Phil Pirrone keeps an open mind. That’s always been part of his guiding ethos as a musician, he‘s one of the driving forces behind JJUUJJUU, a genre-flouting Los Angeles band whose elliptical, droning riffs seem geared toward brain-expansion. But it’s also driven his other ventures, like Desert Daze, a small festival he founded in Joshua Tree first known for hosting cannabinoid-imbibing rock bands from around the States, but soon became home for all freaks across both genre and international borders.
The term that most other people tend to apply to his efforts, both as artist and curator is “psychedelic,” a term that is at once overused and under-descriptive, but nevertheless feels fitting for his work—not because it’s groovy, or even because you necessarily need to consume mind-altering substances to understand it. Rather, Pirrone’s all about highlighting unseen connections, eroding the boundaries between concepts and artists that you might have previously erected in your brain.
That’s part of why we enlisted him for this week’s Noisey Mix. His efforts so far this year prove that he’s got great taste. JJUUJUU’s April debut Zionic Mud demonstrates a real textural richness, and the 2018 installment of Desert Daze looks to be one of its best lineups yet (It’s headlined by Tame Impala, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, and My Bloody Valentine, and we’re even hosting a Q&A with Devo’s Gerald Casale). But he’s also not afraid to follow that taste, wherever it leads him, even if that means totally ignoring traditional silos between genres on this mix, bouncing between reggae standards, 90s kraut-pop experimentalists, and dizzying Tuareg pop. The uniting spirit is that it’s all visionary, mind-stretching stuff, and if you’re open to it, you’re sure to find something you like too. Listen below alongside a Q&A with Pirrone about the mix and his open definition of the spirit of psychedelia.
Noisey: How are we meant to enjoy the mix? What's the perfect setting?
Phil Pirrone: A birthday party.
Is synesthesia a real thing and if so, what color is this mix?
It’s a beautiful woven blanket that has bright yellows and reds and blues.
Was there any specific concept to the mix?
[To] make you happy.
Do you have a favorite moment on this mix?
Any moment listening to Dur-Dur Band is a favorite moment.
You weave in a lot of guitar music from Africa into this mix. What set you down that path as a listener?
Right around the same time we started doing Desert Daze, I was introduced to Tinariwen by a friend. It was around 2007 or 2008 and everyone [in LA] was talking about this band Tinariwen and I think it changed all of our lives. Even if I didn’t know it, from that moment I was set onto a course toward that second Desert Daze when we hosted them.
The guitar playing is just so lyrical.
You ever heard of that Zambian band Witch? It stands for “We intend to cause havoc.” Anyway, they got all these records in the 60s like Little Richard and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. And they were basically trying to make their own version of that. Just because they’re inherently so talented and so rhythmic and groovy, their version of the Rolling Stones or the Beatles or the Kinks ends up being so much more fresh. The intention and where it’s coming from is a lot different, so how it hits you is a lot different.
When we asked for this mix, one of the things i was most interested in is to see what your definition of psychedelic music is. Obviously, looking at the tracklist it’s pretty broad. Is that even a useful term for you?
It’s really become a buzzword. It’s something people can slap on anything people seem “groovy” or “trippy,” and I don’t think that’s the point. I think the point of psychedelia and psychedelic music and culture and ideas is anything that makes your brain turn on. Your brain has a light switch, psychedelia turns it on. That’s it. So psychedelia could be a throat singer from China. Psychedelia could be 42 drummers. And it is, it’s called Boredoms from Japan. Psychedelia could be African music that doesn’t have any resemblance to the Black Angels or Brian Jonestown Massacre. It can still be psychedelia. It doesn’t have to be retro. Or a Roky Erikson wannabe. Psychedelia can be anything.
Is that what you seek as a listener then, something that’s going to push your boundaries?
As a listener, I’m not really looking for anything. I’m being found. I stumble upon things and I go “oh man.” According to my definition, I guess all music is psychedelia! But I don’t know if that’s a quality I go looking for. The thing that I resonate with or respond to seems to be different every time, just whatever makes me feel good. It really honestly depends on what mood I’m in, what food I ate, what’s going on with my family, what’s going on with Desert Daze, what’s going on with my band.
The other day I was with a couple, a boyfriend and girlfriend. One of them said something really sweet and then a song that’s really classic and 80s came on that may have otherwise seemed trite or hollow. But just in the context of her saying that sweet thing to him and the way I saw him melt in that moment, [the song] was really tender and sweet. What’s in the air can really affect how music affects you.
One thing I’m curious about is how you ended up in this world to begin with.
I was 13 years old and I went to a punk rock show at the Barn at UC Riverside, Falling Sickness and Assorted Jelly Beans. I was crowdsurfing and I hit the pavement. I knew in that moment I was going to serve this higher power.
You have the festival next week, are you in a place where you get to enjoy it at all or is it purely stress?
I would say its a combination of the two. Until about 10, my walkie talkie is firing every two seconds, my cell phone is firing every two seconds. I’m on the golf cart and I’ve got my hands in the dirt like everyone else. Post 10 pm I get to see a couple shows, I get to relax a little bit. But let me put it this way, I sleep with my walkie talkie on. So yeah. I’m on call.
Dur-Dur Band - “Dooyo” - 0:00 - 3:48
The Hykkers - “I Want a Break Thru” - 3:49 - 6:47
Noura Mint Seymali - “Arbina” - 6:48 - 10:32
Vinyl Williams - “Feedback Delicates” - 10:33 - 15:29
Stereolab - “Metronomic Underground” - 15:30 - 23:15
Bob Marley & The Wailers - “Corner Store” - 23:16 - 25:32
Damaged Bug - “Bog Dash” - 25:33 - 28:43
Klaus Johann Grobe - “Between The Buttons” - 28:44 - 33:26
Suuns - “Look No Further" - 33:27 - 37:20
Brightblack Morning Light - “Everybody Daylight - 37:21- 43:12
Tinariwen - “Tenner” - 43:13 - 47:34
Ulrika Spacek - “Everything, All the Time” - 47:35 - 51:56
Sugar Candy Mountain - “666” - 51:57 - 56:08
Les Filles De Illighadad - “Imigradan” - 56:09 - 1:01.15