(I am beyond excited and honored to host this outstanding exclusive-to-Popthomology piece from writer/photographer AJ Dent, featuring an interview with Larry Parypa, the founder of the Godfathers of Garage, the Progenitors of Punk, the Sovereigns of Psycho, The Sonics, who will be performing at Seattle's Macefield Music Festival this weekend!!! WOW! Thank you AJ, Larry, and Jen Stippich! -- Marianne)

If only more people’s morals inspired music festivals!

For those unfamiliar with the story, Edith Macefield was the Ballard resident who refused to sell her 1900s-era farmhouse to developers -- even for a cool million. While the construction manager’s story goes that she simply thought it was too much work to move, her house has become a symbol for sticking it to the man and refusing to sell out. Her tiny home -- now surrounded by the Ballard Blocks -- was even a source of inspiration for the movie Up.

In honor of this smart, stubborn woman, in 2013 the discontinued Reverb Music Festival was reborn as the Macefield Music Festival. To me, that’s an even better legacy than any Pixar flick. I can’t think of a more fitting namesake for a celebration scattered across Ballard, especially one with such a strong local focus.

This year’s fest takes place October 3rd and 4th, and includes a comedy showcase, rock ‘n roll market, and over seventy freaking bands! Yowza. I don’t know what Edith’s musical tastes were, but I bet she could've found plenty of new favorite artists within that bounty. While there are simply too many groovy groups to give proper shout-outs to, I’ve gotta go ahead and say that Goodbye Heart, Bad Things, RA Scion, and Deep Creep are high on my recommendations list. And, gloriously, Friday night will feature the matchless, can’t-miss Sonics.
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In preparation for the big weekend, Larry Parypa, guitar god and founder of The Sonics, chatted with me about the jam-filled journey he and his bandmates have enjoyed since starting up over four decades ago.

“Playing locally is always special for us, and this fest really fits that requirement,” Parypa said about the Macefield Music Festival, then laughed. “I just hope it doesn’t rain that night!”

This weekend wraps up the band’s 2014 tour, but fans shouldn’t fret. The guys came out of musical retirement a few years ago, and have no plans of re-entering it.

“There’ll be a break, and then we’re going to start doing some final mixing of some new songs we’ve recorded. There’ll be an LP hopefully coming out within the next four or five months.” The new album is untitled at this point, but recalls The Sonics’ original, legendary sound.

“Everybody changes how they play music over time because of technology, because of the things that are available, and just their experiences, so we’ve been trying to capture how we stylized things back in the 60s. Not overly-complicated, for example.”

Having seen the music industry’s insane metamorphosis, Parypa sounds optimistic and affected at the same time. “It’s all changed so much since the time we stopped playing in ‘67 ‘til we played again in 2007. Forty years! Our producer, Jim Diamond from Detroit, kept wanting me to play as if I was 16 years old again [laughs]. Kinda hard to do! But that’s what I hope we did -- just that raw sound from years before.”

The Sonics’ rough-and-tumble rock has definitely influenced and been impersonated by numerous bands over the years, but you just can’t clone authenticity. A lack of technology actually helped create their signature sound and gave it staying power.

“Everything was so different back then,” Parypa described, “even things as simple as stage monitors -- they hadn’t been invented yet! We’d go out and play music, and really, without any monitors, you had to just listen to make sure you were playing properly with everyone else. And there was often no stage lighting for us, just a couple of lightbulbs on the stage.”

Parypa also remembers when radio and word-of-mouth marketing were all bands had to work with. “The communication, I think, was primarily just hanging up posters. There were a few radio stations, too, like KJR radio, that were very popular, so people would listen to find out which bands were playing in which areas.”

When it comes to today’s promotional tools like Twitter, said Parypa, “I stay hidden in the shadows, but I think it’s a great thing for communication and exchanging ideas and promoting events. It’s hard to imagine the whole music scene without that now.”

Thankfully, it wasn’t too hard for The Sonics to get the attention of a pre-Interwebz world. One of their many stand-out factors? Definitive photographs of them taken by the great Jini Dellaccio.

“We met her through our record label at the time, called Etiquette Records,” recalled Parypa. “She had done some photography for a band called The Wailers, and their bass player and lead singer also owned Etiquette Records, so there was that connection.”

“We went out to her house, which was in the Gig Harbor area, to do most of the pictures. Some of the photographs you see today, they doesn’t seem to capture, sometimes, the people that are being photographed -- the mood and what they’re thinking. And she was really good at that. And, of course, she was just a really nice woman.” I could hear Parypa’s smile in his voice.

