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Three young homeschooled brothers from St. Joseph, Mo., played Coachella on Saturday—and proved that they belonged.

Meet Radkey, a young band which has taken the Afropunk world by storm.

After their Saturday, April 18, performance, bassist Isaiah Radke discussed their upbringing and their desire to play music.

“That movie School of Rock actually is really inspiring, and that kind of made everyone excited about electronic instruments and stuff like that,” he said.

What’s it like to make music with your two brothers? It’s not bad, Isaiah said, but he added that being younger than 18 poses a challenge.

“It hasn’t been too bad, but it’s really hard to get shows at our age,” he said. “We got some in Kansas City and Lawrence, so it was really cool. There’s not too much pressure on us, and if there was, we didn’t really feel it. Otherwise, people would see us and think, ‘What are these kids doing?’ But we never really felt any pressure—and we just rocked on.”

Radkey—the members added a “y” to their last name to create the band name—has a heavy sound. You can feel funky bass lines like those of Fishbone, combined with heavy guitars.

“We grew up with our dad’s record collection. It’s Weezer, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin—and Fishbone is one. There’s also The Ramones, The Who, and pretty much everything.”

Radkey was recently able to open a show for Fishbone, which Isaiah said was a dream come true.

“As a black band, they did everything they wanted to, and it just sucks that it didn’t work out the way it was supposed to—and it was because they were black,” said Isaiah, referring to the fact that Fishbone never received mainstream stardom. “That sucks, and I have a lot of respect for them to keep it going. We played our first show with them, and it inspired us seeing them, and I want them to know that they (inspired) us. We have a lot of respect for them, because they play whatever the fuck they want—heavy, weird, trippy, and it’s awesome. They’re one of the greatest bands ever.”

In recent years, Radkey has played at the renowned Afropunk Fest, and now Coachella. Isaiah said he and his brothers are enjoying the success.

“It feels pretty unreal,” he said. “Those are all the things you dream about—things like playing Coachella and stuff like that. This has been amazing, being in California. Being from Missouri, it’s like being on a fucking alien planet. It’s an honor.”

Both the band’s Weekend 1 and Weekend 2 performances have been well-received.

“The vibe is cool,” Isaiah said. “It’s super-chill; it smells like weed everywhere, and you couldn’t ask for a better festival vibe.”

Who knows how many couples have fallen in love after meeting at Coachella?

For example, Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul met his wife at Coachella. That’s where Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl met, too—a meeting that led not only to romance, but to the birth of their band, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger.

“We met here 10 years ago by the fountain in the VIP tent,” said Lennon after their Coachella performance on Friday, April 17. “We didn’t start dating right away, but that’s when we became friends. We met through mutual friends. This festival used to be really relaxed, and it was just a friendlier vibe.”

Muhl agreed.

“There was definitely less people back then, and this was sort of a new festival,” she said. “It sort of felt like being in the wilderness in the desert, running into a stranger by a fountain in the desert. It felt very magical. Now it’s such a scene.”

Lennon and Muhl come from very different backgrounds. Lennon’s father, John Lennon, and his mother, Yoko Ono, defined hippie Bohemian life in New York City. Muhl’s family comes from Atlanta.

“Oddly, we have very similar politics and beliefs,” Muhl said. “I think opposite sides of the spectrum tend to meet in the middle. Our families still haven’t really met.”

Putting a band together as a couple can either strengthen a relationship or make it turbulent. However, both Lennon and Muhl said it’s working for them.

“At first, we started the band because we felt like we wouldn’t be able to have a relationship if we didn’t have some project together. She was really busy, and I was doing my solo project,” Lennon said. “It was sort of a solution for us not getting to see each other enough. We didn’t know it was going to be as serious as it is now; back then, it was just sort of a hobby.”

Muhl conceded there are challenges.

“It’s definitely difficult to collaborate with your lover,” she said. “Most bands don’t stay together for more than a couple of albums, and they break up.”

Lennon said his approach to making music is easy-going and just comes naturally.

“In terms of genres, I feel like genres were more relevant in the ’70s and ’80s, and now they’re less relevant,” he said. “I don’t even really think in terms of genres when we make music. I believe in making chords, melodies and lyrics we think are cool, but we’re not thinking of whether it’s reggae or country.”

