Although it’s been nearly two and a half years since his untimely passing, Josh Fischel remains both a fixture and a driving force in the Long Beach music scene. Not only was Fischel the brains behind Music Tastes Good, a cultural beacon in a world that’s oversaturated with cookie cutter music festivals, but he was also a prolific musician. In the late ’90s, he started the Long Beach rock/reggae group, Bargain Music, who toured nationally and released six albums in their eight-year lifespan. After they disbanded in 2006, Fischel started working songs for his next project, The Fiction. For the next decade, Josh Fischel and The Fiction played extensively and recorded their debut album, Quixotic. Finally, after numerous setbacks (such as stolen recording equipment, the search for perfect cover art, and Josh’s unexpected passing) Quixotic will be released this Saturday, January 19, at Dipiazza’s in Long Beach.
“Ideally, this would be the show that we’d be playing with Josh to launch a tour with the band or something,” says Kris Jackson, the album’s co-producer. “But because he’s not here anymore, I’m just glad that we’re still going to be getting it out there and playing the songs live, at least once.” It’s unfortunate that Josh won’t be at the release show to play and sing these songs himself. However, with the help of his wife, Abbie Fischel, and Jackson, many of Josh’s friends (including members of his rock n’ roll theatre troupe, RIOTstage) will come together once more to perform the album in its entirety.
Josh’s original intention with the album was for it to be, as he described it, “a political party record,” with serious lyrical themes and danceable music. Admittedly, the album did undergo a series of visionary changes, as the live band adopted a revolving lineup and the track listing was certainly not set in stone. Nevertheless, both Jackson and Abbie maintain that the album is even more relevant in today’s political and social climate than when it was written. “I think it only gets more and more relevant,” Abbie says, “There are some things where I’m like, ‘I can’t believe he doesn’t know about this!’ because he’d probably be writing more songs.”
The process of recording the album was tedious, due to Josh’s vision of how he wanted it to sound. For starters, he wanted to meld analog and digital recording techniques, recording everything digitally on Pro Tools, but using only instruments and analog equipment from before 1982. Some songs feature programmed drums while others utilize real drummers. The first track is almost entirely driven by group vocals, with accompaniment only from handclaps and foot stomps. Overall, there are 19 different vocalists and singers on Quixotic. As versatile as this album is, there’s no doubt that Josh had a very clear focus while creating it. “There was one part of a song where he wanted this certain Dinosaur Jr. sounding fuzz tone on the guitar,” remembers Jackson, “and I think we had at least five or six sessions with different guitar players before our buddy Jared finally came up with the perfect tone.”
Josh’s penchant for particulars did not stop at the recording process. Even though the album was completed about a year before he passed away, he was having trouble choosing the cover art. Unfortunately, after working with numerous graphic designers, Josh was unable to find the perfect design. When he passed away, this decision was passed onto Abbie and Kris, who also struggled with finding art that Josh would have approved of. Finally, they hired Corey Watson, the design director for Music Tastes Good. He integrated Josh’s own handwriting into the cover art, making for a design that we can only hope Josh would finally approve of.
Perhaps the best way to understand The Fiction’s new album is to examine the title. For starters, Josh was a fan of the novel, Don Quixote, which is famous for its crazed protagonist who heroically battles windmills. “Quixotic” could also be used to describe Josh’s own ambition; just by looking at a few of his creative pursuits, one can easily see that he was much more idealistic than most of us. Ironically, the fact that Quixotic has taken almost a decade to be released and that Josh, unfortunately, won’t see this officially release himself, tie him closer to Quixote than he could have imagined. “It’s kind of weird how art became reality, in a lot of ways with that title,” says Abbie.
On the other hand, it is important to note that Josh was by no means an unrealistic or impractical person. He wrote and recorded more music in his lifetime than most musicians could even dream of, he started one of the most innovative music festivals of our time, and he left his own mark on the world of musical theatre. “He was very talented at accomplishing things that we all might have pipe dreams about. He actually brought them into fruition,” Abbie says.
This Saturday’s record release show is no exception. Friends and members of RIOTstage are flying in from all over the country to pay respects to Josh and his music in the way that he would have wanted. Jackson has been leading rehearsals all week and Dipiazza’s didn’t hesitate to open their doors to this event. This dedication alone shows the impact that Josh continues to have on the greater Long Beach music community. “One of his gifts was his ability to bring people together,” says Abbie, and this Saturday’s show will stand as a testament to that.
The event starts at 7 pm and there is a $10 entry fee. For more information, check out the event page.