Divining the Creative Ripple

Local music artist explores the many moods of nature, synthesized

By Julie Horner

Waves of vividly evolving earth impressions dance inside closed eyelids. At times, fluidly womb-like, the tonally suggestive near-silence of floating in space or being submerged in amniotic suppleness gives way to the rumble of thunder, a taste of nourishing rain, ebulliently flowing streams, and the pulse of the ocean’s tide. In the mind’s eye and in the heart, there is a very real feeling of resting one’s head upon the bosom of the earth. All is released, unclenched, and the spirit is at ease.

Sapphire Oceans is a single one-hour track representing a complete hydrological cycle with music and sounds of nature. Composed by Felton musician and Mountain Spirit co-owner, Josh Kunkel, this original composition washes away the relentless press of the day’s needs.

“The music begins with a storm-burst, then focuses in on a single drop of rain. The raindrops pool together, forming a stream, which flows down to the ocean shore. After playing in the waves, the music plunges below the surface, descending deeper and deeper, past the reach of the sun’s rays, until a place of profound mystery and silence is reached. Rising to the surface again, the journey ends as we hear the sound of waves crashing and birds chirping on the shore. The sounds of rain and thunder make themselves present in the background, reminding us that the cycle will renew itself again and again.”

The sounds began in nature. “We have recorded stream, ocean, and water sounds at dozens of different locations from Malibu to Mendocino,” Kunkel says.

After he produced the field recordings, he wrote several instrumental sections, performed over multiple sessions, to develop layers of expression and to add color to the track. “Techniques drawn from Impressionist and classical music have been used to render the natural sounds of water on acoustic instruments. Tempo devices such as ritardando, accelerando, and tempo rubato convey the rising and falling movements of the waves, and instrumental portamento effects like harp glissandos and timpani roll pedal glissandos evoke the shimmer of sunlight on the water and the rumbling crash of the ocean breaking up on the shoreline.”

The album is produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Kunkel at West Park Avenue Studios. The recording intertwines the sounds of nature with adept use of advanced technical know-how. Kunkel describes the process: “Never-before-heard new timbres have been created by fusing the sound of acoustic orchestra instruments with cutting-edge, avant-garde, forward-looking sound synthesis, resulting in clean, clear, sparkling tessellated electronic textures utilizing the Elka Synthex, EMS VCS3 and Synthi AKS, Oberheim OB-X, and Roland Juno 60.”

An extra set of ears on a project can be revealing. “At a certain point in the project, David Streit, who has worked with everyone from Johnny Cash and Dave Brubeck to GZA and Cliff Richard, had come on board to help me engineer and mix. That is an invaluable contribution that I’ll always appreciate,” says Kunkel.

Like a natural mountain spring, Kunkel’s project trickled and transformed over time. “Sapphire Oceans had just spontaneously grown; it had just taken on a life of its own. Like it had needed to be born, to well up and burst through into existence, and I had just been the channel for it. It is like the quote from the Hindu holy book, the Chandogya Upanishad, about a drop of water flowing into the river, and then into the infinite vastness of the sea, losing its sense of separateness in the process. That is literally how the project has grown, from one tiny little droplet of an idea, to this sprawling, long, complex track with many moods and emotions.”

“There are things that happened during the recording of this album that are so spooky, I’ll never tell. But you can hear them happen on the record. Things that are just from beyond this plane of existence, unknowable things that are from outside of our realm of understanding. But after many months, the project finally coalesced, and all the different tributaries ultimately came together to form a work greater than the sum of all its parts.”

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Music Artist Josh Kunkel – Sapphire Oceans

When not divining the creative ripple, Josh enjoys the bounty of living in the Santa Cruz Mountains. “I get pleasure from cooking international cuisine, going on long hikes in nature, and relaxing with family and friends. I am also a movie connoisseur and news junkie. I enjoy art, fashion, photography, and collecting historical armaments.”

