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Local band Dali’s Llama is celebrating 25 years of existence—and the members are celebrating in a big way.

The group is playing a Silver Anniversary Show on Friday, March 9, at The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert. The Hellions, Decon, Sean Wheeler (performing as Zezo Zece Zadfraq and the Dune Buggy Attack Battalion) and Mario Lalli (of Fatso Jetson) with the Rubber Snake Charmers will all take the stage.

When frontman Zach Huskey showed up to our meeting, he explained that he came alone because his wife, Dali’s Llama bassist Erica Huskey, was out of town handling family business, while drummer Craig Brown had a “hot date.”

The band recently parted ways with guitarist Joseph Wangler, and brought back guitarist Joe Dillon. I asked Huskey whether the band has ever gone through any painful transitions as members have come and gone.

“Painful transitions? None!” Huskey said with a laugh. “The core of the band is me and Erica. We try to just get people who play well, and people who we’re friends with, because it’s no fun to be in a band with someone you can’t get along with, no matter how good of a player they might be. I always enjoy playing with Joe Dillon, and he’s been in and out of the band for at least 10 years. He’s always fun, because I’ve known him for 36 years. We’re friends, and we have all our inside jokes and can talk about people who are no longer here. He’s also a really underrated guitar player and songwriter, as well as a lead vocalist.”

Dali’s Llama last year released a three-song EP, which headed in a more bluesy direction—a bit of a departure from the band’s regular desert-rock sound.

“We recorded most of that at Mikael Jacobson’s studio here in the desert,” Huskey said. “One of the songs, ‘Bacteria,’ the acoustic one, I did it at Scott Reeder’s place. That one was a little delicate, because it was all about microphone placement. That was done in one take. The other ones just kinda had a groove, and I wanted to get a little more of a Zeppelin groove going.”

Huskey said Dali’s Llama has deep personal connections to all the bands playing at the show.

“Those are people who when I was 13 or 14 years old, I was in bands with,” he said. “We got Herb (Lienau) and Decon; Mario (Lalli); Sean Wheeler, who I was in a band with back in 1982; and we got The Hellions, because they’re the “new” old friends, even though they’ve been around for a while.

“The Hellions are kind of the slowest songwriters in the world,” he added with a laugh. “Whatever their process is, it either has to fit them right or something. I don’t know.”

In the years before Dali’s Llama, Huskey said, he played in several bands that came and went.

“I was playing in a band with Sean back in the later years that was ’60s garage stuff, and I was really into that—original, but really influenced by the old ’60s stuff,” he said. “It all fit, because the scene was just a bunch of dysfunctional, pissed-off kids doing it ourselves. Mario did bands like Across the River, which led to more of a metal side, especially in songs like ‘N.O.’ that people go all over the Internet to find. … We all played in different bands, and I was trying to find my songwriting and get that after playing with Sean for a couple of years. Everybody was also trying to figure out their vocal range and how they should sing until it came naturally.”

There have been periods when Dali’s Llama has been inactive.

“We have done little breaks,” he said. “We have two boys. One is 20, and one is 16. I did three solo acoustic albums for a while. But we would take the kids when they were really little off to Phoenix to play. I’d also do the Phoenix folk festival every year, and songwriting things where they’d have me show people how to write songs. When Erica was ready again, and the kids were old enough to have a baby sitter who was a family member, we’d do another project or start the band back up.”

While Huskey spoke proudly about the desert music scene, he mentioned there’s one thing he despises: battle-of-the-bands competitions.

