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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Brian Blueskye

When I called Thom Gimbel of Foreigner to discuss the band’s upcoming show at Agua Caliente Casino, he was upfront about his drinking problem. In fact, he confessed that he had already started that morning.

“For a while, I was up to about two or three smoothies a day,” Gimbel said. “I was going to a bar every night … the salad bar. I was a mess. But now I’ve switched to Martinelli’s sparkling cider, so I’m doing OK.”

Kidding aside, Foreigner is one of the greatest rock bands of all time. The group has sold 80 million records, and although only one original member remains with the band—guitarist Mick Jones—Foreigner remains in high demand.

The show at Agua Caliente on Saturday, Nov. 10, will be special for several reasons. First, the current lineup will be joined by some of the surviving original members. Second, the Rancho Mirage High School choir will join Foreigner for the classic hit “I Want to Know What Love Is,” and the band will donate $500 to the choir for their appearance. The choir will also help sell CDs to raise money for The Grammy Foundation, which advocates for keeping music education in public schools.

During our recent phone interview, Gimbel, who officially joined the band in 1995, discussed playing with the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, a performance Foreigner recorded and released as a live album.

“It was magnificent and nothing short of spectacular because of the size of the choir and the orchestra,” Gimbel said. “The choir alone was 60 to 80 people, and we had this massive orchestra, and we got to work with a conductor. It was a new thing for us. Plus the conductor is a rocker at heart; if you see the DVD, you can tell. He looks like a leftover of the Beatles and was trapped in a conductor’s body. We had such a good time with that. It’s not really a classical rendition; it’s still rock, but we have this icing on the top with strings and horns and vocals.”

Gimbel—who plays the guitar, saxophone and flute with Foreigner—showed an interest in music growing up.

“My parents loved music, and my brothers and sisters did, too,” he said. “My mom is very musical. … As soon as I could get my hands on drums, I was playing a drum set. When I was in fifth-grade, my dad was trying to get me work. He would say, ‘Hey, there’s a band at this bar. Why don’t you come and sit in?’ By the time I got to music college, I had already been in my high school band.”

He went on to study music at the Berklee College of Music.

“Intellectually, it was a dream come true,” Gimbel said. “I was so thirsty for knowledge and wanted to understand how all the chords and scales worked together. They answered all my questions. Then they said, ‘Now go back to being a thinking and feeling musician, and forget all that technical stuff. Play from the heart, and make melody the supreme goal.’ Melody is the absolute in music. You listen to any hit song, and it’s about the words and the melody. I learned that and even more.

“I got to work with some of the most brilliant minds there, and I had a roommate who was a world-class jazz guitarist. It was a great place for the mind to thrive. Professionally, I owe everything I have to Berklee.”

Gimbel bemoaned the weakening state of music education.

“The only thing that seems to remain strong as far as school bands is I always see the colleges having a strong marching or concert band,” he said. “It might be taken away at the elementary or high school level, but for some reason, college bands are really strong. … That’s what gives me hope for the future.”

Gimbel joined Foreigner in 1995—coming directly from being a touring musician with Aerosmith during that band’s wildly successful comeback, from 1989 to 1995.

“I saw a lot of similarities. Here was Steven Tyler and Joe Perry on one side, and then you had Lou Gramm and Mick Jones on the other side,” he said. “There was always this dynamic duo at the helm during those days. It was great, and it’s like having a couple of parents—like a mom and dad figure. I thought the Aerosmith guys would have been a bit more standoffish when it came to saxophone solos, but it was the opposite. They’d be like, ‘Why don’t you do a big giant saxophone solo with the drums?’ When I came to Foreigner, instead of them telling me to keep it down, they were like, ‘No! That’s first gear; then you need to go into second gear and then third gear. Tear the roof off the house with that saxophone.’ They both encouraged their players to take it to the next level, and that’s the sign of great bandleaders.”

Gimbel said the members of Foreigner are happy to still be in high demand.

“It’s kind of humbling to see that people still enjoy this, and we feel honored to be rocking out in this great situation where people want to see Foreigner,” he said. “That’s the ultimate reward for whatever we put into it. It feels like a wonderful treat to hear people tell us, ‘Thanks for keeping this going, and we hope you keep rocking.’ We’ll keep going for as long as people want us to.”

Foreigner will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $75 to $150, with VIP packages available. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.

On Nov. 6, Desert Hot Springs voters will choose between five candidates for two City Council seats.

Incumbent Joe McKee chose not to run for re-election, while Jan Pye hopes to retain the seat to which she was appointed earlier this year when Yvonne Parks stepped down. She’s joined on the ballot by a former Desert Hot Springs mayor and several relative newcomers.

We spoke to four of the five candidates for this story. (Peter Tsachpinis didn’t respond to e-mails or phone messages.) Here’s what they had to say.


In 2015, then-DHS Mayor Adam Sanchez narrowly lost his re-election bid to Scott Matas.

Sanchez’s term started off with the city near bankruptcy. Sanchez helped turn the city around, but a feuding City Council, as well coverage by The Desert Sun about Sanchez’s ties to a Desert Hot Springs marijuana dispensary (Sanchez was later cleared of wrongdoing), put him in a negative light with many residents. Now Sanchez is hoping to earn a return to the Desert Hot Springs City Council.

During an interview at Zapopan Mexican Food, Sanchez reflected on his time as mayor.

“I started off with the City Council, and at that time, I knew we were heading for trouble, because we were overspending,” Sanchez said. “That’s the only reason I ran for mayor. After the election, it all came out that we were in a financial emergency and were living month to month. I knew it was going to happen, but when I talked to the Desert Sun back then, I told them, ‘Just because the city gives you the financials, it doesn’t mean that it’s straight up.’

“I spent two years as mayor fixing the budget. We had to downsize and find a way to live within our means, and at the same time, I was trying to work on the image of the city to go toward health and wellness. We started doing marijuana dispensaries and cultivation.”

Sanchez has been accused of grandstanding at Desert Hot Springs City Council meetings, and was associated with the controversial “No Matas” signs on Dillon Road. However, he said he deeply cares about the city.

“I saw the city going in a direction that I didn’t feel was in the best interests. So what are the options? You sit back and go to a council meeting? What’s that going to do? They’re just going to look at you, and you’re done. … You get back in.”

Sanchez expressed concerns about the construction of a new City Hall, which was approved for $6 million in 2017, and is now reportedly going to cost $8 million.

“The council is saying now, ‘We’re going to build this mini Taj Mahal,’ and that’s supposedly going to make everything better. I don’t see the reality of that,” he said. “What they are doing is making it better for city staff, but $8 million—projected? Are they serious? … (They’re doing this) instead of working on the homeless problem and getting the citizens more engaged. … Nowhere in this whole process two years ago did (residents) say, ‘Our priorities are a new City Hall.’ It was about providing safety for our residents and building sidewalks to the schools, and kids shouldn’t be walking on the street. When the young lady from the high school got killed (as a pedestrian, trying to cross Palm Drive, in March), that’s when I asked, ‘OK, what’s in the budget? What do we have?’ The city gave me a hard time and wouldn’t give me the information.”

Sanchez claimed the current budget numbers don’t add up, and criticized Matas, his former mayoral opponent.

“They’re saying they have $8.5 million in the bank, and now Scott Matas is saying due to enhancements they’re making in the city and the money they’re spending, it’s $4.5 million. Which is it?” Sanchez said, “You can’t say you’re spending $8 million on the new City Hall, and you’re building some new green park areas, so now it’s $4.5 million.”

He dismissed concerns expressed by some residents about all of the marijuana businesses, and said people needed to worry more about education.