For Muhl, her modeling career sometimes puts restrictions on her.

“It’s a conflict of interest,” Muhl said. “It’s not just in terms of time. My main contract, Maybelline, is more lenient and supportive of me touring, but there are a lot of conflicts. Right after this, I have to immediately fly to New York to shoot for Maybelline. It’s also a conflict of interest in terms of personal image. I can’t do anything too controversial, per se, so I can’t get that Mike Tyson face tattoo I want, or make that snuff film.

“I don’t make any money from music, so I have to model.”

Coachella 2015’s second weekend kicked off at 11 a.m., Friday, April 17, with a bang for local music fans.

Alchemy—which also played at Tachevah earlier this week, and at Coachella’s first weekend—launched the weekend on the Outdoor Stage. While their Tachevah performance was good, their Coachella performance was even better. Vocalist Andrew Gonzalez noted that the audience was much better this week—and some fans even started a mosh pit during the performance.

After Alchemy, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger took to the Outdoor Stage. The band is fronted by Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl; it was a homecoming, of sorts, since they met at Coachella 10 years ago. Their music at times sounded like Deep Purple, with a little bit of Pink Floyd thrown in. Lennon made reference to a couple of the band’s music videos, once claiming: “You’ll like it if you like nipples.”

After Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band took the Outdoor Stage. Bjork, the drummer of the pioneering desert rock band Kyuss, should have had a bigger turnout. The crowd was thin, but full of desert rock devotees. Bjork and his band managed to pump out a lot of volume and rock the audience at the same time. Desert local and Throw Rag frontman Sean Wheeler joined in for his last number.

I walked into the show by Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires—and soon discovered that the 66-year-old soul singer had young folks swaying and dancing to his sounds of love. However, Bradley went a few minutes over his scheduled set time—and show organizers cut the sound. Nonetheless, the band continued to play the last two minutes of his song without the PA system.

In the late afternoon, Azealia Banks took the Coachella stage. Banks has taken the world by storm, and I admit I was turned on by the first 15 minutes … however, I quickly grew tired of her act. I like my hip-hop with some rhyme and reason to it.

Speaking of rhyme and reason, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah began playing on the Outdoor Stage toward the middle of Banks’ set. The Wu-Tang Clan’s crowd was huge at the Outdoor Stage in 2013; Raekwon and Ghostface Killah managed to get a pretty large crowd crammed into the Outdoor Stage area for their performance this year. Raekwon handled the first two songs by himself, stating, “Ghostface is out back taking a shit.” After the photographers were ushered out of the photo pit, however, Ghostface Killah appeared. Their set was energetic, and featured songs from their solo efforts along with Wu-Tang works including “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Wu-Tang Ain’t Nuthin’ to Fuck Wit” and “Triumph.”

As the sun began to set, Lykke Li began to play in the Mojave tent. The Swedish indie-pop singer put on a mesmerizing performance with a combination of songs both slower and upbeat. The visual effects at times made it look as if she were performing in a forest; at other times, the effects offered a light show.

I admit I had my doubts about Steely Dan performing at Coachella. Well, now, I can eat my words: Steely Dan performed to a large crowd, including many younger fans who obviously knew the material. The jazz/blues combo sound of Steely Dan was a hit, with many festival-goers screaming “STEELY FUCKING DAN!” in between songs.

While Steely Dan came from the initial psychedelic era, Tame Impala comes from a new era of psychedelic music. The Australian outfit had a large turnout at the Outdoor Stage when they played Coachella in 2013, and it was fitting for them to play on the main stage before AC/DC. The intro was Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” As Tame Impala played, the psychedelic visuals were fantastic; a combination of older songs and new songs filled the setlist. Tame Impala is new and improved: The band sounds a lot tighter now than it used to. When frontman Kevin Parker announced their last song, he told the crowd not to be sad, because AC/DC was going to come out—and it was going to get crazy.

He was right. AC/DC took the Coachella stage crowd by surprise when the stage got dark and the band got down to business—with no intro whatsoever—opening with “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be.” The setlist was pretty close to the Weekend One show, and the performance was just as good.

I overheard many younger people saying things like, “I can’t believe I’m seeing AC/DC,” and, “My dad is going to be so jealous.” This proves that AC/DC is for everyone, including the children.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery from Friday’s Coachella goings-on.

