LONDON BROIL, PROTEIN FOR THE EARS! ALL THE WAY FROM THE UK TO PS TO RECORD WITH HARPER HUGS AND ARTHUR SEAY AT THUNDER UNDERGROUND RECORDING STUDIO
by Robin Linn
WHAT IS DESERT (STONER) ROCK?
I have examined this question before and I’m sure I will do it again. How does a band from the UK classify themselves as a “desert” stoner rock band? The answer is as simple as it is complex. Europe has embraced and celebrated the music that has erupted from our desert floor on many occasions beginning with Kyuss in the nineties. Their record BLUES FOR THE RED SUN received critical acclaim and earned them hundreds of thousands of fans across the globe and their music still influences bands today coming up in Europe. Queens of the Stone Age, Unida, House of Broken Promises, Vista Chino, Brant Bjork, Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, have all been pivotal in creating a genre that defies geography turning “desert” rock into its own genre rather than a location where music is created. Anything that thrives in the desert has a special mystical beauty. Exotic, sturdy, and able to flower and blossom despite the sandy earth, the soaring temperatures, and the rugged conditions, the music that is created here is unique in many ways. Desert (Stoner) rock is known for its heavy rhythmic structures, distorted, fuzzed out, overdriven guitar and bass tones, and its lack of conventionality. Psychedelic in nature, it has many different faces, influenced by grunge, punk and metal, its creators have the ability to draw from influences, throw away the formula, and create something unique unto itself. STEAK has all of the characteristics of an authentic desert rock band. Though they are from London, they are well versed in producing fuzzed out, psychedelic metallic rock that is greatly influenced by the sounds and vibes of the desert. They are currently here in Palm Springs recording their third record at Thunder Underground Recording Studio and now can throw geography into authenticating the label of desert rock band.
EUROPEAN DESERT ROCK – DESERT FEST (LONDON) 2014
My first introduction to European Desert Rock was via Joerg Steineck who introduced me to Truckfighters, a band from Sweden that creates its own brand of desert stoner rock with fuzzed out perfection. Their highly charged live show is exhilarating to witness and their connections to desert rock that many of us took for granted is inspiring. They are currently on a US tour in support of their latest record, Universe. Over the past decade many of our own desert rock bands have continued to develop or redefine their sounds or simply regrouped. Meanwhile their presence in Europe has remained strong and through records and live performances they have turned desert rock into a genre of its own. While QOTSA has gone on to see great success with number one albums and constant world tours, other bands here in the desert have had a tougher go of it. This isn’t because the music is weak…nor are the musicians playing it. Desert Rock is arguably the most significant contribution to rock music from the U.S. in the last 30 years. Presently the genre is gaining steam and it’s like a locomotive on a downhill slope…it can’t be stopped. The international relationships that have developed as a result of the music that comes out of our desert is strong and desert rock festivals in Europe are a big draw. There is a musical family that has developed as a result of their love and appreciation for the music created on both sides of the sea board. People like Arthur Seay and Harper Hug work hard to keep international relationships strong, while Steak guitarist Reese Tee has assembled a team in London that brings Desert Fest to life each year. It’s a labor of love involving many hard working people who want to keep the torch burning for original hard rock in all its glory.
DESERT FEST (CALIFORNIA) 2015?
Being a die-hard desert rock fan who truly loves the genre of music that originated here, it saddens me deeply that we don’t have a legitimate desert rock festival here IN THE DESERT! It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that the shows I want to see most in the world take place accross the pond, thousands of miles away. It’s down right depressing. I KNOW I can’t be the only fan of desert rock that feels this way. Reese Tee’s Desert Fest is described as “The Uk’s Ultimate Stoner Rock, Doom, Phsyc & Sludge festival”. In April of 2014, the festival will feature: Spirit Caravan, Church of Misery, Master Musicians of Bukake, Elder, Monkey 3, ASG, The Machine, Dragged into Sunlight, The Body, Anciients, Black Rainbows, Arabrot, Slabdragger, War Wolf, Hey Colossus and more. It has now been put on the table that European promoters bring their festival to the California Desert. It’s an idea whose time has come. Imagine all of these great bands in a remote desert location where festival goers can disappear into the music before it disappears again onto the desert horizon. Reese Tee and Arthur Seay are in serious discussions about making my fantasy a reality. Could 2015 be the year of the first REAL DESERT FEST?
DESRT STONER ROCK BAND, STEAK…. BECAUSE MEAT’S MEAT AND A MAN’S GOTTA EAT!
