Divine Horsemen, the punk unit that tore up the Los Angeles music scene in the ’80s, return with a vengeance on July 17, 2020 with the rampaging new single “Mystery Writers.”
The song, a prelude to the release of an all-new 13-track collection, Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix, due later in 2020, reunites the co-founding members of the band, vocalists Chris Desjardins (a.k.a. Chris D., also the principal songwriter) and Julie Christensen.
Desjardins and Christensen, who were married during the mid-’80s, have not recorded together under the Divine Horsemen shingle since the group’s last release, Handful of Sand, in January, 1988. In all, they released four albums and an EP.
In 2018, Christensen — who spent six years singing backup for Leonard Cohen before releasing seven albums of her own compositions — appeared on five songs on I Used to Be Pretty (Yep Roc); that album reconvened the members of the so-called “all-star” 1981 incarnation of Desjardins’ first band the Flesh Eaters. The success of that album and a subsequent U.S. tour set the stage for the current release.
“Mystery Writers” will be available on Bandcamp.com. Purchasers who buy a high-quality download of the song will receive an unreleased, newly remastered 1987 live version of “Mother’s Worry,” recorded at the Rat in Boston. (A full-length collection drawn from that date and a 1985 gig at Safari Sam’s in Huntington Beach, Calif. will also see release in the future.)
Desjardins says, “The lyrics for ‘Mystery Writers’ began taking shape a couple years ago when I was starting to write songs again for both Divine Horsemen and the Flesh Eaters. The words went through many edits and cross-pollination with other good lyric scraps from songs I couldn’t quite finish or had discarded. I’m a big fan of the cut-up technique anyway, so after getting seven or eight solid lines with that, the rest of it comes intuitively, almost out of thin air. You open yourself up, and the ideas — whether they be musical, verbal or visual — will materialize.
“In Divine Horsemen songs, I often, too, like to create a dialogue with Julie, like characters in a movie — in this case a film noir. Musically, I told our guitarist, Peter Andrus, that I wanted to go for a kind of Link Wray/Exile-era-Stones/Raw Power-era-Stooges hybrid, and that’s what we came up with.”
Christensen recalls, “‘Mystery Writers’ is the first song of the new batch that Chris D. sent me to listen to and start work on, and it opens the LP we have in the can. Peter Andrus’ rockin’ first guitar lick and Chris’ inimitable first lines blew at me. I felt like I was back in the saddle, hanging on, and I feel the desire to do my part to bring this pony back to the now. Can you tell how excited I am about this?”
Like the forthcoming album, “Mystery Writers” was produced by Desjardins and Craig Parker Adams, who also engineered I Used to Be Pretty and co-produced Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin‘s widely praised albums Common Ground and Lost Time.
The 2020 edition of Divine Horsemen features lead guitarist Andrus, who appeared on Handful of Sand and its predecessor, Snake Handler( 1987). Another veteran of the latter album, keyboardist Doug Lacy, also returns to the fold on several tracks; he and Christensen both later sang backup for Oingo Boingo and the duo of Gaby Moreno and Van Dyke Parks, and Lacy has appeared on several of Parks’ other projects.
Filling the drum chair is DJ Bonebrake of the incomparable L.A. band X; he also was a member of the 2018 recording and touring editions of the Flesh Eaters (which also included X’s John Doe, Dave Alvin and Bill Bateman of the Blasters, and Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, all of whom appeared on the 1981 classic A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die).
Robyn Jameson, the longtime bassist for both the Flesh Eaters and Divine Horsemen, was earmarked to join the latter band’s reunion, but he was tragically killed in the summer of 2018. Stepping in to take the late musician’s slot is Bobby Permanent, a good friend of Andrus who is also partnered with the guitarist in an L.A. rehearsal studio.
Divine Horsemen took their name from Maya Deren‘s celebrated film and book about Haitian Voudoun rites. It’s no accident, then, that “Mystery Writers” brings some serious juju all its own.