These days Burnt is performing as a 3-piece rock-steady reggae group. This current line-up, after 6 years of tours up and down the West Coast (from TJ to Victoria BC), has refined the sound down to raw throat, bassheavy soul, and a heartbeat groove for your dancing pleasure.
Here's some stuff people have said about us:
"This is a group that stands for everything good and righteous in our world. From spirit and social awareness to content and production...The road is foggy. And Burnt marches on. Check it. And be renewed." -S. Miller Berlin, Germany
"It’s reggae night. The first artist is Burnt, a reggae band from the Bay Area. The set was performed by the lead singer and his guitar with no backup band this time. His voice was powerful and soft. He sang songs with familiar themes to the reggae crowd. Freedom, love and revolution peppered the stories he sang."
Kyle Osborne - Glendale News Press
Burnt manages to capture the best of every genre from the underground, from reggae to punk, hip hop to ska, and much more. . . For every time I hear Burnt, the world sucks a little less. Gina Smith from Kingston, Washington
"Burnt ended the show with its original sound of roots fusion mixing everything from ska to hip hop and old school reggae into its set. The band lit up the evening resulting in lots of dance-hall dancing well into the dark."
From Bands Rock for Clean Water, Wildcoast.net
"Burnt's music calls to the American youth to dispose of the status quo and establish some alternative, a way of life more natural and righteous. Songs are politically charged, confronting social and environmental issues head on."
Katie Westfall - Surfshot Magazine - Feb. 07
"It sounds like what would have happened if Bob Marley would have hung-out with Frank Zappa..."
Ska legend Chris Murray
danny franco - rhythm guitar, lead vocals
joe ransome - lead guitar, vocals
rob dreads - drums
karthik "fierce-fingers" Suresh - bass
Chorro LP (2005 Stems and Seeds)
Esperanza LP (2006 Stems and Seeds)
Tortillas LP (2007 Stems and Seeds)
Brains Keep Cookin LP (2009 Stems and Seeds)
all available via pay-pal at myspace.com/burntstemsandseeds
BURNT. - The Singles
"Lost and Found" - Surf Illustrated "Girls of the OC" DVD (2006), San Diego Soundscape CD (2007), And streaming live on Insomnia Radio.
"The Humans" - Save Darfur Compilation (2007)
Listen to Big Jim's Uptown Top Ranking on KUCI 88.9 FM and you might just hear us!
Musicians Unite In The Name Of Raising Awareness About The Pollution Threatening Our Breaks
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Press Release Posted 07.05.2006 SAVE TRESTLES!- Musicians unite in the name of raising awarene...Press Release
SAVE TRESTLES!- Musicians unite in the name of raising awareness about the pollution threatening our south San Diego County beaches and the endangered Trestles Beach/ San Onofre State Park.
On Friday July 14th, the newly remodeled and revamped 710 Beach Club (formerly Blind Melons) will be the touchdown for a night of great music and a great cause. The club has been gutted and remodeled throughout the whole venue and this benefit event will be the kickoff of a great new club and a true testament to the spirit of Pacific Beach.
Armed with their message of consciousness and environmental awareness, the acclaimed Southern California reggae/rock troop BURNT will be hosting the benefit. The rest of the bill is slated for the incredibly talented and energetic Ocean Beach trio Gadfly as well as the legendary ska group The Chris Murray Combo to take the stage as the headlining act. Dj Cool Breeze will hold it all together, performing his Herbsman Shufflin exhibition between sets. With a great presence from Wild Coast, and the support from the local music and surf community, the night will be filled with a mix of the best reggae music, great company and positive message to educate and motivate the youth about this great cause and issues that are so prevalent today.
The performances take place Friday, July 14th with the doors opening at 6. A portion of the proceeds raised will be donated directly to WiLDCOAST, a local environmental non-profit in Imperial Beach which is working to stop the toll road through Trestles as well as raise awareness about South San Diego County water quality problems.
710 Beach Club is located at 710 Garnet Avenue in the heart of Pacific Beach, please call 858.483.2386 for more info and directions. Showbills and time slots subject to change.
More official information about the Savetrestles.org campaign can be found on the website or by contacting the Surfrider Foundation or WiLDCOAST directly.
The Transportation Corridor Agency, a privately held company, is seeking to build an extension to the existing 241 Toll Road. The proposed Foothill Transportation Corridor South (FTC-South) is a sixteen-mile long toll road highway that would connect the current terminus of the 241 Toll Road to Interstate 5. The TCA is proposing six alignments for this project; four of which run directly through and along San Mateo Creek. If constructed, not only would this project directly threaten the world class surf break at and around Trestles (including Uppers, Lowers, Middles, Church and Cottons), the project would also result in the obliteration of Southern Californias last remaining pristine coastal watershed and substantially degrade habitat that is critical for the survival of at least seven endangered species, including the Southern Steelhead trout.
HOW WILL THE 241 SAN MATEO CREEK ALIGNMENTS AFFECT THE SURFING?
WiLDCOAST protects and preserves coastal ecosystems and wildlife in the Californias and Latin America by building grass-roots support, conducting media campaigns and establishing protected areas. WiLDCOAST is also fighting the cross-border pollution which make the beaches of Imperial Beach and Coronado among the most polluted in the State. WiLDCOAST is a member of the Save Trestles coalition, a team of environmental organizations, surf industry groups, and citizens working to stop the development of a toll road through one of the most popular State Parks in California, San Onofre State Park. For more information visit www.wildcoast.net
Boss Ditties: “Ecocide” and “The Wretched”
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Writer: Jessie Godfrey I met Burnt on a sunny summer afternoon, one of my first here in San...Writer: Jessie Godfrey
I met Burnt on a sunny summer afternoon, one of my first here in San Diego. At that point in the summer, the beginning, I was still unsure of my place in a new house full of men and surf talk and PBR cans and flies, still a bit timid. So when I decided to venture down to Blacks with a group of dreaded strangers, Boston or Brooklyn—or something of both Boston and Brooklyn—accents in tow, it was a sort of leap for me. I found out that the accents were false, later, an amusing charade they played for the benefit, really, of all. And because nothing else about these guys seemed false and everything they did—music, especially, included—seemed to be for the benefit of all, I stayed through the night. We bodysurfed as the sun went down, then plowed through a bottle of tequila, a loaf of bread and a block of cheese to warm ourselves up. We talked and sat around a bonfire and slept and Danny, the singer, played the guitar and sang and there were a few moments there where I couldn’t imagine life getting better. These guys know how to live, I thought. They’ve got it figured out.
