Abbey Road, Fat Mike and the Joshua Tree National Park :an interview with Vanessa Silberman



In early November Vanessa Silberman was in San Francisco to record some tracks for an upcoming ep and for a concert at Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco. I got the opportunity to sit down with her and talk with her about some of her experiences, favorite vegan hangs, and her upcoming ep.

Vanessa Silberman and DJ Strangeblood at Lucky Recording Studios in Brisbane, Ca.

Vanessa Silberman and DJ Strangeblood at Lucky Recording Company in Brisbane, Ca.


SB: I learned that you’re vegan during your last tour. Have you ever been to Crossroads?

VS: I haven’t. I tried to go once, I had heard about it for a few years and it was closed. Me and a few of my friends we went to try to get some food there but that evening we got there it was closed for the night already. But, I’ve heard its amazing.

VS: What are some of your favorite vegan restaurants? I love Café Gratitude, which, they have that in LA and here. There’s a place, I think it’s called Millennium, and it’s in Berkeley, I think it used to be in SF, and the owners re-opened it, I think its Oakland/Berkeley on College and it’s amazing. Some other places I eat a lot, especially on the road are Whole Foods and if you’re on the road, I don’t know, I tend to go to a lot of grocery stores, because then you can make salads and stuff like that. Let’s see there also a few other grocery type stores that have really good healthy food. I guess in LA there’s one called Lassens. It a grocery store, kind of similar to Whole Foods and they do a lot of different vegan options, sandwiches and wraps and smoothies and pre-made stuff, raw food. There’s also another place I like that’s called Erewhon, which I really like a lot. If you’re a band on a budget and looking for something and there’s only fast food places I tend to eat at Chipotle or I’ve done Subway a couple of times. How about you, do you have any favorite places?

SB: Um, well there is a new place that just opened in Santa Cruz, it’s called Veg on the Edge, it’s West African.

VS: OMG, I love Ethiopian, is that similar?

SB: It’s a little different, One of the guys that owns the place is Nigerian. They (will soon) have Jallof rice, it’s a really spicy rice, and he (the owner) was saying that West African meals are easier make vegan than Ethiopian meals because they don’t use milk, whereas Ethiopian meals use dairy. It’s a really great restaurant. The next time you’re in Santa Cruz you should check it out.

VS: I’d love to, you know the last time when we were in Santa Cruz we ate at the Saturn Cafe. We liked it. Actually all of us went. Carissa, Mikel, Reed.

Vanessa Silberman at Lucky Recording Studio in Brisbane Ca., Photo by Photo by CJ Lucero/@rangegrinder

Vanessa Silberman at Lucky Recording Company in Brisbane Ca. Photo by CJ Lucero


SB: You grew up in Berkeley?

VS: Yeah, Partly close to Berkeley. I was born in Berkeley, actually.

SB: What were some of you favorite clubs to go to see live music growing up?

VS: Growing up, I went to the Gilman a couple of times, like when I was in high school. But mainly, when I was going to school here it was a lot of punk shows at community centers or at school or at kind of random places. Just being younger and under age, you know I had friends and they kind of tended to pull it together you know more community center all age shows. But, like I mentioned I did go to the Gilman a couple of times and to some of the larger concerts. When the radio station Kamp KOME used to be around you know they had what now is the substitution for what they have now, the BFD from Live 105. One of those big festivals, you know Shoreline Amphitheater kinda thing.

Vanessa Silberman recording for an upcoming ep. Photo by CJ Lucero

Vanessa Silberman recording for an upcoming ep. Photo by CJ Lucero

  ‘I really want these songs to make a difference in my life and a lot of other people.’


SB: Why did you move to LA?

VS: For music. Yeah, I always, since I was pretty young knew I wanted to be in and go to LA. I just knew that it was going to kinda be part of my path and I just felt kind of drawn to it, and the entertainment world. Actually I ended up going to school in Sedona, you know my last year in high school but I didn’t really complete it. So, I got my GED and got into a music school in LA, and part of like you know growing up with parents and you know what parents might suggest to their kid about having some kind of backup path or plan, and I was just like I’m just going to go and do music and go there but at least do some form of school to get yourself kind of figured out and do some form of constructive stuff without just aimlessly going there you know. I went to a school there called Musician’s Institute and I did some guitar for a few months and then ‘intro to the music business’ and artist development kind of program and to me it was like, “alright you know if I’m going to make the money until I’m a successful musician I’ll just get a job in the music business”, so that was my whole concept of going to LA.

Mikel Ross, Vannessa Silberman and Reed Mullin from VSB

Mikel Ross, Vannessa Silberman and Reed Mullin from Vanessa Silberman Band Photo by Arrow Ross

SB: Can you talk a little about the work you’re doing now in the studio?

