¡Ahoy Hispaniola! Land of Pirates, Palms, Playas, Radio, and Rum

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To sum it all up; As of tomorrow June 23, 2017, I’ll have little over a month before once more leaving the USA – albeit this time it’s for tropical islands as opposed to ice-locked northern climes.

I’ll try to keep this summary and update as short as possible without leaving out the really important parts.

It certainly has been a long, strange trip. And the strangeness shows no sign of letting up anytime soon. In what can only be described as yet another string of thoroughly bizarre and highly improbable not to mention completely out of the blue coincidences I have now been asked to be the Program Director, General Manager, and occasional DJ at Paradise 102.3 FM radio in Sosúa, on the north shore of the Dominican Republic.

Ironically enough I had decided to cease all things music (other than writing about it) a mere five months ago – vaguely sometime in January – to more fully focus on journalistic writing. Writing has always been a love of mine from an early age, but I got sidetracked by music as music jobs came in much more readily than writing jobs and masses of songs came into my mind and refused to let go.

As a result, I ended up playing with at least four bands all over Orange County, the beach cities, and the Los Angeles and Hollywood club scenes of late 1970 and early ’80s – at the twilight of punk and dawn of the New Wave era. Sharing stages with everyone from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Go-Gos, the Plimsouls, the Beat, and 20/20 to Great Buildings (later the Rembrandts.) I eventually ended up in Norway signed to CBS/SONY and managed to parlay an existence from that deal for the next thirty years.

There was a brief five year return to Arizona and Colorado with a slight run of Nashville where I ended up working with some true musical legends from Snuff Garrett, Richard Bennett, Bill Halverson, and Billy Williams at the producers end of things to John Hobbs, Al Casey, and Paul Franklin at the musician’s end. I was also lucky enough to have had the full support of Arizona radio legend Dwight Tindle. Dwight became a great friend as well and I’ll always remember the times spent eating incredible meals cooked by Dwight at his house on Camelback Mountain overlooking the Valley of the Sun from his pool deck with a warm fondness.

Somehow through all the disorienting chaos, I managed to make some contacts and connections that would help out all along the rest of the way – to this day.

Arizona and Colorado also marked a spiritual return to the land itself as I absorbed the vast sweeping red-and-coral-tinged Sonoran Desert panoramas and emerald river-strewn granite-spired splendor of the Rocky Mountain vistas into my heart and soul. The overall landscape of California and the Mojave Desert had also always been a powerful influence on me throughout my life as well – appearing as an ethereal sonic aspect of my songs: There’s always a wisp of California – sea breezes, mountains, and desert dust – in the atmosphere of my songs:

“I remember California – Sunny golden land of opportunity – But I was only five-years-old It didn’t seem that way to me – California, well now, I love you.”

After one too many conflicts of interest with a manager, I went to work for a clean room tech agency maintaining clean room environments in all the technology industry giants such as Motorola, Sony, Philips, and other multi-acre technical labs in the Valley of the Sun.

Although I had always been keenly aware of all aspects of the desert’s otherworldly beauty, it seemed to become even more noticeable in the last few months that I worked in the megalithic structures of the tech industry. Perhaps because the time allotted to watching the ever-changing patterns, hues, and conditions of the sky was now reduced to lunch hours and coffee break snippets. The formerly panoramic desert view perspectives were reduced to what could be glimpsed from benches or the smooth concrete edges of planter beds lying low in the high-walled expansive square-ish spaces of courtyards and course ways within these vast industrial superstructures.

Strangely, I have fond flashes of scenes of parking lots sat in the golden glow of the shimmering late afternoon heat of Phoenix gazing at the outer fortresslike walls and fences of those monoliths from the air-conditioned shelter of my white Chevy S-10 long bed pickup.

Even something as seemingly mundane and ordinary as a parking lot takes on magical qualities in the mythological mystery of the desert.

A few indeterminable months later, it was back to Norway where I would go on to record with all kinds of successful local and International artists as well as record a few more of my own records. I had a few chart hits, lots of airplay, interviews, newspaper and magazine articles, and live sessions on national and regional radio stations back in the days when FM terrestrial radio still mattered: In other words – five years ago. How quickly things change in this modern technology-driven world.

One of the unanticipated highlights was the time I had a starring role as the chief’s son (my father was played by the great First Nation actor Frank Sotonoma Salsedo. He played Uncle Anku) in a movie with Christopher Lambert, Catherine McCormick, James Caan, and Burt Young. It was called Tashunga/North Star, and I was in such a state of disbelief at the rampant absurdity of it all that I forgot to discuss Frank’s part in Northern Exposure to the degree that I would have done had I been less dumbstruck by the overall situation. It was 1995, and the series had just ended a few months before. Frank and I did get to spend a lot of quality time together discussing many things – mainly about life in general, his past, different movies, TV shows, and projects Frank was involved with, and what it means to be and how it is to be people of the First Nation. We did talk a little bit about Northern Exposure just nowhere near as much as I wished I’d done when I think about it in the calm, considered clarity of hindsight.

