Valley Of Smoke
Released October 12, 2010
Recording info: Recorded and mixed by Josh Newell at Clear Lake Audio in North Hollywood, CA May/June 2010
Artwork: David D’Andrea
– Sacha: Gibson Les Paul Studio, Laney VH100R, Orange 4×12 cabinet, various effects
– Dave: Gibson Les Paul Standard (custom shop), Laney VH100R, Orange 4×12 cabinet, various effects, radomly pieced together drum kit on “Valley Of Smoke”
– Joe: Pedulla Pentabuzz 5 string fretless bass, Ampeg SVT-8 Pro head, Ampeg Pro Neo cabs (4×10 and 1×15)
– Danny: Sonor designer series kit, Ludwig black beauty snare, Meinl cymbals
After such a mindfuck of an album (Prehistoricisms), we had a natural reaction to write more melodic music, which included incorporating pitched singing. At this point, we weren’t angry kids anymore, so screaming your guts out into a microphone just didn’t quite feel right anymore. Plus, being able to use our voices as another layer of harmony or melody appealed to us. The goal early on was to try and make the material a bit more concise, but all the songs still ended up being as long as they usually are. We hired Josh Newell again, who booked Clear Lake Audio, a studio in North Hollywood whose platinum record collection included such gems as No Doubt’s first big record, as well as Dwight Yoakam or one of the Carpenters I think. Something we couldn’t care less about. The studio itself was bad ass though, and it was right down the block from the best Indian restaurant in town (Robina’s… seriously hit this place up if you live in LA), so we were set up. It is also next door to a gay bar called The Bullet, which as you can imagine, fueled one or two jokes during the month or so we spent there. Our friend Justin from the band Tool came in and helped us write the song “Valley Of Smoke”, which was our excuse to write a song with two drummers (Dave and Danny), two bass players (Joe and Justin), and one guitarist (Sacha). Successfully recording this was one of our proudest moments as a band, even though some people still couldn’t tell there were more than one drummer or bassist. We even played it live once, on one of the shows we did with Tool when they took us out on tour in 2012. We decided for the first time to branch out to someone we didn’t know personally for art, and David D’Andrea did an incredible job.
“Making of” video series:
STORIES BEHIND THE SONGS:
We figured a heavy, somewhat brutal song should have heavy, somewhat brutal subject matter. Here’s the story behind it:
“In September of 1998, construction workers at the ARCO refinery in Carson uncovered an Indian burial site containing 200-year old remains of at least 50 Gabrielinos, including two unborn children. Archaeologist Frank McDowell, excavating the site under the oversight of Gabrielino advisor Sam Dunlap, found evidence that those buried at the site had died suddenly and violently. Skeletal remains showed violent trauma to skulls, ribs, and limbs. The skeletal hands of a woman were found in front of her face as if she had died trying to ward off blows. The spine of another skeleton was snapped backwards to the point where the head was near the pelvis. Some bodies appeared to have been buried with care, but others appeared to have been buried hastily as if thrown into graves. There was also evidence of attempts at cremation. None of the usual items traditionally placed at Gabrielino gravesite, such as fishing implements and grain bowls, were found among the remains. A few Indian artifacts such as basketry and beads were found in the area, as were glass beads from Venice, Italy, (indicating some contact with Europeans). There were no indicators, however, of Christian conversion, though Catholic Missions were already in the area. There was no evidence that Spaniards might have been responsible for this violence as would be indicated by sword wounds to bones or musket balls in the vicinity.”
(source: LA Almanac)
The Battle of Los Angeles, also known as ‘”The Great Los Angeles Air Raid”‘, is the name given by contemporary sources to the imaginary enemy attack and subsequent anti-aircraft artillery barrage which took place from late February 24 to early February 25, 1942 over Los Angeles, California. The incident occurred less than three months after America’s entry into World War II as a result of the Japanese Imperial Navy‘s attack on Pearl Harbor.
In addition to several buildings damaged by friendly fire, three civilians were killed by the anti-aircraft fire, and another three died of heart attacks attributed to the stress of the hour-long bombardment. The incident was front-page news along the U.S. Pacific coast, and earned some mass media coverage throughout the nation.
