A HISTORIC LOOK INTO A BRAND NEW BAND
By Robin Linn
Being a woman in rock…especially in the desert where male musicians are crazy in a completely unique way…..comes with its own special set of challenges. I know, because I have been immersed in the desert music scene since the early nineties as a musician, a music store owner, and eventually a music writer. It wasn’t until I opened a small vintage instrument store in the early nineties that I discovered the underground music scene. I was hearing players like Mario Lalli and cousin Larry, Gary Arce, John Garcia, Arthur Seay, Mike Cancino, Damian Lautiero, Armando Flores, Mike Riley, Mike Desert, Dave Catching, Josh Homme, Alfredo Hernandez, The Huskey’s (Zach & Erica), the list goes on and on. It began a romance with the desert music scene that has only grown with time. I was so inspired back then that I began a music newspaper, Desert Rhythms, determined to shed some light on the music I was hearing. I took a long break from writing as motherhood and life called me away for nearly 15 years. But, I never lost touch with the people who went on to achieve great things with their music careers. Twenty years later, what I rediscovered is a community of world class musicians making music, as they always have done, free from constraints or formulas. From heavy metal to punk to psychedelic rock, people making music here in the desert don’t just break the rules, they never even read the rule book. The result is music that is truly unique, no matter what the genre, and a tight knit community of musicians that support each other and come together to make that music happen. A whole new flood of live music venues now exist, which is allowing music to flourish and dozens of new music projects are taking wing. A community with strong bonds has fostered a scene that allows original art to flourish. From the ashes of Kyuss, who had an illustrious but short lived career, yet still impacts hard rock all over the world today, came Queens of the Stone Age (Josh Homme), Vista Chino (John Garcia, Brant Bjork), Whiskey and Knives, Brave Black Sea, Hot Beat Pussy Fiend and Rawbone (Alfredo Hernandez), and Eagles of Death Metal (Dave Catching and Jesse Hughes). That one band has inspired a whole new generation of music. Their influence can be experienced in the live sets of Waxy, Lakota, Truckfighters from Sweden (just to name a few), all bands I follow and try never to miss when they play here. Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) remembers discovering Kyuss record Blues For The Red Sun and buying out the record stores so he could pass out copies to friends and fans, spreading the love for the record and perpetuating the unique sounds of desert rock, which went on to earn the label desert stoner rock. And, don’t let the term “stoner” make you feel you have to be toking bowls to get into the music. That is the beauty of psychedelic rock….it is intoxicating all on it’s own. A beautiful drug you can’t overdose on, though I may need rehab if I am to ever shake it….but, why would I try? Desert rock is my drug of choice and my love for it has only deepened over the decades.
When I first heard Rawbone which features vocalist, songwriter, Robin Clewell, I thought I had discovered desert gold. She was singing about my life. Lyrics I related to completely. Her presentation, her vocal style, her songwriting, as unique and inspired as anything I have ever heard from her male punk rock counterparts. I have thought about the live set I experienced at Schmidy’s Tavern last December 29th a dozen times, analyzing why it stuck with me in such a meaningful way. I felt we had walked through the desert in the same pair of shoes. Shoes you have to take off and shake the sand out of, shoes that leave your feet blistered and aching.
What first drew me in to see Rawbone was my love for drummer Alfredo Hernandez. I am a die-hard fan of a man I consider to be the desert drummer king. He has accomplished so much playing music his way. Alfredo is known for his passion of many forms of original music; Punk, metal, stoner rock, and even country rock. At one time he was touring Europe with eleven different bands. He is as versatile a drummer as you will ever experience. With each project, he brings a different approach, yet his own sound is distinct and organic. He had played with Family Butcher, who I have seen dozens of times, which featured Jon Arnold’s (Whiskey and Knives) Slayer style speed picking, and bassist Kevin Smith (Willful Failure guitarist, my son-in-law, and father of my three beautiful grandsons), and front man John Summers. When FB played a show, they brought the punkers out in droves and roused them to their core with fast and furious compositions. John Summers would spout out lyrics about his girlfriend whose a slut, or cops eating donuts… He was like the Don Rickles of punk rock. The band was a total kick in the pants to experience. Still, I can’t say I related to the lyrics. They did make me want to jump into the mosh pit and kick some ass. John Summers, the self proclaimed King of the Night, knew how to get an audience riled up and out of control.
