New Year 2002
Well the old calendar on the wall is coming down and the 2002 edition is going up. I hope the holidays found everyone getting as festive as possible. Holidays being a time for gratitude and the like and gratitude being a big part of my program (seriously!), I thought I'd take a moment to give a shout out to some of my old friends out there and some new ones we made along the way last year. And share some of my recollections of roughly the last year. Although we've been laying pretty low on the gig front the last few months, I reckon 2001 was as hectic a year as any. Personally, I didn't spend nearly enough time laying around and scratching myself, staring out the window as I would have to liked to. Then again, if I count staring out the window of a van ten hours at a stretch....
This December in San Francisco was the coldest/wettest December in some 40 years or so—according to the people who know those kinds of things. Whatever—it's January 7th as I type—- and at the moment it feels magnificent to be kicking it here in the Duboce Triangle at my desk banging on the ol' Powerbook in my city by the bay—even if I have to wear my parka indoors! Please join me as I chronicle some highlights and lowlights of the year at CP inc. sometimes in no particular order. Rest assured, I promise not to weigh in with any great insight regarding the tragedy's of 9/11. In the immortal words of Orson Welles, "meaningless.... unrewarding... wearying... " For anyone who was paying attention, I did post some thoughts on the subject up on the site shortly after the disasters. But, in retrospect, I somehow doubt that anyone really wants to come to me for wisdom. I have to admit that it's pretty much impossible to not make reference to it reflecting back on the year.
For Christmas, amazingly, Stephie and I had family here in our apt. Stephie's mom and dad and her sister and brother in law came to town for a Christmas dinner. We purchased a mega turkey from the health nazi store that had never been frozen. I didn't know they could do that. A turkey UNfrozened! The experience was not without a little drama which I won't go into here. But, when all is said and done, I think we would've made that Dominitrix Martha Stewart proud. Gravy stained girl!!
We covered alot of miles out there behind the wheel of the `88 Dodge Ram last year (close to 35,000—unless that Odometer is playing tricks on me. ) Among the jaunts we took was the What Me Worry tour. (the Plush in Tucson to the Turf in Minneapolis) Mostly what I remember about that tour is being devastated by a flu that left Stephie and I flat on our backs—illin' like Bob Dylan for a good 48 hours at the Shoney's in Lexington, Kentucky (props to Bobby Ray and co. at Lynaughs for the great gig and the corporate hotel rate). Completely delirious—drifting in and out of consciousness—with Joan rivers on the E channel in the back ground warming us up for the Oscars for what seemed like an eternity... Don't remember anything about the Oscars. But Stephie did develop a gnarly cough that (no need to exaggerate here), had her barking like a dog for the next couple of months serving as a continual reminder of that particular strain of whatever it was.... some bee-atch of a flu.
After what had to pass for our recovery, we climbed back into the van and went on to play some great gigs and meet some great folk on that tour. We shared a bill with Tim Easton and Eleni Mandell in St. Louis (Davey's Drive In was it?) which was a real treat. Eleni Mandell playing solo electric put the hurt on everyone and was a tough act to follow. We made fast friends with Tim and his band as we chewed the fat around the merch table. Later that tour we jammed with Steve Wynn at the Mercury lounge in NYC where we milked every last drop out of each of the three chords of our tune Look Both Ways. We also faced off with SF's own Creeper Lagoon in Columbia. They were a real cool surprise. Great songs. Twisted humor. The singer (Ian) even gave Stephie a fuzz pedal he made himself for that Farfisa(ish) synth of hers as a going away present. A great night—a great band. Sadly, they decided to call it quits shortly after, presumably buckling under from the pressure and expectations of their mega Dreamworks deal. Sounds like a pattern. Jonathan Fireeater anyone?
We also played a cluster of gigs in and around SXSW from the Cactus Club to a Taco stand out on Congress Ave. The highlight of "South By" was the closing night gig we played supporting Alejandro Escovedo at the Continental where the mighty Mission Express had the elusive Max Butler back in tow. And, as an added bonus for me, later on I got to stand by and watch as "Teenage Rob" was thrown up on stage with Alejandro and forced to fake his way through Al's songbook when Al's bassman was a "no show". Baptism by fire as it were. The night culminated in the inevitable clusterf*ck with Al and Co., myself, Ryan Adams and others up on stage "mowing through changes" (as Steve B used to say) until Ryan lead us all through a 10 minute version of Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart.
Later that spring we headed out on the Lonely School Days tour (west coast May 2001 Berkeley, San Jose, Hollywood, Sacramento) with Paul "Master P" Revelli back behind the kit. We shared the bill with a great band out of Seattle called Mountain Consolidated and some of us discovered the wonder of "animal style" burgers at the most holiest of fast food chains, In and Out burger.
In May/June, Stephie and I went over to Japan and played three gigs acoustic. Well, I did bring my Squire and we had a beat box for Stephie's go go market numbers. And, because it's Japan, and no one can say no, they supplied a Wurlitzer electric piano on stage every night at our disposal. We made as much noise as we could and I believe the Tokyo gig was filmed for Japanese TV. Thanks especial to Doug at Buffalo Records as well as Maki and Yufu for making it happen. And Jack Ehlers for well... being there.
