John Garcia: A Desert Icon Goes Solo

By | June 4, 2015 at 3:01 am | No comments | Columns, Cover Stories, Feature Stories

By Esther Sanchez

A quick google search for Coachella Valley native, John Garcia will immediately bring you a plethora of results about a singer/songwriter who was the frontman and founding member of historic, game-changing bands such as Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida & Vista Chino. Garcia is a humble, yet direct guy whose contributions to music in the Coachella Valley are undeniable, and those of us who pay attention understand that he has helped pave the way for a continuously blossoming music scene that inspired Blender Magazine to list Palm Desert as, “One of the Top 7 Rock & Roll Cities in America.”

Although reluctant to admit so, Garcia was an integral part of the creation of what is now considered by many, a distinct musical sub-genre called, “desert rock” also known as “stoner rock.” The sound that has put the desert on the musical map was unintentionally conceived amongst classmates, neighbors and family friends in their parent’s garages & evolved into something that none of them could have possibly foreseen.

Although my parents would never have dreamed of letting me attend, as a local girl from a certain generation I remember hearing about the awesome bashes out in the desert at places like the “nude bowl” which was basically an empty swimming pool out in the desert that was utilized by skaters & eventually became a party spot for bands to perform. The “generator party” tales have resonated internationally with desert rock fans over the years to such a point that they have met almost folkloric proportions which is a fact that Garcia finds amusing and somewhat bewildering.

Garcia: “They were just parties. The stories have really been over glamorized over time. We didn’t throw parties in the desert to create legendary stories. We did it because we didn’t have much of a choice. Back then, there were no venues in the area who were interested in giving bands like ours a place to perform. Necessity being the mother of invention, we made our own places to perform.”

After decades of blessing us with music from shared projects, Garcia has released his long-time coming, self-titled solo album and this Friday, June 5th, he will be giving a rare, home-town performance at Schmidy’s Tavern. Although Garcia has plans for an overseas tour very soon, this is the only show he has scheduled in the US and it promises to be a night to remember.

While doing my pre-interview research I discovered that the internet can tell you all sorts of things about John Garcia as a singer/songwriter and his cult-phenom bands. What the internet won’t tell you about Garcia is that his “rock-star” persona is only a small part of a complex guy who actually cringes at the mention of such terms. Interestingly enough, although being a musician is a huge part of his identity, these days it runs pretty low on his list of priorities.

Garcia sat across from me at an ornately carved, dark-wood, Mexican dining room table and pointed towards the living room where we could see his wife tending to their five year-old son. As though my presence was briefly forgotten, he stared in their direction and smiled adoringly….

Garcia: “This. Them. They are why I do everything I do nowadays. I truly mean that. If I were to achieve success beyond my wildest imagination, play to the largest crowds in the greatest venues on the planet and make a ton of money…… what would it matter without them? To me? Nothing! As much as I love being blessed with the opportunity to perform in other countries, I think about them constantly when I am gone. The incomplete feeling that I have when I am separated from my family makes the experience bitter-sweet.”

Within minutes of meeting the Garcias at their secluded hillside home in the high desert I could clearly see what a remarkably doting husband John is to his lovely wife and “best friend,” Wendy with whom he is raising 2 children a dog and a cat. Part of the reason why Garcia misses his family & Wendy in particular so much while touring overseas is likely due in part to the amount of time the affectionate couple is accustomed to spending together. It might surprise a lot of his fans to know that when he isn’t recording or touring abroad, Garcia works side-by-side with Wendy at a local animal clinic and both of them share a sincere passion for veterinary medicine. Garcia couldn’t say enough about how much Wendy’s love, support and partnership means to him. Theirs’ is the most precious of many partnerships in the life of John Garcia that have made it possible for him to do what he does.

Garcia: “You must give credit where credit is due. This solo project is something I have pretty much always wanted to do but there are a lot of people that have made this happen for me. Probably the most significant partner on this album would be my producer and advisor; owner of Thunder Underground Recording Studio in Palm Springs, Harper Hug. In all seriousness, he really is the mastermind behind the JG project. He is an amazing guy who helps me turn my wishes and ideas into reality. He’s a doer. He helps me get things done.”

Garcia continues: “It’s been really fun writing songs with all these different guys who contributed to the JG project. I have been working with Ehren Groban from War Drum, Dave Ingstrom and Danny Brown from Armano, Mark Diamond from The Dwarves, Tom Brighton and Trevor Whatever….those guys all deserve credit for this project becoming a reality. This album is something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember and these guys are what made it happen.”

Although Garcia is quick to praise those who collaborated with him on this record, the reality is that it is indeed a solo project, and with that comes a new found sense of artistic freedom. Garcia: “It’s very liberating. I mean, I am happy to consider everyone’s ideas but with bands there are sometimes too many cooks in the kitchen. With this project, ultimately, it’s all my decision. I can sit back and say, ‘This is how I envisioned my record to be. This is my creation. It’s my painting and I get to use the colors that I want to use.’ It really is liberating and it’s also been a lot of fun.”

John Garcia will be performing along with fellow desert rock faves, Waxy, War Drum and You Know Who this Friday, June 5th at Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert. Don’t miss out on this rare opportunity to experience John Garcia live on his home-turf.

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