The invitation from Chevrolet is some-more than we can resist: “Experience what it’s like to make it as a musician in California.” Along with a organisation of associate automobile writers, I’ve gotten it given we also play music, something that Chevy sees as being constituent to their brand. “From a Beach Boys’ ‘409’ to Prince’s ‘Little Red Corvette,’ it’s partial of a really DNA,” that arrange of thing. In prior years, Chevy has brought rockin’ automobile reporters to places like Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama. This outing will conduct west, to L.A. and a High Desert around Joshua Tree National Monument, where we’ll jam together, record some studio time and – a ostensible, automotive purpose of this outing – representation a all-new 2018 Chevy Traverse RS.
Here’s given this is funny, though. Playing strain is indeed my day job; essay about cars is something we do on a side – arrange of like a other hostess with an Autoweek byline, Jay Leno, solely we indeed need a money. Think of me as a indie-rock chronicle of Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason: Instead of a 250 GTO, I’ve got a 250 (-thousand-mile Saab) SPG.
Having grown adult in Southern California, we also know firsthand what it’s like to make it there as a musician – if we know “it” to meant “your life awfully difficult” and “your family consternation when you’re ever going to volume to anything.” Indeed, many are a nights I’ve spent “experienc[ing] a West Hollywood strain scene,” as breathlessly touted by a invite; many of them began with removing yelled during by a theatre manager of a Troubadour about his residence manners no matter how many times we’d played there before.
In LA they call this “February.”
As for a Chevy connection? I’m not certain that this would’ve incited adult on their list of a some-more than 2,000 songs that discuss a brand, yet certain enough, a rope we play in, a Mountain Goats, has one, too: a 15-year-old B-side we dusted off and started personification live for a initial time usually final year. It’s a strain about a dysfunctional integrate who, after a day of tough drinking, conduct over to “Pete Brown Chevrolet” for a exam expostulate that ends when they dried a automobile behind a high propagandize and set it on fire. The strain is called “New Chevrolet in Flames.”
Come to consider of it, I’m going to theory Chevy’s PR dialect hasn’t heard it.
A few days after comes a follow-up email from Nashville writer and songwriter Frank Rogers, a legitimate courtesy heavyweight whose credits embody names like Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins, in serve to carrying served as ringmaster on any of Chevy’s dual prior studio ventures. No pressure, says Rogers. It’s all about carrying fun, yet we should be prepared to play 3 songs:
• Queen, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
• The Beatles “Come Together”
• U2 “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
I don’t know about you, yet for me, these register as follows: OK, oh no, and oh God. Queen…well, come on, who doesn’t like Queen? The Beatles, on a other hand, started giving me hives in high school, around a time we listened from a 500th boomer about how zero that came after them would ever be value a damn. Except, maybe, they competence allow, U2. Pompous, intolerable U2. Of course.
Joe Strummer by a pool circa 1980.
Upon attainment in LA, we’re brought to a Sunset Marquis, a hotel that in all my years of furloughed we haven’t stayed during before, from that we can presupposition that it substantially doesn’t come adult on Priceline. Located off a Sunset Strip, usually adult a travel from a ancestral Roxy and Whisky a Go Go, a Sunset Marquis has been a home divided from home to stone kingship for decades, going behind to a days when pre-fame Bette Midler and Neil Diamond used to perform in a yard in sell for a room. Lined with palm trees and sensuous gardens, it exudes adequate old-Hollywood glorious to make we feel like you’ve wandered into a Lana Del Rey video. Next to a pool, there’s a print of Joe Strummer station subsequent to a pool.
We’re collected off to a side of a run as ubiquitous manager Rod Gruendyke runs down a hurl call of iconic regulars for us, that over a years has spanned from Bruce Springsteen and a Ramones to Guns N’ Roses and Green Day. He’s still revelation stories when, as if to expostulate a indicate home, a observable figure of Steven outpost Zandt can be seen entrance in off a travel and slinking past over a gullible Gruendyke’s shoulder.
