June 2005

A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock And Roll
by Jennifer Savage
Arcata Eye  
June 17th, 2005

“I set I See Hawks¹ new album, Grapevine, on ³repeat all² a week ago and haven¹t tired of it yet. Full of straightforward country rockers, pretty atmospheric tunes I could drop Drive By Truckers, My Morning Jacket, Merle Haggard, but I don¹t want to narrow their sound down that way each song tells a little story of its own. They even bring out the jawharp on ‘Humboldt’ how could it not be love at first listen?”

San Jose Mercury News 
I See Hawks in L.A. and Rick Shea
San Francisco, Felton and Monterey

Ever wondered what would have happened if Gram Parsons hadn’t flamed out and the Burrito Brothers were still playing? I See Hawks in L.A. has it all — twang, distortion, backbeat and lyrics that blend cowboy poetry with an ironic vision of the West. Throw in Rick Shea, the former guitar player for Dave Alvin’s Guilty Men and a helluva country songwriter, who’ll open and then sit in. You’ve got a can’t-miss double bill that should make you forget taking out a second mortgage so that you can afford to see the Eagles this summer.

California Country
by Bob Doran
North Coast Journal
June 16, 2005

Here in Humboldt you see them all the time: hawks perched on a freeway sign or a light pole scanning the grass in the center divider searching for prey. They serve as a little reminder that nature perseveres despite the urban overlay. And it’s the same thing in Los Angeles. Thus the name of the band, I See Hawks in L.A.

“That’s exactly what the band’s name is all about,” said Paul Lacques, calling while on a break from his day job. “It’s also about our declining awareness about our natural surroundings. We ask our friends and people at our shows if they ever see hawks in L.A. Almost all of them say no. But all you have to do is look up. I still see them every two or three days. That lack of awareness keeps us from making certain decisions we have to make soon if we want to survive as part of this natural system.”

Lacques started the band in 2001 with his brother Anthony and Rob Waller. “We’ve always loved country music and I’ve been in country and bluegrass bands since the ’70s, but at that point we were coming from very different bands. I was playing in a band called the Aman Folk Ensemble. It was a touring group that had been around for about 40 years supporting a folk dance company — very eclectic world music and all without electric instruments.

“Rob and Anthony were coming out of a rock band called The Magic of Television. They played roots music with a country feel and were moving toward more country. They did a couple of Gram Parsons covers and countrified versions of Lou Reed songs. They were flirting with country but hadn’t made the leap. The three of us decided we’d try the straight-ahead country approach.”

With its crying pedal steel and close harmonies, the latest I See Hawks in L.A. album, Grapevine, brings to mind that classic era of California country rock, late ’60s records like The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Lacques doesn’t mind the comparison. “Sweetheart of the Rodeo is one of my favorite records and there’s no denying that The Byrds and the Burrito Brothers influenced us. We also do some pretty straight ahead old-time bluegrass stuff, which will show up a little more on our new record. There are many influences cross-pollinating.”

Among the songs on the Grapevine disc is one titled “Humboldt,” a paean to the county and its local cash crop. “I’d be glad to plant corn in the ground, but corn don’t go for $3,000 a pound in Humboldt,” sings the vocalist, stretching the county name through several bars.

“I know we’re not being fair to the region,” said Lacques. “We’ve all been through there, but it’s certainly painting an imaginary landscape. It’s not like writing about Los Angeles, which, unfortunately, I know like the back of my hand.

“We come from many ideologies. I’d say Rob and I are very far left, really far. Our bass player’s a libertarian and we have huge political arguments, but we all agree that the government should leave people alone. We all feel the hammer coming down and America slowly turning into an oppressive society with a powerful central government.

“We particularly feel that laws about people’s personal behavior should be eliminated — the drug laws in particular are a major disgrace. People should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to alter their consciousness or not. I hope we don’t exploit the image of the county or people of Humboldt, but the theme is that people should be free to do what they want.”

It’s 1:29 in the morning and we’re racing east on the 46 between the 101 and the 5, listening to Low Power Jazz, dark road ahead and summer solstice full moon overhead, earth vibrations underneath, smell of cut hay summoning days when the farmer yearned for the distant city lights, night was black, and the dawn was real.

