Interview by Joseph Timmons of IndiePulse Magazine
Darrin Yarbrough of Darrin Yarbrough and the Shure Thing Band has made it far in music, from humble beginnings to stages of this nation with some of the top artists in every field. Join us as we explore the past present and get a glimpse of the future of his music.
- How did you get your start in music?
I was born with a birth defect that caused me to have chronic ear infections. From the day I was born until the age of five, I suffered through horrendously painful ear infections. The only way I could cope was to, rock my head back and forth, and hum to myself. By the time I was old enough for surgery, I lost all hearing in my left ear and 50% in my right. This rhythmic humming/rocking became my foundation for creating music. From birth, I’ve had a relationship with rhythm and sound. In that sense, I think music and consciousness were simultaneous events for me.
- What was your very first performance, was it everything you believed it would be?
My very first performance was in the sixth grade. We had to form groups and create a show for the rest of the class. The group I was in decided to do a (Mock) KISS concert. I was Ace Frehley. We had the makeup, costumes etc.… I brought an acoustic guitar from my dad’s closet. I smashed the guitar at the end of the show. It wasn’t until I was around 12-13 that I got a replacement. A God-awful green looking thing with a split down the back of the neck. I learned after I bought it from a garage sale, the split in the neck meant the guitar wouldn’t stay in tune. I figured out the riff for “Cat Scratch Fever”, which I didn’t even know was right until quite sometime after I gained some skill at playing.
The very first actual performance where I played the guitar. I was in the NAVY in the Philippines at Subic Bay in some local bar. A friend of mine from the ship played drums and I played and sang “Wild Thing”, and “Gloria”. we did the same thing around four months later in Brisbane Australia in a bar there as well. Finally, again in Hawaii about a month after that. We talked about getting a band together when we returned to Long Beach. But, talk is all it was and I didn’t get to play again until after I was out of the Navy and returned to home in Ventura County.
- Looking back at what you’ve done through the years, what would you say was the driving force behind your music?
Music is the driving force behind my music, which supports my explanation about my start in music. My emotional desire to express myself through sound, is based upon the pleasure I derive, from making sound, listening to the sounds, I’ve made. Intangibles like music can be, “Intuitively implied, although, not entirely understood”, and are often encountered by individuals jointly and severally in social or cultural situation’s. We relate to such phenomena viscerally…apprehending, in lieu of, comprehending because, it resonates within our soul in ways synonymous with, emotional equilibrium.
I suppose an artist can be distinguished as differing from a musician in the context of the profession of musician by definition is required to make use of the language of music to communicate musical ideas through sound to others. Whereas, an artist is compelled to take the already formed sounds imagined within his or her head and translate them into external sounds to share with others.
This characterization should be sufficient to explain why in one sense; music is the driving force behind one’s music. Whereas, another person may share the love of blues is the driving force behind their music, or rock, r & b, funk, also Beethoven’s “Fir Elise”, Mozart, etc…
Finally, the desire to communicate ideas from one person to another without the use of conventional language could be the driving force behind making music. A sort of empathetic connectivity is derived, creating a common bond using music as an alternative to conventional language. For me, music is the driving force behind my music.
- Who were some of your inspirations?
Musically, I found inspiration from Beethoven and Mozart, to Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison. I love Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Howlin Wolf, Eric Clapton, Cream, Iron Butterfly, among others.
I find definition for my own musical expression through studying the work of Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix’s and Led Zeppelin’s recording engineer) and Don Casale (Iron Butterfly’s recording engineer). Over time, my work began to take shape through the contrast between light and heavy, hot and cold, warm and fuzzy, cold and prickly. This sort of juxtaposition between two contrasting textures or elements of our surroundings is what I can use to generate empathy for themes and ideas expressed through interpretations of my music. Music is perfectly capable of standing alone independent of definition or explanation. But, choices made through our interpretations is where we find ourselves in life. Thus, enabling character growth spiritually, emotionally, physically, and intellectually. This is where I make progress understanding my life, discovering purpose and meaning through interpretations of my music.
- Who have you shared the stage with in your career?
I have had too many to note – Miles Davis, Ginger Baker, Mark Lewis, Eddie Van Halen, and Eric Clapton at Trancas Roadhouse, Jam Night, in Malibu. Buddy Sklar, Chris Pinnick, Chet McCracken, the guitarist for Jane’s Addiction, Tim Bogart, and Dennis Tuttle at Cheers (my) Jam Night, in Simi Valley. Kenny Dixon, Chuck Vincent, Fred Mandel, Chris Montez, Ringo Starr, Fred Rain, Dale Honsinger, Olivier Scoazic…
The most noteworthy influences in my musical experiences were, Kenny Dixon, Chuck Vincent, Buddy Sklar, Chris Pinnick and Chet McCracken, some of whom played in my band and also had me play in their band. My current bandmates in Saturday Night Bath are also pretty significant. Howard Rich founded the band in 1984. Markus Brox, Michael Rosen, Mikey Tulin, Chris Ross, and Dave Victorino Holland are all fantastic musicians whom I learn from every time we play.
- Tell us about your bandmates, and would you say you had a natural chemistry when working together?
Howard Rich is the bass player in Shure Thing and I met him through being auditioned for Saturday Night Bath. That’s Howard’s band, originally formed in 1984 (I was in the eleventh grade). Being a member of AFM Local 47, I auditioned for guitar in Howard’s band. I’ve been playing with him ever since. In return, Howard’s the bassist in my band. His songwriting is advanced and he is quite a student of formal music theory. What’s nice about Howard is his songs are really good and fun to play. Not necessarily always the case in my experience.
