The Hum: Absynth Q released


I was thinking about what I might write about the Hum this week when I received at Facebook message from Michael Simon “Tofu” Schwartz, the soundman who also plays drums for Absynth Quartet.

“Can we talk about the new AQ CD release?” he wondered.

“Sure,” I replied. I’d actually messaged the band earlier with a question based on the title of their new release, “What Do All These Knobs And Switches Do?” but no one had responded. I mentioned this when I ran into Tofu at the Tom Rush show at the Old Steeple, so he was basically catching up.

“This is the first one with just the Quartet,” Tofu began. The fact that what had previously been a quintet and now has renamed themselves to become a quartet is actually quite significant.


I’ve been following the fortunes of the various members of Absynth for more than a decade, through several albums that included a changing lineup.

The original core was three string players: Ian Davidson on banjo, Ryan Roberts on guitar and Chris “Bird” Jowaisas on mandolin. A bass/drums rhythm section filled the bottom. Tofu and bassist John Ludington joined a few years ago.

The last AQ disc was Telepathy with Glowbugs, released in 2014. Since then Bird left the band. He wrote almost all the songs on Telepathy, aside from two songs by John, and one, a gypsyish waltz called “Drago’s Valse,” written by Ryan and Bird. His departure was difficult for all concerned.

This time out as the knobs turned on the new record?   

“John wrote most of the songs, but Ian has one and Ryan has two,” said Tofu. “We recorded this whole album at Ryan’s studio in Arcata, slowly over two years.”


The band did not give me an advance listen, so I’m not certain how it all turned out, but John’s role should change things considerably. I always felt Mr. Ludington’s quirky songs add a different flavor, something that was not utilized to its full potential. He can add a twisted twist to the classic AQ “fire-breathing indie grass” formula that takes things in a new direction. For example we have the first “single”:

Absynth Quartet – Shores of Turpentine from Neeti Fidurko on Vimeo.

So, what exactly ARE all those buttons and knobs for?

“One knob is for irony. We dial in the presence while switching between the past and the future,” said Tofu.

And how much do electronics play into the sound?

“All three of the string players use a vast, yet tasteful array of pedals and effects to shape our sound. Some add sustain, while others, like the pink bunny, are a sort of probability engine that is still being tested.”


Does he employ any electro fx? Ian plays a space age “banjo” that probably goes beyond pink bunnies, and there’s that “array” of effects.

How do you fit in drum wise?

“I am the last acoustic instrument in the band, an acoustic stringband, no less 😀

At what point did you join the quintet? “Ryan and Ian and I started jamming in the late ’90s with some others. I joined the band in 2005, just after they released Flying Baby Swing. John joined in 2010, just after we’d finished IOTA.” They’ve come a long way (baby).

At Humbrews Friday Diggin Dirt will open the show. “They have become a super tight funk band, with killer vocals and arrangements,” said Tofu, and I agree, indeed, very funky.

AQ guests that night include John’s special friend Andrea Zvaleko singing on one song, with Tim Lane from Likwifi on another.

Also, “The horns from Digging Dirt will join us for a few tunes, as will their drummer, Joey. We worked out something special on the drums.”

I’m sure the whole thing will special. Can’t make to Arcata?

“FYI we will be livestreaming video of the event with three cameras and a soundboard feed.”


Very cool. I may see you there…

More things to do over the weekend? Coming soon…

Tom Rush has no regrets…


Fall is here and the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love is officially over, and with it the little jump in interest about the hippie era, which was in some ways was already coming to an end in 1967. Shortly after that time my hippie sister and her hippie boyfriend stopped renting their Victorian apartment in the Haight and took off on a trip in their VW van looking to join the fabled back-to-the-land movement.

While they were exploring the North Coast, they left a box of record albums with me. I was living in the ‘burbs with my folks, and absorbing new music all over, with my FM radio tuned to the underground station, and taking occasional trips to the Fillmore, the Avalon and Golden Gate park for historic concerts.

Tom Rush - The Circle Game. Elktra Asylum 7401B-2. 1968(89)

That box of albums contained some real treasures. I discovered the Jim Kweskin Band and others from the East Coast music scene, in particular the Boston folkies, among them Tom Rush, a singer/songwriter who had a warm and friendly voice and an attitude that matched.

