(When speaking with Dustin Hill from Black Pussy this week on the podcast, Dustin spoke about working at this wonderful studio with Brant Bjork. Many of the finest in rock have made their way to this sanctuary of sonic smiles. Some truly amazing work has been done out there in the desert of Joshua Tree. Here’s a bit of info we found of the interweb about this cosmic place, along with a cool testimonial from the folks over at stonerhive.blogspot. – FATS)
Rancho De La Luna is a recording studio in Joshua Tree, California that was founded in 1993 by Fred Drake and David Catching. After Drake’s death in 2002 to cancer, the studio was operated by David Catching and Drake’s collaborators Anthony Scott Mason, Ted Quinn, Dean Chamberlain, Billy Bizeau and Fred Burke until 2004 . It has since doubled as Catching’s home, where he has been known to cook for bands and allow them to stay at the house for weeks at a time while they record.
Notable bands and artists to record at the Rancho include Midget Handjob featuring Keith Morris, Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, earthlings?, Daniel Lanois, Fu Manchu, UNKLE, Twilight Singers, Masters of Reality, Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, Victoria Williams, The Duke Spirit, Eagles of Death Metal, Mark Lanegan, Dave Grohl, Desert Sessions, including sessions with PJ Harvey, Hulk, Sparta, and recently, Foo Fighters featuring Joe Walsh, Nine50nine featuring Dave Krusen and Ty Willman, The Giraffes, Arctic Monkeys, Philiac, Smith & Pyle and Bingo’s Dream Band.
Speeding out of Los Angeles and heading east for about three hours. Watch the houses, stores and fast food joints diminish and give way to cacti, massive rocks and Joshua Trees. Before long you will feel the intense heat of the desert. A windy warmth that can only be appreciated by a certain type of man and can only breed a certain kind of song. Nestled between all of this is a low house and one filled to the rim with musical mojo and memories. There’s something magical about the Rancho De La Luna studio in Palm Desert. It’s a place where the odd and the strange meet and become perfectly normal. It’s a place where the need to survive is pure and where creativity comes from all directions. It’s where Place Concept flourishes and where you can write and record your best material by a fire pit watching a real coyote chase an imaginary roadrunner. It might be the ghost of Gram Parsons who died of a drug overdose in the Joshua Tree Inn further down the road and whose ashes were scattered in the national park in 1973. Or it might be the residual spirit of the beautiful mixture of all the different souls who spent a day or longer there. Or as Alex Turner once told me: “It’s the location. It introduces possibilities. You don’t feel like anyone’s watching you out there. You dare everything and want to try it all.”
Rancho De La Luna was found and founded by the late Fred Drake (1958-2002) in 1993. He was a southern gentleman, a Texan cowboy though born in Taft, California near Bakersfield with a penchant for coffee and a huge love for the Beatles. One and all knew him as The Mayor; and he wanted to have a quiet place outside of LA to do musical magic while battling his cancer. He asked Dave Catching to join him a year later and thanks to a friend who was getting rid of all his old recording equipment the place was quickly filled with loads of vintage instruments. The rest of all the amazing stuff covering floor to ceiling Fred gathered at thrift stores and swap meets. And between all of this is there is a genuine house; with a kitchen where former restaurant owner Dave Catching is cooking his insane meals. And while tracking the bass or drum you’d smell the garlic and herbs. All rooms are inviting and welcoming. Everyone who has ever passed through the doors felt like coming home. It is a true sanctuary of life that opens ones heart and mind. It is truly amazing that such a barren, hostile and unfruitful landscape can house a true oasis that gives birth to a seemingly endless stream of sublime music.
LITTLE SISTER by QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE
With all the different people leaving traces of their persona among all the wonderful stuff it is impossible not to soak up that inspiration. Dave Catching bringing the New Orleans vibe, Chris Goss with his New York soul and alchemist spirit. Josh Homme with his genius, punk attitude, humor, intellect and workman’s ethic. Troy van Leeuwen with his pure artistic vision. Ted Quinn’s poetic voice. Alain Johannes’s prowess, intuition and ability. And so many other wonderful people that left an impression on the already magic soul of the Rancho. You can almost feel it growing with every record it gives birth to. Like it is some sort of magical beast feeding on tones, rhythm and melody.
And then there’s La Casa Blanca and The Back Of The Moon studios just behind the Rancho where Tony Mason holds office. Where the good vibe also flourishes. It has a similar operation to that of the Rancho. Both work at creating that wonderful enigma. The fact that everything is possible but you have to make it happen. There are restrictions, not everything is present and they know that the creative mind works best when there are those limitations. Because then your mind needs to do the work and you will need to stretch yourself. There’s something in the amalgam of the wrong location, the wrong house, and the wrong equipment that makes everything all right. The overall approach is to get everything mic’d up, set a nice vibe and afterwards to just go with the flow. Feel comfortable and let the experimentation begin; let it bring you into all the uncharted territories and find them sonic landscapes that brings that solid gold.
GODZILLA by FU MANCHU
And then when you need a breather you just go outside and sit in the hot tub, start barbecuing or walk out into the desert. Or like Alex Turner explained: “And when you don’t record you can head out into the national park. And there the magic simply continues. We visited Skull Rock. Listening to Emmaretta by Deep Purple. Singing along together: Emmaretta, did you get my letter. And after that the song kept popping up whenever we turned on a radio. It felt like an affirmation of everything we were doing for some weird reason. And we all felt like that.” And that’s just the daytime. At night the Rancho is this entirely different thing. There’s no light pollution and it seems like you are much closer to the stars. It makes you feel small, insignificant and unbelievably thankful that you are right there in that place at that time in the world; whatever it may mean. And on most night you will see shootings stars. It is highly impossible not to be touched by these experiences. It will point everyone in the right direction. And will leave a mark on your heart, mind and soul. For Rancho De La Luna has that most wonderful and cherished of ‘things’; a direct connection to all the magic of…