As many of you are aware, before Maryanne (known now as The Therapists) there was another band, a band that ... well, just read on.
As twisty and unpredictable as their former name, the Sand Rubies' history is a little bit drama, a little bit tragic, a little bit redeeming, a little bit aggravating, a little bit triumphant. In other words, the end result was always larger than the sum of its parts, and synergy is what this band was all about.
The Sand Rubies, known as the Sidewinders when they began in the spring of 1985, had carved out a niche in Tucson, AZ with the tools of whipsaw guitar and impassioned vocals -- a finely-honed pop sensibility in perfect co-existence with a melodic driving sound. They were a true original in the genre of roots rock, typified later by many other bands who have followed in their noisy and poetic footsteps. It was as though they had made the Mesphistophelean bargain without knowing it - they would be too big and too good, too soon. It would bring them great joy in the beginning, but it would also tear them apart before their time had come.
The big sound of the Sidewinders was a windstorm whirling out of the desert, sweeping up legions of fans who heard the expanse of sand and sky in Rich Hopkins' crunchy wailing guitar and the by-turns soaring and howling vocals of David Slutes. What kept you entranced was even at their loudest and angriest, the listener was always welcomed into the story, never alienated.
On the strength of the 1988 self-released Cuacha! and tireless playing in the Southwestern region, they were signed and subsequently brought forth two mature and consistent releases, Witchdoctor (1989) and Auntie Ramos' Pool Hall (1990), on RCA/Mammoth. Touring took up most of the late 80s and early 90s for the Sidewinders, when the industry at large and their careers in particular were both headed in the right direction. The stumbling block that led to the abyss came in 1991 when the band was sued over their name by a Raleigh covers band. It was a long, ugly fight to keep something that was as integral to them as their own names. In the middle of this turmoil, the band lost their support at RCA, and got cut in the roster shuffle when the label changed managerial hands. They shed the Sidewinders and became the Sand Rubies, and struggled on for over 18 months, recording an album with several big name producers. The stage was set. They could still be huge.
Nigel Grainge of Ensign-Chrysalis arrived on the scene fully intending to take them where they deserved to be, but instead delivered the death knell when financial difficulty and the loss of Ensign's American distribution deal left the band labelless for the second time in less than a year and a half. The self-titled release came out at long last on Atlas/Polydor in 1993, but the momentum was lost. Bruce Halper and Mark Perrodin left before the album was even released, taking the engine of the machine with them when they went. Dragging themselves along on with replacement players, a whole lot of emotional baggage and little tour support took its toll very rapidly, and the Rubies stopped cold in the middle of the tour for the album. Weary and at odds with one another, their musical stories of betrayal and broken hearts coming too close to real life, Hopkins and Slutes parted ways in mid-1993.
But they were creatures of the desert. And every living thing that comes from the desert possesses that core of resilience that makes survival possible, even if it sometimes means means hiding from the worst of the heat. In early 1995, Rich compiled a collection of live recordings, Sand Rubies Live, intended to be a send off for their fans. And then came the idea of performing a local show to support the release. Both David and Rich had individual projects and other works in progress, but wanted to give it a try anyway.
April of 1995 saw hope reborn when they played Tucson's Club Congress, a place they called "a lot like home"; where it had all begun the first time. Then over a year later on Easter weekend 1996, they played Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, and it was like they had never been gone. All it took was standing in that tiny packed room for both the band and the crowd to feel an energy and electricity that was more than those walls could contain. Little did anyone know this would end up being more than just a reunion show, or a way to sell a send-off to their fans. It was the beginning of the return to their legendary status.
Electric Ballroom: October 1996. David crows at the end of their set, "we're back, get used to it!" And they discovered that they really wanted to be back, that it could be fun and meaningful once more. Mark Perrodin was hesitant to re-commit himself full-time, and so guitarist Robin Johnson (Gentlemen After Dark) came on to play bass that winter, and the band played more frequently around Tucson through the fall and winter of 1996. In March 1997 they made a late-night, jam-packed appearance at SXSW, and then won the dubious-but-emotional award of Best Reunion Band at the Tammies (Tucson Area Music Awards). They were writing new songs, and ventured to slip the new material in wherever they could. Buoyed by the reception of crowds everywhere they played and their re-found confidence in themselves, they returned to the studio in May of 1997 and began the recording process for their first new release in nearly five years, which stayed unnamed almost until street date.
The re-emergence was a long time coming, and the grass roots support reappeared as soon as the buzz got around that the band was on again, but even this phase was plagued with its own pains and tribulations; bassist Robin Johnson encountered serious personal and legal difficulties and was out of the band by July 1997. The Rubies soldiered on with help from Ken Andree of the El Paso band New Texicans, who alternated gigs with Mark, and eventually, Mark Perrodin made the decision to return to the fold. The local and regional touring continued. The album was slowly getting made.
Finally, in June 1998, after toying with working titles and last-minute track changes and re-mixes, the Sand Rubies offered up their first release in five years, titled with their entire tongue in cheek, Return of The Living Dead, on San Jacinto, the label that spawned the first of their brood over 10 years ago. The band threw themselves wholeheartedly into the world of DIY record release with the assistance of Contingency; working the press, throwing CD release parties in three cities, gunning for sponsorship and visibility. At that very same time, Contingency solely released their tribute to Sand Rubies fans everywhere, in the form of a compilation of tracks from the band's long out-of-print Mammoth/BMG albums, Witchdoctor and Auntie Ramos' Pool Hall. The release, titled The Sidewinders Sessions, featured 15 tracks (including one previously unreleased) hand-picked by David Slutes and Rich Hopkins.
Late in 1998, the German label Blue Rose got the licensing deal for Return of The Living Dead, and January 1999, in conjunction with San Jacinto, released one of the band's final offerings, Release The Hounds, a collection of cover tunes stretching from the band's inception to their Atlas recording sessions of the mid 90's. January 1999 was also an exciting time for the Rubies and many of their European fans when they toured Germany for the entire month (due to other commitments, Mark Perrodin stayed behind and Ken Andree took on bass playing responsibilities). Unfortunatley confined touring quarters and trouble for one of the band members stateside, resulted in the tour being cut a few days short and the eventual demise of the band, again.
In late 2000, one of the band members released a poorly compiled 12 CD-R "box set" consisiting of photocopied artwork, and one track per disc CD-Rs. The set contained a collection of live shows, cover tunes and demos spanning the bands entire career, many of which have been previously available in some form or another. The set also included bootlegged copies of the Sidewinder's Witchdoctor release, listed as El Cuarandero, and the Sand Rubies' Release the Hounds as an extra added incentive.
Fast forward to the spring of 2001, which found our heroes reuniting, yet again, for a few shows to support and promote the reissue of ¡Cuacha! (v3.0), with the addition of a few "hard to find" tracks. Low turn out at those shows resulted in the band parting ways until the summer of 2002, bringing a few more reunion shows and their final release, the aptly titled, Goodbye: Live at Alte Målzerei, from the aforementioned, ill-fated German tour.
The fall of 2006 brought another reunion show, and unlike the handful of other reunion shows in 2002-2005, this was the first to reuinte the Sand Rubies as The Sidewinders with mainstay members: Slutes, Hopkins, Halper and Perrodin, since 1998. Rumored plans for another new Sand Rubies release have been postponed until 2007.
Check back with this site (or San Jacinto Records) as we will continue to update this page and bring you the latest information, because as you have just read, the path this band's history shows you just never can tell...
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