On his first (eponymous) record he mixed songs from the public domain with some by bluesman and a couple by Woody Guthrie. His next albums showed him to be a master at discovering new songwriting talent, first by including the work of James Taylor, Jackson Browne and Jesse Winchester, then Joni Mitchell, whose “The Circle Game” was the title track on his third record.

Introducing the song back in 1968, before she had released her own version on Ladies of the Canyon, Joni noted, “This is a song that’s been recorded by a couple of friends of mine, so maybe you know it a little better than the other ones.” Those friends were Tom Rush and Judy Collins, who had an ever bigger hit with it. 

The song was part of a song cycle on Tom’s record, a tale of a failing love affair that ends with a fine song he wrote himself, “No Regrets.” I imagined it was a song that spoke to my breakup with a teenage crush, but truth is I was really too young for those feelings.


I promise you’ll hear that one when Tom comes to Ferndale for a show Wednesday (Oct. 4) at the Old Steeple, (aka Ferndale Music Company), an excellent venue where I’m becoming a regular. I know we’ll hear some new stuff since Tom has a new record in the works via a Kickstarter-type funding site PledgeMusic.comPretty sure there are a few tickets left. Check it out. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Merle sings us back home…


It was a sunny morning in 2004, country music icon Merle Haggard was at his home near Lake Shasta, a place he calls Shade Tree Manor.  I called Merle to talk about a show he had coming up at the Eureka Theater. The hot topic on TV the night before was the 40th anniversary of the Beatles appearing on Ed Sullivan.

What have you been up to lately?

I’m fixin’ to go out on another tour; it’s what I’ve been doing for 40 years, since exactly the same time The Beatles came to America. I was already out there playing.

Do you remember where you were playing back then?

Sure, I was playing around Southern California. It was just before I put the band together in ’65. I was workin’ what you call one-nighters – just myself and a bass player, doing clubs in the Southern California area, which in those days were many. What you have now, you have one club in Los Angeles, the Crazy Horse. Well, there was about 40 or 50 Crazy Horses, clubs in every town from San Diego all the way to Seattle. It was all open territory for me, and that was what I was doing, I was jobbing those clubs.

The title track on your latest record, Haggard Like Never Before, is about longing for home. It leads me to believe you’d just as soon be at Shade Tree Manor instead of “singing in a honky tonk, working for the door.” With all the records you’ve made, I’d think you’d never have to get out from under those trees again.

I don’t have to go out on the road, except to keep my 67-year-old body useful. It has to be used–and the only thing I know how to do is what I’m doin’. If I don’t do that, then I sit here and deteriorate–osteoporosis becomes a killer. I’m 67 years old and I was supposed to be dead two years ago, according to the stats and all that. I don’t listen to the doctors.

Do you have anything in particular in mind for this coming trip out to the coast? Is it part of a longer tour?

Well, we do certain sections of the United States each year. The dates in California are places we hit on an annual basis. [Eureka is] a job we could play about once a year. Those are valuable to me; I don’t live in Nashville and there’s not many places you can drive to within 500 miles, so you can be home the next night. I have about 5,000 miles on my ass every trip that nobody else hears about because I choose to live out on this end of the country and work. The center of the country is probably where I should be. But Eureka is close by. You know I lived over there one time for a couple of months. I worked in an Arcata plywood factory.

So it’s really true. I have a friend who worked in the mills. He said that was the legend: that you worked here when you were on the lam.

Yeah, they arrested me in Arcata. I was 18 years old. They came out, I was pulling green chain at the plywood mill there.

Had you skipped out on bail or something?

They’d put me on a road camp. They gave me 90 days for petty theft and it was all a misunderstanding. I was running an honest junk dealership and I got into it with a guy who had some junked cars out in the middle of nowhere, no fences, no signs, nothin’.

I had three men workin’ for me out there; we’d been out there three days carrying this goddamn bunch of old junk somebody had thrown down a ravine, and the police came down on me. I looked up, it was about noon, we were all stripped to the waist, working our asses off hauling this iron. They come down and told us we were on private property and I’d been stealing their shit for a year.

I said, `Does it look like I’m out here stealing stuff? I’ve got a goddamn bunch of guys hired’ and the cop said, `It’s true, there’s no sign that says this is private property.’

The guy [who owned the property] said, `I don’t have to have any goddamn signs.’ He said, `I want these people arrested.’ I told the guy I`d return everything I`d taken. I said I did not intend to be a thief, that’s why I was out there working at noon. He didn’t care.

