“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
– Isaac Newton, letter to Robert Hooke, 1676
How does this relate to Ticket to Ride? The following articles are about the people who inspired me to press on when I found the world ill-defined. While I idolized Hemingway and Kerouac, J.D. Salinger and Keri Hulme, Dylan Thomas and Robert Frost, the people in my next three articles were, and are, the tangible, and the most immediate, examples I have of people living lives immersed in, and in pursuit of, their respective passions. I feel very fortunate, and am thankful for, the circumstances which caused our lives to intersect. It is from their shoulders that I could see what might be instead of just what was.
Intro to “Happiness is the Warm Guns”
With it’s many quotes of, and allusions to, bands (including a cameo appearance by U2) and lyrics of the 70s, my novel, Ticket to Ride, is as much a celebration of music and musicians as it is a celebration of writers and writing. The Warm Guns are, to me, like the second coming (or third if you factor in Oasis) of the Beatles. Because of this, I feel they fit with the spirit of the book. Livy Tinsley, my female protagonist and devotee to Paul McCartney and the Beatles, would have loved these guys.
Happiness is the Warm Guns
by philip scott wikel (originally published in the Ojai Valley News)
Coming down from Ojai with a warm Santa Ana blowing at my back, I felt I was headed toward something good. In my mind I could hear the Beatles “Revolution” and as I pulled off Hwy. 33 at Main St. I found downtown Ventura flooded with the clean streetlight glow of an after-rain autumn evening and the friendly echoes of the Warm Guns streaming out from Zoey’s coffee loft.
Speaking with two of the band members before the show I found that Rex Monday, guitarist, lyricist and vocalist, is the quintessential front man. He’s the fulcrum and the centerpoint from which the band finds balance. The most mysterious of all the members, Rex offers of his past only that he’s been in the studio for ten years. Forward thinking, he prefers to speak of the now and the “nowness of now.” “We all have a mutual respect for the great bands of the past… the Beatles,” he says, and Jeff Evans, lead guitarist chimes in with, “Revolver is one of the best albums ever,” as he sips his peppermint tea.
When asked why the Beatles are such a major influence, Jeff and Rex say, “It’s the melodies, the hooks, that showcase melody… the style and the stories, good storytelling that you just don’t find anymore.” They continually take turns finishing one another’s sentences. “We want to say things about moving forward, building the world anew.” They cite songs like “A Day In The Life” and “Eleanor Rigby” as examples of this.
Hearing this I have to ask if they believe in the fusion of music and politics. To which Rex replies: “I couldn’t write songs in good conscience without giving them a political edge. We want to reconnect with the political music of the past and bring that energy into current issues.”
Perhaps Rex’s sister Alessa sums it up best when she says, “In a time when the democrats aren’t saying anything and the Republicans have control, it’s important to say these things and not be afraid to say it.”
From start to finish, the listener is enticed to think and feel and is engaged in a struggle and open debate about the human condition. The apparent levity of the music is perhaps The Warm Guns’ strongest tool. Offering catchy melodies that draw in the listener, they are clever guides into storylines featuring positive resolution in the form of hope; the hope of erasing negative constructs and modes of thinking. In the song “The Buttercup The Sugarnation” America is offered up as “…the everything…the antichrist, a plastic cancer world with God on tap” with the demand that “you better ante up.” In “My Twenties through Sixties” we’re invited, case by case, to rethink the iconic figures of the twentieth century and our feeling that “human nature” means the inevitability of repeating the worst misdeeds of the past: “I built a time machine… befriended Hitler and encouraged his art career, he became a happy man…with ecstasy turned Joseph Stalin on and…he became a tree hugger in greater Siberia….”
After the third song a family of three, mother, father — and a girl of 9 or 10 — came in and it made clear sense to me that they should bring her. This music is inclusive and parents can share together with their children the enjoyment of it. The girl had a pleased-to-be-here smile on her face as the band played, not unlike the smile my son has when we listen to John Denver or America. This experience can, and should be, shared across generational gaps.
Jeff and Rex met at the studio and there was a certain “magic” right from the start. Loren Evans, Jeff’s wife, soon fell in with the two. And with the addition of Robert Rachelli on drums they became a band. Loren, has a long history of musical passion, which began with her taking up the cello and joining the junior high school orchestra. Like her guitarist father, she followed a mostly classical path until meeting Jeff in 1989. At that time she says she “Yoko’d him out” of a band called the Freeway Daisies. Loren, who also plays the bass guitar, is of the Mazzy Star, Portishead school and, until about a year ago, before joining Warm Guns, played with a band called Hyperplush for whom she sang lead and wrote lyrics. She says of that experience, “It was good but, at one point, we brought a new drummer into the studio and we knew it was time for a change.” This change came through her husband’s association with Rex.
Jeff began playing guitar at 15. “I felt like I’d begun it late, but it came natural, so it worked.” Within six months he was playing lead guitar with a band called Peak. This lasted for about a year and a half, then in 1984 and 1985 his band “Spy Movie” won the “Battle of the Bands. “We were a sort of Avant Garde band, different,” Jeff says. “Their sound was like movie soundtracks,” Loren says. After that Jeff went through an “acoustic phase” with Evans and Van Loan and even made a living playing music with that band. He did an electric version of Evans and Van Loan with members of Mosaic before joining with John Lombardo and Loren in the Freeway Daisies for three years. Jeff was most recently a part of the band Blimp.
Robert began playing drums on July 9, 1988. His first band did covers of songs from the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and the Allman Brothers. “Mostly 60s and 70s stuff,” he says. “Then I joined Missing Link from ’92-’94, which was an acid jazz fusion band… we never played publicly.” Club heads will know him best from his years as the drummer for Lion I’s and Papa Nata. “It’s nice to play Rock and Roll again,” he adds. “It’s the roots, deep roots.”
Before Zoey’s, the band was in New York for a gig at “Arlene’s Grocery,” a show that they all look back on with a great fondness, sparking in them a hope of more touring to come. Their album is currently number 75 on the College Music Journal Top 200 chart. They’re gettitng airplay on 240 stations around the country and are confident of a coming rise in their ranking. “The whole thing is really subjective,” says Rex, adding that he does feel confident that the band is doing well. The Warm Guns began recording “Blown Away” in May of 2001 so, in terms of the grand scheme, they’re just getting started. They have a two album contract and will begin recording the second this week. They’re not a dance band so getting gigs will be a little rough. But when you realize that U2 wasn’t either, the possibilities do seem endless. And hell, Bill Locey, the music critic for the Ventura County Star, stayed for the whole show — that has to say something.
Thank you to the band for letting me hang out and thank you to Zoeys for the hospitality.
The Warm Guns simply “are” for one purpose: to live and support the maxim: “Veritas Vos Liberabit.”(”The Truth shall set you free.”)
We are here to create transcendence, to investigate the nature of the Human Condition, and to deepen personal and transpersonal relationships.
We are bloody tired of insecurity, disconnection, disconcertedness and hopelessness.
We’re finished with being “cool.” We want to encourage you.
One person. One voice.
Each of us can, and does, make a difference.
So praise the Lord, pass the ammunition…
… and put on your Warm Guns.