Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Operation MonkeyFace

Almost exactly a year since we faced off with the monkey in Smith Rock State Park. Since we now have the video to share, I thought I'd share the story-

Here's the vid-

Here's the story-

It was a smokey day in Southern Oregon, I packed up my subaru and jetted off. I thought I'd be going to Canada for a music festival. As I passed Smith Rock a few hours into my drive I decided to stop and take some pics of the infamous Monkey Face so that I knew what I'd be facing when it came time to mash up there with a drum set. Our kickstarter that we attempted to fund my vision hadn't come through so I was curious as to how we were going to accomplish this qwest. But I knew where I wanted to jam my drums. And I knew it'd be worth filming. 

3 weeks later I still hadn't left the park. I wandered the desert for days meeting all the right climbers and playing my drums all over the park, dragging them up and down the dusty slopes. I walked around telling people of my wild plot to play my drums on the giant Monkey. Luckily for me, most of the people who frequent/live at Smith are just as nutty and love to live for the adventure. I soon had a crew of badasses that agreed to help me with my goal. 

Now it was time to convince the filmers that I would not be wasting their time by having them cruise down to capture the venture. A few phone calls later I had Jerred North and Neil Karstetter convinced that it would be a worthy trek. (Luckily they had another job in Redmond that happened to time perfectly.)

Day 1 

When they arrived it was on. We had rented a tripod and had 2 days to accomplish this madness. It started with a nice spliff, and luckily our "sherpa" and I had hidden my drums in a cave half way up the park already. The journey was tough and definitely tested our limits both physically and mentally. The sun was hot and we had a lot to do in a short amount of time. 

Our friend Lorn climbed up there and set up the tyrolean that we used to get ourselves, our drums and camera equipment to the face of the monkey. Tying in to the line for the first time was the most nerve wrecking moment of the journey. Heart pumping and scanning a 250 foot drop and knowing that I had to "drop in." As we trolled all our gear over the line, the extreme exposure became less of a big deal. We finally got all of our gear across. It was then time to face the "panic point" the most extreme exposure of the climb. After a few hours of crossing people and gear over the line we finally had me, the drums, Tito (guide) and our film crew at the top. 

As we got squared away and set up at the top of Monkey the weather started to turn on us. The drums were fully set up and I was able to jam a bit, but the wind was picking up big time and we could see a storm on the horizon. I proceeded to take a bit of "medicine" knowing that this would be the jam of a lifetime. We were able to film for a bit but it soon became clear that the storm was headed right for us. Lightning, high winds and my elevated brain. Epic. As the storm rolled upon us like a wave our spectators on the edge of the cliff began to disperse quickly. The vibe began to feel like danger. Before I knew it, it was me alone on the monkey, facing the fear of being struck. I looked into the sky, feeling the intensity of the wind and told the Universe "this is not my day to die." Tito and Cam were getting the film crew safely into the cave on the monkey and I was staring at my drums wondering if I should play through or bail. All of a sudden Tito's head appeared over the edge of the monkey and he yelled that its time to come down. I walked to the edge and strapped in. As he started to belay me over the 450 foot fully exposed drop I began to giggle at the ridiculousness. 

We watched the whole storm play through along with an incredible sunset from a cave on the monkey, still 300+ feet in the air. It felt damn good to have the shelter though. Those were some of the best spliffs of my life. After the storm passed we had to climb back up past the panic point to stow my drums in their bags. We had to leave them at the top. We descended the monkey and crossed the line under the moon. By the time we had hiked back to camp we were beat. Sleep time. We knew we'd be getting up at the crack of dawn to do it all again because the storm had stripped us of our money shot. 

Day 2

Woke up early, prepped our gear and made our way back through the park to the monkey. This time was a lot smoother because we had worked out all the kinks on day one with using the tyrolean and our drums were already waiting for us at the top.

After spending an entire afternoon the day before up there the exposure was no longer as nerve wrecking. This time the weather was with us. The camera team made their way to their position and I set up my drums. Now all I had to do was play them! The jam felt great with a 360 degree view of the valley below and the outlying mountains on the horizon. I played through the sunset, and let the filmers get their money shot. Bangerang.

I waved goodbye to Jerred and Neil from the top of the monkey and watched them climb back into the desert. Their job was done for the moment. We then set up camp inside the cave and spent an epic night up inside the monkey. Finally relaxed. Our work for the film was complete.

Day 3

Woke up early and it was our mission to get the drums back down from the monkey and back across the line to real ground. Sketchy mission but it went smooth. The exposure was no big deal at this point. Theres a spot where the path is only a foot and a half wide and huge exposure to a 400 foot drop and I had to keep traversing back and forth and back and forth with every drum to get them to Tito who was then lowering them to the cave mouth down below. I was beyond stoked when this task was over. I was harnessed in but a fall would still have been a solid drop before the rope would catch. By the time we had all the drums back across the line and to solid ground I was more than happy to make my way across. That was it. I then packed my drums to a shady spot and decided to come back and get them later. (My amazing friends ended up bringing them back while I was in town having a celebratory beer!) The feeling at this moment was unbelievable. My part in operation Monkey Face was over, I had jammed one of the most epic places I could think of and I knew that Jerred and Neil had some footage of the first ascent of monkey face with a full drum kit.

Check out our Behind the scenes footage of the qwest!

Jerred then did an incredible job making that footage into what you see now on the vid. The hardest part from there was coming up with the soundtrack. We had found an amazing song by a band called Tune Yards and everyone involved had agreed that it fit the video perfectly. The lyrics even repeated
"don't take my life away" over and over! We decided to use it and were ready for our release. Jerred decided 3 days before release that we should contact Tune Yards management to see if we could use their song and we were denied. So the search continued.

I decided to contact Ananda Goldsmith and Luke Estes aka SugarBeats because I knew they were local and had met them a few times. I also knew they were great musicians. We showed Ananda and Luke the video and they were stoked for the challenge of creating a track.  After a lot of trials and learning curves it still took a lot of time and effort to come up with something that everyone thought worked well with the film. We finally just started from scratch. We ended up doing live recordings of my flute, didjiridoo, djembe and drum set and they did an organic mash up of all of it to come up with what you now hear with the video! Big ups to them for spending hours and hours in the studio making it magical.