Three Great Things: XIXA

Tuscon’s dusty rockers (and Giant Sand members) offer up some recommendations.

1. Basketball

Brian Lopez: I love basketball. I’ve been playing the sport since I was 5 or so. I grew up in a basketball household — dad was the men’s head coach at the local Junior College. I can remember him teaching me to play in our driveway long before I could even tie my shoes. Hoisting an orange sphere into a metal rim, hearing the “swoosh” of the net as the ball traverses a janky cylinder. Why does that simple sound yield such great satisfaction? I don’t know why, but it certainly does.  

You don’t have to be rich to play basketball. You needn’t anybody but yourself. Just a hoop and a ball, and you’re good to go. In this sense, basketball is one of the most accessible sports on the planet. And as such, I continue to find refuge in the game. I’ve toured many parts of the world, playing music to many folks. Most folks have no idea that before the show in Istanbul, for example, I jogged to a court near the venue and got a couple shots up after soundcheck. Or that day off in Paris, where everyone else wanted to go to the Louvre? I went to play some international pickup ball at Canal Saint-Martin and crossed some fools up.    

You see, music has always been my escape. I can always start writing and creating, and the rest of the world goes away. I’m very fortunate in that sense. But sometimes I need an escape from my escape. And that’s where basketball comes into play (pun intended). I love going to a court, anywhere in the world, where nobody knows your name. Nobody gives a shit if you’re playing at the theatre down the road. The only thing anyone cares about is if you can hoop. And the only note anyone wants to hear is the sweet sound of a “swoosh” as that orange sphere races through the bottom of the net.

2. Making Things 

Winston Watson: Nobody makes anything anymore. I was born in the sixties.When one was lucky enough to acquire things, one took care of them, in the hope they would last forever. Now you can just buy anything and contribute volume to a landfill, when you grow tired of it. I learned how to take care of my musical gear because the alternative was not allowed at home. I bristled, the first time I saw The Who smash their stuff. I get the bit, but that always made me dislike them, as people.


But Pete could fix his stuff. All was forgiven. In my case, I put people to sleep with the useless knowledge no one seems to be interested in. I turned that lonely crusade into a wide range of enthusiasms; amplifier and instrument design and repair. And, besides being a musician, I’m an electrical contractor and studio builder. It doesn’t end there,  but I don’t want to put you to sleep. My point is that I think vocational education should be taught in schools. When you have a personal, emotional investment in the things you create, the landfill gets less full and you appreciate more and thus, complain less. Jimmy Carter warned such selfish actions would help topple society, he was being prophetic. 

3. Mixing

Gabriel Sullivan: Since I first got a guitar at age 13 I immediately jumped into recording and producing myself. I started on the classic green Tascam four-track and went from there. From the four-track I moved to programming on Reason and Fruity Loops and loved integrating acoustic instruments with electronics. Jump ahead 20 years and I now own and run our Dust & Stone Recording Studio.

While I certainly love writing, performing, and recording music, nothing seems to be a more constant source of joy than the mixing process. To sit between the monitors and create three-dimensional landscapes out of just two speakers. To communicate with the song and understand what it wants to be. To understand what will draw the listener closer and what will completely blow them away. Mixing is such a performance and for me a sort of ritual. I end every mix standing in the middle of my control room, eyes closed, and meditate while the song plays. Mixing is my reward at the end of the production process. 

(Photo Credit: Julius Schlosberg)

XIXA’s Gabriel Sullivan and Brian Lopez’s combined credits include Calexico, KT Tunstall, Orkestra Mendoza, and more as well as both being members of Giant Sand. For their new album Genesis they’ve delved even deeper into their admiration for Peruvian chicha, extracted and refined the core, and given voice to their most primal instincts. They are joined on select tracks by renowned artists from across the globe including Sergio Mendoza, Imarhan, and the Uummannaq Children’s Choir, which features youth from an orphanage in a small village in Northern Greenland. They’re also joined by drummer Winston Watson, who has done long stints with Bob Dylan, Alice Cooper, and Warren Zevon, among others.

(Photo Credit: Julius Schlosberg)