Between the mid-’90s and mid-aughts, you could frequently find Red Earth concocting its “tribal stew” of funk and reggae-laced hard rock all around New Mexico. While the band hasn’t performed since 2006, this week it reunites for two shows—one at the Gathering of Nations and the other as part of the Rock the 9 Native Music Festival. Last week we asked lead singer and guitarist Ira “Icemon” Wilson questions via e-communiqué.
When did Red Earth form and what was the inspiration?
We formed way back in ’92, ’93, originally as a thrash metal band called "Ruination." We also played some bars under the name "Cheap Dates" just to have some fun and play bluesy cover tunes and classic rock. After becoming completely bored playing other people’s music ... we tried our hand at writing original tunes. Being the young warriors we were, you can imagine we had a few things to get off our chests. The treatment of our beautiful Native people—history will tell you—we were screwed. We got to draw on that energy both spiritually and artistically. Naming the band Red Earth was empowering because it gave props to our culture and gave us a platform to raise the middle finger and say "f*&k you" to the man.
When did it disband?
Interestingly enough, we never “officially" disbanded. It just kinda happened. One day some of us woke up married with mortgages, children, or feeling like we hadn't really pursued life's adventures because we were waiting around for something to happen with the band. Next thing you know we're scattered all over—Brazil, Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., New York. A few of us are still in the 505, or 575, or whatever we call it now. It was a nice hiatus.
To someone who’s never heard it, how do you describe Red Earth?
If you've ever had a really good Spam sandwich, and I mean an EXCEPTIONALLY good one, then [you] know exactly what Red Earth music is all about. Greasy, greasy, greasy! But DAMN good!
What was the process for reunion rehearsal?
Basically, it's been a lot of Rolaids (A LOT), prayers and smudging, Bengay, Viagra, Hydroxycut (gotta fit into the spandex). We'll know once we're all in the same room—so far so good. After the last train-wreck rehearsal I was about to call a medicine man to do a sand painting on the practice pad floor! Kidding ... dang, you just had to ask that question. Jeebus!
What are the misconceptions about Native music?
We don't all wear feathers, moccasins, leather and fringe on stage. We don't all have power crystals. None of us can "summon our Eagle Powers" at will. ... Most of us can't afford a fog machine or a fan to blow our raven hair around whilst performing. And lastly, we don't all sing about how sacred everything is, and how in harmony we are with Mother Earth. We do like booty ... AND beer. I keep saying we're one day gonna have 30-foot dream catchers onstage with pentagrams in them, and we're gonna light them on fire!
What do you want people to know?
I want people to know that teeth whitening commercials on TV are an insult. "OMG! I'm wearing a Versace dress to my wedding and my teeth aren't white enough!" There are babies and elders starving on reservations somewhere! Pull your heads out of your asses!
On top of the abundance of exciting Native music being performed in Albuquerque this week, Saving Damsels—the rock band fronted by Rock the 9 Native Music Festival co-founder JJ Otero—will be releasing its debut album Empty Rooms on Saturday, April 24, at the Launchpad as part of his festival. Otero says the album, which has been in the works since 2008, contains soulful vocals, a little twist of old-school country and jam-band-style lead guitar. Read more about Saving Damsels right here on alibi.com.