Paul Marshall’s on road ahead of us, driving home with daughter Stephanie, and Rob, Paul L, Shawn and Rick Shea are amped, the drive passes quickly in animated discussions, including Bush’s plan for annihilation/reclamation of the Middle East. Another topic:
FIRST BANDS OF THE HAWKS AND RICK SHEA:

Rob Waller: 1991 The Obvious Power pop with influences like St. Louis’s completely unknown and forgettable Pale Divine band, later influences include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, and Smashing Pumpkins. Original song titles: “Let It Go,” “Spiraling,” “Indian Summer,” and “Still Can’t Stand It,” The Obvious became Oblivious, then Merangutan, playing fraternity parties, sorority functions, house parties and bars in North Carolina, eventually moving west to San Frnacisco and evolving into Apple Pork Four. The Magic Of Television was the final page of this musical book where Rob met and began playing with Lacques brother Anthony who later formed the Hawks. Mark Follman was in all versions of this experiment in musical Darwinism.Paul Lacques: 1973 Andromeda This was a cover band at the outer edges of early metal, covering “Cracked Actor” by David Bowie, “Theme From An Imaginary Western” by Jack Bruce, and “Easy Living” by Uriah Heep. Bassist/lead vocalist Bruno played a Gibson EBO bass and sang with his eyes closed. Bob Gurske played the biggest, loudest drum kit ever invented, and went on to play in many L.A. metal bands. Paul played a telecaster through a bandmaster, and doesn’t remember how the band tuned up. The other guitar player was squeamish about blood. Once, he was changing his guitar strings, poked his finger, fainted and hit his head, blacked out and missed the evening’s gig. In typically schizoid style, Paul was at the same time putting together his acoustic duo The Flatpicking Fools, with partner/guitar teacher Gregg Gold.

Rick Shea: 1968 Essence Of Black Mold Someone in San Bernardino told Rick Shea that “Black Mold” was an extremely strong strain of pot, although it never made its appearance. They kept the band name for two weeks until they realized they’d never get any school function gigs, changed the name to Crossroads. Rick says the band wasn’t quite capable of learning songs, although they made some good noise with their electric guitars. A crucial first step.Shawn Nourse: Mid-80s Secrets They rehearsed a handful of
times in Shawn’s bedroom and once or twice in the Anaheim High School band room. Their big debut ws the “Anaheim High School Talent Show.” They only learned three songs, they were: “I Wanna Know What Love Is”, by Don Henley; “Johnny Be Good”, by Chuck Berry, and another song that
escapes Shawn right now. The band members were: John Park (Shawn’s best friend at the time) on rhythm guitar, Jose somebody (Anaheims hot shot guitar ensemble dude) on lead guitar, Tony Kanal (before he landed in permanent spot in No Doubt) on bass, and Shannon Smart (a very attractive choir singer). Shawn’s second band was The Inside Cover They also played that talent show, was also very short lived, did a total of two shows. Then came Eyez Chick singer. Control freak who really believed she could sing. No one had the courage to face her down and tell her otherwise.
Paul Marshall 1964-5 Verne, Paul, and Nancy A folk group modeled after Peter Paul and Mary, with a stunningly original name. Hey, it was Junior High. Nancy Burba even looked a
lot like Mary, with long straight blonde hair. She was quite lovely. Paul played guitar. Verne Willis played banjo. VP&N covered a lot of Peter, Paul and Mary tunes, Dylan, Joe
and Eddie, etc. This group morphed into the Beauchemins, soon to be signed by Bob Keane for his Mustang label.

Rob’s getting serious about gear. He’s grilling Rick Shea about acoustic guitars as we motor through the dark San Joaquin night. This road is featureless, very few lights on the horizon. The moon is watching over our right shoulder. You see the bunny, I see the man. Rick is comparing the merits of Taylors and Martin guitars. You have to work at a good sounding Martin, says Rick. Taylors are smooth and consistent, easy to play, but a Martin requires that you learn its ideosyncracies, find its sweet spots. Jesus, it’s getting late. Is that the Grapevine? Yes it is, we fly up and over, 5 to 110 north, hit Highland Park at exactly 4:30 a.m., transfer of musical instruments to battered L.A. vehicles, blurred words and farewell hugs and the Hawks and Rick go their separate ways. A muted blue announces the dawn. End of a mighty fine tour.

A NEW DAY IN HUMBOLDT

June 22, 2005

Next morning we awoke to the full splendor of our north coast funky cabins, 3rd generation legacy of Rick’s family. Mysterious guardian angel Rick (no relation to Rick Shea) is a math genius and big league surfer we met at a Hawks Caltech show. This morning he made pancakes and eggs, elegantly simple, like any good theorem. Gray waves beyond the cliffs serenaded our departure, and a sand spit arcing north was littered with 50 foot timbers washed from unknown forests.

