Monday, March 20, 2017
A Ripple Conversation With. . . .Brad Frye, guitarist and vocalist of Red Mesa.
When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.
What have been your musical epiphany moments?
BF: Oh yeah, I grew up in household with soft rock radio in rural, coastal Maine. My brother and I know the lyrics to so many shitty songs. My first musical epiphany was hearing the the full version “Suzy Q” by Credence Clearwater Revival. I was a boy riding in my parents car. My Mom had it on cassette. I didn't know that songs were longer than 3 minutes. They do this long guitar solo and then jam out for another 5 minutes. I was mesmerized. I remember thinking, “I didn't know you could do that.” So that's what I do now.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
BF: Generally our songs start with a riff. I spend a long time working on riffs and progressions that 1) sound cool 2) don't remind me of any guitarist or band in particular 3) I can sing and play at the same time. The next step is playing the music with the band, whether I brought in the idea or not. We all need to get behind it. We listen for space to have lyrics. Start working out changes. I then take the music home and start singing over it my car. Working on lyrics and melodies. I'd prefer to write music AFTER a song/melody. But usually it starts with a riff.
Who has influenced you the most?
BF: Oh wow. A lot of people. It has changed through the years. When I was 8, Guns 'N Roses “Appetite for Destruction” came out and I played that over and over. It was a great introduction to attitude and rock and roll. I haven't listened to them for probably 20 years, but I recently heard that album and it is still killer.
In terms of playing guitar, Josh Homme from Kyuss and QOTSA has been a huge inspiration and influence to me. Also, Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Vista Chino, solo stuff). He is an underrated guitarist and wrote some killer Kyuss riffs and songs.
Tony Iommi is a massive influence for riffs. David Gilmore for solos. I'm not a shredder. I prefer slower, psychedelic and melodic solo.
For singing, I love a lot people. Singing got me into playing guitar so I could use it as a tool for songwriting. I try to not sound like anyone, and just focus on my own voice.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
BF: Whatever is going on in my life and around me at the moment. But try I focus on frustrations, sadness, anger, and desires to give them a release so I don't carry around a lot of negativity. Music is a release. There is a lot of suffering in life. Music helps me deal with it. That way I can evolve and be a positive and good human being.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
BF: The band's hometown is Albuquerque, New Mexico. We are certainly inspired by the high desert, with its great big blue sky and mountains. New Mexico has a cool laid back feel to it. We try to get in a heavy groove and pretend we are outside playing under a desert sunset. Duane Gasper our drummer, and Shawn Wright our bass player are both New Mexico natives. They really embody the spirit.
Where'd the band name come from?
BF: Band names are harder to come up with than songs. I believe it was a suggestion from an old friend and guitarist we used to jam with before this band came to fruition in its current line-up as a power trio. Shawn reminded us of the band name and it fit the best. We wanted a band name that represented the high desert environment of New Mexico.
Tell us about witchcraft, what it means to you and your life?
BF: I don't know a damn thing about witchcraft. I am, however, a spiritual non-religious person. I have spent a lot of my life exploring nature and natural environments. I believe you can benefit from some good things from getting outside and away from people. I feel its important to find a quiet space. To get away from everything. There's a lot of wisdom life and nature can teach you. There is a lot of wisdom your mind, body, and soul can teach you. It's important to open up and listen to that.
BF: I like movies that travel to beautiful landscapes. If I had the opportunity to write a soundtrack that played off a movie about a hitchhiker or a backpacker traveling through epic landscapes, I'd be down.
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
BF: “Space Cadet” by Kyuss. When I first heard that song, it blew my fucking mind. I had always wanted to listen to something like that, but I had no idea where to find it. I remember listening to it while on the bus in Seattle. When that song came on, I got off the bus and just stood on the street. I couldn't move. I just stood there, and thought, “holy shit, this is fucking incredible.”
What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?
BF: I want people to feel......... SOMETHING. I intend for it to be a positive, powerful something. And I want them to listen to the songs as a whole. Not just a beat to dance to or some entertainer to watch. For me, that's not what turned me on to music. It was killer songs and albums. I think in the underground rock community, the focus is on a quality product.
The most important message I'm trying to send out is to be a cognitive human being. Live life with an open mind, question any bullshit, be a great and wonderful human being. And rock the fuck out.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
BF: I played an open mic at Pappy and Harriet's in Joshua Tree, CA. Which was super rad to play there even though it was an open mic. Maybe one day we'll play a show there....! But around 7pm, the local crowd all sits down and has dinner. I decided to try out some new material. I get up on stage and say, “You guys ready to fucking rock?!” And start playing real loud and I look up and the entire bar is having dinner and chewing food. And I was playing some aggressive music. It totally didn't fit. I felt that I was yelling directly at them while they were eating dinner. I finish the first song and no one makes any noise. No one claps. They just sit there eating. And I think, “Oh fuck, this is so awkward, I'm playing to an entire dinner crowd.” I think I played a few mellow songs on an acoustic and then got the hell off stage. Embarrasing.
Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
BF: I love playing live. We focus on making sure the overall tone and sound for playing live is really unique and balanced. We take pride in having great tone. We play very loud. We want the instruments to really stand out, but sound great as a whole. We have been getting excellent feedback from our fans and from people who have just seen us for the first time. It feels great to hear people tell us we have great tone. Also, it is very humbling to play live. At least it is for me. I feel very humbled and grateful to play music live. It is communication and expression on a different level.
What makes a great song?
BF: A great song, you feel it in your soul. It just completely speaks to you and envelops you.
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
BF: I think it would be a song called “Gold Rush” It's basically a country song on acoustic. Hillbilly jam. For me it is some form of rock and roll. I've never recorded it, maybe I should.
What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
BF: Well, we finished recording our EP for Ripple Music. It will come out on the Second Coming of Heavy vinyl compilation. We are very excited about the songs on the EP. It's gonna kick ass. Due out December 2016. Get yourself a copy!
Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
BF: The album that kicked my ass in 2015 was Wino and Conny Ochs acoustic album “Freedom Conspiracy.” It has incredible songs, beautiful melodies and hooks. Is very sad, yet gorgeous. It really hit me in my heart and my soul.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
BF: For convenience, its digital. For sound quality its, CD and vinyl. And for the experience, definitely vinyl. Nothing like dropping the needle down.
Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice
BF: Whiskey, hands down. I fucking love whiskey. Beer is fine, but its heavy and makes you slow. You gotta consume a lot of volume to achieve the type of buzz I like. I'm not a heavy drinker. But I drink daily. When I'm relaxing, its beer. When it's time to perform, or go out for the night, it's whiskey. It gets me fired up.
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
BF: Charlies 33's and CD's is really the only record store left in Albuquerque. Cool old school record store. Vintage and new vinyl.
What's next for the band?
BF: Our EP on the Second Coming of Heavy compilation will come out in 2016 on Ripple Music. Be sure to grab a copy! I believe we are on Volume 4. In the meantime, we are slowly working on new music for a second full-length album.
Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
BF: We truly appreciate everyone who seeks out and supports underground music. There is so much incredible music being made these days, especially in heavy rock/metal. And it's not easy to find. We are being spoon-fed so much crap these days. It's impossible to hear great music on the radio or on TV or on any popular, multi-mass media. You gotta work for today. It's sad. But there is a movement of people around the world that know good music is out there and they are finding it. So, thank you.