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Here in the desert, we take our punk rock and stoner rock pretty seriously. We take pride in the cutting-edge musicians who carved a place out for themselves in the international music marketplace—and put our area on the international music map.

Bands like Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Unida and others boldly explored new territory with their musical instruments and gave birth to their own brand of original rock. Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, these then-underground bands were drawing influences from punk, grunge and metal—yet in each instance, they created a sound that was all their own.

Palm Desert's Nick Oliveri—multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter—made a name for himself playing bass-guitar in Kyuss (which just so happened to be Oliveri’s very first band). The group caught the ears of A&R people quickly, and it wasn’t long before the members were cutting a record and heading off to Europe on tour.

Oliveri departed from the fledgling band after the first studio record to explore his punk roots—and became the on-again, off-again bass player for the Dwarves, one of the most notorious hard-core punk bands on the West Coast. However, in 1998, he reunited with Kyuss band mate Josh Homme to help form what would become the next international super group born in our desert: Queens of the Stone Age. He toured and recorded with the group until 2004, when his lifestyle got away from him, and Homme asked him to leave. (The two have written, recorded and toured together since the split.)

Despite the firing from QOTSA, Nick continued to create music in a multitude of situations that helped shape him into the player and songwriter he is today. That growth can be experienced on both his latest solo records and at his live performances. He has recorded multiple full-length albums and several splits with his band Mondo Generator, and has continued to garner new fans across the globe. Besides being one of the most sought-after hard-rock bassists in stoner rock, he is revered by European fans as an American rock icon. Oliveri possesses a world-class vocal style that borders on a scream—though it comes quite naturally. His vocal style sets him apart and adds heat to his already-fiery compositions. His charismatic stage presence and full-throttle performances are backed by a prolific catalog of records in numerous cross-projects.

Oliveri has recently been working with Santa Cruz punk band Bl’ast, which recently recorded an EP featuring Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters) and Black Flag guitarist Chuck Dukowski. He just finished up a record with Russian punk rock band Svetlanas. He has appeared on more than 60 records with artists including as Slash, Brant Bjork, Winnebago, Masters of Reality, Mark Lanegan, Moistboyz and the Uncontrollable (an acoustic duo with Dwarves bandmate Blag Dahlia). In 2014, he recorded with Teenage Time Killers, a side project featuring Dave Grohl and Pat Smear.

After returning from a European tour with the Uncontrollable, Oliveri is preparing to perform a handful of California shows with the Dwarves—including a show at The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert, on March 18.

Watch this space for more on this exciting show next month.

Read more from Robin Linn at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

The Coachella Valley today is home to a healthy, growing music scene—but it wasn’t always that way. In the 1980s, young local musicians were forced to basically create their own music scene.

These kids had no idea they would one day be considered pioneers.

One of these pioneers is Brant Bjork, the drummer for and one of the founders of Kyuss. He’ll be appearing at Coachella on Friday, April 10 and 17, with his latest project, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band.

In 1987, while in high school, Bjork got together with Josh Homme and John Garcia to form the band that became Kyuss. Of course, Kyuss went on to become one of the most influential rock bands of the early ’90s, putting Palm Desert on the map for desert rock—or stoner rock, as some people called it. In 1994, Bjork left Kyuss due to a conflict with Homme.

During a recent phone interview, Bjork said he’s proud of what Kyuss accomplished.

“I’m most proud of Kyuss because we were offered a once-in-a-lifetime shot, at a time and a place where it was highly unlikely that shot was going to come to us,” Bjork said. “I’m proud of the fact that we were true to where we were from, and we took that shot and went out in the world and said, ‘We’re from the desert, and we’re a desert rock band.’”

What does he think about the “desert rock” and “stoner rock” labels?

“Being an artist or a member of a band, you don’t really get the luxury of deciding what people are going to call your band. I’m not in the business of coming up with genre names,” he said. “I can’t argue with either term. Desert rock is pretty obvious and appropriate. As for stoner rock, (the term) certainly wasn’t around when we were in Kyuss—but we were stoners. A big part of what we were doing involved marijuana. I think whether people like it or dislike it, it’s pretty authentic.”

During his days in Kyuss, he formed a bond with the band Fu Manchu, another big name in the “stoner rock” era.

“Through a mutual friend, I met the Fu Manchu guys while I was in high school,” he said. “… They were beach guys, and I went out to the beach one weekend, and I met them, and we kind of became friends. They were kind of different but had a similar spirit. … We were tapping into returning to rock music—shameless rock music, like ’70s rock music. We were like brother bands.”

Bjork joined Fu Manchu in 1996 and played drums in the band until 2001.

“After I left Kyuss, Fu Manchu signed a solid record deal and started touring,” he said. “Then the drummer and the singer-songwriter in Fu Manchu parted ways, and Scott (Hill, guitarist and vocalist) called me up and asked if I wanted to join the band. I said yes.”