Listening closely to Esperanza, the album Burnt released last April, I’m reminded of just how well they live. They write from a plane above the everyday yet committed to making every day count. “Tell the people of the world today/ Tell the people how to make love stay/ Take a little then give a lot/ Take a little then give it all you got,” are the lyrics to the song “Sweet Baby Ray’s” and “The Wretched,” begins “Fuck the USA we’re never living that way! Revolution is the day! Don’t you hear what I say?” And the thing is, they don’t live “that way”. They do take a little and give a lot.
Burnt will be leaving on a west coast tour on October 15, from San Diego to Vancouver and back. Their tour van runs on biodiesel and each show will benefit a variety of organizations or causes—Wildcoast is one organization, Save Trestles is another. They’ll also be taking up issues specific to the communities they visit and while they’re on tour, letting the UCSD student organization Students Taking Action Now: Darfur, use their studio to record a CD to benefit the Genocide Intervention Fund.
When asked about the response to their music, if people took up their rallying cries for change, Danny explains that “If it sounds good enough, people dance…If everybody just stopped what they were doing and just danced and partied in the streets all day until they felt like going back to work for a system that actually worked for them. That would be the best kind of revolution ever. A general strike and boycott to bring the system to its knees and in the meantime we’d just have a big party…I’m not necessarily looking for a real linear response—like people listen to one song and then go burn something. They’re not instructions, you know. But if it inspires somebody to have a good day or inspires somebody to turn off the TV and just listen to music or make music themselves or to dance or to think twice about something or look at something in a way that maybe they hadn’t before then that’s good enough.”
Burnt plays every Sunday at Club Heat in downtown San Diego and will having a CD release party for their next album on Sunday October 14 at the 710 Beach Club, formerly Blind Melons, in PB.
How/when/why did you guys come together and decide to make music?
Danny: Well, how we came together I don’t really understand, why we’re still figuring out, but I think it was to destroy the Cooter and uplift the mermaid.
Danny: We came together to bring ill repute to otherwise respectable newspapers.
Do you think the Guardian is a respectable newspaper?
Danny: I think it tries to be, but not for long…hehe
Have you ever been in the Guardian before?
Danny: Yeah, I have for protesting the Iraq war in 2003, when it first happened. I was one of like twelve people protesting. We went down to the mobile station in La Jolla and I had a sign that said drop Bush not Bombs and not enough people were honking so I just went and stood in the intersection and some people started honking and the cops told me to leave, but not before somebody from the Guardian snapped a picture. They were there taking pictures and I walked out into the median and was just like “fuuck yooou” and the majority of the people that drove by flipped us off or gave us the thumbs down, a quarter of them were honking and giving us the thumbs up, one lady said God bless us, but most of the people just kept driving like, “what, there’s a war?”
How does that compare to the response to this record?
Danny: Mm..it was actually kind of similar. The majority of people were just like “fuck you!” and like a quarter of the people were like “that’s rad” and the rest were just like “eh”, and kept on driving. One lady did say “God bless you”.
Joe: One really old lady called us shaggy dogs.
Danny: Yeah, that was beautiful, she might have named the next album. Yeah…what happened Joe?
Joe: She just looked at us and then “Shaaaagggy dogs”
Danny: Yeah, and then she cracked herself up.
Joe: “Eh he he he he”
Danny: She just came along and she knew our story right away. Shaggy dogs.
Joe: She was right
Danny: She was Russian, what?
Joe: No, she was right.
Danny: She was right.
So what’s your favorite song on the album?
Danny: The last one? No, no, I’m kidding. The one that ends. Haha.
You didn’t like it?
Danny: No, no, we liked it enough to put it out…hm. Favorite song? I don’t know, we’ve never really thought about it. Maybe “The Wretched, ” I guess. I don’t know
How’s that one go?
Danny: That’s the one that goes “All this aggression! Nazi pressure! Fuck the USA we’re never living that way!”
My favorite is the one that goes “Heaven is a place on earth…we could be living in paradise”
Darren: You like that one Jess?
Danny: Everyone likes that one, man.
Darren: Well, I don’t like it. It’s so fuckin’ soft, man.
Well I really like it.
Danny: Well, that’s good because I was thinking of you and not him when I wrote it. I wrote that song on the day that George Bush got reelected for another 4 years. So maybe that’s why it sucks. I don’t know, I like it. It’s good, you know, it’s slow, it’s mellow—so it’s it’s nice, you know.
Well, you just, you don’t hear people acknowledge that this place could be incredible if we just put some effort into it. Most people just give up on the planet.
Danny: Right. I don’t know. It’s a pretty good tune. There’s like a melodica part in there. We wrote that melodica part at the bonfire that we had that you can hear during this song—the song right before that one.
When did this album come out?
Danny: April 20, 2006.
And when will the next one be coming out?
Danny: October 14. We’re having our last show in San Diego on October 15 at the 710 Beach Club in PB.
Where are you going on your tour?
Danny: We’re going anywhere and everywhere that will have us. Except Las Vegas.
Why not Las Vegas?
Danny: There’s no environment to save.
When did you write The Wretched and why?
Danny: I can’t remember when we wrote it. We wrote the music for it like a long time ass time ago. Like a year, well over a year. And then Rob wrote like a three page essay of lyrics and I condensed it down to a song. I don’t know exactly when it was, but we wrote the music a long time ago. We recorded some of this album in our studio here, in North Park, and some of it in our studio in the Desert. And we build both those studios with hard earned money stolen from the government.
