Back to the Source
Cult Psych-Rockers Ya Ho Wha 13 Return
The Source Family was an epochal manifestation of '60s California counterculture and New-Age spirituality that birthed one of the most interesting psych-rock groups of all time: Ya Ho
Wha 13 (YHW13 henceforth). They were led by an ex-Marine named Jim Baker, who also ran the Hollywood health-food-oriented Source Restaurant. Also known as Father Yod (rhymes with "load"), Baker became the Source Family's guru, and sang and banged kettle drum and gong on YHW13's many albums, which were sold at the restaurant in limited numbers in the '70s and have since become collector's items. (A 13-CD boxed set, God and Hair, came out—with help from ex-Seeds vocalist/Family member Sky Saxon—in 1998.)
At their best (Penetration: An Aquarian Symphony, I'm Gonna Take You Home), YHW13 generate a primal, flying-by-the-seat-of-their-yoga-pants psychedelia that makes you feel at once exalted and wild. Drag City's recent release of Songs from the Source (credited to Children of the Sixth Root Race, but featuring YHW13's core figures) reveals a more structured, conventional hippie-rock sound à la the Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar scores. It's a rousing listen, but it comes off like Pepsi to Penetration's LSD-laced absinthe.
You can read about the cult band's history in Isis Aquarian's 2007 book The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13, and the Source Family. It's fascinating. Also fascinating are the thoughts of YHW13 guitarist Djin Aquarian, who's rounded up his old bandmates Octavius (drums) and Sunflower (bass; all members use the surname Aquarian) to tour and record, more than three decades after Yod "left his body" after a hang-gliding accident that eventually prompted the band—and the Family—to disperse.
The impetus for YHW13 to tour now is "multidimensional," says Djin, "kind of a trickle down from the divine plan of the divine mind and a trickle up from the desires of the post-'60s generations that want to hear some of the original originators of this genre."
Experience tells us that reunions rarely recapture the original juice that animates young rock groups; one can't help being skeptical about YHW13's rebirth, however divinely inspired it may be. But Djin claims that in recording new album Sonic Portation, YHW13 have regained the rapport and creativity they possessed—and then some.
"It was amazing to all three of us, because we really didn't know until we did record and listen back if we still had the magic of yore," Djin says. "The whole thing has been amazing—to witness the circumstances, people, and events that led to it happening again and to be at the center of activity, interest, and creativity in us. Now we know in hindsight how 'prophetic' Father was and how we fit in to this divine 'play' of humanity flowering now in 2008."
At this late date, are YHW13 still fulfilling the teachings of Father Yod? Are they channeling the departed leader?
"I know of no one I am channeling," Djin says. "The lyrics and music come through rather innocently; however, I am interested in lending my voice to similar topics as Father. My creative process is [to] let my hands do the 'talking' and keep my head from the 'squawking.' The music is intrinsically the fulfillment of the teachings... Life, Mind, Truth, and Love; we have to do every act with energy, intelligence, truth, and love."
Unsurprisingly, YHW13 view their music as a healing force. "Music and sound in general, like all creation, can be used for good or ill. There's probably less music made now proportionately to the population on earth now with a healing intention than [there] was in previous times, but the race is in a profound awakening from a material sensation gratification delirium. Music and entertainment is at its core, which is where change will [be], and is, coming from."
Most aficionados rate Penetration as YHW13's best album. Djin is inclined to agree. "Penetration holds a specially reserved place in my heart because I believe it holds the distinction of being a composition that every element, from inception to performing to recording and mastering, came together in everyone's highest intention. I do love other pieces, but Penetration... is the closest thing to how we play spontaneously now, except, ostensibly, without Father's unique addition. There is a new release of YHW13 vignettes coming out soon on [Drag City] called Magnificence in the Memory, which has several cuts I have always loved that are in the Penetration sound, so Penetration fans should keep tuned in."
YHW13's live show "will be improvised, maybe with a theme, which is on a 'need to know at the time' basis. We plan on redoing several of Father's tunes from the old albums for fans who have requested them, such as 'I'm Gonna Take You Home' and 'Awaken Awaken.'"
Prepare for the Rage of Aquarius.