“Eighty percent of students in Desert Hot Springs qualify for the school lunch program. That tells you that … we have the working poor, and they’re part of the city,” he said. “… We had all these parolees here through the 1960s up until recently; they just changed the law, saying if you commit a crime in Los Angeles, you stay there, and you don’t go to somewhere like Desert Hot Springs. What ended up happening is a culture developed of dysfunctional values, with kids growing up in single-parent households and growing up without role models as adults.

“You need to make sure every kid in third-grade is reading at grade level. … At the state level, corrections knows how many prisons they’re going to build based on the statistics of the kids that are not reading at grade level after third-grade. We should be developing programs with the school district to make sure these kids can have academic success by being able to read well. That’s done through the educational process. I don’t want to spend money telling kids not to smoke marijuana; I’d rather see that they get the proper educational resources. A well-educated child will make better choices.”

Since leaving office, Sanchez has remained accessible.

“I relaxed a little bit,” he said with a laugh. “After I left, I still got phone calls from people when we had heavy rains and their homes got flooded out. I spent a lot of time working with my contacts in businesses and industries to help some of these residents. I was out there helping people through their problems—immigration problems, high school students. … It’s almost a continuation of what I was doing before. Now I didn’t have to worry about the budget and could go out and talk to families and help them, through the police department, the planning department, or any other resources. It’s almost as if I became a social worker.”


When Gary Gardner moved to Desert Hot Springs from Seattle in 2016, he quickly became active in local politics.

He worked on the Measure B and C tax campaign last year and spoke out regarding the need to keep the Desert Hot Springs Police Department fully funded. He was asked by Mayor Scott Matas to form and chair the Human Rights Committee in Desert Hot Springs, and then asked to serve on the Planning Commission.

Gardner—a former radio and television personality, lobbyist and public-policy advocate—told me during an interview at The Shop Cafe about his love of motorcycles and the outdoors, his upbringing in Salt Lake City, his time at Brigham Young University, and the fact that he’s not a big fan of wearing a suit and tie.

Gardner said the city needs to properly handle the booming marijuana industry while also embracing the businesses that were in DHS before.

“We need to manage the growth here and encourage the growth, and not neglect what’s already here. It’s kind of a juggling act as I look at it,” Gardner said. “The medical-marijuana industry saved this town from bankruptcy. It put money back in the coffers; it brought new businesses looking to hire employees; and it made this town thrive. But that business is going through a lot of changes rapidly and will go up and down. We can’t hang our hat on it. If it hits a dip, this town is really going to suffer. So we need to focus not only on them, but on the places that built this town. We need to work cooperatively to make this place a very friendly, very welcoming, very clean and very safe place to be. That will benefit us in the long run.”

Gardner believes the city has the potential to become a tourist attraction.

“My vision for the city is a health-and-wellness center with our spas and our mineral water, with the marijuana industry, and with all of those kinds of things tied in with the hiking, the views, the desert—and we worked to get the Sand to Snow National Monument,” he said. “… When people Google ‘Sand to Snow,’ that will bring them to Desert Hot Springs. That will bring the revenue in for all the hotels and restaurants, and as they grow, we’ll have more growth in restaurants and retail.”

After living in Seattle, Gardner has a unique perspective on high living costs and gentrification.

“This is still the most affordable corner of the Coachella Valley. It’s one of the reasons I moved here,” he said. “It really should stay that way. Where you see an increase in property values, mainly that is in what we call the light industrial zone, which is where the marijuana farms are. It was open desert and worth pennies, and now we have legalized cultivation; the value in that area has shot up. My own home value has gone up, but not greatly. … Most of the people here rent. I’d love to see more home ownership and would love to see us encourage developers rather than scrape out whole new subdivisions. We have a lot of vacant land, and I want to figure out a way that we can offer incentives for developers not to build McMansions, but average middle-class homes.

“Coming from Seattle, they had a huge housing crisis there, but they don’t have a lot of open land. It’s surrounded by water, and there are no places to build. But we have unlimited land here.”

He’s also hoping for job growth within the city.

“So many of our citizens leave here during the day to go to work elsewhere,” he said. “I’d love to see them stay here if we can find ways to get the marijuana folks to hire people who already live here in town, or encourage (marijuana-business employees) to stay here if they’re coming from out of town.”

There are some residents concerned that the marijuana businesses may attract crime and public safety issues. Gardner does not agree.

“Being on the planning commission, we review every single business application. One of the checklist items is security. If you go and visit some of those cultivation farms, it’s like getting in and out of Fort Knox. I’ve talked with Desert Hot Springs Police Chief Dale Mondary many times, and he personally reviews the security when they get their building permits. His concern is not what’s going on here, but once it leaves here, for the potential of someone hijacking a truck.

“… The city itself has a nasty reputation for crime, but the truth is crime is down over 20 percent in the last five years, because we passed a tax measure a year ago to fully fund and staff the police department. What we need to do is get a new fire station, and we need another one on the east side, because the one fire station handles 30 calls per day, and if you’re having a heart attack or your house is on fire, they are 10 to 15 minutes out.”

He praised previous administrations for not contracting with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for police services when the city was strapped for cash in 2014.

“Our police are well-liked. We have a responsive police chief; our crime rate is down; and I think that the image of bad crime out here is by the media and the TV stations who love to say, ‘Oh, another one out in Desert Hot Springs,’” he said. “But you know what? Our crime rate is lower than Palm Springs, lower than Coachella, and lower than Indio. We have really gotten a handle on that.”

Gardner’s eyes lit up when he told me about his passion for the outdoors and motorcycles.

“I love hiking, and that’s one of the reasons I came here,” he said. “I walk out of my house and do a four-mile walk every day. I love going out to Mission Creek. My boyfriend and I have a little teardrop trailer that we take out camping to Joshua Tree or Mount San Jacinto. I learned how to ride a motorcycle when I was a kid before I could drive, and I’ve loved the traveling on motorcycles ever since. I’ve been in every state of the union on my motorcycle.”


Jan Pye kept mentioning one word during our interview: education.

The former councilwoman returned to the body earlier this year to serve out the rest of the term of Yvonne Parks, who moved out of Desert Hot Springs. During a recent interview at Starbucks in Desert Hot Springs, Pye explained why she wants to remain on the City Council.

“I like the way council was going when they were all getting along, and I wanted to get back in,” Pye said. “I wasn’t going to run, because I liked the way the council was. Then Yvonne Parks decided to move out of town, and a couple of other people I knew decided not to run. So that’s why I decided to get in.”

Pye talked about the turbulent times during her previous council tenure.

“When there was an item on the agenda to have the sheriff’s department come and be in our community (in place of an independent police department),” she said. “My concern is Riverside County was doing increases of 7 percent a year, which meant if we had the sheriff’s department, we were going to have to cut down (other budget items to pay that) 7 percent. At that time, we had police officers who were willing to stay and weren’t getting what the rest of the Coachella Valley (officers were) getting. They were good officers. We ended up keeping our police department. We also had a situation where they wanted all the retailers to have $15 an hour (minimum wage), and that was very contentious, but you have to have the power of persuasion to get the three votes.”

On the issue of gentrification, Pye said the banks could possibly help.

“Part of it goes back to what I said about education. The banks are providing some opportunities to get people into homes. You’re always going to have that with the marketplace,” she said. “… What you can do is you can create banking opportunities, and if (residents need) to pay whatever it is in rent, it might as well be to own a home—so the banking industry is going to have to do something.”

Pye said that while the marijuana industry has been essential to saving the city’s finances, she also sees the need for other economic development.

“We have to see it as another form of revenue, but not the revenue,” she said. “… Most people in business know that if you’re in it for three years, you might survive. If you’re in five years, you’re really about to survive. You have to look at it like that. Some of the marijuana businesses here are struggling, and others aren’t struggling. It’s a business that compliments us. We’re known for our spas and our waters, and medicinal marijuana falls into that plan. We have some sustainability from it here, and we have $6.8 million in reserves. At one point before that, all we had left after one year was $400.”

