Monday, March 08, 2010

Interview: Andrew Nack of Cali Nation (transcript)

A chat with Andrew Nack of Cali Nation.

Tell me about your studio, Z-Minor Sounds. How long have you been here?

I've been here about a year. I needed a place to rehearse with my band and record my music. I moved into this place to record my friend's bands and my band. Just help, I guess, just do some, you could call it cultural documentation or archiving, I guess you could call it. From a musical standpoint and a performance standpoint.
I've accumulated this recording gear over the last few years with along with (recording) knowledge, and I wanted to put it to use. We brought this place about, Z-Minor Sound. Z-Minor was an imaginary key that we came up with while jamming with Dubwize. They were like ‘Pick a key to play. Okay, Z-minor. Okay!’ It stuck.
So far, Cali Nation is in the middle of doing 14 songs. The Mid-Tones have 10 songs tracked. Wasted Noise has 10 songs. We're supposed to be doing
Dubwize at some point. Whenever they're ready. And I got this other band from south county we've been recording here, called Los Diablos Desperados. They practice up in the hills near Lockwood. Cool guys. They have some cool punk rock music.

Talk about the new lineup.
Cali Nation, it's newest formation, I guess you could call it the three-headed monster. It's myself, Moni Lujan, and James Moore. It's a very tight knit unit. It's been exciting recording with these guys because they're on par. James is like a meter, a metronome, on drums. Moni is a very talented bass player, amongst other instruments. So getting to play music with these guys is easy.

How long have you been performing with this lineup and how did you all come together.
What's interesting is the same way I met you, is the same way I met Moni, at The Grassy Knoll. Years prior to that, The Grassy Knoll was the Music Zone, where I originally met James Moore. So it all ties back to the 200 block of Old Town Salinas, which is pretty trippy.
Initially, Cali Nation was on hiatus. My other musicians were unavailable at the time. A mutual friend I had recorded with on another project, said ‘Hey, this guy named James who I know is looking for you. He's a drummer. He said he wasn't to jam with you.’ I said to myself, the only James I know is James Moore. I called up James and started jamming with him.
I'd been playing with Moni in Dubwize and the Mid-Tones, so one day I said ‘Hey, do you want to play bass with Cali Nation?’ He said yeah. We all sat in and it clicked, and here we are trying to get another album out and start hitting the streets to get out the sound.

Can you give a little rundown on the band's history? This is the second or third incarnation of Cali Nation. Can you give a history of the group and what it means to you and why you've kept it together this long?
To me, it's my musical vision. As far as philosophy, lifestyle, just living the best you can. Not as far as monetary and material things go, but just the best mentality you can have. Be thankful and forgiving and loving, which are crucial elements in enjoying a good, fruitful life. The musical message, it's not so much a message for the people, not as much as I wish I could say it is. But it's a message to myself, a reminder to myself, you know. It's almost a mantra to live well, and by singing these things and singing about my trials, it's therapy. Music is therapy. I'm sure you can relate to that.
So keeping Cali Nation going, from 12 years ago, or so, through different names. — the band's gone through in the beginning, we started out as a little garage band and we wanted to record an album. Of course, I brought you in and other vocalists in to share the stage and hype up the vibe because it's all love. But it seems to work best as three elements. Almost earth, wind and fire, you know. The least amount of people you need to rely on to make it click, the better. The more people you need to rely on, the more difficult the task becomes. If you could get by on a 3 legged table, why build a 4 or 5 legged table? So I've stuck to (having three band members). But of course, always leaving the table open for decoration on top. There's always room for somebody else to come in and share their gift, if that makes sense.
As far as keeping it going, I'm a musician. A singer and a song writer. As long as I'm breathing, I'm going to be playing music and Cali Nation is that vehicle.

