Live Bands, Dali’s First Vinyl Record Release and “Lo Desert Sound” Documentary Preview Saturday, October 5th @ the Palms Restaurant in 29 Palms
By Lisa Morgan
On Saturday, October 5, the Palms Restaurant indoor/outdoor venue in 29 Palms will risk utter incineration as they play host to the heaviest, grittiest collection of the most nakedly honest and raw rock and roll to shake the desert fault line since the early incarnation of generator parties. The instigators of this epic opus are the very founders of a genre much overlooked by locals, and nearly worshiped by music lovers in Germany, Norway and the heartier parts of Europe. Dali’s Llama founders and co-creators, Erica and Zach Huskey, will be celebrating 20 years of creative tenacity, integrity and determination along with many of their musical cohorts.
I sat at a table sipping coffee with this couple, a bit intimidated at first as I weighed in the fact that I was talking to people who have been completely sold out to their craft for decades. Nearly 30 years ago, a 14 year old Zach began fortifying the desert music scene along with fellow band-mates when he and any one of his friends who looked 18 and old enough to rent out the old J.C. Frey building to play in. Always a pioneer and entrepreneur in the “Do it Yourself” fashion, Zach even began publishing a music magazine, on his parents xerox machine. He could be seen handing them out to anyone with green hair or who showed any other signs of interest in his music. He gave it out for free, in-spite of the .25 cent price handwritten on the cover. You can still see that punk kid staring back at you through his steely blue eyes. He and his best friend turned wife (who by the way is still very much a girl at heart when it comes to her boyfriend/husband) spent the better part of two hours sharing freely what the last decades have been like for them and how they have culminated to the release of their first vinyl album, and this very “Wild Rumpus” anniversary show.
Dali’s Llama has forged the path in the music industry with your “Do It Yourself” (DIY) approach since your very first record. How has the industry changed and affected what you do now?
Erica: When we started out there was no internet phone directory. We were writing down addresses from the back of magazines.
Zach: There weren’t a lot of outlets to get your music out there. There were only the major labels and few independent labels at the time. We were one of the only bands down here that had a CD out. Everything was on 2” tape just like the 70’s. It was expensive. We limited time spent on an album to 3-4 days in the studio because it was out of our pocket.
Erica: Now the market is over saturated. It’s common for people to do their own.
Zach: Now, because we’ve been at it so long, we are a more familiar name in the market. A lot of our stuff is sold overseas. The changes have made things a lot easier when someone gets a hold of us and says, ‘We’re from Norway; how much for the album?’
Erica: Now I have people calling me asking ME how to do it!
Zach: There’s people that have been on labels all their life who are doing it themselves now. They call and ask, ‘How’d you do the printing? Where’s the mastering done? I won’t mention any names, but these are some well-known people. I always tell them, ‘Don’t ask me, I just write the music’ and hand the phone to Erica. I’m a great delegator (he grins). We’ve produced 10 albums in 20 years, all CDs. At this show, we’re going to have our first 12” vinyl available; 20 Years Underground. You might call it our non-greatest ever hits.
Can you explain why you are so embraced overseas, and somewhat unrecognized here in the states? Have you ever thought of touring out there?
Zach: Germany, England and Norway just seem to like heavier stuff, and to them, the desert is mythical to them – it’s this magical, mythical, sandy place. They love the D-tuned, doom rock, Black Sabbath influenced rock like Electric Wizard and The Obsessed. We have all these weird networking connections there because of the people we know playing out there. We’ve thought about touring, but we’ve got kids and a house and a job…if the opportunity paid for itself we would go. Maybe someday. The priority has always been putting the music out, and playing on the west coast as much as we can including festivals.
Out of all the CDs you’ve produced, including your solo CDs and jazz experiments, do you have a favorite album?
Erica: That’s a tough question because each release is a document of that time, that life experience.
Zach: From the early 90s, Creative Space got a lot of attention. We don’t play anything off of it in our shows, but people still seem to ask for it for movies. Fallen Dunes from 5 years ago turned out pretty good, and we do a lot of songs off of that one. A few years ago, after a run of our music being really heavy, we came out with an album, Howl Do You Do, that was pretty much just for fun, paying homage to the music I loved when I was a kid. I was really into early Punk – bands like The Nuggets, The Sonics and The Seeds, and we decided to do a tribute album with all our own original music. That was a fun album. We didn’t know how it would be received. Critics loved that album. At this point critics seem to like everything we do. I guess that’s the cool part about having been around so long. When we first started out, we couldn’t even get a review. We were like, ‘Thanks! Glad you liked it. We won’t be doing it again, but thanks.’
Erica: Zach writes all the music so it’s all a reflection of what he was feeling during that time.
Zach: Yeah. After Fall on Dunes, Erica was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had to have the full surgery, chemo, radiation…. we went through a year of that. So when we went into record the album that I had written during that time and listened to it, we thought, ‘Wow that came out dark.’ Raw is Real is from that album and is one of the heaviest tunes we’ve ever done. So the one after that was all about having fun.
Erica: Autumn Woods goes back to a heavier sound, but it’s not nearly as dark. Zach writes a lot of songs… he’ll have 25 songs and we’ll have to narrow it down. But the best songs he’s written are when he goes out to the desert to write.