Markus Brox is the drummer for Saturday Night Bath and has played with Howard for about twenty years. Markus is fabulous and in lockstep with Howard. They hold the rhythm for Shure Thing together like most people do while breathing. So good in fact, the melody-makers can get lost in the experience (which is kinda consistent with the task). I don’t ever let that happen. The quality of what “I”, or any “other”, does, over the rhythm is dictated by that rhythm… (hence the name “Band”). Drums and bass are everything, the rest of us is just icing on the take.
Sometimes a band can feel like a marriage with the dynamics working the same way. The tension between the personalities is important. That tension can make the interaction exceptional, ordinary, mundane, or unpleasant even. In the dramatic scenario, there can be some exceptional instances but they are blended with good and bad moments that take away from the overall experience.
- Tell us about your recent release and your tour / performances.
The process of creating, “Jesus Hear Me Crying”, is a long and winding road that began with a sentence…”Jesus hear me crying don’t ya when I moan?” The lyrics were conceived during a trip to Las Vegas where I go to visit family. A couple years later, I wound up with a copper dobro guitar. I envisioned sounds of Mississippi Delta slide-guitar mingling with the lyric to “She’ll be Comin Round the Mountain”. Intrigued with the concept, I looked up the origins of the children’s song, only to discover, the song is an adaptation of a much older, “Who’ll Drive the Chariot”. That song originate’s in the Antebellum South possibly as far back as 1780. Used by chain gangs, prisoners would sing to the rhythm, while hammering the railroad, tying the East coast to West across America.
Essentially, I believe the collective consciousness of humanity chooses to use artists as the instrument for expressing a piece of work. I can choose to say this is how these objects are conveyed to us, or I can offer some other explanation. In reality, I can’t know that this is what happened. I can only attempt to articulate how the experience makes me feel. I believe the reason people like me, wind up doing what we do is because of an ability to offer a coherent explanation of the art. In the case of music, that is the definition for artist. We must be the focus that will convey the sounds that resonate throughout humanity, back to humanity. The greater the resonance, the bigger the artist.
- What would you say was your best and favorite performance?
I operate best when being immersed in work, the more work I have to do, the more work I want to keep doing. So, I’m at my best involved in playing music five nights a week. My favorite performances are all concert-type settings. I’ve played at The House of Blues in West Hollywood, the Canyon Club in Agoura, Many local carnival and fairs. I even played at California jails, honor farms, and schools. Concert settings are more intense, intimidating, rewarding, and exciting. Bar gigs, while being a consistent staple for work, are generally little more than functioning as a live jukebox. For the most part, bar owners want to sell liquor and review register receipts. There is a tricky path that winds through the notion of good band and concert band. Bar bands are not supposed to draw the focus away from drinking, dining, and dancing. The band has to be good enough to entertain, but not so good. the crowd shifts focus from each other, drinking, dancing, and conversation. I merely mention this because the pitfall that can happen to a band is becoming good enough to be putting on a show. If that happens and the band has no plan in place, they can lose their bar gig’s, but also have no vehicle in place for the transition into concert venues. I have had this happen to me and I lost bar dates, and had no other dates.
- What would you say was your strangest performance?
I used to play every Sunday at the Boys and Girls Club thrift store in Ventura on the avenue. The owner of the store had a stage built in the back corner. He had a punk rock band, and occasionally would use the store as an underground concert venue. During every Sunday afternoon, we would hold a “shop while you rock”, show and play for 3-4 hours in the store. It was a sensational novelty that many shoppers appreciated, as did the store employees. At some point, they discontinued the operation because of the shareholders audit. They didn’t want any potential conflict to interfere with their annual profit/loss statement (at least, that’s what we were told). We did come back and revisit the event a few months later. But, I think the momentum was lost and the novelty wore off, we couldn’t sustain the event. We did do this for about a year.
- Looking at your long road here, to where we are, what would you like your fans to know, how would you like to be remembered?
My dream has always been to be a great rock musician who pioneered groundbreaking innovations in recording, songwriting, and entertainment. In my youth, I specifically identified, “being one of the most influential rock bands of the decade”, as one of my goals. Faced with the possibility of this becoming a reality at one point, I became terrified, not because of what was real, nor because of my goal, but because of the things I could not imagine or estimate. I did not feel comfortable with being some 20-year-old kid who espoused, pearls of wisdom involving knowledge about life and its experiences when I had none. I chose to pursue a path of songwriting and production, reserving wisdom and knowledge for my later years when I actually had some.
I would like my fans to know about the process of being an artist is a very human experience. I want to be remembered by my efforts to share the process of creation with fans. Instead of only showing a perfect finished product, leaving the impression successful artists have something exceptional that distinguishes them from other people. The old adage, “Success is 5 percent inspiration and 95 percent perspiration”, holds true. I believe it’s more like 3 percent inspiration and 97 percent inspiration.
- What’s next for you as far as possible albums or special news you would like to share.
I believe successful people make many, many more mistakes than other people. It is this difference, that distinguishes successful characteristics from other character traits. The writer Stephen King explained this as collecting rejections (NO’S) and posting them on a spike he drove in the wall. “For every “Yes”, I get a thousand “NO’S”, so I’m always collecting my, “NO’S”. Stephen says this in his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”. After his first thousand, no’s, Stephen King was given a $600,000 dollar advance for his breakout novel “Carrie”.
I have not collected all of my “No’s” yet, so I am shooting for an album completed by the end of 2017. I am going to gradually shift into the concert/festival arena with Shure Thing Band. I am still establishing the membership for Shure Thing Band, which could very well be finished or not, I really can’t speak for the minds of others. If Howard and Markus choose to stay, I’m fine with that. The place we’re at right now is a “record-ready” lineup. Collaboration with current band membership, will yield musicians capable of recording, artists capable of creating songs, and ultimately, performers who can entertain. Since, I am faced with this situation, it appears, I best be doing it.
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