Real Savage Henry Disbands but Releases LP
In my exclusive interview with The Real Savage Henry, I asked if they will go public for the first time in my column about their disbanding the band, word I heard from them on the QT after their “last” gig at the Mercury Lounge back in May, as well as talk about making their final LP, Más Salvaje – during the breakup – released October 2018.
Four of the five members – Andrew MacInnes [keys, bass, guitar], John Pagliassotti [lead guitar], Wilder Kehke [vocals, guitar, bass], and Will Hettel [percussion], and myself met at their rehearsing location in IV, and the fifth band member, Stephen Yogi [violin], present by my request via facetime, the band wryly saying, “We use androids and don’t do social media, but we will take advancements from Del Taco.” Also present was the band’s newest member, 6-month-old black lab, Arlo, named after Arlo Guthrie.
Andrew, John, and Wilder played music together in high school in Orange County, mostly acoustic folk rock. Will and Stephen grew up in Half Moon Bay; Will with a strong diet of metal, death metal, prog-metal, jazz and bebop (“it’s very fast and technical”), and Stephen playing violin since age two, coming from jazz and classical. The band became a blend of their music.
The interview went well, and they were happy to spend time with one another, having not been together since recording Más Salvaje in June. Indeed, no bad blood here, despite the LP cover art.
Q: The band’s breaking up with a new LP…
Andrew: Well, yeah, we had told some peeps but yes this is our first official announcement of both our breaking up and our final LP, it’s our Beatles thing. This LP is the best of our music. Even though we knew the gigging was over, we wanted to do this. We had songs in the can, cash in our hands, but we had limited time as we were all in transition. We knew we could record; we had the material. We finally got the scheduling, but it was going to be tight.
John: We recorded everything over the course of a weekend, sixteen hours in June. First day was baseline tracking, and next was solos and over-dubs, a lot improvised on the spot, in one to three takes. We were in a rush to record it.
Will: After we got it recorded, Elliott [Lanam] our producer was doing his own thing with it over the next few months – he’s the one with the talent. Once he got it where he wanted it, he asked for our preferences.
You had three prior LPs: Salvaje 2017, Salvaje 2016, and More From the Savage Den 2016…
John: Yes, our first two EPs we recorded ourselves with two SM57 mics hung over the band and the crowd screaming.
Andrew: We decided we saved enough money playing gigs to go into the studio for the first time, for Salvage 2017, and then went back with the same producer to do Mas Salvaje. We wanted a quality production. It was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Elliott at Hidden City Studios in Santa Barbara. He randomly hit us up on Instagram, saying he listened to our gig and loved our music.
He is a one-man operation, but he has all the tools and is awesome. He is amazing and gave us exactly what we wanted.
Mas Salvaje Track List has three songs from prior LPs: “Braided,” “Sharp Cheddar,” and “Stripes”…
Andrew: Some of our songs on the new LP are new, and some we’ve been playing since day one. One of the saving graces of our band is, early on we were writing music at a rapid pace and had thirty to forty songs in the first year.
Will: We’d mash songs together at our gigs and develop them, like “No Love Here No How” switches time signatures on each measure.
The LP nods to what?
John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra on “No Love Here No How,” Jeff Beck’s “Diamond Dust” layering of strings on “Stripes,” and to John Coltrane for his version of “My Favorite Things” and “Take 5,” which we dropped into “Sharp Cheddar” making it our take four and six.
Who exactly is the Savage Henry?
We got the name from Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas, when they made up a fake person called Savage Henry.
And what about your motto, “Saving rock n’ roll one backyard at a time”?
That was our humble beginnings. We cut our teeth playing backyard gigs. We built a reputation there, then did UCSB gigs and started being paid. That led us to playing in clubs downtown.
What do you want the fans to know?
Wilder: We’ve been doing this for four years. My life’s really changed 180 degrees from where I thought it would be when I showed up in this town, and I’m so grateful for what this became. For our fans, the music is never stopping. I’m coming back in January 2019. In the moment, I’m just grateful for what this band brought together. I came to love this town and the people that I met in it. This band brought more people together than I can keep track of. We did it whole-heartedly all the time and I’m going to miss it – it was really cool.
Will: Being in a band and staying relevant is a very large time investment. It’s difficult logistically with five members. From my point of view, our first LP was to get fans and gigs. The second LP catered more to ourselves, and immortalized our songs even though we aren’t performing anymore. I owe 80 percent of my college experience to this band and the music scene. I can’t be more grateful for it; it brought balance to my life, more than I could have imaged or hoped for.
Stephen: I’m super-proud of this LP. It’s sad we won’t be playing music for an extended period of time, and yet in other ways it’s nice so we can experience new adventures.
John: For our last LP for our fans, we wanted to do a really sick album and draw from all corners and build a holistic piece of art. As for breaking up, it’s distance, school, and obligations, Andrew’s at UCSB and Will and I just got jobs. Isla Vista has an amazing music scene, but after four years, it’s total strangers with all our fans graduated and us as the old guys – now it’s weird. I don’t think anyone is [thinking] like, “It’s over, we’re never gonna play together again.” We just don’t know when.
Andrew: Thank you to all the people we met, the fans that supported us along the way, and to my bandmates who are my brothers for life. I’m not surprised about the fun that we had, but I am surprised about the art that we made. And now that it’s on record, those memories and experiences are immortalized and forever there, and I’m happy that whatever we did, we did with our best intentions and gave it our best shot.
That’s the way it is, the short history of the catastrophically punk-retro-psyche fest rock band, who, in four years, accomplished their own genre and recorded four LPs. Their guitars threading not shredding, keyboards doing psych-rock meets early Mumps punk, George Kollias-style drumming, crazy violin etudes, and Bowie-esqe vocal tempos in a Robert Plant echo chamber.
It’s a full ride – take it.