R.I.P. Josh Alper 1973-2013

somewhere having fun in SC c. 2003.

somewhere having fun in SC c. 2003.

Reading about people you didn’t know who are now gone can have its drawbacks…never having sat with or seen them…never occupying the same space…never having picked up on their subtle or their vivid candor…never having heard their bark… These are all potentially frustrating blocks to experiencing an individual through words or pages instead of in person.  Writing down memories also puts me at risk of positioning from an ‘i was there, maan’ base line, which may be easier but can easily turn away a reader/listener.   Luckily, as readers, we are granted with imaginations…I ramble…I am stating all of this to help remind myself that there really is no substitute for a person’s presence and that once they are no longer present all we have is what they gave us.  Josh was a giver. The moment he died, he immediately dispersed into a billion particles that will float around in our perceptive minds as memories forever.

Below are some of those memories, hardly complete, about a departed friend, Josh Alper.  He may have showed reluctance at times to do so, wrapping it up in self-deprecating wit, humility and reductionist humor; but if for anything, i remember him for his gifts.  His endless musical endeavors, his nearly uncontrollable laughter at darkness and frivolous things. A kindred soul in our reactions to the  impermanence of nature and the universe…wandering around Santa Cruz….night, drinking robo…wax about nonsense and importance….

I can’t remember the first time we met.  My absorption into his band, Whysp, seemed so likely and natural and effortless from my end that I don’t even remember exactly when it happened or for how long or when it ended.  Those times were all a blossom of creativity for me and i wouldn’t really know who I was today if I hadn’t been involved in this particular world.  It must have been through our friend John Garmon, also a member of Whysp, who was letting me play guitar for his band Loyal Sons & Daughters…backing up time a bit….

I was a new arrival to the Santa Cruz “underground/indie” music community in 2001 having visited the previous summer. The first few shows I saw in SC were Comets on Fire ruin my ears at a cafe, Deerhoof bend time at a youth center, Glass Candy as a punk trio in a punk house, Ben Chasny stomp a tamborine to death at a house party and The Lowdown wearing white jumpsuits and projecting films on themselves.  It may have been the next year or so when I saw Josh & Hugh from The Lowdown’s new psych-folk band Whysp play at a house party with Black Elf Speaks to about 20 people, no less than 3 being naked hippies.  This, along with a LOT of other stuff that may or may not have grabbed my interest at the time was what was happening then; these were the groups playing in these crummy venues blowing us all away.

I had my sights set on playing guitar in a rock band and the aforementioned groups had lit a fire under my ass to get going. I wanted to make a record.  In these immediate surroundings the biggest push and help to create my own music on my own terms came from 2 core duos.  Josh Alper & Hugh Holden of Whysp/Lowdown. Ethan Miller & Ben Chasny of Comets on Fire/6 Organs. ‘Cept for Josh, I had worked with these guys at the local record shop and pizza dump, so I felt comfortable asking advice.  Comets were the knuckle-dragging-retard-apes that showed me the extremes people would go to achieve some type of transcendence through sweat and volume.  Whysp was the other side: peace-creep-forest-sprites painting the wooded landscapes with dusty melodies, slightly out-of-tuned to perfection. As a listener i never really knew how the songs would start or when they would end but it didn’t matter!  Even once i joined, i didn’t know. I was a seedling figuring out a lot of things and these lads had let me into their creation w/out hesitation.  it didn’t seem to matter if i hit a sour note or played out of time or attempted a vocal harmony or two.  there were never any mean looks.    I got to be in the band for the lesser part of a year, playing mostly percussion with the occasional guitar or casio.

