I came at the music of Joshua Homme a little ass-backwards. For some reason, Kyuss didn’t make it onto my radar until they were done and gone. For the life of me I cannot remember, but I recall it being someone who I had thought may be a little weirder than most of my friends, had lent me a copy of the first Desert Sessions volume. We had just gone through the gambit of the “grunge” scene, and as refreshing as it was to have some pop melody played with distorted riffing, some of that shit was really starting to frustrate me. The folklore behind the making of the Desert Sessions drew me in, but it was the hypnotic drive of the opening track that hooked me; I’ve never left the series.
To this day, Saucerful of Secrets by Pink Floyd stands as one of my favorite records of all time. As I said, the whole world domination of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam in the 90s was driving me a bit nuts, and when I got my hands on Desert Sessions Volume 1: Instrumental Driving Music For Felons it was as if the perfect progression was happening once again. That twang. That slide guitar. That organ sound. It was as if someone had taken everything I loved about psychedelic Pink Floyd and added a serious fucking helping of Americana to it. The folklore of the mescalin trips during recording only served to make me love this recording all that more. At the time, I had a taste for the psychotropic drugs as well. I’d being lying if I said there wasn’t acid taken with this record; this one even broke me a bit on a few occasions.
This inaugural volume was recorded between August 5 to 12, 1997 at Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree, California, and released initially as a 10″ by Frank Kozik’s Man’s Ruin Records in November of that same year. Some of the more notable players on this recording are Josh Homme, John McBain, Ben Shepherd, and Brant Bjork. The liner notes state that “all songs written and performed by Acquitted Felons.”
At the time, we had no idea what the original Man’s Ruin 10″ version would eventually be worth . The original 10″ was a blue translucent color and can go for as much as $500 now. Volumes 1 and 2 were soon after compiled as one collection, and this subsequent release doesn’t garner nearly the attention the original does. Much like many of his personal art projects, Frank Kozik worked to promote music that others wouldn’t touch; the odd, the bizarre, the perceived unmarketable. The collection of work within the Desert Sessions catalog may have served as somewhat “unmarketable”, but gauging by its popularity and monetary value to collectors, I would say Frank Kozik had a better idea of what was what than any of those fucking tools in the tall buildings. Allmusic’s Tom Schulte states that, “propelled by a steady rhythm section, guitars or keyboards creep in to contribute mostly spectral wails decaying with tremolo or reverb. The picture you get is very much that of a desert, a wasteland divided by a stark streak of asphalt.” He summarised the album as a “soundtrack for a running reckless in a land where the only visible things are the dash panel, the headlights, and the stars”.
Although much of the 90s are a complete blur to me, I seemed to have a hazy memory of watching David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive a few years into acquiring Desert Session records. One night we got into the whatnot, listened to a few Desert Session recordings, then watched the Lynch film. I liken this experience to the kind I had when I tried combining old piano Tom Waits while drinking really good Scotch and reading Bukowski. There are just some combinations that need to happen. Listening to Desert Sessions recordings, getting into the space drugs, and watching David Lynch movies is one of those combinations. Trust me, it will change everything.