Published in Reviews

Sales of music have been on the decline—yet vinyl has enjoyed a recent resurgence, a fact that’s apparent on the third Saturday of April each year, a day now known as Record Store Day.

A co-founder of Record Store Day, Michael Kurtz, explained the genesis of the idea during a recent phone interview.

“At the time in 2007, all the media coverage of record stores was negative,” Kurtz said from his home in New York City. “They were all going out of business, and people used to talk about us being the equivalent of selling monkey whips. It was just a dark time. We modeled Record Store Day after free comic-book day after we saw the success they had bringing common folk into stores.”

While the idea is to support local businesses and create enough sales to help them survive, Kurtz said there’s also a sentimental meaning to it beyond the limited editions and special releases.

“People focus on that because of the dollar amount—but it also misses the whole point of celebrating the local neighborhood record store,” he said. “All the stores are doing in-store performances, and a lot of them link up with charities and so forth. It’s all about the celebration, but people focus on the releases.”

At Coachella on Friday, April 17, the craziness started at 11 a.m. when the festival’s store opened, although it calmed down through the day. Jon Halperin, who orders the product and helps manage the Coachella record store, said he expected heavy sales to continue through the weekend.

“We sold well over 1,000 records this morning,” Halperin said. “We sold probably half of our Record Store Day product (even though it was the day before Record Store Day). We had a line of 20 or so people, and then when doors opened, everyone just came in. We sold more product today than we did last year on Record Store Day.”

What are some examples of a limited release for this year’s Record Store Day?

“Everyone is into something different. … The most popular records this year are the brand-new reissue of the Whiplash soundtrack, and The Lego Movie soundtrack was really popular. We only get so many; no matter what I order, it doesn’t mean I’m going to get it. We were supposed to get two Elvis Presley 10-inch records that were put out by Third Man Records, and they weren’t able to pull them in time, and we didn’t get them.”

Halperin said Record Store Day craziness should continue at Coachella through the weekend.

“Coachella has always done it on Friday. Record Store Day might be on Saturday, but the way we see it is most of these kids are stuck here anyway, so why not let them do their shopping on Friday afternoon? For $5, we’re going to hold their bags back here all weekend long in an air-conditioned trailer.”

As for the independent stores who are not at Coachella, does Record Store Day help pay the bills? Kurtz said it does.

“What I hear consistently is that it pays the bills for two months,” Kurtz said. “The neighbors come out and support them and everything, so it’s definitely very positive. I hear, too, that stores that were struggling became sound after (the invention of) Record Store Day. Because of that and Black Friday, they have two very strong things they can do, and it helps them connect with the community so they get more regular customers coming in.”

As for the resurgence of vinyl, Kurtz said he thinks the format will stick around for a while, even though a brief 1990s resurgence quickly fizzled out.

“All the vinyl manufacturing plants are now running at maximum capacity, and turntable manufacturers are seeing their business doubling every year,” he said. “Everything is moving in that direction. We’re optimistic.”

It’s becoming an age-old tradition to gripe about the Coachella headliners. However, if you look past the big names on the poster, you’ll find a lot of great acts. Here are some to consider including in your Coachella schedule.


Friday, April 10 and 17

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

I’m amazed that this band is listed so low on Friday’s lineup. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger consists of American fashion model Charlotte Kemp Muhl and Sean Lennon (yes, John Lennon’s son). After meeting each other and falling in love at Coachella in the mid-2000s, Lennon realized Muhl had talent as a singer. In 2010, they released their first album, Acoustic Sessions, which was warmly received. This band definitely belongs at Coachella.

Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band

Sadly, this is another small-print booking. Locals should recognize this name—and if you don’t, you have some learnin’ to do. Brant Bjork was one of the founding members of the legendary desert-rock group Kyuss, with John Garcia and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. You definitely don’t want to miss Bjork’s performance at Coachella, given he’s one of the people who put the Coachella Valley on the map, music wise. Check out our interview with Bjork at the start of the music section.

Trippy Turtle

Last summer during one of Splash House parties, Independent contributor Guillermo Prieto and I were mystified by this young DJ who wore a green hoodie with a turtle on it. His DJ set was upbeat and fun—and you’ll hear a clip of that YouTube video of the little boy saying “I like turtles” several times throughout his set. (See a photo from Prieto at the top right.)

