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Interview: Phallucy

Phallucy
Questions answered by:
Sonny (Guitar), David Garcia (vocals) and Abe Cunningham (drums).
August 23 2001
Interviewed by Brian Webb

Related Links:
Official Website

It's 1993 and you're one of the most promising upcoming bands in the local scene, on the verge of releasing your debut album. Yet after all the hard work it never sees a release with the band breaking up prematurely. This is by no means an isolated case but then how many bands who suffered such a fate can claim Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham as a member? Phallucy can and now 8 years after its inception, they are finally ready to release "Valium" to an eager and curious public this September 11th via www.phallucy.com

PRP: With the album originally having been recorded in 1993, you obviously feel that the record has stood the test of time to choose to release it now. During re-mixing and mastering this year, how much work needed to be done?
Sonny: Not a great deal actually. It was a lot of listening to it again and becoming a little less emotionally attached to it and becoming objective. We edited out one song and a couple of parts but that's all. Me, Dave and Abe hanging out in the studio was just fun. We've being playing music all our lives and there's a lot of music that we would never want to see the light of day but that album has definitely stood the test of time. Like Abe said its been 10 years and he still hasn't heard anything like it and I have to agree. It's the same exact playing as back then but the technology has grown so much that we went in, took the master reels and dropped them into pro tools and would listen to each song and beef it up a little bit and actually remix it, which gave it a new life definitely. For example Abe's snare on the original mix sounded so shitty, it was 1993, that was the sound back then so we took all the effects off the snare and made it sound a lot better and evened out the guitars a lot more. It's a lot more compressed and fatter.
Dave: We probably didn't do everything we would have liked to have done, just picking out specific things like snare sounds or vocal effects, but the music stands the test of time. It was a low budget recording to start with so there's a lot of things that we needed to do. Just the capabilities of our amps, our bass player, we were kind of amateur still at that time.

PRP: Abe, you've said in the years that have passed since you made the record that you've yet to hear anything like it. Do you think Phallucy were ahead of their time just as the same could almost be said about Deftones?
Abe: The same thing with the Deftones is that we never really cared too much about what was going on around us, we just tried to make music that we felt. It's neat to see it come to life because its been quite a few years and I can honestly say I haven't heard anything like it.

PRP: Were you or any of the band tempted to redo parts of the record in light of the fact you have all obviously developed as musicians?
Sonny: It's one of those things where it's like all or nothing. Especially Abe, he's a professional now and all of us too. There's like little parts we would like to change but if you do that, you might as well do a whole new record. We want to put this out because this was in our hearts, this was a labor of love. We were a seminal band from Sacramento from day one and we put a lot of our heart and soul into it.
PRP: Abe, you especially would have developed as a musician so are there any bits that you listen to and cringe? Abe: We just decided to let it be what it was back then. You can tell I was a young drummer, but its still good. Also, point being that we probably plan on recording new music. We just wanted to let it get out and be exactly what it was.
Dave: We have become much more confident and professional. Going into the studio and being able to nail something as opposed to back then we just rehearsed a lot.

PRP: With the exception of Abe, it's unlikely people will know what you have been up to in the years that followed the break up of Phallucy. Care to fill us in?
Sonny: I started Heckler Magazine out here on the west coast.
Dave: The ending of Phallucy for me was the beginning of Daycare in 1994, although only this year did Daycare finally put something on CD. So from 94-96 I was in Daycare and then went back to school and got a BA in fine arts from UC Berkeley and so I did school for a good 3 years there and then came back to Sacramento and Sonny and I started up Phallucy again with 3 totally new people but it wasn't really there. So a couple of months after that we decided to do Daycare again, so we've been doing Daycare since then.

PRP: Just to clear things up, what are the member differences between Daycare and Phallucy?
Dave: Daycare is based around me. I play guitar and sing with Sonny on bass and Rick Click on drums. It's more of a tight trio, pretty basic sound and simple to work. Phallucy on the other hand has two guitar players who are song writers. It's a lot different right down to the song writing process and it would take a month to write one song whereas Daycare its like a night.

