Founded on an auspicious evening in November of 1996, the idea was to create a platform that would allow musicians of all different backgrounds and characters to add their own individual blend of skills and energy to the overall mix. Rather than finding any particular style to play, it seemed to make a lot more sense to let everyone’s quirky personality unfold and see where it would take us. This way, the Chemystry Set could just stay the Chemystry Set while everyone was constantly evolving and experimenting with all the diverse elements inherent in it. Ultimately, it was the love for music and exploring the unknown together with fellow kindred spirits that brought us together and lent our eclectic orchestra its backbone and character. To see how the story continues, check out BeetTheSystem.Fun.
1996-2010: 15 Years of Chemystry Set
Jumped on board a bit too late, I’m nothin’ but fertilize
Though history is my polyglot I’m livin’ in present tents
Thank God for the joy, ‘cuz it don’t bring no cents
Here’s to friends old and new, and yet unknown. Thank you for great inspiration and good times. Change is the only constant in life, something this Chemystry Set experiment has always been based around. Come join us for a trip down memory lane to read the story seldom told.
“Svenstah, Top tuber – I’m writing you and Joel a love letter. I have fantasies about us together……tuber as a band. I am propositioning you.” – Baba Ndjhoni
Soon after, Chemystry Set is founded by Baba, Sven, and Joel as a forum for new and diverse musical styles, integrating many different aspects of creativity. Mark Sand on drums, Greg Carney on guitar and Dave Jacobson on keyboards complement the initial Set. Sven’s cottage is their first rehearsal space. Most of the songs for Life in the Underground are written on Sven’s bed.
In the fall The Set records its first full length CD, Life in the Underground, as the first part of the Chemystry Trilogy, in Jake’s kitchen. Guest musicians include renowned Jazz basoonist Paul Hanson, Nigerian guitarist Soji Odukogbe of Kotoja and West African Highlife Band, percussionist Avi Rose of Santana’s Myron Dove, flutist Lisa Stadlen, and singer Ginger Thimlar. Tony Idarola records interludes with binaural microphones. Matt Ritchie does the cover with a ball point.
Avi and Ginger stay on as full members of the band, turning the Chemystry Set into an 8-piece orchestra. Life in the Underground is released on the homegrown Tuber Creations label in January 1998. Joel, Greg & Sven move to SF’s Mission District, and the Set is generously invited to rehearse in Baba and Yoly’s Oakland garage, where they are still making noise today.
Krystle Jones of Tree o Frogs joins the Set for the recording of the second full-length album “The Space Between” at Mobius Studio. Ben Harris on trumpet, Nicole Polisner on flute, Bob Athaide on trumpet and piano, Scott Johnston on soprano sax, and Dave Jacobson make special appearances. Oliver DiCicco produces with the Set.
Brian Fishler and Greg Carney leave for New York and L.A. to pursue Jazz careers. The Set plays on the sidewalk of Lucca’s Deli in SF’s Mission District to protest skyrocketing dot com induced rents as part of the Rockout SF coalition. Baba, Avi, Joel and Sven appear on KWMR, West Marin’s community radio station.
After meeting Baba at a block party, Dickie Ogden becomes the new drummer in October. Chemystry Set is now a sextet.
The Space Between is released on Tuber Creations. A CD release concert at the Hotel Utah in January draws a capacity crowd of 160 people. Chemystry Set branches out with shows in Truckee, Chico & Point Reyes. Triple bill with Taos Hum and Tea Leaf Green at El Rio. The East Bay Express calls Chemystry Set music “a tight, undulating mix that is sure to trip you out.”
Mwela Wa Mwanami is selected for Rhythm Magazine’s Disc of the Month. Shows at the Whole Earth Festival and G Street Pub in Davis, La Salle’s in Chico, and the Tamarack Mountain Music Festival, joining the likes of Garage Mahal, Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Om Trio.
Krystle leaves the band to follow da funk with Tree o Frogs. The Set is now a quintet and begins to write new material. Avi Rose introduces the handsonic drum into the band, adding ambient trance textures into the new sound.
