Tuesday, April 24, 2018

25 years in the Desert: Deserted Sessions 2018

On April 25, 1993, somewhere between 800,000 and 1 million took part in the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, one of the largest protests in American history. One person who had planned to be there but was not was Fred Drake. Fred was a musician living in Hollywood who had been active in the fight against HIV/AIDS since being diagnosed 9 years earlier and was planning to go to Washington DC, to participate in the march and to meet with Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, to advocate on behalf of HIV+ people. Fred was to report on his own unique regimen, which included trial experiments with the new Protease Inhibitor "cocktail," and a vaccine formulated by Dr. Jonas Salk. He had refused AZT, the only drug which had been officially approved by the government, and had no success with the appetite booster, Marinol, an artificial form of marijuana, preferring to smoke a joint which would not only give him an appetite but would also inspire him to play his guitar and - with a strong cup of coffee - stay up late in his friend Dean Chamberlain's studio and record. At the last minute, due to a clerical mistake, the airplane ticket which was to have been sponsored by APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles) fell through and Fred was unable to go. He was extremely depressed, angry and feeling like he was at the end of his rope. I was staying at Fred's at the time, after my own cross-country trip to Austin, Texas, to help some friends move, and then, by Amtrak train, through New Orleans to Colorado, before heading home to LA, where I had no home. We were both burned out from living in Hollywood, playing in clubs and coffee houses and numerous close-calls with record companies that never panned out. When the trip to DC didn't come through, our friend Francesca Lia Block wisely suggested that Fred and I go to the desert, which is where we would go any chance we got. Francesca was going out of town to do a book reading and offered us the use of her Jeep Cherokee, as neither of us had a very reliable car at the time. We packed up a thermos of coffee, a couple of joints and a small bag of mushrooms for our trip to Joshua Tree and made tentative plans to meet our friend Robert Allan and his girlfriend, Wendee, out in the desert. Fred and I booked a room at the Harmony Motel and watched the march on TV, while I painted a t-shirt for him, with the word, "GAY." Fred decided he wanted to go get a haircut at one of the barber shops near the Marine Base, in his newly painted shirt. We locked the keys inside the car and I remember being a little worried as we stood along Adobe Road with a wire hanger, Fred proudly wearing his colors for the passing Marines to see. Fred and I drove into the "Monument" (in the days before it was designated a National Park) and drove to Ryan's Campground, looking for Robert and Wendee but not finding them, and then down Geology Tour Road, as the mushrooms were beginning to take effect, before we headed to Keys View to watch the sunset. We stood there gazing into the distance, when we heard our names being called. Debbie Hotchkiss had been one of our managers in Ministry of Fools, the band we had with Robert. She had recently gone through rehab, where she met a boyfriend named Tony Mason. Tony and Debbie had just gotten a car together and had been watching Huell Howser on TV, talking about Joshua Tree. Neither Tony or Debbie had ever been there but they'd heard Fred, Robert and me rave about it so many times, they decided to make it their first outing in their new car. For Fred and me, it was surreal to hear our names shouted out by familiar voices in this vast, empty place. Not wanting to let on that we were tripping to the newly sober couple, we agreed to follow them into town, to a coffee house called Jeremy's, crowded with rock climbers. At Jeremy's, another person called Fred by name. It was a Park Ranger named Taylor Bucci, who Fred had met once in LA, through Taylor's sister, a photographer friend named Andrea. Taylor asked us if we would play a song but we declined. Later, Fred and I decided to invite Tony and Debbie to crash in our room at the Harmony Motel. In the morning, Debbie took a photo of Fred, Tony and me in front of the motel's sign, mimicking a similar shot of the Band U2 that has hanging behind the front desk. In those days, there were no stop lights in the entire high desert, except for the one at Adobe Road and Highway 62. We started out of town, driving down the 62, from 29 Palms to the village of Joshua Tree, on our way back to LA. At the corner of Hallee Road, Fred spotted a sign which read. "Three Houses for Rent," and directed me