Beloved friend and inspiration to many, Josh Warren passed away and we’d like to take this time to honor his memory with a beautiful piece written by Select Level’s Andy Sells and facilitated by Dave Segal. *This was originally printed by Seattle’s The Stranger newspaper.
Last week, Seattle musician Joshua Warren passed away after a struggle with colon cancer. He distinguished himself in the local music scene as bassist for noisy indie-rock greats Satisfact (who recorded for Up and K Records in the '90s), and with the shape-shifting post-rock/electronic unit FCS North in the '00s. I once described the latter in these pages as straddling "the blurry divide between heady, organic rock and hiphop-inflected electronic dance music with impressive mind/body equipoise. [FCS North's] intelligently designed tracks combine DFA-style dance-rock propulsion with Tortoise's sinuous, inventive instrumental interplay."
Warren's dear friend and former FCS North band mate Andy Sells (Afrocopdrummer and Select Level multi-instrumentalist) perhaps has more insight into the late musician's personality and talents than anyone else in town. After the jump, he offers a heartfelt and insightful eulogy to his late comrade.
”I met Josh Warren in the mid 1990s. He had formed a band called Satisfact with a couple of other musicians I knew from the Seattle/Olympia punk scene, Jeremiah Green and Chad States. That band was fronted by Matt Steinke of Octant and Mocket. The first show they played was at a punk house above the U District we all called "The High School House."
I remember being impressed by the band instantly, as they were doing music that reminded me of our '80s childhood fascinations with punk/post punk and new wave. Josh just looked über-cool with his slicked-back hair, mod-style attire, and attitude like he couldn't give a damn. Didn't hurt that his bass lines sounded like a cross between Gang of Four and early Duran Duran.
I recall just chatting with him at a bus stop over by that house about music, and realizing I didn't need to be intimidated by his cool. I mean, he was one of the original early-'90s Olympia cool crew, but he was completely down-to-earth, and self-aware.
He was dating a friend I had known since high school named Ginger, whom he later married and has had three beautiful children with. They both moved in to the place I was living with a bunch of other Seattle musicians called "The Goathouse" up in Montlake.
So Josh and Ginger lived upstairs in the Goathouse, and Josh and I just started kicking it. We realized we were both interested in music outside of the punk scene that we had been playing in. Both of us loved jazz, especially '70s jazz fusion like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, Billy Cobham, etc.
Also we were both really into drum & bass music coming out of the UK at that time. In fact, I had been playing live breakbeats on the drums trying to figure out how to work it into a live music setting for a couple of years, and Josh, along with his bandmate Chad States, the keyboardist from Satisfact, were down to try and do something completely new with this form. Keep in mind, none of us had heard of any bands that were doing this kind of music live at that time. We made our own rag-tag, somewhat punk-rock version of what we thought it should sound like. This became the band FCS North in 1997.
Josh and I had both bought cheap samplers. I can't even remember what kind, and started getting into DJing like a bunch of folks did in the mid 1990s. Chad, Josh, and I started practicing music three times a week to hone our craft in the basement of the Goathouse. Josh was always the tech guy. One step ahead of the game, and constantly experimenting. Not only did he craft all of his own synth-bass sounds from an old analog synth to get that super deep bass that would warm your insides, he also built my first couple of computers for me. I credit Josh with helping me learn how to produce music on the computer back in the '90s, and we both learned so much together about recording, arranging, songwriting, performance, and concept—CONCEPT being the big one.
Josh was the idea man. He had Chad were both working together along with our friend SCNTFC aka Andy Rohrman on design for the FCS North EPs, and later albums we would release. I often feel like vision was one of Josh's greatest attributes. That, and the fact that he wouldn't settle for anything half-assed. If my musical personality was a stream-of-consciousness, nonstop idea machine, Josh's was more of a cultivator and stylist. He did a good job of wrangling me in many times, and has helped me realize over the years how to best approach a musical project.
FCS North put out records and toured with Chad States in the band up until he left to pursue his art career in 2003. In 2004, Josh and I decided to continue doing FCS North, but shift stylistically to more of a dance/post-disco sound with more sequencers. Mune Yamakawa was in the band with us on live MPC 2000 sampler, and Jayson Powell, who I had been playing live with in other projects around town, joined us on percussion. As we went I remember encouraging Josh to add vocals to the mix. He was good writer and found unique ways to shape his delivery.
The final LP from FCS North, Say Go, came out in 2006 on our own record label mass mvmnt, which we ran with Rohrman. From 2004 until around 2010, I continued to go Josh's house once a week to make music with him. We were constantly working and experimenting. Much of the later music remains unfinished, but that's okay, because the most important part of all of this is that we remained friends.
Josh was an early adopter of new technology. He had come up in the '80s along with computers, and was the kind of person who you could always go ask about tech. Around 2001, he decided that we should start playing with a computer on stage running the first version of a now-ubiquitous music software, Ableton Live. I thought it was crazy at first because it would glitch out as I tried to play along with the tracks, but Josh insisted it was the future of music.
Back then, you would be hard-pressed to find a live band that would bring a laptop on stage. Sound people used to have to hassle with us. Times have changed, and Josh was right. Nowadays many groups, including my current band [Select Level] play live to tracks.
A phrase Josh was fond of saying was "doing it for the kids." The idea was that we always try and think about the young people coming up, and present our music for them. Not get hung up on the old ways. I still take that to heart. He wanted our shows to continually evolve with our presentation, new samples (which he would call "treats") and visuals that Josh would put together himself. He designed our FCS North websites, and was constantly updating the material so it would stay fresh. Not content to sit still, never quite satisfied, and always on the hunt for the next wave of exciting technology or music.
He had an insatiable appetite for new music—much of it the newest underground dance music from outside of the States. He had a vast musical appetite, though—something the two of us had in common. I could never quite keep up with whatever his latest discovery was, but I appreciated finding out about the newest thing well ahead of the curve. That never stopped. He wasn't ready to stop.
Josh wasn't one to rest on laurels or wax nostalgic. He was always thinking forward. His spirit fought all the way until the end, and never gave up. I love and miss him more than I can put in to words.” -Andy Sells