A pioneering drummer of the 80’s Los Angeles rock scene, at first started with art-punk bands like Monitor and The Romans, went through the neo-psychedelic/roots ‘Paisley Underground’ scene with Green On Red and Opal and finally settled with dreampop finest Mazzy Star until these sad days.
His incisive primitive drumming starts to emerge with his association with the short live art punk/new wave four-piece Monitor, with whom would release the self-titled album in 1980 on World Imitation Records, with the recording assistance of Devo’s associated Ed Barger. The album had the peculiarity to host a song played by their label mates Kirkwood brothers’ Phoenix’s band Meat Puppets.
Keith had said about it ‘we had the Meat Puppets play our song Hair because we felt we couldn’t play it fast and wild enough’.
Part of the experimental transmedia collective called “Associated Skull Bands” along with Human Hands, BPeople and Nervous Gender, Monitor conducted rare live performances in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Phoenix before splitting up.
Keith will soon join The Romans, a Southern Californian supergroup of sorts born out the ashes of Human Hands, Bpeople and Monitor.
Their debut full length, ‘You Only Live Once’ was released in 1983, engineered by the legendary producer, 45 Grave and later The Dream Syndicate guitarist Paul B. Cutler, a fine mix of surf, punk and psychedelia.
In 1986 their sophomore and final album, ‘The Last Days At The Ranch’, produced by The Dream Syndicate’s frontman Steve Wynn and featuring the piano played by Green On Red’s Chris Cacavas, represented a significant shift towards a Southern-flavoured folk-country rock sound, accordion and mandolin included.
Since the beginning of the 80s an underground music scene, named ‘Paisley Underground’, had already been growing in Los Angeles around a group of new bands (The Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade, The Three O’Clock, The Bangles, Green On Red) aimed to revive and re-actualize the 60’s psychedelia of bands like Love, Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service, the melodic jingle-jangle of The Byrds, the acid guitar jams of the Crazy Horse and the hypnotic rhythmic and sheer viscerality of The Velvet Underground.
In 1984 Keith was above all involved, under the moniker Clay Allison (after the Texan gunman of the 19th century) in the release of an unforgettable psychedelic folk gem titled ‘Fell From The Sun” together with two seminal players of the Paisley Underground scene : the former Rain Parade guitarist David Roback and former Dream Syndicate bassist and vocalist Kendra Smith. They soon collected up the remaining recorded songs in the 12” EP under their own full names before adopting the definitive Opal denomination in 1985.
The sudden departure of Kendra Smith will mark a new, exciting and successful chapter with the introduction of the young vocalist Hope Sandoval from the acoustic folky duo Going Home and the start of the Mazzy Star era.
Keith Mitchell, with his unique restrained drumming style, will be the faithful and precious metronome of the evocative, dreamy and spooky atmospheres for all three albums released in quite quick succession from 1990 to 1996.
Keith will still be there, behind his drum kit, for the release of the band’s fourth astounding album ‘Seasons Of Your Day’ (2013), after a 17 years lay-off.
Keith Mitchell has been the quiet, unsung and seminal rhythmic backbone of a sound that has been and will ever be a crucial part of our musical culture and has left an unforgettable and seminal mark on the history of our beloved rock’n’roll; He will live ‘in our memories and listenings’ forever.