Joe Cirotti is another artist I have known for a long time, and one of my favorite guitarists. Watching him cut loose with a Strat and Marshall half stack fronting Only Living Boy a decade ago is an important memory. Currently Joe is leading his acoustic trio, conducting flat-picking magic on an old Martin. If you are a Radiohead fan…here is an absolutely gorgeous interpretation of Ok Computer.
Beneath the layers of upbeat major chord harmonies and deft pop production of a love song lies this image. Coiled, writhing. Existential terror as Emily Dickinson describes:
But never met this Fellow
Attended or alone
Without a tighter Breathing
And Zero at the Bone.
“Serpentine” combined with “mind” is especially horrifying. Reptilian non-negotiable predatory purpose superimposed on (dwelling within) mammalian skull, our locus of empathetic warmth and compassion.
Excellent writing, Gabriel.
Throughout our evolution, what is the one predator from which there is no escape? The one predator capable of silently killing, even when we are hiding in treetops for safety, seeking protection from larger carnivores below?
I want to propose an hypothesis.
The hypothesis is this: crowd-sourcing safety is the evolutionary driver for language.
Let’s step back 2 million years for context. Fight, flight, freeze, fuck. Our basic survival responses to new external stimulus. Fight (including hunting), flight, and freeze are physical movements under the control of each individual. Fuck — sexual reproduction — is coordinated and negotiated chemically via pheromones.
None of these responses require vocalization.
However, what would? Two million years ago, what would be the single most useful tool to ensure our species survival?
“There’s a snake on the branch above you.”
The ability to transmit instantly an image directly from mind to mind using sound waves.
There is a multiplier effect when suddenly ten individuals with twenty eyes and twenty eardrums are coordinating information from ten locations and perspectives. Incredibly powerful survival mechanism. This is what drives the evolution of language.
Once Homo became fully erect and disconnected diaphragm control from breathing, our ability to develop complex nuanced language evolved exponentially. We now use and practice language as play, enriching our experiences across the entire spectrum of human activities.
However, the fundamental purpose underlying all linguistic development remains: safety.
I want to propose a second hypothesis.
Freedom of Speech is not only a moral right, Freedom of Speech is a biological imperative essential for human survival. Surrender that right at your peril.
When considered at the level of DNA replication and generational transference, all speech is useful, and all thoughts are useful. This is our species-wide survival mechanism of individuals broadcasting their unique perspective from their location. And as individuals, we assess the relative accuracy and urgency of that raw incoming data from other people…
Luis Villarreal called to inform me his daughters had just been signed to Lava Records and would be recording their — as yet untitled — third studio album: autumn of 2020, in New Jersey, with producer David Bendeth.
“I’ll meet you and prep Dany’s personal Spearfishes for recording.”
“That would be wonderful. Thank you so much, Rick.”
After some thought, I decided to build two additional Spearfish™ guitars for her to use. Moria: a 24-fret ‘fish set up for drop D tuning. And Conquistador, this 22-fret Bare Knuckle pickups-driven light weight axe…which she fell in love with for soloing.
I made four trips to visit the band at their hotel and in the various studios, including one memorable day when Chris Buono joined us. Chris was also kind enough to lend Dany his personal Goshawk™ 6-string.
Ms. Villarreal was now equipped with four of my guitars for recording.
In addition, she used guitars from David Bendeth’s vintage collection. He has decades of experience with his specific instruments, knows their frequency mix slots well, and often pushes artists to use them extensively on albums he produces.
It is not an insignificant victory this album is exclusively a recording of Rick Toone builds plus select classic instruments from the 1950’s and 1960’s. I am deeply grateful to Daniela for insisting on using my guitars (and giving David a glimpse into my world).
A few months after recording I received a phone call from The Warning’s manager, Rudy Joffroy: “Rick, this is a courtesy call to let you know Dany will be pursuing endorsement deals with major guitar companies.”
As a solo builder, one thing I cannot provide artists is tour financing and major media exposure. Dedicating time and instruments I’ve built is…as much as I can gift. Sometimes, more than I can afford to give.
I love music, and I love to help artists develop.
I wish Dany the best of luck on her next steps. A beautiful afternoon she and I had together in her hotel conference room, listening to her playing and singing as I worked on the guitars, is a memory I treasure. Her voice in private, in person, is much more delicate and beautiful than anything I’ve yet heard recorded with the band. I do hope someday her more intimate playing is recorded for posterity. She is a major talent.
I also hope The Warning’s management team and Paul Reed Smith honorably attribute credit where it is due for the sound of the pending new album.
VIDEO: Gabriel Levi explores the newly rebuilt Spearfish™ Conquistador.
Gabriel Levi has a deep talent set. You may know him as a progressive instrumental guitarist, but his first love is actually singing. Recently he’s been branching out into solo productions and also lead vocals for Spirit Healer. Really digging the vibe of this tune…artwork matches perfectly.