Tell me about the album.
Between having to work a full-time job, being a father of a 10 year old and trying to keep this place open, it's gone through various stages. I wish I had the luxury of being able to come in and have engineers and have a real luxurious recording studio to do it, but the reality is I'm doing it all myself. It's all based on time that I have to be able to do it. As far as whether it's actually happening, if you don't believe me, I can sit down and show you all the tracks we've got. If you need some reassurance thta there's a Cali Nation album on its way, I can sit down and play you the tunes. Not all of them have my final vocal track or guitar track, but the bass and drums are in line for everything and there's a scratch guitar and scratch vocal on there.
What it is for me, this recording, it's like looking at yourself in the mirror. You're going to see flaws, because there's no lying in recording. Unless you are using some tricks of the trade. Pitch correction can fix flaws, but that's not my philosophy for recording. I want to capture the real deal. I'm not trying to change the real deal after I capture it. If anything, as far as embellishing it, I'm just going to polish it up, but that doesn't involve any modification. That's just adding volume and acoustic properties to it.
I wish I could say it's an easy process to record an album, but it's not. That's why there are a lot of bands who have a great regional following but don't have any real recordings to show for it, because it's a battle. As far as the time frame has gone, it's based on my time, so I'm not in a hurry to get it out just to say I got it out. But it will be out (laughs).

Talk about the loyalty of the fans. People have really stuck by you guys.
I guess I could say A) I'm lucky, or B), I think what it is is that when I get on the stage and I pour my heart out through my songs, I expose myself. And I think people can relate to that. I don't think I sing about things that are too far fetched. I think I sing about things that people can relate to on a personal level. Anytime people can lock into something they can relate to, and bob their heads to at the same time and party to it, it all culminates in good vibes. I think people need that in their lives, after the monotony of going to work, or going to school, being unemployed. It's about breaking up that monotony.
I can't say that I can to go any town and do that just yet, but that's something you build upon. I've been able to build in this community. Throughout the years word has spread, and I think having the first CD really helped as far as people getting to know our material. Having the platform for people to grasp it is essential for building a fan base, and (if you do that) people will come out to support you and be loyal to you.
I think the other element is showing love to people. Being grateful that they're there and understanding that they're there because they love the music and you do to, so that's the common ground.

Talk to me about the Salinas scene, or is it a lack thereof?
I don't think there's a lack thereof. I mean, I've been very impressed actually, that there actually is somewhat of a nightlife now. Whereas 10 years ago, there wasn't a single bar in town for a band to play at. There were no venues whatsoever. So places like Casa Sorrento, Chapala's, Banker's Casino, and even in years past, you had Grassy Knoll and the Cherry Bean and other off the wall venues that helped as stepping stones to where we are at now. It's possible that Salinas can be a cultural epicenter for media and entertainment.
Because we do have a very distinct environment that has a lot of suffering. I think the poverty here relates to that. As far as world problems go, poverty is the problem that effects people th most, and with the level of poverty in Salinas and the polar opposite of the rich people (who live in town also), the upper crust of people here, that's a clash. Whenever there is suffering, in that element is where art can be produced the best.
Flowers have to be in manure to grow, and so does art. Art has to be involved in suffering and desperation and struggle to really thrive. Otherwise, you look at bands where the suffering stops. They got it, and all of a sudden, the quality of the art usually stops. It just becomes fluffy.
In order to continue to produce art, there has to be a certain amount of suffering. And I think Salinas has a somewhat miserable element to it. I love it here. I don't plan on going anywhere. I'll buy a house here, and probably die here. But it's not Disneyland. It's not the happiest place on earth.
But it's what's in your heart that you can make it the happiest place on earth. When you go to your home (or) you're with your friends, it's when you're sharing that love with other people, your little microcosm of an environment becomes a happy place.
You could be in hell, but as long as you're there with a good mind, it's possible to be in a happy place and an unhappy place. If that's not a paradox, I don't know what is.
Salinas though, I'm happy to see there's a local scene that's blooming. I hope that it continues to bloom. I'd say it's better off than it was. I just hope it keeps getting better. We have the means and the way, we have the capability of recording sounds, as long as bands realize the value of capturing that and releasing it. Whether it takes 10 years, 10 months, 10 weeks, or 10 days, it's important to put music out there for the people. And I don't know, but I think Salinas can do it.

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