PRP: After all this time, why do you feel that now is the right time to release Daycare's "Valium" to the general public?
Sonny: You know... I don't know. I think a lot of it is that we have all just come together. After the band broke up for the first time in '93, we all went our separate ways. Abe went back to Deftones, I started Heckler Magazine, Dave went to UC Berkley and Josh was a trucker and Dominic took off. Only now have we come back together and started hanging out a lot again.
Abe: Primarily just because it never even saw the light of day. Back at that point I had rejoined the Deftones, with Phallucy having broken up and I had cassette copy of it that wasn't even finished and it sounded pretty bad and then 6 or 7 months ago Sonny and I got back together with Dave and we just decided to see what would happen if we actually finished it and it turned out to sound pretty cool. You can tell it's very young but it is what it is.
PRP: So who really instigated this and pushed for it to happen?
Sonny: It was Dave. Actually when Dave first came to me and said "I'm thinking about re-releasing the album" my actual quote was "Fuck that!". It's kinda weird to look back at your past but the more we talked about it and the more I listened to it I was like "yeah." I called Abe and he was instantly like "fuck yeah let's do it". Its funny because we broke up when Deftones were doing their first tours and Chino was always talking about putting it out, but obviously we never did it.
Dave: It was like a bitter end that we never got this record out so I think we all had to let it go. We blew our wad and lets move on and not think about it, maybe never again. We were excited about it coming out and when it didn't we had to move onto something new and that's what we did.

PRP: When revisiting the record did old memories flood back?
Sonny: Oh hell yeah, when we were in the studio we spent a whole Saturday and Sunday, all day and night and it was just me Dave and Abe drinking Jack Daniel's and Coors Light and just having a rad time. We talked about a lot of the old times and a lot of what we have been doing lately. Abe's son Sidney came in for a little bit which was cool and yeah a lot of old times came up, but we were so happy because it was so much fun. On the Sunday night we all recorded the song "Crankslut" for our other project Daycare.
Dave: The three of us went into mix and I hadn't played with Abe for probably 5 years but me and Sonny had never really stopped. I have to admit it was a revival of the good old days. It was two very long days of having fun.
Abe: It was great because it was just Sonny, Dave and myself and the guy that actually recorded it back then too. We were reminiscing a lot and just having fun. All this time I had a tape but it was really hissy and I couldn't hear a lot of the stuff. Chino had a tape too and everyone was welcome to pop it on and he loves the band too. But when it came down to remixing it and finally mastering it, I heard things that I never even knew where on the tape! A couple of parts where this girl played cello on a few songs and just sounds that I never even knew were there.

PRP: Abe, How did it differ being in the studio with Sonny and Dave as opposed to Deftones?
Abe: It's such a different level, like back then we funded it ourselves and it was just a little local studio. With Deftones obviously it's major studios with major labels and major producers and all this crazy bullshit, but at the same time what I've learned since then is quite a bit and Sonny and Dave are always curious to know about my experiences in the studio too.

PRP: Is this Phallucy record something you wanted to get off your chest?
Sonny: Yeah that's a good question, I had already put those demons to bed when we broke up. Me and Dave grew up across the street from each other, we are childhood friends and have been playing music together since we were little kids, but once the band broke up and we went through all those phases I definitely felt it was done and those demons were put to bed, but I think all of us felt like yeah, it was never totally finished. It's especially frustrating as a musician because we were kids and spent all our time and money writing and recording that album and once it was done we broke up. So yeah, it always felt unfinished but I was resigned to the fact that this is what happens in life.
Dave: When it was first done I put out about 50 cassettes, just dubbing from the final mix and it wasn't the way it was meant to be released. You might run into one on Ebay, the last one I heard went for 20 bucks in 1999. So yeah I'm excited about getting it out and just seeing what people think of it. It will be a tremendous weight off us just to see it in stores and with a nice printed cover and lyric sheet. No real expectations or being too optimistic, but there's a possibility it could do really well.

PRP: What caused the untimely breakup of Phallucy and the fact that "Valium" never saw a release?
Sonny: Abe joining the Deftones was part of our breakup, but that was like a final decision as we'd broken up before this. The band was imploding. We were fighting, we were young and kinda stupid and had a lot of different directions artistically. Typical band shit, people wanting to go in different directions and it killed all the fun. A lot of emotions and crazy shit went down and it killed the spirit of the whole thing. Even though we were doing well, it just wasn't fun anymore for anybody.
Dave: I tend to agree with that, it was musical differences. Actually to be honest it was a career move.
Abe: It just became a hassle. Me joining the Deftones after the breakup wasn't me trying to have that happen, but Deftones were having problems with their drummer right after I left and every time they needed someone else I would fill in and it was always so much fun. Finally we said this is it. With Phallucy everything had become such a pain in the ass to get anything done and there were some fairly serious characters involved, whereas Sonny, Dave and myself were more into having a good time. We all just got sick of it I guess.

PRP: Is the release of the "Valium" record strictly a one off or is there any possibility of future recordings?
Sonny: Yeah, actually this is definitely not a one off. We are talking to some labels right now and Phallucy is a bona fide band. We are in the process of developing a fresh new sound and approach.
Abe: With this first record, our whole idea initially was to have it as something special, something limited and if anybody wanted it we could run off more copies. If we make new music it's pretty much agreed that me, Sonny and Dave would be the main people in the band and as far as any record label involvement, I wouldn't want it to be anything off this first record. I would like to make new music and I think we all agree on that too.

