By Tracy Dietlin
Josh Heinz is one of the best musicians in the CV. He is a prolific songwriter, soulful vocalist and passionate performer. Heinz moved here from Memphis back in the early 2000’s and started the band Dufreign. He currently is the frontman, vocalist and songwriter for the band Blasting Echo and plays guitar in 5th Town, both bands also include his lovely wife Linda Lemke-Heinz.
Heinz and his bands have been nominated for a slew of CV Music Awards over the last several years and won Best Rock Band in 2016. Heinz and his wife have also produced the successful Annual Concert for Autism benefit for the last 10 years and won the award at this year’s CV Music Awards for Best Live Music Event. They are gearing up for this year’s benefit which will take place on Nov. 2 & 3 at The Tack Room Tavern in Indio. Both Josh and Linda have children on the Autism spectrum from previous marriages as does bandmate Mondo Flores. So this benefit is very personal to all of them and they work tirelessly to make it a bigger success every year.
Heinz took time out from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.
CVW: You perform in 2 bands: Blasting Echo and 5th Town. Tell us how each of those is different from the other and what it means to you to work with these musicians.
Josh Heinz: “Blasting Echo is kind of like my baby. I’m writing all the lyrics, so the songs have special meanings to me, and that’s why I get so intense when we play. It’s very therapeutic. It’s my release. It sounds cliché, but it is something I need and have to do for my mind, body and soul.
For me, 5th Town is very relaxed and fun. I don’t have to sing and be out front. I can just play. It’s also a good challenge because I’m playing with such great players. Playing in this band has made, and continues to make me, improve as a musician.
We are very lucky to be playing with people that you not only get along with musically, but have genuine love and friendship with. Certainly Linda, Mondo and I have had that in Blasting Echo for almost 10 years now. Fortunately, when Joe joined the band, he fit in to that mindset. We all have a belief in the songs and in the moments when the songs are being played. We support each other in those moments to try and deliver the songs honestly and intently. We aren’t perfect, but we strive to be because of that belief. With 5th Town it is the same. You are playing with people you genuinely love and enjoy being around. It makes for a fun, caring environment without egos. You are just together to make the songs the best they can be.”
CVW: You’re originally from Memphis. How is the music scene her different from there?
Heinz: “Hard to say what it’s like now for sure. I can only speak to the time I was seriously playing out in the band I was in, Wyndom Earle. This was mostly in a 6 year period from ‘96 to ’01. Certainly in a big city like that there were a lot more bars, clubs, venues, etc. But there were also a lot more bands, so it gets a little bit more competitive. We were a band that primarily lived in the suburbs of Memphis. We didn’t hang out with our peers and other bands as much as we should have. It was only in the last couple of years where we started to. Even myself, there were bands I really loved, but I didn’t go see them every time they played. There were pockets in Memphis where a lot of musicians lived – midtown, some parts of downtown, the Cooper-Young district. We didn’t run in those circles much. Had we, I think it would have benefitted us. I think people might have heard of the band Wyndom Earle, but they didn’t know us personally.
The desert is completely different. Here you don’t have many places to go see original live music. Right now original rock bands – and anything heavier – have only The Hood – and that is very, very sad. The desert though has such a positive, family vibe. The majority of bands out here support each other. We want to see good things happen to each other. We support each other. And because we are so small we see each other more often. We attend the same events. Kids go to the same schools. It is just a tighter, close knit group. I really enjoy that.”
CVW: Tell us about some of your recent shows that are standouts for you?
Heinz: “My birthday show at the end of May was great because both bands played, so I got to enjoy playing in both situations.”
CVW: What is your songwriting process like?
Heinz: “It varies. I never know when it will happen. Sometimes I’ll hear a melody and then I’ll transfer that to guitar and go from there. I would say most of the time I’ll be playing guitar and just by noodling around, or making a mistake, I’ll come up with something that I like and then write lyrics to it. Occasionally I’ll have the one that writes itself in 30 minutes, but that is rare. Most of the songs in Blasting Echo we collaborate on. I may come up with a verse or a chorus, and then the band works together to finish it off. I never sit down and say ‘Today I’m going to write a song.’ Instead I say, ‘I’m going to play my guitar’ and just see where it takes me.”
CVW: Which song are you most proud to say you wrote?
Heinz: “Hmm… Can’t really narrow it down to one. Here are a few. “It’s Not My Time,” “Lessons,” “Closure,” “Fighting Back the Tears,” “Begin Again,” “Sunburn in the Shade,” “The Light.” These are songs that mean a ton to me or I’ve been approached by people who say they mean a lot to them.”
