By Jason Hall
In the early to mid 90’s, at world famous recording studio, Rancho De La Luna, earthlings? came into existence. The psychedelic rock band was started by Rancho De La Luna co-owners David Catching, Fred Drake and Peter Stahl. If these guys sound familiar to you, it’s because they’ve been a part of quite a few bands you are sure to know. Fred Drake recorded with Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl, Dean Wean, and countless others. David Catching is a full-time member of Eagles of Death Metal and Mojave Lords as well as recording with Queens of the Stone Age, Masters of Reality and Mark Lanegan. Peter Stahl was in Scream with Dave Grohl and fronted Wool and Goatsnake.
This all-star band fed off the energy of the Joshua Tree night sky and the multiple artist who have recorded at Rancho De La Luna. They’ve had many guest appearances, but stayed true to the core lineup until Fred Drake passed in 2002. They’ve fairly regularly released music, but have slowed quite a bit on touring in the past few years. Both Dave and Pete have been extremely busy with other projects. This doesn’t stop them from getting together at Rancho De La Luna to jam and record tunes though. This time around, they also rehearsed a bit for a rare live performance at Desert Daze. I had the opportunity to meet Pete the day before one of these jam sessions and set up a conversation.
Coachella Valley Weekly: Can you tell me about the formation of earthlings?
Pete Stahl: “Well, back around 1993 or so, I was in a band called Wool. A friend of mine told me about this studio out in Joshua Tree called Rancho De La Luna. We went out there to do our demo and I met Fred Drake and Dave Catching. I kind of fell in love with the place and started going up there more regularly to hang out and play music with those guys. It turned into a band pretty organically. Dave and Fred had different projects going with bands and solo projects and had a bunch of music written together and I started singing on that stuff which turned into the first record.”
CVW: Where did the name come from? Were you guys questioning if some visitors to Rancho were earthlings? The question mark is key.
Pete: “Dave Catching came up with the name. I think it was about being out in the desert and letting your mind wonder. I think it’s more, ‘what are we?’”
CVW: When was the last time earthling? has played live?
Pete: “I guess it would’ve been about a year and a half ago. I was trying to remember that recently. We don’t get together too often unfortunately. Everyone’s busy with family and jobs and other bands. Dave’s in Eagles Of Death Metal, so he’s always on tour with those guys. The band has always been more of a recording project than a live band to be honest. I was always used to touring and love the music so much. Early on I wanted to play live, but not everybody was too into that because we didn’t really have a band. It was Fred, Dave, and me. We were collaborating with many different people. The goal was never to go out on tour. We’ve only done a few tours. We toured with Queens of the Stone Age in Europe way back when they were touring off their first or second album. We were lucky enough to go back on our own. Then a few times we did some regional small tours of the U.S. We play shows in Joshua Tree more than anywhere. Thankfully Fred toured with us early on. I didn’t want to front earthlings?. I’d been the front man in plenty of bands, so I wanted to play guitar and sing back up. Fred was a better singer than me. Fred was shy about that too, so I started gravitating more towards fronting the band.”
CVW: What’s the recording process like for earthlings??
Pete: “Usually the nucleus of a song is a noise of some sort. We start building on that and see what happens. It can take on many different shapes. People come over to the studio, and we have them check out what we have and ask them if they’d like to throw something on it. Then people dive in and add their thing too it and it makes the song go a different direction. It’s not the type of band where we have songs sort of pre written. It’s mostly improvised. It makes it sound unique. We always have to relearn the songs to play them live. Unfortunately, sometimes we can’t recreate the sounds we spontaneously make up, especially when a lot of the things we’ve come up with originated with something that was malfunctioning.”
CVW: You were in town for a benefit concert for Brian (BOC) O’Conner recently and let me know you guys were going to be at Rancho the next day. Were you recording new earthlings? material?
Pete: “Yeah, it was a really fruitful time! We actually recorded maybe 4 things that will hopefully turn into something. We also booked another show in December in Joshua Tree. That means we’ll be able to get together to rehearse which will meld into a recording session. We have some old material too which has never been released. We’re hoping to put out another record soon.”
CVW: Any surprises in store for us at Desert Daze?
Pete: “We’re really excited to play in Joshua Tree. It’s a hometown show for us, so hopefully we’ll get some friends up on stage to jam with us during the set. We’re lucky enough to be invited back to Desert Daze, and hope to see you all there.”