“The Road to Rancho” with Dave Catching

By Lisa Morgan

Whenever I get a personal nudge from Brandon Ray Henderson, the Live Music Manager/Promoter for The Hood Bar, I have learned to pay attention. It inevitably and consistently pays off. Such was the case this past month, when he let me know there was a band from South Africa he thought I’d find interesting. It was the end of an insanely exhausting week for me, full of events and day jobs that had literally taken most of what I had in me to get through it. I dragged myself into The Hood thinking I would give this band a quick listen, while enjoying a slice of their famous pizza that was as big as my head, and then quietly sneak off to the bed that was calling my name.
When I walked in, Brandon immediately introduced me to Dave Catching, co-owner and founder of The Rancho De La Luna recording studio in Joshua Tree, one of the most influential and historical studios in California, if not the nation. Catching himself, has had his hands all over a lot of incredible music: He has played guitar for well-known hard rock bands Eagles of Death Metal, Queens of the Stone Age, Tex and the Horseheads, The Ringling Sisters, earthlings?, Mondo Generator and the Masters of Reality. He is also a member of Yellow#5, and the Gnarltones. Catching has also been associated with the desert country rock band, Smith & Pyle. He contributed to their debut album It’s OK to be Happy that was recorded at Rancho de la Luna and released in 2008. And this, my friends, is the short list. This night, Dave was at The Hood to spin music from his mind blowing collection of vinyl, while introducing the latest group to record at his historic, desert studio – Red Huxley.
When the band came on and played their first song, I knew it was going to be a long night. There was no way I was going to be able to pry myself from this grungy, Dave-Grohl-esque, hard driving, raw music that was infusing me with a thrilling second wind. The sound was amazingly fat for a simple three piece, much attributed to the skillful guitar styling and melodic bass lines pouring through the amplifiers. The drummer was insanely disciplined yet powerful through his finesse of dynamics and obvious good training. At one point he performed a drum roll during a song that all but hummed as smoothly as a voice. On top of all of this, rang the clear strong vocals of the guitar player, that were being produced from what seemed to be the soles of his feet, up through his heart and out onto the mic. Coupled by a vocal blend with the bass player that is usually only found among siblings, I was completely won. This was a band passionately in love with their craft, having risked everything to be right here, in America, recording at the historic Rancho de la Luna studio and playing for a crowd that truly “got” their music.
Red Huxley is Dylan Jones on vocals and guitar, Matthew Pullen on bass and back vocals, and Murray Stephenson on drums. I got to meet this powerful, rock trio from South Africa back stage, and found three of the most gracious future headliners, anyone could ever meet. I asked guitar/vocalist, Dylan Jones, what their story was. “Last summer, we were lucky enough to go backstage at ‘One Night in Cape Town’ and meet one of our favorite bands of all time – The Eagles of Death Metal. We were listening to a radio interview and they were giving away a chance to meet the band. We called in and won! We had to go for it! We gave the guitarist, Dave Catching, our EPK and a four song EP and asked if he would like to produce our debut album.”
Dave told me about meeting these “kids” for the first time: “I don’t let just anybody come to the studio. But they seemed like such a nice group of guys, I said, ‘Sure’, not really expecting to hear from them again. They would have to pull together a lot of money to record on top of travel expenses.” Little did Dave know that the band set out immediately to raise the money, determined to make this dream come true. “In need of cold hard capital to get our arses over there, we turned to Kickstarter, the crowdsourcing community. In March 2013, after a series of videos and lots of hard work, we reached our target, and raised the needed $25, 000 (US) that we would need to get over and record.”
Once here, at the studio, the band tracked 15 songs, chose eleven of the best of them, and saved four songs for the next project. “This whole experience has been absolutely nuts for us,” said Dylan. Attesting to the magic that seems to come up from the soul of the earth in Joshua Tree and the Rancho Del Luna studio, Dylan shared how he found himself so inspired, he wrote what the band feels is one of the best songs on the album. “I’ve never written that quickly before in my life. Every morning I would wake up and my brain would start singing. I love this place.”
Looking toward the future, Dylan said, “Financially we’re going to struggle, but we’re definitely going to make a plan to get out of South Africa, because there’s really no longevity for a rock band there. It’s a serious issue in the country. The radio stations will play a lot of American pop like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. They’ll play some indie music, but for rock bands to get on the air, you have to write something real easy and commercial. We’re limited in places to play in Cape Town and the vicinity. Even if you travel, there’s maybe just two other places to play in the country. We did have our own MTV type channel that showed our music videos at one time. They literally got shut down due to lack of interest. It seems like it is just getting harder and harder to be heard. No one in South Africa is able to do music full time. I’m a waiter. I went to school and became a mechanical engineer, but I quit my job because I really wanted to do this. Mathew works a full time job at a marketing company and Murray is a zoologist. We’re just going to work our asses off, and try and get overseas again as soon as possible. We are just a small independent little South African band, and we’re really hoping this album will help us go places.”
The band and their surrounding supporters have done a hell of a job documenting and making the most out of Red Huxley’s adventure to America. You can watch well done videography and photography of what they call, “The Road to Rancho” on their website, redhuxley.com, further immortalizing Dave Catching, the Rancho de la Luna studio and all the other artists who are now part of its unique and magical, musical history. You can also follow Red Huxley on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/redhuxleyband.