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Monday, June 21, 2004

soulfood for solstice

at 3 am sunday the 20th, billy finished mastering 44 ambient tracks for the sky party album fred drake has been working on since 1988. ted, elia, duke & negra listened and made small suggestions in sequencing - but the final 12 songs came together by themselves, billy & fred working together again. down the road at the rancho, earthlings? dave, pete, schneebie, chris goss & adam maples were playing some space funk.

at sunset, tony & debbie, michael & karen, nurse linda, victoria & mark, digital d & kenny joined the above in kashmir's old coral, down by the cottonwood tree, for a cup of cowboy coffee. later that night, everyone ate some soul food up the road. at around 2am digital d and tq joined the remaining earthlings? to lend some shouts & harmonies to "off my nut" and look at a new e? video for the song "nothing," shot live at pappy's & harriet's, with lots of fred images throughout.

fred would have enjoyed this june 20th. lots of his friends around, the earthlings? recording a new song at the rancho, billy mastering a new fred drake ambient album, plenty of beans & rice & cornbread, coca-cola & cowboy coffee, sage & other sweet things in the air.

fred drake -
the sky party

fred would laugh at the irony sometimes, and say, "this is what we'll be remembered for," referring to the stoner rock which was first recorded in his now legendary home studio, rancho de la luna.

of course, those who have heard his work with the experimental space rock band, the earthlings?, got a clue to his artistic depth and his sense of humor, inseparable.

his solo albums, "the shy party: cowbells for cowboys" (1990) and "twice shy" (2001), bookending the work he did in the studio, beginning at a little place in hollywood, revealed more of his tenderness and sense of wonder. his stripped-bare covers of "i'm so lonesome (i could cry)" - complete with the "sound" of "the silence of a falling star" - and "blue moon," placed the listener in a vast, open place of quiet longing, coming from a man whose desire to live was matched only by a keen awareness of his own pending mortality. his original songs had the same pathos, with a twist of the absurd.
("it's tea for one, again...how could you?...you wouldn't leave me for dead...now would you?")

the beauty, sadness, spiritual grace and optimism of a gifted soul whose life would be too short found its purest expression in the pieces fred recorded under the pseudonym, the sky party.

without words, fred's ambient music - inspired by the brian eno axiom that ambient music should be as ignorable as it is interesting - served as the soundtrack to his time in his beloved desert.
fred would often visit the national "monument" in joshua tree, hide his boombox in some rocks a distance from his campsite, light some sage, nag champa incense , his other favorite smokes and listen to the quiet sound of eno's 'apollo' or 'on land,' filtering through the silhouettes, with the boombox set on 'loop' for uninterrupted play...

this is the way this music should be heard; quietly, revealing its nuances over time, with respect to (mind)set and setting.

while fred has no say in how he will be remembered, he will continue to be revered for his kindness, his long stories, naturally standing in a perfect first position, cigarette in one hand, coffee in the other, his subtle wit, reflected in the titles of his pieces, his rancho and his music, recorded in the hours between midnight and dawn, when his many friends had stopped showing up or calling on the phone.

there, in his "house of the moon," filled with colorful little lights, fred would light the candles and the smoke, have a cup of "cowboy candy" and create the sounds heard here. at sunrise, he'd take kashmir, his arabian stallion, for a ride through the desert. a reel of tape, which fred used to say, "started out blank," entrusted with carrying these ethereal sounds through space, for some unknown amount of time, past his own. now, we can carry these sounds with us everywhere we go, and with them, an expression of fred's great spirit.


Saturday, June 19, 2004
fred drake
b. 1/28/58
d. 6/20/02

born in the desert of california, raised in houston, texas, fred went to high school in london in the
mid-1970's. in 1981, moved to hollywood to study with zappa drummer terry bozzio, played with several
new-wave/techno bands before working in dean chamberlain's dominion sound recording studio, where, self-taught, fred blossomed into a musical artist who could do everything from write the song to produce the recording, usually playing all the instruments and singing all the parts. some of this can be heard on his first album, the shy party, "cowbells for cowboys" and, collaboratively, on ministry of fools "color while you dream" ( a fred title taken from an old coloring book.)

diagnosed with hiv in 1984, fred pioneered experimental treatments and relied on his intuition to
avoid the "rat poison" which was the only approved "remedy" at the time. fred spoke of his dream, "a big house" where all his artist friends could stay, to work, play and be safe from the outside world.

in 1993, on one of his trips to joshua tree, he rented a house where he could do that. with characteristic boldness and eccentricity, he envisioned a studio where there was none. soon he was joined by one of his musical heroes, daniel lanois, who equipped the house
with his own studio for several months. later, dean sold dominion to fred and david catching, moving it to the desert.

there, fred produced his friends recordings, the first two albums by earthlings? -with whom he toured europe - and completed work on his 2nd solo album, "twice shy," released on 9/11. fred loved sunsets and sunrise rides on his horse, kashmir. he charmed his many friends with funny stories, then directed them to his deck for a spectacular moonrise. nobody ever
wanted to leave fred's house. in the small hours, he would record his beautiful music.

fred died at home surrounded by friends on the last day of spring, 2002. he leaves a legacy of music, his studio and a deep and lasting impression of grace on all who knew and loved him.