So they arrested me and I went to jail for 90 days, and I was really pissed, `cause I really hadn’t done anything. It was a really big deal in my life. I went to jail and got sent out to a road camp; I just didn’t stay. I was there about five days, then I left and caught a ride with a guy coming north. I wound up in Arcata working in that plywood factory.

And they tracked down the wanted man?

They came in there and handcuffed me, threw me down spread eagle, then took me away. Once again they came in and arrested me when I was workin’. That was two, three times in a row. What if I’d been trying to do something wrong? That was one of the reasons Ronald Reagan gave me an unconditional complete pardon for everything I was charged with. That was an unusual thing for a man my age, `specially because the celebrity factor was working against me.

I suppose since you wrote a number of songs about your misdeeds, they could take your songbook and read it in court as evidence.

When reading through my record, you can find in there that I was never represented; I was railroaded again and again. All I ever did was grow up too quick. I was always going to work somewhere and somebody’d come arrest me. (He laughs.)

And you really did turn 21 in prison.

I really did. And it was a shock to me. That was not where I wanted to be at 21. (Laughs even louder.) There seemed to be a period in my life where it was just out of control; nobody could’ve changed it. It was like somebody was purposely causing these things to occur so I`d have something to write about. If it wasn’t for the cops and ex-wives, what would a guy have to write songs about?

We lost a great one today. Fare thee well, Merle. Thanks for all the songs…

interview by Bob Doran – 2003

Dan Hicks

Hot Licks and more…


While you would not necessarily call Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks a jazz band, Dan Hicks was booked at the Redwood Coast Jazz Festival in 2005 when I interviewed him. Mr. Hicks was certainly a jazzy guy, and he has always instilled his catchy acoustic tunes with elements of jazz.

“I’m hard to categorize,” said Hicks, when I called him at his home in lovely Marin County. “The categories don’t cover me. We play all kinds of things. If you have a radio station that says, ‘Oh, yeah, we play everything,’ then I get to be on that station.”

Hicks began his musical life as a sixth grader drumming in the school band in Santa Rosa where he was raised. “And I was in the high school marching band,” he recalled. He also played big band tunes in the school dance band. “My high school band teacher helped me get into jazz. We’d do jam sessions at noontime: He played piano and we had a bass player. He was a good mentor.”

When he graduated from Montgomery High in 1959, rock ‘n’ roll was going strong, but he says he preferred swing music. “I liked Benny Goodman better than I liked Ricky Nelson.”

A few years later as the ’60s turned psychedelic, he found himself attending San Francisco State, living in the city. “By that time I was playing guitar, playing around the city, doing my folk thing; I’d go to hootenannies and stuff. I had a few actual gigs playing all kinds of different folk tunes, “San Francisco Bay Blues,” a few of my own songs, but not a lot, maybe one or two. I was a folk-nik.”

A short foray into rock came when he met the members of The Charlatans, a bluesy outfit based in the Haight-Ashbury district in need of a drummer.

Was he a hippy? “If I had to put a label on it, I go more for hipster. I guess I might have been in the hippy movement there: I had long hair. I was in a rock band, one of the bands that played the halls. I took LSD. I smoked a little bit of marijuana. I lived right on Haight and Ashbury. I don’t know, maybe if it walks like a duck… But hipster is more like it.”

Playing drums with The Charlatans afforded him a few opportunities to present his own material and he still performed solo gigs. “I had my single act thing going with a guitar and eventually I expanded that. I added bass and violin, then added the girl singers, then another guitar. I thought of it as a folk act.”

The band borrowed elements of Gypsy jazz, a la Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli’s Hot Club of Paris, adding jazzy swing-style vocal parts to add color and body to original, often sardonic songs penned by Dan.

“I liked it better than The Charlatans,” said Hicks. “I could sing lead, I was writing my own songs. I could hear the singing; it wasn’t a loud thing. Ralph Gleason [the late music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle] wrote a good review at one point when I did kind of a debut in the city, so I decided to get out of The Charlatans and go with the Hot Licks thing.”


[photo by Herb Greene]

The timing was good. Music fans of the day were open to new sounds. And it was a period when San Francisco rock was a hot commodity. “Big companies were coming in signing groups. It was the happening thing. Epic Records showed up with a couple of guys. They saw us perform and arrangements were made to be on that label.”

