Dylan Jones (Vocals and Guitar), Matthew Pullen (Bass) and Murray Stephenson (Drums) of Red Huxley recently made a much-dreamed-of rock’n’roll fairytale reality. After giving their EP to Dave Catching of the Eagles of Death Metal and Queens of the Stone Age at One Night in Cape Town, they got the opportunity to record their debut album Nothing More at his recording studio/home Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree, California. Known for enhancing the creative spirits of bands by making them feel especially comfortable, Catching catered for an experience that resulted in an adventure-driven album laced with the local colours of Rancho. Back home, Road to Rancho — a documentary series about Red Huxley’s US endeavours — launched recently and they’re currently touring SA with Nothing More (click here to order). one small seed had a chat with the band about not only meeting but actually living, eating and working at an idol’s house, hanging out with Jesse Hughes aka Boots Electric and making use of Catching’s plethora of analogue equipment.

Image: Kim Hinrichs

Image: Kim Hinrichs

What was it like hanging out with Jesse Hughes?

Dylan: He’s very energetic and passionate but at the same time very lovely – very honest and real.

Was there anything special he said to you that was worth remembering?

Dylan: We were talking about one of the shows we did and I said that I thought we played a really cool show although it wasn’t a huge crowd… but the crowd was really cool. He said, ‘Dude this is show business. Make the show! Don’t expect anyone else to make the show.’ He said it in such a cool way.

Matthew: He had the Vice camera crew with him all the time for On The Road. So he was constantly on an upper trying to outdo himself all the time. We were sitting eating lunch one day and he rocked up at the place and said, ‘Don’t tell Dave but we stole his Jack Daniel’s man.’ Dave had brought it home from Mexico or somewhere – it was made out of polystyrene. Then he made it look like himself and wrote Boots Electric on it — it was quite funny.

Did he do a good job?

Matthew: It looked identical.

Dylan: It had ginger hair and the moustache.

Matthew: So he was quite a dick but at the same time a very awesome guy. When he walks into a room it literally is the Jesse show. Everyone just stops what they’re doing and looks at him and he entertains everyone.

Murray: I think it was on the last day, we were doing some work in the studio and Dave said Jesse is coming over. And the engineer went, ‘Oh no, we gotta get this done quickly because as soon as Jesse walks in no work is going to get done.’ He’ll come in and start listening to our tracks and do his little dance moves.

Image: Kim Hinrichs

Image: Kim Hinrichs

And Dave Catching?

Dylan: The complete opposite end of the scroll in terms of energy. Dave was just this super chilled dude. He just became a really good buddy to us. He was really passionate about music. He’d make sure we’re comfortable. He’d cook for us. He’d always make sure we’re happy…whether we had the right sound on our guitars. He was very caring because he wanted us to make the best album we could make. When we were most comfortable we would be the most real and that would show on the album.

Would you say it takes away from the mysticism surrounding an idol when you spend time with them?

Dylan: Absolutely. We met a whole lot of cool and pretty famous people and they were all super chilled guys and real. They just liked to talk shit like anyone else. It does take that mysticism away. Dave told us some stories about Josh Homme and he’s also just such a chilled dude.

Matthew: They’re also just really comfortable with themselves. So they encourage you to be yourself which is cool. The one thing that we were blown away by is when we saw Dave’s car and he said to us, ‘Take the keys and fill it up.’ It was amazing that he trusted us that much on the first day.

Murray: There’s a misconception about him. He’s done well for himself but he’s not incredibly well-off. He’s content and that’s what comes through.

Dylan: He’s just a very down to earth guy who’s just so happy with who he is. He owns an awesome studio, he plays in rad bands.

Image: Kim Hinrichs

Image: Kim Hinrichs

What’s the best advice you got while you were there?

Matthew: Try and be yourself. I know it’s a bit lame and cliché, but they really try and push uniqueness. Not trying to sound like anyone else. I guess the unsaid advice was to just do what you love.

Dylan: Especially music-wise it was, ‘Don’t try and sound like anything!’ If I was playing a guitar part and would make a mistake,

Dave would be like, ‘The mistake is you, so just leave it.’

It sounds natural and it sounds real. There are a few mistakes on the album that maybe the three of us can hear, but on the whole it just sounds like part of the song. It actually ended up adding a bit of character to it.

Matthew: There’s so much recording advice. I know we live in the era of the computer but Dave comes from a background of analogue stuff. He’s an analogue tech producer. Also, whatever he does, he does it real. Whatever we did, he captured it there. He only added subtle things that crafted the sound afterwards.