Pye told me that when she arrived in Desert Hot Springs, she was told by the man who rented her home to her that she probably wouldn’t like living in the city. He was wrong.

“I came here with my daughter as a single parent from Los Angeles and rented the home I live in now before I decided to buy it,” she said. “That’s when I went to city council meetings. … This town helped me raise my daughter. When I worked, and they’d see her, and she was somewhere like Rite Aid, they’d call me and ask me, ‘Is she supposed to be there?’ People were watching over her.”

Pye told me a story about something her father instilled in her while she was growing up.

“My father asked me when I was 15 if I wanted to flip burgers. I said, ‘No,’” she said. “He told me I was going to learn how to type. I wasn’t interested in that. He made me do it, and he made me practice. He made me type, no matter what my homework was, for one hour. If he left and came back, I always told the truth and would tell him if I didn’t do it for an hour. … After baby-sitting for a while at 16, my first job into the real world was as a file clerk, and I told them if I pass secretarial school, I would have the next position—and I got it. That’s how I kept going. I thanked my father then.

“I also did the same thing with my daughter.”


I met Jim Fitzgerald at Starbucks in Desert Hot Springs. The former retail manager spent 35 years in the industry and is new to Desert Hot Springs. He told me he had a four-point plan for the city—but didn’t have any information on paper when we spoke.

He told me he’s funding his campaign himself, and that he’s not putting signs up all over the city as the other candidates are doing.

“I came here a year and a half ago to remodel and fix up two houses,” Fitzgerald said. “… I looked back to 27 years ago when I was building these two houses with my father. They never sold, and we built three models. I see the emptiness after all these years, a lack of retail, and a lack of prosperity in Desert Hot Springs. I started to meet people, one of them being a councilman already, and I started asking him a bunch of questions.

“… I got (the houses) done and found myself doing nothing. I started to figure I was going to stay here after I met a lot of nice people; it’s a nice city. A lot of people are interested in this city, and the cannabis industry is a potential (way) forward, and I’ve been learning as much as I can about that. I think I can help bring retail in.”

Fitzgerald said the city has handled the marijuana industry well—although there are a lot of unanswered questions.

“I think in the old days, when there were people on the street selling marijuana, that was a criminal act,” he said. “I don’t know of anyone who has been harmed by (using marijuana). Plus, there is a medical advantage to it. I think the City Council here is doing it right. This city is very careful about it. I think it’s going really well, and it’s so brand new. … Now, all of a sudden, it’s legal. I think that’s a heck of a challenge for this state. There are all these new questions coming up. Can a spa have a phone service where someone can call up and ask for some edibles? Those things have never actually been figured out.”

Attracting new businesses is tough for Desert Hot Springs, but Fitzgerald said he knows why.

“Certainly the biggest one is crime and safety, especially up and down Palm Drive,” he said. “If you want to bring retail in … (retail managers) don’t want people concerned about going in and out of their store, especially at night. There’s been a great deal of improvement, though, recently, especially with the murders and stuff like that. One is too many, but it’s the smaller crimes that helps bring the big stuff down. … We do have a reputation, although it is getting better. Statistically, we made improvements after getting more police officers. We need to do more, but we’re going in the right direction.”

Fitzgerald talked about the increase in housing costs and rents.

“That’s a matter of supply and demand. We don’t have enough houses here,” he said. “If you have a decent house, you’re going to get $1,400 a month rent for it; $1,200 is about where it’s starting right now. It can go as high as $1,700 for a real nice house. We don’t have the $800, $900 or $1,000 apartments, because there aren’t a lot of apartment buildings. But do we want to turn into another Rancho Mirage, where there are all these beautiful estates and all that kind of stuff? There’s a new development that just got approved in Mission Creek, and it’s going to be 1,900 units, and 900 are going to be apartments. If people are doing all this work, they have to live somewhere, and it’s the people working out of the city, but they’re still going to buy Starbucks here and all that kind of stuff. But you’d much rather have them working and living here.”

Fitzgerald was quick to answer when I asked him what his priorities as a city councilman would be.

“I want to make sure we continue to get along with each other. When you see a council that’s bickering and fighting, they aren’t getting anything done,” he said. “Right now, what I understand is it could be a lot worse in Desert Hot Springs. That’s something that’s on my mind. One of the first things I’d want to do is get together with the council and come up with a growth and incentive package for retail. The other thing is find out who owns these empty buildings and find out what the issue is regarding that. If they need help fixing them up, maybe we could give them a loan, but we have to get those empty buildings filled. When retailers see empty buildings, they don’t want to see empty buildings: ‘If this is the place to go, why are they empty?’”

When Desert Hot Springs Mayor Scott Matas defeated then-Mayor Adam Sanchez in 2015, the city was recovering financially after narrowly avoiding bankruptcy.

Today, the city’s finances are on solid ground—thank you, marijuana!—but Desert Hot Springs still faces a lot of challenges and issues, all of which will be on the minds of voters when they head to the polls on Nov. 6.

Matas is running for re-election to a two-year term, and he’s facing relative political unknown Stephen Giboney.

Matas says he wants to keep the city’s progress going; Giboney views the city as having many problems that have potential small-government solutions. We recently spoke to both of them; here’s what they had to say.


When I met with Matas at the RV resort that he manages, he described what he hopes to accomplish over the next two years.

“My focus will be getting the new City Hall up and running, because that’s important for our image,” he said. “Public safety-wise, I’ve been talking about building a fire station on the east end of the city for a long time. We’re finally at a point where we have a fire chief who believes we can build a fire station there. Finding the capital money to do it, I think we can do that over time, but the problem is staffing it on a regular basis at a million dollars a year. My goal before I leave office, hopefully in two years, is to make sure we’ve at least broken ground on the new fire station.

“Financially, I want to make sure we stay on the same path we’re on now. We put $8.5 million in the bank for our reserves … so if anything happens like we had happen in 2012 and 2013, where we had $400 in the bank, we’ll now have the reserves to fall back on.”

Matas touted his economic achievements.

“Economic development is really starting to build in Desert Hot Springs, and not just with the marijuana industry,” he said. “Our consultants are starting to bring businesses in, and we recently signed a contract with Grocery Outlet to bring them into our community. … A lot of politicians use quality of life as one of their points; I use youth (and) seniors, because it matters all the way up. Our senior services are better now with the Mizell Senior Center there for us. Youth services are getting better with the recreation center and youth sports. We’re working on some at-risk youth programs, and we are bringing back our PAL program.”

A lot of DHS residents are concerned about increasing rents; however, Matas said he was not sure whether the city should get involved.

“It’s tough in our community, because you can only control so much. Do you bring in rent control or not?” he said. “Our community is anywhere from 40 to 50 percent rental properties. Because of the recession, a lot of buyers came into the city and bought a lot of properties and … now they’re starting to raise the rent. My wife and I got married about a year ago, and we leased a house for a couple of years while we were getting ready to buy. We bought a house and just left the house we were leasing, and the rent on that house went up about $200. The market is there for the homeowners to raise the rent; the question is, does a city government step in and try to regulate that? I try not to get involved in that type of business.

“If the rent goes up, does that mean there are more jobs out there, and people are being paid more? Possibly. We would have to do the analysis, and it’s a tough question, because we haven’t been approached to do that yet.”

Matas dismissed concerns held by some citizens that the marijuana industry could bring in more crime.