VS: Sure, myself and Reed Mullin from Corrosion of Conformity and Mikel Ross, they recently kind of started backing me under the last year as the Vanessa Silberman band and so we started touring together. They were fans of my music and what I’d been doing and we all actually met when I was a recording in-house assistant at 606, so I kinda knew them for a while and we toured on some of these songs and some of these songs we really knew and so right now we’re recording some songs and we’ve been working on the drums and they’re pretty rock and raw and I feel from what some people have said some of the best songwriting material that I’ve probably put together so far. It’s really cool to have these guys. They’re a real solid rhythm section, super supportive you know with my music and they’re also fun to collaborate and I think that’s part of why I’m doing solo music, because you know I had a band for about 12 or 13 years before but with solo music you know it kind of allows you to do a lot of different things and a lot of flexibility you know to work with different people and to try different things out you know and I just really wanted that you know and right now we’re just trying to get the songs as best as possible. I really want these songs to make a difference in my life and a lot of other people. I really want to bring a lot of positivity and hope through the songs you know the songs are pretty personal.

'I really want these songs to make a difference in my life and a lot of other people.' V. Silberman. Photo by CJ Lucero

Vanessa Silberman. Photo by CJ Lucero/@rangegrinder


SB: Do you plan on performing more states together as a group in 2018?

VS: Oh, definitely yeah. You know, we’ve been talking and we have some plans in the works for SXSW, and I think we all want to do more shows so (we’re) indefinitely planning it out and just continuing to discuss it. But, I think for right now we’ve got some stuff in the works, there will be a single and music video coming out which actually is a song we actually recorded on an off day on our first tour that we did together in March. The song is called OK, and we’re going to be putting that out soon so people will kind of get a feel or an introduction to what that will be. But right now we’re just trying to focus on trying to get the best songs we can recorded and quickly after we’ll solidify our plans.

SB: When do you expect the new record to come out? What label are you currently with?

VS: I have my current artist development label you know that I’ve released my own music on and worked with other bands. I’m also an independent A & R. So, thus far I’ve put out my own music. But, I’m definitely looking and we’ve been talking and I want to team up with some other label for the release so I think we’ll be trying to figure that out for early 2018. No exact date yet, but definitely early 2018 for the ep.

SB: Can you talk about the women’s songwriting workshop (Girls Rock Santa Barbara) where you were a participant in Santa Barbara this year?

VS: Yeah, actually myself and Carissa Johnson, who opened up for us on our West Coast tour,  we did that workshop (where) we played  few songs and then we did  Q&A, but actually with the whole artist development thing and my label that I do (A Diamond Heart Production) in addition to recording and being an artist, Carissa kind of does some of the same stuff. She has a company called Fuel Heart Productions and so A Diamond Heart and Fuel Heart kind of came together to offer a workshop for not just women, but everyone and all ages where it covers everything. I do consulting and sometimes with my label, (I) help bands come up with release plans or you know sometimes people don’t know their next step and its so helpful to have, say an artist or someone who has a hand in the business but has both views to help figure out what the next step is or it could literally be anything. I’ve worn every hat as far as releasing. Sometimes people don’t know if ‘I’m supposed to tour?’ or ‘am I supposed to release my music first?’ or ‘how do you go about booking?’. The fact is, a little over two years ago I completely started from scratch with all of my experience, I started touring solo and I played somewhere around 330 shows or something, so I can tell someone, ‘Ok, this is the experience I’ve had’. Carissa’s been touring a lot she’s also really big in her scene on the east coast. So we have two views, one view from the west coast, one view from the east coast. Someone who’s a little bit younger, someone who’s been around in the business a bit longer and maybe had different jobs but we both can give each other a fresh perspective for the audience to see and hear about, especially building from a beginning artist stage and up. Also (it’s about) building a team. Carissa helps beginning bands on the east coast. That’s pretty much what we’re doing and we’ll be doing that more and building that more. I think it’s really cool, you know, when I was an artist just starting out I’d have someone who had experience, (and) who’s already doing stuff to have some ideas to help to know where to go next. That whole thing was really helpful for me whenever someone helped me so to be able to offer that I think that is something valuable for a lot of artists.

'After I'd had this conversation with him I remember getting the record and when I went out to Joshua Tree, I decided to spend the night there and I spent a lot of time listening to Abbey Road and writing' V. Silberman Photo by CJ Lucero

Vanessa Silberman Photo by CJ Lucero/@rangegrinder

‘After I’d had this conversation with him (Fat Mike) I remember getting the record and when I went out to Joshua Tree, I decided to spend the night there and I spent a lot of time listening to Abbey Road and writing’


SB: Can you talk about the song ‘American Folk Rock’?