A compelling voyage among elements and imaginings, Sapphire Oceans is available at Mountain Spirit 6299 Highway 9, Felton or everywhere online including: itunes.apple.com/Sapphire Oceans | www.youtube.com/SapphireOceans

Copyright Julie Horner 2017

When Least Expected

By Julie Horner
Today I was hugely humbled by the generosity of the folks at Valley Churches United Missions. What started out as an opportunity to conduct an interview for the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin turned into an unexpected “we can help you.”

As some know, I lost my high tech job back in February and have had trouble finding a replacement. I applied for unemployment insurance for the first time in my life. Months have passed and I’m now at the end of my ability to maintain the mortgage and will be taking in a renter (or two) to try to keep head above water while I continue to look for work.

I’m the one who donates to things I feel passionate about. I’m not the one who asks for help. Now the fork is on the other plate. Thank you VCUM for coming to the rescue with bags of food and grocery store gift cards, and for letting me know that I can apply for food stamps and emergency mortgage assistance. Thank you for reassuring me that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone has a story to tell and I’m not the first detached techie they’ve seen come through the doors.

Valley Churches United Missions is here to help keep mountain residents from becoming homeless. If you have a chance, please consider donating money or groceries and pet food to San Lorenzo Valley’s wonderful Valley Churches. If you live in SLV and need a hand to see you through, please know that you are welcome. www.vcum.org/

Copyright 2017 – Julie Horner

Felton Public Library – A Design from the Heart

Architect Teall Messer invests his heart in a project long on the drawing board

By Julie Horner

Willows, oaks, and a few cottonwoods jostle and whisper along the banks of Bull Creek as it flows – controlled now by a culvert to mitigate flooding – under city streets to the San Lorenzo River in downtown Felton. On its way, the creek slices through a narrow slip of native land next to the Felton Post Office – soon to be home for the new Felton Public Library and Outdoor Discovery Park.

Soquel-based architect, Teall Messer, is the artist behind the building design, which reflects community vision while holding to exacting legal and environmental parameters. His work is highly sought after in Santa Cruz County – he has six to eight active design projects going at a time – but he says his heart is invested in the library. Long a member of Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Library, he has been called upon over the years to design other library projects, including converting an old restaurant in Live Oak into an interim library, and upgrading the historic Garfield Library in Santa Cruz. The Felton Library project is a longtime dream. “This has been on my drafting board for 10 years.”

“Pat and Mike Verutti wanted to donate the Felton parcel adjacent to the post office 16 years ago, but the library system didn’t want to take ownership of the land until they had the money to build,” Messer said. Measure S, which passed last June, gave them the funding. “Bruce McPherson made sure the funding was on top of the list.” And Felton Library Friends have been advocating all along. “They helped support the project and pushed to get the initial plans drawn. If it wasn’t for them it wouldn’t have happened.”

In 16 years, the trees have gotten bigger, which forced the building plan into riparian habitat. Messer also had to plan around the 100-year floodplain that just misses the building site. A town plan drawn up in the 1980s helped guide the exterior design. “I had to try to come up with a building that will fit into Felton. It had to have a rural feeling, almost a barn-like,” he said. “At 9600 square feet, it’s not giant but I think it will be big enough…we took all the space we could.”

Working closely with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Army Corps of Engineers, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the project required obtaining permits from each agency. “We’re still in the process of submitting them.” The projected deadline to get site and landscape plans into the county is February-May, 2018. “It will take a year to build it,” so he anticipates opening in spring, 2019.

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District Felton Treatment Facility is adjacent to the library property. “SLVWD has very generously allowed access from Kirby Street, which will enable us to do the proposed Nature Explorer children’s outdoor area.” Felton Library Friends are working on obtaining a grant to help develop this outdoor space. Part of the easement agreement includes restoring native plants to the area. “When you take away riparian habitat, you must replace it at a two-to-one ratio,” Messer said.

Along with the interior spaces still in the planning stages and open to community input, there will be a glass covered walkway in the front and a courtyard in back which might include beverage service, a coffee cart, for instance. A trail will go through the property, directly accessible from Gushee Street. “Santa Cruz Parks will be involved with maintaining some of these public outdoor areas.” Asked whether the building will use solar, he says possibly, if there is funding. With the structure’s long southern face, he estimates up to 33 kilowatts of power could be generated from solar panels. Even without solar, “It will be very energy efficient with clerestory windows that will allow a good amount of ambient light, so they probably won’t be using electricity for lights all that much.”

