Father Yod: the Seventies cult chief whose wild psychedelia was extra suited to Disneyland than dive bars

Born in Ohio in 1922, James Edward Baker led a vibrant life as an grownup. He shot down 13 Japanese fighter planes within the second world conflict. He auditioned as Tarzan for a Hollywood film. He killed a person utilizing judo in 1955, after which killed one other man in 1963 and was convicted of manslaughter. He had his hands legally registered as lethal weapons. He robbed wherever between two and 11 banks. He grew to become a profitable restaurateur and a pioneer of vegetarian eating, with prospects together with John Lennon, Joni Mitchell and Marlon Brando. And within the early 70s he based a utopian cult within the Hollywood Hills, reinventing himself because the supreme godhead Father Yod. Nearly inevitably, in 1973 he began an excessive psychedelic rock band, Ya Ho Wha 13.

This month, the US label Sacred Bones releases a brand new compilation of highlights from the band’s archives alongside an intimate e-book, Household: The Supply Household Scrapbook, partially to mark what would have been Father Yod’s a hundredth birthday. He died in 1975 in a hang-gliding accident after leaping off a 400-metre (1,300ft) cliff in Hawaii, regardless of having no prior air sports activities expertise.

Intimate … images from the scrapbook.
Intimate … photographs from the scrapbook. {Photograph}: Sacred Bones

Within the early 70s, Father Yod was thriving amid the hippy mania on the west coast. Financially safe owing to numerous exploits and investments, he had turn into a disciple of kundalini yoga within the late 60s earlier than deciding to turn into a religious chief himself. His philosophy – impressed by the teachings of his former mentor Yogi Bhajan, and texts by Eugene Fersen and Jiddu Krishnamurti – blended japanese faith with western esotericism. He modelled his picture on Michelangelo’s depiction of God the Father, purchased a purple Rolls-Royce, and based a commune based mostly at a Georgian-style mansion in Los Feliz. There, he lived because the chief of as much as 140 followers, smoked the “sacred herb” (marijuana) ritualistically, and engaged in tantric intercourse with younger girls, lots of whom he subsequently took as his wives after police had been alerted. (Years later, considered one of his ex-wives, Robin, known as him a “dirty old man on a lust trip”.) This was the Supply Household (AKA the Brotherhood of the Supply), and as its members began to jam, Father Yod started to see music as a vessel for his teachings.

“It was music that enlightened him to go on his religious journey,” says Supply Household archivist and documentarian Isis Aquarian, co-author of The Supply Household Scrapbook and considered one of Father Yod’s 14 wives. She cites the Moody Blues and Jethro Tull as his primary inspirations: music was an outlet to “join with the youthful individuals”, she says, the goal “to assist promote spirituality and the betterment of all humanity for the planet”.

Father Yod scrapbook, press images
Father Yod scrapbook, press photographs {Photograph}: Sacred Bones

After the Household’s transfer to Nichols Canyon in 1973, Father Yod was given $30,000 by a Hungarian Holocaust survivor named Damascus – a rumoured mobster sometimes called the Godfather, in accordance with Aquarian. The cash was meant to begin a brand new enterprise: a wholesome ice-cream parlour. However as an alternative, Father Yod spent it on musical devices and constructed a studio within the storage. (“Damascus was very upset,” says Aquarian.) There, Father Yod and the Spirit of 76 (later renamed Ya Ho Wha 13, following the choice to make all subsequent music purely improvisational) recorded about 60 albums’ value of fabric, largely between the hours of three and 6 within the morning.

Sacred Bones’ new compilation captures the band’s untamed sound – at occasions, it evokes a crude mashup of Captain Beefheart and Canned Warmth. There are genuinely first rate singer-songwriter numbers by the extra conventional Spirit of 76 band – the Dylan-esque honky tonk ballad A Girl – however Father Yod seems to be absent from these. When he’s audible, it’s within the wild jams of the Ya Ho Wha 13 – constructed on ominous drum rolls (The Nice Woe), invented phrases and growls (I’m Gonna Take You House) and 10-minute freak-outs of space-age distortion (Ya Ho Wha).

They had been rejected by each main label they approached, however self-pressed 9 LPs, which they offered from the again of Father Yod’s wildly common Sundown Strip vegetarian restaurant the Supply. The band carried out throughout Los Angeles, from Venice Seashore to Beverly Hills highschool, however they struggled to safe a lot of a following. “I don’t assume he was precisely what you’d name a musician or perhaps a singer,” says Aquarian. Regardless of what one impressively wild picture of him wailing on a double-necked guitar would counsel, Father Yod would largely simply bang a kettledrum or bash a metre-wide gong – and lead the chants alongside the band’s marathon performances. One newspaper assessment described them as seeming “misplaced” on the famed rock venue Whisky a Go Go, and instructed they’d be a greater match at Disneyland.

This music “wasn’t for that point”, says Aquarian. However in the present day, the unique LPs commerce arms for 1000’s of kilos on-line. The Supply Household Scrapbook co-author Jodi Wille – who additionally co-directed the 2012 characteristic documentary The Supply Household – explains {that a} nascent appreciation had been brewing because the 80s; Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, actor-musician Vincent Gallo and superproducer Rick Rubin are followers. “The music is polarising,” she says. “Some individuals contemplate it unlistenable. However there’s additionally a primal, punk high quality to it.”

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