Bjork later decided to release albums under his own name. He also took part in the Desert Sessions series at the Rancho de la Luna recording studio, which reunited him with Josh Homme.

“Desert Sessions wasn’t really about the desert. That was something that was conceptualized by Josh Homme, and it involved musicians who weren’t from the desert,” Bjork said. “I can’t speak for Josh, so I don’t know what his idea was, but he asked me to take part in the first one, and even though I was questioning the concept, as a musician, it’s hard to say ‘no’ to playing with some accomplished musicians like John McBain from Monster Magnet, or Ben Shepherd from Soundgarden. These were great bands I admired and respected, and this was an opportunity to play music with them.”

In 2010, Bjork got together with John Garcia and Nick Oliveri to play and tour as Kyuss Lives! However, they changed the name to Vista Chino after a lawsuit from Josh Homme and bassist Scott Reeder. The project dissolved after several years.

“For the people who were there and for those of us who were involved, it was beyond a success, and it went way beyond everyone’s expectations,” Bjork said. “We never sounded or played better, and the music was wonderful. In fact, that’s why it stopped—it was stopped because it was so awesome.

“As far as going into the future and getting back together with Kyuss again involving Josh Homme, who willingly didn’t participate—I don’t know. I don’t plan on it, that’s for sure.”

Bjork explained his current project, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band. Last November, the project released Black Power Flower.

“I returned to my solo work, and I just felt like I wanted to rock,” he said. “… It’s been years since I put out a solo record, and in returning, I felt I wanted to make a solid rock record—and sort of scream and shout.”

Bjork said he and his fellow desert-rock founding fathers back in 1987 would have never dreamed the Coachella Valley would once be home to a music festival as prominent as Coachella.

“No,” Bjork said with a laugh. “I think I can count on one hand the artists who came through the desert when I was growing up. It’s a bit crazy. When you break it all down, as crazy it is, it makes good sense, too. It’s a beautiful area; the weather is great; you’re a couple of hours from L.A.; and I think the powers that be hit it out of the park as far as the location and concept—so hooray for them.”

Published in Previews

The desert environment that has shaped and colored the music created here has similarly affected High Desert resident and author Steve Rieman—a fact which his new novel, The Searching Three, beautifully illustrates.

Rieman moved to Joshua Tree with his family when he was 5. Pappy and Harriet’s was his home away from home; he remembers sitting on Pappy’s knee as a child.

In his youth, Rieman became a skate rat, listening to punk rock and metal. He was part of the desert subculture that attended generator parties at places like the Nude Bowl, outside of Desert Hot Springs, where bands like Decon, Unsound and Crackpot played. He was there in 1995 when the surrounding hills caught fire.

“Brian Maloney was playing with Herb Lineau, Brant Bjork and Billy Cordell … and an orange glow appeared in the hills right behind them. Within minutes, bands were throwing gear into their cars, and people were running to safety. Charlie Ellis had a Ford Ranger that burnt to a crisp!” he remembers.

Rieman recalls the first time he heard the music of Kyuss.

“I was in a rock house off Sunfair (Road) in Joshua Tree, and they blew me away,” he says. “Every now and then, you hear a band, and you know they are meant for something great … and Kyuss was that band. When Josh Homme went on to form Queens of the Stone Age, I loved the music.

“It had been awhile since I had checked into the music they were making. Recently, I have loaded six QOTSA albums into my truck’s CD player, and they have been on constant rotation for more than three weeks. I still haven’t begun to tire of them. Josh is amazing, and when it comes to his vocals, he has no inhibitions. Everything he does is just beautiful.”

Rieman’s first works as a writer were poems, an art form he continues to pursue today. He has accumulated a collection of poems spanning 20 years, going back to a time when his head was in a very different place. He’s working on publishing a poetry collection, and has enlisted the help of photographer Samantha Schwenck, another child of our desert-rock music scene.

“She is going to create photographic art to go with each poem,” Rieman says. “It will be a beautiful collection of pictures and poems that reflect some of the darker periods of my life, as well as transformations that took place as I made important life changes.”

As a writer, Rieman was greatly influenced by the literature of Carlos Castaneda and the teachings of Yaqui sorcerer Don Juan. As an aspiring novelist, Rieman set out to explore the controversial notion that we are spiritual beings capable of tapping into universal energy—and that when our perception is altered by psychoactive drugs, the secrets of the universe can be made available to us.

“My first passion was poetry. A friend of mine knew a movie producer and told him about me. He suggested that I write a screenplay, which I did. Then I decided to turn it into a novel, based on real-life experiences. I love the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Oliver Stone’s film The Doors. Who doesn’t love that scene (in which) they are tripping in the sand dunes of the desert? Those stories are relevant, because they are drawn from real life.”

The resulting novel, The Searching Three, focuses on the reunion of three longtime friends who have drifted apart thanks to the growing demands of adulthood. Brad travels to New Mexico for work—and when he sees the raw desert landscape, he feels its intense energy. He suddenly longs for a spiritual awakening, so Brad contacts his two best friends, Jason and Nick, and talks them into taking a weekend trip to the New Mexico desert.

