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Shiprock metal band to headline California music festival this weekend
High-profile gig is latest step forward for Signal 99
FARMINGTON — Just a few days before his band's appearance at a California music festival this weekend, where it is expected to perform before as many as 20,000 fans, Chuck Haven chuckled and offered a quick retort when asked if he had ever appeared on stage before such a big crowd.
"No," the Signal 99 frontman and founder said. "But I've been in crowds like that."
These are heady and happy times for Haven's Shiprock-based metal band, which will headline the Down N Dirty Festival Saturday in Adelanto, Calif. The event is a mix of motocross and music, and will feature more than 30 other acts in addition to Signal 99.
The band's fortunes have taken a marked turn for the better over the last several months, beginning with the long-awaited release of its 2017 disc "American Monster," which chronicles a dark period in the evolution of the band and the country.
Since then, the group has signed with an Anaheim, Calif.-based indie record label, Dead Sea Records, while picking up several sponsorships for everything from clothing to guitars and seeing its touring footprint grow exponentially. This weekend's show is only the latest example of that.
Signal 99 performed in Mexico for the first time in October and will be headed south of the border again in May for shows in Mexico City and Tijuana. The group was scheduled to make its debut in Costa Rica at a music festival in November, but a series of natural disasters in that region forced the postponement of that event until March. And the band will perform June 15 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Haven said his band's association with Dead Sea Records has made many of those things possible.
"Oh, yeah, I've been really happy," Haven said about his decision to sign with Dead Sea after he had rejected a handful of previous overtures from indie labels. "It's really opened up a lot of doors for us."
Haven said the attention the band has been getting is gratifying. While Signal 99 always has had a significant local and regional following, climbing to that next level has been a challenge as the band has dealt with personnel turnover and Haven wrestled with the grief caused by the death of two of his brothers.
He believes the band's recent success is largely a product of its persistence.
"It was a combination of those things, especially being in the right place at the right time, especially being in front of the right people," he said. "It didn't just happen overnight. We made those connections, and those people kept an eye on us. They saw us working hard. ... They see the maturity and see how serious the musicians are, and they take all that into consideration."
Haven can't help but marvel at how far his group has come in the past few years.
"It give me the chills thinking about it," he said. "I still think about when I started this, sitting in my room laying down those first riffs. … Now we go out on these high-profile shows, meeting and playing for new people everywhere."
Haven has no plans to let the band start to coast, now that it seems to have caught fire. "American Monster" has been out for less than a year, but Haven already is planning to get the band back in the studio next month to record a follow-up for Dead Sea Records. He promises the disc, which likely will be an EP, will have a markedly different tone from its predecessor, known for its somber personal and political themes.
"'American Monster' was a mixture of blues-rock, metal and a ballad," he said. "It was dark. … With the new album, there will be more high-energy songs, kind of going back to why we started the band in the first place."
That lighter tone largely reflects the personal changes Haven has been through. The low point came in the fall of 2014 when his brother Hank, the band's original bassist, died of multiple sclerosis, a setback that was coupled with the death of his other brother Alonzo a little more than a year earlier.
Haven wasn't sure he even wanted to see the band continue after the death of his brothers, but he's glad now he forged ahead. He described his mindset as very positive and confident as he looked ahead to Saturday's show.
"I didn't know what to expect, coming out from all those (bad) years," he said. "But we weren't expecting this."
Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.