How did you steal it.
Danny: Well, we didn’t really steal it. I just took out college loans. The idea is take out a bunch of student loans and then take out loans for cost of living, but then don’t live in a very expensive place, live in like, your car. And then take all the money that you save and do something cool and progressive and don’t pay them back.
So they’re still not paid back?
And they never will be.
I plan on never paying them back.
Can you get in trouble for that?
I think that they destroy your credit, but I think of that as a good thing because that way I never have to have credit.
What if you want to buy a house?
What if I want to buy a house? In this country?! Cash, I guess.
Do any of the other songs on this album have especially interesting stories?
Danny: There’s like a little vignette for all of them. I don’t know, like the songs are cool because each one of them’s a collaboration of a different cast of musicians and it wasn’t deliberate. I mean, it was deliberate to the extent that we were open to it, but we didn’t really go through and say so and so has to be on this song and so and so has to be on that song. It was pretty much just, whoever shows up, as long as you play something or do something cool. The title track, Esperanza, the person who does the vocals, she’s speaking in Portuguese and she’s saying a lot of stuff against Bush and against capitalism in general and I guess she didn’t…one of the conditions of her recording it was that we don’t use her name because she was from Brazil and if she had said those things there they would have sent the death squads after her. Well, wait, not the deathsquads.
Rob: She was worried about getting her citizenship.
Was her name Esperanza?
Danny: No, esperanza, in the song, in the lyrics, she says that she’s without hope. And then I was like, well, there’s got to be something to be hopeful for. She was without hope, but then we named the song and the album Esperanza, which is to hope.
Tague: Any correlation between Manu Chao’s Proxima Estacion Esperanza?
Danny: Yeah, I guess we like Manu Chao’s music a lot, but we didn’t feel bad about it. I mean, we thought about it, but we were like fuck that man. Manu Chao’s bad. If anybody gets that they’re probably cool as hell.
So Tague, you’re cool as hell and now I get to pretend I’m cool as hell too.
Danny: One thing I’m proud of about this album is that there’s five different languages on it. There’s English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and then also, um, I don’t remember that language that’s on the song angels. He’s like, giving a chant.
You guys talk a lot about human rights issues and civil rights issues and environmental protections—do you find hope for solutions to all of the world’s problems in your music?
Danny: I don’t necessarily find it in my own music although it’s definitely my own music that’s going to give me something to look forward to on a daily basis. So that’s something hopeful. But I find a lot of hope in all forms of culture. For sure. Because when people come together and make culture it’s beautiful and it just raises us—all forms of culture that are true help elevate us.
Rob: Back to the esperanza thing. It’s about feeling really bad, but we kind of felt like it was important to express that doubt and get it out there on a CD so that other people can here it and then maybe it doesn’t feel like you’re doing it alone.
Some of these calls are like a rallying cry. Do people respond?
Danny: People dance. If it sounds good enough people dance. That’s probably the best sort of revolution, if everybody just stopped what they were doing and just danced and partied in the streets all day until they felt like going back to work for a system that actually worked for them. That would be the best kind of revolution ever. A general strike and boycott to bring the system to its knees and in the meantime we’d just have a big party. But no, I mean for us, to me especially, music is our form of expression. All of these revolutionary ideas they come from us and we get ideas from outside sources and they become part of our consciousness and we have to get that out and express it. I’m not necessarily looking for a real linear response—like people listen to one song and then go burn something. They’re not instructions, you know. But if it inspires somebody to have a good day or inspires somebody to turn of the TV and just listen to music or make music themselves or to dance or to think twice about something or look at something in a way that maybe they hadn’t before then that’s good enough.
Did you guys do all the artwork on the cover?
Danny: Robbie did the cover, yeah. Are you going to tell her the secret?
What’s the secret?
Danny: Well there’s lots of secrets, but I’ll tell one secret. You can find every track title in the cover and that’s a fun thing to do when you’re stoned or when you’re just really bored.
Well, I’m not going to do that right now. Do you guys have anything else you want to share? About this album about your upcoming tour?
Danny: The name of our tour is Ocean Explosion and its our first tour, we’re going from San Diego to Vancouver and playing as many shows as possible and we’re just trying to promote awareness—environmental awareness and awareness overall with music and trying to bring people together to have a nice time. If you’re interested you should check out our myspace page. You can buy both of our albums online. They’re ten dollars and we pay for the shipping and the tax. Sunday the 15th is our last San Diego performance for about two months and people can come to our CD release party on October 14th at the 710 Beach club. It used to be Blind Melons.
So the album has to be finished by then.
Danny: Yeah, we should be working on it now.
How many tracks?
Danny: It looks like it’s going to be a little bit less than this one. About an hour’s worth of music, maybe 14, 15.
Can you talk a little about the groups that your tour will be benefiting?
Danny: Our tour benefits the same causes as Wildcoast and, like, we’re definitely trying to bring awareness to Wildcoast—we’re going to put up their banner. But it’s going to a lot of things like Save Trestles, Clean Water, but we’re also trying to address the specific issues of the places we go. Like, in Canada, one of the places we’re going to go, the community is trying to rally to save their neighborhood skatepark. So we’re just taking up different causes, trying to get in and see what the community is rallying for.
Bands Rock for Clean Water
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More than 200 peopled joined recording artists Burnt, Castillo and Jimmy Sue for a concert on the gr...More than 200 peopled joined recording artists Burnt, Castillo and Jimmy Sue for a concert on the green at the Imperial Beach on Friday September 1st to kick off the Labor Day Weekend.
Jimmy Sue started off the evening concert with its original and electric
fusion of rock and blues --Led Zeppelin meets John Mayal. They were followedby the indie Latino sound of Castillo-San Diego's own version of Mana meets Santana. The crowd loved their set and for many it was their first live introduction to the cutting edge style of Rock en Espanol that permeates the San Diego-TJ rock and indie-music scene.