to turn. We followed the road to the gate of an adobe house, where we met brothers Hal and Gene Hill, and Gene's wife Maria. We went inside the house and in the back room, the floor covered in green Italian tile, with high windows, Fred clapped his hands together and, as if by magical decree, he announced that this would be his recording studio's tracking room. Fred decided then and there that he would be leaving LA. I spoke with Francesca, who had just received an advance for her new book, and she decided to rent the house in the back. Soon, our friend Fred Burke rented the third house and we all spent the summer of 1993 moving to Joshua Tree. Tonya Lee Jaynes helped with the move in her station wagon and Chrissie Wilson provided the golf hats and cherry picked the garbage out of the front yard which had been left behind by the previous tenants. At the time, Fred didn't own a studio but soon everything manifested. Fred spent the next 9 years living at his beloved Rancho de la Luna, where he recorded his own album, "Twice Shy," along with countless ambient, electronic dance and experimental pieces. He welcomed artists Elia Arce, Adriene Jenik and Joe Garcia to record their work in his home. He made records with Daniel Lanois, Victoria Williams, the Earthlings? (his band with Dave Catching and Pete Stahl), and many others, myself included. Fred recorded my work with Johnny Vargas, and put me together with Tony Mason, whom he trained as an engineer so that he could escape the infamous "Desert Sessions" and go for a ride on his horse, Kashmir. In all, Fred recorded most of five albums of my songs in those 9 years at the Rancho. Fred was the unofficial mayor of Joshua Tree and every artist or musician who passed through town would make a stop at his home for a cup of coffee and a smoke. In those days, there was Alta's Curiosities, the Country Kitchen, Jeremy's (later the Beatnik) and Fred's house. When Fred died of cancer on June 20, 2002, Fred Burke, Tony Mason and I were asked by his parents to keep the studio going. We invited Fred's former partner Dave, as well as friend and former studio owner Dean Chamberlain, and Billy Bizeau, to partner with us to keep Fred's dream going. Fred's parents specified that nobody should live in the house but we should keep it going as a studio. A couple years later, when we ran short of money, Dave 'offered' to move into a back bedroom and pay the rent. Before the rest of us knew what was happening, the locks had been changed. The Rancho continues as Dave's studio to this day but the era of Fred Drake is long since past. These 25 songs (plus a few extras) are some of the ones Fred, Tony and I recorded, along with Elia, Joe and Johnny during that period which began 25 years ago this week. At my own home, my son Sage and I have planted ten off-shoots of the "singing, ringing tree," as Chrissie had dubbed the now-gone Cottonwood tree which Fred had planted and where a group of his family and friends spread his ashes, nurtured and provided by Tony Mason. The singing and ringing has moved all across the desert. https://teddyquinn.bandcamp.com/album/deserted-sessions-rancho-de-la-luna-1995-2004 To Smokey, For Fred (5/93) Last Night's Wind Baby Steps Stray Arrow Orphanage of Souls Wild West Ballet Crow Desert to the Sea Pilgrim Warrior Shepherd Boy Tolerancia Rain of Love Apocalypse No (As a Matter of Policy; The Mighty Q-Ball; Stones) If That's What You Wanted (Dave's Song) Billions and Billions Tar Beach I Dream of Sleeping (Peacefully) 29 Palms If U Do Death of Cool Orange Sunshine Only So Many Heartbeats Love On (plus 6 bonus tracks) 31 Flaovors!!!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The giant soul who had my back in this pic is the first person I ever wrote songs with besides my sister Debra. When the Beatles film "Let it Be" came out, we met at a theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, through mutual friends, and shared the grief of the break-up afterwards on the playground of Wonderland Avenue. 5 years later when we met again in High School, I recognized him behind his funky demeanor and tattered Lord of the Rings paperback. We sang on the steps at school together and traveled north - and to the cosmos, together. Later, we bumped into our heroes like Tom Waits and Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop and made phone calls to Mae West and Charles Bukowski, in the days when people answered their phones. When our bands and hearts got broken, we drifted apart into our own worlds, but his beauty and brilliance have always been at the forefront of my memories, as one of life's richest gifts. Happy birthday, Big Bob Kuhn. Love you always.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Remember Martin Luther King

