“Here working with producer/bassist Scott Reeder on their second desert record”
By Robin Linn
Riz Orkestra and I bumped into each other at a desert rock show (Dave Lombardo and Philm) at Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert. He introduced me to Tarek Smallmen, an Australian musician who is here in the desert to record his second desert (stoner) rock record. To help him realize his creative vision, he enlisted the assistance of desert rocker and producer, Scott Reeder. Scott is known the world over for his contributions to desert stoner rock as bassist for Kyuss, Obsessed, Across The River, and most recently Sun & Sail Club, a band formed with Fu Man Chu guitarist Bob Balch, and another Scott Reeder (drummer for Fu Man Chu). Scott is as vintage a desert rocker as they come, and has been a seminal player in our original desert rock scene since its earliest days. At his ranch and studio, The Sanctuary, he has helped other desert rock bands bring their creative visions to life. One such band is desert doom masters, Atala featuring Kyle Stratton, a passionate and soulful heavy metal guitarist who describes Scott Reeder in the studio as “The Magic Man”.
Now, Scott is back to work in the studio with Low Fly Incline from Australia, where they are currently underway to complete their second desert record. The debut album recorded here in 2012, OTHER DESERT CITY, has helped group together a solid rock project which LFI supports with live performances in Australia. The new record will be finished and ready for release in early 2015 and it promises to bear the essence of the real desert!
LOW FLY INCLINE is a desert stoner rock duo who has been clearly influenced by the rock that has come out of our region. You can hear those influences in tracks like “Burn The Timber” and “Vinnie The Rune” (off Other Desert City) which are chalk -full of sexy slide work provided by Riz, with musical contributions (voice box/bass) by Scott as well. The highly charged, distorted, fuzzed-out bass and guitar lines are joined together by the forceful rhythmic structure of drummer Mitch McGregor. Together this duo has created its own unique brand of desert rock with an Australian accent. There is plenty of meat and bones in the hard rock compositions which have an undeniably distinct sound that is associated with the stoner rock that our desert is famous for.
After chatting with Tarek about flying across the sea to come to the desert to create, I was left with lots of questions about their perception of the desert, it’s music, and why they chose to come half way across the world to create an album. I reached out to Tarek for some answers and asked Riz to chime in too. I find the answers proof positive that the desert is in fact producing some of the most significant and unique music that rock has seen in the past thirty years, drawing artists from London, Sweden, and Australia here to tap into some of our unique desert inspiration.
RIZ ORKESTRA singer/songwriter known for his slide guitar which can be described as “down-home west-coast California back-roads roots-guitar”. As a songwriter, and performer he is greatly respected not just in the desert, but as far away as Australia. I wondered how he came to know members of LFI and here is what he had to say……
“A couple years back I was home from playing on the road and dropped by a Monday night up at Pappy & Harriet’s to say howdy. I played a couple slide guitar tunes as per usual and went around the room after that (as I often do) saying hello to folks and handing out Riz Orkestra buttons. One particular character at the bar with an Australian accent offers a friendly compliment to my music and asks if I’d mind playing a bit on a recording he was working on with some desert musicians. I said “sure man” and thought he’d just melt into the sunny sky like a lot of folks do. The next day he calls me up and later that week he shows up at my place with recording gear and I played slide guitar on a number of tracks, tracks that sounded like the real-deal, and I do mean real-deal, desert rock! Yet all this sound with an Australian musician.
Now, most of my friends are musicians or creative folks of various types, so I felt an immediate affinity to welcome this guy into my extended family of music. He’d traveled thousands of miles to a place he’d been drawn to simply because the music he loves comes from here. The session went so smoothly and naturally I off-handedly told him to hang around for an extra week or two so we could keep working on the music. I’ll never forget that look he gave me when I said that. He didn’t say “sure man”, but then again, he didn’t say “no way” either. We hung out again later, drank a lot of beer into the early dawn talking about life and listening to all kinds of music. Call it what you will, it was basically a reunion of long-lost brothers, though in fact we’d never before met. Not two days later I get a call and he’s booking a house for a week which transforms, through an explosion of equipment from our cars piling in through the door, into a desert crucible of music-making for 14-hour days through the entire week. There are tunes and tracks we wrote and played by the burning light of day and the starry cool of night, a number of which live in completed form on the album Other Desert City under Tarek’s band name Low Fly Incline. For anyone who’s ever made a recording, I don’t have to explain how even a half-day can be intense enough to require a couple days off just to recover. But in this case, it was more like visiting an agreeable tribal family member for the ancient purpose of teaming up to complete a community work of labor. Did I say labor? Goddamn was I tired at the finish of that week! Tired in the best of ways. Tarek left for Australia and in the many ensuing phone conversations we had over the following months, I’d heard many-a time how he was gonna finish mixing the CD and bring one over for me to hear. Of course I wanted to believe he would return because I know how much he believes in the music…. and heck, I played my ass off on that record. I think everyone who loves desert music should hear it at least once!