Burnt ended the show with its original sound of roots fusion mixing
everything from ska to hip hop and old school reggae into its set. The band lit up the evening resulting in lots of dance-hall dancing well into the dark.
On the sidelines Wildcoast volunteers and staff collected dozens of postcards and letters to support Assembly Bill AB966 the Border Beach Bill.
A huge mahalo to all of our volunteers and the great musicians of Burnt, Castillo and Jimmy Sue for rockin for a great cause and lots of clean water.
And a big thank you to the City of Imperial Beach and San Diego County Sheriff's for their support.
We look forward to many future events with the clean water team over the next year.
Five Random Questions with Burnt.
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By Katie Westfall Reggae, with its range of styles, is synonymous with the Southern California su...By Katie Westfall
Reggae, with its range of styles, is synonymous with the Southern California surf lifestyle. But for this band is seems to represent a struggling existence in a complex, chaotic and often painful world. "[Burnt.] refers to the grind of our lives, scar tissue and the scrapes...all that shit that leaves a change in your skin tone," Chris Baca, one of the founders of the production company Stems and Seeds who has made Burnt reality, said.
Through this struggle, a message arises. Burnt's music calls to the American youth to dispose of the status quo and establish some alternative, a way of life more natural and righteous. Songs are politically charged, confronting social and environmental issues head on.
The band itself is a tribe of like-minded musicians. It has been a huge collaborative project of some of the best local and non-local artists, working with members of the Chula Vista Chicano band B-Side Players, the Ska band The Debonaires, and more. And the collaboration is obvious. Some songs start out smooth with a reggae bob and then burst into the fast and wild punk flashes. Other songs drop hip-hop beats featuring guest rappers and voice sampling.
Just back from bringin' down the hoose on their Canadian tour, I sat down and tried to pick burnt minds.
With such an eclectic sound, how would you guys describe your music?
Hip-hop, roots, rock and soul with a smear of punk.
Where does most of the producing go down?
Now we have a studio out by Coachella. We used to produce in a studio in North Park where some of the guys actually lived...one sink, one toilet, no shower. Joe Danny, and Rob lived there, along with the rats.
If you were crossing the desert, what would your oasis look like?
Our oasis is a sustainable place where people could hang out and have good times. It would be a place of natural beauty because that's what an oasis is. There would be big sound systems, dancing, natural food, music and tents for people to camp out. Oh, don't forget the Brazilian beach volleyball.
What is your music best served with?
Tequila, Spodiodi, Vodka and Sunny Delight with flaming hot Cheetos...
London or NY?
Check out Burnt's Latest CD entitled Tortillas. It is available, along with information on upcoming shows, at www.myspace.com/burntstemsandseeds
Hang Ten At Fiesta Del Rio In Imperial Beach
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Celebrating the Tijuana Estuary and Its Cultures: Where Nature and Nations Meet Imperial Beach –...Celebrating the Tijuana Estuary and Its Cultures: Where Nature and Nations Meet
Imperial Beach – Join us on Sunday, October 8, 2006 at noon for activities ranging from children’s games, dancing, and cutting edge urban environmental art. Don’t miss the premiere of the Sloughs musical, performed by Mar Vista High students, based on Dempsey Holder and the brave early surfers of the huge waves off the Tijuana River mouth.
Take in the live creation of an Urban Environmental Art mural by students of renowned muralist Victor Ochoa. Visit booths featuring San Diego’s leading environmental organizations, learn a traditional Californio dance, listen to Native American storytellers, actors telling tales of mystery and adventure, or
visit Native handicraft booths featuring the art and pottery of contemporary Kumeyaay artisans.
Finish off the day by enjoying a mariachi band from the Sweetwater Union High School District
and the environmentally-conscious reggae band Burnt. The FREE event takes place at the Imperial Beach Pier Plaza.
Each October, Fiesta del Río celebrates the many cultures and unique biological diversity of our
borderlands during National Wildlife Refuge Week and in honor of National Estuaries Day.
Fiesta del Río also commemorates the Portolá Expedition that camped in the Tijuana River Estuary on May 13, 1769, marking the Spanish expansion into what now comprises the San Diego/Tijuana metropolitan area.
California State Parks, the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex, and WiLDCOAST International host an exciting array of activities for the entire family that highlight the environment and cultures of the surrounding Tijuana River Estuary, an area that in the past has been home to Kumeyaay, Spanish and Californio alike.
This year WiLDCOAST, our partner in many conservation and environmental education programs, joins us by offering the 3rd Annual Dempsey Holder Memorial Surf Contest as a fundraiser for their Coastal Campaign. This portion of the event highlights the need to keep our coast pollution-free. WiLDCOAST's Clean Water Campaign is working with South San Diego communities to resolve the environmental health problem caused by Tijuana River pollution.
The "Dempsey" features a surf contest for all ages, focusing on kids in the community, and
honors individuals and organizations that help keep our ocean clean.
The surf contest begins at 7:00 am and the Fiesta at noon. Call 619-575-3613 or go to www.tijuanaestuary.com for more information on the event
“Desert Music”: A Burnt Biography
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I met Danny Franco a few years ago at a party. He was slunked down in the corner of the hou...
I met Danny Franco a few years ago at a party. He was slunked down in the corner of the house wearing a blue and white Mexican poncho and strumming his guitar. He had just returned to school after a two year hiatus, and was looking to meet some musicians. I happened to be living in a house full of musicians and we struck up a conversation. He began sleeping on the couch.
Danny had been living in his 1966 VW van since September of that year. I have to say that the free wheeling life style he exuded struck me as both romantic and thrilling. He did not pay rent, he lived only with his guitar and a box full of books, and he was looking to make something for himself out of his music. Danny had a beautiful voice which, I later learned, was developed in a children’s choir back home. Back home was La Quinta California, a desert town just north of Palm Springs. I had known some desert kids in my life and they always struck me as having a specific inner toughness and self confidence, spawned of course from lives that often led them headlong into the devilishly hot, often maddening, desert dust storms on the margins of civilization. The boys I knew had seen some things as the expression goes and carried them on their sleeves, often in the form of tattoos.
