I was asked by my friend and collaborator Tiffany, what is the most essential thing on the road, what are your favorite hidden spots and what about this obsession with indigo? It's not just the indigo I'm obsessed with, it's the vision that occurred to me in my years away from pursuing music on the road. For years I asked myself, what was it that was so bad about being on a big label and touring in a tour bus?
I went to work with my dad for a while and remembered how he built his business with his two hands and imagination. Everyday he woke up and loved it even though there were doubts and many trials to come. I thought about our next door neighbor, my aunt Marie, becoming the baddest wedding cake maker in the parish. I thought about aunt Doris catering weddings and cooking all the food. I was brought up by resourceful people. My mamere chased her own chickens and grabbed them by the neck with her own two hands. My papere steered his own stubborn mule with no complaints. Oh and did I mention resilience? Those two lovely people lost two kids and raised 9 others on a farm.
My goal when getting back on the road with music was to connect with my own kind and not be forced into silly circles. I wanted to connect with people with vision. Brave people who were not afraid of being themselves. Not afraid that they may look in the mirror and not recognize themselves.
The road is a scavenger hunt to find these people. Long attention spans, and focus is their gift. They can sit through a whole concert without looking at their phones and their tiny homes are filled with books and records with no tv in sight. They are a bit obsessed with finding simplicity and the things that really matter. They want to reclaim time for themselves.
This is my ever changing pot of gumbo. I started making music with an MPC 2000 and a computer, so sound design has always been my main interest in music. I grew up on Lanois and Eno and Depeche Mode and Chopin. It's all with me when I'm up there with only an acoustic guitar and my pedal board. It's fun to have an instinct up there and recall my days in a Stella Adler improvisation class and let it fly knowing you may fall on your face. Sometimes, mistakes become my new discovery.
I still love NY even though there has been a mass exodus of its creative class. This bridge in Prospect Park is one of my favorite places to be. It's quiet, it's full of nature and it's in Brooklyn. I love Brooklyn. When I was living in Williamsburg years ago, I noticed a DIY movement happening. I was making a record in my apartment, I saw coffee becoming and art form, and folks were getting fed up with their cubicles. This was the overall feeling of excitement the whole time making "So Long" we were touching everything.
Before we even mastered "So Long", Mac Premo came up with a concept that we would mass produce on our kitchen table. We made album art with banana paper from banana boxes from Bodega's all over Brooklyn. I put all these vignettes in between each song, burnt the cd's and wrapped them in twine. We had stacks of them. This is how I ended becoming friends with Sierra from Coco Rosie. They hadn't recorded a sound yet and she came to look at my apartment because I was leaving. She saw the stacks of records and was so curious. I told her I made a record and the packaging and sent her off with one. Years later I ran into her and she was so excited to see me and give me their first record. She said my little disc in the banana paper was an influence while they recorded in Paris.
This is Brother Moto in Atlanta. It's a motorcycle repair facility. It's a meeting place. You become a member and you can use one of their stalls in a cafe setting to repair your own bike. Lots of bike geeks around if you have any questions. It makes for a nice community. As record shops die, those communities are dying. The internet is nice but it's not like being in the record shop in Philadelphia my friend Mary worked at. You can smell the packaging on the old records, read magazines as they spin rare records you would have never known about. We lose that sense of community when we live online or on a tour bus behind that lonely window.
This leads me to Indigo dying. Before we signed to a label, as I said, we touched everything and the process was fulfilling. Eventually I didn't have to do anything and my face was painted on a BEEFY Tee! Yeah, the one thing I told them I didn't want and there it was on a huge piece of cotton in all the wrong sizes and fit. Corners were cut over and over and eventually I didn't want to be associated with my own brand. Now that's a bad feeling no matter how many people are in the crowd at Bonnaroo.
I've always loved indigo and I learned how to dye from my friend Aaron Ruff of Digby & Iona. I didn't want a band shirt so I began collecting shirts on the road at Goodwills for dyeing. It's so fun to come home with an army bag full of stuff and see it come out of the dye bucket and change colors as the oxygen hits it.
Still using the brown paper I started with in Brooklyn though only special editions are made with the banana paper now.
The idea for getting back on the road would be very boutique and hands on with no sights set on getting discovered. An older VW Westfalia would be the perfect vehicle to sip the land in. I didn't want to just roar from town to town.
These shop rags remind me of my dad, the machinist. These rags were always around and are a symbol of work ethic for me.
This is in Appalachiacola, Florida were I stayed a few nights and ate oysters. I also learned to camp for free in this area on St. George Island. In a wooded area, I slipped behind the brush right at sunset and lit candles and no one ever saw me.
This is in California south of Big Sur. Those are all not rocks in a distance, they are Elephant Seals. I heated up some black bean soup and we ate right there with the sea gull on land that will probably disappear soon.
Big Sur has become one of my favorite places. It has the quiet that I like. Henry Miller is in the air there. Everything is poetry and simple. It's nice to be able to get to the coast without a fence or having to pay to get through a gate. The one thing I've noticed about traveling most of our coasts, is that we have put up a fences around the coastline and are charging admission to see it. It's crazy how we develop our beaches, but this scene is where it's at.
El Cosmico in Marfa, Tx is a great spot to stop. I love it because it splits up the insane amount of miles between Austin and El Paso. I spent a record 19 degree desert night in the van one night there. It was fun to do battle with the desert, but should not be taken lightly. It can be intimidating.
Room 242 at Hotel Congress in Tucson is my kind of thing too. The hotel boast a few bars and a restaurant and cafe but 242 is haunted. I stayed in there but only got a song out of the deal. I never saw the young, beautiful girl who shot herself in there. I ran my hand over the bullet hole. I was mad at her and was expecting something but not even a flicker of light or noise.
One of my favorite stops right outside of Joshua Tree is Chiriaco Summit. I was low on gas and it seemed like the gas stations were getting further apart. I exited because I saw a station and when I got there I noticed it was a ghost of one, mocking me. I was scared. I was envisioning sleeping on the side of the road when I noticed a huge Chevron sign in Chiriaco Summit. I drifted in and fueled up and noticed a free camping sign. Such a change in mood instantly. Next thing I'm building a fire and cooking in the van with New Order cranked. Probably my favorite winter time spot. No one in sight. No signage, just me and the mountains.
The most essential item in the van is my black iron pot. Everything is cooked in it and new recipes are happening because of it. In California, Rosemary grows everywhere and Thyme in some other places and they become key ingredients. Of course everything becomes a taco.
Joshua Tree is another favorite place. When you're in the middle of it, it's like nowhere you've ever been. And oh the silence, such silence!
"The aim of life is to live, and to live is to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. "-Henry Miller