Photo by Jack Gould
My grandfather was a fuckin loony tune, says Warlocks leader Bobby Hecksher. He owned the first radio station in Fort Myers, Florida, and the only thing that mattered to him was that station. He was really weird, too; if he bought something he liked, hed have to buy three of them, just in case. I never went to his house until after he died, because he was so self-conscious about it. So its like, I finally go to Grandpas house, and theres just all this shit there three binoculars, three radios, three couches, three white Lincoln Crown Victorias! It was fuckin rad, man!
Hecksher laughs, then pauses to take a drag off his cigarette. And then I started to think, Oh, shit! Is that inside of me, too?
If its true that madness (like baldness and musical talent) tends to skip a generation, then Hecksher is a likely candidate indeed for the wig-out room. But where his grandfathers mania led him to amass household items in triplicate, Heckshers obsessiveness seems to manifest itself in the accumulation of guitarists there are four in the Warlocks current lineup, along with two drummers, a bassist and a dancer/percussionist as well as the burning desire to achieve what he describes as the perfect folk-psychedelic wall-of-sound jam.
The Warlocks, a six-song EP released late last year on Burbanks storied Bomp label, shows Hecksher drawing a bead on his goal. The first two songs, Cocaine Blues and Song for Nico, throb with the opiated radiance of vintage Spacemen 3, while Caveman Rock and Angry Demons reveal a facility for aggressive garage rock. But its on Jam of the Zombies and Jam of the Warlocks, the records two live cuts, that Heckshers vision really begins to coalesce. Free of any pesky song structures, the players confidently set their controls for the heart of the sun, creating aural thrill rides that at times recall the two other bands once known as the Warlocks the Velvet Underground and the Grateful Dead.
Even though I wasnt a big fan of the Grateful Dead, Im starting to listen to them now, and Im like, Wow! Hecksher says. I dont get the whole fanatical side of it, but I can tell that their stuff from like 1970 to the early 80s is really good. Newfound appreciation for the Dead aside, Hecksher takes pains to point out that the Warlocks want no part of the jam band movement thats currently taking the country by storm.
Were not like fuckin Phish, man, he laughs. What the hells that crap? We were doing songs for a while, structured songs with jams in them, but I want to be able to get the band to a jamming point where we dont have to think about it anymore. Its kind of like reaching into your head and trying to fuck with the controls a little, doing something without thinking about it or saying that were doing something. Now Im just trying to focus on doing a whole set with songs optional, jams first, and keep it entertaining. Thats hard to do, but Im working on it. It takes a lot of rehearsal!
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Heckshers new focus and drive are a little surprising, at least in light of his previous band, the fabulously untogether Magic Pacer. Like their two CDs, 1995s White Room and 1997s Dig This Dig That, Magic Pacers performances were wildly inconsistent. On a good night, theyd come off like the Stooges fronted by a synth-wielding fourth-grader; on a bad night, well, they just plain stunk.
The time that Magic Pacer was going on was probably the lowest point in my life, Hecksher says. I was doing drugs nonstop, just getting loaded and not really giving a shit about anything. There was just a point where I was like, Its time to clean the slate and start over. After several months of vegging at his moms house, Hecksher auditioned for the vacant bass slot in Weezer; he didnt get the gig, but the experience finally motivated him to form a new band. Now, nearly three years and numerous personnel changes later, the Warlocks are preparing to undertake their first national tour, opening for punk rock troubadour (and Bomp labelmate) Nikki Sudden.
Its pretty exciting, Hecksher says. Were taking our new light show along, too. I just bought 150 3-D glasses from the 80s; if you set the color tones a certain way, you can get this really bad approximation of 3-D on your TV, and Im trying to dial in the right tones for the light show to get 3-D effects. But then I think, Man, do I really want to play while looking out at a bunch of people in 3-D glasses? This is a stupid idea! He laughs. But I already bought em, so . . .
The Warlocks and Nikki Sudden perform at Spaceland on Thursday, March 22.