You know, life being what it is, I offered patient encouragement and figured well, we were coming from the right place with our the enthusiasm for a spontaneous musical adventure and made some good music along the way…and maybe that’s enough to expect from it all anyways. Cut to the present – it’s now two years later and we just took a drive out through the desert listening to the new CD in a rental car, sometimes silently absorbed in the sound and in the recollection of making the music, other times hootin’ a hearty laugh or drumming on car interior surfaces at the splendiferous confluence of the desert rock Tarek traveled so far to be close to. The random meeting of Tarek and hilariously fitting role I could play in the sound. Yep, Tarek’s a guy with a focused creative vision, an infinite tenacity to complete said vision….a guy who actually does what he says he’s gonna do…a rare friend indeed. -Riz Orkestra-
A CHAT WITH TAREK SMALLMAN OF LOW FLY INCLINE
RL: How did you come to work with Scott Reeder and elaborate on why you chose to come across the seaboard to record here in the desert with him?
TEREK: I’d always dreamt of recording at Rancho De La Luna because it was a name that I’d seen on so many of the records I’d bought. One night a few years ago I came across a YouTube clip with Dave Catching showing someone through the studio. I realized from watching the clip that it was more someone’s house than a studio, and that it probably wasn’t really open for just anyone to record there. I had been Facebook “friends” with Scott for a while and noticed him posting photos of stuff going on at his studio. I asked him if I could book some time, he said yes, and away we went.
RL: Do you feel coming to the desert to record effects the resulting product?
TEREK: Very much so. It’s the entire reason we come out here to record. The landscape here is so markedly different from where we’re from, you can’t help but feel dwarfed by the enormity of it, and then have that feeling transfer to the music.
RL: You are a two piece….how do you re-create the music in the live setting?
TEREK: There’s actually not really much re-creation necessary. The sound of the record is more or less how we sound in the room. Part of starting the band was me building an effects pedal board that consists of three separate signal lines running to two different amps (one bass amp and one guitar amp). I like a lot of two piece bands that are out there, but I knew if I was going to do one myself, that I would need to find a way to generate all the huge bass tones that are essential to the music I write. The pedal board allows me to do that without having an actual bass player.
RL: I understand you have several guest artists appearing on the new record including Riz Orchestra? How did you meet Riz and who else can we expect to hear on the debut record?
TEREK: When I was out here in 2012 making the first album, I went to Pappy & Harriet’s a few times to eat and check out bands etc. One of the times I was there was for Teddy Quinn’s open mic night on the Monday. I saw Riz get up and play, and was completely floored by the genuine blues and story-telling music that he was improvising in front of me. I approached him after he played and asked if he might like to play some slide on our album, and he said yes. I traveled out to his home in Sky Valley one day with my portable studio setup, and he played slide over a couple of our songs. While I was there with him he suggested I extend my stay and we make some more music together. I ended up renting a house in Desert Hot Springs for a week or so, and we set-up a make shift studio. Riz helped me work on some of the lyrics for the album, as well as playing more slide and other assorted things on the record. Also during that time we worked on five or six pieces of music that are totally separate from Low Fly Incline. We named the project Mutual Theft Society, and will be releasing some of that music in the near future. Other guests on the album include Scott playing bass on one song, and talk-box on another. We also had Steve Shigley from Joshua Tree play metal sculptures, and John Jefferies from Pioneertown tell stories about the desert over one of our longer more atmospheric pieces.
RL: What is the title of the first record you came here and recorded with Scott in 2012?