The eponymous Dan Hick and His Hot Licks was recorded in Los Angeles in 1969. More albums followed after a switch to the Blue Thumb label. The band was going strong, but Hicks was not happy.

“I was tired of being a band leader. Personalities started getting kind of bitchy. I felt like I’d created a monster, so I just said this thing is over with. ‘That gig we have in Sacramento next week, that’ll be our last gig,’ I said, said I. That’s what happened.”

Hicks hit the club circuit again almost immediately playing with a smaller group that eventually took the name Dan Hicks and the Acoustic Warriors. “People always wanted to know ‘Where were the girls?’ and all this stuff. It didn’t stop [even though] I think I played a lot longer with the Acoustic Warriors than I did with the Hot Licks.”

Then, around the turn of the century, he agreed to revive the Hot Licks. “I had a friend who knew this guy who had a record company. I guess he was a fan of the Hot Licks when he was a kid; now he owns a record company, the Surfdog label. He kind of talked me into using the girls again, using the name, Hot Licks, again. I balked at it at first. I’d kind of been there, done that. I thought the Hot Licks means a certain personnel, but not really — it could be anyone. So I put it together slowly, tried a couple of girls for some local gigs. I always liked the full sound with the girls and that instrumentation. I guess I warmed to the idea — and I kept going.”

In 2001, the revitalized Hot Licks released Beatin’ the Heat, a mix of old material and new with cameos by Bette Midler, Rickie Lee Jones, Tom Waits and Brian Setzer. That was followed by a live disc and a DVD recorded on his 60th birthday with just about everybody he’d ever played with taking turns on stage. Selected Short came next, a collection of new Hicks songs written with the same ironic attitude as his work from the ’70s, this time with guests including Willie Nelson and Jimmy Buffett.

It’s hard to say whether or not he is glad to be playing with a reborn Hot Licks band. His dry humor is hard to read over the phone. “People associated me with the Hot Licks name all the time, so I didn’t really have too much trouble going back to the name,” he said. “It’s my name anyway. I’m doing some of the old songs of course. And I’m doing new stuff too, that’s for sure. They’re good songs, so why not?”

Why not indeed. His band delighted the audience at the jazz fest in 2005, when I talked to him. He kept on playing those great songs until a bad liver took him from us. Here’s one from a couple of years ago.

Bayside Grange Holiday Craftapalooza

Of course that’s not the real name. It’s officially the Fifth Annual Bayside Grange Holiday Handmade/Makers’ Fair. You decide which holiday you’re celebrating. I’ve been most years and I’ve always enjoyed the fair, and I’ve bought some cool crafty stuff and marked off a couple of items on my Xmas list. They always have good music too, and not just Xmas carols, but definitely some crazy holiday stuff like PsyhedElvis Holiday. 

Susan Anderson sent me this note inviting me, she’s the driving force, just like she is in a lot of Humboldt life. She’ll be there selling these really groovy knit hats, very soft and feathery looking (not with bird feathers). She also plays in one of the bands, Mon Petit Chou,


Holiday greetings!

You are invited to join us for the Fifth Annual Bayside Grange Holiday Handmade/Makers’ Fair, to be held at the Grange, 2297 Jacoby Creek Road, on Saturday & Sunday, December 19 & 20, 2015, from 10 am to 5 pm. 

This two day fair is a great venue for last minute shoppers who want some fine local goods.  The show will feature beautiful crafts and art sold by the makers, as well as live music, hot soups, snacks, baked goods & beverages. And don’t forget, for holiday stress we will have Pete Shepard offering on site chair massage.

Join us for fine crafts & art, all made by the sellers. You will find snuggly warm and beautiful hand made hats, yummy treats and baked goods, fine woodworking, fused glass,  exquisite pottery, jewelry, handcrafted booksafes, rich goat milk soaps and lotions, and much more; perfect gifts (great for you last minute shoppers…).  Our vendors include seasoned artists who rarely show in Humboldt County, and upcoming new entrepreneurs making their first foray into the world of art/crafts shows. In addition, there will be tasty baked goods,snacks and hot soups from Comfort of Home Catering, and beverages,  and best of all, it’s local! plus, there will be great music provided by the Not Too Shabby Recorder Quartet, The Ethnics, PsyhedElvis Holiday, Marla Joy & Mike Conboy, the HSU Music Academy Fiddlers, Mon Petit Chou, Squeeze Bug, the Brooks Otis All Stars, and many more. Gift wrapping service available on site. Enjoy a fun filled day, support local artists and the Bayside Grange, which has brought you non-profit events, fundraisers, weddings, dances, and parties of all sorts since 1941.