South we drove, on a tight schedule for soundcheck in Felton in the Santa Cruz mountains. Which didn’t deter us from a thorough search of Healdsburg for a non-corporate lunch, and we found it in a panini/espresso shop, most excellent. Traffic was kind as we 101ed south, forests and ridges flattening to fields, rising again in Marin, then over the Golden Gate bridge, down the 280, our drive mysteriously free of traffic. Even the 17 over the pass was light, and we arrived at Don Quixotes, nestled in the gentle forest, inexplicably on time for sound check. Don Quixotes is a former Swiss Chalet style Italian restaurant (its massive wood beams were brought from Italy in 1953), now serving Mexican food, with a great sound system.

It was a shock to hear our vocals clear like mountain streams after the sludge of The Alibi, but we quickly adjusted, had a great acoustic show, with Rick Shea’s friend Chojo Jacques sitting in on adroit fiddle and mandolin. Tom Miller is the local kingpin of enlightened taste, and Don Quixotes is continuing the tradition of excellent roots music in the gentle dale of Felton, a twisting green mountains drive from Santa Cruz. Paul M’s daughter Stephanie attends UCSC and the Hawks stayed at her apartment, with Paul L hanging with the Moms and sister Mary at Chez Mom in Capitola.

Next morning we did a live radio show on KUSP, in its new building in Santa Cruz, with a fine sounding interview/performance room, DJ Rob and his dry wit coaxing the Hawks and Rick Shea’s dark worldview from its pre-coffee morning shadows. Rob told the story of Hargis Scoggins, legendary and unsung California country session drummer: THE LEGEND OF HARGIS SCOGGINS

Hargis’s heyday was the mid-1950’s to late 60’s, and he bounced between Los Angeles and Nashville studios, as well as burning up the California highways in countless five sets a night honky tonk gigs. Originally from Oildale, Hargis’s lubricated groove made the stiffnecked Bakersfield country artists a little nervous, but his less than metronomical time earned him a niche in the brief golden age of California Country-Soul music. Hargis’s uncle Hargis was the first bandleader to use a big pedal steel guitar section, with up to eight steelers struggling to find a common tone center. Augmented by a 10 piece horn section and a pool of electric guitarists and bass players, Hargis and his nephew Hargis were the front and back end of a country cluster bomb, but they found a steady gig entertaining the upper crust old money families of Buenos Aires from 1951 to 1954.Returning to the United States with several hundred thousnd dollars in soon to be worthless Argentine cattle futures, Hargis and Hargis quarreled bitterly over who would receive top billing in future shows: Hargis wanted “Hargis and Hargis Scoggins and their Country Big Band,” but Hargis insisted on “Hargis Scoggins with Hargis Scoggins.” Nephew and uncle never spoke again. The California Country-Soul movement was dead.

Cut loose from Hargis for the first time in his adult life, Hargis played the streets of Nashville for several years, dragging his drum kit from street corner to street corner, before John “Hargis” Deacon, up and coming hotshot producer, took a chance on the still wild drummer. Hargis’s first session, for Wynn Stewart resulted in an album that has still not seen the light of day, Many session followed, including sides for Marty Robbins that also were not released. Hargis developed a reputation as “cursed,” and his session work declined rapidly. By 1969 he was roadying for Willie Nelson, sitting in when one of the 2 or three regular drummers was incapacitated.Hargis Scoggins doesn’t appear on any album credits or liner notes, but his obscurity is almost assured in the annals of country music. Hargis crossed paths with I See Hawks In L.A. when they were thrown together for the pilot of Billy Block’s “Survivor, Country Style,” slinging sides of bacon at each other across a narrow Tennessee gorge while trying to locate the secret moonshine still. Hargis is going strong despite a rapidly spiking dementia, and the Hawks plan on trotting him out at live shows to lend street cred to their alienated and possibly treasonous lyrics and song structures.

THE END
After the radio show, the Hawks and Rick had a massive breakfast at a fine and unfortunately unnamed Santa Cruz cafe, then scattered, some to the beach. Paul L crossed the street to another cafe, joining his sister Mary, a dedicated anti-genetic engineered foods organizer, who was meeting with two filmmakers about a documentary on genetically modified trees. It’s coming folks, trees that won’t reproduce so that Monsanto can own their future, trees with no supporting fibers for easier pulping but an unfortunate tendency to fall over. Beware the walk in the forest!

