Soft Abuse

Flying Canyon

image of Flying Canyon

An attempt at telling the story of Flying Canyon.

There are so many stories I could share about Cayce, he was an important part of my world in the 6 years that I’ve known him. And you all should know, he had a whole other huge life outside of music, with his wife Chela & two kids Django & Taj, & so many family, friends, & not to mention his students, I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out; there are many great folks connected to Cayce through film as well. So here is just one small part of the story of what Cayce was about. This is long & a mess, but something I wanted to get out in some form for myself & people that might want to know. Here is something resembling the story of Flying Canyon.

I met Cayce in 2001, through Golden Hotel “Silver Wilderness”, the amazing album he did with his brother Sidney. It’s something like a meeting of Sid’s spacey textures & recording/arranging skills with Cayce’s love of hazy lo-fi experimentation. I’ve listened to that record at least a few hundred times. I don’t really know how to classify it, but it brings in country, folk, psychedelia & something new too that I can’t put my finger on. It fits alongside other unacknowledged classics like Souled American’s “Frozen”, Supreme Dicks “Unexamined Life” & Maquiladora’s “A House All on Fire.” It’s a whole world in itself, so just buy it & listen to it.

Cayce was a consummate music fan & so hung out a lot in the temple of music in SF, Aquarius Records. I had seen him around before, but I was a little intimidated. I thought he was a badass biker with all those tattoos & long gray hair & he always had a huge wolf-dog with him, named Cowboy, with crazy eyes. Turns out they were both sweethearts. He was one of the first people to buy the Jewelled Antler stuff. We liked each other’s music & struck up a rich dialogue about art & life that continued right up till he ended his own life on Feb. 6th, 2007.

It took me a year, but I finally got him & Sidney to play a Golden Hotel show (their first I think) at the Greenhouse, the Thuja venue at Rob Reger’s house in Berkeley, opening for Jack Rose & Tom Carter. He was like a big kid opening for two other artists he admired. I had just gone through a bad break-up, so at the show I was drunk beyond all reason (I don’t really drink that much) & became convinced that Golden Hotel & Skygreen Leopards needed to go on tour together.

The week & a half Skygreen Leopards/Golden Hotel tour of the east coast that followed was one of the most ramshackle affairs ever conceived, but we had a great time. Skygreen Leopards then was an acoustic trio with Christine Boepple on percussion. She was great & I think there were some ok nights for us. But every night Golden Hotel was amazing, ranging from brotherly sung high lonesome ballads to electric Hawkwind jams with Sid’s restless guitar leads & drummer Gregg Porter joining in for a few shows.

The show with PG Six at the Bookmill in western Mass, stands out as one of the best ending in a long jam where I swear Cayce was shouting “TAKING DRUGS IN A CAR”. He claimed he didn’t say that! But I was never quite sure.

After a few days of touring, we were all giddy from fatigue & Cayce would make me laugh so hard I would be doubled over in pain. The stories from that trip could fill a whole other 50 pages. It’s all on video somewhere.

We kept it in touch after the tour. I knew he had many personal problems, & sometimes he would open up about that stuff, other times he hid what was going on with him. I mostly worried about his health, because of all the mountain dew & cigarettes. I naively thought if he could just let out some of the darkness in song, maybe it would be cathartic for him. I knew part of him was frustrated not being able to get his music together.

A few years later, I set up a show for his other project Goodwill Tapes, with Davenport & Birchville Cat Motel (which I described in a short piece for Campbell Kneale (BCM) told me, “It was one the best shows by any one ever!” Cayce sat in the dark slowly picking out his fragile-folk songs, while his hippie buddy Matt pranced around playing hippie guitar leads & spacey organ. There was so much reverb & echoplex on everything, I heard angels singing. It truly blew our minds. I was already a fan of Cayce’s music, but after this show he achieved Rock-God status for the 30 people who saw him play that night. Clay Ruby of Davenport taped the show, but the tape has disappeared, maybe it will resurface or maybe it’s better as a memory, because the show gets more epic & hallucinatory in my imagination as time goes on.

Donovan Quinn & I loved his songs so much & also Sidney’s Hotel Alexis tunes, that instead of arguing over what to record for the next Skygreen Leopards record, we decided to do their songs. We recorded “Skygreen Leopards sing the songs of the Lindner Brothers” in a few days on 4-track. It’s one of the best things we’ve done. Seeing the look of disbelief on Cayce’s face when I handed him a copy was priceless. The guy had the lowest self-esteem of any dodgy genius I ever met. He couldn’t believe someone would like his music enough to cover his songs. It wasn’t hard; Sid & Cayce are brilliant songwriters.

In late 2005, I offered up our home studio at 1314 South Van Ness for him to record for free, just for fun. It took a year, but he finally said, “I’m coming.” I felt like the Pharaoh was arriving, & we had to purify the space. I told Shayde Sartin he had to play with us, & after meeting Cayce & hearing his songs, it was an easy decision to make. I lent Shayde Jerry Garcia’s first solo album, Bohren & Der Club of Gore’s Midnight Radio, The Eagles 1st LP & the Hired Hand soundtrack, & told him, “I think we should make it sound like this.”