Danny had a tattoo when I first met him. It was a tableau which showed a sleeping Mexican cradling his guitar under a palm tree. The picture represented Danny’s paradise. He longed one day to hop in his van and take off into the depths of Mexico with nothing but his guitar.
Danny is half Mexican, half white, and he has two more tattoos on the same arm today. Since our first meeting a few years ago, Danny and I have become close friends. We have traveled up and down California together and our relationship thrives around our mutual interests in music and literature. Danny, along with my old roommates, provided the music which helped spark the open mic night at Porter’s Pub on the UCSD campus. Every Thursday night some of the best musicians on campus get together and provide strong and pure sounds for a normally anaesthetized student population. They are rowdy, they are drunken, and they are musicians, and I like this very much about them.
Recently I traveled out to Indio, California to visit the recording studio Danny and his friends built from scratch. The studio represents Danny and his friends´ dream to produce records by themselves and provide an artistic space for the musical talent in their community. Danny and his friend Chris Baca are responsible for most of the work. They’ve grit their teeth against extreme hardship and in their words “built this studio as part of a healing process.” Today they are making twenty dollars an hour as a diverse group of musicians come from all around the Southern California area to record their music.
We pulled into to the dusty driveway barely noticeable from the two lane high- way. It was three thirty in the morning. We had left San Diego at one a.m. destined for those strange and circuitous ,one lane back country roads winding through the tweek infested shantytowns of Riverside County. As the driver, I battled through a major collision on the 52 east, and trucked for miles through the perilous and cop prowled I- 70 north taking us through Temecula. We met up with the 10 East in Hemet at the base of the San Jacintos, and got through Banning, a town described by Danny as “a real shit hole.” This particular “shit hole” was topped off with an enormous glowing cross on the nearby slag hills. The journey was completed after a long stretch of lit up, Indian Casino lined, highway, past the famous dinosaur truck stop which houses a life sized Tyrannosaurus Rex, and a Brontosaurus.
The house by the side of the road was reminiscent of a meth. house, a trailer park, a junk yard. Actually, it was the last stronghold of old Indio California, standing not so strongly against the inexorable tide of resort communities, golf courses, tennis stadiums, and rich white people. It was a compound really, with bars on every window. Nobody in their right mind would ever think twice about stopping there. I thought of the lone desert prowler, someone from a Jim Morrison tune, someone who’s brain was “squirming like a toad,” driving through those lonely highways looking for stranded travelers to bring back home, to this home, and kill. I had finally arrived at the Stems and Seeds recording studio.
Danny and Chris began work on the studio three years ago. The property once belonged to Chris’ grandparents who moved there from North Carolina where his grandfather was stationed after the Korean War. The 2.2 acres of land now belong to Chris. His grandparents entrusted them to his care after they moved to Rosarito, a coastal town in Baja California. Before Chris lived there, a Mexican family of twenty was renting the property. They were asked to leave when the plumbing could no longer facilitate the large numbers. Across the street from the property stands the gated community, Sun City. It is an example of the burgeoning development going on in Indio these days.
Sun City is a resort style living community which has sponsored the creation of a nearby hotel, gas station, and strip mall to cater to the residents. Indio is being gentrified after decades of slow rot. Despite Sun City’s desire to claim Chris’ deed to his family’s property, their attempts have not borne fruit. The 2.2 acres are providentially located on a recently established state nature preserve for the Horny Toad Lizard. It seems that for the time being, no monolithic golf course will threaten the pristine desert landscape which surrounds the Stems and Seeds domain.
To the west of the house, there is nothing but sand and creosote for miles. The expanse is uninterrupted and the eye has full purchase to view the barren landscape. To the south, the Santa Rosa mountain range stands proud and jagged. To the north, the low lying hills, which remind one of a barren lumpy hell, provide a buffer between northern Indio and Sky Valley, a town wrought with addiction and methamphetamine labs. Chris keeps a .22 Ruger carbine rifle replete with scope and banana clip by the front door “just in case.” They have lots of hard earned money sunk into their studio and can’t afford some hungry tweeker coming by to rip them off.
The 2.2 acre property is covered in hot tan colored dust. There are a few trees. The studio house faces what was once the central living unit, which housed Chris’ Grandparents and Chris’ uncle after them. There is another smaller unit adjacent to the recording studio. In this unit can be viewed the fossils of an outdated recording studio Chris’ Uncle attempted in the early 90s. There are three trailer homes and two totaled cars scattered about the property like refuse blown in from a storm. Chris explained, “They are for future projects…it’s Chicano shit you know? Chicanos are always collecting everything for use at a later date.” Behind the studio is a water tank and behind the water tank is endless desert. Tied to a chain attached to a stake in front of the recording studio is Chopper Dog. He is half rotweiler and half chow. Chris and Danny rescued Chopper Dog from a workmate at the Beer Hunter, where Danny worked as a bartender after dropping out of college. Apparently the owner would come home after work and club Chopper Dog with beer bottles. To this day Chopper Dug runs at the sight of a beer bottle in hand. “He’s not much of a guard dog because he’s real timid…but nobody else knows that,” says Chris. In fact Chopper Dog’s physical appearance is extremely imposing. His head is roughly the size of a twenty pound pumpkin. The total sum of Chopper Dog is a devastating 90 pounds.
With chopper dog to stand guard, the house in which the new recording studio is located is an artistic haven. There are no mirrors and no clocks. Disturbance comes only in the passing hum of a car engine down the highway and the brilliant howling of coyote packs at night. For the most part there is silence. The silence is accentuated by the sound of the water pumps clicking as they reset every hour upon the hour. There is one bedroom in which Chris and his girlfriend sleep. A couch for guests faces the bed. Next to the couch is an old wooden coffee table which displays photographs of Chris’ grandparents, the vaunted benefactors of Danny and Chris’ dream. There is also a brightly colored picture of a strong Chicano man holding the flag of Mexico in one hand and the American flag in the other. On the wall, tagged over the doorway entrance to the studio is the phrase, “anything is possible.”