What Robin Clewell has created with Rawbone is punk inspired, lyric driven, stripped down sound. It’s Robin Clewell on vocals, Zach Huskey on guitar and Alfredo Hernandez drums, no bass. Robin’s first instrument is bass guitar which she uses to create the core of the tunes. This leaves room to experiment with dynamics.
A little agony, drama, funny, story telling, joking, teasing and wit. RB features Zack’s creative guitar genius. Zach can write and play many types of music. I have heard Zach in his desert doom band Dali’s Llama, his blues chops with Primordial Blues, and he has written concertos, Time Consumptions I & II, for bowed electric bass and electric guitar as well as a 250 page score for guitar and bass symphony, Ahimsa. In RAWBONE, Zach has taken Robin’s riffs and melodies and created a really intense sound, soaring and experimenting….sleazing it up as Zach puts it. It is yet another dimension of the multi-dimensional desert rocker. Zach is like an onion…lots of layers. I doubt we have even come close to the core of it all.
RAWBONE is the first project Robin has fronted. When asked how she feels about it, she answers, “You’re kinda’ naked out there, but naked is fun.”
As a writer, Robin finds inspiration from life experience, pent up anger, the ridiculous ironies of our culture. She infuses her lyrics with humor and sarcasm. This isn’t some chick band. This is a woman who has hung with the bad boys in the desert and knows how to hit back with lyrical content that would raise the brow of even the rawest desert punk. Songs like “Isn’t It Romantic?”, or “My First Time”, which is a sarcastic tale of rape, or “Fuck Trunk”, a revenge fantasy. Touchy subjects? Maybe so. But, I for one can relate to them and appreciate the fact that Robin doesn’t pull punches, nor is she afraid to delve into subject matter. Isn’t that what punk rock is all about? She finds it an honor to be working with two of the most sought after musicians in the desert.
Robin, Zach, and Alfredo also have another music project, Hot Beat Pussy Fiend. In that project Robin provides supporting vocals. I have yet to see their live set. On Saturday, January 31st, both Rawbone and Hot Beat Pussy Fiend will be playing at Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert. An extra added bonus that night will be DJ Habenero, Alfredo Hernadez’ alter ego. He will be spinning an eclectic alternative mix, dipping into the past as far back as the early fifties and late forties. DJ Habanero says he creates an atmosphere in the room and then lets the energy determine how far out there he will take things. Alfredo has a lot of irons in the fire these days, as do Robin and Zach. A brand new record deal with V2 Records (a subsidiary of Virgin) with Brave Black Sea, Whiskey and Knives, Hot Beat Pussy Fiend, Rawbone, and Spun Monkey. Zach and Erica Huskey have Dali’s Llama, their desert doom metal band dating back twenty years, Rawbone, Hot Beat Pussy Fiend, and a brand new project is underway, The Hickups. Zach describes this new endeavor as Cow Punk. Zach’s country inspired punk originals will also feature Robin on vocals.
Robin wants to encourage women to find their own voice, and if music is their passion, she encourages them to push forward and create art. Here in the desert, where I used to pursue my own original music, I see lots of women making an impact on the CV music scene. For me, Robin Clewell is blowing a hole in the ozone. She is redefining what is proper and pushing the envelope by taking touchy subject matter and committing it to song. It is defining her as an artist and she has made quite an impact on me as a real fan of desert rock.
To learn more about Rawbone, visit them on Facebook at:
To read the digital edition of this feature, visit Robin Linn’s Desert Rhythms official blogpage at:
Photos by Lori Sky Twohy