Steely Dan

This was the one listing on the lineup that had me saying “WTF?” when I first saw it. Steely Dan is a delight for true music-lovers, even though many of the people who will be at Coachella did not yet exist (myself included) back in 1972 when they first formed. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are musical geniuses, and while their blend of jazz and rock is considered “soft rock,” Steely Dan shouldn’t be lumped into the same genre as the Eagles and Michael Bolton. This is a strange booking for Coachella—but it will probably still be awesome.


Saturday, April 11 and 18

Parquet Courts

This New York City post-punk/garage band has managed to drum up momentum from the DIY, indie and mainstream scenes since it seemingly came out of nowhere in 2010. I’ve seen them once before, and I can say that if you like an edgier and dirtier (in a good way) sound, Parquet Courts are for you.

Royal Blood

A gentleman I talked to not too long ago at Pappy and Harriet’s suggested this band to me after we talked about the White Stripes and the Black Keys. This duo from the United Kingdom has an impressive sound, and the self-titled debut album is balls-to-the-wall rock ’n’ roll from beginning to end. I can’t wait to see Royal Blood’s live show.

War on Drugs

While the name is amusing, War on Drugs is no joke: Front man Adam Granduciel has exemplary skills as a singer-songwriter. War on Drugs, which once included Kurt Vile, has a sound similar to that of Destroyer, The New Pornographers, and Real Estate. Make sure you check this band out. (Photo below.)

The Weeknd

In 2010, this guy became the talk of the underground-music scene, and his debut album, released a year later, was highly anticipated. The Weeknd has an interesting genre listing: PBR&B, in reference to the hipster culture’s love of Pabst Blue Ribbon and R&B, or hipster-based R&B. Whatever. The bottom line: The Weeknd makes great R&B that is soulful and dark at the same time—and the fact that he’s on the reclusive side adds a little mystery.


Sunday, April 12 and 19

The Orwells

This Chicago outfit has been on the rise since 2009. After they toured with the Arctic Monkeys, played at Lollapalooza and recently appeared on Late Show With David Letterman, it makes sense to see The Orwells playing at Coachella in 2015. I suggest listening to the band’s most recent album, Disgraceland, before the festival; you won’t be disappointed.

Chicano Batman

I have had a number of opportunities to see this band—and thanks to bad luck, I’ve missed them every time. These guys are not only one of the best DIY indie-bands in the Southwest U.S.; they also have a unique sound that combines Latin music with soul and psychedelic rock. Check out The Lucky 13 on Page 38 for more info.

Jenny Lewis

When I was a third-grader, I was a Nintendo-playing kid who was fascinated with the movie The Wizard, which Jenny Lewis, then a child actress, appeared in with Fred Savage. Lewis is now all grown up and playing music—and she’s pretty awesome. Her Americana-meets-pop sound is a lot of fun; she was even a part of Bright Eyes at one time. For giggles, look up the Christmas-themed comedy skit she took part in with Megadeth back in 2013 on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Marina and the Diamonds

Marina and the Diamonds were beloved by some of my co-workers at Borders Books and Music (R.I.P.) back in 2010 after she dropped her debut album, The Family Jewels—and Marina Diamandis has been pushing the envelope ever since. She has a new album out, and Marina and the Diamonds should be a highlight of the festival.

Published in Previews

Benjamin Booker has had a busy couple of years: His blues-meets-punk style has gained him a growing audience, as well as the attention of Jack White and major music publications. He’s made appearances at Lollapalooza and other big-name festivals—and he’ll be at Coachella on Saturday, April 11 and 18.

Booker was born in Virginia Beach, Va., into a military family—his father served in the Navy—and eventually settled in Tampa, Fla. Booker wasn’t available for a phone interview due to the fact he was touring in Europe, but he did answer questions via e-mail.

“We lived in Virginia Beach, which I believe holds the entire Atlantic fleet. It was better than it was for most,” Booker said. “We never moved until after my dad retired. My only memory is passing by huge ships every day in the car, and some (people) walking across a terrifyingly thin metal walkway to get on them.”

Booker said he discovered punk rock through a friend.

