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19 May 2014

Desert Rock Pioneer: Dave Catching Talks About the Local Music Scene and His Groundbreaking Studio, Rancho de la Luna

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Dave Catching. Dave Catching.

The term “desert rock” defines a genre of music and bands, all from the local scene, that changed the face of music—and one of the most important musicians within that genre is Dave Catching, the owner of the Rancho de la Luna recording studio and the guitarist for Eagles of Death Metal.

Catching will be celebrating his 53rd birthday in style with a two-day concert extravaganza on Friday and Saturday, June 6 and 7, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

Beyond the Eagles of Death Metal, Catching has also been associated with Queens of the Stone Age, Tex and the Horseheads, The Ringling Sisters, earthlings?, Mondo Generator and other bands.

During a recent phone interview, Catching told his back story.

“I started playing music when I was 15 back in Memphis, Tenn.,” Catching said. “My brother was a musician, and I used to sneak his guitar out from under his bed. He caught me, and he showed me a few chords so that I could actually play stuff. That was the first time I started playing music.”

Catching said his brother and his uncle played in bands together, including a band that played covers of songs by Alice Cooper, Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie.

“I used to go to their rehearsals and hang out with them. They were both really great musicians and singers who inspired me.”

Catching never had any plans to own a recording studio or to live in the High Desert. However, that began to change in 1994. Fred Drake was interested in purchasing Rancho de la Luna; at the time, Catching owned a restaurant in New Orleans.

“(Fred Drake) called me when I owned my restaurant and asked me if I wanted to be partners,” Catching said. “It was so cheap that I sent him the money to buy it. I had no intentions of ever living in Joshua Tree. I thought I was going to be in New Orleans for the rest of my life. But it was such a great deal, and I loved Fred so much, so I just said ‘Yes,’ and we started the studio then.”

Drake, a founding member of earthlings?, died in 2002. He was beloved in the local music scene.

“He was in several bands, and he worked in another studio called Dominion Way. It was a rehearsal studio, and I used to rehearse there. Iggy Pop used to rehearse there back in 1988, and I started rehearsing there. (Drake) was an established figure around that part. It’s amazing what things he could do with the little equipment they had. It was incredible.”

After an electrical fire at his restaurant in New Orleans, Catching found himself living at and working out of the studio. Shortly after Catching moved, the Rancho de la Luna recorded a band called Kyuss, featuring Josh Homme. The rest, as they say, is history.

“I got a phone call from my best friend Hutch, who did sound for Kyuss; he now does sound for Queens of the Stone Age and Jack White. I called him to check in and say hi, and he told me Kyuss was going to Europe and needed a guitar tech,” Catching said. “I’d already met those guys through him before. … I needed something to do to get out of town. I became their guitar tech for a couple of tours, and we all became friends.

“Kyuss broke up, and Josh got a phone call from Roadrunner Records to do a song for a compilation record. He asked me and a couple of friends to be a band to do the song, and we called (the group) Queens of the Stone Age. Their producer, Chris Goss, had always told Kyuss, ‘You guys sound like Queens of the Stone Age.’”

As the Queens of the Stone Age began to rise, Rancho de la Luna became more established and has since become a prime recording spot for numerous well-known bands, including the Arctic Monkeys and, more recently, Foo Fighters. Catching said he never expected Rancho de la Luna, co-owned by Teddy Quinn, to become what it is today.

“We were just doing our thing,” Catching said. “(The members of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age) were just kids, and I was older than those guys, and we were just having a great time. They just wanted to come up and check out our studio, and did some recording. I didn’t really think about anything other than just having a good time at my place.”

Catching today splits time between New Orleans and Joshua Tree.

“I get the best of both worlds living in Joshua Tree and New Orleans: The driest place on Earth, and the wettest place on Earth,” he said, exaggerating slightly. “I’m pretty much sober when I’m in the desert, and I’m pretty much not sober when I’m in New Orleans. I think both places save me and keep me sane.”

The former restaurateur said he still loves to cook, too.

“It’s one of the best ways to bring people together,” Catching said. “It’s an enjoyable time to gather around the kitchen, throw a bunch of things together—and you have to eat. If it’s really good, it makes everybody a little happier.”

As for the local music scene circa 2014, Catching said it’s increasingly diverse—and he’s including a lot of those local-music friends, old and new, during his birthday celebration.

“A lot of the bands I like such as Parosella, Jesika von Rabbit and many others are playing,” he said. “We’re also going to do the Rancho de la Lunatics, which is a bunch of us just jamming. It will showcase a lot of bands that I like that are around the area now.”

Dave Catching’s Incredible Pappy and Harriet’s Birthday Spectacular takes place on Friday and Saturday, June 6 and 7, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Friday tickets are $15; Saturday tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

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