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MixTrips: Chris Pelonis

Chris has been a longtime friend and I’ve thought from day one that he had one of the great creative/technical minds in our industry.

Chris has been a longtime friend and I’ve thought from day one that he had one of the great creative/technical minds in our industry. A designer, acoustician, musician, speaker manufacturer, producer, engineer, songwriter, martial arts expert, photographer…we profiled him earlier this year in a cover story. So Chris was my first stop upon leaving Oakland on July 8, the day after my 52nd birthday—first at his Los Olivos getaway in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley, then out at his home on Hollister Ranch. This time around it was just to visit.

I wouldn’t say that Chris is really cutting back on his studio design projects, as he is heavily into a couple (including a major rock artist you all know) and was in the midst of a bid on a large-scale, multi-room facility while we visited. He’ll always design and consult with friends and special clients; there’s no doubt about that. But he’s definitely spending more time on his songwriting, production and photography.

His photography is stunning, and he has shown out in galleries and all that. His recent cover shot for the Jeff Bridges and the Abiders record (he’s guitarist and MD) was picked up by Sigma, Chris’ favorite camera manufacturer (Google the Foveon sensor), and will be featured in an upcoming company magazine. He has a great eye, to go with his most excellent ears.

While he’s doing more writing and figuring out how to play out more, he engineers and produces. He recently brought local friend Michael McDonald in to do a piano/vocal track written with David Crosby, another local friend, and he’s consistently on the road with Jeff Bridges. But lately he’s talking a lot about his son, with more than fatherly pride. His son, Christian, is a monster 16-year-old guitar player in the up-and-coming, soon-to-break teenage rock band Stolen Thunder. They’ve already played House of Blues Anaheim, the Whisky A-Go-Go and won a nationwide VH1 contest for young bands.

The foursome, fronted by the charismatic and powerful 15-year-old Katelyn, came together at and received early support from The Rockshop Academy in Santa Barbara, and they are being recorded mostly by Pelonis Senior (I’ll bet Chris loves that moniker!) at his studio/barn. They have videos, they play benefits (solidly community-minded), and they are building up original material. Watch out for Stolen Thunder.

On Sunday July 12, Chris got out his Triumph and I followed in my car, as we drove the famed San Marcos Pass toward Santa Barbara, left into the Los Padres National Forest on Old Stagecoach Road, to a very special local spot called Cold Spring Tavern