This is a list of some works in progress that should see the light of day in something like the order they are listed here.
* John Davis & Dennis Callaci – Arches & Pathways
I made a record with a great friend of mine about 25 years ago. We spent three days in late July of 2019 making another one at his house in Claremont, California, and it was even more fun than the first time. It is really unique and strange and catchy in its own way, and super happy with at are both of us. Mixed by Scott Solter. Now on the way to the pressing plant, this release will come out on vinyl and download.
I slept on Dennis’s couch the night before we started recording. Dennis knows a lot more about film history than I do, so I’m always looking for archival film history tips when we talk. That night, as he left me on the couch, he handed me a DVD of the 1964 film Woman In the Dunes, by Hiroshi Teshigahara. I stayed up late watching the whole thing, even though the Criterion Collection cut clocks in at 2 hours and 27 minutes. The soundtrack by Toru Takemitsu is incredible, as is the whole movie. We brought lyric sheets that we had done separately to the next day’s session, but we had made an agreement to improvise all of the music. As a result, there was room for the film’s soundtrack to influence the musical direction, and Dennis said when we finished the whole thing that he could really hear the atmosphere of the movie hanging around what we pulled out of the air on those three days. So if you’re looking for a vibe preview, check out that movie!
*I Saw Sonora Hypnotized
4 of the tunes on this 6 song LP are about the westward expansion of US colonization in the 19th century, hitting on the role slavery played in the Lewis & Clark expedition, Zebulon Pike’s scouting-under-capture of the present day Southwestern US (when it was part of the Spanish Empire), William Becknell and the Santa Fe Trail, and the role violence against Chinese immigrants and Native Americans played in the 1849 Gold Rush and the founding of the city of San Francisco as we presently know it. There’s also a song called A Chorus Line based on the Busby Berkeley film Gold Diggers of 1933 that deals with sexual predation, and a song called Cold about a character with a Midas touch that turns everything to ice instead of gold.
Lyrics to 4 of the 6 songs date back to around 2006, and home recorded parts have been kicking around for a few years in the home studio. The collaborative phase of this project began with recording Oud and arranging song structures with Scott Solter in Mid March. Things continued out in Portland OR at Type Foundry Studios on April 1-3 with Joe Plummer (Cold War Kids, Modest Mouse, Shins) on drums, Atlanta’s Noah Estrella on bass, Scott Solter on Optigan and upright piano, Brandon Eggleston engineering, and me on guitars and iPad synthesis. There were lots of Lewis and Clark references around Portland, from 76 gas stations to national parks, and we had lots of conversation about why Portland is such a white city, with references to Klan activity in the state of Oregon during the time of its ongoing colonization, (see the Oregon chapter of the book Hooded Americanism.) Memories were also fresh from a show I played in San Francisco right after Thanksgiving, where I saw an exhibit at San Francisco MOMA about the gold rush era of 1849, and was reminded how much of contemporary SF iconography trades on the Gold Rush, much as my native MA trades on colonial era Pilgrim icons and racist mythology including but not limited to the original “Thanksgiving.”
We did an additional day of drums with Rob Chamberlain in Durham on Memorial Day weekend, on the eve of his departure for summer tour with his duo Evil English. We had fun using some choice steel drum and percussion stuff I picked up at the amazing Revival Drum Shop in Portland, along with a discarded spin dryer Scott rigged up as a kick drum. I spent the summer adding guitar, synthesis, bass, loops and editing/premixing at home. Vocals came next in early fall here at the ranch. More recently, we did a day of viola and violin with Justin Blatt in the final session at Scott’s studio on Orient St in Durham, which recently moved across town. This got put on the back burner due to work stress and touring. but I’m planning to finish this in summer of 2020. Check back for release details in 2021.