By Robin Linn
You Know Who is comprised of Mike Pygmie (vocals, guitar), Dylan Brown (bass) and Greg Saenz (drums). All are accomplished musicians and Pygmie and Brown have played in many desert bands going back to the 90s. All are listed in the interview.
In 2008, Brown had been off touring with The Dwarves, a punk rock band that is notorious for stepping far beyond conventional boundaries and for their absolutely wild and crazy stage antics. I have viewed several live Dwarves videos and they are for the most part x-rated punk rock riots that are not for the faint of heart. Brown came back from The Dwarves road experience with a lot more than just crazy memories…..he met a musical brother in drummer Greg Saenz. Together Saenz and Brown unite and form one hell of a rhythm section that is both fierce and focused.
Pygmie has carved a name out for himself as a guitar player that thinks outside the box capable of delivering inspired live sets of scorching guitar work in several musical situations. Touring with Brant Bjork and The Operators, and currently with Mondo Generator, has opened doors and paved the way for his own project, You Know Who. This trio has found their own voice and created a sound that is fresh and exciting.
It was at a packed house at The Hood in February that I finally was able to experience YKW. The lineup of bands was fabulous and included Brain Vat and headliners, Mondo Generator. Pygmie pulled a double that night as he played in both his own project YKW and performed lead guitar duties with MG. A special guest appearance that night by Brian Maloney (legendary guitarist from desert band, Unsound) with Mondo Generator made for an unforgettable night of live music. All three bands were inspiring and You Know Who just blew me straight away. Part of the attraction is the progressive nature and the complex structure of the songs coupled with the raw spirited punk delivery as the ideas unfold. Every song in the set was memorable and the live show was top shelf.
Saenz summons up the hard rock godz with his unrelenting force and precision. These are not 3 chord rock tunes they are ripping off. They are clearly defined and complex riff driven songs that require focused attention and discipline. They are unafraid to take a complex guitar line for an exciting ride. Brown doesn’t just lay down the bottom, he carries the same complicated riffs and delivers them with intensity. Songs like “Recycler” take the listener through various movements, time signatures, and emotions featuring raw driving rhythms while inducing a feeling of absolute freedom. It is easy to slip into a psychedelic head space while being enveloped by YKWs live set! It’s great songwriting, plain and simple, by amazing players that have something to say. They execute idea after idea with an intense surge of energy and their sense of composition is extraordinary. To pull them off with such ease and still produce a raw hotbed of primal emotion is no easy task. Together YKW does it all off beautifully and puts a capital P in Power Trio.
Brown mailed me a demo of the songs that they are presently recording in the studio and it sizzles from start to finish! I have listened to it again and again out of sheer love for the material. Songs like “Napoleon Blownapart”, “Marshall Stacks”, “Recycler”, “Whoa Dude”, and “You Know What” are each special in their own unique way. “Save Me Jebus” explores the possibilities of being too late to seek redemption while the sleazy ripping guitar riffs wildly force you to face your own demons. Bands who are able to reproduce that intense live energy and capture the magic on record are rare. YKW manages the task effortlessly. They have forged ahead and encapsulated the mood altering effects of their ferocious live set in the studio. This band is special. They reek of the desert in my opinion and to me that means they embrace the spirit of all that is wild and unruly and translate it into live performance art.
Here is my interview with You Know Who.
RL: Tell me a bit about your earlier music projects?
DYLAN: I started in CRACKPOT in ’93. Played for FAMILY BUTCHER ’02-’05. Played and toured with THE DWARVES in ’08.
MIKE: I started off playing in my first band MELODIOUS PYGMIES at age 13. That’s where the name Mike Pygmie came from. Brant Bjork played drums with us after he left KYUSS and used to call me that and it stuck. I played guitar with my bros in THE AGENTS after that. I also played played drums in the PEDESTRIANS. Then played guitar and drums in BRANT BJORK & THE OPERATORS. Then I toured and played guitar in BRANT & THE BROS. I left to start playing my own music and formed the band The WHIZARDS. That’s where I played guitar and sang. Soon after the Whizards broke up my drummer and I met up with some of our friends from LA and we all formed a new band called INVITRO. We took off fast selling out shows at the Roxy and other Southern California clubs. We started touring nationally after we signed with Gridiron Records. After a good run we broke up and I concentrated on writing and recording my own music & playing drums with my favorite desert metal heads Whiznfyrebutchenkreped. Soon after that Greg and Dylan contacted me and I slipped them a copy of the CD I was working on. We started jamming those tunes and became You Know Who. I currently also tour & play lead guitar in MONDO GENERATOR.