Indio California, or “I-town” as the locals call it, was a boom town in the 1930s. It was the perfect escape for Hollywood stars seeking the relaxed atmosphere of the desert, away from the bustle and intrusiveness of Los Angeles. There were hot springs to indulge in, and a relaxed nightlife in nearby Palm Springs. Danny took me downtown which today, is nothing more than a long strip of cheap motels, truck stops, Mexican restaurants, and liquor stores. The southern pacific railroad runs parallel to the highway which cuts through the center of town. The highway used to be part of historic route 99, which was once the busiest truck route in the nation and referred to as “the main street of California.” Its expanse covered three countries for a total of 1,754 miles. Today the heavy traffic has been redirected outside of town onto the new 111 freeway to the detriment of Indio.
Danny took me to an open-all-night diner/truck stop, Casa Martinez, that he and his friends frequent for very good homemade Mexican food. We ate menudo and had a thirty-two ounce Tecate beer bottle served to us on ice in a bucket. “We know what champagne is around these parts” said Danny. “That’s how Tecate in a big bottle deserves to be treated.” Town folklore has it that Humphrey Bogart was actually picked up by the Indio Police Department for soliciting prostitutes outside that very diner.
Indio began as a collection of date and citrus farms. The economy thrived on agriculture until the late sixties. There is a historic date museum downtown, giving the once prolific cash crop its well deserved due with video exhibits like The Romance and Sex Life of a Date. However, today, in the face of a booming service economy, the Mexican immigrants who once worked the date farms are now employees of the big resorts. Indio is beginning to get back on its feet economically after nearly thirty years of total financial breakdown. The white population began moving out in the 70s as more and more Mexican families moved in. Ever since, the property value has steadily plummeted. Today the area is ripe for the picking by large corporate golf clubs, now involved in blowing off the sides of nearby mountains to make room for miles and miles of green golf course. Danny explains, “everything you see in the desert now-a-days caters to the wealthy whites who come in from out of town. People come here to retire, get old, and spend money.”
Surprisingly, amid this lonely desert setting and rigid resort atmosphere, Danny and his friends have found solace in reggae music and are planning on devoting their lives to it. Danny chose reggae as his spiritual fortress after listening to the work of Bradley Nowel, the late singer for Sublime. He also finds quite a bit of comfort in the transcendental beliefs of Rastafarianism. The Rastas make up a sub-culture in Jamaica, which has suffered a history of oppression and aggression at the hand of the Jamaican government. Looked upon as social deviants, they live in the hills and function under what seem like two loosely constructed ideals of righteous and natural living. They have deep respect for the earth and worship a black god by inhaling marijuana smoke. Rastas are non-violent and a-political. This credo from the West Indies, coupled with Nowel’s musical ethic of “doing things yourself,” serve as the primary ideals by which Danny leads his life. He says, “being a musician is not about getting signed and making lots of money, it’s about putting your heart out and having people respond. The goal is to get people to dance.” Danny has a strong motivation for inspiring people to dance. There is a sadness which haunts him.
When he was sixteen, Danny was driving home from school with four friends. He rounded a corner off the main boulevard and ran straight into a cloud of dust. Inside that cloud was a slow, massive, street sweeper. Danny was only driving thirty mph but ramming into to the giant frame of the creeping sweeper amounted to running smack dab into a three ton iron wall. His 1987 Toyota Carolla was destroyed.
Typically, street sweepers in desert towns are supposed to run a sprinkler off the back to keep the dust down and maintain visibility on the road. The drivers of the vehicle neglected to turn their sprinkler on. This accident resulted in the severe crippling of his four friends. Danny however, escaped the accident with only, and this is meant in the strictest relative sense, a smashed face and broken jaw. His friend’s sister picked the glass out of his head as he looked on while Chris Baca’s father, of the Indio police department, worked to stabilize the other four. His two friends Todd and Will still suffer heavily from the wreck. Todd is paralyzed from the waist down and Will is a paraplegic. Sitting in back of the old car, they only had lap belts. Each lost a significant amount of their small intestines from the constriction of the seat belts against their midsections. Todd has virtually nothing inside his abdomen but a stomach. He suffers from chronic internal bleeding and has a colostomy bag inserted through a hole in his side. Despite their injuries Todd plays professional wheel chair tennis and Will plays wheel chair basketball at a small college in Minnesota.
It seems that there is a resiliency consistent throughout this group of desert folk. Eight months ago Chris Baca’s father, who was responsible for saving the lives of all four of Danny’s friends, died unexpectedly of a heart attack while on vacation with his wife. Chris has since decided to become an EMT and is currently training in the Coachella Valley County Emergency Room at night.
When Chris and his father arrived on the scene of Danny’s accident, neither of the girls in the car was breathing. “Mr. Baca opened their airwaves…he was the only one who knew what to do…He knew not to move Todd and Will…everybody around us was freaking out…I was freaking out…I thought my friends were dead…nobody was conscious…The street sweeper guys were freaking out too,” said Danny. “It’s shaped a lot of what you see in front of you here at Chris’ house. Chris and I weren’t close before the accident. But when something like that happens, it changes your trip completely. It was good because we all just love each other so much and no one died. It made us tighter because now we’re bound up in each other’s lives forever. We all just bro-d down. If anyone of those guys didn’t make it, I don’t think I would have made it. Music helped me get over it. So did my friends and their families. No one ever blamed me. After the accident I became a much more spiritual person. I mean that sounds cliché and all but really, before that I wanted to be a lawyer. I tried counseling but it has never worked for me. When my parents got divorced my mom sent me to shrinks but it was a bum out. Still, I couldn’t sleep at night and I was really depressed after the wreck. I had corrective surgery on my face and tried to get back into school as soon as possible. My friends just basically got me through those times…along with my guitar.”