For more information, call the Grange at 707-822-9998 or visit our website at or on FaceBook . 

Music Schedule:


Mon Petite Chou


10:00 am — Not Too Shabby Recorder Quartet–holiday tunes & world music

11:00 am — The Ethnics–International Folk

Noon —  HSU Music Academy Flute Choir

1:00 pm — HSU Music Academy Fiddlers

2:00 pm — Terrapin Breeze–Original Americana

3:00 pm –Turtle and Lizard–novelty tunes

4:00 pm– PsychedElvis Holiday


10:00 am –Julie Froblom & Mary DeAndreis–“Just Duet”

11:00 am –Squeeze Bug–International Accordion and Guitar

Noon–Freshwater 5 plus 1 –Dixieland Jazz

1:00 pm –Squeeze Bug–International Accordion and Guitar

2:00 pm — Mon Petit Chou –French Canadian, & Scandinavian Fiddle Tunes

3:00 pm — Brooks Otis All Stars –Swingin’ Country

4:00 pm Marla Joy & Mike Conboy –flute & guitar, holiday & jazz.



Art/crafts/imaginative items include (but are NOT limited to):

Susan’s Hats–colorful Art for Your Head

Fine Ceramics by Noel Munn and Sue Moon

Fine handmade jewelry—wire wraps, earrings, rings,hat pins,sun catchers, bracelets, feather earrings,  wine glass rings, glass & more

Copper Fairies galore

Pete Shephard –chair massage

Rumpelsilkskin –handmade necktie hats and bags

Remember the Magic– kids’ crafts kits and book safes

Wellman Glass –fused dichroic glass–jewelry, accessories, plates and inlaid wooden boxes

Hannah Silk –hand-dyed silk ribbon and vintage/recycled button jewelry

Sennott Art– paintings, handmade prints & cards

Dedini–decorative sticks & stones, local honey

Assemblages–magnets, cards, hand-rolled beeswax candles, original art


Funky, fashionable upcycled/transformed clothing

Handpainted silk scarves, painted stones, puzzles

Handprinted cards & art prints

Wooden things–spoons, spatulas, cutting boards, boxes, vases, etc.

Knits, textiles, scarves, ornaments

Mistwood Montessori Gift Wrapping Service

Messenger bags, purses, pillowcases

Mill Creek Glass–fused glass plates, bowls, suncatchers

Dog apparel and snacks

Crafty upcycled items from sweaters

Handmade pile blankets

Bag, bags, bags

Art photography

Natural and organic bath & beauty items

Succulents, planters, wreaths

Handwoven tea towels, scarves, and more

Tie art and artwear

Aprons, etc.

Handmade children’s items

and more!


Hope to see you there!



[aka Susan Anderson]

Volunteer, Bayside Grange

[aka Volunteer Extraordinaire]


Please send this on to your family & friends…

RIP John Trudell

John Trudell died today. He was a man with a power that came with words – he spoke the truth without hesitation. I got to meet him a few times in past – most recently at the Emerald Cup, where he was a performer. The first time was back in 1993 when I interviewed him for a Eureka magazine, Edge City. Coincidentally, Chris Laurer, the publisher of Edge City (which with later was called Anthem Monthly) died last week. They both fell after a battle with cancer. I will miss both of them.


What follows is our conversation in 1993, titled:

John Trudell AKA Grafitti Man

John Trudell is an American Indian poet, activist, and actor. In 1992 he appeared in two films directed by Michael Apted detailing in different ways the plight of the Indian in modern American society. Incident at Oglala is a documentary examining the events leading to the imprisonment of Leonard Peltier following the deaths of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Trudell’s interviews shed light on this dark point in our history. He was the founder of the Peltier Defense Committee and at the time of the “incident” was the chairman of the American Indian Movement. In the film Thunderheart he plays the fictional role of Jimmy Looks Twice, Indian activist pursued by the FBI, not much of a stretch.

While he was the spokesman for AIM in the ’70’s the FBI amassed a 17,000 page file on his activities. According to them, “Trudell is an intelligent individual and eloquent speaker who has the ability to stimulate people into action..In short, he is an extremely effective agitator.”