Grand homecoming bash at the Voodoo Lounge. Patty Hughes sits in on keyboard. Avi leaves the band to concentrate on his work with avant garde band Mobius Operandi. Chemystry Set does a session at Expressions Center for New Media in Emeryville.
Patty hangs out at rehearsals and soon becomes the band’s keyboardist (Fender Rhodesist, that is). Chemystry Set plays a double bill with Hot Buttered Rum String Band at Club Galia, and joins LoJo, Les Yeux Noirs, and Sound Tribe Sector 9 at the Fairfax World Music Festival.
Chemystry Set records The Last Real Experience at Ogden Park studio. Produced by Dickie & the Set, it concludes the Chemystry Set trilogy – the tubers have grown and are ready to spread their shoots! CBS Evening Magazine does a story on the unusual recording sessions.
CD release party for Last Real Experience at the Connecticut Yankee on 6/21. Chemystry Set plays at the Elbo Room in SF and Amstock 5.
In the summer, Chemystry Set embarks on its first ever European Tour, with shows in Germany and Austria.
In Stuttgart, Germany, the Set is hosted in Gisela’s beautiful garden by Sven’s friends. With borrowed and rented gear the Set tours across the alps, managed by the amazing Tominator.
Cobblestone Below My Feet, inspired by a walking tour through the ancient town of Esslingen, is written in Sven’s Mom’s garage. Dickie writes Reinheitsgebot after being impressed by the German beer purity law and Lederhosen. JB, Maggie, and Carolyn come along to the old world to meet with Gisela and Inge. We even get a bit of Amstock.
Spring Northwest Tour in Baba’s biodiesel wagon with stops in Arcata, Ashland, Eugene, Portland, Hood River, Tacoma and Seattle.
As a special treat the Set gets to plant tubers at Oxbow Farm and jump into many rivers…
Live at the Sweatlodge is recorded on the final tour date in Oakland.
In the summer, The Set embarks on an East Coast tour from Baltimore to in Burlington.
Playing at Nectar’s in Burlington and Dickie’s homecoming show in Hoosick Falls, NY.
Returning from the East Coast, Chemystry Set records basic tracks of Cobblestone Below My Feet at Mobius Studio.
In October, Dickie and Patty get married, throwing a big party at El Rio.
New Years show at the Bug Hostel in Midpines.
Farewell show for Joel at the El Rio. One of the founding members, he moves to NYC to go to grad school.
Baba takes over on bass at long time Chemystry Set friend and collaborator Tony Idarola’s memorial service.
Chemystry Set is now a quartet.
Chemystry Set releases its 6th album, Dancing on the Brink of the World, the companion CD to the book by the same name written by Sven Eberlein, featuring a song cycle through the signs of the zodiac, plus two bonus tracks. Weaving moments of pure Rush-like rock ‘n’ roll ecstasy into a tapestry of deeper reflective soundscapes that echo a darker side of the moon, Dancing on the Brink of the World is so much more than a random collection of songs. Each song has very distinct influences, yet none permeate the project throughout. On their 6th album, Chemystry Set has come full cycle, pouring a vast reservoir of influences ranging from world rhythm, jazz, and groove to bluegrass, fusion, progressive rock, and punk into a sea of archetypes that take the listener from leisurely swims to adventurous dives. It is, as the band’s name, a leap into not knowing; and it is, as the subject matter of the CD, a mixture of the essence of every person in the world uniting in harmony. Artwork by Evelyn Terranova. Produced by Dickie Ogden.
On 11/13/2009, Chemystry Set performed Dancing on the Brink of the World during the Astro Ball at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco. Accompanied by a multimedia presentation of Evelyn Terranova’s paintings and evolutionary astrologer Steven Forrest’s audio interludes, these photos offer some visual impressions of a magical evening that turned out to be the band’s last show.
After 15 years, 6 albums and countless shows, the band had spread into different geographic and creative directions, moving from a performing and recording entity into happy archiving retirement. Picture a bunch of reel to reels, DAT tapes, and VCRs, add an ice cold beer by the swimming pool (or in the Biergarten), and you get the idea. No heavy amps, no booking calls. Fresh limes. Lots of them. Life is good.