The families brought a law suit against the city and lost. The city’s lawyer blamed Danny for the wreck and caused him to cry on the stand. Todd had been virtually dead upon arrival to the emergency room, due to the negligence of the city employees, but he was revived and placed in intensive care for weeks. Last year he had to go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota because the internal bleeding was so bad. Danny told me all this on the floor of the performing area in the studio. He added, “When I went through my psychedelic trip phase I went through it with all of them. I dropped out of college and lived with Will and Chris and just did hard drugs and hallucinogens: acid, ecstasy, mushrooms. Some of those trips were intense…we just sat with each other and cried. I feel rooted man…I feel like I have true friends to love and trust. I would be there for any of them if they ever needed help. I deal with that shitty feeling I get sometimes by doing positive work. We built this studio…we’re still building the studio. I play live shows. I put out records. I know what bad days are. I just try to keep things positive all the time.”
The studio itself is as impressive as anything which is the product of extremely hard work. In 2001, when Chris moved in, the house was a wreck. But it was a perfect place for a studio. There were no neighbors and there was the space to build. Prior to this arrangement Danny and Chris had lived in another house in a residential area of Indio and recorded using a basic four track recording unit. Today they have full capabilities with a digital multi track system. Getting to this point however, wasn’t easy. Before they could even dream of starting in on the studio they had to get the house in order which meant first, digging out the septic tank to fix the plumbing. Next they began the arduous process of re-roofing because the original was caving in. Danny used a lot of his financial aid money from school to pay for the repairs. And Chris received discount prices on lumber from Home Depot where he works during the day making deliveries to local residences. Chris also added that he cleverly convinced his bosses to make a series of lumber displays knowing the wood would just be scrapped in the end: perfect pickings for a new studio. Chris’ dad and girlfriend along with Will’s father, all with backgrounds in construction, helped quite a bit with building and plans. When the house was finally in order, the studio project got under way. Three years and thousands of dollars later they are still making improvements. Chris told me that the summer heat is a major problem. “We need a central air conditioning unit. You just can’t do anything here during the day…the shit is blazing hot. There is one small a.c. unit near my bed. I built this air duct out of a card board box so I could channel the cool air directly to my pillow.”
The heat is so intense that Danny and Chris have named their band Burnt. Danny has the logo tattooed on his forearm and Chris has it across his back. Burnt is, from my understanding, vaguely analogous to Kerouac’s generation encompassing word Beat. For Kerouac, Beat was attempting to describe everybody who was walking through New York City the same way, “furtive and beat.” John Cleland Holmes, in the documentary film, Kerouac, elaborates, “Beats are people reduced to the essentials, people who live under continual tension and stress which is unnatural. The only way we could live like this was to no longer engage in attitudinizing and posturing. You were beat, so any energy you had left was reserved for the most important things-all the crap went out.” One might say that Burnt is Beat for the desert. “Burnt” Chris says, “is definitely the attitude around here. Just the physical side, I mean the oppressive heat, has a lot to do with it. But it also refers to the grind of our lives, the scar tissue and the scrapes…all that shit that leaves a change in your skin tone.” The band has just released their third album titled, 100%...which they are selling at gigs. As of now there is no record deal but Danny and Chris are prepared to struggle for their music. The interior decoration of their recording compound hints at their tenacity.
Revolutionary faces hang from every wall of the house. There is Ché Guevara in one corner; Bob Marley in another. Poncho Villa and Emiliano Zapata look down upon anyone who sits in the helmer seat at the computer. Both Danny and Chris feel strong ties to these men. Danny explains, “We filled this studio with great spirits…we have a lot to live up to through our music. They don’t let us forget our mission. We want to be responsible song writers. When people hear our music, there needs to be a positive message and our message is strengthened by these men. They created their own realties and their respective missions were selfless. Individual success is a myth and the myth is fucking us as a people. That’s what I mean when I say “fuck the oil man” in my song, “?,” because the oil man tries to fight against the global conscious mind.”
Chris elaborates, “we have a lot of people to thank really. We’ve been blessed with this opportunity by my grandparents. They are the corner stone…they encourage us to work hard. Their other-minded mentality has shaped me. My grandma knits quilts for people and my grandfather gives free haircuts when someone can’t afford it…I want to open a space for musicians. The tumbleweed and the dirt on this property may be worth more to the resort community than this house…if they could, they’d put a golf course or a strip mall here in a second. But to me this house is the chance my grandparents gave me and my friends to actually do something really good in our lives. A lot of people we know from this town are bum outs…drop outs…jail birds. This whole project is very meaningful to us. As far as Ché and Zapata go, they give me strength. They are icons of struggle and empowerment and they remind me that there are people who’ve had it a lot worse. They give me pride in humanity because they represent situations where people helped other people. I hope our music helps other people. That’s what we are doing here, especially with the studio. We want people to get their voices out.”
So far Danny and Chris have offered their services to a varied group of artists: Kingdom Sound, another desert Reggae band that recently recorded a three track demo. Larry Shaw, a hip hop artist from North Palm Springs, otherwise known as L. Shaw, or L. Shizel. And Brince Washington, better known as Karmic Basis, K.B., or Big Raz. Also, members of The B-Side Players, a Chicano band from Chula Vista (near the U.S.-Mexican border), and The Debonairs, a ska band from Riverside, have put in a good deal of studio time. These bands represent a geographical region of roughly 100 square miles.
Danny and Chris do not advertise Stems and Seeds to the general public as of yet. At this point bands record by invitation. Most of the bands have met via the local Southern California club circuit. Recently Danny and Chris met a stand up comedian who plans to record an album there in the future. Additionally, their friend “Ty Bud,” a graphic artist, has was employed to make the cover art for 100%... It is a down home, roots operation out there.