In 1979 on the day after Trudell burned a flag in front of FBI headquarters an arson fire killed his wife, his three children, and his wife’s mother. He decided that politics were too dangerous for the people around him. He left AIM and started writing.

In 1985 he met Jesse Edwin Davis III, a Kiowa blues guitarist who had been part of Taj Mahal’s original band. Their collaboration resulted in a limited release tape called AKA Grafitti Man. Bob Dylan called it “the best album of 1986.” Rykodisc later released another album called AKA Grafitti Man, a cd collection of material reviewing most of Trudell’s career from the first sessions with Jesse to recent works like Bombs Over Baghdad. He doesn’t sing yet his words are lyrical songs. His poetry is accompanied by drums and chants combined with blues licks to create an ancient yet modern sound.

John Trudell and the Grafitti Band were part of the line-up for Reggae on the River ’93, a Tribute to the Indigenous Peoples of the World. I spoke to him about his film and music career starting with his involvement in the fight for the rights of the American Indian.

Bob Doran (for Edge City Magazine with EC as initals) – What brought you to Alcatraz?
John Trudell – That was in ’69, by then I had tried getting an education, whatever I was looking for, it wasn’t there. I went in the military and whatever I was looking for, it wasn’t there. And then after the military I went to college and whatever I was looking for, it wasn’t there.
EC- What were you looking for?
JT- I don’t know… I was looking for something in America, but I saw America didn’t have it. I was in this holding period and then (the Indian occupation of) Alcatraz happened and I went there. What I was looking for was there… It was a consciousness that refused to validate the American hypocrisy. It was people with spirit.
EC- Was that the beginning of the American Indian Movement?
JT- No. The Alcatraz occupation was Indians of All Tribes Alcatraz. That was it’s own community and group. AIM was an organization that was starting in the Midwest around that time, out of Minneapolis. They were always two separate things.
EC- How did you connect with AIM?
JT- I met the AIM people when I was with Indians of All Tribes. They said, “something is wrong and we’re not going to pretend it’s not.” That’s what I was looking for. We are not going to pretend any more.
EC- What was your role with AIM?
JT- At that time I worked with them on different things because I was representing Alcatraz. After the occupation, I went into the Midwest and I worked in the different tribal communities. A lot of those communities became part of AIM. I was working with them because they were doing something that I agreed with. In 1973, I became chairman of AIM and I remained chairman til ’79 and then I stopped being chairman and continued on my own way.
EC- What was AIM trying to do?
JT- Same thing Indians have been doing for five hundred years, trying to say to America, “Hey, knock off the genocide, right?” That is the reality that cannot be minimized by other terms. America commits genocide against the indigenous people continually, and continues to do it today.
EC- Why did you leave AIM?
JT- It was time to go…. Then I started writing.
EC- Writing poetry?
JT- I just started writing and it got identified as poetry. The first thing I did was just reading them, doing readings. At some point I started taking the spoken word lines and putting it with music. The first move with the music was with the traditional drum, that’s the Tribal Voice series. A couple of years after that I had the opportunity to work with Jesse Ed Davis and I took the spoken word and put it with the electric music.
EC- How did you hook up with Jesse?
JT- I was doing a poetry reading and Jesse came. He had heard the Tribal Voice tape. He came to this poetry reading and he told me his name, and then he said, “I can make music for your words.” That’s how I met Jesse.
EC- Was his band called Grafitti Man?
JT- No, Jesse didn’t have a band. Grafitti Man was put together after we made the album in ’85. We recorded it in an eight track studio in Culver City in the summer of ’85. Jesse put the band together a year later. These were all people Jesse knew and had played with before.
EC- Why did you call it Grafitti Man?
JT- I don’t know, it was the name of the album and it just kind of stuck. Of my own I would not have named the band Grafitti Man…Jesse and I made two albums.
EC- Heart Jump Bouquet…
JT- …and AKA Grafitti Man.
EC- What about, But This Isn’t El Salvador?
JT- I made that with Quiltman and Jesse came in and laid some guitar tracks over three of the songs.
EC- That was part of your Tribal Voice series. Are you planning more?
JT- At some point yeah. What were doing now, rather than running the Grafitti Man-electric/Tribal Voice-traditional, we’re going more towards mixing the two.
EC- I think they work well together.
JT- On But This Isn’t El Salvador, Jesse overdubbed his guitar after we already had the drums and singers in there. It was an experiment just to see how we could float the guitar through there without altering the traditional music.
EC- Is there anything from those sessions on the Rykodisc album?
JT- Only one song, Beauty In a Fade. The Ryko stuff is basically a compilation drawing from the earlier period. Now we have more songs with traditional aspects incorporated.
EC- Now that you’ve put this collection from your tapes out on Ryko, are you still distributing the tapes?
JT- No. I didn’t want to be in the distribution business, that’s why I made the agreement with Ryko, so that I can take care of other things.
EC- What are some of the issues that you deal with in your new material?
JT- I don’t think the issues ever change. That was one of the things that disgusted me about political things and mentalities. People have a tendency to be cause oriented and issue oriented. What I see is the whole American way of doing things is wrong, totally out of balance. It makes no reasonable coherent sense to me. That is the constant issue. What ever my work is, it’s always within the context of that. Bombs Over Baghdad well, they happened to be fighting that war at that time. It was a statement, just like Rich Man’s War is a statement.
EC- In your song Baby Boom Che you connect rock & roll with revolution. Do you think rock music can change things?