Stoner rock protein for the head, Steak describes their frantic & enthusiastic stoner rock as sparingly tinged with spacey moments of grace, inherited from the legendary Kyuss, Truckfighters and Fu Manchu. The band has a running comic book theme where they exploit sci-fi and comic book imagery with the help of comic artist, Eduardo Ferigato. Their fuzzed out sound and original compositions are heavy metal laced with psychedelic interludes that put your head in the right place. Their love for desert rock is combined with a common passion for Pink Floyd which accounts for their psychedelic approach to hard rock. Still, their named influences shouldn’t suggest they sound like anyone else but themselves. They are fresh, original, and embrace a beautiful attitude about making music together.
Kippa (vocals), Cam (Bass), and Reese (Guitar) founded the band several years ago. When drummer Sammy came to see STEAK perform, he liked what he heard. Still he felt their drummer at the time failed to drive the bus in the right direction to achieve the perfect sound. He was already in two bands at the time, but expressed his desire to bring the music to where he believed it could be. It was an absolute match and the band members fit well together as the music took shape and form like never before. Only a few shows into the new lineup, they were seen by Napalm A&R reps at Desert Fest 2013 and offered a three record deal. With this new record, they knew the sound they are after and thought who better to bring their creative vision to life than producer Harper Hugs who recorded the live Desert Fest 2013? With the support of Steak’s new label, Napalm, they were able to come to Palm Springs where they are currently hard at work in the studio with desert rocker, co-producer Arthur Seay. The record release party is already scheduled for Saturday, September 5th at Borderline in London. It would be so amazing to see Steak in their drippy, balmy London climate belting out the tunes from the album yet unnamed, recorded here in our desert. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
STEAK tries to stay away from sticking to the formulas of any particular genre or influence. They prove this beautifully with their 2012 release, “Corned Beef Colossus” which was recorded and produced by Truckfighters at their bombshelter/recording studio in a remote area of Sweden. Bassist Cam remembers fondly arriving to the shelter in the snow covered forest of Sweden just after midnight and said “it freaked the band out a little”. The resulting record produced such heavy metal psychedelic relics as “Acid Dave” and “The Butcher” which are savory consumption for the hard rock palate. The fuzzed out guitar tones are as much a result of finger expression as pedal expression as Reese deeply explores each idea and pushes it to the outer limits. Sammy is what a metal band wants in a drummer, precise, expansive, dynamic and powerful. The rhythms are heavy and deep and the vocals are gritty and gorgeous. After listening to tracks in the studio at the end of our visit at Thunder Underground, I was left craving more meat! The track I heard was enthralling and exhilarating. Special desert friends dropped in to support Steak in the studio while they have been here. Gary Arce, John Garcia, and Arthur Seay all provide guest performances. I can’t wait for the record to be finished to see how the Palm Springs sunshine and the desert vibe seeps into their sound. I am betting it’s going to be the best STEAK I ever had.
There are some legendary studios in the Coachella Valley and the high desert that have produced some amazing records. Thunder Underground is one of them. Many of the new bands that have recorded there are actually comprised of desert players that have been seminal to the desert music scene. Bands like STEAK who have traveled all the way from the UK have put their creative vision in the hands of Thunder Underground. They have a proven track record producing world class stoner rock, metal, space rock and more. Harper Hug is devoted to making the best record possible. Most of the clients they take on at Thunder Underground are people that they have built relationships with over the years. Trevor credits John Garcia with influencing him to make the move from LA to Palm Springs 4 years ago. Their 20 plus year friendship helped expose Trevor (Whatever) to the amazing music coming out of the desert. John has had an equally impactful relationship with producer Harper Hug. It was at John’s suggestion that Harper go to London to record Desert Fest 2013. The live record offers the best of the best of the UK festival recorded live from the show and then brought home to Thunder Underground where it was mixed, mastered and put onto vinyl. The roster of the bands that have put their music in the hands of Trevor and Harper are: Vista Chino (John Garcia/Brant Bjork), Jesika VonRabbit, Zun (Gary Arce), Mars Red Sky, Unida, Brant Bjork, The Borderliners, Waxy, Mondo Generator, Steak, Nick Oliveri’s solo record (the rough mixes of that record smoke so bad you have to wear a gas mask!), and now John Garcia’s solo record which features a star-studded desert cast of guest characters. The seed planted by John Garcia and Kyuss all those years ago still blossoms today as they continue to inspire another generation of stoner rock bands. They created music that is timeless and at the nucleus of a genre, Desert Rock. Garcia, like so many of our desert’s influential players, still carries the torch for desert rock today. I am waiting with great anticipation for his new solo record.
Find Unida on Facebook at:
Learn more about the historic music contributions of this ONE amazing desert rock band who got the whole ball rolling
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Desert Fest (London) on Facebook:
DESERT FEST 2013 LIVE RECORD
Hell Fest 2014 (The lineup is almost hard to believe and includes Unida and House of Broken Promises!)
Thunder Underground Recording Studio