VS: There’s a lot of interesting back stories for that song. One, was that the song was inspired by when I was working as an Assistant Engineer, there was a period of about 3 months where I was working every single day and I’d been trying to go to Joshua Tree for a long time, through the desert and I just hadn’t had the chance and randomly one weekend we had a session where we were going to record that day. A week before I was assisting on a session with Fat Mike who started Fat Wreck Chords and we were talking about female bands and success and stuff and he was mentioning why there weren’t more female bands that were successful and he was like ‘Every female musician should go and buy Abbey Road’. After I’d had this conversation with him I remember getting the record and when I went out to Joshua Tree, I decided to spend the night there and I spent a lot of time listening to Abbey Road and writing and so the first line in American Folk Rock I mention Abbey Road and that was one part of the thought, but the rest of the song is extremely personal and (was about) times when I was feeling lonely. The other back story about that song is that it was recorded in South Africa when I did a producing label project with this recording studio called BOP Recording Studios and it was this old label connected to this big studio out there in northern South Africa in this region previously known as Bopa Botswana in this place called Mafikeng and I basically went out there to find an artist, group or band to do a singles project and I ended up finding a hip hop group and writing with a bunch of artists from that region and when I was there on the last day I had the chance to record this song and I did it in a live room with one microphone and it was kind of like a nod to old country blues artists where you can have the most expensive studio in the whole world and just use one microphone with the hopes that it would capture a song in a simple form and where I wanted to do stuff like that with my most recent ep. You know, I’ve got this incredible studio where American Folk Rock was done with just one mic and another song for example like Shine you know where I did some recording of the vocals in a bathroom and recorded everything pretty much in a box. So, I just wanted to show a bunch of diversity and American Folk Rock was different from anything I’d put out before in my prior material.

Space is the place and other concert reviews

‘If you find earth boring, just the same old same thing. Come on sign up with outer space ways incorporated‘-Le Sony’r Ra

The Sun Ra Arkestra Performing at SF Jazz center's summer festival

The Sun Ra Arkestra Performing at SF Jazz center’s summer festival

It’s hard to imagine the year is already in the back stretch. There have been quite a few good concerts in the bay area this year, including the Sun Ra Arkestra on August 6th at the SF Jazz center. The concert we caught was the final night of a 4 night stretch which boasted different compositions each night. Led by longtime alum and maestro, Marshall Allen the Arkestra once again made good on their word to take every member of the audience to outer space.



Maestro Allen has transcended above any doubts fans might have had of whether he and the Arkestra would be able to adapt to a world without Sun Ra himself still in it. In fact, Sun Ra‘s very presence seems to be now somehow channeled through Allen as their compositions continue to inspire and evoke communication and the culture from some distant planet. Throughout history, many musicians and cultures have longed for an extraplanetary connection only to seem destined to fall short of such communications. The Arkestra has quite a track record for such a connection, not unlike the Dogon tribe in Mali.




8.6.17 The Sun Ra Arkestra performing their fourth night in SF

8.6.17 The Sun Ra Arkestra performing their fourth night in SF

Sun Ra was well known for his compositions and improvisations as well as his ability to draw the Arkestra‘s talented and devoted group members. It does appear that Maestro Allen also serves as an inspirational musician who plays alto saxophone, flute and EVI. The EVI is an electronic wind instrument which Allen uses in a way not dissimilar to the way Sun Ra utilized synthesizers to explore sounds that enter our auditory realm from outer space while the band rhythmically swings and bops and paints auditory landscapes. Joined by saxophone, bassoon and flutist Danny Ray Thompson, alto saxophonist and singer Knoel Scott the group performed a wonderful version of the Sun Ra classic ‘Dreams come true’.





Farid Baron, Tara Middleton, Marshall Allen,  James Stewart, Knoel Scott and Danny Ray Thompson

Baron, Middleton, Allen,Stewart,Scott and Thompson

Michael Ray is also a longtime trumpet player and member of the Arkestra is also know for his work in Kool and the Gang, his own group Michael Ray and the Cosmic Krewe and other groups as well. The band also included singer Tara Middleton, percussionist ElSon Nacimento, Cellist Kash Killion and guitarist DM Hotep. Pianist Farid Abdul-Bari Barron plays in a wonderful barrel house style that fits in so well with the Arkestra and he is a wonderful spirit to have in the group.







For another take on the Arkestra and on Sun Ra, please have a look at my first vlog here.