Zach: I’m in a canyon; I got nothing else to do for the rest of the day; I’ve got my guitar, my coffee my water, my cigarettes a piece of paper and a pencil. If I write this, lay down and never wake up again, then just like all the bones I find around this place, it sort of gives me a sense of the impermanence of things. The harsh elements aren’t easy on the animals and plants, and it makes you realize you live you die and you got to accept it. A lot of people are in denial of that and surround themselves with noise and accomplishments. Erica always gives me crap about not having a cell phone. But if I want to get lost, what’s the point.
What is the driving force that keeps you guys ever painstakingly at it despite the lack of fanfare and big money and in-spite of all the crap this business of music can throw at you?
Zach: She tries to quit all the time! (laughing)
Erica: (embarrassed) Not so much the playing, but the business aspect. If we were just playing shows, it would be fine. It’s always figuring out accounting, the social media stuff, deciding what to spend against what we make, what percentage to accept to release a song for a movie….It’s not like you go to work and come home and you’re off. It’s ever present.
Zach: Then add kids to the mix. Both kids do music… and go figure, one plays bass and one plays guitar and they both write. Zane my youngest, has a band with me on bass and Dali’s drummer Craig called Hit It and he’s singing and playing guitar. Now Erica’s having to do the Facebook page for that band. Sage, the older one has already put out an album with his band, and guess who helped with that all the way down to the album cover.
Erica: Who else is going to care enough? I guess, to answer your question, the driving force is to document where we’re at and where we’ve been. We can play it live, but if we don’t put it out in a fixed form, it’s just lost.
Zach: I write songs like an addiction. I’m going to do it anyway. To find people who like what we’re writing and want to play it, that’s totally fun. To record in a way where I can show it to my kids and say that’s where we were at. The driving force is nothing as grand as showing something to the world. Anger is a great motivating factor, and when you hear shit that’s getting money, it makes you want to go even more pure and say, ‘Alright, fuck you! Check this out.’ And because we have our own label, we can. There’s nobody there to tell us we can’t.
Zach: We were best friends in high school. I was playing shows in LA with other bands and we were doing well; playing shows with Rage Against the Machine, White Zombie and Stone Temple Morons. We’d do OK, but then I’d get burnt out or the bass player would quit. I got to thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if your best friend who became your wife learned how to play bass? Then it would be two people versus the rest of them!’
Erica: Our first show playing together was with the Hickups and Sean Wheeler.
Zach: We go at it and stuff, but when we sit back and put it in perspective, you just have to laugh at it.
In music, something weird is always going to happen eventually, and you’ll have that opportunity to get pissed and then start laughing at it.
What are some of your favorite albums from other desert rockers?
Zach: There’s a few people that are staples in this music scene: Alfredo Hernandez – you want to talk about what desert rock is? You don’t have to talk about it, just go see guys like Alfredo Hernandez, Mario Lalli, Herb Lienau, Scott Reeder and Sean Wheeler. We all grew up together, experienced the same stuff, the same drugs…. We’ve seen them (other bands) come and go. I guess one of my favorite albums is the Kyuss album with Alfredo and Scott on it; And The Circus Leaves Town. They just add a certain element to it that’s great. That was a great decision by Josh Homme to have those two guys on that album. The Hellions are a good band. They’re good friends of ours. They need to put out an album. They have great songs, they need to document them. Other younger bands that I like are Deadend Paradox, Red Sanz, You Know Who, Fever dog, Blasting Echo and of course, Dunebilly (when they play adult songs) and Hot Beat Pu$$y Fiend is another.
(note from the writer: Zach is NOT a fan of Arcade Fire. His son is. Imagine discussions at the dinner table and say a little prayer for Erica)
Zach: The whole scene down here was generated from punk rock. You were 14 and when something pissed you off you wrote about it. You didn’t mention names you just got it off your chest. You channeled that anger into your music. The Who’s, Live at Leeds was the greatest album of all time. So aggressive but so intelligent. It’s what heavy metal wants to be. Neil Young’s Crazy Horse… every note is just a gem. Sabbath is one of those things – it’s dark and you feel it with those riffs. The idea of Dali’s Llama now a days, is to put the he improvisation of Crazy Horse, the awesome riffs of Black Sabbath with a little bit of the brain power of The Who’s, Pete Townshend.
Dali’s Llama today, is Zach Huskey on guitar and vocals, Erica Huskey on bass, Craig Brown on drums and Joe Wangler on guitar. To experience their music to the fullest, with its thundering dark tones and un-obliterated aggression, pounding its way into your psyche and emotions, you MUST see them live. This rock-buffet will be served at its hottest for only $5, and is likely to be all you can handle. As Zach says, “I don’t care about your delicate sensibilities or what you’re trying to say to that girl, we are here to play.”
They will also be showing a big chunk of the music documentary “Lo Sound Desert”, following the rock fest. “We watched it for the first time and thought, ‘Holy shit, that’s awesome!’ It starts a year or two before I started playing,” says Zach. “It starts with the early generator parties. There are people in the film that aren’t even musicians. They were just there supporting the bands. We will be showing it outside under the stars for free after all the bands play. There’s lots of free camping. It will be the closest thing to a legal generator party with a bar.”
For more information on the “Wild Rumpus” go to Facebook and type in Dali’s Llama Wild Rumpus: www.facebook.com/events/143851785822433/
You can also peruse Dali’s Llama’s music and writings on their website: www.dalisllamarecords.com/music.html