DB HOF NO. 45
The making of Kyuss’s “Welcome to Sky Valley”
released: June 1994
Rolling from Los Angeles into the parched sandbox of the Mojave, anyone familiar with Welcome to Sky Valley will see almost all the relevant landmarks along the 10 East freeway. The rows of windmills with 20-foot blades, the same ones that dominate the inside and back cover of the album; the sign that lets you know you’re about to hit Whitewater, the unincorporated territory with which Sky Valley’s final (listed) track shares its name. For Kyuss diehards, it’s like entering hallowed ground. For guitarist Josh Homme, vocalist John Garcia, drummer Brant Bjork and bassist Scott Reeder, it’s the physical and psychological precipice of the proverbial High White Note, the humming life-force of a hundred ultimate riffs and mountainous power grooves. For still others—legions of weedians, longhairs and music critics, it’s the birthplace of “stoner rock.” And Sky Valley is the album that perfected the then-non-existent form. (Full disclosure: It’s possibly my favorite album of all time.) Recorded in early 1993 at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys—after Elektra Records swept in and bought the band’s original label, Dali/Chameleon—it wouldn’t be released until over a year later. Foreshadowing what would happen in Queens of the Stone Age over a decade later, Homme and the band had recently kicked perpetually wrecked bassist Nick Oliveri to the curb and poached Reeder from the Obsessed. (Homme and Bjork had grown up watching the insanely talented southpaw play in desert rock progenitors Across the River.) Sky Valley also marked the departure of Bjork, who split from the band immediately after recording his drum tracks. What he left behind is one of the most deserving Hall of Fame legacies in the history of forever.
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