Nathan Hubbard is up for anything. A prolific composer and jazz drummer, he's performed in highway underpasses and remote mountain roads. He's built unconventional percussion instruments and written music for 17-member ensembles. He's laid down funky beats as the drummer for local indie-pop ace Rafter Roberts and crossed doom metal with bossa nova in an abstruse experimental outfit called Ogd_S(11) Translation Has Failed.
But for all the crazy projects this 37- year-old musician has tackled, nothing quite matches his latest venture. Since January, he's been dropping one new album a month, each devoted to the famous landmarks and unknown history of his hometown, Encinitas. The project is called Encinitas and Everything After, and from what I can tell, it's driving Hubbard crazy.
"I've been working on this for 15 years," Hubbard says with a sigh, talking over lunch at Coop's West Texas BBQ in Lemon Grove. "I have five hours of music. I was going to put it out entirely on a USB stick. Just, like, Here you go!' Then I realized, if somebody did that to me, I would never even plug it into my computer."
Hubbard, an inventive outlier of the local jazz scene, has released three albums so far as part of the series. He's got a fourth volume coming out before the end of the month, and, assuming all goes according to schedule, he'll finish the series with a fifth album in May. He's commemorating each release with a concert at the Taoist Sanctuary in University Heights (4229 Park Blvd); the next one goes down at 8 p.m. Sunday, April 27. (He'll also put on a performance of solo drumming at Space 4 Art in East Village (325 15th St.) at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 26.)
The jazz of Encinitas and Everything After is decidedly avant-garde—you won't hear any chill surf licks on these records. But the lush arrangements, wandering melodic figures and deep, whooshing rhythms capture the reflective vibe of the area, and some songs refer to things only a true-blue Encinitas native would recognize. In "The Greatest Story Never Told," a cut from Volume 4, Hubbard teams up with members of his old high-school drumline to serve up the school's marching-band cadence, a trademark rhythm passed down from classmate to classmate.
"I was born [in Encinitas], and I grew up there. I have a ton of family from there that goes back several generations," Hubbard says. "I think I just realized at some point that I would be a different person if I grew up somewhere else. I would hear things differently." He certainly looks the part, with his light-blue polo shirt, leather sandals and scruffy mop of dirty blond hair.
Hubbard now lives in Allied Gardens with his wife and two kids, but he spent most of his life in Encinitas. He grew up in a simple house on a one-acre plot just off Interstate 5, where his parents grew vegetables and raised goats for milk. ("I didn't drink cow's milk until I was 12 or 13," he says.) His father, Don, was—and still is— in the sewer-building business, running a contracting company founded by Nathan's grandfather in 1947, which laid down some of the first cesspools and waste-management systems in North County.
Reared on nature and industry, Hubbard shows a taste for both in his music. When he performs solo drums, he explores a range of wild ideas and strange textures, using atonal plumes of noise and a workshop's worth of wood, metal and skin instrumentation. Underscoring the music's geographic nature, he sometimes performs in unconventional public spaces—in the mountains, in parking structures, even once inside a bomb shelter.
Hubbard brings more melody and structure to his written compositions, but this music is just as in thrall with the Earth: The most alluring track on the second volume of the Encinitas series might be "San Dieguito River," in which regal rhythms and murky woodwinds course along over 10 minutes like the winding waterway.
Due to their experimental, occasionally bizarre nature, the tracks on Encinitas and Everything After don't always conjure stereotypical Encinitas images, like hidden beaches and a salty sea breeze. This disconnect hasn't always gone over well with the locals: Once, Hubbard says, an old-timer on an Encinitas Facebook group grumbled about the project, wondering what it had to do with the sleepy beach town.
But Hubbard insists that he fits in with the city's musical tradition. And as it turns out, Encinitas has been home to a surprising array of artists, ranging from jazz guitarist Peter Sprague to '90s emo / post-hardcore group Boilermaker to 20th-century avant-garde composer Harry Partch.
"Harry Partch fucking lived in Encinitas," Hubbard says. "He lived down the street from my grandparents in the '70s.
"Every time I think about Encinitas music, I think about Boilermaker," he adds. "I think about Harry Partch. How did Encinitas affect all these people? I don't really know. I don't have the answer. But it's interesting to think that all these people made music and were somehow influenced by Encinitas."
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