Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

In the 1990s, the band Spain enjoyed a taste of mainstream success.

However, as the music industry began its massive shift after the dawn of the new millennium, frontman Josh Haden felt creatively spent, which led to a hiatus. However, Spain was not done: Haden would later revive the band, with all new members but himself. The group is now promoting its latest album, Carolina.

Spain will be playing at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Thursday, Oct. 6.

During a recent phone interview, Haden explained the hiatus.

“People ask me that question, and I’m never really sure how to answer it,” Haden said. “I think that music is supposed to put the listener into either a different state of mind, or a state of mind that brings them closer to the truth of something—the truth about themselves, the meaning of life, or even the temporary escape from day-to-day issues that everyone has. I feel like when the business side of music—which is a reality of musicians, and not so much for people who aren’t musicians—has money involved in it, it takes the listener away from the joy or the value that music has.”

Haden said the nature of the music industry played a large part in the hiatus.

“Back in the ’90s, major labels were giving indie artists hundreds of thousands of dollars without batting an eye,” he said. “These days, I don’t think young people realize what it was like in the ’90s when artists like me, who had very little following and a lot of hype, could get a million-dollar record deal. The cost of that kind of corporate one-upmanship—where the people who are in charge of the major labels don’t even care about the art anymore—it’s not about music, and it’s not about value to a human’s life. It’s about dollars.

“It’s much smaller in 2016 than it was in the ’90s. … The economy back then was like a free-for-all. You take away regulations, and all of a sudden, all the people with money feel like they can make more money and not have a conscience about it. When a musician accepts a lot of money as an advance from a record label, he’s controlled by that label, and that artist is going to have to reconcile and be controlled by everyone else. In 2001, I quit, and I said, ‘If I can’t do things the way I want and not make the music I want, I’m just going to not make music.’”

When Spain released its debut album, The Blue Moods of Spain in 1995, the song “Spiritual” became an indie hit, and has been covered by many, including Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss, Johnny Cash, and even Haden’s father, the late legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden. However, sales didn’t necessarily follow the artistic success of the song.

“It wasn’t about money, because I would hear the underlings and staff at the companies, and they would be saying, ‘I can’t believe all of this commotion is being made about this band Spain that doesn’t sell a lot of records,’” Haden said. “I think that there’s a devoted following and respect for the music in circles of listeners, but the sales never matched the admiration.”

The making of Carolina, released earlier this year, marked a departure for Haden, he said.

“I recorded this album in (producer) Kenny Lyon’s one-room apartment using very minimal gear—using one great vintage compressor and limiter, and one really great microphone called a Soyuz microphone, which is a Russian microphone that’s very good and very affordable,” Haden said. “… We’re at a time in history when musicians can make great records for $1,000 to $2,000. That was one thing that was different, and I had never done before. … I’m always trying to evolve my songwriting and be a better songwriter, and I thought that for different reasons, this was a good opportunity, for the new record, to write songs more as a storyteller, as if I was writing a short story. With the exception of one song, all the songs have a story, and I never had really done that before, for some reason.”

Haden’s father was a professional jazz musician, and his mother and triplet sisters are musicians. (His sisters perform under the name The Haden Triplets.)

“I grew up thinking every kid had a musical family,” Haden said. “When I realized that wasn’t the case, it was a big shock to me. My dad was a professional musician, and he was on the road a lot and recording a lot. That was his life. There would be musicians and artists of all kinds coming through our apartment in New York where I grew up. I was exposed to not just jazz, but rock, classical, blues and gospel. By the time I was 5 years old, I was writing my own songs. … It’s in my DNA. What can I do? I tried to be a lawyer, and that didn’t work. I tried to get into academia and get a Ph.D. and teach, but I couldn’t do it. Music just kept calling me.”

Haden has never played at Pappy and Harriet’s before, and he said he’s excited to finally have the opportunity.

“It’s a legendary venue in a very legendary location. It’s part of California history,” he said. “I’ve never played there before and have always wanted to, and never knew who to talk to, or it just came down to timing. Our drummer lives part-time in Joshua Tree and knows the people who own Pappy and Harriet’s. He told me to write to them, and that was my in. I think it’s good for the record, too, because we recorded the drums on Carolina in Joshua Tree. Part of the DNA in the recorded music is in Joshua Tree.”

Spain will perform at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 6, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit

Published in Previews

Dear Mexican: Mexicans always reference the Reconquista. However, I think you should be invading Spain instead.

