AT The Drive IN & The Birth of Deep Cotton: (Rock Ain’t Jus Bout White Guys Vol I)


I write to remember.

Let me be clear: When I met Nate Wonder at Morehouse College in 2002, AT THE DRIVE IN was the band that helped give birth to Deep Cotton.

Their look, their stance, their energy said it all: Rock Ain’t Jus Bout White Guys.

Mexican afros and flags. Hoopties on Texan side streets. Chuck Taylors. Black Jeans. Bandannas. And James Brown spins at punk rock shows. YES.

And their sound. Oh my God.

The first video I ever saw was ONE ARMED SCISSOR and that did it for me.

The chorus riff had so much meat and passion…it was like Mother Earth twisting, shuddering and wailing…I hadn’t heard anything like it since Nirvana…and I had to have more…

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez was proof that colored boys were not just playing, but innovating on guitar….

And Cedric Bixler-Zavala didn’t sing in a traditional sense. He was like a cross between Screamin Jay Hawkins and Zack De La Rocha.  He wailed, like a man undergoing an exorcism.  He was part rap, part punk, part everything else. He shook you. He just let loose. He gave you blood. And the blood he gave you reminded you of the blood spilled in the jungles, the blood spilled on the asphalt, the blood spilled in the sea, the blood that everyone could smell and see but no one wanted to talk about.

On Thursdays, I used to leave King Chapel after Crown Forum, get in my car and blast PATTERN AGAINST USER like it was the black national anthem.

Black folks would look at me like WTF!!!?? I hoped they were getting educated because I sure was.

the proposition
handcuffed to the park bench
hypodermic people poking
fun at the living
please lift the weight out of this
it takes the weight out of living
are we just infants
that are ripe for the training

A lot of folks now ridicule the abstruse nature of Cedric’s lyrics, and he and Omar have certainly gotten tiresome in their new punk opera project Mars Volta: they’re proof that two geniuses can take any wonderful thing too far. (It’s like they’re trying to create the string theory of Beat Poetry, Salsa and Punk or something. It’s not Jungle Rhythm 101; its Jungle Rhythm 1000.)

The first Mars Volta EP and album ( Tremulant and De-Loused in the Comatorium respectivelywere brilliant. After that, they set out to combine Miles Davis’s Panagea with…well everything, and things didn’t work so well…and Cedric’s lyrics got more and more obscurantist and poetic…in a bad way.

But back then in 2003, Cedric’s lyrics said it all:

Dissect a trillion sighs away
Will you get this letter?
Jagged pulp sliced in my veins
I write to remember
Cause I’m a million miles away,
Will you get this letter?
Jagged pulp sliced in my veins
I write to remember…
I write to remember…
My Right to remember…

AFter I’d worn Relationship to Command out,  I came across the ATDI EP Vaya. And that did it for me. That was proof: the electronica, nods to hip hop, jazz, the odd time signatures, and Omar’s guitar, divebombing like Jimi, angelic like Eddie, skronking and biting dissonantly on the rhythm like Ivan Julien on speed, and the punk spirit suffusing everything…this was a new form of music…

And if it was crack, I’d be in trouble…

I write to remember…


It was the year we met James Spooner, the year we saw AFROPUNK,  the year we felt and said fuck itlet’s do this shit…the year Deep Cotton was born.

It was the year we rode around with Saul Williams blasting his music, our music, and him smiling while Black Stacey boomed out into the Atlanta sky…he looked and over said, Give them five years, then they’ll be ready…and wait til you meet this friend I have in Oakland…his name’s Cody ChesnuTT…

A year later we were all at those Cody ChesnuTT shows. Jammin.

Cody invited Nate onstage to sing a song with him. And Nate never gave the mic back. He acted oblivious when Cody reached for it and went to the edge of the stage singing like it was his show. It was HIS show. All Cody could do was laugh. (And yes Nate: Cody and all of us still remember…don’t even try it…lol)

We took Jane to Cody’s second show. And she was there, taking notes. We all were.

That was ten years ago. Damn. It’s 2012.

Deep Cotton…Runaway Radio‘s about to drop. Out the sky. Like a cross between a bomb and chariot.

The Mayans say the world’s ending. At the Drive In just reunited.

Guess we’re right on time.



  1. Well, I know what I’ll be listening to tonight, and I am definitely ready for Runaway Radio. I love the latin piano in “L’via L’viaquez” as much as I love the one in “BaBopByeYa,” but I’m not a huge fan of the Beat Poetry, either. Maybe I’m ready for Jungle Rhythm 500.

  2. Right On Wondaland. Props to Deep C and ATDI both of whom have timeless sounds. If I didn’t know better I would have thought I heard both of you at City Gardens 30 years ago (look that place up) or at Terminal 5 last night.

  3. Chuck Lightning

    Hey guys,

    The Deep Cotton first release is a suite of jammin ass music called Runaway Radio.

    And it’s coming soon.

    It’s in the can.

    Mastered. Album art is done. And it’s ready to go.

    We’re talking over everything and literally choosing dates…

    In terms of videos, we’re releasing the epic EMOTION PICTURE for Far Enough…the short cut of the music video is 6 mins long…we’re going to release that first…then at some point in the near future we’re going to release the extended longer cut which we call the MONSTER CUT…which is really a short film that is 16 minutes long…

    SO we’re planning to release the Far Enough EMOTION PICTURE experiences very very soon…

    Then we’re going to release our suite Runaway Radio….

    Then release our full debut LP next year…

    To get you started here’s a link to our iTunes page for the Far Enough single…

    and feel free to watch for more updates here on and our site

    Hopefully, this sheds a little light on things…

    now i’m off to cook, clean, and paint a fence…

    talk soon

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