an authentic set of desert stoner rock; Fatso Jetson made the trek from L.A. and blew EVERYONE away with a flawless set of pounding compositions. The evening ended with punk-laden power pop by desert bad-boys, Eagles of Death Metal. Dave Catching and Bingo Richey were going over new tunes that are part of their latest project, the Mojave Lords, predicted to be the desert’s new supergroup.

Visit Jam in the Van at www.jaminthevan.com. Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story with video imbeds, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

The term “desert rock” defines a genre of music and bands, all from the local scene, that changed the face of music—and one of the most important musicians within that genre is Dave Catching, the owner of the Rancho de la Luna recording studio and the guitarist for Eagles of Death Metal.

Catching will be celebrating his 53rd birthday in style with a two-day concert extravaganza on Friday and Saturday, June 6 and 7, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

Beyond the Eagles of Death Metal, Catching has also been associated with Queens of the Stone Age, Tex and the Horseheads, The Ringling Sisters, earthlings?, Mondo Generator and other bands.

During a recent phone interview, Catching told his back story.

“I started playing music when I was 15 back in Memphis, Tenn.,” Catching said. “My brother was a musician, and I used to sneak his guitar out from under his bed. He caught me, and he showed me a few chords so that I could actually play stuff. That was the first time I started playing music.”

Catching said his brother and his uncle played in bands together, including a band that played covers of songs by Alice Cooper, Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie.

“I used to go to their rehearsals and hang out with them. They were both really great musicians and singers who inspired me.”

Catching never had any plans to own a recording studio or to live in the High Desert. However, that began to change in 1994. Fred Drake was interested in purchasing Rancho de la Luna; at the time, Catching owned a restaurant in New Orleans.

“(Fred Drake) called me when I owned my restaurant and asked me if I wanted to be partners,” Catching said. “It was so cheap that I sent him the money to buy it. I had no intentions of ever living in Joshua Tree. I thought I was going to be in New Orleans for the rest of my life. But it was such a great deal, and I loved Fred so much, so I just said ‘Yes,’ and we started the studio then.”

Drake, a founding member of earthlings?, died in 2002. He was beloved in the local music scene.

“He was in several bands, and he worked in another studio called Dominion Way. It was a rehearsal studio, and I used to rehearse there. Iggy Pop used to rehearse there back in 1988, and I started rehearsing there. (Drake) was an established figure around that part. It’s amazing what things he could do with the little equipment they had. It was incredible.”

After an electrical fire at his restaurant in New Orleans, Catching found himself living at and working out of the studio. Shortly after Catching moved, the Rancho de la Luna recorded a band called Kyuss, featuring Josh Homme. The rest, as they say, is history.

“I got a phone call from my best friend Hutch, who did sound for Kyuss; he now does sound for Queens of the Stone Age and Jack White. I called him to check in and say hi, and he told me Kyuss was going to Europe and needed a guitar tech,” Catching said. “I’d already met those guys through him before. … I needed something to do to get out of town. I became their guitar tech for a couple of tours, and we all became friends.

“Kyuss broke up, and Josh got a phone call from Roadrunner Records to do a song for a compilation record. He asked me and a couple of friends to be a band to do the song, and we called (the group) Queens of the Stone Age. Their producer, Chris Goss, had always told Kyuss, ‘You guys sound like Queens of the Stone Age.’”

As the Queens of the Stone Age began to rise, Rancho de la Luna became more established and has since become a prime recording spot for numerous well-known bands, including the Arctic Monkeys and, more recently, Foo Fighters. Catching said he never expected Rancho de la Luna, co-owned by Teddy Quinn, to become what it is today.

“We were just doing our thing,” Catching said. “(The members of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age) were just kids, and I was older than those guys, and we were just having a great time. They just wanted to come up and check out our studio, and did some recording. I didn’t really think about anything other than just having a good time at my place.”

Catching today splits time between New Orleans and Joshua Tree.

“I get the best of both worlds living in Joshua Tree and New Orleans: The driest place on Earth, and the wettest place on Earth,” he said, exaggerating slightly. “I’m pretty much sober when I’m in the desert, and I’m pretty much not sober when I’m in New Orleans. I think both places save me and keep me sane.”

The former restaurateur said he still loves to cook, too.

“It’s one of the best ways to bring people together,” Catching said. “It’s an enjoyable time to gather around the kitchen, throw a bunch of things together—and you have to eat. If it’s really good, it makes everybody a little happier.”

As for the local music scene circa 2014, Catching said it’s increasingly diverse—and he’s including a lot of those local-music friends, old and new, during his birthday celebration.

“A lot of the bands I like such as Parosella, Jesika von Rabbit and many others are playing,” he said. “We’re also going to do the Rancho de la Lunatics, which is a bunch of us just jamming. It will showcase a lot of bands that I like that are around the area now.”

Dave Catching’s Incredible Pappy and Harriet’s Birthday Spectacular takes place on Friday and Saturday, June 6 and 7, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Friday tickets are $15; Saturday tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Brandon Ray Henderson is an icon in the Coachella Valley music scene. On top of being a great bass-player, he’s an accomplished guitar-player who has toured Europe with Brant Bjork, and was a founding member of Half Astro. He currently plays guitar in The Pedestrians, as well as a Misfits tribute band called Astro Zombies; finally, he plays bass for Parosella. However, he may be best known locally for his booking talents; he recently finished a stint at The Hood Bar and Pizza, during which time The Hood hosted Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Adolescents, and legendary surf-guitar virtuoso Dick Dale, as well as many others. Brandon will be playing with Parosella on Friday, June 6, and Astro Zombies on Saturday, June 7, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace for Eagles of Death Metal guitarist Dave Catching’s Birthday Spectacular; get full details and ticket info at pappyandharriets.com. Here are Henderson’s answers to The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

I went to a lot of small, random punk shows as a young teenager. My first real concert would be the 1997 Warped Tour where I saw Descendents, blink-182, The Vandals, Strung Out, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Pennywise, and the Aquabats, from what I can remember.

What was the first album you owned?

Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill. I used to play the cassette in my Teddy Ruxpin that I got for Christmas in 1986.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I always have my favorite go-to bands like Lagwagon, RKL, Bad Religion, Descendents, NOFX, The Vandals, and AFI that I keep in steady rotation. Lately, I’ve been into other artists like Radical Face, Brothers Comatose, Jason Cruz and Howl, the Dresden Dolls, Metric, Sun Kil Moon and Arcade Fire. The most recent Queens of the Stone Age record is very enjoyable. I wish had some Tribesmen recordings; I would listen to the shit out of them.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Jay-Z.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Elliott Smith, or Jimi Hendrix with Band of Gypsys would be super-rad.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

“Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga. That song rules! I always look both ways to see who is paying attention before I start singing along.

What’s your favorite music venue?

It’s pretty hard to narrow that down to just one. I love intimate venues like the Troubador in West Hollywood. The Melkweg in Amsterdam and The Arena in Vienna, Austria, are also great to perform at and/or see a show at.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Am I following all of the right leads, or am I about to get lost in space?” “Lost in Space,” The Misfits.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

I heard the record No Control by Bad Religion when I was 9 years old and have never been the same. That sparked my intense passion for punk rock and vocal harmonies.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I would like to ask Prince: How many pairs of shoes do you own?

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Hopefully after the service, everyone has a big party, and they play “Shout” by Otis Day and the Knights. I’m pretty sure my dear friend Ryan Edgmon will oversee and make that happen.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Lagwagon, Trashed.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“The Decline” by NOFX. It’s an 18-minute song packed with musical variety and lyrics that make you think. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13

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