PHOENIX The inspiration for some of Roger Clyne's most beloved songs have come from south of the border in his second home of Cholla Bay in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, just over the Arizona border.
But whether the magic would continue for Clyne and his band, the Peacemakers, on their latest and most ambitious project to date was a big unknown.
In January, Clyne, drummer PH Naffah, guitarist Steve Larson and bass player Nick Scropos packed their instruments, microphones and basic recording equipment, drove down to Mexico and locked themselves away in a rented house on Cholla Bay with the goal of writing and recording eight songs from scratch in eight days.
In the end, the "Turbo Ocho" project was an overwhelming success.
The band not only reached its goal of recording eight songs, but it came up with eight stellar tunes that are destined to be RCPM concert standards. And Clyne, who is as much a philosopher as he is a musician, ended up writing some of the strongest lyrics of his career.
"We didn't know if it would actually be eight songs. It could have been Turbo Zero, it could have been Turbo Dos. But we shot for eight in eight, and that's what we got," Clyne told the Deseret Morning News before RCPM's "Turbo Ocho" album release concert in March.
The genesis for "Turbo Ocho" dates back to 2001 while Clyne and Naffah were at the Arizona ranch owned by Clyne's father, which had a teepee on the property. Naffah said it would be a great spot for RCPM to seclude itself and tap into its creativity.
"(He said) 'We should get the band out here and do the teepee EP ... five songs ... you know, see what we can do in five days,'" said Clyne.
The idea was continually put off due to the band's constant touring schedule but came up again in 2007. This time, Naffah suggested going to Rocky Point and doing eight songs in eight days. But in addition to the four band members, the Peacemakers took along a skeleton set-up crew, a person to videotape all their work and producer/engineer/mixer Clif Norrell (The Refreshments, Rush, No Doubt, R.E.M.).
"It was difficult actually, in almost all aspects. First of all, we didn't know if we could get an internet signal down there. We didn't know if the power was going to be too noisy to record. Transportation and gear, importation...all those strange issues you never see on the surface. But we got everybody down there same place, same time and hit record on the first day," Clyne said.
The first song was "I Speak Your Language," the most pop tune of the CD. Although the band was now one for one on songs completed per day, it was also the start of what would become many late nights, early mornings and large quantities of coffee consumption.
"After that first song was finished . . . I remember going back to the place I was staying and thinking, 'Oh crap. That was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Now we have to do seven more,'" Clyne said with a laugh.
But the band learned from the first song that the best way to proceed was to simply trust each other and truly work with a team mentality.
"You don't know how hard it is to be a team until you start hitting snags, obstacles," Clyne said. "Each time everyone came together."
One of the biggest obstacles for the band was a severe lack of sleep that started to catch up with everyone by week's end. But Clyne, who writes all of the band's lyrics, found that once he got into writing mode, he couldn't stop.
"Sleep deprivation was really good for me actually," he said. "I found that the less sleep I got, the more focused I got. Everything became poetry and it almost became ridiculous actually...How am I going to pick out of all this fruit, what to create a song out of? It wasn't the scarcity I was worried about it was too much information. It was finding almost too much sacredness in everyday mundane things. Like I can't really write 'Ode to a Kitchen Sink' on a rock record although right now I feel I could."
Songs two through eight turned out stronger than song one. Rather than write another "Banditos," Clyne's best known song, RCPM showed its maturity by not being afraid to take chances and explore arrangements. The result was were songs such as the masterful "State of the Art" and the groove-driven "I Can Drink the Water," a song whose vibe falls somewhere between War's "Low Rider" and "Oye Como Va" from Santana.
The biographical bluesy "Summer #39" took on a playing-on-the-front-porch feel after Larson suggested using a resonator guitar and a mandatory "everyone plays barefoot" recording session.
The band showed it could still produce straight-forward rockers with "I Know You Know" and "I Do" while the haunting "Persephone" found Clyne masterfully taking the famous story from Greek mythology and looking at it from the point of view of Hades.
One of the best songs on the album is also the one written with the greatest emotion. Turbo Ocho took an unexpected turn and could have potentially been derailed after the fourth song was just completed when Larson received a call that his mother, who had been suffering for years with diabetes and liver problems and who still lived across the street from him, had died.
Clyne told Larson he was free to go home. But Larson noted there was nothing he could do at that point and chose instead to stay with with his other family, the band, and finish the project.
What happened next may forever be the great shower debate of the Peacemakers.
The day after Shirley Jean Miskovich died, Clyne came up with the song "Mercy" with its powerful hook line, "You already shine." Clyne says he was listening to Larson talk that night and claims he said the Turbo Ocho project with the band was a good place for him to be at that time because that was where he was "allowed to shine."
"I said, 'I don't think I said that.' 'Shine' really isn't in my vocabulary," said Larson. "I'm thinking in my mind, 'I did not say that.' (But) he wrote a song and he's excited about it, let's see the song, we'll figure it out later."
It wasn't until the band wrapped up recording and returned to Arizona that Larson said he remembered the events of that night as telling someone he had "already showered.""It's a good thing I kept my mouth shut," Larson said with a chuckle. "It doesn't make it any less of a song, it's great. Now it's in the song as this really great, intense lyric....I'm kind of like, well I wish I had said something that profound."
If you go ...
What: Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers
Where: The Paladium, 415 W. 600 North
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
How much: $15
Phone: 467-8499, 800-888-8499
E-mail: [email protected]