An effort long dreamed about, Teall Messer’s community driven design beautifully transcends the potential drawbacks of a difficult site to create a thriving hub for all ages to enjoy.

Architect Teall Messer: http://teallmesserarchitect.com/

Felton Library Friends: www.feltonlibraryfriends.org

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner

Fantastic Figures Await at the New Felton Library

Art Installation Heralds the Coming of the Library

By Felton Library Friends

The Felton Library Festival, which will be held on Saturday, May 20 from 12:00 to 4:00 pm, will feature an art installation of “Fantastic Figures” on the new library site just down Gushee street next to the Post Office. The free event includes art activities for all, food, information on the library project, a drawing for prizes, and live music by Patti Maxine and Friends, Ben Lonesome and the Highway Niners, Dave McClellan and Friends, and Young People’s Theater singers.

The small town of Felton, gateway to the San Lorenzo Valley, has been waiting for a new library for many years. The current library has long outgrown its tiny location in the historic Belardi building. Groundbreaking for the new larger library begins in 2018.

“It has been a long wait,” says Marilyn Robertson, longtime member of Felton Library Friends. “Now we are very excited and feeling rather celebratory.”

The garden art figures, conceived by a group of local artists, Robertson, and Felton Library Friend, Nancy Gerdt, will consist of a dozen larger-than-life sculptures “planted” in the field, each symbolizing the broad spectrum of patrons waiting to use the new library and the tremendous breadth of opportunities a library brings to the public.

Each figure, graciously donated by the artist, will be completely different, and materials will vary according to the artist’s vision. The idea of the waiting figures was the inspiration of Ben Lomond artist, Eileen Murray, who has constructed two such figures in her garden.

“I adapted the idea from the African nkisi, fascinating protective figures covered with hardware and nails, placed in front of properties in the Congo,” Murray explained. “They are very primitive and beautiful. The African figures were originally meant to scare people away, but ours are meant to entice. They are garden art.” The African Queen, by Eileen Murray, pictured here, will be one of the figures up for auction starting on May 20, with proceeds benefitting the new library and Felton Library Friends.

Additional artists include Karen Asherah, Eleanor Carolan, Alexis Spakoski, Karen Close, Jennifer Hennig, Janet Silverglate, Sophie Webb, Bill Jurgens, Nina Moore, and Lise Bixler. For more information, visit: www.feltonlibraryfriends.org

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Copyright 2017 Julie Horner

On Spirit Wings – Boulder Creek’s Medicine Road

By Julie Horner

Pablo Eagle used to ride his motorcycle through the Santa Cruz Mountains regularly. For some reason one day he took his pickup. It was a beautiful day for riding, warm and dry, with no wind at all. A motorcyclist with a woman on the back passed him. “God, I wish I was on my bike,” he thought, just man and bike riding free. “Suddenly a branch as big as a small tree landed right in front of me.” It was almost like he’d had a spiritual vision. “I look up… It made me think about the drought…I’d seen it coming.” Another motorist stopped to help but wound up mostly watching. “All the adrenaline was in my body, and I just picked the damn thing up – I was holding it like ‘this’ in my arms – and I threw the log. Had I ridden my bike…it spooked me. Now I don’t ride so much.”

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As singer/songwriter for Boulder Creek based band, Medicine Road, he believes in healing through music. Joined by Dave Kerrey (vocals, drums), Jonathan “Skippy” Sherred (background vocals, bass), and Tom McQuillen (background vocals, lead guitar), Medicine Road “spreads the love of life and healing into the wind so that brother wind will carry the healing tune all over the world.”

Primarily a guitar player and lyricist, Pablo Eagle pays homage to his Yaqui/Mayan roots by adding flute to the Medicine Road sound. “When I picked up the flute, I was amazed I could play it…it was a natural thing.” They decided that the flute was going to rule. He remembers one show, “I was playing notes I didn’t know my flute could play. I was playing through my nose, through my throat, I was flying around…it was an out of body experience. People were coming out of the crannies…I don’t even know where these sounds were coming from. We blew that place away.”