The Spanish did to the Native Americans in Mexico what the whites did to the Native Americans in America. In fact, we treated the Native Americans better: We gave them reservations; they pay no taxes; they have the right to gambling, etc. We also treated the Mexicans a lot better than the Spanish. The Spanish slaughtered the Native Americans in Mexico, and I believe their indigenous cultures have been totally destroyed. Let’s not forget the Spaniards’ great gift of syphilis.

If “Mexicans,” Spanish illegal immigrants, are going to go back 160 years to hold a grudge against Americans, why don’t they hate Spain, too?

Heep Big Jerk

Dear Gabacho: I had to give the respuesta to my former college profe, Paul Apodaca, a professor of sociology and American studies at Chapman University and the scholar who turned me on to one of my all-time favorite books: Richard Drinnon’s Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building, which perfectly explains gabacho foreign policy.

“American Indians pay federal and sales tax like other U.S. citizens but do not pay state income tax while living on their federally recognized reservations,” Dr. Apodaca says. “The United States did not give land to Indians any more than England gave freedom to the U.S.; both governments recognized the God-given rights of men.

“Millions of Indians in Mexico speak their own languages, cultivate their indigenous foods, practice their folk arts, continue their histories, have participated in two revolutions and retain the entire country of Mexico as members of a nation they formed. Indians have traveled across North America for thousands of years searching for resources for their families. Time changes every culture, and Mexico reflects those changes, but the people are continuing, and that is something wonderful to celebrate, not begrudge.”

Pressed for something funnier, Dr. Apodaca concluded, “The fellow has conclusions but no accurate premises—simply opinion. His use of the word ‘grudge’ is Freudian, as I make clear in the last line. Some folks don’t see the forest for the trees or the Indian for the Mexican.” BOOM!

Dear Mexican: Do Mexicans resent meaningless, wannabe Spanglish advertising slogans like Taco Bell’s “Live Más”? This gabacho finds it rather offensive. Sniff. Shouldn’t such odious assaults on language(s) be outlawed?

Shepherd of Shakespeare

Dear Gabacho: This Mexican resents Taco Bell’s meaningless, wannabe Mexican dish called the Doritos Loco taco—leave it to a company founded by a guy who ripped off a Mexican family’s recipe to earn his billions (true story—read my Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America) to fuck up what could’ve been an amazing dish. Hard-shell tacos are Mexican; Doritos were created by Mexicans at Disneyland (again: in my book). Yet the Doritos Locos taco is too salty and has little Doritos flavor—and then there’s the “beef.” Guacatelas!

As for your complaint: Some Mexicans do despise Spanglish, but those Mexicans need to get laid more often. Anecdotally, Mexicans like Spanglish advertising if it’s clever, and “Live Más” was OK enough to not spur a yaktivist revolt.

Scientifically, don’t believe the hype: Most studies done on whether young Mexican Americans prefer advertising in English, Spanish or Spanglish is laughably biased. Take “The Bilingual Brain: Maximizing Impact with English- and Spanish-Speaking Millennials," a 2014 study involving Nielsen and Univision that unsurprisingly found that advertising in Spanish “offers a unique advantage for brands striving to connect with bilingual Hispanic millennials”—the most foregone conclusion since Mexico underachieved in the last FIFA World Cup.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

It’s June, the time of year when I transport self and friends to Spain by stirring up a pot of cold, red, fruity deliciousness.

Yeah, it’s sangria time.

Sangria seems like a kids’ drink. By “kids,” I mean adults of legal drinking age between 21 and 103. Sangria can potentially be a sugary, soda-pop beverage with some fruit that appeals to people who don’t much like red wine, who drink Arbor Mist or Yellow Tail’s Sweet Red Roo.

It has no place in my life. Or does it?

A couple of years ago, Dave and I spent most of June in Spain. In Granada, I presented an academic paper that called for collective thinking by critical theorists. (Yeah, I know. Zzzzz.) More importantly, my husband and I drank some Spanish wine—dark-red Spanish wines, characterized by region or Denominación de Origen. In the United States, a couple of better-known Spanish wines are Rioja and Ruedo. We drank those in abundance. Our favorites, though, were Toro wines from grapes grown in Castile and León, northwestern Spain, along the River Duero.

In many places in Spain, a glass of wine is served with tapas. At best, the tapas might be a shellfish concoction, a Caprese salad or a slice of frittata. At least, it’s a dish of almonds or olives. If you drink enough, you never need to order dinner.