CVW: Which song do you most enjoy performing?
Heinz: “Right now Blasting Echo has a couple of new ones that we are really enjoying – “It Breaks” and “Not Righteous Yet.” They are both heavy. One slow with a pounding groove; the other driving and tough.”
CVW: What are your favorite venues to play?
Heinz: “I enjoy playing the Tack Room a lot. I like playing in the open air environment. The Date Shed is great. We haven’t played there though in a while. I enjoy playing The Hood. Again, it is the only venue here that original rock bands have to play on a consistent basis. We need another one. I miss Schmidy’s.”
CVW: What has been the most important moment of your career so far?
Heinz: “Meeting Jeff Fortson and then him and Rob Peterson taking me to Mondo’s studio to jam. We were looking for a drummer to start Blasting Echo. Rob was living in L.A. and he was just going to do us a favor and play with us for the 2nd benefit. Jeff had known Mondo from back in the old Lung Cookie and Pucks days. I knew him in passing from Dufreign doing shows with B Movie Superstars, but I had never hung out with him. He was cool with letting us jam at his place. A week later we needed to try out another drummer and Mondo said we could use his studio again. After that jam the potential drummer left. We knew it wasn’t the right fit. Jeff, Mondo and I sat outside his place talking when Mondo says, ‘Hey guys, I don’t know if you know this, but I don’t just play bass. I’ve always fooled around on the drums. I kind of like what you guys are writing. Oh, and both my boys are on the Autism spectrum.’ Jeff and I just stared at each other and grinned.”
CVW: How do you define success in the music business?
Heinz: “I would define success in the music business as being able to make a living recording and playing your own original music.”
CVW: Who are your influences?
Heinz: “Pearl Jam, U2, Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, NIN, Weezer, Springsteen, Petty, Cash, Midnight Oil, The Who, The Beatles, The Doors, Heart, Neil Young, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden.”
CVW: What music/bands are you listening to right now?
Heinz: “Right now I’m listening a lot to the recordings done by the guys at The Shop of last year’s benefit. They recorded one song from each band. So I’m listening to the first mixes. I’m enjoying hearing everyone.”
CVW: Who would you most like to open for?
Heinz: “Obviously Pearl Jam. But I don’t see that happening anytime. One can dream.”
CVW: Who do you most respect in the music business?
Heinz: “I don’t know many people that are officially in the ‘business’. From our local scene I respect a lot of people, but the ones I respect the most are Zach and Erica Huskey of Dali’s Llama. They have been making records their own way, DIY, for over 20 years. They just keep doing it and I think that is awesome.”
CVW: What do you think are the biggest challenges musicians are facing today with the digital platforms?
Heinz: “The death of a full album bums me out and the death of people wanting to own a physical copy of a record bums me out. Most consumers these days just want to rip an MP3 and leave it at that. So you can’t really make money off of physical sales.”
CVW: How do you feel the CV Music scene has changed over the last 10 years?
Heinz: “It’s changed a lot. For a while, back then, and maybe before, you had The Red Barn and Village Lounge just down the corner. And they both had original music. You could go out on a weekend and enjoy bands at both bars. There isn’t anything like that here now. Certainly the variety of music has grown. And that’s good.”
CVW: Who would you pick for your 3 headliners for next year’s Coachella?
Heinz: “I don’t necessarily have an opinion on that, but what I would love to see would be a small tent that would feature all local acts. I think that would be a great thing to do seeing as Goldenvoice profits from holding their festival here and we have so many great bands.”
CVW: We’ll do another interview on just the benefit, but how are things coming along with this year’s Annual Concert for Autism?
Heinz: “Going well. This is the earliest I have ever started working on it. We’ve already been contacted by people that want to donate for silent auction/raffle items, as well as some new media outlets that want to help us spread the word. We are actually having our first team meeting about sound/lights/logistics, etc. tonight. If anyone would like more info on the event they can go to www.concertforautism.com.”
CVW: What did it mean for you to win the CV Music Award for Best Live Music Event this year?
Heinz: “Very thankful. It was awesome that the valley recognized us for that. We try to put on a quality show with a diverse group of talented musicians and bands to make it interesting to a wide variety of people. I guess that means that people enjoy the show. Hopefully they will tell friends before the next one and they’ll bring out more people, which translates into more money being raised for the kids. The award really belongs to the people that work hard behind the scenes for free, all simply because they believe in the cause.”
11th Annual Concert for Autism
November 2 & 3 at The Tack Room Tavern in Indio, CA
For more info go to www.concertforautism.com
Photos By: Laura Hunt Little