GREG: My first band was EXCEL, from Venice/Los Angeles, back in 1986, a crossover-punk band that made records for Suicidal Records and Caroline Records. The band has loyal fans to this day, and our records are considered classics in the underground thrash/punk genre. I left Excel in ’92 to ride the grunge/alternative wave in a band called MY HEAD. We eventually signed with Capitol Records and made one (as in 1) great record that got lost somewhere between Everclear and Luscious Jackson, but that’s another story. It was a blast! We toured and had cash, but it didn’t last. We disbanded in ’97. I laid low for a few years until I toured and recorded with THE DWARVES in 2000, but I left before the year was up because the band was still, uhm, “unpredictable” back then. I joined The Dwarves again in 2007 for a grand tour of Europe playing festivals. I have been a constant member ever since.
RL: How do you feel making music in the desert affects your sound and your psyches?
MIKE: I think no matter who you are or where you’re from your surroundings are gonna have an effect on whatever you do but how it affects me is hard to say. In hindsight however, it is very clear how much growing up in the desert scene has had an impact on me. Growing up being a guitar player of course, I was influenced by Hendrix and Zappa, but the biggest influences were Mario Lalli and Brian Maloney. The list goes on and on of great players and awesome bands that you could see on any given weekend. It was the excitement of the live shows that made we want to practice my instrument all night when I would get home. And especially because of Rhythm and Brews (Mario Lalli’s club in Indio back in the late nineties) I was exposed to a tremendous amount of incredible music at a very impressionable time of my life. It made me realize at a very early age that I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up.
RL: How did you guys hook up with Greg Saenz?
GREG: I moved to the desert in ’99 and Mike was the first person I jammed with, above the flower shop. Arthur Seay hooked us up. We jammed a few times, but I ended up in The Dwarves a few months later. Mike called me a few years later when his band The Whizards needed a drummer, but I was unavailable at the time, or just out of practice, I don’t recall. Mike and I kept in touch periodically over many years until we finally got together as a band.
I met Dylan at The Village Lounge in Palm Desert sometime in ’05 while he was still playing bass with the infamous Family Butcher. At the time, I was playing in a brilliant band called VEGA with Damon Garrison of Slo-Burn/Brave Black Sea, Jamie Hargate from The Hellions, and Joseph Wangler from Dali’s Llama. Dylan played bass in Vega for a few shows, and I really wanted to jam with him again, so flash forward to 2008 when I am once again in The Dwarves, and we need a bass player to go to Europe…Dylan, of course! When Dylan and I got back to the desert after that tour, we were a shit-hot rhythm section and wanted to form a band, and I knew just the guy to call….
RL: Will you be releasing the record yourselves? Or shopping it around a bit?
MIKE: I’ll be curious to see what happens with it. At this point in time I think we just need to make the right record and everything will fall into place. Whether it’s in the form of a record deal or the three of us selling records at our shows we’ll find a way to get it to the people who want to hear it.
RL: Who does the songwriting?
DYLAN: Mostly Mike. I come up with riffs here and there.
MIKE: A lot of the songs in our current set are off of the CD I gave the dudes when we first got together. We have fine-tuned them as a group and really found our groove as collaborators on the newer stuff.
RL: Where do the ideas for lyrics come from?
DYLAN: My lyrics come from problems I see.
MIKE: For me it can come from anywhere. I always write the lyrics after the music so there’s time to soak in whatever the song is about. I think the music will tell you what to write about. Whatever the sounds make you feel or think about, then that’s what it is.
RL: What is the song “Recycler” about?
MIKE: Recycler was the working title for that track long before it had lyrics because of the repeating or “recycled” pattern in the beginning and end of the song. And the lyrics follow the same theme. It’s about the feeling of living the same day over and over, living in the past and searching for something new, exciting and meaningfully. Then when you get there you realize it’s the same as before and continue searching.
RL: What are your plans for 2014/15?
DYLAN: To finish the record and tour.
MIKE: To make as much noise as we possibly can…..that would make me happy!
RL: (I also asked Dylan how skating has influenced him as a musician)
DYLAN: Skating has influenced my music tremendously. Skating has always been closely connected to punk music and that is where most of my musical influences came from….the skate punk scene.
In closing I wish to say that You Know Who is a band that we get the privilege of experiencing right here at home while they work to get the next level. With the careers the three members have already embarked upon, it isn’t a stretch to imagine them off and outta here in the year to come. With imaginative music tightly prepared, coupled with their fiery live show, they shouldn’t have any problem reaching their goals in 2014. I feel honored to get to be at the edge of such amazing music in its early production. I will keep you posted as to the release of the record they are finishing up now and Phil’s Club Crawler and the CVW will let you know when you can next see YOU KNOW WHO!
Find the band on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/youknowwhomusic