“When I was 14, my friend who I used to skateboard with handed me a burned copy of Minor Threat’s Complete Discography, which I listened to constantly in high school,” he said. “‘Seeing Red’ and ‘Filler’ were a couple favorites. I just liked the energy, I guess. I’ve always liked all things noisy and fast.”

He later discovered that punk and blues could co-exist. He also said gospel music was helpful in finding inspiration.

“I guess I realized you could combine blues and soul with punk from listening to bands like T. Rex, the Gun Club, the White Stripes, TVOTR and the Gories,” he said. “There have been several bands who have done it, but I wanted to do something a little different. I was listening to a lot of gospel singers at the time, and I wanted to add some of that, too—people like Viola James and Mahalia Jackson. I think the two genres are both very honest, because you have to mean it when you’re doing either.”

NPR reported that Booker once applied for an internship there; he was rejected and told to focus on his music. I asked him where he thinks he would have ended up had NPR accepted him.

“Maybe I would be doing the same thing. Alex Spoto, who plays bass for me, actually got that same internship the year I applied for it,” he said.

When Booker began to make a name for himself, Jack White came calling—and offered him an opening slot on tour.

“I was surprisingly not nervous,” Booker said. “It turns out that it’s easier to play for bigger crowds than smaller ones. I didn’t get nervous again until our small-club shows afterward.

“I had a good time on that tour. Everyone was very kind, and it was incredible touring with people who have perfected the living experience. Getting to see it every night was like going to the best class ever. We all took notes.”

As of now, Booker said he is focusing on live shows, and he added that he’s excited about coming to the desert—especially to see some of the other Coachella performers.

“I love California, so I’m always excited for a trip there,” he said, “As for Coachella, I’m excited to see Perfume Genius and a bunch of other people playing.”

Published in Previews

Southern California audiophiles and devout music fans know KCRW well: The NPR affiliate is considered one of the best stations in the country for music-lovers.

Therefore, it’s somewhat appropriate that the station’s music director, Jason Bentley, will be DJing at SoCal’s biggest music festival, Coachella, on Friday, April 10 and 17.

Bentley said he attended an underground party while he was in college, and it fascinated him that people from varied backgrounds and places were all able to come together. It was a positive force that he wanted to be part of.

That led to his DJ career, which in turn led him to festivals such as Coachella.

“There is such a huge surge in festivals now. I’m having festival fatigue,” Bentley said during a recent phone interview. “I understand the dynamics of the industry have changed so much to where recorded music doesn’t sell. … I love playing live festivals and clubs, because it gives me more of the artistic expression, and you’ve got your sound palette: You’re playing more stripped-down tracks and ideas; you’re playing these records, with an emphasis on the word play; and you’re performing the record in a totally unique way. You have control over the EQs, the filters and the arrangement.

“Technology has advanced things so much, and I’m old enough that I remember playing vinyl and carrying around record boxes everywhere I went to DJ—which is now ridiculous.”

What does Bentley show up with at a club or a festival these days?

“I bring all my music on a thumb drive now,” he said. “I keep a couple of thumb drives in my pocket. It’s funny, because when you’d go to get access into a nightclub, you’d walk in with your record boxes and say, ‘Hey, I’m the DJ; let me through.’ Now you’re like, ‘No, trust me, I’m the DJ; here’s my thumb drive.’ It’s comical.”

This year’s Coachella fest features a lot of electronic dance music. Bentley put that in historical perspective.

“In terms of the very first Coachella, it was heavy on electronic music, and that’s where it really started,” he said. “I think Coachella was made possible in large part by the dance culture and rave culture in Southern California—and that wisely provided a larger concept just to attract more people. Truly, the roots of Coachella are in electronic dance music. It’s been interesting to see this music become more important and change the experience. The rise of the Sahara tent to what it is now has just been amazing to see.”

Bentley said he’s had some interesting experiences in that Sahara tent.

“I’ve had a couple of opportunities to stand on the side of the stage during some big sets by young, up-and-coming artists who attract other young people,” he said. “One in particular last year I’ll never forget is Martin Garrix. He’s just another Dutch kid from out of nowhere, has a big hit record that’s all the rage, and somehow has a bazillion fans online. I was there when he started his set, and I’ve got to tell you, the energy level at that moment was just so unbelievable. There’s not much else that comes close to that. Sahara has become this wild frat party on steroids.”