“When it comes to the marijuana industries in the industrial area, I always tell people that’s one of the safest areas you’ll ever be in. The product growing out there, 99 percent of it leaves the community and never reaches any of our dispensaries,” he said. “The marijuana industry, when it comes to dispensaries in the city, most people are respectful; they know from the medical side of things that you go buy it; it’s in a brown bag; you take it home, and you use it responsibly or as prescribed. Same with the recreational side: You can’t walk around with it or use it on the streets. We have nothing related to crime going up based on the marijuana industry. If anything, it stayed the same or lowered because of these armed guards at these locations. … I think we have a bigger problem with heroin and prescription drugs in our community. That leads to petty crime, because people need to find ways to support their addiction.”

While Matas said this will likely be his final term, he didn’t rule out running again if he feels the need.

“My wife, Victoria, has been my rock. It’s no secret that I had a couple of marriages before her. I did a lot of good things good in my life, but some relationships haven’t been the greatest,” Matas said. “I raised my sons alone for the most part, and my youngest son was getting ready to graduate high school when I met Victoria. I never thought I’d get married again. She really energized me and thought I’d be a good mayor. I thought I was going to finish my term on the council and ride off into the sunset, because it takes up a lot of time, but she convinced me to run for mayor. But one thing I’ve learned as mayor is family is very important: I make sure Sundays are my day off. I have support from this company I work with to take Tuesdays off to go be the mayor, and we have a great staff now.

“Our City Council over the last two years has worked well together. We debate respectfully, and when it’s done, we move on. It’s not like the arguments in the past where we used to scream at each other. I love it right now.

“If I’m re-elected for two years, I’m most likely done, and that will have given me 13 years at that point of serving my community,” he said. “I spent 20 years as a volunteer firefighter, and two years as president of Food Now. My wife says, ‘Don’t ever say for sure.’ If it’s a perfect world for me in two years, I can support someone trying go in the same direction I want to leave the city. If there’s no one in two years, I might have to reconsider. But (as of) right now, after this term, I’m done, and I’ve served my community.”


Aside from a few YouTube videos and a radio interview related to the subject of geoengineering and chemtrails, there’s not a lot of information out there about Stephen Giboney—and many residents were downright puzzled by some of the things he said during a recent debate that was broadcast on Facebook.

After sitting down with Giboney at Starbucks in Desert Hot Springs, I found that he has some strong opinions on the city.

“I was tired of waiting to see some of the problems I see in this city be fixed,” Giboney said. “The city can thrive, and I don’t see it thriving. It mostly has to do with the perception of the city. Even if it’s better than Palm Springs, it’s still perceived as poor. I don’t see anything changing, and I have a real problem with the crime rate in this town. It can be handled much better than it is.

“First of all, I believe the city has to stop encouraging miscreants from coming here, and I believe (the city) encourages them to come here,” he said before delving into some confusing territory. “You get into a system that is more underground and more of a spoken system where it’s nothing you can track on paper. We know what it is. But how do we put it in terms where we can publish it? It’s happening. You see new people coming through the city all the time. When you have a city government that always wants to look good, they aren’t going to give out information that they don’t have to. We have to read between the lines as to what’s going on. The latest thing I heard from the mayor is, ‘It’s not illegal to be homeless.’ That seems to be his way of addressing it, which is not really addressing it.”

Giboney said he supports marijuana decriminalization, but he is not a fan of many elements of the industry.

“I believe in the free market. If you’re a legal business, and you’ve applied and been approved, I have no problem with that kind of business,” he said. “… (But) I believe there’s an agenda. California has been very interested in marijuana since the early 1900s, and they’ve been implementing things since the ’70s. It’s not a small industry. This is a very controlled industry, and there are a lot of hands in that industry that they don’t talk about. Eventually, it’s going to be a big-pharma thing. At the small grassroots level of the industry, I have no problem with it. I’m for total decriminalization of the product across the board. I want it to be no more dangerous of a product than tomatoes.” 

He elaborated on his views.

“Government likes to run in debt. Our federal government is in debt; our state is in debt; and our city is in debt. They may not say it’s in debt, but they have $14 million in liabilities they they’re responsible for. My belief is that if an industry is coming into a city and offering a financial supplement to the tax base, fine. But what’s going to happen is the city is going to take that income and boost it up to where they’re going to go into debt more. That gives them the freedom to go that much higher in debt. They don’t use (the new revenue) to pay down their debt; they use it to justify spending even more.”

Giboney is not a fan of the city’s taxation of marijuana, either, even though the voters approved the taxes.

“I can’t stand bullies, and I believe the government stands there exploiting the lack of information in the heads of the average voter. They exploit that,” he said. “(The voter initiative approving the marijuana tax) was passed saying they were going to tax the retail side of it and the manufacturing side. What came out shortly after the cultivators started to come in was the cultivators were writing the rules of the city. If you want to ignore the history of how government is controlled by special interests, you can say, ‘Yeah, they voted for it. Isn’t that great?’ History tells you that they have no voice.”

Giboney said he sees rising rents to be a continuing trend—and claimed there’s already a solution in place.

“There’s an exodus from Los Angeles and San Francisco, and people can’t afford to live in those cities anymore. What that causes is competition for the same houses here,” he said. “People will do the same work and move outside of a city to lower the cost of living. … Part of what’s going on is people want the same house, and they’re going to raise the prices up. That’s supply and demand, and it’s a simple concept.

“There are federal and state programs that are mandated for cities to follow to provide a certain percentage of housing to lower income. I believe that this city and its residents have been exploited, again, for their lack of understanding of these programs. There (are special) interests that live in the city. … It’s not creating a new program, just taking advantage of what’s already there.”

Giboney explained what kind of mayor he would be if elected.

“I would be a knock-on-your-door, drive-through-your-neighborhood, go-to-your-meetings mayor,” he said. “The purpose of the mayor is two things: You have to run the City Council meetings and learn the system. The second thing is you have to be a figurehead for the city. You have to go out and ask people, ‘What is wrong in your community?’ so that there is a regular back-and-forth. The mayor is a liaison between the city and the people, so that the people have an ear to tell what their problem is. If someone tells you something about it, because if you don’t do something about it, you’re not doing your job.”

Welcome to fall and (slightly) cooler weather … and enjoy these hot October events!

