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NIGHT LIFE

Mark Andes' Little Brother Has First Date : Veteran rocker is back for another go-around with a new group at stop-the-dump benefit concert.

June 24, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

All the usual suspects from the music biz will be on hand to share their views and blues on dumping the dump. The Stop Weldon Canyon Dump benefit will take place Sunday night at the venerable Ventura Theatre. Twice--at 7 and 9:30 p.m.

Singers will include David Crosby, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Alan Thornhill, the Desert Rose Band and Little Brother. Thornhill, Chris Hillman of the Desert Rose Band and Mark Andes of Little Brother actually live in the Ojai Valley, so they have a stake in wasting Waste Management's dream of a dump right at the opening of the Ojai Valley, where the wind only blows one way.

In between the singing, speakers--including Mary Steenburgen, Malcolm McDowell, June Allyson and Scott Bakula--will speak about you know what.

This gig will be the first for Little Brother, but just the latest for Mark Andes, a bass player from Oak View.

Andes was just a 17-year-old Valley boy when he was one of the original members of Canned Heat. He then became a founding members of Spirit, a critically acclaimed pop rock group from the late '60s.

Next for Andes was Jo Jo Gunne, a straight-ahead rock band, then Firefall, then some serious cash from a decade with the Wilson sisters of Heart. And now, it's Little Brother. Also in the band and hoping to see their names in the paper are Curly Smith, Robert McEntee, Todd Smallwood, and the little brother himself, Matt Andes.

From the lawn by the pool of his cool pad where ants bit my legs, Andes discussed the life and times of his new band, his old bands, dumps and stuff like that.

How long have you been in Oak View and is everyone else in the Valley going to move up here?

I don't know about that. I've been up here living in paradise for five years. I moved up here because I was scared for my kid because we were close to all that random gun (violence) in the Valley. Young girls were being raped at the nice little parks and people were being blown away at the beach. But now, I guess, I needed to be up here for me, too.

Once you backed up Bobby (Boris) Pickett, the guy who did "The Monster Mash." What was that like?

It was great. We were the Rolling Bones when we played with him. At the time, Bobby was an actor, and my dad was directing him in a play. My brother Matt and I were grips, and we ended up playing with him. Bobby's been through some bad times, but I saw him not too long ago and he's doing some acting.

Then you were in Canned Heat?

Yeah, I was the original bass player. Larry Hansen--Dr. Demento--got me that gig fresh out of high school when I was 17 years old. Later, Al Wilson and Bob Hite both ODd on reds at the same house a couple of years apart. Larry Taylor took my place when I left to join Spirit.

Why didn't Spirit hit it bigger than they did?

There was a lot of creative tension in that band. We had a lot of No. 1 records, but they were all regional hits. Spirit was the best band I've ever been in, the most rewarding and the funnest band. We had all the right stuff--it was just one of those things. People still remember all that stuff.

What was it like being a rock star during those silly '60s?

It was wonderful. It was the best. It was a lot less pretentious then, in a way. There seemed to be a lot more integrity, and it was less corporate. We didn't play at Woodstock or Monterey but we could have--maybe we should have--Lou Adler was our manager at the time. We did play the Atlanta Pop Festival and Devonshire Downs.

After Spirit, you were in Jo Jo Gunne--what's their story?

Jay Ferguson and I got to the point where Spirit was becoming really frustrating, and counterproductive. We just wanted to play in a kickin' little rock band. And that was a kickin' band--it taught me to find out who I was musically. I bailed out of Jo Jo Gunne to join Firefall.

Then came Heart?

Yeah, I was in Heart from 1982 to 1992. It's such a relief for me to get out from under that. I don't want to say anything bad about Heart, but for me, it was frustrating in a lot of ways. I'm through being the hired gun.

What does it take to be a bass player?

The bass is the backdrop behind everything. I used to play guitar, and I still compose on the guitar, but I've always loved the bass. It's the connecting bridge between the drums and the melodic instruments. The bass literally moves you. I'm not a virtuoso like Stu Hamm; I just like to keep it simple.

Now, the new band is Little Brother--what's their story?

I've been writing songs for about a year and a half, and then I met Todd through a mutual friend. Then it was one of those "Let's-write-some-songs" things. After we got the other guys together, we decided this was starting to sound like a band. We have a tape that we're shopping now. The Weldon Canyon thing will be our first gig.

OK, so what about this Weldon Canyon gig?

My girlfriend's boss is on the committee and liked our tape, so they asked us to play. Plus, I've known Chris Hillman since his Byrds days and his wife is promoting the benefit. I don't like the whole thing because I think Waste Management has too much power. The whole process seemed to ignore the people. I just get the feeling there's too much money at stake here. I mean I came up here to save my kid and get away from all that. Ventura County is a pretty place--people should try to protect what's left of it.

So what's next for Mark Andes?

I'm gonna play this Little Brother thing out. Like I said, I can't be a hired gun anymore. I just want to find my niche. I'd like to pass along the things I know, maybe produce.

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