The one thing no one's come up with is music to cook by. Sure, TV's Naked Chef slapped together a bunch of British pop hits for Jamie Oliver's Cookin: Music to Cook By, but those songs were already composed -- and as limp as yesterday's celery. Local musician Mario Hernandez of From Bubblegum to Sky has curated a new compilation, Cookbook CD: Libro de Cucina y Musica (out in May on Eenie Meenie Records), which offers not only a bunch of new food-related songs to slice and dice to but also vegetarian recipes chosen by the artists.
Hernandez got the idea for Cookbook CD a year ago after realizing that many of his musically minded friends were obsessed with food as well. Of course, he didn't want the project to be some kind of formal, Joy of Cooking deal, so he contacted artists with a sense of humor to fit his own. As such, the Evolutionary Control Committee's recipe for Hash Browns to Lay Your Ass Down ends with the suggestion, "Relax, eat, and burp." Likewise, the blurb for local dude Jamie McCormick's spinach soup with onions finishes off with the line, "Isn't that civilized. Now go fuck the Po-lice!" Seksu Roba's dish is an odd, all-white concoction called Bossa Blanco, made from radish, tofu, cauliflower, white bread, and white sesame seeds; it's meant to be served with white wine on a white table with a white napkin while wearing a white Andy Warhol wig. And just in case you think vegetarians are wimpy, Hernandez offers Green Tomatillos Salsa, which necessitates lots of Mexican beer.
The album and cookbook's artwork also sets it apart from the usual culinary how-to volumes. Designed by a Japanese graphic artist named Electric, the stylish booklet moves from anime cartoons to retro diner portraits to goofy collages. As for the music, it ranges from the egg-beating drones of Anubian Lights' "Fur Immer Und Ewig" to the cocktail-shaking electro-shuffle of Seksu Roba's "Bossa Blanco" to the chop-worthy power pop of local boy Roy Ishida and his group, Japanese Tigers. Hernandez's favorite, though, is "Pretty Saro" by Rocketship, the buzzy NorCal outfit of Dustin Reske, who Hernandez says is usually too "busy saving the world from Starbucks and greed" to make music these days. Other highlights include McCormick's white-eyed soul tune "Sugar and Salt" and the Evolution Control Committee's twisted synth-and-sample smorgasbord "Magnetize Your Food (Fried Mix)."
Now that Cookbook CD is completed, Hernandez is free to work on his next project: a compilation of covers of indie pop artists' musical heroes. Explaining his reasons for the multiple-act tribute, Hernandez says, "Besides the Beatles, Bowie, whatever, there are very few bands with enough great songs for a [whole] tribute [album]." So far, however, he's been surprised at the breadth and the depth of responses he's received. Dan Judd from locals Call and Response has offered a Jackson 5 tune, March Records honcho Skippy McFadden plans to team with Barcelona's Jason Korzen for Alan Parsons' "Eye in the Sky," and -- coup of coups -- Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian will record the Desperate Bicycles' early punk tune "The Medium Was Tedium." Hernandez himself has chosen "Public Image" by Public Image Limited, which he says was the first band to have a major impact on him. Apparently, during a camping trip with a friend when he was a kid, Hernandez met a girl who was interested in making out with one of them. She had a Walkman, which was unusual at the time, and Hernandez ended up listening to her tape of the Public Image album and being more enthralled by the music than by the chance to kiss a girl. Now that's the kind of nerdiness I can appreciate.