The McCallum Theatre is open for the season and is ready for a fantastic 2018-2019 schedule. At 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 2, the “Queen of Ranchera Music,” Aida Cuevas, will be performing a tribute to her mentor, Juan Gabriel. Tickets are $28 to $88. At noon, Sunday, Oct. 21, the McCallum will be hosting its Seventh Annual Family Fun Day, and the show for this year is Erth’s Prehistoric Aquarium Adventure. The show is meant to provide the experience of exploring the ocean depths—with prehistoric reptiles—via puppets, science and imagination! Yay! Tickets are $10 to $30. Now, for something a little edgier … at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, a group of Canadian musicians will perform Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety as part of Classic Albums Live. However, this show will not feature lasers, costumes or anything hokey like that—just the music. Tickets are $28 to $58. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a great list of October events. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 19, guitarist and singer/songwriter Boz Scaggs will be performing. Scaggs has written numerous great tunes since he started rocking in the ’70s, and he’s racked up a bunch of smash singles and a Grammy Award; he’s still wildly popular today. Tickets are $49 to $69. If that wasn’t enough, one of the most popular artists of the new millennium, Christina Aguilera, will be performing at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 24. She released a highly anticipated new album back in June titled Liberation—it was her eighth album overall, but her first in six years. It received rave reviews and solidified the comeback trail on which she finds herself. Tickets are $89 to $199. Remember back in the ’90s when Lord of the Dance was a thing? With that Michael Flatley guy? Well, Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games will be stopping by at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26. What is it? Well, it’s a more-modern take on Lord of the Dance, with special-effects lighting, dancing robots and acrobats. OK then! Tickets are $29 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple of huge shows coming in October. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 12, in a fabulous “WTF? Huh?!” kind of musical collaboration that has turned out to be a big hit, Sting and Shaggy will be performing. It’s sort of a clash of “Every Breath You Take” and “Boombastic.” Since their collaborative album dropped earlier this year, it’s been the talk of music critics. Tickets are $135 to $185. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, country-music star Toby Keith will take the stage. He sings songs about driving a Ford pickup truck while he drinks his cold ones out of red Solo cups, and will sing “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” … but you already know that, as he’s a huge star. Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, Keith accompanied our president to Saudi Arabia, where he played his brand of country for a room full of Saudi royalty … men only allowed. Hmm. Tickets are $165 to $195. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29, as usual, is offering an intriguing blend of rock and Latin music events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 6, Julian Torres will be performing his Juan Gabriel tribute show Amor Eterno. Tickets are $20. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, Latin-music group Banda El Recodo will take the stage. If you’re not familiar with the group, think of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans, and the legacy it has preserved over the years regarding jazz music … and that’s what Banda El Recodo is to Latin music. It has been going since 1938 after being formed by the Lizarraga Family, and two of the Lizarragas perform in the group today. The group has won an amazing nine Grammy Awards. Tickets are $40 to 50. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26, iconic rock band REO Speedwagon (upper right) will be performing. The group has 13 Top 40 hits, including “Keep on Loving You,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Take It on the Run.” Tickets are $75 to $85. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino has one event by a popular performer you might want to consider, but hurry: Tickets were nearly sold out as of our press deadline. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26, psychic-medium and reality-television star Tyler Henry will be performing. Henry is notable for one event: In a rather morbid and messed-up way, he predicted the death of Alan Thicke. Tickets are $65. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is a fantastic place to be in October. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 4, indie-folk artist Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band will be performing. Oberst—known for his other bands including Bright Eyes, The Faint, Commander Venus, Desaparecidos, etc., etc.—was pretty popular in the early ’00s and is still quite influential. He’s no stranger to Pappy and Harriet’s, and his shows there usually sell out, but this one still had tickets left as of our deadline. Tickets are $31. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26, the hilarious country-music group The Evangenitals will be performing. Why do I always mention it when this group plays at Pappy’s? Because the band is fantastic and one a hell of a good time. Seriously! Stay through ’til the end when the show gets very raunchy, and be sure to scream that you want to hear “The Vagina Song.” Best part about it: Admission is free! At 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, the Queen of the High Desert, Jesika von Rabbit, will return to Pappy’s. Jesika recently dropped her new album, Dessert Rock (Ha ha! Get it?), and it is fantastic! Tickets are $15 to $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs has a fun October lineup. At 6 p.m.., Friday, Oct. 5, and Saturday, Oct. 6, the fabulous Marilyn Maye will be performing. She’s a well-known American jazz singer, cabaret singer and musical-theater performer. At 90 years old, she’s still going. In this intimate setting, these will be great shows. Tickets are $70 to $90. At 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, jazz-singer Jonathan Karrant will be celebrating an album-release show. The former Metropolitan Opera House singer has earned raves by singing jazz in a unique way for audiences in smaller rooms. Tickets are $25 to $35. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Date Shed has one fine October event. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, reggae singer HIRIE (below) will be performing. The San Diego native has an album streaming called Wandering Soul, and it sounds pretty fascinating. This should be a good show. Tickets are $15. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.facebook.com/dateshed.

Kosha Dillz is one of the hardest-working people in hip-hop. He spent the summer touring the country on the final Warped Tour, and he’s heading out on tour again in the fall.

He’ll be performing at The Hood Bar and Pizza this Friday, Sept. 28, at a show presented by the Coachella Valley Independent.

Despite the name Kosha Dillz, the fact he’s performed with Matisyahu, and some Jewish references in his music, he is not is a religion-focused rapper. Instead, most of his music is quirky, such as his song “What I Do All Day.”

“I’m the least-religious person ever,” Kosha Dillz said during a recent phone interview. “The whole idea behind Kosha Dillz is more of a sexual reference. I guess there is some Jewish representation in it. It was more of being proud of my heritage, and then I sort of lost that and changed it for a few years—when I started rapping in battle raps, and I went by KD Flow.

“When I had gotten clean and sober and gotten out of jail for the last time, I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to release my music as Kosha Dillz.’ There’s no religious aspect to it, but religious people just started reaching out to me. It has nothing to do with anything biblical or anything like that. There’s not a ton of Jewish people coming to my shows; it’s more non-Jewish people.”

Kosha Dillz said that while he felt out of place at times on the Vans Warped Tour—he participated both in 2015 and this year—he did connect with audiences.

“The final Warped Tour was great, because it was the last time it was ever going to happen. There was a sense of urgency to be part of something legendary,” he said. “The goal of Warped Tour wasn’t to get a gazillion fans, but to find the people who were really right for me. That kind of situation is always interesting, because you never know who you’re going to meet. A lot of people went for the nostalgia factor. To be part of that, people want to keep that alive—and you might meet people who are going to follow you in the years to come.”

When Kosha Dillz plays a show, he’s everywhere. He’s promoting himself and casually chatting with audiences; this was the case when I saw him multiple times throughout the day at the Warped Tour in Pomona in 2015, and again when I saw him at the campgrounds at Coachella in 2016 and 2017. He’s also known for pop-up live performances at large events, one of which was a Radiohead concert in Israel in 2017.

“There’s a famous video of the world’s most famous violinist playing in a New York subway, and people just walk by and brush him off without realizing who he is. That’s sort of the same concept of what I do out there. It’s mass attention,” he said. “You’re going to a show, and you’re going to see people you haven’t seen. When I did that Radiohead show in Israel, it was a very discussed show, because it was the second-longest show they ever played, and because of Roger Waters trying to protest them (for not boycotting Israel due to the treatment of Palestinians). Then I’ve done stuff like that outside of the Grammy Awards, and I landed a national commercial for Chevrolet. I met people at that Israel show who have seen me perform at other festivals who were excited to see me again.”

Kosha Dillz has been vocally opposed to Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters’ involvement in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel. Kosha Dillz said what Roger Waters promotes during live shows is anti-Semitic.

“If you put Roger Waters on paper, he’s a massive musician, but he displays imagery that is anti-Semitic and is old folklore of classic anti-Semitism with pigs and Jewish stars. … It’s modern anti-Semitism under the guise of anti-Israel,” he said. “For the basic person who just comes across that, they don’t know how deep it goes. I think it’s unfortunate. … What Roger Waters does is poison minds for the first 30 seconds, and people don’t really care much about it. He’s speaking on such a grand level: ‘It’s Roger Waters, so he must be right!’ Unless you’re invested a bit more, you’re not going to understand what the Middle East peace conflict is and how long it’s been going on for. It’s what Roger Waters does: He’s really anti-Israel and anti-Jew, but it’s under a different guise.”

Kosha Dillz is currently touring with Devmo, who is also performing at The Hood Bar and Pizza.

“Devmo is an amazing artist, and she’s a really prolific rapper,” he said. “She’s really likable, and as a human being, I like her. None of us are getting rich out here yet, so I figured I’d bring her out on her first tour. I remember when I went on my first tour with Matisyahu, and it was eight shows. It was an opportunity for us to bring someone, and she has a lot to contribute. If she becomes massive, we can say it started here, and I really think she’s capable of it. I think she deserves it.”

Kosha Dillz is somewhat familiar with the local music scene, he said.