After a brief debate of NightBird, a hotel’s tiny yet entirely versed groundwork recording studio — a list of people who’ve used it is equally long, yet my favorite span of names is Burt Bacharach and Lil Wayne — we’re brought by a courtyard, past a condemned wing of a hotel and a orange tree planted in respect of U2’s debate manager of 30 years, Dennis Sheehan, who died here in 2015 (no, my snark toward U2 does not extend to their late employees, namaste), to a apartment where an collection of acoustic instruments is watchful for us. Turns out I’m a usually bassist; a other half of a stroke territory is Eddie Alterman, a editor-in-chief of Car and Driver, a repository we initial became spooky with when we was 12 years aged — even before we detected this one. OK, now I’m starstruck.
There’s a lot of noodling initially, and a integrate people over here personification one thing while people over there are personification something else — it feels a small bit like a high propagandize rope practice, to be honest — yet Rogers, a producer, willingly grabs a reins and guides us by a operation of a songs we’ve been assigned. To everyone’s pleasing surprise, we don’t sound half bad. The mood is good! The vibe is strong! we can’t trust I’m personification in a U2 and Beatles covers band, yet whatever. As a bassist, being means to get over yourself is an occupational necessity.
The subsequent morning starts with a requisite selling display over breakfast. Did we know that Chevrolet has been a fastest flourishing and many awarded automotive code over a final 4 years? And that it now boasts a broadest and freshest crossover lineup in a industry? we didn’t either, yet apparently it has, and it does!
The new Traverse is a pivotal partial of that, and with a RS, Chevy hopes to offer business a new choice in a reward midsize SUV class, something blank from a register until now. It’s an certainly large package, a RS’s trance trim and sculpted flanks orderly disguising a vehicle’s bulk and conveying an opinion that is assured and confidant yet looking like some arrange of angry-for-no-reason behemoth prepared to assimilate anything in a path.
Our expostulate to a dried is a three-hour true shot out I-10, that doesn’t offer most in a approach of in-depth vehicle-dynamics analysis. we can during slightest news that a RS’s disdainful 2.0-liter turbo-four moves a 4,400-pound Traverse with an coercion that a likewise configured engine in my Saab would have difficulty jacket a 16-valve conduct around, pulling 257 hp and an even some-more considerable 295 lb.-ft. of torque (29 some-more than a Traverse’s customary V6) by a nine-speed involuntary that never draws undue courtesy to itself. That said, with a unbending float and inexhaustible dimensions, a Traverse eventually feels like a 7/8-scale Tahoe, an sense innate out by peek during a specs, that exhibit scarcely matching altogether lengths.
Still, a outing is a quick and gentle one. As we spin off a 10 onto Route 62 adult toward Twenty-Nine Palms, I’m reminded of a identical expostulate 25 years earlier, en lane to play a residence uncover — a dried chunk show, during slightest — with my aged band, DiskothiQ (don’t ask). It was on this widen of highway yet maybe 50 degrees warmer when in a drummer’s second-generation Civic beheld a cloud of thick, black fume enveloping a dual of us in my brother’s Fox-body Capri. The ambient feverishness must’ve been sufficient to means a upholstery underneath a Mercury’s folded-down behind chair to casually combust, given combusting it was, and we can tell we yet irrationality that blazing Capri interior does not smell good for you. We fast pulled out a rigging and managed to enclose a glow with fistfuls of roadside mud before streamer on to a gig yet serve incident. All in a day’s work.
Sadly, this El Camino was not accessible for us to sample.
Happily, no such issues trouble a Traverse. After an uncovered lunch surrounded by cholla cactus and Joshua trees followed by another acoustic rehearsal, we pitch past to compensate a respects during a Joshua Tree Inn, where Gram Parsons died, on a approach to a night’s accommodations during a Pioneertown Motel. Pioneertown is a thing unto itself. Founded in a ’40s by a organisation of investors that enclosed Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, it began life as a film set for westerns; a motel was where actors stayed while shooting. Lately it’s incited into something imitative a independent artists’ colony, yet it still feels overtly remote: There aren’t nonetheless adequate hipsters here to low a jaw-dropping canopy of stars during night.