The main character eventually reveals his connection to the desert’s real music scene. Through detailed recollections of shows gone by, he celebrates the creative talents and unique venues that have made our desert a landmark. Rieman boldly reveals the paths many of us like-minded “searchers” have embarked upon in secret desert spots, far away from reality. He takes readers on a mind-bending adventure, offering a look into the hallucinogenic effects of a peyote-induced trip. Even without the peyote, the read brings about a feeling of euphoria.

The Searching Three is available on Amazon.com. Expand your mind and open your heart to a beautiful author straight out of our desert.

Read more from Robin Linn—and view pictures from shows at the Nude Bowl—at rminjtree.blogspot.com.

Scott Reeder is one of the early pioneers of desert rock. In fact, no one man has been more pivotal to the sounds that have gone on to shape the core of our desert's music scene than this drummer, bassist, producer and sound engineer.

Reeder has enjoyed a brilliant music career—as a bassist in some of the most noteworthy bands in metal, doom and stoner rock, and on the other side of the soundboard as a producer. He’s sometimes referred to as “The Magic Man,” because bands travel across the globe to seek his technical prowess in the studio; he’s worked with Karma to Burn, The Freeks, Black Math Horseman, Low Fly Incline and Atala, just to name a few bands. Reeder is known for reinventing the wheel, revamping vintage gear and drawing on fresh technology to achieve unique recordings.

Reeder has been at the heart of the desert’s music scene since its earliest hints of existence. His first bands were Subservice and Dead Issue, which formed in 1981. He actually started out on drums, but he switched when Dead Issue lost its bass player. He relinquished the throne to Alfredo Hernandez and picked up the bass … never to put it down again.

He later went on to form another desert music project, Target 13, and then in the mid-’80s teamed up with Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson) to form what may have been the first authentic stoner-rock jam band, Across the River.

Reeder recently went through the painstaking process of transferring some of those old Across the River recordings from tape to digital format. Listening to the almost-50-minute recording on YouTube, I was taken aback: The free-form heavy jams were quite sophisticated for players so young and so new to music, and the music was quite reflective of the desert environment where it was created.

In 1991, Reeder signed with doom-metal band The Obsessed, led by Scott (Wino) Weinrich, the first band of many groups with which he would tour overseas. That gig may have gone on forever if not for a twist in fate—a call to replace bassist Nick Oliveri in what may be the most influential band to come out of our desert, Kyuss.

That worldwide influence of Kyuss can’t be overstated. Herba Mate in Italy, Low Fly Incline in Australia, Truckfighters in Sweden, Black Mastiff in Canada, Steak in London—all of these groups call themselves “desert rock” bands. These bands have one thing in common: their love of Kyuss and the music that has come out of our region. Dave Grohl, Chris Goss and some of the heaviest hitters in rock sing Kyuss’ praises again and again. When Josh Homme left the group to form Queens of the Stone Age, that marked the end of Kyuss’ live shows, but the music lived on, and every member of that project has gone on to enjoy fantastic careers.

For many Kyuss fans, the two records that Reeder recorded with the group, Welcome to Sky Valley and … And the Circus Leaves Town, reflect some of the band’s most in-depth work. Reeder seems to lend a darker musical atmosphere to the jams and brings a real vintage desert-rock vibe to the mix.

"Scott is one of the best bassists on the planet, yet (he’s) such a humble man, you would never know it being in his presence,” said guitarist Kyle Stratton, of Atala and Rise of the Willing, who recently recorded at Reeder's studio, The Sanctuary. “His work with Across the River really started the desert sound. Kyuss is one of the most legendary bands of all time. This man has played in some of the heaviest underground bands ever while walking on the cusp of the mainstream.

“As a producer, he is amazing. He really understands how to capture and sculpt an underground band into something listenable.”

Reeder recorded and performed with bands such as Nebula, Goatsnake, Tool, Unida, Sun and Sail Club, and Fireball Ministry; he also pursued his own solo career.

Reeder this year returned to bass-maker Warwick’s Bass Camp in Europe, where he was alongside greats such as Victor Wooten, Dave Ellefson, Gary Willis and Bobby Vega. Reeder has been endorsed by Warwick for some years now, a relationship that has proved to be beneficial to both parties. Reeder reports that the trip was amazing—other than a brush with death when the driver of the bus filled with talent fell asleep at the wheel.

I asked Reeder what he had coming up.

“I have a completely refurbished 2-inch-tape machine arriving at The Sanctuary,” he said. “It will be a big turning point, going back to the way we worked in the late ’80s when I really started out. Hopefully, more great bands will be coming in to work together, and hopefully, I'll be getting to play on more records, maybe with Fireball Ministry and Sun and Sail Club.”

“As in my music, in life it all seems to work out just fine with no plan!"

For more information on Reeder, visit scottreeder.com. Read more from Robin Linn at rminjtree.blogspot.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.