Recording Session: “Love” – Mike Kasparian, song writer/producer
Amazing how a day can come together…
On Oct 1st, 2016 – I had the great fortune to record a steel drum track on this wonderful song, “Love” by Mike Kasparian at Sound Matrix Recording Studios in Fountain Valley, CA. It is not your typical steel drum song but it has such an infectious vibe it lent itself well for the collaboration. It was my first session with Mike Kasparian, and I truly hope it isn’t the last. I didn’t get many pictures during the session as it went by so fast. In fact, the entire recording session was about 45 min from setup to tear down. Just two passes on the song and Mike had captured what he needed from me; and then I was off to perform at Westfield Santa Anita promenade for the Susan Cohan foundation event, Susie’s Cause. It was a free outreach health festival aimed at promoting colon cancer awareness. I was the final act of the day.
Preceding me were several groups: Mayfield Senior Women’s Ensemble, the Mariachi Lindas Mexicanas, Memphis Mike and the Swinging 8 Balls, the Kyokushin Karate School, and the amazing Immortals Dragon Lion Dance Troupe entertained with their lively costumed dancers. The setting was wonderful with a Turtle pond in front of the stage, and nearby play area for the children. I wish I could have had a picture of the turtles when I performed; they seem to really love the sound of steel drums and were straining their necks to see me.
All in all the day was quite magical, and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of it all. This video is the soundtrack that was recorded that day and snapshots from the day’s events. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I love my work!!!
Video shoot – Persian guitarist Davoud Behboodi-Hekayat
Came across an old video cameo I made back in 2004 on the beach of Malibu, California with Persian guitarist Davoud Behboodi-Hekayat.
I never knew much about him at the time and still don’t today, but it was a fun video shoot and one to add to the memoirs. One of the best advantages of being a musician is the many adventures you find yourself a part of.
Flying high with Jet West band & Lewis Richards, of 17th Street Recording Studio
Reggae/Rock producer/ engineer Lewis Richards, of 17th Street Recording Studio recorded me on several tracks for a great new Southern California beach rock-reggae band from San Diego, CA called Jet West.
These guys are definitely taking off, their debut album, “Dropping In” on indie label, Hidden Reef Records has already been nominated Best New World Music Album at the San Diego Music Awards 2011; and nominated for Best Rock at the 2013 San Diego Music Awards.
Jet West is:
Deren Schneider (bassist/vocalist)
Scott Floquet (lead vocalist/guitarist)
Derek Potter (Drummer)
Chris Warner (lead guitarist/vocalist)
Jack Taylor (trumpet/percussionist/vocalist)
My first contact with Jet West was through bassist Deren Schneider. He reached out to me via email from my website, told me they were thinking about trying some steel drum sounds for their new record and were in the studio with Lew Richards, would I be available and interested to do a session with them… and that would be – yes for me.
When I arrived at the 17th Street Studios in Costa Mesa, Jack Taylor was in the booth laying down some hot horn track overdubs and everything was a groovin motion. Deren introduced me individually to the guys between takes, and there was a great positive vibration in the air, I felt right at ease, great studio. I would not hesitate to predict great things are going to be coming from Lew and 17th Street Recording and I’m looking forward to hearing all of it.
Everyone seemed pretty hyped to have steel drums in the studio, even Lew commented that it was a first for the studio, and him peronally – he was anxious to hear them, and record them too.
Jet West’s reggae style is varied from what I’m accustomed to playing; it fuses rock, both traditional and harder rock with an edgy element, with that great reggae feel. I think it’s fresh and totally loved the opportunity to play on it. Originally they were hearing me on two specific tracks, but I felt a connection with another one too, so I wound up playing on three in total and I’m anxious to hear what Lew uses on the final album. Honestly I would have played on the whole album if they let me. It was a great time.
Jet West Dropping In
Lew Richards is the go-to producer for South Coast Rock/Reggae. He’s played the reggae scene with this band Jesus Wore Dickies even before started producing others, and since then worked with Slightly Stoopid, The Dirty Heads, Rome, Micah Brown, and legends Sublime, Sting and Mary J. Blige. Anytime you need some pans Lew, I’m your man!
Soundtrack Collaboration with Richard Bangs
My introduction to globetrotting adventure traveler, Richard Bangs, came at his own home in Venice Beach, CA where we met during a performance I gave for the birthday party of our mutual, close personal friend, Dan Deppen.