“I fucking hate those things. I hated them then, and I hate them now. You want to criticize me as a songwriter? Especially now? Fuck you!” he said. “Look at the panels of those things. No, ain’t gonna happen. Even when I was a kid, I learned you have to have that sort of ‘Fuck you!’ attitude in order to protect yourself and develop on your own. I don’t want criticism. OK, maybe I’ll take it from my wife or another band member, but even from another band? I don’t want to hear it. There’s constructive criticism, too, but I’ve never been good with either one. Believe in yourself. So a band had a better performance and gets a trophy? They even had that shit back when we were kids. We always stayed clear of those as kids. We were out in the desert playing with T.S.O.L., so fuck you. You could be going in the right direction, and someone’s words might be, ‘You can’t sing.’ Well, maybe your voice is unique, and just because this person didn’t like it, or four people sitting at a table in agreement didn’t like it, fuck them. Most of the backyard bands in the scene today like Panzram, Terror Cult, or Facelift—they don’t care what anyone thinks about them. That’s the similarity to how it was back then.”

Huskey also said he wished his wife and band mate, Erica, got the credit she deserves.

“Name another woman who has been here for 25 years playing in a band,” he said. “She’s a solid bass-player. There was a time when we were recording Raw Is Real, and we found out she had breast cancer. We recorded the basic tracks of that album one day before she went in for surgery, having a full mastectomy and hysterectomy, and then she continued with radiation and chemotherapy while we recorded that fucking album. That chick is badass! The only equivalent is a guy saying, ‘We were there for a couple days, and then the next day, I went and had to have my nuts cut off.’ She’s really something.”

Zach and Erica Huskey decided not to take part in the recent documentary Desert Age, in part due to their feelings about drug use.

“I had a drinking problem and stopped when I was 24. When we moved back to the desert, we were clean. We had already been through that shit. There’s not anything exciting about meth anymore,” Zach said. “By the time we started this band, that wasn’t an option—it was about music. I don’t like the whole feel of, ‘Drugs and alcohol go hand and in hand with music.’ That’s a bunch of bullshit, because they don’t. Sean and I had a talk about that when he was getting clean years ago, for the last time, and I told him, ‘You have to get that out of your head,’ because we grew up thinking that—you can go, drink, get fucked up and play music. Whether it’s weed, frying on meth, drinking or thinking we’re Keith Richards and looking cool—you grow up with that mentality that it goes together. No, it doesn’t go together.”

Dali’s Llama will perform with The Hellions, Sean Wheeler, Mario Lalli and the Rubber Snake Charmers, and Decon at 9 p.m., Friday, March 9, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is $5. For more information tickets, visit the event’s Facebook page.

Published in Previews

The Hellions have a fascinating history. Both times I’ve gone to interview them, the conversations—usually over liquor—have been a lot of fun. If you haven’t picked up their first official release, Hymns From the Other Side, hit up Record Alley in Palm Desert. Fun fact: Frontman Angel Lua also teaches English at College of the Desert. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/thehellionsofficial. Lua was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

The first big concert I attended was The Cult at the Orange Show Pavilion in San Bernardino with my uncle. They were on tour for their Ceremony album and Lenny Kravitz was opening. Another band called Stix and Stones, I think, was first. I remember the singer of that band yelling out, “We’re Stix and Stones, and we’re gonna kick your ass!” I’ve been using that when the Hellions open our set, as this clearly reflects our esteemed appreciation of the simplicity of true art.

What was the first album you owned?

The first cassette tape I owned was Eazy E’s Eazy-Duz-It. My grandmother gave me $10 for helping her install some tile in her bathroom, so I asked her to pick up a (pirated) copy of it from the Indio swap meet. She knew nothing about this gangsta-rap thing or what the “Parental Advisory” label meant. My sweet grandmother, though unaware, was complicit in my adolescent corruption (or enlightenment), and my growing and colorful use of expletives.

What bands are you listening to right now?

The Hangmen, Black Lips, Handsome Family, some Arcade Fire and composers like Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, and Philip muthafucking Glass are in heavy-ass rotation at the moment.

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

Taste in music, like everything else, is fatally subjective. Everyone listens to what defines or inspires them at a specific time in their lives and what they have been constantly subjected to aurally. That being said, fuck pop country.

