AL HOWARD / DANI BELL & THE TARANTIST, THE MIDNIGHT PINE, AND THE REDWOODS MUSIC

Dani Bell & The Tarantist: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube

The Midnight Pine: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

The Redwoods Music: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website / YouTube

1. Tell me about your weird-ass setup.

I’d refer to my rig as post-Sanford & Sons, but pre-MacGuyverian. It’s about as dangerous as a badger with rabies being walked by a Trump supporter, but it gets the job done. It’s mostly derived from me not being particularly good at music, so if I play a saw blade people say “Holy shit, that guy’s playing a saw blade” instead of “holy shit, that guy sucks, lets boo him and throw tomatoes!” Not sure if they still throw tomatoes at acts, but I’m not above playing a Farmer’s Market, so…… I got a couple of interesting things in this hodgepodge of bullshit that looks like Kobey’s Swap Meet vomited on Home Depot after drinking shots of rubbing alcohol and Robitussin (we called those Rubbitussins).

I got this karaoke machine that has two fucking 8-track players in it. Seriously, TWO FUCKING 8-TRACK PLAYERS. One day, I’ll drop the first Scorps 8-track in there, for some between-sets filler. That first record is good, Lonesome Crow, don’t sleep on that shit. Anyway, it’s got some inputs for a microphone so you could sing a shitty version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” for your homies, but I run a circuit-bent radio to it and totally misuse this ratty ‘80s echo effect. This thing gets LOUD AS FUCK and sounds ugly as Iggy Pop’s stomach skin. Which is the goal. And if there’s some kid on LSD at your set, you can totally make him weep. Speaking of LSD, my buddy made me this circuit-bent radio. I went over to his house to pick it up on a Tuesday and he was like “you wanna drop some acid?” I was like, “are you fucking serious? It’s a Tuesday and I’m 35.” And he was like “whatever.” This little guy makes me wish I wasn’t such a pussy and I could pop a couple weekday hits and just tweak out for hours. It sounds like fucking space people arguing about space bullshit. He explained to me how to make one, but I feel like you really need to drop acid midweek to perfect it, so I’ve yet to do it. Shine on, you crazy diamond!

I got this wooden doodad made of drywall screws and bottlecaps. This fucker is dangerous. I call it the tetanus clap, cause I’m sure this’ll provide you with tetanus. I mean shit, it’s all rusty and pointy. It doesn’t even sound like anything and it hurts to play. I’m sure Ramsey’ll press it to some pregnant woman’s gut on a episode of Game Of Thrones when you thought they couldn’t shock you anymore and you wished they wouldn’t. I used to have a bunch of bottlecap instruments. My sober ass asked a friend to get some bottle caps for me. She came back wasted with this huge bag of bottle caps. She risked alcohol poisoning to bring you this thing and I never even use it. Ha. Idiot. The Heineken caps sound best, but she didn’t wanna drink that shit. I have a huge bucket full of bottlecaps, I’m gonna make some awesome shit one day, but since I borrowed Marissa’s HBOnow password, I really don’t have time to be making stuff.

Let’s see, what else. I got this saw blade. The first saw blade I incorporated was literally out of tune with everything, so I ruined a lot of songs by hitting it along with the last chord, but it was fun to see the jazz guys die a little inside at the clashing of notes. The next one I got was much less offensive. Now bandmates and soundmen just get pissed when they bump into it and cut themselves.

One time, I was in the adjacent urinal to this old hippie at a music festival. I walked up and started my business after him and when I left, he was still pissing. I waited cause I realized something magical was happening. He pissed longer than a live Allman Brothers song. It was insane. This rainstick is like that old man. It makes rain sounds for days. I left it at The Casbah once. Nothing worse for a guy trying to eclipse the fact that he had dreadlocks and owned a Spin Doctors cassette single than getting getting a call from The Casbah saying “you left your rainstick here”!

Sometimes I use this hair dryer to get an atmospheric wash sound, but the goddamn thing sucks so much electricity, it shut down the stage at Art Walk. It also smells like burnt ferret hair. Lastly I have this skull that sounds like ocean waves. It literally looks like a shrunken head, and who the fuck knows, it may well be. All I know is it sounds good and I’m probably making a mockery of some ancient tradition and will likely be cursed within the year.

2. On what song of yours is your stuff best portrayed? 

If you notice my input on our recordings then I’m doing it wrong. For all the loud clamoring my instruments make, they’re best served with subtlety, accentuating what’s already been recorded by a killer rhythm section. “Crave” on the Dani Bell & The Tarantist Dark West record has a lot of elements that are understated. It starts with this ‘60s Acetone drum machine that gives way to real drums; there’s a spray bottle we used to discipline Erik Canzona’s dog drenched in reverb, doubled with a box of couscous cause I’m old school and haven’t started playing on quinoa yet. The intention is to add something slightly unusual to a familiar rhythmic pattern, perhaps it’ll make the ears perk up when you listen in headphones. There’s a lot of stuff I’m really proud of on the new Midnight Pine record, a lot of patience on the short wave radio to find some really psychedelic sounds to weave in and out, a large piece of sheet metal to get some thunderous atmospherics and lots of circuit-bent radio acting like a Theremin, that’ll be out late summer/early fall.

3. If money was no object, what’s the one piece of junk you’d buy?

I’d get a 36-inch chain and a Mellotron.

4. What’s next for you and your bands that people should know about?

Dani Bell & The Tarantist’s Dark West Vinyl Release Party at Kakalak Collective at 2191 Main Street Union in Barrio Logan on Saturday, June 4th. [INFO]

Photos by Kristy Walker. See more of her work here.

JAKE NAJOR / THE REDWOODS MUSIC

Jake Najor: Birdy Bardot / Taurus Authority / The Midnight Pine / Rebecca Jade & The Cold Fact / Cardinal MoonThe Redwoods Music / Instagram / Twitter / Website

1. Tell me about your current rig:  It’s a 1967 Ludwig classic 20”, 12” and 14”. I bought them in 2007 for $650 bucks. I love old drums and specifically Ludwig. So many classic recordings that I dig are Ludwig, from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin. I like the sound of old drums; they fit the vibe of most of the music that I play. Not a huge fan of modern-sounding drums. They just don’t do it for me. Vintage drums have a nice, warm sound – and sound great live and when recording.

2. If money were no object, what’s your “holy grail” gear?  The Ludwig Black Beauty snare. They sound great and are super versatile and have been used on so many records over the years.

3. What song of yours (or any that you’ve worked on) would you say represents you and your style the best?  “Lowdown Stank” by Breakestra. I played one-handed 16th notes on the hi-hats, with ghost notes on the snare – pretty much one of my favorite types of beats to play. I’m a huge fan of Clyde Stubblefield, the drummer from James Brown, who is most well-known for the “Funky Drummer” break. I’ve practiced the groove for years trying to get it just right.

4. What was your first kit ever? My first kit was a Pearl Export. It’s an entry-level kit; not the greatest, but it made do at the time. If I could go back, I would buy a vintage drumset (Ludwig, Gretsch, Rogers and Camco). They sound great and go up in value.

5. Do you still have it? Sold it about 20 years ago.

6. What’s coming up next for you?  The Redwood Revue is April 1st at The Music Box with Dani Bell & The Tarantist, Birdy Bardot, The Midnight Pine, and Rebecca Jade & The Cold Fact [INFO]. Just laid down drums for the new Midnight Pine record a few weeks ago. Also working on a record of my own, with some friends helping out.

[Extra credit: Read Jen Van Tieghem’s (my better half) recent review of the Dani Bell & The Tarantist record, Dark West, here]