Perfect Sound Forever


Divine Horsemen, with Chris in the blazer

Divine Horsemen, the Flesh Eaters and more madness
Interview by John Wisniewski
(December 2023)

Think that you work hard? Sorry but you got nothing on Chris Desjardins aka Chris D. who started writing for the legendary Slash punk zine in the late '70's before becoming a producer for their label, along with running his own label, Upsetter Records where he put out some of the early L.A. punk bands. He also gathered the cream of Slash's bands (X, Blasters) to form punk/roots band the Flesh Eaters. Restless soul that he was, he also formed Divine Horsemen in the mid '80's for some surprisingly sweet low-key Americana gussied up over some disturbing stories/songwriting. Oh and he still found time to write several fiction books and start a budding acting career (actually appearing in Kevin Coster feature No Way Out). The Flesh Eaters manifested themselves again in the 2010's and Divine Horsemen rode again this decade with 2021's Hot Rise of An Ice Cream Phoenix and this year's Bitter End of A Sweet Night, both on the premiere garage label In the Red.

PSF: Could you tell us how The Flesh Eaters formed?

CD: The Flesh Eaters took shape because the phenomenon of punk rock happened. Writing for Slash magazine and being exposed to so much music I identified with made me realize I did not have to have a perfect voice to be a singer, that there were no rules and that I could even turn my poetry I'd been writing into lyrics without compromising or having to edit that much. It gave me the confidence to do what a lot of my musician friends were doing and get out there, not overthink it or be intimidated by the so-called music industry.

PSF: What music artists inspire you?

CD: At the time, I was very inspired by what would be called proto-punk like The Stooges, The MC5 and The Sonics. But I was also heavily influenced by the pre-1972 Rolling Stones (their last great album being Exile on Main St.), the pre-solo career of Rod Stewart when he was still in the Jeff Beck Group, Steppenwolf, the first 4 Led Zeppelin albums and their pre-incarnation The Yardbirds, The Doors, the Jefferson Airplane. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, a lot of others from the late sixties, plus blues guys like John Lee Hooker (huge influence!!), Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf, r&b singers like Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and James Brown (and later even Al Green). Country singers like Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn. Then in the late 1970s/early 1980s Sex Pistols, The Saints, The Damned, The Clash, The Cramps, X, The Fall, The Birthday Party, The Gun Club. Currently I'm huge fans of the British alt-folk-rock duo, Smoke Fairies.

PSF: What did audiences think of The Flesh Eaters?

CD: It was difficult for me to maintain a constant line-up, so the consistency in the music quality could vary. We had a small following at first. But even in 1981, the so-called all-star line-up that also included friends John Doe and DJ from X, Dave Alvin and Bill from The Blasters, and Steve Berlin (now long time in Los Lobos) got the most attention. We always had big turnouts on those shows. But those guys had their other bands, so that line-up only lasted about 6 months (till the later reunion shows). The next line-up from 1982-1983 had the longest run at the time and a moderate following. Then I put together various other line-ups in the 1990-1993 and 1997-2000 period, which mostly just played small clubs in up-and-down the coast in California. In 2006, because Mark Arm from Mudhoney had requested the 1981 A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die (so-called superstar) line-up to play with them at that year's All Tomorrow's Parties in the southern UK, we were all luckily available and did our first reunion show of that line-up. Which was probably the biggest crowd we ever played to - several thousand. We had done three shows in California in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco as warm-ups, and those were well-attended. We were discussing maybe making the reunions a yearly thing after that (running a couple weeks each time), but life and other career things (bands, hah!) got in the way for a while. Fortunately we were able to start doing it again in 2015 for, I believe, five shows. Then in 2018 (I think that was 9 shows, going up the West Coast as far as Vancouver). That tour inspired us to record the I Used to be Pretty album for Yep Roc Records a month or so later, then we did another tour, this time national, over the first 3 months of 2019 to support the release of that new album. All those shows were extremely well-attended, many selling out. Unfortunately, the pandemic happened as well as many other not-so-nice 'life' things, so it's been impossible to do more since then.

PSF: What were the live shows like?

CD: The late 1970's and early 1980's shows could get pretty crazy.

PSF: When did Divine Horsemen form?

CD: I got really sick of how loud The Flesh Eaters were always playing - and the music beginning to lose dynamics - in late 1983. I formed Divine Horsemen in 1984 when I wanted to take a more melodic, occasionally acoustic approach. That solidified when I met Julie Christensen, and I brought her in as a co-lead singer. Gradually, we grew back into a harder rock sound again, occasionally almost punk - but pre-1980's garage band punk. And always mixing it with some more rootsy/blues/folk elements. The songs from Divine Horsemen always tend to have a bit more of a 'storytelling' element to them. One of my sources of frustration in 1983 was The Flesh Eaters getting lumped in with the hardcore bands, many of which I did not like.

PSF: The new Divine Horsemen album is out now. What were the recording sessions like?

CD: Fortunately, we were extremely well-rehearsed when we went into the studio, so it went pretty quickly and smoothly. One of the challenges - since it was recorded in January 2022 - was still dealing with COVID pandemic issues. DJ Bonebrake from X, who played drums on the album (but is not doing 'live ' dates with us) had to record all his drums at home! By remote. That seemed like it might be a difficult hurdle. Thankfully, he is so skilled and such a pro, it worked out great!

PSF: Do you play any of the Flesh Eaters classics at the Divine Horsemen live shows?

CD: Back in 1987, when the band was still in its initial phase, Divine Horsemen would occasionally perform "See You in the Boneyard" with Julie sharing the lead vocals. But currently, no, we're not doing any Flesh Eaters songs.

PSF: Any future plans and projects?

CD: I've got another massive film book I am slowly working on The Humanity of Femmes Fatales and Heartless Villains about international film noir (amongst other dark film things) that hopefully will be finished sometime in 2024. I'll also be working with a few other writers - Nicca Ray, Mc Nuto (aka Michelle Cernuto) and French film writer, Robin Gatto - helping them get their books out through my small imprint, Poison Fang Books. As far as more music recording in 2024, we'll see what happens.

Bitter End of a Sweet Night is available here.

Read/learn more about Divine Horsemen

Also see our article on The Flesh Eaters

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