A late afternoon southward Hawks caravan to Monterey turned ugly when the already strained Highway 1 stopped dead in its tracks, an ambulance whining in the far distance. The caravan reached Monterey Live just in time for sound check. Monterey is a beautiful town, the ocean winds sweeping its low basin and up into the hills, and a lively farmer’s market was filling the streets. We snuck into Monterey Live from a back alley.ML is a brand new club, built from an older adobe structure, with fantastic sound and a dedicated crew. Rick’s set was the best of the tour, wish we’d recorded it, and the Hawks show was also dandy, good crowd and good vibes.
A farewell to sister Mary, Shawn’s mother-in-law, pristine air and cool breezes, and the Hawks and Rick loaded up and hit the road, late night dash for home.

The Hawks share an exuberant philosophy about a travel day: if you’ve got 8 hours to get from Portland to Arcata, use it up, carpe diem and throttle it for all it’s worth. A reasonably early start from the downtown Portland Red Lion turned a bit ugly as the 5 South onramp proved elusive. Some good local advice: “look for freeway signs.”

The advice proved priceless, and within 20 minutes we were racing south. Still on schedule. Oregon is looking mighty good in this wet and rainy June. More green fields, snow capped distant volcanoes, puffy clouds, and a blue sky that is heightened to lurid cinemascope by the illegally tinted windows of our beloved Bomb Squad Suburban. We stopped in Eugene seeking a now-legendary breakfast place from last year’s tour. We had no address, no name, just a haunting group memory of eggs and espresso last August. We wandered the small streets of Eugene, overgrown yards and affordable houses, leisure and muddy boots on porches, guided by a group homing system that moved infallibly towards our elusive eatery. South and east, south and east, turn here, cross the tracks, pass the university, pass the 7-11 again, until voila! Studio Café! That’s what it’s called, at Agate and 19th street in view of evergreen covered slopes at the edge of town. We are most pleased!

Studio Café is closed. We missed it by 15 minutes. Paul M almost talked a sympathetic staff into re-opening, pulling out all the charm short of mentioning his stint in Strawberry Alarm Clock. We were directed to nearby Glenwood Café (4 Stars for food, 3 stars for service, 2 1/2 stars for atmosphere, big kudos for affordability, Hawks Breakfast Quality Control Committee). We spotted a biblical quotation on the back of the menu so this time Paul M led us in a hands held, heads bowed prayer, giving thanks and praise. This one didn’t feel right to the electric guitar players in the band. Rick had already started in on his food, and Paul L realized that he’s only receptive to religion when he’s mocking it. The sincerety of Paul M’s blessing threw him off.Now the Hawks travel exuberance turned a little dark. We were barely on schedule for our 11 p.m. downbeat in Arcata. At Grant’s Pass we headed west to the Oregon Coast on two lane twisting Highway 199, through absolutely stunning rainforest, and big redwoods crowding the highway shoulders, the Smith River gathering force from countless streams dropping into its narrow channel below our plucky highway. This is the everpresent moistness of the rainforest, northern style, fog banks and dripping branches.

A middle of nowhere piss stop, roadside in the forest shadow, turned into a chanting leaping foray through giant ferns and slumbering long felled redwood carcasses, fog and dripping water, dells and glens, no echoes, vertical space is filled with lumber and green, no sky above the canopy.Which cost us another half hour, and now we’re officially at risk of missing downbeat. Rick Shea and Paul M came through like the seasoned roadsters they are, driving fast and steady through twists and turns, downhill slalom to the Pacific Ocean, which never looked better, forlorn orange band on the flat horizon under a steel gray wall of fog, orange on the breaking waves, the sun is gone.

We crossed the Humboldt county line with a ceremonial honk, quickly swallowed by the brooding fog and dark trees.Night yielded very slowly to the mighty Summer Solstice long light, but it was dark as we hit Arcata and circled the square filled with the new generation of bearded wanderers, large backpacks on their stout frames, faithful dogs at their heels, lurking in the shadows of a central park dominated mysteriously by a statue of William McKinley. Two neo hippies talked longingly to a local girl before she peeled away gently from the conversation, leaving them to their rootless longing. The song remains the same,

The Alibi is one of four 1940’s-50’s seedy bars clumped together by the liquor store, derelicition in a convenient zone on the square. Load-in is through the back down a long hallway. This is indeed a shotgun bar, the longest this band has ever seen. Rough looking townies and gentler Humboldt State students chug beers at the long bar, and music booker/lumberjack/pirate radio DJ Ian and a kind waitress greet us. Here’s the rules: 5 pitchers of Olympia beer for the band, don’t try to trade up to Budweiser; anything on the menu is half price, as long as you don’t order combos over $10 or the fish and chicken baskets. There’s one thing that will stop a hasty band load-in in its tracks, and that’s food. Rob, Shawn, and Paul L ordered the tofu bowl with peanut sauce, and Rick and Paul M went with the portabello mushroom burgers. Delicious. Arcata is clearly a complex mixture of brawny bearded woodsman culture and collegiate appreciation for the finer things in life.