Bentley also discussed the smaller, less-talked-about Yuma tent.

“The Sahara was becoming this gigantic kabuki pinball machine,” he said. “I think they wanted to present something that was more about music that you feel—not a light show or spectacle, but a feeling. Dance music is largely about that. Yuma is just a place that’s a dark room. It’s a discothèque—it’s truly a desert discothèque. There was an interesting disco ball in there last year that was shaped like a shark. They’re doing some interesting things in there, but it’s about nuance and feeling, not about skimpy outfits and big video walls.”

What can fans expect to see from Bentley at Coachella?

“It’s house music. It’s that tempo range of 120 (beats per music), roughly 124 bpm to 126 bpm, so it’s not super-fast or about big synth chords,” Bentley said. “It’s about weirder, underground things—not heavy on vocals. I don’t know; it’s just sort of things that catch my ear. It’s kind of like how I select music for KCRW—things that seem exciting and different.”

Bentley said dance music, in some ways, is his generation’s punk rock.

“Now it’s part of us,” he said. “A younger generation now—the millennials—is coming up, and that’s all they know, and it’s part of their vocabulary. It was exciting for me to be part of the first wave of dance culture (in the 1990s), but it doesn’t make classic rock, blues or folk less important to me. It’s just my view of the field is informed by the ’90s dance-music explosion.”

Published in Previews

If Iggy Pop is the Godfather of Punk, Keith Morris the Warrior of Punk.

The former Black Flag and Circle Jerks frontman is almost 60 years old, but he’s not slowing down: Since 2010, he’s been fronting his new band, Off!

Off! will be playing at Coachella on Sunday, April 12 and 19.

Black Flag was one of the first Los Angeles punk bands to make an infamous name for itself. The band recorded its debut EP, Nervous Breakdown, in 1978; it contained what would become four of Black Flag’s most-well-known songs: “Nervous Breakdown,” “Fix Me,” “I’ve Had It” and “Wasted.”

However, Morris left Black Flag in 1979 due to disputes with band mate Greg Ginn—and a severe cocaine addiction. Morris soon formed the Circle Jerks with Greg Hetson (who later went on to join Bad Religion). Fun fact: The Circle Jerks also included Zander Schloss, half of semi-local band Sean and Zander. The band was active up until 1990, when it became more of a part-time group. During a recent phone interview, Morris discussed his days with Black Flag and the Circle Jerks.

“I was in Black Flag for three years, which isn’t really that short of a time compared to Ron Reyes, who was in the band for six months. Dez Cadena was there for a while; Henry Rollins was there for a while—but Greg Ginn was there the longest.”

Most of the early punk groups that formed in New York City and Los Angeles never saw any career potential in what they were doing.

“My whole strategy was a non-strategy and just being kind of a straggler,” Morris said. “I had no set mentality, because there were no rules, and there was no manager standing over us telling us to line our bank accounts, sell lots of records, lots of CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, T-shirts or any of that fun stuff. There were no rules. That was my saving grace in that. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a follower, but there was a wide-open road, a map and a van. You would get in the van and go wherever the van would go and play wherever the van would stop, and all of that fun stuff.”

Where did the van stop? Morris has stories … lots of them.

“You’re pulling into Mobile, Ala., and you’re playing at Nick’s Fun House, dealing with all of the rednecks,” he said. “The Circle Jerks did the same thing Black Flag did: We played locally and everywhere we could play. We played a birthday party in Malibu on a cliff overlooking the ocean in front of a bunch of rich Jewish parents, and they didn’t like what we were up to. We got invited to play the all-girl Catholic school in Flintridge, where the Los Angeles county sheriff showed up in full force with two or three helicopters and the billy clubs. We had our moments.”

The bands also played shows for all-ages crowds at Veterans of Foreign Wars halls. “We’ve actually played places like that where the kids were breaking the showcase in the entrance room and pulling the Civil War bayonets and swords out of the display and actually swashbuckling. They probably didn’t realize the history—they weren’t fighting any kind of civil war, and they weren’t fighting North versus South. They were all being like a bunch of pirates. They were pirates, and it was Black Flag anarchy.”

Morris said that while he’s almost 60, the past several years have been among his most active, while Off! has released three records and toured the world. Morris also took part in a Black Flag reunion called FLAG in 2013.