Saturday, June 12, 2004
FRED'S BELOVED NIECE, TAYLOR, HAS THIS TO SAY:

"Hello. I don't know exactly know what to say, but since June 20th was coming around again, I felt like I wanted to post something. I've never been able to come up to the Rancho, and I want to so badly. I miss Fred so much, and I know how much he loved it. I want to come and see why.
Hopefully I will be able to come out there sometime soon and fully understand what it is about the Rancho that's so mystifying and wonderful to everyone who's been captured by its beauty.
Hehe, again, I feel awkward leaving this little post because I've never had the pleasure of really getting to know anyone at the ranch save for Fred. I pray that'll change soon."

we pray that will change soon, too. we would also love to meet the young lady that fred used to talk about with so much love. the only thing fred was more proud of than the rancho & kashmir was his nieces...

read on:



Current Conditions for Joshua Tree, CA (92252)
78 degrees Partly Cloudy
Feels Like 77degrees
Humidity: 28% Visibility: 7.0 miles

dear friends -

many more days like today and we may wonder why we
would need to offer an incentive to get people out
here in the summer, but we know that many of you have
yet to experience the delights of our best-kept
secret. the summer nights here are a wonder of the
world - more about those later - and we don't want to
keep them to ourselves, so...

call or email right away to book time from now through
august 31 for only $350 per day.*

this includes a rancho engineer plus a place to crash,
hang, eat, look at the moon, and all the other
benefits of recording at the rancho. but it definitely
is a summer only price. september 1, the rate returns
to its standard $500 per day.

*weekend bookings are available only in pairs
(saturday & sunday) but weekdays can be booked one day
at a time.

in other news, we're planning to host a virgo birthday
benefit dinner party at the rancho for a cause that's
close to our hearts on september 11. that will be the
11th anniversary of fred's first party at the rancho
and the 3rd anniversary of the release of fred's
'twice shy' album. save the date. there will be a more
detailed announcement in the coming weeks.

also, we'll be releasing another of fred drake's
numerous masterpieces, a compilation of his ambient
work, on that day.

we'll be honoring fred on the date of his departure,
june 20, with quiet observation by the cottonwood tree
at sunset, and in any place you choose.

going into our third year here since fred rode off into the
sunset, we are so grateful to all of you who have sent
your loving thoughts***, brought your bands from
halfway around the world, or saved up to do a day with
us.

it makes us so happy that for the veterans of rancho
recording, it's always an experience and vibe that you
want to return to. for the first-timers, we love to
see that first recording experience handled with care,
in a creative, nurturing environment that's never
sterile-feeling or intimidating. please join us in
keeping the spirit of the rancho fed with great music,
great people and unforgettable times.

*** (hi i bought the desert sessions vol 9+10 and i
have to say its the best thing ive ever heard in my
life! im only 15 and come from nottingham/uk and when
i checked rancho de la luna i was inspired to write
music and i havent looked back. i never thought just a
recording studio would inspire me but ive seen some
footage of the place and its amazing theres just
people jammin in a random rooms, a fire burning in the
corner its like a big freindly house!!! just wanna say
keep it going!! its the best thing ive ever seen in my
life and one day i hope to be there !!! from eddie
warrener) < more love letters, poems & prose at:
http://books.dreambook.com/fburke/rancho.html >

thanks, eddie. we'll do our best to keep it going
until you can get out here to record those new songs.
how about sometime this summer?

keep in touch,
the rancho podners

billy, dave, dean, fred b, ted & tony

p.s. we now have mastering facilities adjacent to the
rancho!

"feels like 77!"

p.s. let me mention that, for this summer sale, we'll need full payment in advance to reserve dates. first come, first served...

(THIS JUST IN: BRANT BJORK SET TO RELEASE 'LOCAL ANGEL' - RECORDED BY TONY MASON AT RANCHO DE LA LUNA - ON DUNA RECORDS)
greets all,
...just want to say thanks for keeping us posted and can't wait to come up for a visit. In July we are releasing Local Angel that Brant recorded with Tony in Feb. so I will send up a copy for y'all soon. hope your all well...kit!
xo,
denise and all of duna
(WE CAN'T WAIT TO HAVE A COPY OF THIS STRIPPED-DOWN, SOULFUL RECORDING OF THIS MAJOR BRO OF OURS, AND FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD TO HEAR HIS NEWEST, TOO...)


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