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Reece desert scene

Nine Songs: Desertscene's Reece Tee

14 June 2022, 14:11

Reece Tee dives into the distortion-fuelled musical pool that inspired Desertscene as he prepares for a curated-stage at this year's Black Deer Festival.

“When I discovered Kyuss it changed the direction of my life; I discovered a whole new world, fans across the world who were in love with this style of music. I wanted to create a home for them all.”

This is what Desertscene’s co-founder Reece Tee tells me as he reflects on his riff-ridden Nine Songs list; a statement which perfectly epitomises the position of the UK-based brand - an homage to the heavier side of music, one that undoubtedly breathes unrivalled life into underground metal and rock. Originally launched in 2009 alongside Jake Farey with the intention of operating as a social media platform for all things stoner rock, the brand evolved into promoting some of the underground bands in the scene. “By 2012, we launched a festival to bring everyone together - that was the start of Desertfest”, he explains.

From London and Antwerp to Berlin and New York, the legacy of Desertscene now holds worldwide status. Specialising in the span of metal and rock subgenres, the UK-based promotions, booking and management agency shines a light on some of the world’s finest underground stoner, doom, sludge and psych artists. In such a tight-knit community, the first Desertfest back since Covid was a roaring success, Tee tells me. “It was the biggest and most well-attended festival to date, with 85 bands playing over the weekend! We added new venues in Camden and people were really hungry for it after such a long break. The fans are so loyal they really helped support us through that tough time.”

First launched simultaneously in London and Berlin, Tee considers that while he always knew the scene was targeted for a global reach, it was never anticipated to extend across the pond. “The thing about [the genre] is that it's niche, but you can go anywhere in the world and fans will turn up to see these bands. It’s been 12 years of organic growth, loads of hard work and some downs as well as the ups”, Tee says. “But, if you had asked me when we started that we would now be in New York with plans to grow in the US as well as all of the European festivals - then I could have only dreamed of that at the time.”

From the rhythmically sluggish and dense distortion of Kyuss and Elder’s incessant groove-ridden riffs, to Tool’s emblematic live performances and the silky blues melodies of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”, Tee’s Nine Songs encapsulate his career journey; an education and an evolution in how these tracks have shaped the dawn of Desertfest. Calling back to his opening comment, Tee’s choices perfectly surmise the sheer potential and power as well as the collaborative nature of music; bringing people with a common passion together and inspiring individuals to create spaces in which others can do so.

“The power of music has motivated me through my life and hopefully what we are doing with Desertscene and Desertfest we are becoming a small part of that rich music history, inspiring new bands and giving this [music] a platform for others to enjoy. That makes me so proud.”

“Schism” by Tool

“This track really brought my love of progressive and heavy together, the lead line and vocal drives the song and is an amazing piece of music, it was just the beginning of my love affair with the band.

“I watched them at their most recent performance at The O2 which was great but I missed them at Download festival years ago. I was stuck in hours of traffic to get to the festival and by the time I arrived they were on stage, but was so stressed I went straight to the bar and sank a few beers instead. I didn’t know much about them at the time, so beer seemed more important! On the Monday after the fest, I’m hungover, get home, I lay on the sofa and put on MTV and this track plays. It’s a mistake I cannot forget…what an idiot I am!

“Pre-Tool I would be firmly entrenched in older stuff like Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and these guys led me on a whole new path of discovery. What they do is unique, it's special, it’s Tool.”

“Green Manalishi” by Fleetwood Mac

“What I didn’t realise when I first listened to Fleetwood Mac was that there were really two versions of the band and the first version was the early Peter Green Fleetwood Mac. Like many young people I loved the later version of the band and only later discovered how great the Peter Green Mac was. “Green Manalishi” is the perfect example of what an amazing creative musician he was, similar to Pink Floyd's Sid Barret, he was a genius that went past the point of no return.

“It’s still on rotation on my playlists now, such an incredible song and one of the best of all time.

“As a guitar player myself I probably appreciate this now more than years ago, I’m in awe of how creative they were; blues derived of course, but creating magic that lasts for generations is something very special.”