Vanessa Silberman, Reed Mullin and Mikey Ross at the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz, July 25, 2017

Vanessa Silberman, Reed Mullin and Mikey Ross at the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz, July 25, 2017

On Tuesday, July 25th L.A. based guitarist songwriter Vanessa Silberman brought her tour to the Blue Lagoon in downtown Santa Cruz. Her band included Reed Mullin (Corrosion of Conformity, Reed Mullin Music) on drums and Mikel Ross (Dreamstar Productions, Lucky Recording, Inc.) on bass. Playing a short but blistering set the trio played loud and fast, supporting her 2016 self titled EP. The edgy rock written by Berkeley born Silberman likens back to post punk era 90s such as Scrawl and Nirvana. Those folks put on an amazing set and brought along Boston singer songwriter Carissa Johnson as an opener.







On Monday June 19th the one and only Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry performed at the Catalyst atrium in Santa Cruz with NST & the Soul Sauce from South Korea. It was one of two bay area shows, performing at the Mezzanine in SF and at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival. Performing alongside the dub pioneer was Subatomic Sound System, a Brooklyn based band who toured exclusively with Mr. Perry around the US performing the classic Upsetters record Super Ape, from 1976.

Lee 'Scratch" Perry at the Catalyst Club on 6.19.17

Lee ‘Scratch” Perry at the Catalyst Club on 6.19.17

Lee Scratch Perry with member from Subatomic Sound System performing in Santa Cruz

Lee Scratch Perry with member from Subatomic Sound System performing in Santa Cruz



This year’s incarnation with Noah Tha Riddum Doktor and Subatomic performed the single they cut with Scratch entitled ‘Black Ark Vampires‘ as well as well know including ‘Zion’s Blood‘ and ‘I am a madman‘. Perry tours extensively and the 81 year old singer, producer and inventor of Dub music has a storied career with his years at Studio One, the Black Ark, with producer/engineers Adrian Sherwood, the Mad Professor and others.





Inventor of Dub Lee Scratch Perry performing one of 3 West Coast shows in Santa Cruz

Inventor of Dub Lee Scratch Perry performing one of 3 West Coast shows in Santa Cruz

Originally born in Kendal, Jamaica, Perry‘s mother was of Nigerian ancestry. He now lives in Switzerland and tours Europe extensively performing with Sherwood and Mad Professor in England, Pura Vida from Belgium, and has a new release with Cookie the Herbalist  from Switzerland entitled Ease! The master of dub proves that he is still a force to be reckoned with his quirky style and energetic shows. Wonderful sets from Perry and NST & the Soul Sauce.










A-Plus from Hieroglyphics/Souls of Mischief and Knobody are part of Grow Theory

A-Plus from Hieroglyphics/Souls of Mischief and Knobody are part of Grow Theory

On Sunday, April 30th, Adam Carter AKA A-Plus from Souls of Mischiefand Hieroglyphics brought his Spring Cleaning tour from Oakland to the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz. With a set that included Hiero classics such ‘You never knew‘ as well as the Souls of Mischief hit ‘93 til Infinity‘, and music from his solo career including Patna Please.

Joined by Producer Jerome Foster AKA Knobody,  A-Plus performed with DJ Nocturnal and refers to this group as Grow Theory. Their anxiously awaited record is in the works and will be yet another group coming from the Hiero Emporium record label from the sunny side of the bay. Nothing but fun times every time I make it out to see any Hiero member and certainly they make the bay an exciting mecca for fans of old school hip hop.


The night prior to that stellar night of Hip Hop was Saturday, April 29th and we had a wonderful opportunity to see Oakland saxophone legend David Murray performing with Chicago native  and AACM member Kahil El’Zabar at Don Quixote’s International Music Hall in Felton, Ca.

David Murray and Kahil El'Zabar Duo

Kahil El’Zabar and David Murray Duo

David Murray and Kahil El'Zabar at Don Quixote's International Dancehall in Felton, Ca.

Kahil El’Zabar and David Murray at Don Quixote’s International Dancehall in Felton, Ca.



In addition to being a band leader and session artist Murray is well known for being a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet. He has received many awards including the Village Voice magazine’s ‘Musician of the Decade’ in 1980 as well as winning a Grammy in 1989 for his band’s recording ‘Blues for Coltrane‘.






David Murray was kind enough to take a photo with me after the show!

David Murray was kind enough to take a photo with me after the show!



Kahil El’Zabar performed with many legendary musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderly, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder. El’Zabar is known for his bands including the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Ritual Trio, TriFactor, JUBA Collective as well as being the recipient of the 2012 International Ambassador’s award in the Arts from former President Barack Obama.

Soulful and rhythmic with infusions of dance, spoken word are some of the memories this wonderful concert left on me. The Duo has three recording out together and they played efforts ‘We Is‘ and a number of other repertoire songs that captivated fans and audience members.