Cuacha Doin'

With the rerelease of their 1988 debut, the Sand Rubies finally seem ready to start making music again

Cuacha was also significant as the inaugural release of Hopkins' San Jacinto label, an imprint that would become a vital player in local music, putting out recordings by the Gin Blossoms, River Roses, Black Sun Ensemble (see Recordings on page 100) and many others.

Catalogued as San Jacinto's "DRAM 0188" (the designation stands for Dave, Rich, Andrea and Mark; the 0188 for the January '88 release), Cuacha would eventually find success overseas as well, when it was picked up for distribution in the U.K. through Demon Records.

When the band inked its deal with Mammoth Records in 1989, part of the agreement included surrendering the rights to Cuacha -- "for no money," Hopkins is quick to point out.

Still together after all these years: The Sand Rubies, David Slutes (left) and Rich Hopkins.
Kristin Giordano
Still together after all these years: The Sand Rubies, David Slutes (left) and Rich Hopkins.
The Cuacha-era version of the Sidewinders, onstage at Club Congress during Christmas '87.
The Cuacha-era version of the Sidewinders, onstage at Club Congress during Christmas '87.


Scheduled to perform on Friday, May 18, with Tom Gillam at Long Wong's in Tempe. The band will also perform on Saturday, May 19, at the Sail Inn in Tempe, with Mojo Farmers. Showtime for both is 9 p.m.

Since neither Mammoth nor RCA ever rereleased the recording, Hopkins eventually regained ownership of the album in 1994 and periodically began issuing pressings on CD, all of which quickly sold out.

Late last year, Hopkins finally decided to give the disc a proper reissue. The new version -- which has been filtering into retailers over the past month -- features the Sand Rubies designation, a visual face-lift -- updated packaging, additional photos, a humorous "Did You Know?" fact quiz about the band -- as well as a remastering treatment and a pair of bonus tracks (the two extra cuts are not, however, Cuacha-era recordings. The first, "I'm Not With You Anymore," is an Auntie Ramos-era remnant rerecorded in Tucson in 1995, while the second, "Tenderfoot Town," is a Sand Rubies outtake produced by late Neil Young collaborator David Briggs).

Though not expressly timed to coincide with the rerelease, the Sand Rubies have also begun playing shows again, this time augmented by a new drummer, Ernie Mendoza (a member of Slutes' Zsa Zsas), and frequent bassist Robin Johnson.

Though both principals remain busy -- Hopkins has just completed a new Luminarios record and is set to release a collaboration with Billy Sedylmayr in June, while Slutes plans to continue to push the Zsa Zsas while he works on an as-yet-unnamed orch-pop outfit with Johnson -- it seems that the partnership has in some ways come full circle. There is even talk of writing new songs and doing it "the old way."

While the group's well-received 1998 "comeback" LP Return of the Living Dead featured a quartet of new Hopkins/Slutes compositions, the tracks were done in halves -- with Hopkins handing over completed music for Slutes to write and sing lyrics over (an ironically similar scenario to the way their unwitting partnership began).

"If we do [write new material] I want to get back to doing how we used to -- writing in practice with a band -- as a band. To me it just makes all the difference in the world," says Slutes. "The new stuff that was on [Return] was really great -- don't get me wrong -- but I think if we do it again, we have to do it the way we used to during the [Cuacha] period."

"You know," muses Hopkins, contemplating the subject. "It's been so long it's kind of weird and scary. But with me and Dave -- regardless of everything that's happened over the years -- there is something still there. If we could just find that space again, that trust. It's difficult to get that feeling back, but if we want to, we could do it again.

"Why not?"

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