Initially, the target of the aerial barrage was thought to be an attacking force from Japan, but speaking at a press conference shortly afterward Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox called the incident a “false alarm.” Newspapers of the time published a number of sensational reports and speculations of a cover-up. A small number of modern-day UFOlogists have suggested the targets were extraterrestrial spacecraft. When documenting the incident in 1983, the U.S. Office of Air Force History attributed the event to a case of “war nerves” likely triggered by a lost weather balloon and exacerbated by stray flares and shell bursts from adjoining batteries.”
Government and/or police corruption are not problems exclusive to Los Angeles, but there has definitely been plenty of it here over the years. One of the most infamous events being the Rampart scandal, and most recently, city officials overpaying themselves.
Los Angeles’ unique history as being settled by Native Americans, “discovered” by Spanish explorers, part of both Mexico and The United States, and now home to people from just about every part of our planet makes it one of the most awesome and culturally diverse places on Earth. It also makes it rife with deep-rooted class and cultural divisions. This song is about that.
5. Core Relations
Here’s a probably-untrue story that made for great lyrical content.
“Hopi legends were said to describe a race of “Lizard” people who, 5,000 years ago, built three great underground cities near the Pacific Coast, including one beneath Los Angeles. In 1934, mining engineer W. Warren Shufeld took up the cause of researching these legends and locating the cities. Shufeld reported that the city beneath Los Angeles was laid out in the shape of a lizard that extened from Dodger Stadium to the downtown Central Library. It was built using chemicals to tunnel through rock. The civilization came to an end due to meteors or fire. Using a device Shufeld called a “radio X-ray,” he claimed to have located tunnels and a treasure room beneath Fort Moore Hill in downtown Los Angeles. After acquiring funds to do some excavating, Shufeld obtained permission from the authorities to drill a 350-foot shaft. The work was interrupted by cave-in concerns and, shortly thereafter, Shufelt disappeared from public view. Just prior to the drilling, Pico Rivera resident and psychic Edith Elden Robinson reported a vision of “a vast city…in mammoth tunnels extending to the seashore.””
(source: LA Almanac)
“According to the legend as imparted to Shufelt by Macklin, the radio X-Ray has revealed the location of one of the three lost cities on the Pacific Coast, the local one having been dug by the Lizard People after the “great catastrophe” which occurred about 5000 years ago. This legendary catastrophe was in the form of a huge tongue of fire, which “came out of the Southwest, destroying all in it’s path,” (continued on Page 5, Column 2) “…the path being several hundred miles wide.” The city underground was dug as a means of escaping future fires.”
And here’s an interesting video from a news story that aired last year (though annoying how the reporter pronounces “library” as “libary”):
Los Angeles is notorious for being prone to earthquakes, since it sits right on top of a major fault line. There have been several catastrophic earthquakes in the past hundred years, one of which was the 1994 Northridge quake
7. Valley Of Smoke
Most people assume this title has something to do with marijuana. While we appreciate the stuff, it actually pertains to the album’s theme – the city of Los Angeles.
“Being in low basins surrounded by mountains, Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley are notorious for their smog. The millions of vehicles in these basins plus the added effects of the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles/Long Beach port complexes contribute to further air pollution. “
“The name given by the Chumash tribe of Native Americans for the area now known as Los Angeles translates to “the valley of smoke” because of the smog from camp fires.”
8. Past Tense
In the mountains near where we all grew up, there are remains of a Nazi commune, which was built by a member of its political party back in the early 30’s. Once the US got involved in World War 2, he was arrested and the camp eventually was sold off. You can still make the long hike down there and check it all out.
“Murphy Ranch, just off the Rustic Canyon Trail at the west edge of Brentwood, was supposed to be a safe haven for Nazis and the future of the Fourth Reich. But its founders’ plans went sour after it turned out Nazi Germany was not going to bring about the New World Order in the United States and would eventually be defeated by the Allied powers of WWII. The failed commune was the plan of Herr Schmidt, a Nazi spy who convinced a wealthy couple, Winona and Norman Stephens, of funding his idea of utopia to the tune of $4 million, according to an L.A. Times archived story.”