TEREK: The title of the first album is Other Desert City. I guess that might seem trite to some people, as it is obviously a reference to the ‘other desert cities’ sign that I drove past so much when I was here last time. It’s also the name of one of the songs on the album, and was the only song on the record that was completely written and recorded from scratch in the desert. It seemed fitting.
RL: Are Vinnie The Rune and Burn the Timber going to be included on this new record?
TEREK: Yes both those songs are taken from the first album.
RL: Tell me about your label, Rubber Records. Did they help get you here to do this record?
TEREK: No they didn’t. Rubber Records are the parent label to my own label (Freakshow Disco Productions). I generally put all the recording stuff together myself and they leave me to it. They help out when I get to the point of needing assistance with pressing, distribution and promotion.
RL: What inspired the name, Low Fly Incline?
TEREK: I was loading my equipment out of a venue back home, and I overheard a friend (Redro Redriguez) saying to another friend that his studio was for bands that were “lo-fi inclined”. I just liked the way that sounded, so I played with the wording a little to make it Low Fly Incline.
RL: If this IS your debut record, what is the record you came here and recorded in 2012? I am just a little confused…
TEREK: It is a little confusing. In 2012 I traveled here by myself to make an album of music that I was working on. We weren’t really a band at that point. It was just me making a bunch of noise out in the desert. As soon as I got back to Australia, I teamed up with my good friend (Mad) Mitch McGregor to form a two-piece band that could perform the music I had recorded with Scott. This then became Low Fly Incline, and we have been playing shows regularly around Australia ever since. The first album is just being released now, as there were some delays due to boring record company stuff which I won’t get into here. I am now back in the desert with Mitch, and we will be starting work together with Scott next week on our second album, that probably won’t come out until 2015. We’ll probably do most of the vocals and mixing back in Australia, and finish it properly by the end of the year.
RL: What is it like working with Scott Reeder who has arguably helped shape and define desert rock as both a musician and a producer?
TEREK: It was one of the great music experiences of my life so far. Not only is Scott a great musician, engineer and producer as I’m sure everyone out here is well aware, he is one of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. From the moment I met him, both he and his wife Rene made us feel like friends and family. Coming back here for the second time, it’s not only fun to be working in this environment again, but great to catch up with the good friends I made here last time.
RL: Your website says that we can expect some desert shows while you are here…..where and when?
TEREK: Well that’s kind of an exaggeration really. We’re going to get up and play a few songs at as many of the open mics as possible (Pappy & Harriet’s, The Hood, etc), but we don’t really have any proper shows lined up. We’re keen to play absolutely anywhere and everywhere while we’re here though, so if there are any desert bands reading this that want us to come play with them in the next few weeks, please let us know. Or even if you want to have come set up in your yard and play! We’ll do it!
RL: Tarek, do you do the writing? Or is it a team effort?
TEREK: Mitch helped out with some of the writing on the first album as we were getting started but most of it was me at that point. Now that we are a fully functioning band though, his input is continually a larger part of the writing process. I obviously work more on the lyrics and vocal melodies by myself as I have to perform and sing them, but the newer material we have written, and will be recording over the next few weeks for the second album is very much the product of the two of us playing off each other in the room.
RL: What is the music scene like in Australia?
TEREK: We’re from Melbourne which (for anyone that doesn’t know) is located in furthest south east corner of Australia. The scene there is really active with hundreds or more bands playing in dozens of venues every week. Some of the other cities in Australia are not quite as active, but they all have strong and musically relevant scenes.
Upon closing I would like to say that we desert rock fans welcome bands from all over the world to our desert and look forward to the new LOW FLY INCLINE record with great anticipation. Visit the band at the links below where you can preview tracks from OTHER DESERT CITY. Terek has no idea what he got himself into by stating he will set up anywhere and play. Those of you who know me know I am a shit stirrer and I will probably be working on LFI to get them to preview some of the new material in the live setting before we let them blow out of here and go back home!
RIZ ORKESTRA: https://www.facebook.com/riz.orkestra
SCOTT REEDER/ SUN AND SAIL CLUB: https://www.facebook.com/SunAndSailClub
Visit Robin Linn’s Desert Rhythms to read the digital edition of this feature with videos and links!!!!