Curiously, no discuss is finished of Pappy Harriett’s, a roadhouse subsequent door, that is reduction a ancestral partial of Southern California stone science than a really most stream and abounding one. Looking each bit a Old West tavern that it is, Pappy Harriett’s is a 300-capacity cantina that’s spin a end venue for showgoers and artists alike. Freakin’ Paul McCartney achieved here a integrate years ago. So did a Mountain Goats (separately, mind you), and detached from a low roof creation for one of a deadest-sounding stages I’ve ever experienced, it was awesome. we rarely suggest a 18-ounce ribeye, yet usually if you’re not personification later.
With nightfall fast approaching, we’re whisked to a adventure’s grand finale, 20 mins into a dried above Joshua Tree, where Pink Satellite Studios occupies a isolated hilltop with a perspective of dried dumpy that stretches to a purple plateau on a horizon. Our hosts are a studio’s owners, an doubtful pair.
Chris Haines seems roughly broke articulate about his accomplishments, yet he admits to being a new AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee and 15-time Baja 1000 leader who these days provides off-road instruction to U.S. and British special forces. He’s also a guitar gourmet whose adore of a Beatles led him to a rock’n’roll anticipation stay during Abbey Road, where he befriended his destiny neighbor and business partner, Spike Edney.
Agreeably foul-mouthed and effusive by comparison, Edney is a keyboardist and trombonist who given 1984 has served as a low-pitched executive — a big-rock-tour homogeneous of a racing organisation arch — for Queen, and he has been a indicate male for such events as a 1992 Freddy Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness, where Elton John and Axl Rose memorably finished nice, and even Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday reverence unison in London’s Hyde Park.
For a moment, we consternation what it says about stone strain that it can move together a man who trains special-ops soldiers with someone who’s worked with Nelson Mandela, yet my mind starts to hurt. we marker it adult to a Beatles and leave it during that.
The studio’s all set adult for us, this time with a full pack for Alterman and electric guitars and amps for a rest of us, widespread around a absolutely sized categorical tracking room with a outspoken counter off to one side, adjoining a friendly control room. My bandmates can hardly enclose their fad as we trip on a headphones to start removing levels, and this is when we start to feel a small sheepish.
Why they call it Pink Satellite Studios.
Not to sound like a cloyed jerk, yet a week ago during this time, we was doing a accurate same thing in North Carolina. we mean, this is my job. And what competence not be apparent about recording, if we haven’t finished it before, is that it’s usually tedious. Granted, there are a occasional moments of magic, when we spike a take or a strain takes an astonishing turn, yet honestly, 90 percent of a time I’ve spent in studios is people sitting around on laptops while mics are set adult or someone tries to lane down a hardly heard buzz. The other 10 percent consists of a questions, “Should we do it again?” and “Why don’t we come in and listen?”
By contrast, I’ve seen what these people do for a living. Maybe drifting off to Portugal in business category to expostulate a latest 600-hp, $100,000, four-door crossover coupe around a racetrack eventually gets boring, too; we couldn’t tell you. But during slightest one of us is withdrawal from here after we’re finished to spend a weekend during Thermal lapping an Audi R8 LMS GT4. If that ever fails to lift your pulse, we should substantially call an ambulance.
(I’m not going to explain that stepping out onto a theatre in front of 1,000-plus people doesn’t yield a identical charge, yet that’s a helmeted-on-a-track partial of a job. Recording is a homogeneous of a sitting in your apartment essay a story afterward.)
Edney sits in with us on keys as we run by a set, removing decent takes of a songs on usually a second or third try. A few punches, some overdubbed organisation handclaps, and it’s a wrap. Rogers, a producer, promises to take a marks home to Nashville with him and get a finished mixes behind to us soon.
Will a chronicle of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” magnitude adult to Negativland’s? Only time will tell. But sitting there on a riser personification “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” with a editor of Car and Driver during one bend and Queen’s keyboardist during my other, we had to splash myself: After 30 years of trying, I’ve finally finished it!
Thanks, Chevy. (Really, nonetheless — it was fun.)
Postcript: Want to know what it was like in LA — or during slightest a splinter of it — behind in a day? Read all about it here.