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

Wish I could see The Cramps perform again. Lux Interior’s live performance was amazing. His onstage antics and hilarious witticisms are still unmeasured—though often imitated. I’m pretty sure he’s wearing his black leather pants and high heels and drinking a bottle of cheap wine in a purgatorial, juvenile-delinquent dance party as you read this (or whatever post-mortal dance party you’re religiously inclined to believe in).

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Hmmm. Refer to Question 4. … Actually, ’80s disco, like Stevie B, Exposé and Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. My uncle was a DJ during the ’80s, and I always hung around him. He used to lay a big piece of cardboard on the lawn and spin records while the neighborhood kids and I would practice breakdancing. Ah, memories …

What’s your favorite music venue?

I would say Pappy and Harriet’s right now. You can’t beat the ambiance, the food or the distance to my family and my comfy bed.

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

Not necessarily a lyric, but a melody and a series of “NA NA NAs” from Pink’s “So What.” Every. God. Damn. Time.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Every artist I have listened to has had a hand in molding my life. Social Distortion was huge to me when I was a dangerous and young rebellious greaser—you know, always talkin’ about the good ol’ days when there were drag races, sock hops, and greaser-and-socs rumbles, and law-breakin’ was going on, like mailbox jamboree ’n’ such. You know, all the made-up shit TV and movies told us about the past that we believed (and some still do). I still have evidence of this influence on my shoulder in the form of a Social Distortion “skele” tattoo and a scar on my gut from a knife fight. I can’t remember if the knife fight was instigated by someone messing up my pompadour or trying to snatch my lucky rabbit’s foot.

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

I would ask Iggy Pop what the secret to living a long life would be. And he’d better not say heroin, because I am too old and poor to be that reckless, dramatic and fatalistic! He’ll probably simply say, “Go ask Keith Richards.”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I would like Nick Cave and Warren Ellis to score my life—this includes my funeral song. We can call it, “Finis Vitae: Angel Lua’s Odysseun Requiem” or something else pretentious like that.

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

Favorite of the time is Turbonegro’s Apocalypse Dudes. It seems like a safe answer, but it’s an honest one. Everyone who I had a hand in exposing this album to has never been let down. I heard it in ’98 when the band was kaput. I did not know much about them except for the creepy, black-and-white photos in the CD inlay, where they aimed their made-up and smudged, puckered lips at the photographer. The album was a perfect mix of punk and glam-rock pretentiousness with silly, juvenile lyrics thrown in for good measure. A perfect example of a band gratefully not taking themselves too seriously.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Black Lips’ “Family Tree.” You’ll be humming the chorus and the saxophone hook over and over again. Oh, and stay away from “NA NA NA NA NA NA NA, NA NA NA NA NA NAH!” (Scroll down to hear it!)

Published in The Lucky 13

I’ve had many interesting conversations with Jamie Hargate, guitarist of the Hellions. While Jamie is obviously a huge fan of Turbonegro, he, like his bandmates, is also a huge Nirvana fan—and even plays a Kurt Cobain signature model Fender Jaguar. Jamie’s wife, Danielle, recently told me that Jamie is also a huge fan (bordering on obsession) of Britney Spears. For more information on the Hellions, visit the Hellions Facebook page. Hargate was excited to take the Lucky 13—he replied “Hell yeah!” when I asked him—and here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

The first band I saw live was Kyuss at the Palm Desert Country Club in September 1992. The cousin of a friend of mine took us to a “movie.” I was in seventh-grade. The first big show was Beastie Boys, Rollins Band and Cypress Hill in November 1992.

What was the first album you owned?

Anthrax, State of Euphoria; Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction; and Black Flag, Everything Went Black.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Turbonegro, Hornss, You Know Who, and Unsound.

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

I’m sure I’ll get crucified for this but … I give no shits! I cannot stand the following: Rush, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, George Thorogood, and Pink Floyd. I could go for more, but I’m cool.