“Convoy V” by Lowrider

“Following the underground success of Kyuss in the 90s a Swedish scene started to make some waves in the late 90s and early 2000s, Lowrider were part of that scene and Ode To Io, was a stand out for me. They made this album and then disbanded - this track really was on repeat for a long while and I longed for more music from them.

“Once they released this in 2000 they disappeared never to be heard of again. In 2013, after we launched Desertfest, I tracked the band members down and got them to reform for the festival. At the time they didn’t realise what we were doing with Desertfest and that there was a massive fan base waiting to see them. Since then they have been back playing together with a new album, so the track and band are very special to me.

“They are now part of the family at Desertfest, it’s always such a great live band that never disappoints.”

“Whitewater” by Kyuss

“I discovered Kyuss’s original album ‘Wretch’ which I thought was a brilliant album but I worked through the Kyuss releases this really stood out for me of sounding so heavy without trying. Hommes’ guitar work is fluid, it flows so naturally with these jam style breaks and the iconic vocals of Garcia make this track amazing.

“Kyuss changed my life, without discovering this band, there is no Desertscene, there is no Desertfest. The importance of the band who’s brilliance stayed firmly within the underground scene cannot be underestimated. This band is my inspiration.”

“No One Knows” by Queens of the Stone Age

“I first watched them at V Festival in 2003 and it was amazing - the band line up at that stage really had a special stage presence and the whole place ignited. Nick Oliveri is such a great bass player too, he really added something to that original line up that is missing today.

“This song really made me look backwards, firstly at the Queens back catalogue and then Josh’s previous band Kyuss, that really was the start of a passion for underground rock music that drives Desertfest.”

“Am I Going Up” by All Them Witches

“We had the band play Desertfest a few years back, this band has been doing great things for a while but this track really put them on the map in my opinion. I love the simplicity of it, and that’s what I really appreciate about lots of music, when the melody or the vibe of the song is enough to make it a classic.”

“Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones

“The intro to this is one of the best ever; I love the guitars [that build] with the backing vocal, it draws so much emotion for me and that’s what great music should do.

“This was one of those finds when searching through my parents' records as a kid, I’d play loads of Stones, Cat Stevens, The Doors - but this really stood out to me as a kid and really got me interested in guitar.

“This has 100% stood the test of time for me, this track still sounds fresh to me, and I think that of a lot of Stones songs. Many are timeless, and this is one of them.”

“Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd

“I was young but there was a lot going on in my life at the time when I discovered this track, the song and album really is the soundtrack to that period and takes me right back there on every listen.

“I was given a tape by my cousin; I was 12 years old at the time and just starting to listen to different stuff, this song changed my taste in music at that time. I became an avid Floyd fan, picking up every album released. Mates at school would always find it strange that I would be listening to this old band but I fell in love with them, even the early weird stuff!

“Something that really sticks with me is the solo and that could be said for the majority of Dave Gilmore’s solos, it’s simple but so melodic. As a guitar player, playing every note available isn’t what a great solo is about, it's about the notes drawing emotion and this is a masterclass.”

“Compendium” by Elder

“I was a fan of Elder pre this release, we had them for Desertfest and they were a firm crowd favourite. But when they released this record, it was a step up in my opinion. It is where progressive meets stoner rock perfectly. This band is always changing, it's difficult to put a genre on them and each release sounds different but for my taste, this is their sweet spot.

“I’ve seen them perform many times. They are another one of the Desertfest family, they have grown up with the festival and it's amazing to see them do so well! A few years back we had them at 150 capacity Black Heart and this year they were high up on the bill at The Roundhouse playing to 3500 people.

“They are such amazing musicians but they are also experimental; no one track or album is the same, they push the boundaries of what they can do as musicians and I can really appreciate that. People love the band and so do I.”

Desertscene will curate a stage at this year's Black Deer Festival, with a line-up that includes Orange Goblin, The Picturebooks, ASG, and The Sir Admiral Cloudesley Shovell
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