My first song lyrics were part of the Twiggy project, a series of books for teaching English to Spanish children, in collaboration with a great illustrator and storyteller (Luis López de Lerma) and a wonderful pedagog (Mady Musiol). Musically, it all started with Uncle Joe's Got the Blues … (https://www.facebook.com/talltailproductions/).
This song comes from the fourth TWIGGY book, Looking for Twiggy. Another children's song that doesn't sound like one. There's too much good music in the world to keep it all for us adults. Bring on the Bongo Boys … (https://www.facebook.com/talltailproductions/).
In 1999 I started playing percussion and collaborating with my two brothers, Stan (https://www.facebook.com/stan.hench) and Mark Hench, on some transatlantic recordings, me in Spain and the two of them in Houston, Texas. We called our project Toe Jam, basing it partially on old jug band music. Playing percussion with bass player Paco Calvo Serrano (https://www.facebook.com/paco.calvoserrano.7) in a rented garage with a leaky roof, I opened up to writing lyrics for adults (we were all once children; some of us still are), and I still remember the day these words fell like Fruit from a Tree … The warm vocals are by Ron Coffelt (https://www.facebook.com/ron.coffelt.92), on the Houston side.
My Spanish group grew into Pies Negros. Led by Rodolfo del Fresno (guitar, https://www.facebook.com/rodolfo.delfresno), great musician and teacher, it also included the late Ramiro L. Ruiz (guitar), Paco Calvo Serrano (bass, (https://www.facebook.com/paco.calvoserrano.7) and Miguel Angel Ferradas (guitar and percussion, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007209676617). This is a group composition, based on the opening theme by Ramiro L. Ruiz, originally from Ecuador, but who sadly died in 2004. I am heard on drums in this live recording of El Catetal ...
Although Ramiro L. Ruiz had died, his compositions lived on. I put lyrics to this song of his, telling the true story of my brother, Charlie Hench, who decided to go on A Solo Transierra Trek, and ended up stranded on an icy ledge for seven days … More vocals by Ron Coffelt, and keyboard licks by Neville Unwin.
In 2013, through mutual acquaintances, I met Alejandro Campos (https://www.facebook.com/stantonstanton, http://lavidasecreta.com/), a talented singer/songwriter with vision and creative force, who has become a very good friend. I began to put lyrics to his songs, and over time we have built great rapport. Here are several of our collaborations, performed by our band The Maintenant, (https://www.facebook.com/TheMaintenant/) composed of: Alejandro Campos: guitar and vocals; Joaco Botana: violin; Feliche Botana: guitar; Rodo del Fresno: bass; Paul Hench: drums.
Here we have Alejandro Campos and Pilar Corcuera (https://www.facebook.com/pilar.corcuerabotana), with whom I formed The Mike Balich Band (https://www.facebook.com/Mike-Balich-Band-764348213673136/), performing one of the first compositions that Alejandro and I collaborated on: The True Story of Mike Balich. This song tells a story an aunt of mine once told; that when she was eight years old, she taught an illiterate man to write his name. Another collaborator in this group was Glenn Douglas (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004818632691).
In 2013 I started to get interested in my family roots, especially on my mother's side which was Croatian. I visited Croatia, and discovered some writings by my Aunt El (Eleanor Tolar) in which she told stories and gave details about our family in Croatia and later in Wyoming. I wrote a series of songs, along with Alejandro Campos, about my maternal (as well as paternal) ancestors, and performed some of them, in reciting fashion, under the name of Neal Bastalich.
My most recent musical project is just beginning. The summer of 2016 was a very productive period for composing, and Alejandro Campos and I have plenty of new material, which is still taking shape. We are starting to perform some of this material with a formation called BFD, (https://www.facebook.com/B-F-D-1049920791751380/) which also includes Dani Escurín on guitar (https://www.facebook.com/dani.escurinaparicio) as well as Rawle Bruce on bass (https://www.facebook.com/rawle.bruce.5). Here are some short samples of this on-going work. Much more to come!