PRP: Abe, are you worried at all as to how Deftones fans will take to this record and the fact that when you originally wrote this, you could have never envisioned the attention you would be under?
Abe: No I think its exciting. Our philosophy is that everyone is welcome if they are open minded and I think its exciting for Deftones fans and even for drummers.
Sonny: I think Deftones fans are totally gonna dig it. It's different, no question but it's hard to say. I think people will dig it, but I also think a lot of people who maybe aren't even Deftones fans will dig it too.
Dave: It's kind of a concern but I think we are just confident with it being taken as something that led up to maybe what the Deftones are doing now, rather as opposed to a contemporary band. It influenced the Deftones to some degree, but we don't want to sell it that way. We are just saying this is an old record that we have re-mixed and we are a band again, but the record represents an evolution of that kind of sound in Sacramento.

PRP: The sound has been described as heavy and melodic - Black Sabbath meets Tool meets Smashing Pumpkins. Were these your influences of the time?
Sonny: We played with Smashing Pumpkins once in Sacramento and actually that description of our sound was said by our manager and I think he nailed it and was pretty right on. As the main guitarist in Phallucy I was influenced by a lot of different artists. Everyone from Hendrix to Death Angel to Peter Gabriel. I really like to take concepts and ideas from music and life and apply them to my writing.
Dave: Early 90's for me and probably for the band as a whole I'd say like Black Sabbath, Smashing Pumpkins, Pink Floyd and Jane's Addiction.
Abe: Yeah actually its funny, I have a flyer at home for a show and it was Phallucy headlining and in the middle was Far and the opening band was Tool.

PRP: How would a brand new Phallucy record sound if it were recorded today?
Sonny: I think it would be more upbeat and more melodic. It's kind of hard to say, we really need to get back together. Me and Dave have been messing around with new stuff, but it's hard to say until it gets worked on in the rehearsal room.
Dave: We are going to have been influenced by a lot of stuff that has happened between then and now. Just even like my own song writing style is gonna be a big influence on present day Phallucy. I don't know, just what I've learned since then is going to come through. So much has happened since then.
Abe: Yeah we got involved with some pretty odd timed stuff, I call it Star Wars music because some of the songs kinda sound like you can see Darth Vader behind us... very orchestrated. The band were Chino's and my favorite band, they were the biggest band in town and we were way younger, and back then it was way more funky and way more Hendrix kind of guitar and the band evolved into what it was then. But now if you've heard the current Daycare stuff you can see the changes that have come on and Dave's lyrics are pretty out there, I don't know, I'm equally curious as to what it would sound like, but I probably agree that it would be more up tempo.

PRP: How far are you willing to go with this record in terms of the amount of success it has?
Sonny: This first round is a special independent release with a limited number. If there's a demand for it and people want it, we will make more but we want to keep it kind of special and unique and then work on a new record. We are somewhat gonna let it happen organically, it seems like there's a lot of buzz for it though.

PRP: How much time are you prepared to dedicate to Phallucy?
Dave: Hopefully all of my time haha.
PRP: Is it a concern of yours with Abe being tied up in the Deftones and only having so much time to give?
Dave: Initially Abe is definitely a part of Phallucy and if something comes out, if we get a 2 or 3 record deal or something like that, if we do go on tour we will try and have Abe play as many shows as he can, but there's the possibility we will have to get another drummer to play gigs or whatever. It's all stuff that we are working out right now.

PRP: How do you two intend to balance both Phallucy and Daycare?
Dave: I think maybe the two can feed each other, so far as our musical career with Phallucy kind of getting us in the door. For Sonny and I, Daycare is still the primary band for both of us and like you say Abe is going to busy, so yeah Phallucy is a side band that could do really well I think.

PRP: With Deftones soon coming off the road can we expect any Phallucy shows at all?
Sonny: Yeah, we will be doing some shows in October and we might be doing a couple of shows with Team Sleep.
Abe: I would love to do shows with Team Sleep, the plan is to get some underway when we get home after this Godsmack tour and Chino has a plan to do a small promo tour, maybe a few shows here and apparently also in Europe. Chino just needs to figure out how to translate Team Sleep live.

PRP: Finally, with all these projects stemming from the Deftones do you think this is going to have an impact on the type of music the Deftones create in the future?
Abe: I think its healthy for us, everyone's getting along better than they have for the longest time and I think it can only make things better. Deftones is our main concern.

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