JT- Yes…It helped to change things once. But the system has kind of absorbed the artist, so what it needs is a new infusion of human energy and it can help to change things again. In some way, rock & roll and the whole Civil Rights movement are deeply interwoven, but nobody really connects it. The intensity of white support in the movement increased when people got to see Chuck Berry and Little Richard on Bandstand and hear them on the radio. Rock &roll was an imitation of what the black music was. It opened many doors. Presley came in and woke the whites up about it. They challenged the Fascism of music. There was all this energy, it was just about energy and using the music as a part of that energy, not depending on the music to be the energy…But the music industry kind of stepped in and before you know it they were all cleaned up. There was Frankie Avalon and the boys all cleaned up. The rowdies were made to cleanup too, but the potential was there.
EC- You feel that it was co-opted?
JT- Everything is. If it’s there long enough, the system is going find a way to absorb the parts of it that are most dangerous. (laughs)
EC- How does that relate to what’s happening now? It seems like black music is again laying out a message.
JT- I think that the music industry…I think that Big Brother has it under control. The music that the mass audience hears is definitely under control and has been for years. It has been since the 70’s. People just fool them selves if they think it’s different. Look what happened to Ice T. He wrote a song and he got kicked off his label. He has to go fend and struggle for himself. They took him out of that major distribution system, didn’t they? Same with Sister Soulja. We got to look at the reality of this thing. As long as they can make money out of it and keep the anger and prejudices and emotions stirred up, they don’t give a fuck what people think. It’s in their best interest if people think that they’re getting somewhere because they can be mad or they can swear or do this or do that. It’s all a big game.
EC- You think rap music is under the control of the industry?
JT- It’s an authentic voice of the black community, alright? But, the business decision making process is under control. It’s a way of the white music world exploiting the black community and turning a profit by manipulating their rage and their frustration and anger. It comes out through their art and culture and you’ve got a white dominated and controlled business industry manipulating that.
EC- As an artist working in that context, what can you do?
JT- Just recognize those realities (laughs) and continue on, but not fool ourselves about it.
EC- You mean by thinking that you are talking about revolution when you’re just boosting record sales.
JT- It’s like this. Maybe revolution doesn’t work. Maybe it never did. Maybe all revolution does is just make new oppressors out of those who chase away the old oppressors. Maybe that’s the factual actual history of revolution if anyone really truly looks at it.
EC- The word actually means to turn something around.
JT- That’s right. Maybe revolution isn’t the thing we really need to be looking at. This is what I mean when I say Big Brother’s got it under control. Maybe Big Brother wants people to stay angry, because Big Brother is in the business of selling weapons and controlling people. Maybe they’re trying to create fertile ground so they can kill the poor. In the name of law and order they get rid of the most radical dissent because you know they’re running out of prison space. About the “New World Order” and economic debts all of these things, we really need to consider the practical realities. What do I consider as an alternative? My alternative is to think about it. We can create solutions to these problems, but it’s about evolution. We’ve got to evolve around and through this situation to change it.
EC- Do you feel that the recent change in administration in Washington will change things?
JT- We’re the Baby Boom Generation. The money’s real tight. Everybody’s feeling desperate. There’s no way our generation was going to accept any more lies from the generation before us. They knew it, so they put one of our own amongst us. We will listen to the lies from him because he’s going to say it completely different. He’s lost in himself enough that he believes everything that he says, so he’s not lying when he says it. He just has to change what he said a little later on, but to him he’s not lying, he’s being pragmatic. He’s the perfect politician, that’s all he’s wanted to be all of his life. This may be the most controllable person that there is, much more controllable than an ex-CIA head….People have to understand the economic reality. He can not do what he told everyone he was going to do, because the money’s not there. The people that stole the money aren’t going to give it back to him so he can fix it. And no one’s paying close attention at all.
EC- People are waiting to see what’s going to happen next…
JT- That’s what I’m saying, why wait to ask questions? People should be asking questions as the thing goes along. There’s too many people taking the attitude of, “don’t really ask him anything too real because we want to give him time.” Nobody wants to talk about anything real. This relates back to the music thing. In many parts of this country, I see all this energy that is starting to come through music, dealing with real consciousness and things. This hold that I say Big Brother has on the music, I don’t necessarily mean that we can’t get through it and it can’t be changed, but we have to be real about it within our own minds. There’s a level of energy that can be communicated, that’s real, that’s the essence of who we really are. When we look as clearly as we can at what’s going on around us it increases our ability to communicate from our essence more than just from our logic. Presley communicated from essence not logic, so did the Beatles. It’s about putting things in harmony or synchronicity.
EC- Are you going to continue with your film career?
JT- I don’t know. (laughs) It’s not up to me… It is in a way and in a way it’s not. I would be interested in doing more if it turns out that way.
EC- I was told that the character Johnny Looks Twice in Thunderheart was a lot like you. Would you agree?
JT- No. Let’s say Looks Twice is part of me. I’m more than that.
EC- So you’d say it’s just one of your facets.
JT- Yeah, that’s more accurate.
EC- How do you feel about the way the American Indian is portrayed in film?
JT- It’s what I call “Fascist Romanticism.” It’s the prison that the industry tries to hold us in.
EC- Like the “Noble Savage”?
JT- Kind of. It’s like it’s in the past, it isn’t like that now…Anyway I don’t watch the movies. I don’t pay any attention to it.
EC- But you were involved in these two projects…
JT- They were contemporary stories. The Incident at Oglala was a documentary. It wasn’t a Hollywood type thing, although Hollywood was there doing it, and Thunderheart was a contemporary story, but you know I saw the Romanticisms through it too but it was a bit more coherent.
EC- You mean because it wasn’t totally a true story.
JT- Yeah, well they couldn’t tell it as a true story. They had to fictionalize it in order to tell it. (laughs) This is America, man.