In 2006, Monet & I took Sage to the Civil Rights Museum/Loraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Kids Are More Than Alright

I'm very proud to say that my son, Sage, did his first gig with his band last Saturday night, opening the show for Desert Rhythm Project's record release, coincidentally, on the final night of the church-turned-music venue, La Grange in Yucca Valley, with Hutch mixing sound. Led by Erik Kramer-Webb, and joined by DRP's Mikey Reyes and Bryanna Evaro, Sage and his friends, Forest, Lola, Yazzy, Rosa, Ryan and Eli, knocked out the capacity crowd - and got them all singing along - with their short but sweet set, which included Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" and Bob Marley's "Three Birds." Every Little Thing Gonna Be Alright!! (These Kids are Alright!!)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Welcome Back to the Retro Future

It's hard to believe that it's been over 6 years since I last posted on this blog. That just goes to show how successfully Facebook and, to a lesser degree, Instagram, have gotten a monopoly on all of my thoughts, words and images that I have wanted to share with my friends and people I have encountered along the way. In that time, a lot has happened, needless to say. In fact, 6 years represents a full 10% of my life thus far and over half of my son, Sage's. He's gone from being a little boy at an experimental school which we started in our community to being a middle-schooler who is an honor roll student, a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do, an accomplished drummer who has played on an album with his dad and is about to play his first gig with his own band ("Trampoline Park" is the name I heard his friend, Forest, mention but it could have changed since then.) I worked as a DJ for two years on the local radio station, KCDZ-FM, in Joshua Tree and then started an online station, Radio Free Joshua Tree, which lasted 3. During that time, I was honored to receive an award for Cultural Contributions to the area by the Basinwide Foundation and took part in returning the space once known as the Beatnik Cafe (nee Jeremy's Cyber Cafe) to it's roots as a community arts and music hangout, which we called the Listening Lounge,the Love Lounge and finally, the Beatnik Lounge, where we have just relaunched a weekly Wednesday night open mic, hosted by songwriter Loren Downer. I've gone from hosting the Open Mic ("Ted Quinn's Reality Show") at Pappy & Harriet's for 9 years and the Open Jam at the Joshua Tree Saloon ("Super Ruby Tuesday," now in it's 10th year) to dropping the Monday night at Pappy's in 2016, a decision that was made the day Prince died, a few months after David Bowie, as I was being told I needed to have both hips replaced or walk with a cane for the rest of my life. Also, on the dat after Bowie died, I was determined to make the album I'd been wanting to make my whole life, and especially since the last one I made with Robbi Robb and Amritakripa in 2011 (Rock Art of Joshua Tree/Sunburst Golden Border.) That album was recorded largely at the Beatnik, "live" to analog tape by Jamie Hafler, with guitar goddess Leslie Mariah Andrews, songwriter Lisa Mednick Powell on keys, bass players Tony Marsico and Kip Powell, drummers Jeff Boaz, Danny Frankel and Sage; Local (now defunct) singing group, Village Idiots and the wonderful singers, Artemis and Maryrose Crooks (The Renderers.) Overdubs at Jamie's studio were added by trumpet player Mark A. Soden, Jr, pedal steel guitarist Bill Maresh and cellist Jennifer Irvine. I also collaborated on a track with my first band mate, Don Kaiser (Telekin, the 80s) for the first time in 30 years, as well as with ambient composer Lee Scott, French EDM producer Cedric Couvez (CatCat) and did a bonus track with artist Cristabel Cristo and included one done with Sage a few years earlier. Dennis Moody mastered the album and Artemis helped me design the cover, with glorious photography by Sylva Hattington. One of the songs on the album ("1.11") - "Cockfighter" - was used in an episode of ground-breaking TV series, "American Gods" (Neil Gaiman), along with a song ("Tar Beach") from my 2003 album, "Help Wanted." (Thanks to Lee Scott.) Currently, Mark Soden is helping me put together a new project comprised of old recordings, including songs found on dusty old cassettes, such as two written with late ambient composer Ruben Garcia (Repetition Repetition.) This coincides with a larger project, a film which I'm calling an auto-biographical documentary art film ("You Ain't Seen Nothing"), which is being edited by Caylyn (Great Gig Productions.) I haven't decided whether to stay or leave Facebook but I am in the process of gathering years of archives from the social media site and will be turning more of my focus to this blog. I hope I can remember my password so I can post things from my phone and not just my computer. Meanwhile, there is so much going on in this world that is so disheartening, from the rigged election of Donald Trump to all of the resulting attacks on the environment, immigrants, women, people of color, gay/trans people, I look to the young people, inspired by the Valentines Day massacre in Florida, to the young person who spends half his time with me, for the optimism I have always refused to give up. Never. Give. Up. Not until the last day of this life and beyond, as I've pleaded to Jesika Von Rabbit, who sweetly says, "Ted's Til We're Dead."
Town Crieur at Art Queen - Joshua Tree

Thursday, November 17, 2011