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

Nirvana (again), The Doors, and Minor Threat.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Brittney Spears—I’ve seen her, but would like to see her again—Katy Perry and Elton John.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Hollywood Palladium; The Roxy in Los Angeles; and Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica in Cleveland.

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

“Beast of Burden” from the Rolling Stones, but I think they sing “My pizza’s a-burnin’.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Nirvana. I was a huge fun of Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row, Poison, etc., when I was 11-12 years old. Then I heard Nirvana, and it all changed. I was very fortunate to see Nirvana twice at the age of 14 and 15. Around the same time, I was hockey-skating at the mall ice rink and became friends with Jesse Hughes, and he turned me on to Jane’s Addiction, Primus, Sonic Youth, Adolescents, Black Flag, etc. It was great to be in the seventh-grade and having older/wiser friends!

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

I don’t have one. I’m a musician, and I ask myself too many questions as it is.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Three songs: Alice in Chains, “Down in a Hole”; Black Flag, “Six Pack”; and Nirvana, “Endless, Nameless.”

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

Nirvana, Nevermind.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Turbonegro, “Good Head.” (Scroll down to hear it!)

Published in The Lucky 13

After almost two decades of making music in the Coachella Valley, the Hellions are finally releasing what the band is calling a “proper Hellions record.”

On Friday, March 25, the Hellions will play at a show featuring for former Misfits frontman Michale Graves at The Hood Bar and Pizza, ending the band’s recent break from live shows.

During an interview the band members dubbed “Tacos With the Hellions” at Pueblo Viejo Grill in Palm Desert, I tried to nail down how long the album has been in the works.

“Two months,” said frontman and guitarist Angel Lua.

“A week,” said guitarist Jamie Hargate, before changing his answer: “18 years.”

The joke answers kept coming as the drinks started to arrive. For Angel Lua, it was a Michelada; for Travis Rockwell, a non-alcoholic beer; drummer Bob Llamas stuck to Budweiser; and Jamie Hargate went all in with not only a michelada, but a shot of Patron Silver.

“Realistically, I’d say it’s been about a year,” Hargate said.

Lua agreed. “We were getting songs down the way we wanted them, and figuring out who and where we were going to record with, as well as what songs we were going to keep.”

Some of the songs had been recorded previously, before guitarist Jamie Hargate and bassist Travis Rockwell joined the band.

“We wanted to do a proper Hellions record for people who have been around us for the trip so far,” Hargate said. “The stuff we did before was pretty good, but it wasn’t what we currently have now. We have seven songs that are old and three that are newish.”

Llamas said it was important to make the older stuff a priority while recording.

“We really wanted to get a proper recording of our old songs first,” Llamas said. “We want to have that done, and we’ll put a lot of the new songs on the next record. It was important to do a proper recording and packaging of the old stuff. We have an EP that we recorded at Rancho de la Luna, but we never mastered it, and we burned the copies ourselves.”

The man they chose to record them was none other than former Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder, at Reeder’s studio in Banning. They discussed the various aspects of recording at the Sanctuary, an 84-acre property that includes a lot of animals.

“The peacock was the best part,” Hargate said. “We were standing and talking one time when we first went up there to start recording. (Reeder) went, ‘Hey, we gotta move!’ We were like ‘Why?’ He went, ‘Look up!’ There was this big-ass peacock in the tree. Then he said, ‘Look down.’ There was all this peacock shit everywhere, and he said, ‘She’s going to shit right now, so we have to move.’ He has all this crazy stuff there.”

Llamas said recording at the Sanctuary was quite a relaxing experience.

“I don’t like recording. It’s weird, and it’s awkward. We’re a live band; some bands are better in the studio, but we’re a live band,” Llamas said. “The studio is really uncomfortable for us, and that’s why we avoided it for so long. But I think what was good with Scott is if we would have done it with our friends, we’d get too comfortable and start hanging out. With Scott doing it, we felt more pressure to do a better job. We felt that pressure. Time is money, too, so it made us play tense at times.”