Frank was the kind of guy who was always fun to be around. He would regale you with endlessly entertaining stories, quips, and bits of wisdom all indicating strongly that when they cast Frank Sotonoma Salsedo as Uncle Anku, they actually found Uncle Anku himself.

It was a whole new level of fun, highly fascinating, and life-enriching to have had the experience of acting in and making a movie. But the real reward and treasure of it all were as it is also with all memorably significant recording projects – the stories and getting to know the people who told them.

Another bout with the absurd and the improbable came about when New Zealand producer Nick Abbott (Crowded House, the Finn Brothers, the Datsuns, the Thrills…) came up to Norway in hopes of recording some of my music as he waited out his VISA for his planned move to London.

Abbott and my band The Simpletons decamped to the lighthouse compound on the wind-powered North Sea island of Utsira where Abbott quickly set up a mobile recording studio and we got to work recording some of my garage rock songs that I’d always wanted to record. The funniest thing was that when Abbott first got to Norway I was completely uninterested in recording or having anything to do with my songs or music as I was in the grip of a profoundly powerful lounge jazz and American standards phase. I wanted to record only the most legendarily iconic songs written by the best writers in history. I was only interested in recording songs by composers such as Cole Porter, Guy Clark, Jimmy Webb, Gershwin, Weil, Rogers and Hammerstein, Mancini, Antonio Carlos Jobim etc.

Somewhere around 2008, I recorded an updated version of my infamous Roadrunners album with my newly christened band The Topangas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return to the Tropics

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As I write from the northernmost post in my array of bases on this fair planet of ours I am in the midst of a particularly gripping blues rock and acoustic rock jag that I am hoping will translate nicely into some new rarefied form of Trop Rock that I can bring along back with me when I return to the sunnier climes of southwestern Florida and the Keys at the end of the month!

I am BACK and ON track!

The Official Launch of Renn Loren & the Tiki Town Castaways!

Tiki Town Logo

We are now under way with a new album in the final stages of mixing, mastering and packaging THANKS VERY MUCH to: Mikee Schaaf and Vickie Brown Schaaf!

With any luck my very first American album should be ready for release in October.

Our “Somewhere South of Somewhere…. Still North of Nowhere Tour” which kicks off in Key West at the Tropical Songwriters in Paradise event, October 31st at Durty Harry’s on Duval St will follow to coincide with the record’s release.

In addition to being available at all major digital outlets there will be a limited number of physical CDs.

Thanks again to Mikee and Vickie Brown Schaaf for making all of this possible!

Tropicalian Tales from the Road: Sauda Gig, March 8-9, 2013

Today as I drove around the pristinely scenic mountainous fjord side splendor that is Sauda on a very atypical bright, sunny day – Sauda on its best behavior, the chosen soundtrack for my sentimental journey was a compilation CD I’d made of songs to learn (or re-learn as is too often the case these days!)

Frozen Expase of Sauda Fjord

Frozen Expase of Sauda Fjord

I drove up to check in on my friend Edvin Haslnes. Edvin, his brothers Jarle and Stein were all big time ski champions in another lifetime now decades ago. Time does indeed fly – whether you’re having fun or not!

As I drove up the small back country road that wound its way up to his place the Spin Doctors’ Two Princes song came blasting out of my car’s speakers sounding just as fresh and vital as it did the very first time I had ever heard it. Instantly I was transported back to 1992… Until I suddenly and sadly realized that it was now 2013 and that song and the time it happened in was now 20 years gone in a past that truly seems like it was just yesterday.

Edvin's Place - Sauda, Norway

Edvin’s Place – Sauda, Norway

Edvin wasn’t in but as I walked around the deck of his red and white-trimmed cabin soaking in the beauty of the sun-drenched mountain vistas I heard the sound of kids voices wandering down the distant road across his rolling mountain farm property. By instinct I fully expected to see Edvin’s young children walking down that road on the way home with their ever-faithful border collie, Laika, traipsing along tail wagging and that always present smile full of canine teeth, flopping tongue and flashing bright eyes. The absence of any canine companion caused me to suddenly realize (once again) that this was 2013. It just seems abstract. I’m not finished with 2005 yet and it’s already 2013?!