“I’ve never been as busy as I have been in the last four years,” he said. “All of the other guys have kids, wives, families, relatives, rent and health insurance, and all of those responsibilities, so we don’t get to go out for three months at a time—maybe four weeks at a time.”

Morris said he’s wowed by today’s punk-rock DIY network.

“It exists now more than it ever has,” he said. “Granted, we have had bands that have actually tapped out and mapped out and charted out routes for bands when they go out on tour. But there’s always that place where you pull into town, and the bartender is going to have hemorrhoids, and he’s not going to want to have all the all-ages kids come into his bar.”

Morris recently signed a book deal that he described as “decent” and is putting the finishing touches on an autobiography. One issue that he will probably discuss is his health: In the late ’90s, friends organized concerts to help him with his medical bills. He also became ill while touring in Europe with Off!—and nearly died.

“I’m a diabetic, and I’m approaching 60 years old,” he said. “I love Southern California weather, but I wish that when it was cold, it would be cold for two weeks so we could get acclimated to that. … For me, having been a cocaine addict, I’ve fried all the fibers of the interior of my nose. My sinus passages are completely ruined. Anytime there’s a drastic shift in the weather, I get clogged up; I get post-nasal drip, and wake up with a headache, sort throat and a stomach ache. My deal is that I find myself in this mentality that I’m thinking I’m competing with these younger guys, and I don’t want to get out and jog, so I have to mentally get myself up to the fact that I’ve got to get up there and act like a 19-year-old kid with a cherry bomb that’s been lodged up my rectum.”

Morris said Off! is happy to be playing at Coachella.

“There are a bunch of other bands that are playing, and we hear all the complaints (from fans): ‘I’m looking at the roster, and they want $8,000 for a weekend, and there are two bands that I like, and I hate all the rest of this stuff. And why are you playing with Drake? He’s no good.’ … The bottom line is if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go to it, so shut up and move along!

“This will be our second time at Coachella, and the reason we’re playing Coachella is because the first time we played, we played in a big tent in front of about 8,000 girls trying to find some shade. If you’re in a band, and you get to play in front of 5,000 women, aren’t you going to take that opportunity?”

Published in Previews

It was two years ago this month that the first print edition of the Independent hit the streets of the Coachella Valley—three months after the “official” launch of CVIndependent.com.

Through 28 months of online publication and 21 print editions (two quarterlies and 19 monthlies, if you’re keeping score) so far, we’ve constantly strived to be a true alternative publication—in other words, cover topics that have gotten short shrift in the other local media.

One of those topics was music. Since Day 1, we’ve made an effort to cover as wide of a variety of music as possible—and I am proud of how we’ve done. This brings us to the topic of our second annual Music Issue, which is hitting streets this week. Some of the Music Issue stories have already been posted at CVIndependent.com; the remainder will be posted soon. We have a total of 10 stories previewing acts who will be performing at Coachella or Stagecoach, plus tons of other great music coverage.

Another undercovered topic we’ve been tackling: Issues in the East Valley. I am proud to say you can find two features that focus on the East Valley in this month’s print edition. Kevin Fitzgerald brings us the story of Agua4All, an effort to bring safe drinking water to areas of the eastern Coachella Valley where there has been none; you can read about that at CVIndependent.com on Friday. Also: Brian Blueskye tells the story of Martha’s Village and Kitchen, a fantastic nonprofit in Indio that’s celebrating its 25th anniversary of helping the valley’s homeless.

Finally, I want to mention something we won’t be covering. Yet another topic that’s been undercovered in the valley is theater. For two years now, we’ve made every effort to ethically and fairly review all local productions that run for more than one week—and we’ve done just that.

However, at least for now, we won’t be reviewing Desert Theatreworks shows. After a review of the company’s production of Lost in Yonkers, company management stopped granting us review tickets. It’s worth noting that although Desert Theatreworks’ management took the time to berate the reviewer after the review was published, emails and a phone call from me to discuss the matter went unreturned.

Desert Theatreworks is now the second local company to do this; Palm Canyon Theatre has been denying the Independent review tickets for more than a year now.

The truth hurts sometimes, eh?

Published in Editor's Note

The Coachella Valley today is home to a healthy, growing music scene—but it wasn’t always that way. In the 1980s, young local musicians were forced to basically create their own music scene.

