The influence of pioneering Desert and Stoner Rock bands like Yawning Man, Kyuss, and Queens of the Stone Age can be felt far and wide. The Palm Desert Scene may have been confined to a particular part of Southern California in the early ‘90s, but guys like Joe Yapp in England are still digging the sounds.
Joe Yapp is the man behind the solo project El Peyote, and the release of his debut self-titled EP on Bandcamp comes later this month. From the first blast of guitar on the opening track, “We Have Liftoff,” it’s evident Yapp grew up listening to the powerful riffs from QOTSA. In addition to his love of Desert Rock, Yapp has had his own world travels and experiences in real-life desert landscapes.
Yapp is from Dorset, South England, and he’s traveled through the Australian outback and scrublands of Mexico. He says he loves blending layers of intense, high-octane riffs to create harmonies that paint the picture of a psychedelic experience in the desert. He recorded “El Peyote” on the farm where he lives and works in South England, and he’s ready to blast the jams out into the universe.
I got a chance to talk with Joe recently via an email exchange about his debut EP, his travel experiences, and more about his musical influences.
Interview with Joe Yapp of El Peyote
Third Eye: One question I always like to ask musicians is, how do you get into music initially? How old were you when you first started writing songs and playing music? And what were your favorite bands growing up?
El Peyote: I started playing guitar around five years ago at 22 years old when I was bored at university in Liverpool. I soon became obsessed and started annoying everyone in my house, playing loud, sloppy power chords through a cheap practice amp. I loved learning how to play the songs I had listened to from when I was a kid, lots of early Soundgarden and Queens of the Stone Age.
I moved to Brighton after university and got into the music scene over there, playing guitar more at gigs and jamming with various musicians. Making songs came naturally a couple of years ago. My first proper demos were recorded in Australia for another solo project called “Mindmelter.” I started writing songs for “El Peyote” a couple of months ago, and within a week, I had 8 to 10 demos recorded. The creativity was really flowing!
Heavy Guitar Riffs, Solos, and Jams
Third Eye: “El Peyote” was a solo project, and you played every instrument on the EP. Can you tell me what the process was like writing and then recording all the songs yourself?
El Peyote: I’m currently living on a farm in a caravan I have decked out into a studio and have called it the “Shred Shack.” I recorded the guitars and bass DI and messed around with some plugins for the tones. The drums are a mixture of MIDI and loops. I tried to mic up the instruments but getting good recordings with all the farm noises was hard.
I focused on my strengths for “El Peyote” and emphasized heavy guitar riffs, solos, and jams. I sent the demos to be mixed and mastered remotely by Domenic Maggi of Caldwell House Studios in New Jersey. He was awesome and really helped to bring out the energy in the songs, and we messed around with some psychedelic sounds.
Adventures in Mexico
Third Eye: “El Peyote” is super interesting because of the travel experiences that inspired it, such as the trips you mentioned to the scrublands of Mexico and the Australian outback. Can you tell me how those incredible travel experiences influenced the music on “El Peyote”?
El Peyote: Thanks! “We Have Liftoff” is a song about overdosing on hash in a mountain village in Mexico. We were looking for some mushrooms and asked around where would be a good place to get some. We ended up following some directions and got lost, spoke to some random people who lived nearby. They were friendly and offered us a few bong hits.
Soon after we left, it kicked in. My heart was racing, and I couldn’t feel my arms or legs. It started to rain heavily, and we found ourselves scrambling up the mountain, trying to get back to the village. Not sure how we got back, but I remember lying down on a hostel bed staring at the ceiling and couldn’t move for several hours, feeling like I had left the atmosphere!
Losing Track of Time and Reality
Third Eye: During your travels, you took part in some ancestral ceremonies in Mexico and Australia. What was that like? How difficult was it to gain access to something like that?
El Peyote: It was amazing. It’s not hard to find a “shaman.” I found out by asking the locals. They are keen to share the experience with travelers (for a price).
Third Eye: I also read that you had a spiritual experience ingesting peyote, the sacred plant. Can you describe what this experience was like on the hallucinogenic?
El Peyote: I was nervous initially and felt quite sick as it was really bitter! It took a while to kick in, but when it did, the trip was vivid!
I felt like a marshmallow melting into the ground. I lost track of time and reality and transcended into a deep meditative state, pondering the meaning of existence and my place in the universe! I did not experience any visual hallucinations, but I felt quite hazy and spent a lot of time staring into the sky. It was an incredible healing experience for me, as I was going through a lot of personal issues at the time and needed something to open my eyes.
Stoner Rock Inspirations
Third Eye: El Peyote definitely seems influenced by the American Palm Desert Scene and bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, and Yawning Man. Can you talk about that influence and your affinity for Desert Rock?
El Peyote: I’ve always been into Queens of the Stone Age since watching them on Kerrang and MTV as a kid. I found out about the Desert Rock scene and other Stoner Rock bands a few years ago, and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since!
I’m influenced by the high-energy riffs, sweaty drums, and downright crazy sounds from Josh Homme’s “Desert Sessions” and Yawning Man’s “Vista Point.” The Stoner Rock genre really brings out my creativity!
Third Eye: I’m based in Philadelphia in the U.S. and love talking to other musicians from other countries. So, what’s it like in Dorset, South England? Are you from England initially? And where else have you traveled?
El Peyote: As you can imagine, Dorset in England is the polar opposite of the desert in California! Bournemouth (where I’m from) is a small seaside town with not much going on. There are some nice sandy beaches but that’s about it.
I’ve always been a traveler; I’m in my element when I’m exploring somewhere new! I lived in Cairns, Australia for a year as a backpacker, hiking the rainforests and outback towns and making some demos. I spent time in mountain villages in Nepal and have been traveling around Italy a lot with my girlfriend; we recently went to Sicily.
What’s Next for El Peyote
Third Eye: What’s next for you and El Peyote? Are you working on any new material? Do you plan to play live shows?
El Peyote: I went through a “post-record push” stage and have already made several new demos I could use for the sequel of “El Peyote.” I’m exploring the idea of collaborating with other musicians too see what new sounds can be bought to the table for the next EP. I’d love to play these songs live one day! I need to find a drummer and a bass player first, though.
The “El Peyote” EP is available for pre-order on Bandcamp now. The full release date is July 29, 2022, so don’t miss it!