Medicine Road just played the annual Santa Cruz Mountain Art & Wine Festival where he said, “Kids were dancin’, people were listening, and the earth felt happy!”

The music is groovy psychedelic rock jam laced with a haunting Native American sound reminiscent of the music of R. Carlos Nakai. Medicine Road plays mostly original material that is centered on musical healing and positive energy. “We feel our music is good medicine for the heart, soul, and body. Praise for the beauty of nature.” Their song, Earth in the Key of A, is like envisioning a rainforest and bringing everyone into it.

“Our goal is to heal with the music. Through the music and through the lyrics. We put out ideas of the pain of the problem – ‘this’ needs to be fixed.” It becomes a recycling of negative energy, he points out, turning it around into positive and “healing as you go.” “That’s what I do with the music. If we can’t heal ourselves, who can we heal?”

Pablo Eagle has been making music in Boulder Creek forever. He lived in a rented room at the Rainbow’s End back when and remembers asking his landlord, “Are you sure you don’t mind if I play music? She said, ‘I love rock and roll and my husband’s deaf.’” He describes how he wrote, Boulder Creek Mama, a song that has become a Medicine Road anthem: “I wrote it 25 years ago at the Junction before it was a park. There was this beautiful young lady in a bikini…she was about to jump off a rock…I was inspired.” The girl who was Boulder Creek Mama worked at Johnnie’s. He asked her if she wanted to come see his band. She said no. He said, I wrote a song about you. She said she was flattered but that was alright. He said, do you have a boyfriend? She said, yeah, kinda. He never saw her again but the song lives on. “We always end our shows with it because it drives everyone crazy, gets people dancing.”

His grandfather used to sun dance and sing to the sun. Now Pablo Eagle and Medicine Road are part of Native American Heritage festivities at Foothill College. “I will always stand up for Native people. We just got Obama to call off the Keystone project. Now there’s the Dakota pipeline.” He feels he has an obligation to Native peoples…to stand up against those who are “always messing with indigenous people.” He has strong opinions about cutting down our redwoods trees too. “Everything is a catch-22. If it’s alive, it has a positive and a negative aspect…and there’s the grey area where we’re trying to bring people to the positive side.” He wants to give people a positive example through his music.

“In Native American heritage, you have two types of people: Those who follow the red road, and those who follow the black road of negative extremes. Red road people have positive energy, they’re not putting people down, they’re building things. We want to help he people in the grey area. Medicine Road is the healing road.”

“I’ve been Medicine Road for a long time. I want to do it ‘til I die. We’re still a young band…we’ve reared our head around…we’re ready to take off. Our smoke signals are out there.”

On the Web: https://www.reverbnation.com/medicineroad

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/medicine.road.band/

Copyright 2016 Julie Horner https://www.facebook.com/CrookedRoadCeiliBand/

The Magic of a Chance – Drifting Compass

By Julie Horner

One of summer’s guilty pleasures: Winding home on Bear Creek Road on an exceptionally warm, sunny late afternoon under the redwoods, with windows rolled down and music cranking. Spirits soaring, I was testing the rubber on the familiar home stretch with the soft July wind in my hair, grinning ear-to-ear and somehow managing to resist fist-pumping out the skylight. Eyes on the road, hands upon the wheel.

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The disc in the player was Drifting Compass’s 2015 self-produced EP, Grains of Sand, all-original rock music that reminded me of younger days with uniquely familiar hooks and infectious lyrics about dreams, realities, new beginnings, and the urgent vibrance of living life.

I had just gotten the CD after bumping into singer-songwriter, Dave “Nomad” Miller, at a recent meeting of community members to ramp up fundraising efforts for Yvonne and Kelly McGuire, who lost all in the Felton Trout Farm fire in early June. “We were supposed to do a show at Felton Trout Farm in July and were purposely building anticipation to get the most folks out to the show,” Dave told me. “I consider Kelly and Yvonne to be like family. Ever since they’ve owned the place they’ve been open to suggestions to get good music, inviting people in for pow wows. After the fire it was like, “If there’s anything you could do to help.”