“I’m honestly looking forward to meeting all of your people. … Just in general, it’s exciting to go play in the desert,” he said. “I think people only go out there for Coachella, but I think there’s a great music scene there. I know the Yip Yops, and I met Alf Alpha out there. I played in Palm Springs back in 2007, and I met these people there who were from San Antonio. Whenever I’d come back for Coachella, I’d stay at one of the guy’s houses with his grandma in Palm Desert. This is a town we could do good in, and I think the quality of the show we’re going to bring, people will be blown away by it. Towns like Palm Desert and other small towns like Mobile, Alabama—it’s exciting to go to these places.

Kosha Dillz will perform with Off Kilter, The Bermuda and Devmo at 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 28, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on the show, visit the event’s Facebook page.

In 1998, Styx bassist Chuck Panozzo was rather sick with HIV, and struggling as a closeted gay man—while performing in one of the world’s most successful rock bands.

He decided he needed to focus on his health for several years. He toured with Styx only part-time, and in 2001, he came out as gay and announced he was living with HIV.

Fortunately, his health has improved, and he eventually returned to touring full-time. Styx will be performing at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa this Friday, Sept. 28.

During a recent phone interview, Panozzo discussed the struggle he faced while deciding whether or not to come out.

“My biggest problem was the lives of five other people,” Panozzo said. “We lose one album sale or see some backlash, and it’s my fault. It’s not just you anymore. … A couple of the guys had families with children, and I thought, ‘Not until I’m ready to give up everything.’ So I didn’t come out for a very long time. After being sick and never really experiencing the fun of what it’s really like to be a rock star, because you can’t be yourself, I (decided I was) ready to sacrifice it all, and I’d walk away from my job if it makes me happy.”

Thankfully, he didn’t have to walk away from his job, and the rest of the band was supportive.

“I think everyone was afraid to bring up the subject, because they were afraid to hurt my feelings, which is really funny, because they have been extremely supportive,” Panozzo said. “They were supportive when I was sick with AIDS; they were supportive when I had to have cancer surgery a couple of times. Every time I’ve gone through a health situation, it becomes a non-issue. After we lost my brother (drummer John Panozzo, who died in 1996), it (would have been) like losing another part of this family, so their attitude is just so much better, and they support me on a grand level.

“Having helped to start this band … how do you kick out one of the co-founders because he’s gay? That wouldn’t work very well, (even though) in the industry at the time, there were some people who weren’t saying some very cool things about being gay. After a while, you realize you can’t live by what they say, but what you want to do.”

Styx has regularly toured with Ted Nugent since Panozzo came out, so it’s obvious Panozzo has tough skin.

“Tommy (Shaw, Styx’s guitarist/vocalist) has worked with Ted. I’ve worked with Ted since 1972 on multiple occasions,” Panozzo said. “I don’t pick who I get to perform with. I’m going to put this as nice as I can: We do have some shows with him, and the whole thing is if I didn’t work with the people I didn’t like, I’d probably never work. He’s Ted Nugent, and he is who he is. We go out there and do what we do.

“I’m more concerned if there’s a problem with both groups and the crowds. His crowd usually leaves, and ours usually stays. Half of the bands we work with, we hardly see anyway. People always ask me, ‘What’s so and so like?’ and I just say, ‘I don’t know; I just walk by them and say hi.’ But when you play in a city like Chicago, where we’re from, and he gets up there and makes derogatory remarks about our mayor and the town we live in, you really just have to consider the source. It can be pretty ignorant.”

Panozzo wrote a book detailing his experiences as a gay man in rock ’n’ roll, which came out in 2007.

“I have never gotten any negative backlash from anyone, and no one has ever pulled an attitude with me. When I put my book out, it was called The Grand Illusion: Love, Lies, and My Life With Styx,” he said. “… We all have a book in us, but once you write it down, it becomes real to you. If you want to read about how many people I have sex with, good luck, because you won’t find that book. It’s a general rock ’n’ roll book, but when you come to my situation, it was an awakening for me. It was more of taking my journey to finding out that it was OK to be who I am. When you were born in 1948, you know it wasn’t the enlightenment period.”

Panozzo said he’s surprised how far he and others living with HIV have been able to progress over the last several decades.

“I think when you go through an experience like that, and you come out whole—I look at my friends who pass away, and it makes me infuriated to think that they were intimidated by their government, their families, or religion,” Panozzo said. “Here I am now, 30 years after being diagnosed, being able to tour—that really shocks me at times. I’ve been really blessed to have this ongoing career and to fulfill two goals: Make a statement in music, and make a statement in the HIV community.”

As for that music statement: Styx has continued to leave its mark on rock ’n’ roll and is still one of the most successful bands of the genre.

“About a year ago, we put out our new album that Tommy Shaw wrote for us called The Mission. It’s charted, and we probably got some of the best reviews of our entire career,” Panozzo said. “Being in a band that had its glory days in the ’70s and is still having a resurgence in 2018, with dates booked into 2019, it’s a wonderful experience. People ask me what it’s like to be in a band for 46 years, and I say, ‘Like being married to six guys at once, but I don’t get a present for it.’ But it’s really an experience, and I never conceived it.

“I’m sitting here right now looking at a photo from 1962 that says Chuck and the Tradewinds. I have the original guitar two feet away from me. I lived the American dream. For a gay boy to think he could do that—I’m not the first one to do it, but it’s a blessing, and how could I have ever perceived that? You just keep going, and you never surrender.”

Styx will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 28, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $55 to $85. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.

Since its inception in 2012, Desert Daze has already been held in three different locations.

As of October 2018 … make that four.

After the inaugural festival in Desert Hot Springs in 2012, it spent three years at the Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca, and then two years at the Institute of Mentalphysics in Joshua Tree. This year’s edition of Desert Daze will be moving to Moreno Beach at Lake Perris from Friday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 14.

This year’s headliners include Tame Impala, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, and My Bloody Valentine. Other acts announced include former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, Warpaint, Ty Segall and White Fence, Earth and many others.

During a phone interview with Desert Daze founder Phil Pirrone, he declined to say why the festival moved to Lake Perris, but he did speak in glowing terms about the new location.

“One of the things that strike me about Lake Perris is that once you’re inside the park, you have no sense of outside of the park,” Pirrone said. “Once you’re inside, you’re immersed. One example I can give is at all the previous venues, once you left the grounds, you were on a city street. There were chain stores across the street. In Lake Perris, you can leave the venue, and it still takes you five minutes to get back to the closest neighborhood. It’s kind of like Jurassic Park, and every time I go through there, I feel like the theme song from Jurassic Park should be playing. It’s epic and grand. It’s the perfect location to continue this story that’s unfolding with Desert Daze.

“We feel like Desert Daze is a ritual, and I mean that in the sense of we all have daily, weekly and annual rituals to help improve our quality of life, heal our cellular makeup or evolve as beings. That has a lot to do with the moods of Lake Perris. It can accommodate more people, and one of the main concerns for us is maintaining the energy—and the feeling you have at Desert Daze will be a good one.”

Desert Daze is sort of an anti-festival festival. It’s not as big as Coachella, and almost all of the performers fall into the psychedelic or edgier side of rock music.

“Music festivals can be so one dimensional if it’s in a parking lot with a truck stage and an algorithm of a lineup,” Pirrone said. “It can really start to be homogenized milk at that point, almost like plastic. That doesn’t interest us at all. We want people to have a multidimensional, multilayered and profound experience. The immersive art experience for this festival is a step beyond anything we’ve ever done before. It’s exciting, and it’s a massive workload. It’s almost like there are three festivals going on—music, art, projection art, films, talks, workshops and all these immersive experiences.”

The art installations and interactive experiences may be heightened by the natural setting, Pirrone said.