Lua emphasized the fact that the Hellions, first and foremost, are a live band. “I think in the studio, just the pressure—it gives you a different sound. Some of the critiques we got from our previously recorded stuff was it didn’t capture the live sound. We’d hear it, and we’d agree it didn’t sound like what we sounded like live, but it was a good sample. The vocals were pretty faithful to our live recording.”

Reeder—who tried out to be the bassist for Metallica, as shown in the documentary Some Kind of Monster—gave Rockwell’s sound a boost.

“He has some tools in his studio that probably enhanced the tones of my bass. He’s just a wizard when it comes to that stuff,” Rockwell said. “He knew what to do with what I was doing and what I contributed.”

The title of the record is Hymns From the Other Side. Hargate explained the album will be released on both CD and vinyl—but it will be awhile before there is an official release party.

“We’re going to release our CD at shows, and it’s nothing special. People can buy them, and we hope to save some money up for vinyl production,” he said. “Our official CD album release party is going to be (around) Halloween. We’re going to release the CD in March, and we scrapped the idea of a release show, because CDs aren’t that special anymore. We also have a lot of merchandise available now.”

The Hellions will perform with Michale Graves, Fight Like a Girl, The Kathys and Ritual Rastrero at 8 p.m., Friday, March 25, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is $10. For more information, visit the event page on Facebook.

While many great local bands have come and gone, The Hellions are still going strong after 16 years.

Fans will get several chances to see them in March. They’ll be opening for Powered Wig Machine at The Hood at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 15, and they’ll be headlining the benefit show I am putting on for The NestEggg Food Bank, at Bar in Palm Springs, starting at 7 p.m., Friday, March 28.

When The Hellions came together 16 years ago, they didn’t anticipate becoming an ongoing, serious band. Angel Lua (aka Angel Shakedown, lead vocals and rhythm guitar) and Bob Llamas (aka Bob Smack, drums) remembered how the band began to come together.

“I think the way we met was Angel was one of the only people in the desert who had a leather jacket,” Llamas said. “(Former member Christian Reyes) and I had leather jackets, and we met Angel because he had a leather jacket. He was into the same bands that we were—The Cramps, Social Distortion and other old punk bands and rockabilly music. He stood out, because wearing a leather jacket out here in the summer isn’t too common.”

Lua said fate led him to meet Llamas and Reyes.

“The cool thing about it was we met, and we never asked each other, ‘Hey, you want to play music?’ or anything like that,” Lua said. “We knew on instinct that we were musicians, and we were going to play music. We had common interests in movies and music, and it was weird.”

The Hellions first played at house parties—and anywhere else they could.

“There wasn’t anything out here,” said Llamas. “There was no place to get music or find cool shit. We both somehow found ways to get all the cool shit, and we had a lot in common that way. Back then, there was Record Alley, but even back in those days, we’d have to go in and ask them to order us stuff. That was also back when there wasn’t a lot of shopping to be done over the Internet.”

Lua said he remembers those days well.

“You had to have money,” Lua said. “We had to drive two hours to go to the record store in places like San Bernardino or Ontario, and make a whole day out of it. You’d come home with hours and hours of music.”

Llamas and Reyes were already playing music. They invited Lua to come over one day; they began to write songs as a band. Because some of the members were younger than 21 at the time, they couldn’t play in a lot of places. One of the few was the former Rhythm and Brews in Indio, owned by Mario Lalli of local-band Fatso Jetson.

Eventually, the band added Jamie Hargate (aka Colonel Lingus, guitar). They soon discovered their band name was not all that unique.

“Later on, thanks to computers, we started finding other bands who were called The Hellions,” Lua said.

Hargate chuckled when he brought up one band that e-mailed them.

“We were threatened with a lawsuit once, but that was 10 years ago,” said Hargate. “(It was) some metal band, and they went away; they didn’t try too hard.”

