The Warlocks - Biography



             The Warlocks' revolving door of musicians has been spinning like a top ever since their late 90's inception. Over 20 guitarists, drummers and bassists have called themselves Warlocks over the past ten years, a period that has seen the band swell up to an eight-piece ensemble and then scale back down to a quartet. These days, the number of members coasts along at five, but no one, least of all the band themselves, would expect that number to last forever. Generally, the fluctuating roster hasn't really affected the band's sound, and that is because at least one member has remained a constant: Bobby Hecksher started the band out of the ashes of a few others, melding his influences (Spacemen 3, the Velvet Underground) into one pummeling force, creating a dense wall of sound so dominant and loud that the question of the songs' originality doesn't have room to come into focus. After gaining notoriety and a record deal in Los Angeles, Hecksher and whichever incarnation of the Warlocks was backing him at the time put out two EPs and one album before releasing their artistic breakthrough, The Phoenix Album. Still, chart success had not come knocking and the band were dropped from their label after releasing a third LP. After almost giving up, the Warlocks instead cut their roster in half, resurfacing in 2007 with Heavy Deavy Skull Lover.


            In the late 80's, Hecksher moved with his family from Florida to California, where he started a band called Charles Brown Superstar. The band issued two singles and two albums, all re-released on one disc in 1995. In 1994, Hecksher's guitar-playing turned up on another release, the unofficial second album by Beck, Stereopathetic Soul Manure. From there, Hecksher and his friend, James Ambrose, went on to form Magic Pacer, a band that delved more deeply into synth-pop than into the psychedelia Hecksher would later become known for. The band was signed to Win Records, where they put out two records, Dig This, Dig That (as Bobby & Magic Pacer) and White Room (as Magic Pacer). Hecksher had been slowly piecing together a new band called the Warlocks. It was a process that included many personnel shifts before an eight person lineup was settled on in 1998, complete with two drummers, three guitarists, an organist/keyboardist, and just one bassist. They played their first gig that year on the 4th of July.


            From 1999 to 2000 the Warlocks were carving their niche in the fickle music scene of Los Angeles, which led to the 2000 signing of a two-album deal with Bomp!, the Burbank-based label that was once home to Spacemen 3 and Iggy and the Stooges. The Warlocks' self-titled 6-song EP was released in November of that year on Bomp! Eleven months later, they followed up with their debut full-length, Rise and Fall (2001, Bomp!) After the album came out, the Warlocks realized that Bomp! wasn't as interested in promoting the band or their LP as they would have liked. They amicably parted ways with the label and signed with Birdman Records, a San Francisco-based indie that has put out albums by Howlin Rain, John Frusciante, and Johnny Cash.


            In July of the next year, the band put out their first release for Birdman, the four-song Phoenix EP (2002), consisting of live and studio tracks. The Phoenix Album (2002, Birdman) was out that November. Teeming with distortion and hypnotic grooves, The Phoenix Album is elevated to must-have status through its sheer density. The songs themselves are catchy and well-played, but in the hands of a band like the Dandy Warhols, album opener “Shake the Dope Out” would just be another upbeat jangler. Thanks to the double-drum attack and triple-guitar assault used here, it becomes driving, trippy, and unique, providing a perfect example of what the Warlocks can do to a simple chord melody. The album was re-released on Mute a year later, track for track, as Phoenix. Because of its orange cover, it's known as Phoenix (Mute Orange). One month after that release, Mute put the album out once more, this time with a black cover. And still one month after that, Toshiba EMI released the album with that same black cover. Four separate releases was a lot for any album, let alone one with unimpressive sales and mixed reviews. The Warlocks promoted Phoenix by going on tour with Interpol and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Two years later, it was finally time for something new, and the Warlocks released their second album, Surgery (2003, Mute).


            Right away, sales of the critically-polarizing Surgery looked bleak. Mute panicked and released the band from their contract. Who would come to the rescue but the guys in Brian Jonestown Massacre, longtime friends of the band who suggested that their own label, Tee Pee, sign the Warlocks. Tee Pee took their advice and signed the group, which was now half the size of the ensemble that played on Phoenix. They again enlisted Rod Cervera, the producer of their first album who also has albums by Weezer and Silversun Pickups to his credit. Their new deal with Tee Pee allowed them as much artistic freedom as they wanted. What they didn't have a lot of was time, and so the Warlocks quickly laid down all eight songs of their new LP. Heavy Deavy Skull Lover (Tee Pee) was released in October of 2007. It was their most sprawling, ambitious, difficult album yet, and it yielded the same mixed reviews as previous Warlocks albums. Even since then, the band's personnel has continued to change. In 2009 the band released The Mirror Explodes.


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