“The (lake) being there is special, and I think it’s going to create an opportunity for people to have an even deeper rejuvenation thing going on,” he said. “I love the idea that people can swim all morning or all afternoon, go back to their campsite, and there are real showers—real running water showers in brick-and-mortar buildings. I love the idea that you can go splash around, go on a pontoon boat ride, and really get to see the majestic landscape. …We’re starting the music a little later this year so we can accommodate for those experiences.”

Pirrone said there’s an over-saturation of festivals today—and that’s where Desert Daze comes in.

“The Live Nations of the world, the AEGs of the world—they’re driving the prices up for the bands, and there are agencies capitalizing on that, and to a certain degree, they should. To a certain degree, I think the fans would be the first to say that it’d be great to take a step back from that a bit. I find it to be a little out of whack.

“I’ve been touring for a long time … and I get it. I’m on tour right now, and I’m losing money on this tour. When a festival comes around (paying) 10 times what you’d make for a club show, you’ve got to take it. Your tour is probably still losing money for eight bands out of 10. You want to bring ticket prices down, so you want agents and bands and managers to be more reasonable. But as long as these bands are barely able to keep their heads above water, you’re going to have this kind of landscape.”

Pirrone said that while the event is farther from the Coachella Valley in Lake Perris—about an hour or so away—he said he still loves the Coachella Valley and the high desert. The Desert Daze after-party is being held at Pappy and Harriet’s, and Pirrone always does a show at Pappy and Harriet’s as a preview to the festival.

“It feels like I am rooted into that land. My wife and I fell in love at Pappy and Harriet’s, and our bands played together at a show there,” he said. “We fell into a deep love at Pappy’s. It’s always been a magical location on this earth for us, and we care deeply about it.

“Through the years of producing this festival, we’ve made lots of friends and family, and that’s not going to change. We’re always looking for a space in the desert where we can have the best version of what we’re doing. The stars aligned for us this year to make it happen in Lake Perris, which doesn’t mean we won’t hold it in the desert valley again, or we won’t continue to satellite the events in the desert. We hope that we can bring more positivity, more music and more fun to the area.

Desert Daze will take place Friday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 14 at Lake Perris State Recreation Area, 17801 Lake Perris Drive, in Lake Perris. Tickets are $99 to $1,999. For more information, visit www.desertdaze.org.

If you’ve never seen a show by Se7en4, you’ve been missing out.

Unfortunately, chances to see Se7en4 have been few and far between as of late. The band played its first show in a long time earlier this year at The Hood Bar and Pizza—and will be playing there again on Friday, Oct. 12.

Se7en4 has been rocking the Coachella Valley music scene since 2000, and the current lineup includes frontman Nico Flores (the younger brother of Blasting Echo drummer and 5th Town bassist Armando Flores), drummer Steven Hall (brother of Thr3 Strykes’ Josh Hall), bassist Trevino Martin and guitarist Pete Burquez.

During a recent phone interview with Flores, he joked about the recent hiatus.

“Dude, we play like once or twice every three years or some shit like that,” Flores said with a laugh. “But we always have a great turnout. We have been around for a long time, and we barely play. We have a lot of loyal friends to the band and to the music scene. When we play, they always know it’s going to be a fun time.”

I’ve heard people compare Se7en4 to nu-metal, and say the group sounds like Suicidal Tendencies. Flores laughed when I mentioned that.

“I know where people get that from: Me and Steve (Hall) are really two of the only punk-rockers out here who roll up blasting gangsta rap, and we love hip-hop,” he said. “We may incorporate it a tiny bit into our music, but for the most part, we like it hard, fast and loud. It’s how we look and what we listen to on the side where people probably get that. We definitely listen to Suicidal Tendencies, who are a huge influence to us, and (Hed) P.E. is an influence, (as are) Snot, Rage Against the Machine and Black Flag. We love obnoxious rock that’s in-your-face shit.”

As a frontman, Flores gets down and dirty—and he definitely knows how to get the crowds going.

“Having grown up in the valley, and just watching all the old-school punkers like John Summers, Sean Wheeler, Herb Lienau and Ian Taylor from Unsound—growing up, I was like, ‘I want to be in a band!’” he said. “And then I was like, ‘Whoa! What are those guys doing?’ We grew up in the MTV era, too, which was all about being a rock star and their antics. When you’re a kid, you want to emulate that.”

What stops Se7en4 from playing more often?

“Real life gets in the way,” Flores said. “I’m the only one who still lives down here now, and I have a full-on family—a 15-year-old daughter and two little boys. All the guys live up in Los Angeles. Pete (Burquez) does music stuff on the side, and Steve does music stuff and also tours. Everyone stays busy musically; they don’t let not playing in this band stop them. Trevino is from up north and has a THC/growing operation going. Everyone went up to Los Angeles, and I just kind of stayed down here.

“We play whenever we can. It’s fun and takes our mind off shit; it’s always fun to get together. It’s frustrating when people ask, ‘Yo, bro, when are Se7ven4 playing?’ It’s good, though, because you’ll see Pete and Steven pursuing other music opportunities, and they’re doing great for themselves. For me, Se7en is my music getaway. My three passions in life are my music, wrestling, and I’m a daddy.”

Flores said the band members make a point of getting together when they can.

“We have a little studio up in L.A., so I just go up there, and the boys are all out there,” he said. “I have to plan it a little, but we’ll spend a whole day in the studio writing or jamming. It doesn’t happen as often as I’d like it to because of distance and all that stuff.”

Will there be any Se7en4 recordings in the future?

“I think the other guys say no, but I say yes,” he said. “We’re like that girlfriend that you fight with and get back together with the next day. We just have too big of a connection to never record anything together. It won’t be any time soon, but I think we will. I have songs, and the other guys are writing songs here and there.”

Se7en4 will perform with Throw the Goat and Mega Sun at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 12, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is $5. For more information on the show, visit the event’s Facebook page. 

The local metal scene has been going through a transitional period, with many longtime bands calling it quits—and one of the bands rising from the figurative ashes is When Tides Turn.

Slowly but surely, the band has been getting its name out there, playing consistently at venues such as The Hood Bar and Pizza, Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails, Club 5, and Kilo’s Cantina.

During a recent interview in Palm Desert with the band members—except for lead guitarist TJ Cazares, who was not able to make it—they shared some amusing stories about their inception, their shared history, and how they all pitch in to support their recording and travel costs.

The band’s name is actually a reference to most of the band members’ hometown of Blythe.

“We were trying to find something that no one else had, because every name in the world is taken,” guitarist Thomas Lambert said. “Where Desiree (McCaslin, drummer) and I are from and where we formed the band, it was out in Blythe. Blythe has a river, and at certain points, there’s a really crazy rip current and undertow, and it looks like the water flow is going against the current. That’s where we came up with the name When Tides Turn.”

What is actually over there in Blythe?

“There’s a state prison there, which also comes with state jobs,” McCaslin said. “It’s a farmer town; they’re also building this huge marijuana-growing center, and it will probably be one of the biggest marijuana-growing centers in the world, because we have access to a bunch of water.”

McCaslin said she had been trying to start a band with Xan Abyss of Rogue Ogre, but it kept falling apart, and a mutual friend told her about Jacob Garcia, who was originally a drummer and a bassist. Garcia explained how he came to join When Tides Turn—as a vocalist.

“I had not been doing much of anything with music, and at first, I wasn’t really going to do it, because I didn’t have transportation; I didn’t really have the means of getting out there, but this was a band, and they were ready to go,” Garcia said. “They had already written music, and I thought, ‘OK, I can give this a shot.’ They liked me; I liked them; and maybe a week after I auditioned, we played a backyard show in Blythe, and I didn’t even finish the lyrics and was making it up as I went along.

“They had a crappy PA, so it’s not like you could have made out the lyrics anyway.”

Garcia wasn’t the only new band member who needed to learn material quickly.