All in all, Japan was a somewhat more sober experience than the one I had with Green On Red back in `93 (vending machines with beer?? grrreeeeeaaat!!) Still, no matter how much Merch money I socked away —not to mention money saved on getting through the experience without the aid of saki—before I could take any money out of the country, each and every Yen in my pocket inevitably went right back out into the cash register on one of the seven floors of Tower Records in Shibuya. I swear they used the same designers that lay out those Casinos... you can drop a couple hundred bucks trying to find the exit!!
Oh yeah—As I had been away on the Best of SF acoustic tour, Stephie and I didn't have much time to brush up on the tunes. We figured we'd do it when we got there. It was only after we moved all our luggage out into the hallway of the umteenth floor of our hotel were we able to sit knee to knee in our dollhouse like room for a couple of hours to blow off the cobwebs and put together a set. Man those rooms are small! As Dan Stuart commented, "dude—you gotta be a double amputee to take a bath in that tub!"
I also returned to the east coast to participate in Ian Brennan's annual SF Best of tour for the second year in a row. (The timeline is getting real murky right about now—I know) Ettienne De Rocher and Dr. Frank (of the Mr. T Experience) were just a couple of the new friends I got to hang with and swap songs. Enjoyed hearing songs out of the Dr. Frank book so much that I recorded a psycho-jeolousy little number of his entitled Jill which is a contender my new opus.
The night before we flew out to Japan, Stephie and I, along with my mom and dad (!) attended the CMA awards (California Music Awards) where I was a nominee for best guitarist and male vocalist. Go figure! Again, the C-M-A awards (California Music Awards) not to be confused with the Country Music Awards. Somehow I think it will be a long time before The Country Music Awards nominate me for best male vocalist. But give it time all you m*ther-for-ya's!! Anyway, after some confusion as to what we were doing there, or if we were meant to play, we ended up performing a sloppy but... ahem... heartfelt acoustic version of Apology with Austin DeLone (on loan from Huey Lewis!!) playing Hammond B-3 behind us. A couple memorable recollections:
1) Heading out for a smoke break in the VIP area, Sammy Hagar reached out and grabbed my sleeve and said, "man—what you did out there with that chick. That song—dude—it warmed by heart. " All the while he emphasized this by pounding on his chest. How did that feel you might ask? What can I say? It was gooooood.
2) I somehow ended up being asked to present album of the year just like on TV. In fact, I think it was on TV. "And the winner is.... " Green Day! They kind of appeared, and proceeded to circle around me like uncaged animals. I had to grab one of em and press the award into his hands—I remember mumbling something stupid into the microphone like, "cool" or "alright!" and split. (props to Queenie Taylor for putting us up in style and giving us the slot to play). Later that night Green Day played and proceeded to kick everyone's asses.
When we returned back from Japan, Stephie and I with the aid of Mark Pistel mixed down the debut full length go go market record which I feel uncharacteristically good about. A stellar bunch of songs if I say so myself. And Stephie brought em all to life with some gripping vocals. Looking forward to that record hitting the streets. Watch this space for details.... In the words of Daisy Duck, "Some call it Housewife Goth; some call it Movie Music. But you might have to call 911 when you hear it `cause this stuff's dangerous. If your heart's in the right place to get broken, watch out—go go Market might take you halfway to cardiac arrest!" That's what she said.
Over the summer I settled into writing a new record and taking in Giants games. I've been told I need to get a hobby and with the N Judah train running straight to the new Pac Bell park and practically spilling out at my door how could I refuse kicking it like Bruce Lee in the sun to witness Barry Bonds on his home run tear? Not to mention the allure of the gourmet garlic fries at the shiny new Giant's Complex. Done deal. Props to Dean Del Ray and Barry Simons for the choice seats right behind the Giants dug out (It helps to know people). And to Jason "professor" Borger for the unending enthusiasm, great company and tutorage on the finer points of the game.
About August time, I signed a new record deal with New West records. Hats off to Peter Jesperson and his comprades for having the good taste to make that happen.
Started work on a new record in Sept. up at Mr. Waits studio with Jacquire King manning the board. Followed by a blow out at Studio 880 in Oaktown with Jim Waters behind the glass. We filled reel after reel of spirited beautiful noise and settled down to make sense of it only to have the wind knocked out of us by the tragic events of 9/11. We pressed on and tried to unglue ourselves from the CNN monitor. Numb enough without the aid of that damn TV sreen staring back all night and day. As for the record which we recently finished mixing in Tucson at Waterworks with the assistance of Jim Waters. Along with the help of Mark Pistel, Jacquire, Justin and all the great players: Max, Paul, Stephie, Michael, Teenage, Greg, John, et al.... I think we finally got it right this time. Everybody played their asses off. And the Prophet/klipschutz team came up with a couple of my new all time favorite songs. Jason "professor" Borger did such an amazing job with the string arrangements on the go go market record that I had to steal him to do some on here as well.