“Generator parties”—often thrown in the desert, with the help of generators—helped launch Kyuss and some of the other desert-rock-scene bands.

“I did a shitload of those,” Hargate said. “I was inspired as a kid going to these parties with older friends. We would drive to these parties in the middle of the desert, and I was blown away every night by these rad bands like Kyuss and Unsound. I caught the last wave of their parties, so I tried to do what I could in high school to bring that back. My stepdad had a generator; I would take it, put it in the back of my little Honda Civic, and drive to the middle of the desert. … Today, you can’t do that—you’ll get arrested.”

While The Hellions are known for energetic shows, they’re also known for their trademark denim jackets. The jackets pay homage to the Norwegian band Turbonegro. “Turbojugend,” which is printed on the back of their jackets, references the Turbonegro’s “Navy” of fans. Turbojugend chapters have popped up all around the world, and The Hellions make up the Palm Desert chapter.

“We came across Turbonegro in late 2003,” Lua said. “I used to read this magazine called Gearhead, and they had a lot of punk and rock ’n’ roll shit in it. There was this chick in there who used to do all these reviews of records, and she talked about Turbonegro, who were broken up at the time. I said, ‘Fuck it; I’ll buy a CD or whatever I could find.’ I bought their Apocalypse Dudes album at Virgin Records in Ontario. On the way home, I put it on, and I was blown away by it.”

That album led The Hellions out of a hiatus.

“There was a point where the original drummer went to school, and Christian moved to Texas, and we almost stopped playing,” Llamas said. “When Angel came over and played us that CD, we started jamming again. That’s where we got Travis, and really got something going. That album really inspired us to keep playing.”

When the band first added Travis Rockwell (Travis Rawkhard) on bass, he had never played the instrument.

“I couldn’t even play standing up,” Rockwell said. “I had to sit for the first seven months, because standing up and trying to play was just too hard—and I’m still learning. … It took a couple of months before I was comfortable playing during practice. I’d fuck up a lot, but I just learned and kept going with it.”

One fabled bit of the band’s history came when they played at a Video Depot Christmas party—with Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes on the drums.

“Somewhere, someone has a video of that, but I’ve yet to see it,” Hargate said. (In fact, if anyone has footage of that show, the band would like to hear from you.)

Since Rockwell joined The Hellions around 2004, the band has been playing on an ongoing basis. They’ve played shows out of town, and have opened for some of the national acts that have passed through town—most recently The Angry Samoans.

The band also recorded six songs at the Rancho de la Luna recording studio up in the high-desert; it’s the studio responsible for some of the recordings of Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, and the Arctic Monkeys. The sessions led to a three-song demo.

“The only time we’ve really recorded and finished something was at Rancho de la Luna,” Llamas said. “We all took the weekend off and did that for a few days. It was awesome. You go up to that place, and you don’t feel like you’re in a recording studio; you feel like you’re in someone’s home.”

Right now, their only release is a self-made EP on a CD-R, which the band selectively distributes.

“That’s the Best of The Hellions at this point,” said Hargate. “That has about four songs from the Joe Dillon era, when Joe Dillon played guitar. … There are three songs … we did at Rancho de la Luna, and then a live song. We made it just to show everyone how we’ve progressed over the years and what’s available.”

They’re looking toward the summer, when they hope to write more songs and finally make it into the studio to record a proper album.

“We’re writing, rehearsing and figuring things out for a new release,” said Hargate. “We finally have some coin in The Hellions fund, and we look forward to getting back into the studio for the first time in five years. It’s time to get back in the studio and give our fans a proper release.”

The Hellions will play with Powered Wig Machine and Fever Dog at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 15, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or track down the event page on Facebook. They’ll also perform at The NestEggg Food Bank Benefit Show, at 7 p.m., Friday, March 28, at Bar, 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; $5 suggested donation.

Published in Previews