“It was totally random. Desiree asked me if I wanted to jam, and I was kind of hesitant, because I didn’t think I was ready or good enough,” bassist Adrian Whitson said. “She said, ‘Just come jam, and see what happens.’ Literally, one day before a show at Club 5, they got a hold of me and asked me if I would play. They said they had a bass for me, and I had one day to learn the songs. I used to be in a band during high school, but as far as playing a show goes, I had only ever played one show before that, and it had been years since. I had one day to prepare for a metal show and had only played one show before. I was freaking out, but it worked out really well.”

Garcia added: “When Desiree decides she wants you in the band, she’ll figure out how to get you in.”

For When Tides Turn’s style of music, the vocals need to switch back and forth from a pop range—into a screaming range. Garcia said he has not yet perfected it.

“I started learning about the diaphragm to scream,” Garcia said. “Unfortunately, I’m caught in a Catch-22: I love to sing, but there are a lot of screaming styles I’d love to do if I didn’t have to worry about singing, too. It comes to a point of trying to balance it all out. I might be discovering a scream and being able to do it consistently, but I also have to sing. It’s learning how your throat feels and what feels OK, and what you can’t get away with. It’s challenging, but it’s really damn fun and rewarding.”

When Tides Turn has been working on its first album with producer Jerry Whiting, who also produced music by Frank Eats the Floor and Sleazy Cortez.

“We started recording back in February, and around that time, we were just about done,” Lambert said. “The only thing left was vocals, and that’s when our other guitarist, TJ, came into the band. We went back in and re-recorded the leads and put all of his stuff on it, and stepped it up majorly. It sounds so much better. Now we just need to touch up one of the songs and start getting it out to everyone. Jerry made it a lot more of a comfortable atmosphere versus a place that rushes you and makes it seem like you’re wasting their time. He was really easy to work with and work for. He’d add stuff and give us ideas.”

When Tides Turn, like many local bands, had problems finding a place to practice. The members of the band Hollace recently purchased a rehearsal studio called The Sound Hub from its previous owner in Cathedral City; the members of When Tides Turn say they gladly pay the money to use it.

“The Sound Hub in Cathedral City definitely helped us out. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have the place to practice,” McCaslin said. “They provide the backline and everything else. If you pay $5, you can even take a recording of your practice home.”

Garcia and McCaslin told an additional amusing story about that aforementioned first show they ever played in Blythe, at a backyard party.

“Some big, old, fat drunk guy got on my drum set and just started wailing away on it, and it didn’t sound good at all,” McCaslin said. “It sounded like trash can lids, and I was watching my fucking cymbals just go to pieces. Someone was cheering for the guy, and he just kept going.”

Garcia added with a laugh: “You don’t touch another man’s car—and you don’t mess with a woman’s drum set!”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/whentidesturn.

When Brant Bjork left Kyuss in 1994, he didn’t stay idle for long.

He had stints in bands including De-con and Fu Manchu, before releasing his first solo album, Jalamanta, in 1999—which featured him moving away from the drum set and becoming a frontman/guitarist.

Today, he continues to kick ass and take names. He’ll be playing at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Friday, Oct. 12—one of five American tour dates before heading to Europe.

On Sept. 14, Bjork released his 13th solo album, Mankind Woman.

“I think it sounds like a solid and respectable 13th effort,” Bjork said during a recent phone interview. “I worked closely with my guitar player and good friend, Bubba DuPree. I asked him to produce the record and went into it just hands-off. I just wanted to flow down the river. He and I collaborated on writing and performed all the tracks. I just really wanted to collaborate, and I really missed and enjoyed working with someone. Bubba and I started to work together on the last record, Tao of the Devil, and I really enjoyed it.”

Bjork and DuPree played all of the instruments on Mankind Woman.

“We moved quick on this record, meaning we jumped into the creative process,” he said. “We had come to a really good place with a record deal with Heavy Psych Sounds Records out of Italy, and we really liked the deal, and it came together so fast that we were able to say, ‘Why don’t we get a record out this year and get it to coincide with our European run?’ We were excited, and we were very much inspired. But having to move like that, Bubba and I decided to just take care of the instruments ourselves. My bass player, Dave Dinsmore, and my drummer, Ryan Gut, they live outside of the area. Dave lives in Berlin, Germany, and Gut lives up north in Shasta, Calif. As much as I love my rhythm section and would have loved to incorporate them in this recording, it didn’t make a lot of logistical sense. Creatively speaking, I was pretty excited to just play the drums to a lot of the guitar parts that Bubba was coming up with.”

If you keep up with Kyuss culture—including the Facebook group Kyuss World—you know there are Kyuss fans all around the world, many of whom are feverish for anything and everything all of the members have done before and after Kyuss. Some have even traveled here to explore where the desert-rock genre started.

“I think Europeans have more of an appreciation for things that leave a lasting effect on the individual—on the collective, on the mindset, and the culture. In the United States, it’s a ‘me me, here here, now now,’ kind of instant gratification,” Bjork said. “… That’s not to say that there aren’t some American fans who are really into my music and rock in general, but it’s just not as celebrated among the masses as it is in Europe. I’ve been waiting for people to dive into that historical situation, because it’s been going on for years. I’d like for someone to write a book about it. It also goes back to jazz artists like Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong. Miles Davis was a god in Europe, and when he came home, he was playing in the same clubs in Manhattan. They always say you never profit in your own land.”

Bjork did a DJ set at Pappy and Harriet’s following Sean Wheeler’s recent performance there, and the combination of music that night was fascinating. I brought that up and asked Bjork what artists or records inspired him as a kid.

“The Ramones. I think it’s just a combination of my age and where I was at in relation to my environment,” he said. “My parents were older and weren’t hippies. They were more into first-wave rock ’n’ roll, and my mom really liked the Stones, and my dad really liked Ray Charles. There were those early Rolling Stones, Fats Domino, Ray Charles and Chuck Berry records. I loved that stuff. Most of the kids in the neighborhood were listening to KISS, and I really liked KISS, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around the makeup and blowing fire. It was classic ’70s heavy rock and didn’t have the buzz of the early Stones stuff. But when I heard the Ramones, it was the perfect band that combined all of it. They had an image, and they were cooler than KISS; they were animated and cartoonish, but exaggerated in all of the right ways, and the music was KISS and the Stones, only at 45 RPM—moving quick. The Ramones was made for a kid like me, and the contemporaries of the Ramones in the ’70s knew what they were trying to do, and they appreciated it as contemporary artists. They were for the kids like me who didn’t get the Stones or the Beatles. I was perfectly in time for the Ramones and I ate it up and collected all their records. It was my first concert, and they were the band that really turned me on.”

While Bjork is a fantastic guitarist and frontman, he said he still loves playing the drums.

“That will always be a joy for me, and playing drums for a live audience is a rush,” he said. “But sometimes it depends on the music and the situation. I like to play the drums if I’m playing with a group of musicians or a style of music that inspires me to play the drums. Not to state the obvious, but that’s always how it works for me. The thing with the guitar and the singing—that was a challenge for me, and it was something I never planned on doing. But … my solo career is just me sharing my story, and it’s hard to do from the drums.”

Earlier this year, Bjork went back to the old days of the generator parties and threw what he called “Stoned and Dusted,” a modern day generator party … with some modifications.

“We just solidified our date for next year this week, actually,” he said. “It’s a great time, and it’s a work in progress, but the concept is what it was back in the past: the desert environment and rock bands. We have it organized, and we want to bring people from all over the world and have them enjoy the natural environment with some good rock music, good food, some smoke and some drinks. We eliminated the riff-raff element that was largely the reason why the original generator party movement came to a stop.”

Brant Bjork will perform with Nebula at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $18 to $20. For more tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.