Most of the mixing was done out in Tucson under the watch of Jim Waters at Waterworks West. Mixing into the early hours of the morning, I settled into a routine of heading out into the parking lot of Waterwest, hitting the road and pulling the old Dodge Ram van into a different Circle K for a non alchoholic nightcap on my nightly trip back to my room at the Hotel Congress. At said hotel with no TV etc. there aint much to do but log some Q.J.O.T. (Rusty, Jason, I think you follow me here). I killed off all my Christmas shopping in one fell swoop when I purchased a stack of Hotel Congress 2002 calendars hot off the press. All of this reminds me that I did keep kind of cryptic diary all through the making of the record, a bit of a tangled mess. But maybe at some time I'll post it. More on that later, hopefully I'll have plenty of opportuniies to shoot my mouth off on the subect of he record.
There were a boatload of great movies and books and records that came out. Rather than go into that here, we thought we'd add a link over at http://www.chuckprophet called "Chuck's Corner" where (for whatever it's worth)—it might could provide some kind of owners manual to the whole cosmology of http://www.CP.—hopefullly I'll have the discipline to keep it up to date. The thinking is that from time to time, I'll log on and post whatever's laying around the house or buried in my bag rather than try to pick ten of anything here.
On second thought, other than records, book and movies, there were alot of gigs—and I attended a few. I have to say the hands down live gig of the year was the comeback of Carlos Guitarlos at the Ivey room in Albany (California) last month (I know what you're thinking— he never really went away). Props to Bill McBeth and Max Butler for putting the love and care into it. How's your CSF? (Carlos Saturation Factor) And on the subject of gigs.... there was the night Stephie and I stumbled down the hill and saw Amy Rigby at the DuNord along with about 15 other well informed souls including J Neo from X-Tal who I hadn't seen in a dog's age. Of course, my new best friends in Sacramento, the band Jackpot treated me to a Dylan gig at the Sacramento Memorial Hall that was positively immortal with His Bobness in perhaps the finest form ever, "Searching for a Soldier's Grave" didn't go over anyones head. As Dylan himself recently said, "I've got a song for every occasion." While we're at it , I can't forget the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Bimbo's which was positively er... explosive. After asking the crowd for a moment of silence, Jon passed on perhaps the heaviest message of all in response to the tragedies of Sept. 11 which was: "keep on fucking!" Hallelujah, Jon.
Man, everybody and their grandma's dog made a CD last year. As I listen to a Don William's LP in the background, sometimes I think it might have been better in the old days when records were made by professional singers and writers and pickers. Of course, inevitably that wears itself into the ground and gets boring too. Besides, where would that leave ME? Probably pumping gas somewhere. No doubt, there were all kinds of great records released last year. In terms of out of the blue discovery's—as opposed to the Dylan's and Cohens of last year. (I'm refferring to your fresh modern primitives of the four track nation )—I picked up the Moldy Peaches home-made CD (the CD itself has the credits in Magic Marker—bout as down home as they come!) after hearing `em at the NYC anti-folk mainstay Sidewalk Cafe. That record knocked me out. Hearing that CD gave me the kind of feeling I hadn't felt since I first heard the Modern Lovers. Plus I thought I discovered them! Now where'd I get this Don Williams record I wonder? I believe this might be one of those checked out at the library and never returned LP's. I wonder if it's too late to return it?
I also took a break from working on my new record and went out to Austin where I worked on a new Kelly Willis record for a couple of weeks. She's using this Grammy heavy Allison Kraus/Dolly Parton engineer Gary Paczosa for what turned out to be a rocking acousticy blood on the tracks kind of session. The first night in Austin I ran into uber guit slinger David Grissom at a dinner party—he insisted I borrow his Gibson for the sessions. It was a bad ass good thing playing David's 40's Gibson acoustic through $80,000 of outboard gear racked up to the ceiling for a couple of weeks. Listening back through what allegedly was once Elvis's API mixing board from RCA, I could hear my nose hairs—I could hear spiders crawling! Kelly is at the top of her game and was, as always, in total command. And God Bless her, she had the good sense to get the old band back together from her last record. Rafael (drums), Booklyn's own Mark Spencer on guit, Lunchmeat on bass et al. and yours truly on guitar and Glockenspiel arrangements. Oh and Ian McClagan (you Faces fans will know who I'm talking about!) came in to play keyboards and share a few choice anecdotes (sometimes at the expense of Rod Stewart) that had us all in stitches. The only real wrinkle in the project was navigating through the fat studio menu book and getting all those red necks to agree on what to eat.
Okay that's it for now. For those of you that made it this far. I really tried not to fabricate anything or exaggerate to much. Although, when I said that Green Day kicked everyones asses. I want to make clear that what I meant was that they kicked everyone's asses with thier MUSIC! Can ya dig it?
Oh and as far as new years resolutions go. New years came and went and although I switched from Marlboro Red's to Marlboro Lights, that's about as far as I got on that particular element of my continual quest for self improvement. If I have my way, 2002 will find myself and the Mission Express out there rolling with it til the wheels fall off—playing every last fucking burb from Fresno to Sardinia. Hope to see you then!