My favorite show was with The Finches at an old farmhouse near campus that was occupied by trainhopper punker students.  We didn’t use a PA, it was about as raw and open a performance as I’d been involved in at that point…all of us in a cluster…surrounded by the partygoers…singing and clapping and stomping and playing…a horse neighing from outside in between songs…steamy breathe visible in the bare-bulb light…the strangeness of sweat on the skin when the air is cold enough to make your teeth shiver…beautiful creatures…the music came from the wood and the steam, the dirt and the light, the hands and the feet, the heads and the souls… as I remember that night I can live on…

Only good memories of Mr. Alper. Hyperbole aside, he was the kind of guy that religions are based on.   He was killed instantly riding his bicycle, by a motorist who fell asleep, crossed both lanes on Highway-1, and hit him head on.

I hope this finds you well, and I hope you know that you did more than your share of spreading the love…

Some recent Live performances

This is from our 10 year birthday party show at The Chapel in SF. this is us playing a song by Whysp called “Beautiful Creatures”.  It was written by Josh Alper, who was in the Lowdown and Art Museums.

And here is vid of the short-lived duo version of the band playing our kalifornia-kind-klassic “California”.  It was shot at the Echo in LA.

10 years ago.

The fourth of July really shouldn’t mean shit to me.  Meat parties.  Blowing up dangerous shit to further celebrate the destruction of the native occupants of these lands, and the more popular reason; breaking free the shackles of British tyranny. But, I do owe the holiday at least 1 solid…

Picture 210 years ago, at a BBQ house show @ 113 Ocean St. Santa Cruz, CA aka ‘The Cube’,  Residual Echoes of The Great Explosion played their first show after about 2 weeks of practice.  Later on I  moved in to that shitty house and played there the next few 4th of July parties until they stopped having them.   i’m glad it still there. I’ll post the audio soon or have a CDR avail at some point if anyone’s interested.

Old Interview

from Bad Vibes 

I barely remember this but i found it on the web. i won’t dare read it

Tell me a fact about you that nobody else knows?

I’m answering these questions. I’m latently gay.

Your self-titled album is well, err, insanity. Are you trying to take us to the sun?
Insanity? I’m constantly verging on the manic threshhold from minute to fingernail. The first record (like all records) was simply a product of the circumstances it was made in. I was being bombarded with an extremely high volume of psychic/emotional/physical/spacial activity at that time and those sounds just had to come out. I had been thinking about how it would sound and what would happen within it for years before i actually started putting it together. The live band that played the songs before i recorded them also had a huge deal in the way the songs ended up being shaped. As for the sun, it blew up years ago.

What are the secret origins of Residual Echoes?
Taking far too much LSD cut with Meth at too early an age. My father is also a musician who was always playing really great stuff in the car and the house(others and his own music). He is a tremendously cumbersome personality who has the most influence on my approach, be it in rebellion or in agreement with his – whatever that is.

On the holymountain.com website it states that Ben Chasney and Ethan Miller encouraged you with Residual Echoes … what unholy forces of persuasion did they use? Basically I had Cd-r’s of the record. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, and gave a copy to Mr. Ben Chasny and he told me i should press it on vinyl. So i did.

You reside in Santa Cruz, the serial killer capital of the world. How has this affected your music?

Living in Santa Cruz is like being given a half-handed calmness. I can see why it once was the serial killer capital, but that’s probaly somwhere in Iraq now. It can really suck you in with it’s mundane charm which has left a lot of shipwrecked souls on all levels wandering around, hopping from couch to couch , beach to beach, shelter to shelter. Homeless, crazy people, Trustafarians, mountain men and women, lazy college kids, wannabe drug dealers, all sorts of slackers ne’er-do-wells and left-behinds. Blah…. I think the false sense of security allows us to make music in a bubble that pops every three months….leaving this place really helps you appreciate it. It’s a nice nest.

Would you consider yourself part of the noise scene?
No. I think it uses noise when it calls. But i’m pretty sure it’s a rock and roll band.

When I was in Monterey on holiday, I came across a handpainted cover of your album that Holy Mountain reissued. This activity is something of a revolution the US underground. What is the manifesto behind that?
We are pretty young and don’t know very much about the music scene or manifestos or any of that stuff. It just seemed like the logical thing to do. Once we were given the idea and confidence that people wanted to hear this music, doing it ourselves was the fastest way to get it out there. The hand-made covers were free; the paint, the silkscreens, the sleeves, all donated by our friends. It’s a product of a community interested in creating. We all helped make them. Our most Crass moment.

