There is always a hazard in recording your favorite band. In the end I think we survived.
A brief description of the scene would be appropriate. Bridgeport, Chicago. Tile ceilings, Dave Kingman and Farah Faucet posters, multiple collections of outdated encyclopedias, nunchucks, autographed Mike Ditka head shot, incense, voodoo candles, holy water, talking fish plaque, goat milk soaps, piles and piles of old VHS and cassette tapes, ouija boards, tarot cards, civil war musket, goblets, oblique strategies, goats hooves, wands, offering bowls, toaster oven, book of tantric sex, alter boxes, Babylonian statues, bronze bells, a box of rattlesnake rattles, microwave, frying pans, vaseline, Louisville Slugger baseball bat, a box labeled “uranium, don’t touch”, racks of 2” ampex tape labeled “Red Red Meat”, a monocle, mini fridge, broken tape recorders, a box of KISS belt buckles and a television that took 20 minutes to warm up. There was also a poker room. Poker was a constant. When you exited the front door of Clava you were confronted with a large park that lead straight to the entrance of Comiskey Park, close enough that on a good day Carlton Fisk could probably hit it with a rock. Jimbos bar was on the next corner. The following year would see the Sox winning their third World Series.
I was initially hired to record two cover songs . Side A Dr. John, Side B Prince. Dr. John survived but Prince vanished. According to Tim the Prince thing never happened. It did.
Then Heron King Blues happened. It started with a broken four string acoustic bass guitar that Tim pulled out of the “instrument room”. To this day I’ve never seen anything like it. It started in the morning with Benny cleansing the doorways, corners and other dark spaces with burning sage, all the while Becker, Joe and Tim beginning to quietly circle the live room in a clockwise march not too dissimilar to the broken souls in a Turkish Prison. A slow incantation in E. The ritual had begun invoking the ghosts of Howlin’ Wolf, Houdini, The Astral Spirt of Evil Mumm-Ra, Anton Webern, Caruso, Robert Johnson, Pablo Casals, Edvard Munch, Coltrane, Hades, The Roman goddess of war Bellona, Warhol, Joyce, Pollack, Prometheus, Nostradamus, Shoeless Joe, Robert Graves, Claudius, Rosemary’s Baby and Joan Crawford. Over the course of the afternoon the participants slowly made their way to their instruments and 15 minutes after the initial note had been cast Heron King Blues was born. In the end Heron King Blues is about the letting go.
And so it goes with Califone. Each song its own ceremony. Heron King Blues, it's all in there. The earth, sun and moon. Wingbones. Shadow maps and dream logic. Stoplights. Meat Trucks. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Cocaine. Wild eyed robbers. Hunchbacked derelicts. Broken down angels, Lepers. Gay Lithuanians. Cheaters. Sex. Beggars. Rabid dogs. Sirens. Undertows. Reverse magnetism. Cock fighting. Electric shock therapy. Trick birds. Floods. Ancient Hebrew texts. The Illuminati. Haboobs. Bleach. Expired medicine. Severed tongues. Dragons, Spirit telephones. Bees. Modern Architecture. Electric fences. Dianetics. ESP. Snakes. Poltergeist. Haunted spaces. Crop circles. Demons. Feedback loops.
I really don’t know what else to say? How does one capture lightning in a bottle? You could call me a witness, or better yet an interloper, briefly given the wheel to the mythological ship called Califone. Where others might have attempted to exercised the demons, I chose to let the spirits run wild. We bored under the earth’s surface into its core until we reached the belly of the beast. These aren’t Songs of Love and Hate. This is no Street Hassle. No Main Street here. This is music that was pulled from the abattoir of Chicago rock, tattered and bruised and barely breathing. This is not music for pussies.
A tip of the cap must be extended to Brent Green, Brian Deck, Fred Lonberg-Holm and Wil Hendricks.
I Would be remiss not to mention the artwork for the album. The photo shoot took place in the aforementioned park in the middle of the night. We got egged.
— MIchael Krassner, August, 2017
Heron King Blues was created June 2-16, 2003 (Originally released Winter 2004) at Clava//Four Deuces Studio in Chicago, IL by Tim Rutili, Ben Massarella, Jim Becker, Joe Adamik with Will Hendricks, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Brent Green, Phil Spirito and Ken Brown. Produced by Michael Krassner.