I always get this strangely disorienting feeling that time has moved on without letting me know (other than the aches and pains of the aging process!) There is still so much more that I wanted to get out of those years that have now passed into the never ending all-too-rapid and all but invisible twinkling of an eye succession of pentads-into decades and suddenly 20 years are gone just like that. Years blink by at way beyond the speed of understanding them. If you need proof that there is no other time than right here, right now, you needn’t look any further than remembering that today is your past’s present and tomorrow is every bit as inconceivable as today was 20 years ago. We don’t actually experiencing the passage of years but only a constantly shifting perception of the now every time our eyes open from each sleep.

Edvin's Sundeck

Edvin’s Sundeck

I looked at Edvin’s wooden, boat-like sundeck in the sunlight overlooking a view of unimaginable mountain serenity and thought how many great parties and gatherings had maybe gone on there that I would have loved to have been a part of. My thoughts turned to how many calm, cool, reflective and even forward-looking chats we should have had there over coffee or beer. I have always very much liked and admired Edvin wishing I could have had a lot more of his traits. His mom is a dynamic and fantastic woman and his father, Inge, was legendary. He must have been a great man because all of his sons are the kind of guys most men would wish to be like. Women might not get ’em but the guys do most definitely.

Edvin Halsnes

Edvin Halsnes

Edvin is one of those guys I wish I could spend a lot more time with because I would be certain to learn a lot from him. I always have.

With the picture-perfect weather and the emotion-evoking drive down Sweet Memories Lane in that otherworldly beauty of sugar-white, sun-drenched bliss I considered my life and how incredibly lucky I have been. I may have lost Hawaii by way of my having been adopted but I gained a whole world, and ironically I spend a good deal of my time back in the tropics playing my trop-rock music.

As I gazed ’round at the magnificent white, crisp fjord side mountain splendor I realized that in just one month I would indeed be a world away back in the tropical environs of Key West.

Tropics!

Tropics!

The life of a Tropicalian does have its moments.

The words of Zac Brown come to mind: “I’ve got my toes in the water ass in the sand not a worry in the world a cold beer in my hand – Life is good today, Yeah, Life is GOOD today!

Dream Beach Bar

Dream Beach Bar

It’s important to remember that and take the time to be thankful that you’re still here – in the game because these are “the good ol’ days!”

Watching the Movie….. As Tonight’s Gig Looms

It’s 39 degrees Fahrenheit as the rapidly changing skyscapes drift on by on this rather mild yet blustery day. The skies are mostly bright but there’s mystery in ’em all the same. There’s a real feeling of many years and lifetimes having passed and I feel a sentimental longing for something lost unawares somewhere along the way tugging at my being and hampering my ability to connect with a sense of the now.Timeless, Windswept

Perhaps it’s lost youth, or simply an aspect of it which taunts.

Today’s yet another day when I experience the very unsettling and wholly disorienting sensation of being outside of and apart from what is happening – as if I am watching a movie and not being a part of what is going on right here right now.

Tonight’s gig is out in Olen, about 50 minutes to the east of Haugesund. I look forward to the chance to jam and feel the unifying power of music’s ability to anchor one in time and place with my fellow sound surfers.

In trying to gain purchase on the temporal aspects of the slippery dimensions of reality I am searching out various bands and artists that might give me a sense of purpose or connection to this time and place. To that end I quite like the Avett Brother’s latest as well as Samantha Crain and the wonderfully brilliant manic strumfest that is Langhorne Slim & The Law.

At the far end of the spectrum of contemporary albums is the latest by Thom Yorke. While I can enjoy the ultra-mod sonics and experimentation of it and its complete disconnect from guitars and the constraints of traditional instrumentation song structures – it also leaves me with the strange feeling that this is the sort of music that anyone could make given enough time with nothing else to do and decent recording equipment in their home studio. For me it’s about songs and heartfelt melodies that tug at the sentimental heartstrings of soul calling out from another time or place, whether it be the good old days of yesteryear or the good old days of a future yet to come…. Timeless music made with acoustic instruments seems to be able to transcend time and space. A guitar, banjo or ukulele plucked, a piano pounded or coaxed still sounds the same as it did 100 or 200 years ago and yet sounds as fresh as the first time I ever heard it…. when accompanied by the right melody, voice or attitude.

See y’all soon Olen!

From Conversations with Kim and John: Music

Perhaps it keeps the darkest dankest recesses of the universe at bay and gives me a power against it.

I think there is a lot to that aspect of it all.

I do NOT make music or perform it for attention. I do it for the catharsis and therapy.

It whirls and flutters like a moth in the candlelight flicker of my soul, gathers gravity and substance in my heart and finds expression through my being.

But I think that’s just the Hawaiian thing…..176333_273210769449018_2136196264_o.jpg