High Hopes: Red Racer

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What happens when two transplanted South London rockers arrive in the vast, strange emptiness of the California desert? For Red Racer frontman and songwriter John Hogg, an extended stay at the legendary Rancho de la Luna studio in Joshua Tree – the recording powerhouse for Queens Of The Stone Age, Eagles Of Death Metal and many others – was a major culture shock. Freshly inspired, he and musical partner Sean Genocky scrapped all their pre-prepared material and started from scratch.

“The atmosphere was much more potent than I imagined,” Hogg recalls. “You’re in the middle of this humming, deathly silence. Very alien to anything I’d ever experienced before. The environment seemed to demand that we completely abandon everything and start again. So we just ditched it all. We were there for two-and-a-half weeks and we ended up writing and recording this whole album. We just seemed to be driven by the silent energy of this strange place.”

Initially working alone, Hogg and Genocky completed the bulk of Red Racer’s debut album at Rancho de la Luna. By the end of their desert sessions they were joined by an all-star guest list including Queens/Eagles stalwarts Dave Catching and Joey Castillo, plus Chris Goss of Masters Of Reality. The end result is Define, a terrific collection of ragged blues-punk, muscular power-pop and riff-chugging desert rock.

Red Racer is built on friendships stretching back decades. Hogg and Genocky first played together in Moke, a late-90s blues-rock band who released two albums on a US indie label. Moke disbanded early in the new millennium, with Genocky concentrating on studio production. But friendships forged on tour proved useful when Hogg was invited by Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson to join his nascent side project Hookah Brown as singer and co-writer.

“We did a few tours and I got to know him really well,” Hogg says. “We recorded maybe an album’s worth of songs, but when he got to the deal it all became complicated and skidded off to the side.” A Crowes reunion finally scuppered the project, but Hogg and Robinson remain good friends.

Returning from California, Hogg and Genocky put the finishing touches on Red Racer by bringing in bassist Jesse Wood, sometime model and son of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. Hogg points out that Jesse is an old friend and is wary of exploiting his famous name to promote Red Racer. “He feels comfortable talking to his friends about that stuff,” Hogg explains, “but he welcomes being able to avoid it if possible. If it’s a pressure for Jesse, he deals with it pretty well.”

It was at Jesse’s wedding to TV presenter Fearne Cotton back in July that Red Racer finally found their musical mojo. With Hogg on drums, Genocky on guitar and Wood on bass, an informal reception jam helped the trio make the shift from project to real band. “Something clicked,” says Hogg. “Suddenly it sounded like the actual music for the first time. The world’s most punk rock wedding band? Yeah, that’s what we are.”

Define is released on October 13 via Dissention.

FOR FANS OF…

“In the seventies, pop was all big shoes and white suits,” John Hogg recalls. “Then suddenly there was this guy with orange hair staring at you – Johnny Rotten. Here was this bloke, in your face. Everything seemed very different after that. I look at old clips of Lydon talking and it’s just the truth, it’s very powerful.”