(The Sonics, 1964, photo by Jini Dellaccio)

Parypa speaks more about Dellaccio and her stunning, stirring works in Her Aim Is True, a documentary about the artist.  

Thanks to supporters like Dellaccio and local radio stations, gaining widespread acclaim happened relatively quickly for The Sonics. Returning to live performances in this day and age, though, has actually been trickier.

“The first time we played again was in November 2007 in New York City, and when we got on stage, there were monitors there. To us it was really frightening, because they were squealing!” Parypa laughed. “It just wasn’t how we played music before, so we had to start from the very basics again and get used to monitor systems and people mixing our sound from off the stage, instead of us personally doing it on the stage. Totally different.”

But the power of punk prevails! Even with today’s shrieking monitors and sci-fi-like social media, the guys are making and finding fans in places Parypa himself would’ve never expected. When I asked him about a highlight over the past year, he was quick to answer.

“The crowd reaction in Mexico City! The people were so into it, and we didn’t have any idea that in Mexico they even knew much about the songs. But they knew all the lyrics and were singing them! We’re going back there to play about five cities throughout Mexico next time.”

After the release of their upcoming LP, explained Parypa, they’ll be going overseas as well. “We’ll start looking at booking different festivals, particularly in Europe and probably Australia, next year. It’s been crazy to be back on the road -- waking up early the morning after a show, meeting in the lobby, and running to another airport.”

“But! Who can complain after all these years to be able to do it again? It’s kinda cool. If anyone would’ve told me that, I never would’ve believed it -- that when you retire from normal life, you get to take off from where you left off before, forty years earlier!”

Sonics’ classics, such as their cover of Richard Berry’s “Have Love, Will Travel”, are still circulating, too. An ad for the upcoming fourth season of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown features the tune, and Parypa thinks it’s funny.

“I find it ironic that everyone seems to use that same song. Gosh, it was used on BMW, Land Rover, toothpaste commercials in Sweden [laughs], beer in Germany -- it goes on and on with that particular song for some reason. But it’s such a funky-sounding song, the tone that was generated at that time. If we tried to go back and replicate it, I don’t know if we could do it again. I don’t know what type of amplifier was being used, for example.”

Speaking of Sonics songs on TV shows this fall, Parypa clued me in to Sonic Highways, an HBO series created by the Foo Fighters. He explained, “Dave Grohl and others picked out eight different regions of the United States that they think had a lasting influence on rock and roll today. Places like New Orleans and Chicago, and Seattle is one of them, of course. They go to eight different regions and record at least one song from that region. Somewhere within that eight they’ll be in Seattle to play The Sonics. Should be kinda neat.”

It’s extremely cool to me that The Sonics continue to receive worldwide recognition -- exactly what their game-changing sound deserves. Seattle has been the first stage of generations of stars now, so much so that at times it’s almost a disadvantage for new performers. I lamented to Parypa that it seems the music industry is often a crapshoot, unfortunately.

“An unfair crapshoot,” he laughed. “That’s it!”

“There are so many good musicians, that sometimes it’s almost unfair that being really good at your craft doesn’t get you to the same place that pure luck does. You know, The Sonics certainly aren’t great musicians and we never claimed to be. No one’s ever accused me of being a great guitar player [laughs], it just turns out that for some reason -- by luck -- over the past forty years, people have taken some of that original stuff and it’s influenced how they present their package of music.”

“There are people out there right now that are so much better as musicians!” he emphasized. “They really know their craft. And, unfairly, many of them will probably never leave Seattle, even though they’re so good.”

“Then some chumps will go up there, like us, who really aren’t great or anything, but just because there was something unique about them and they got some luck, they’ll get attention.”

Well, I think it’s much more than just luck that The Sonics took off in the '60s and are still filling stadiums -- but man, is it nice to have such a genuine, humble guy repping the Pacific Northwest music scene to this very day.

Just as Parypa noted -- and Edith Macefield may have herself, if she saw Ballard today -- things have definitely changed. During The Sonics’ performance on Friday, there’s sure to be state-of-the-art monitors, righteous lighting, and countless people with their smart phones in the air, recording it all.

But no matter the trappings, it’s the power found within music, tight-knit neighborhoods, and artistic communities that makes life worth living every day. And, amidst land developers and home demolishers, it’s exactly what we should fight to retain forever here in Seattle.

Hope to see you all at the second annual Macefield Music Festival this weekend!