Before I left the desert for San Diego, Danny gave me a tour of the area where he grew up. On the road from Indio to La Quinta (named such as it was the fifth stop for Spanish missionaries along the notorious “El Camino Real” road), we passed by the location of a defunct nudist colony which is now the meeting spot of a group of local skater-taggers who use the swimming pool for their tricks and art. Danny’s neighborhood is middle-lower class and cradled in a cove at the base of the Santa Rosas. The area is booming due to the growth of resorts like La Quinta (not to be confused with the national chain of motels), PGA West, and Arnold Palmer’s new golf course, which is literally at the foot of the Santa Rosas, across the cove from Danny’s old home. His parents bought the double lot for 5,000 dollars in 1977, built the house for 20,000, and now it is worth around 250,000. When Danny was young La Quinta was free from development. Now there are plenty of walls protecting the citizens who lock themselves up inside their new million dollar homes. Danny’s old neighborhood is a diminutive outcast, surrounded by well guarded compounds of the gentry. At the entrance of the La Quinta resort one is greeted by an imposing and absurd 20 foot tall, supremely virile looking, shining steel conquistador on horse back which glows in the sun as if sanctioned by heaven. Danny’s old house is about a quarter of a mile past this terrifying monstrosity dedicated to the big money take over, desert style.
The homes in Danny’s neighborhood are single story, simple, rectangular framed houses. There are no street lamps and each corner is adorned with a strange three foot high concrete obelisk street marker, which have been around since the development of the neighborhood. We drove past a few men on their front lawn drinking beers as they watched a child play with a large German Shepard. “This is what people do here” Danny said, “drink beers.” He lamented that “kids used to be able to get to those hills…That was the one escape from parents or cops. Now it is all gated off. They're blowing the fucking shit out of these hills man…for golf courses.” The sides of a few of the hills looked as if they had been slashed with a knife the size only the Good Lord could handle. They were slowly dripping their slag blood down to the base of the range.
We made it to a place called “the wash.” The wash is a huge storm drain where Danny and his friends used to meet when they needed to get away from life in the neighborhood. The area surrounding the wash was beautiful. Smoke trees and creosote, which smell like musk when it rains, covered the entire expanse, and looming above us were the jagged peaks of the rocky Santa Rosas. They were covered by long dusky purple evening shadows. “You need to imagine this place without the fences, without the stupid gazebos and park benches for the tired old folks, there didn’t used to be a walking path slicing up the earth.” But, this was the extent of Danny’s emotion regarding the new development in La Quinta. He seemed to take it in stride like he takes everything in stride, as just part of the natural order. He continued, “I guess no one can really stop it. I just think it is too bad for the future kids who aren’t going to be able to enjoy the mountains the way I did. I never had to worry about trespassing on private property in my own backyard. For these new kids, their freedom begins and ends now in the space between their houses and wherever La Quinta decides to put up a new fence.”
He took me to a spot where the rocks made a natural staircase, the top of which overlooked a great deep pit in the earth about a mile in diameter. It turned out to be the place where Charlton Heston was filmed giving the Jews the Ten Commandments. The juxtaposition of the beautiful desert landscape at dusk, the humble suburban neighborhood, the monumental golf courses carved out of the sides of mountains, the million dollar homes, and the Hollywood landmark all gave me the disquieting sensation of looking at surrealist art. The union of so many disparate parts amid an expansive Dali-an desert landscape was both dreadful and mesmerizing.
On the way back to Indio Danny pointed out the fortress sized Catholic Church where they held Chris’ father’s funeral. We passed by the Indian Wells Tennis Stadium where the professional tour makes a stop each year for one of the major tournaments. I got to see the Beer Hunter, the bar where Chris and Danny worked, surrounded by some natural columnar rock heaps which looked like bizarre totemic chimneys in a mock frontier town at Disneyland. And we stopped by the Home Depot to say good-by to Chris.
Chris told me a hilarious story about a delivery he had made. “Me and Anthony delivered a propane tank to this huge mansion in La Quinta. This old lady answered the door and invited us inside. In the front entrance way there was this giant five foot Buddha in the lotus position. The woman introduced me and Anthony to the statue. She was crazy man. She called it Mr. Buddha and she would ask it questions like “Do you like Chris and Anthony Mr. Buddha?” She would push the back of the statue’s head and it would nod yes like one of those bobble head dolls! There was a photograph of Barbara Bush on the wall and the lady said that the Bush’s visit pretty often. Then she tried to get us to do gardening work for her. I thought to myself “what the hell lady, is my skin my sin?” She just figured all Mexican dudes are gardeners.”
When we got back to the studio, Rob LaPorte, a percussionist for the Debonairs and drummer for Burnt was there with a friend to record some tracks they had been working on. Before I left, I asked Danny where he planned to go with his music. He said, in his typically humble way, “I grew up singing songs by the camp fire, I’m not about getting signed to a major label and making lots of money. We’ve got a lot of work to do here. Right now I am just trying to save money so that I can build an army of like minded musicians. I’m living in my car to save money; every aspect of my life is geared toward this studio. Even school is a pain in the ass because it interferes with my real work too much. We’re looking to put lots of music out there on the internet. We can get the c.d.s pressed for cheap and sell them at shows and gigs for ten dollars. We have a website and Chris and I spend hours daily scouting potential listeners out on myspace.com. For now this is good. This is what we want. People even pay us to use our studio. I feel like I’m at my best when I’m playing live music though. I want to travel through the States and spread the Burnt message, it’s like what Marley said “forget your troubles and dance, forget your weakness and dance, forget your sorrows and dance, forget your sickness and dance, dance, dance, dance that shit away!”
Typical Set List: Run Time- Approx. 45 mins
(NOTE: BURNT has the ability to perform up to 3 hours of original material!)
What There Is
Fuck the Oilman
Fish Outta Water
Guns of Brixton (The Clash)
I and I Survive (Bad Brains)
Merry Blues (Manu Chao)
Time Tough (Toots and the Maytals)
Sun is Shining (Bob Marley)
The Humpty Dance (Digital Underground)
There are no upcoming dates at this time.