It was a grand night, with great food, music of course, and fun that we have since endearvored to repeat. Richard’s partner Laura Hubber and son Jasper are just great people too, so down to earth and easy to relate to, a nicer family you’ll never find. And I would be totally remiss if I did not mention how talented and well respected Laura is in her own right, a Harvard-trained media expert, and long-time producer and reporter for the BBC World Service.
She was a Foreign Correspondent in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for The San Francisco Chronicle and The European newspapers, and has consulted and reported from around the world, including Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Israel, Macedonia, Myanmar, Kurdistan, Turkey and Rwanda. Oh yeah, she definitely gets around the world on her own too!
Laura co-produces: Adventures With Purpose, PBS television specials, with Richard; and son Jasper obviously the most, well-traveled young man I have ever met, with a penchant for anything with wheels and wings. Imagine that?! It’s no wonder that this dream-team family of world travelers calls the “crossroads of culture” Venice Beach, CA home. After all Venice is world renown as a hangout for the creative and the artistic.
But I just can’t decide if it is ironic or perfectly fitting that their house is on a street that was once a canal waterway, it doesn’t mater, Richard is never one to sit in any one place long and home seems only a brief stopover place to regroup before taking off on another adventure. He is a soft spoken, self-unassuming man in person. A world adventure traveler – you surely wouldn’t know it to meet him, his quiet demeanor hides his many talents.
In addition to making his first descents down 35 rivers, including the Yangtze in China and the Zambezi in Africa, this ol’ river guide has racked up extensive experience as a guide, travel writer, TV host, producer, and entrepreneur. I don’t know why but I always seem to be spirit-drawn to fellow entrepreneurs.
Adventures With Purpose, PBS Special
Perhaps it’s this same spirit that drew Richard and his friends, Lew Greenwald, and John Yost together to found Sobek Expeditions back in 1973. They led an expedition on, the Awash – a little-known African river filled with…, wait for it… Crocodiles!
The trip was originally meant to be a “last fling” after recently graduating college before they all planned to enter the routine working world; instead it ultimately inspired them to form a commercial international rafting company, naming it after ancient Egyptian god of crocodiles, Sobek, what else?! So that experience was most likely the turning point, the axiom moment in time, defining the vehicle for his wanderlust adventure travel career.
Many travel adventure years later in 1991, Sobek Expeditions would merge and become Mountain Travel Sobek, and it was during that time, around 93′; Richard helped develop a pioneering website that was among the very first travel site on the internet. His early entrepreneurial vision to broadcast an entire Antarctica expedition – live over the internet in a 1995 web production called Virtual Antarctica caught the attention of Melinda Gates, who persuaded him to leave Mountain Travel Sobek and join Microsoft in 96′. He became editor-in-chief and launched yet another new, pioneering web site featuring live, multimedia dispatches from expeditions around the world called, Mungo Park.
I’ve personally enjoyed reading his many fascinating articles, and have yet to finish all of his books. Richard Bangs has written 19 books in all – including the multi-award-winning The Lost River, about his expeditions in Ethiopia – and hundreds of travel articles for The Huffington Post, Slate, The New York Times, MSNBC, and other publications.
If that’s not prolific enough, Bangs has also given lectures at the Smithsonian, the National Geographic Society, and the Explorers Club; served on the founding executive team of Expedia.com and as president of Outward Bound, an internationlal non-profit, independent outdoor education organization with approximately 40 schools around the world and 200,000 participants per year. He is host and co-executive producer of the Emmy award winning American Public Televsion series Adventures With Purpose, which has evolved to Richard Bangs’ Quest.
And now…we can add song lyricist to his credits. Richard approached me with the task of producing a song called “Cancun Colada” he penned for a piece on Cancun, featured on his series show Richard Bangs’ Quest. It’s a tongue in cheek twist on the Rupert Homes classic song, “Escape” otherwise known as “The Pina Colada Song” and describes the many wonderful features of dream destination vacation Cancun.
It was a total blast to work with Richard on this project and I’ll look forward to more in future.