Sometimes, it was tough to get Cayce going, but once he jumped into the lake of fire, he sounded like a seasoned performer. Even though he used an acoustic guitar, Cayce wrote classic rock songs, Heavy Metal ballads disguised as 70’s folk songs, like Skip Spence picking out Metallica’s “Fade to Black”. Cayce loved sad singer-songwriters. Neil Young was #1, but also Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, Gordon Lightfoot, Jerry Garcia, Jandek, Kris Kristofferson, Mark Kozelek, the early Sebadoh stuff. I should mention one of he & Sid’s favorite albums of all time was Dinosaur Jr. “Your Living All Over Me” (correct me if I’m wrong, Sid). Our idea with Flying Canyon was to wed that heaviness to bummer 70’s music, as the Eagles or Neil Young sounded to us as heavy as any contemporary doom band.

Cayce was obsessed with film as much as music, so his lyrics were like a camera lens. Like Neil Young’s most cinematic lines strung together (“big birds flying across the sky/throwing shadows on our eyes”) & wedded to simple & profound chord changes. He loved beat-era nature poets like Gary Snyder. & when he wrote, often on the spot improvising, it was in the sprit of ‘first thought/best thought.’ I witnessed him sipping awful 16 oz energy drinks & peeling off lines like:

This old bull life once you knew the ring
kick it back down open up & sing
bring me one last song for charity
this old boat ain’t gonna make it out to sea.

He wrote that one “Bull who Knew the Ring”, one of his best literally in 10 minutes; I watched him do it. His songs are sad, forlorn, and dark, but I always heard hope & vast love in there, a wish to transcend pain & fear.

I told him we should call the album “Cayce Lindner”, but he insisted we make it into a band. So I called it Flying Canyon, a name I had in my big list of band-names for awhile. I imagined being in a daze with the world reversed, laying back in the clouds with the canyon flying over you.It sounded like the name of a classic rock band to me.

Because Cayce was understandably busy with his family & life, he only had time to lay down live mostly 1st take tracks, singing & playing acoustic guitar, with Shayde on bass or acoustic guitar in the background & me on drums. I was urging him to play it slow, because his singing sounded so good stretched out over the monolithic chord changes. He sang & played guitar in a big echo-y oval shaped wood room (the living room with the furniture cleared out), while I played drums with brushes 20 ft away in the back of the kitchen. Shayde stood in the doorway playing bass plugged into a fuzz pedal direct through a tube amp into the tape machine. The high ceilings gave us a lot of natural reverb. The songs were heavy & emotional, but it was easy to play together, a good vibe. As he was leaving for the day Cayce would say in regards to mixing & overdubs, “do whatever you want; I trust you guys”. In the spirit of minimalism, I only added a few things, vocal harmonies, organ, flute, banjo. Donovan Quinn did that lovely crumbling slide guitar on the last track, but I kept Cayce’s amazing voice as the centerpiece. Man that voice!

In four sessions & a few extra days on my own overdubbing the details, it was finished. I told him, “You look amazing. We need to put you on the album cover”. He said, “Let me think about it.” But I could tell by his voice that he already thought it was a good idea! He was humble, but also loved the spotlight too. We imagined him as this ‘lost legend of rock’; it was a running joke because he was only 38, but the salt & pepper hair & beard made him look older. He loved rock myths more than anyone. The cover is a sincere homage to David Crosby’s “If I could only Remember My Name” & various Ya Ho Wha 13 album covers, but it was tongue in cheek too. Anyone will tell you, Cayce was hilarious.

I never thought the album would be finished much less released, but Chris Berry at Soft Abuse in NY, who’d known Cayce since our east coast tour, loved it & got it out quickly. Cayce told me it was a dream come true & that the band was a real positive thing for him. We managed a few rehearsals & three shows with Shayde on bass, Chappy on drums & me switching over to electric guitar & backing vocals. It was pure joy playing all together. We extended some songs well into the 10 minute mark.

We got the idea of sprawling out in a heavier direction, soaring country rock colliding with snail paced dirges. We had big dreams for that music. His new songs were just so amazing. He played one over the phone to me late one night, & it made me cry. We managed to get two of them on 2″ tape a week & a half before he died at Jason Quever’s studio. We finished two epics, 17 minutes worth in total. There are some great live recordings too & unreleased tracks from the previous sessions. There are demos & cassette experiments too, & also some amazing Golden Hotel stuff somewhere. Sid talked of getting it all out there on his Broken Sparrow label, & I can’t wait.

There’s so much more. Like Cayce in a leather Indian top hat, waving a California flag while introducing the Skygreen Leopards at Bottom of the Hill, & shouting “DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE!”! And on & on… Anyone interested in real heartfelt music, should track down the Flying Canyon & Golden Hotel CD’s. It’s hard to separate his songs from how he died, & maybe you shouldn’t, but remember the songs were a testament to a life that was painfully short, but lived so richly with so much love.

I miss him everyday, & it’s really hard to make music without him.

take care,
Glenn Donaldson


  • Flying Canyon CD (2006, Soft Abuse)