Then came a scorcher of a day in Seville, a large city that carefully observes siesta. We’d taken the train from Ronda, a pueblo blanco in the southern central part of Spain. There’d been a quick breakfast at our hotel. When we arrived in Seville, we were hungry, but the hotel pool looked cool and inviting. The city was about 41 degrees. Celsius. (106-ish Fahrenheit.) While the rest of the city was doing its afternoon dining, we were swimming.

Then we hit the road to see the sites. We walked to majestic Plaza de España with its bright tiles and brilliant fountains. I took photos—getting hungrier with each snap. At a plein air restaurant near the Plaza, waiters were cleaning up from the afternoon rush. Cerrado, they said. Closed. They could not serve us food. We walked on.

In nearby tourist central, a few souvenir shops were open. McDonald’s was serving its usual fare. Not tempting. We walked and walked, past closed cafés and restaurants. Sunburned. Stomach rumbling. A harsh wad of acid bunching up near my esophagus.

Then … glory be! The pearly gates of a small local dive bar. The door wasn’t actually open. But we saw a man walk in. The joint boasted no windows and didn’t appear to be a tourist hot spot. Pero porque no? Why not?

The bartender didn’t speak English. In my broken Spanish, I explained that we’d arrived on a train and had much hunger. Tenemos mucho hambre. Too bad, he explained; the bar didn’t have a kitchen. That said, the angel of mercy made me a plate of papas fritas. In other words, he opened a bag of potato chips and put a couple of handfuls on a plate. This was the tapas that would accompany a sangria that I fuzzily remember as the best I’d ever tasted.

Yes, I’ve read the words of travel writers who disdain sangria as cheap wine mixed with cheap booze and unwanted overripe fruit. Smarmy Spanish bartenders mock the poseurs to whom they serve sangria, charging them way too much for the privilege of drinking something that sounds Spanish. Stupid tourists.

I can see that. But amigo, that cheap slop hits the spot on a hot afternoon.

Paired with potato chips, it felt like food. I drank two and consumed two plates of potato chips. I can’t remember what Dave drank. I’m really not quite sure I can remember what we did next, where we went, or how we finally obtained “real” food.

That is to say, the sangria was potent. I had downed two tumblers on an almost-empty stomach.

I was in the mood to gamble, and the bar had two video gaming machines. I pulled out a 20-euro bill and slid it into the machine. The few people in the bar were all watching me. And at first, it was just like any game at any bar in Nevada; I think it was fish-themed. With mermaids. I was doing OK, maintaining, not winning, not losing. And then something cool happened: The machine was abuzz with lights and sound—all, in Spanish and thus incomprehensible.

The bartender was saying something to me in Spanish, and I was smiling and nodding. But I didn’t comprehend. Soon, he was flying over the bar to stop me from pushing the wrong buttons and, you know, losing it all. He did not make it in time.

Dave has a photo of me not winning a jackpot in Spain. My face is bright red with sunburn and sangria. No one will ever see this photo.

Back in the Estados Unidos, I attempted to re-create this sangria, with varied results. I’ve even done some seasonal variations. For St. Pat’s Day, I made green sangria, using apple-flavored vodka instead of Triple Sec, and adding melon, Granny Smith apples and kiwi. I’ve tried using rum, vodka, bourbon and brandy. All of these work, but I like brandy. Bourbon overwhelms the wine.

To make a party-sized vat of sangria, dump the following ingredients into a very large container:

Three bottles of red wine

A cup or so of brandy

A cup of citrus flavored liqueur (like triple sec)

Juice of two limes

Juice of two oranges

3/4 cup sugar (more or less to taste)

3-5 citrus fruits, sliced thin (oranges, lemons, grapefruit)

An apple, minus core, also sliced thin

Other seasonal fruits (berries, melon), thin slices!

Three biggish bottles of sparkling mineral water (and if you’re making this for Arbor Mist lovers, it’s OK to use Squirt)

It takes a couple of hours for the flavors to mingle. I like to mix sangria in the evening before a party the next day, minus the sparkling water, and let the fruit and wine make sweet love all night long. I add sparkling water right before I serve—two parts fruity wine to one part sparkling water, or it will taste too watered down.

Pour in a wine glass, chilled if possible, garnished with fruit wedges and mint leaves.

Add papas fritas, and you might as well be in Seville.

Published in Wine