Image: 10and5.com

Image: 10and5.com

So there was not much done in post production?

Matthew: Definitely not. He didn’t create our stuff, he made us sound like us.

One of my questions would have been about how important the equipment was for the overall outcome of Nothing More. I guess you’re kind of answering that now.

Matthew: I think maybe I might have come across a bit wrong there because he’s got tons of stuff in his house. From amps to chords to everything. He’s got hundreds of guitars. But everything that’s in his house has a different sound. There’s nothing that sounds the same. He’s collected all of it over 30 years. You’d say to him, ‘I’m thinking of this sort of sound for the guitar,’ and two minutes later he’ll sync you into a thing and you’d have an amazing sound. There was this plethora of amazing equipment. It wasn’t like tech-y stuff, it was all real. It wasn’t like it all went through a computer.

Dylan: A lot of the guitars were really old and crappy in a way. Crappy, but at the same time they had so much character. You’d pick some of the guitars up and they’ll be all light and weird. Normally guitars would have more of a body to them. So you’d play one and at first you’d think, ‘This doesn’t sound too good.’ But Dave would say, ‘Listen to it in the context of this guitar and this sound.’ He’d show it to you and suddenly it made so much sense. That’s what’s on the album. It’s got so much character. That’s why he wanted us to come to his studio in America because he knows all his instruments. If you see photographs of the house there’s just stuff everywhere. The vibe of the house is so rich in character and history. It was really cool. We’re still trying to take it all in.

It sounds very exciting.

Dylan: It wasn’t like a studio where you’d pay money to go to here in Cape Town – or at least the ones that we’ve been to – where there are white walls, bright lights, air conditioning and it’s super quiet. You sit there going, ‘record, record, record,’ and after two hours you get a massive headache. But this was a really comfortable place where we could chill. There were magazines and pictures everywhere. It just kept us stimulated the whole time.

Matthew: It was more a home than a recording studio. Everyone was cooking and sharing stuff while we were recording.

He’s known for that right? To make bands feel really good while they’re recording with him.

Matthew: Yeah. It was really cool.

Image: lauramccullagh.com

Image: lauramccullagh.com

Do you think the South African music industry is developing in a positive way?

Dylan: I think with the loss of MK everyone is freaking out.

Matthew: That’s not really a loss though.

Dylan: Exactly. I think South African music is doing really well at the moment. There are some bands that are doing some seriously cool stuff – working hard and playing lots of shows. One thing we definitely learnt from being in America is that you can’t just play in a small space. Like we’d just go to Cape Town, Joburg and back to Cape Town. But over there bands would make that scene and then start moving around and going further and further. I think that’s the problem in South Africa. So if someone goes overseas it shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing, it should be seen as: they’ve done South Africa, now they’re going to go and explore and come back. Don’t hold it against someone if they want to go overseas and work harder to expand themselves. Apart from that I think that in South Africa everything is going pretty well. Just look at the amount of festivals we have now and the bands they’re pulling.

Matthew: The difference between Rancho and recording here is that we had dedicated time together. We ate together, we lived together and we made music together for three weeks. Whereas here you live separately from each other and meet at the studio and that has an effect on you. To answer your question about the South African scene, I think it’s growing. Fads come and go, so if you just stick to what you know it’s just a matter of time until it comes around.

All you can do is do what you love as good as you can do it.

And have fun while you do it.

What advice do you have for bands that haven’t had the opportunity you guys had?

Matthew: Put your head down and work as hard as you can. It’s not just about playing music, it’s a business and unfortunately that’s the mentality you have to have. And get a good crew, it’s not just about you it’s about the people around you. We’ve been really lucky, we’ve had a lot of people around us who have invested in us and made things happen.

Dylan: It’s that same old saying, it’s about who you know. When we started we knew nobody and we really struggled. You gotta keep playing shows, you gotta keep playing music, you gotta learn about the business side of things. Don’t expect the rewards straight away. Sometimes it can be quite frustrating when you spend a year putting so much work into something and still nobody knows who your band is. Then it’s quite easy to fall into a trap and think, ‘Maybe I should write a different kind of music.’ You can’t do that, you just have to do what you know and keep going and that’s what people will recognise eventually.

Interview by Christine Hogg

Images: Kim Hinrichs, Laura McCullagh, 10and5.com