The Bay Area gave birth to a group of talented artists/performers that mixed together original music, vaudeville, cabaret, fashion, art, showmanship and burlesque. The collective known as the Yard Dogs Road Show went on to make a full length documentary and sell out three nights in a row at the legendary San Francisco venue The Fillmore among many adventures. The drummer for YDRS went on to form Beats Antique who now sell out large scale venues across the country. Dark Beauty went one on one with Zebu Recchia aka Eddy Joe Cotton to ask a number of questions. We are excited to share this extremely special story with our readers as we take a ride on the gypsy train to the unknown…
Interview Meikee Magnetic
Where were you born, lived and where are you now?
I was born in a nudest colony outside of Providence Rhode Island in 1972. My dad was into motorcycles and my mom had a mohawk – she used to paint rainbows on the side of her head. Flecher (the director of the film) was born in San Francisco. We eventually figured out that our parents followed the same guru and there was a good chance we had met as kids. The guru used to do this thing in Florida where he stood on this tall platform with an enormous water cannon and sprayed rainbow colors over thousands of people dressed in white. That might be where this idea of creative community started. I now live in the country north of San Francisco and Flech lives in Berkeley.
In the beginning you were a trio (Flecher Fleudujon, Miguel Strong, Zebu Recchia) and eventually gained talent becoming a live vaudevillian extravaganza. Was this an organic process of players coming on board? Share some stories:
When I first met Miguel and Flecher in Oakland in the mid 90’s they looked like they had just walked out of a smokey 1940’s jazz club. I knew immediately that something really cool was about to happen. Like the Beat Generation or dolphins. But that wasn’t it. Our fate was to join a band of puppets with our friend Jody. Maybe puppets named Fart Fire are cool, I don’t know but that’s how it started – a pile of dirty, sweaty puppets made from couch cushions that smelled like pot. We were puppeteers and this eventually spawned the Yard Dogs Road Show. So, yes, it was organic in a mid 90’s East Oakland kind of way.
How would you describe your role in YDRS?
What were the hardships for everyone keeping together such an intense creative collaborative?
Childhood trauma is no joke. If you want a constant reflection of all the ways you were failed as a child, start a band. Art is a magnet for people with low self-esteem. So, at times, it felt like we were all trying to prove something. Now I look back and see a group of young artists earning their wings, learning to walk in beauty. Thoreau inspired people to talk to trees. We inspired people to dress funny and pretend they were living in Charlie Chaplin’s post DMT imagination. The amazing thing is that if you pretend long enough the trees will actually talk back, and that (for me) is what it was really all about.
Seeing Yard Dogs perform 1st hand is quite the experience, there’s nothing really like it to date. From custom made costumes, musicianship, story telling to a glittery circus of glam. The dedication and years of work is pretty hard to imagine but I’m sure rewarding. Who was in charge of certain tasks back then and why?
“A Glittery Circus Of Glam”. I think you nailed it. If glitter was biodegradable and you could throw as much of it at the world as possible, in every color imaginable and have it sink deep into the collective unconscious and explode out of people’s eyes in rainbow laser beams and dark crystals. Why not? Even if you’re wrestling with a room full of angry ghosts and drunken tigers. Why not? We all had a role to play in YDRS. There were managers and there were bozos – both unpredictable and necessary.
Yard Dogs Road Show, Bassnectar, Beats Antique, GlitchMob… all came out of an explosive universe of creatives reaching back to 1995. Beyond Race was for me one of the pioneers where we all gathered. What do you remember about those early days?
I first saw Sunev from Beyond Race on his motorcycle at a Rainbow Gathering with a porcupine needle sticking out of his nose. He did not fit in. I had been riding freight trains and smelled like creosote. There was a moment of recognition there for me. We would eventually inhabit the same creative ecosystem in SF. As for the urban incarnation, there was an energy cascading out of rave culture at that time that was earth based, traveler and tribal. It found expression spinning fire on the side of the road. It found expression at Burning Man. YDRS eventually brought the vaudeville acid freak out.
“What the Yard Dogs and our community did (I see as a) part of a larger creative evolution that will always be inventing itself. It thrives in parts unknown.” This is your quote and it rings true. The community of artists hasn’t stopped expanding, are there new projects out there we should be aware of?
I said this because what we did during that time was not (for me) about the form. The form mutates. It’s the intention and the courage to be constantly disrupting our collective truth. It’s not about stacking chips as much as it’s about throwing your cards all over the table. Show us your creative truth and we can all learn from it and be less scared of each other. There’s talk of making a TV series out of my book HOBO. We’re hoping to take that story deeper into the “mystic realms”. I’m loving Afro Punk. I get a sense (if it isn’t already happening) the next larger creative movement will be international, multicultural and it will embody an ancient and sacred truth. It will come from a place in the world that has been cultivating this energy in ways that most westerners cannot even comprehend. There will be no blinking lights, PVC shade structures and fake fur. It will be like mother nature coming back for her children.
Any musical future plans or future screenings for the documentary?
We want people to watch the film with friends projected on an old sheet on the back of a barn somewhere with crickets and healthy food.
What message would you like to leave for the next generation of creatives?
Look to emerging international culture and subculture. Support global vision and diversity. Oh, and pay attention to Jim Carrey. He’s either gone batshit crazy or he’s truly onto something. Or maybe the plant medicine is having its way.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
The courage to express our collective shadow with style and grace.