♫♪  Thollem/Clouser/Chase - Dub Narcotic Session II

For three of the hardest-working men in showbiz, a trip to Dub Narcotic Studios in Olympia, Washington, was just what the doctor ordered. As Thollem McDonas, Todd Clouser, and Brian Chase each unloaded his gear from the back of his own custom Ford Econoline, Calvin Johnson, proprietor of Dub Narcotic, leaned against the open doorway, wrapped in a lime green sari and bomber jacket, orange cowboy boots on his feet, an unlit pipe in his hand, a smile on his face, and a twinkle in his eye. He knew this was going to be a special day.

“Who do you think you are, Philip K. Dick with your ridiculous costume descriptions?” the band scolded me in unison from beyond the fourth wall. They were right to be disappointed in me. I was being silly. I vowed not to describe how anyone else looked.

Moving on, I’ve never seen the inside of Dub Narcotic,1 so I can only imagine the environment as one of complete serenity, perfectly conducive to a mind-meld of transcendent proportions, a type of mind-meld that the trio was about to undertake. Thollem behind his electric piano, Todd with his guitar slung about his shoulders, and Brian tinkering with the height of his drums and his kick pedal, silent, anticipatory. Then “BOOM” — or, “boom-ish,” the musicians warm up against one another before settling into a groove, the compatibility palpable as said groove becomes a chaotic fusion meltdown, then drifts into atmospheric denouement.

Upon completion, the players looked up from their trance, eyes glossy, wondering what had happened, where they had been. It felt like a few seconds, the amount of time it took to type this sentence. But 12:47 had passed. “It’s a Drab” was in the can.

From behind the glass separating the booth from the studio, Ben Hargett, who had locked Calvin outside the building, was jumping up and down on the rolling office chair, tempting his own death, and banging on the window while yelling, “Play your tambourines!” The trio, confused, launched into what would become “Obituary of the Unknown,” a fascinatingly guitar-led number that bloomed into a seventies funk workout and then a meditative Tibetan bowl–like ambiance. Ben was beside himself. By the end of the tune, he had swept everything off Calvin’s desk into a broken and cluttered mound on the floor. He collapsed into a heap, energy spent, a microphone protruding from his mouth, and, like a child at naptime, passed out right there on the shag carpet. Thollem, clearly concerned, peeked his head inside the booth to see if Ben was OK. Satisfied that the engineer was simply tuckered out, he pressed record, and the rest was “Cell Rejuvenation” history.

Might this recording, what became Dub Narcotic Session Vol. II, released on Personal Archives, be the greatest recording by an experimental jazz trio of all time? With complete certainty, I say yes. PROVE ME WRONG! [maniacal cackling and running away]

1. The reason I’ve never seen the inside of Dub Narcotic is because I’ve never been invited there, despite my many attempts to get a personal tour. I’ve written so… many… unanswered… letters…

Chocolate Grinder

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we’ll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.

Most Read