for the Particle People – tonight @ HumBrews

Who: Particle ~

When: Tuesday, February 3, 9:30 pm ~

Where: Humboldt Brews ~

How much: $15 ~

Back around the turn of the century, Particle pioneered something they call “livetronica,” essentially they were pioneers bridging the gap between the jamband and electronica scenes. The band’s founder, Steve Molitz, began jamming on analog keyboards while he was a college student in the hotbed of jam, Boulder, Colorado, but he soon settled in L.A.

When I interviewed him a decade ago, he wasn’t really sure how to define the Particle sound. In the beginning, he said, “It was hard to describe what kind of music we played. It was kind of a mix of rock and this indie sound, groove and electronic and funk and jazz — after a while it gets hard to categorize it, or know what to say.”

Instead he fell back on calling it “high-energy dance music” since, “We’re known for keeping people dancing, for creating an atmosphere of celebration, and also for creating a space where people can take a trip.”

The “Particle People” understood, and so did Tom Rothrock (producer for Beck and Foo Fighters) who produced their first studio album, Launchpad  in 2004. The band ended up touring nationally and internationally and played monster festivals like Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits Fest.

Then at the end of 2006, Particle went on semi-hiatus, cutting down to scattered shows to leave room for family and changing work situations. Molitz became a hired keyboardist playing with artists like Robby Krieger of The Doors, Phil Lesh of the Dead and the Allman Brothers among others. He did film soundtrack work and made music for video games.

Last year, itching to get back the his own music and the road, he reformed Particle. Guitarist Ben Combe, bassist Clay Parnell, and drummer Brandon Draper signed on  and they returned to touring full-time as ever-evolving journey. They’ve recorded enough studio material for a couple of albums, due out this year. But first there’s the latest cross country tour and a return to Arcata. The Particle People will be there…