Dave spent years on the road performing as a solo artist and adopted the name, “Nomad,” as a result. “I purposely packed up my van with everything I felt I needed and started heading west. I lived on the road for seven years, playing acoustically at coffee shops…it’s kind of how the name ‘Drifting Compass’ came about.” The open road became muse for his songwriting. “Some of the wisest people I met while on the road.” In Spokane he met a street prophet who told him, “There’s no such thing as wasted time, there’s only wasted lessons.”

He wound up in Santa Cruz by mistake. “I thought a friend lived there but he actually lived in Fremont.” Sometimes a wrong turn can lead to the best discoveries and now he’s set down roots in Santa Cruz. “I’ve been here more than 20 years and love it.”

“I put the band together in late 2006 but didn’t start gigging regularly until mid-2007.” They’ve had some member changes here and there: “It’s hard to find people sometimes. My lead guitar player has been with me for five years. It’s the best I’ve felt about the lineup – I’m really happy right now.”

Drifting Compass is Nomad (guitar, lead vocals); Colin Bockman (lead guitar, vocals); Dana Young (bass guitar, vocals); and Jeff Smits (drums, vocals). Sometimes people sit in on keyboards or harmonica; they even had an opera singer once. While the band is based on originals, Dave says when they throw covers in “people light up.” But they do cover material in their own way, putting a “Drifting Compass twist” to it. “We have a grungy Americana style, we turn whatever we play into that genre. My vocals, Colin’s distorted guitar leads, we’ll turn them around for playing out.”

A name ubiquitous in San Lorenzo Valley, Drifting Compass plays regularly throughout the Monterey and San Francisco Bay Areas. “Our biggest goal right now is to see as many people as possible at our live shows.” They just did a show in Monterey on July 9. “The place was so packed at times that it was hard to navigate through the bodies without spilling drinks. We had a great time!”

They’ll be at the Santa Cruz Mountain Art, Music and Wine Festival in Boulder Creek over Labor Day weekend and at Henflings in Ben Lomond in October. Other performances coming up this fall include venues in Hollister, Berkeley, San Francisco, and at the Mystic Theater Mendocino with Reckless Kelly. And of course there’s the local Drool Pigs Festival, the annual craft beer and local music extravaganza Erik Rozite (Acoustic Shadows) hosts in Boulder Creek, this year on October 17. “We were one of the founding bands – Erik always invites us back. Erik and I were actually doing acoustic shows together before we started up our respective bands.”

Drifting Compass’s next CD, tentatively called “Grit,” is in the works and is being recorded at Gadget Box in Westside Santa Cruz. “Andy and Patrick are amazing…they’re well worth it.”

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Captivating with acoustic-driven rhythms and original songs, Drifting Compass creates music in the Alternative-Rock vein with a little dirt, a little sugar, and a whole lot of fist-pumping vibe. “The biggest thrill of it all is the energy that the crowd feeds to you, you feed to them – everybody has a great time.”

On the Web: www.driftingcompass.com

On Facebook: www.facebook.com/driftingcompass

Julie Horner is an Irish style folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains. www.santacruzmountainslocal.com | leap2three@gmail.com

Positively Sundrenched & Soul-Filled – The Third Annual Santa Cruz Mountain Sol Festival

An interview by Julie Horner with Stephen Wyman, co-producer of the annual Santa Cruz Mountain Sol Festival.

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JH: This has become a major outdoor festival for the area so how did you get into it?

SW: Ironically. I’ve been volunteering with Redwood Mountain Faire since its rebirth at Roaring Camp. And as one the owners of the Boulder Creek Brewery, I was interested in producing events that would help drive our business forward. And in broader terms, events that would help bring economic vitality to our community. Fill restaurants, fill motels, hire local folks, local food vendors, and provide artists with an outlet.

JH: How are you able to attract such amazing performers to the event?