Egészségedre Richard! (Hungarian; Cheers – to your health Richard)
Here is our final video project: Cancun Colada
Recording with West Indian Girl, 4th & Wall
So, I think it was sometime January 2007, Francis Ten, bassist for the band West Indian Girl was looking to add some steel drums to their sound and emailed me. I didn’t know the band at the time so I did a quick google search and discovered a rather trippy music video for “What Are You Afraid Of” with the band in a field, strolling around with a huge elephant and thought, Ok, yeah! this looks like fun, definitely out there kind of thing. I’m game, let’s see what I can do with this and where it goes. Check out the video “What Are You Afraid Of”. You’ll see the elephant and get an idea of what I was seeing…
I went to their studio, and I’m not going to lie, it was sketchy looking to say the least. The “studio” was in a warehouse building downtown Los Angeles around 4th & Wall. There were scads of homeless people camping and zoning out in front of the place and Francis was out on the sidewalk amongst them there to meet me along with his dog Tony, a rather formidable Boxer. I was really wondering at that moment, what I had gotten myself into…but decided I was “all in” and just went with it.
I’ve had a few bad experiences when I was a kid, being chased by a pack of dogs once on my paper route, and some not-so-nice encounters with pit bulls, so I was a bit apprehensive meeting Tony, and wondered how it would affect my playing.
RECORDING 4th & Wall
Fran was very cool enough though and put me at ease, explaining as we were loading in, that when the band made their first record contract money they immediately invested in their own recording gear, for the luxury and freedom of recording at their own pace and schedule. This place offered the solace and security they were looking for, and obviously the price must have been right. You know, the whole thing – it was so gritty – LA, that I think for better or worse the enviornment made its mark on their music too, it was quite a trip.
But then again, as I was rationalizing the immediate scenario – with all the crazy people lying around on the sidewalk – the idea of having a big dog on your side like Tony seemed anxiously reassuring. Providing he was indeed on my side!
The only entrance to the place was a rollup security door, and there were some tight stairs at first, but then we were able to use my equipment cart to load everything up. Then we started rolling down the dimly lit narrow halls of this stark abandoned-like warehouse towards one of those freight elevators, honestly…it was like out of a dream…the whole thing seemed rather surreal.
Chris Arpad recording “Up the Coast”
I met Robert James in their studio loft that day. He had this wild hair and beard, very soft spoken when he spoke – which was not often at all. He mostly kept to himself, glued to the computer screens and attending to the engineering board.
The space was actually pretty cool, very large rooms with tons of vintage instruments and their new studio gear. I set up on a great old Persian rug, and we made some magic. It was a lot of fun. I didn’t get to work with the whole band that day, only with Robert, Fran, and Tony!
The tune “Up The Coast” was mostly in the can, and I was needed to add some color and ambiance for the track. It was a joy to play on. We made several takes, and during breaks I learned that the band was basically Fran and Robert at the core. They originally met in Detroit, moved to LA, recorded their music and scored a record deal before they even had a group. The name West Indian Girl actually came from a slang term for a strain of LSD. They thought it sounded cool and fit the sound of their music image.
But honestly, and I hope I’m not giving away any trade secrets here, these guys were not druggies at all from what I could see. No signs of drugs anywhere, in fact they seemed more like organic-vegan surfer dudes. The warehouse studio, however, did fit the seedier drug image of LA, but the reference for the band seemed way more a self-imposed moniker than actual reality for these guys. But hey, what do I know, maybe I caught them on an off day, or they just didn’t care to share with a brother. Here’s the final track that I played on below, “Up the Coast.”
West Indian Girl became a complete Rock Sextet and started touring in 2004. Original members were Robert James (vocals/guitar) and Francis Ten (bass) are joined by Mark Lewis (drums/backing vocals), Nathan Van Hala (keyboard), and Amy White (keyboard/backing vocals), and Mariqueen Maandig (vocals/percussion).
Updates: Since my time recording with West Indian Girl: Mariqueen Maandig, was featured as the “Becoming Attraction” for the January 2009 issue of Playboy magazine.
Mariqueen left West Indian Girl and married Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails and became part of the post-industrial group How to Destroy Angels along with Atticus Ross and Rob Sheridan.
Trent & Mariqueen Reznor
How to Destroy Angels –
Mariqueen Reznor –
How to Destroy Angels
And the saddest of news, I learned that Fran’s dog Tony passed in 2012. Tony was a very cool and amazing dog, and I’m so sorry to hear of his passing. He will be missed. Such a great dog!
West Indian Girl continues to produce albums at their own pace. There are many remixes of their tracks floating around in the internet ether.
Fran Ten can also be heard with another project performing with the four piece hard rock band Breaking Arrows. I enjoyed following their Japan tour on line. …hey Fran, know it’s a stretch but if you need some pans on any of this I’m game!
Check out their video below. Broken Arrows – Tears Falling Heavy.
Tony on the cover of “4th & Wall”