These kids had no idea they would one day be considered pioneers.

One of these pioneers is Brant Bjork, the drummer for and one of the founders of Kyuss. He’ll be appearing at Coachella on Friday, April 10 and 17, with his latest project, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band.

In 1987, while in high school, Bjork got together with Josh Homme and John Garcia to form the band that became Kyuss. Of course, Kyuss went on to become one of the most influential rock bands of the early ’90s, putting Palm Desert on the map for desert rock—or stoner rock, as some people called it. In 1994, Bjork left Kyuss due to a conflict with Homme.

During a recent phone interview, Bjork said he’s proud of what Kyuss accomplished.

“I’m most proud of Kyuss because we were offered a once-in-a-lifetime shot, at a time and a place where it was highly unlikely that shot was going to come to us,” Bjork said. “I’m proud of the fact that we were true to where we were from, and we took that shot and went out in the world and said, ‘We’re from the desert, and we’re a desert rock band.’”

What does he think about the “desert rock” and “stoner rock” labels?

“Being an artist or a member of a band, you don’t really get the luxury of deciding what people are going to call your band. I’m not in the business of coming up with genre names,” he said. “I can’t argue with either term. Desert rock is pretty obvious and appropriate. As for stoner rock, (the term) certainly wasn’t around when we were in Kyuss—but we were stoners. A big part of what we were doing involved marijuana. I think whether people like it or dislike it, it’s pretty authentic.”

During his days in Kyuss, he formed a bond with the band Fu Manchu, another big name in the “stoner rock” era.

“Through a mutual friend, I met the Fu Manchu guys while I was in high school,” he said. “… They were beach guys, and I went out to the beach one weekend, and I met them, and we kind of became friends. They were kind of different but had a similar spirit. … We were tapping into returning to rock music—shameless rock music, like ’70s rock music. We were like brother bands.”

Bjork joined Fu Manchu in 1996 and played drums in the band until 2001.

“After I left Kyuss, Fu Manchu signed a solid record deal and started touring,” he said. “Then the drummer and the singer-songwriter in Fu Manchu parted ways, and Scott (Hill, guitarist and vocalist) called me up and asked if I wanted to join the band. I said yes.”

Bjork later decided to release albums under his own name. He also took part in the Desert Sessions series at the Rancho de la Luna recording studio, which reunited him with Josh Homme.

“Desert Sessions wasn’t really about the desert. That was something that was conceptualized by Josh Homme, and it involved musicians who weren’t from the desert,” Bjork said. “I can’t speak for Josh, so I don’t know what his idea was, but he asked me to take part in the first one, and even though I was questioning the concept, as a musician, it’s hard to say ‘no’ to playing with some accomplished musicians like John McBain from Monster Magnet, or Ben Shepherd from Soundgarden. These were great bands I admired and respected, and this was an opportunity to play music with them.”

In 2010, Bjork got together with John Garcia and Nick Oliveri to play and tour as Kyuss Lives! However, they changed the name to Vista Chino after a lawsuit from Josh Homme and bassist Scott Reeder. The project dissolved after several years.

“For the people who were there and for those of us who were involved, it was beyond a success, and it went way beyond everyone’s expectations,” Bjork said. “We never sounded or played better, and the music was wonderful. In fact, that’s why it stopped—it was stopped because it was so awesome.

“As far as going into the future and getting back together with Kyuss again involving Josh Homme, who willingly didn’t participate—I don’t know. I don’t plan on it, that’s for sure.”

Bjork explained his current project, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band. Last November, the project released Black Power Flower.

“I returned to my solo work, and I just felt like I wanted to rock,” he said. “… It’s been years since I put out a solo record, and in returning, I felt I wanted to make a solid rock record—and sort of scream and shout.”

Bjork said he and his fellow desert-rock founding fathers back in 1987 would have never dreamed the Coachella Valley would once be home to a music festival as prominent as Coachella.

“No,” Bjork said with a laugh. “I think I can count on one hand the artists who came through the desert when I was growing up. It’s a bit crazy. When you break it all down, as crazy it is, it makes good sense, too. It’s a beautiful area; the weather is great; you’re a couple of hours from L.A.; and I think the powers that be hit it out of the park as far as the location and concept—so hooray for them.”

Published in Previews