SW: Michael Horne is the genius of the business partnership. He’s been a Santa Cruz promoter for over 30 years and has presented more than 3,000 shows! It is very complicated to put great lineups together, so it’s his years of relationships with musicians and agents.

JH: You’ve got Edward Sharpe, George Clinton, and Sheila E at the top of a really impressive lineup of artists.

SW: We have certain artists whom we truly admire and hope to bring to the Santa Cruz Mountains, artists that we and our community have a connection to. We try to bring a blend of classic and new artists. We consider the venue and our neighbors. Although we can’t make everyone happy, we try to be considerate.

JH: Name some of the acts that you’re especially excited to have on board this year.

SW: That’s a loaded question, because every artist we book is a favorite for one reason or another. This year we were inspired by the loss of Prince. We talked lots about the influence he had on music and culture. And we also dug deeper in our discussions like who influenced Prince and how he was so into the 1970’s Bay Area music scene. He came to SF in 1978 to record in the studio used by Santana and other Bay Area greats. Sheila E.‘s dad, Pete Escovedo, was playing in Santana’s band at the time. So this led us to invite Sheila E. and Katdelic and to ask George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. George Clinton is an icon and we feel the chance to share is now – George Clinton turned 75 this year!

JH: I would imagine the variety of music will appeal to all age groups. What have you got for the younger scene?

SW: On Saturday we have Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. They headlined Coachella this year and had a sold out show this spring at the Greek theater in Berkeley. They should bring some concert goers to Felton who haven’t visited our valley before. And I think folks my age will have a treat in discovering this kind of artist.

JH: It must be an enormous task transforming a quiet mountain meadow into an outdoor good-love-and-vibrations festival space.

SW: Aside from the monetary considerations, there are so many details to contend with. Routing, logistics, travel, backline, staging, etc. Multiply this by every artist timeslot over the course of the weekend and you start to get an idea of the juggling job that is required.

JH: How does the venue at Roaring Camp suit the event, do people just love it?

SW: We love Roaring Camp. It’s an amazing space. There is the beautiful meadow, parking, and some infrastructure. Attendees having been glowing about the festival. We have 4.9 stars out of 5. We’re working on the missing fraction! Roaring Camp and its director have been supportive: Roaring Camp is keenly interested in supporting economic vitality in the valley.

JH: More people than ever seem to be falling in love with summer festivals and I hear Mountain Sol is attracting more peeps! You guys must be feeling pretty stoked!

SW: We are steadily growing. It’s our third year. That’s like Wednesday in the festival business. We’re trying hard to get to the weekend.

JH: What makes the Sol Fest so wonderful?

SW: Our event is a boutique festival. It’s small compared to most music festivals. It’s intimate. Everyone is close to the stage. Festival goers feel a direct connection to the artists and to their community. You’re not looking at a giant live video screen. You are there and in it.

JH: So this festival is all ages and locally do-able.

SW: Named by many of our fans as “the hometown throw down,” it’s more like a community party. We see our neighbors and friends there. People are generally kind and thoughtful – watching out for each other. We attract a wide range of guests: Local families, couples, and college-age young adults.

JH: What can festival goers expect from this year’s festival as far as good vibes, food, and things to purchase?

SW: In addition to our amazing artist lineup, there will be local food vendors, artists, a kid’s area, and of course train rides!

JH: What would you advise people to bring with them?

SW: Bring a hat, refillable water bottles (free filtered water is available), ear plugs for the kids if you’re bringing young children, a designated driver…NO drinking and driving! No, no, no! Low back folding chairs and blankets are allowed but please no dogs and no bad attitudes. DO bring smiles, an open heart, and dancing shoes!

JH: I was at last year’s festival and had such a relaxing, boogie-filled uplifting time! What makes you the happiest about putting on the Sol Fest?

SW: When folks in the community stop me to tell me what wonderful time they had!

Santa Cruz Mountain Sol Festival September 17-18, 2016 Roaring Camp Meadows. Felton, California 95018 On Facebook: www.facebook.com/scmsfest

Tickets: www.santacruzmountainsol.com/tickets.shtml

Email: info@santacruzmountainsol.com

Copyright 2016 Julie Horner