How would you describe Residual Echoes music to someone who has never heard it before?
If i thought we had developed a specific sound i’d use that but i don’t think we’re at the point yet. but if you must: Dave says we’re a Cabbage Rock band.Jerry says we’re Heavy Metal. I say we’re shoegazers. We used to sound like the Sonics trying to play Uncle Meat.

What are your feelings towards Julian Cope’s patronage of Residual Echoes when it was awarded Head Album of the Month?
That has helped us in ways unimaginable to me a year ago.

What is up with your cover of your self-titled debut for Holy Mountain. What were the concepts behind that? To me it looks like a Sears Catalogue rescued from hell…
Ask JW.

Is there freedom in improvisation? No. What is the language of Residual Echoes on stage? Is it ‘get your freak-folk on’ or do you kick out the jams….?
We try a mix of things. We used to have a couple of sets for different settings so the crowd could get a highly exagerrated aspect of the band that we thought they would most understand,i.e. free set, short punk rock set, mellow arcata-trance set, jumpy angular set, blah blah. at one point we would play under different names:Handel, Jam The Controls, Testa Knark…it was also because of a never ending roatation of band members. I think in the two years we’ve been a band we’ve gone through about eleven different line-ups. But that approach is too schizo to be able to develop a band sound, so now we just start with the songs and let them fizzle into getting another 6 dollar vodka tonic, man this band’s too loud; do you have a smoke.

What are your influences?
We like all kinds of stuff: Stooges, Blues. Jerry’s into Mahler, Kitaro,Ramones, MeatPuppets, Beatles and Eno. Dave’s into Dead Moon, Chrome, Hawkwind, Black Flag, and Kinks. I like Dinosaur, first wave of L.A. punk, 70′s Cleaveland, V.U., and most left British pop like Pastels, XTC, TV Personlities, etc. We all like old Smith/Lomax folk recordings and Les Rallizes a LOT. The newer stuff too: Comet Son Fire, Charalambides, Whysp, Mainliner. These all influence all of us. I’d say the first time we saw Comets had to be one of the most influential moments for each of us. We all like all of this stuff.

What’s coming up in Residual Echoes world? What is the next album going to be like?
We have two new records upcoming. Holy Mountain’s putting out “Phoenician Flu and Ancient Ocean” which is a second full-length. It leaps around a lot. There’s a lot of our 70′s influences in it, like Kiss and the Band. Rocket Recordings out of the UK, is putting out an extended 35 minute-EP tenatively titled “Testimony of an Ex-Homosexual”. This one leaps around even more, it’s got two acoustic songs one by Dave alone… and the other side has kind of shoegazer-mod sound? i’m not really sure. The one thing I can promise is that there’s a whole shit ton of loud fucking guitars on both of these records.

California has really come a long way (baby…) from Six Organs of Admittance, Deerhoof, Devendra Banhart, Comets on Fire … where do you feel that Residual Echoes places in this current renaissance and why do you think there is a renaissance happening?
I think you left out Zdrastvootie.they are one of the most singular groups around ever. I’m not comfortable claiming to be part of any thing like a renaissance, but if you want to say that, i’m ok with it. I feel really flattered that someone might regard us in the same light as acts like Deerhoof. I really just see it as people trying and succeeding to make art that was missing at whatever time it was most needed. I get really excited that a lot of people i know or have met are doing really amazing things for music and art and people. As for a renaissance; yeah, sure why not. I see a continuation of all things interesting throughout history, Dracos-Jesus-Raputin-Dali-Son House-FDR-V.U.-Godard-Beefheart-L. Ron-Deerhoof-….Why Not?

Is the music of Iggy and the Stooges like a drug?
Yes. Ambient drugs.

What’s on your stereo?
The Who-Meaty Beaty and the Big Bouncy The Cherry Blossoms Cd-R