New Valentine- Rusty Blades
New Valentine- Rusty Blades
Building the Wall- Rusty Blades
Second Face- Rusty Blades
Just Can’t Win- Rusty Blades
While visiting a girlfriend in New Orleans, actor/director Thomas Jane came across Rusty Blades who was busking in the Marigny district with a beat up ‘70’s Yamaha guitar. Jane was so taken with the street performers simple, raspy songs about violent love and self-annihilation that he gave Rusty his personal number and told him to look him up if he ever found himself on the West Coast, and that Jane would “see what I could do to help you out.”
About a month later Jane got himself a collect call from a payphone outside the famous Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Rusty had hitchhiked into town, “mostly by way of Dallas Fort Worth.” It was on that phone call that Rusty wondered aloud if Jane was “ready to put his money where his mouth was.” Being partly from the South himself, Jane felt obliged to show Rusty around a little, even offering him his couch for a few nights, until Rusty’s inebriation levels made that situation untenable.
But Jane was determined to put his coin where his teeth was. He took Rusty along to friend Scott Thomas’ (RINGSIDE) birthday party, where Rusty fell asleep in the musician’s bathtub, only to be discovered the next morning by Thomas’s nine year old daughter. But the two hit it off well enough (Rusty and Scott, not the daughter) for Scott to agree to take Rusty to over to producer and engineer Max Allyn’s Dig It! Studios, and the rest, as they say, is his story.
Max Allyn, an accomplished musician and consummate artist himself, was taken with the mercurial Rusty Blades. Jane was contacted and an agreement was forged “almost immediately” for Max and Rusty to cut a four song e.p. at Dig it! - to be bankrolled by Jane and released through Jane’s company Raw Studios, which up until the present time has been mostly known for producing high end, low volume graphic novels. But with Raw Studios recently taking their products digital (see ComiXology), it seemed a natural evolution from art to music. “After all,” as Jane so presciently said, “it’s all one’s and zero’s anyway.”
Rusty had access to Jane’s stable of guitars, and he carefully went through the process of down tuning and plucking each one, including a black Takamine G-series, a 12 string Alvarez and a 1932 Dobro, but he rejected all of them in favor of the beat up Yamaha, because it had “been down the road with me a while.” He did however put Jane’s 1953 Guild Sunburst to good use on the song ‘Just Can’t Win.’
Five songs were recorded for the four song e.p. in a whirlwind six day spin, with Max Allyn filling in instrumentation on all the tracks. Scott Thomas stopped by to sing back up vocals on ‘Second Face’ and noticed that Rusty was shy about recording vocals. “Rusty said, ‘On the street, I’m just a part of the scenery, like the birds in the trees. In here everbody’s starin’ at me.’” At Thomas’s suggestion, Rusty would take the tracks back to Jane’s house in Silverlake and lay vocals down in the actor’s bathroom. Jane stopping by on two occasions to watch the action “…but every time I went by the studio, the two of them would be passed out on the floor, on the couch, beer bottles all over. It was like, hey how’s this gonna get done?”
But get it done they did. The third time Jane stopped by after work late one Friday night, he found the tired but elated producer combing through a mountain of tracks. “We got her done,” Allyn said.
But Rusty Blades was “gone when I woke up. I don’t know how he got out cause I have the only key to the gate. Must have climbed the fence.” Left behind in the studio was his old Yamaha guitar. Jane currently keeps the Yamaha in his collection “as collateral. Not that it’s worth anything. But Blades owes me a new rug,” referring possibly to the short time Jane had interred Rusty on his couch in Silverlake.
It was during that short stint that Jane’s friend, artist David Mack would show up, usually with a model or two in tow, and the group would get into some late night sketching parties, with Rusty Blades providing musical accompaniment. David usually left a couple sketches behind, and one particularly expressive rendition of the singer became the album art for Rusty’s debut ep, ‘Don’t Come Home.’
The ep was mixed by Mark ‘Salty Dog’ Chalecki at Little Red Book, and a limited vinyl pressing of the record is reportedly being done at Rainbo Records. Raw Studios is releasing the four song ep through iTunes and most major digital outlets.
Also released digitally is a longer ep with straight acoustic versions of the four songs, plus the fifth song Rusty recorded, ‘Rebecca’s Song.’ Max Allyn: “I wanted listeners to hear the songs just like I heard them before we got dirty with it. There’s something raw about the naked tracks, just guitar and vocal.”
Jane: “’Rebecca’s Song’ just showed up on my desktop, a couple of nights after I had told Rusty about my sister.” (Jane’s younger sister died in December of 2011.) “I said, ‘What’s this?’ and he said, ‘Oh, Rebecca wanted me to sing that one for your sis. I asked Bec’s to look out for her, show her the ropes. She said they’s already skipping the light fantastic together.’”
Jane says the song “haunts him.” Allyn was equally inspired, and spent some personal time arranging the song long after Rusty had disappeared, even bringing in the talents of Stuart Cole for some chiaroscuro trumpet. “I hope he doesn’t mind we included it. But we couldn’t just leave it on the floor.”
“We opened up a little account for Rusty,” Jane says, even though the singer/songwriter hasn’t been seen since recording was completed in April 2012. “He’ll be back. I’m sure he won’t be leaving that old Yamaha all by itself for too long.” This is Raw Studios’ first foray into the musical marketplace, and according to Jane, may be the last. “I did it for Rusty. Cause I said I would. And I’m real proud of the work Max did. But the music scene is a red headed bitch. I’ll probably stick to comic books. And acting. And directing.”
As of this writing, Rusty couldn’t be reached for comment. Max Allyn says he heard him talking on the studio phone to a girl up north, probably San Francisco. “They were fighting. When Rusty hung up he laughed and said, “Well, I shouldn’t complain. I like my whiskey hot and my women strong.”
“Wherever he is, we hope he hears the finished stuff. I think he’d be proud.”
Jane says, “We’ll make sure he sees any profit, once I recoup my investment. Including the rug.”
—compiled from interviews by W.T. Underwood