VOYAGER ONE, WONDERFUL
Crocodile Cafe, 441-5611, $8
9 p.m. Fri., Aug. 2
Bobby Hecksher, ringmaster of L.A. spacerock carnival the Warlocks, would like it known that regardless of any prior admissions to chemical interludes, his band is not a drug band. Sure, a lyric like "Gotta get off the ground now, honey/ Just can't stand around/Whoahh, shake, shake, shake the dope out" may seem rather overt. And the tune "Shake the Dope Out"—one of those melts-in-your-mind-not-in-your-hands thumpers that genuflects simultaneously at the choogle-altar of the Velvets and the fuzzy kiosk of the 13th Floor Elevators—might seem to contain subliminal messages, but what Hecksher really wants to convey is that flying on the ground is wrong.
The Warlocks music is about the entirety of the human experience, in other words, and the psychopharmacological properties of the sonics are key to unlocking the door. Hecksher's certainly well-schooled in that regard, listing such influences as Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Neu!, Sonic Youth, the Melvins, Spacemen 3, and the Butthole Surfers.
Hecksher assembled the Warlocks in '98 and quickly established the psychedelic imperative. "Jamming!" gloats Hecksher. "Everyone playing in unison and loudly—two drummers playing in unison, along with two or three guitars playing the same thing at times as well, with just loosely written directions from me."
Opening for the likes of Beachwood Sparks, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM), the Warlocks amassed an early fan base that included BJM's legendarily fried leader, Anton Newcombe, and Bomp! supremo Greg Shaw, who eagerly signed the band.
Last year's Bomp! full-length, Rise and Fall, in addition to the proverbial frammin' on the jim-jam (it opens with "Jam of the Witches," a 14-minute guitar symphony and monstrous Pink Floyd/Hawkwind invocation), is rife with piano, acoustic and slide guitars, and woozy synths. "Song for Nico," for example, taps the same melodic, blissed-out pop vein of Jesus and Mary Chain, while the bluesy, pastoral-psych ambience of "House of Glass" suggests Syd Barrett fronting the Stones circa Beggar's Banquet. The lyrical vibe frequently eschews freak-flag flying in favor of more introspective musings or sorrowful reflections on fractured relationships.
It hasn't been an easy ride for Hecksher, however, and his band's personnel roster has had its share of defections, rising to as many as eight members, then shrinking to five at times. "But the current lineup is the best it's ever been," he notes. "Most of us have been friends for a long time, so we don't step on each other's shoes too often." In addition to Hecksher on bass and vocals, the touring Warlocks include: JC Rees, Cory Lee Granet, and Jeff Levitz (guitars); Danny Hole and Jason Anchondo (drums). Says Hecksher, "All I really want to do is tour and make the whole thing a real event. That's what I was put here to do."
Recently signed to the Birdman label, the Warlocks have a new album, Phoenix, due in mid-October. While not containing Warlockian Grand Funk covers, it will still be front-loaded with wigged-out jamming as well as the aforementioned "Shake the Dope Out" and the fuzz/ feedback-oozing "Hurricane Heart Attack"—easily the best song Spacemen 3 never wrote. Confusingly, The Phoenix EP precedes the album and, according to Hecksher, "is longer than the full-length. Limited to 1,000 CDs, it'll have a bonus song called 'Come Jam With the Warlocks.' Its intention is for kids to plug their guitars in and jam with us in the key of D. Actually, it might be A—I forget which one I picked!" He adds that the vinyl version of the EP, also limited to 1,000, will include—in some copies—3-D glasses and a comic strip: "It's random. So please don't open up 50 copies to find it."
By most accounts, there's a buzz on about the Warlocks, and it's not all chemical, either. Just a couple of weeks ago, the band performed a triumphant hometown set at L.A.'s Knitting Factory, sharing a bill with the Seeds. The packed house included loads of record bizzers and A&R people, and by the following Monday, local media mavens who'd previously ignored the Warlocks were reportedly ringing up the group's publicist, schmoozing for free CDs.
Success is sweet, innit? Spotted on the new Warlocks T-shirts: "I hate everyone in this town."