As we chow down, a big surprise for Paul L: through the shiny metal and tuck and roll entrance of the Alibi walks old pal Gregg Gold, who taught Paul the basics of bluegrass guitar in their UCLA freshman dorm, then formed a duo, Those Flatpicking Fools, spending 6 months in Europe with countless harrowing youthful scrapes, adventures, and pure blind luck. The Fools had a European agent and everything, were making a living touring Dutch folk clubs, considering a permanent expatriate life, when an encounter with a Colorado band settled in Copenhagen (a chilly wind blew that evening), with Danish wives, tobacco, and hashish, put a scare into the new arrivals. It was just too far from home. The Flatpicking Fools returned to California, vowing a yearly return to Europe, and of course never returned. (Paul now had show anxiety, because Gregg is a badass guitar picker.)At 11:15 p.m., right on time, Rick Shea hit the stage, back up in full electric regalia by Shawn, Paul M., and Paul L, the twin telecasters and the crack of the snare achieving a brittle punch on the hard concrete floor. Rick wisely stuck with his biker bar material, and the crowd whooped appreciatively, a few solo manly dancers with beers in each hand.

The manly dancers kept up their fiercely independent artistry as the Hawks took the stage. No monitors but the vocals cut through OK and we rocked through a set fueled by tofu and Olympia beer. This was a real bar crowd, and we could have done Skynyrd all night and they would have been just as pleased, nay, far more pleased. A near-jam band version of Humboldt closed the set down. Some local greenery found its way into a passed hat and, after prying Gregg Gold and Paul L from their further reminiscing, we were on our way. Our good friend Rick from Dabney House at Caltech and his father Charlie kindly offered a place to stay. Little did we know the 20 minute drive through the redwoods would land us at two cliffside cabins overlooking the untamed northwest Pacific shore. The nearly full moon lit the water and puffy clouds to near daylight status (we were in a low ambient light region, no city light pollution, like Deep Gap, North Carolina), and we laughed with wonder, standing dangerously close to the edge of a cliff.

SOUTHBOUND

June 21, 2005

blue and white pickup with a camper shell zips by pointy deep green pines maples, cedars, and oaks line the highway like tall wise friends up here all the trees are green, green, green we pass a white pickup towing a beat up yellow car used in demolition derbies you can tell because all the […]

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MOUNT SAINT HELENS PLUMES

June 19, 2005

Well, folks, it’s the end of the west coast as we know it. Three earthquakes in Southern California, a big one up north, and today Mount Saint Helens sent out a plume visible from Portland, where the Hawks are comfortably ensconced (“ensconced” is not used without the accompanying “comfortably”) in their Red Roof Inn cubicles. […]

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MORNING COMES TO GRANT’S PASS

June 18, 2005

A good night’s sleep is finally granted to the brotherhood of the Hawk. Everyone sleeps in and we pack the BSM leisurely as the noon checkout comes and goes. White and gray clouds soften the light and easy rain showers come and go as we press northward up the 5. We find a great blues […]

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NINETY-EIGHTY MILES TO REDDING

June 18, 2005

Fields, clouds, rain, rays o God, fields, clouds. Ten silos pass on the left–grain? Soy? What fills the silos of the central valley? A flawless day for driving to Portland, temperature oddly cool like a fall day, puffy clouds and pasteled blue sky. Moisture in the air, and sure enough it rains a bit, bright […]

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TOWED INTO WINTERS

June 17, 2005

39 miles south of Sacramento a horrible popping noise rang out from underneath the Bomb Squad Mobile. Startled, we pulled off at the Turner Road Exit. We took turns looking underneath the hood, revving the engine and listening, trying to discover the cause of the noise. Strangely, the engine was still at full power and […]

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TRAVELING NORTH

June 17, 2005

It’s day one of the I See Hawks In L.A. / Rick Shea Pre-Summer Solstice Tourette 05, and we’re feeling good. We departed Rob’s Highland Park abode within 45 minutes of scheduled departure, and our 1993 Chevy Suburban is running like a dream. Rob and Paul purchased this beauty at an auction in the City […]

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