Chris Unck – Joshua Tree’s Wandering Wizzard
By Lisa Morgan
What qualifies one as a wizard? According to the great oracle known as “Wi-ki-pe-di-a,” the wizard is a “Genius student of arcane magic, who has studied the subject for years. He practices until he is able to command magic with ease. The wizard must prepare spells daily. They are the users of magic.” With few minor differences, Joshua Tree’s Wandering Wizzard, Chris Unck, has rightfully earned this title and it is reflected in his art. Whether it’s in his Wandering Wizzard jewelry line (forged and created with the gems and stones he exhumes from the earth himself), the music of others he produces and masters with a touch of genius, or the heady conversations he brings to the coffee table, it is all drawn from a deep well of study and life experience. Unck is a collector and entrepreneur of magic in many forms and uses his gifts to empower others.
Multi-instrumentalist, singer, producer, artist, jeweler, and rockhound, Chris Unck wields his magic from the heart of his High Lonesome Recording Studio and Artist Retreat. He bears no resemblance to Gandalf the Great, and likely won’t for another 30 years. There is no long white hair and matching beard under a pointy hat and sagely robe. Instead, you’re more likely to run into him wearing his favorite local band t-shirt and a well-worn trucker hat from his favorite place to eat breakfast. However, his ethic, as represented in his vast body of work, kicks typical wizard ass.
Unck’s backstory is saturated with experiences few have ever had the courage to dream of, much less pursue and achieve. He is a Joshua Tree flavored Russell Brand, if you will. Conversational content can range from the time the artist, P!NK, fell from the harness that allowed her to fly over her audience, slamming her to the stage, and how she shook it off like a champ, to the sacred Navajo ritual music he was allowed to record in the desert following a sweat with a medicine man. A quick change of topics could suddenly take you on a jaunt through the legalities of publishing and copy rights, and Paul McCartney’s music becoming public domain, to the spiritual energy in the semi-precious stones he divined from a secret plot of magic earth and how to recharge them in the light of a full moon. He has learned through books and life experience on a level few ever do. There are no dull conversations with this wizard.
Growing up just outside of Helen, Georgia, it didn’t take long for Chris Unck to figure out he was different than most of the folks around him. His uncle and stepfather played guitar, and his dad was an aspiring producer, but for them, music was what someone did after work. Little did they or he know that his fascination with music would set him on a world stage playing to a crowd of 80,000 while touring with P!NK, or that he’d perform/record/write with other renowned artists such as Lisa Loeb, Victoria Williams, Gavin DeGraw, and more. He has worked on Island Def Jam Records, and he has performed with Butch Walker live on David Letterman. He has survived oblivion and found peace in sobriety. He has learned from near-devastating loss, and surreal highs. He has been swallowed whole by both darkness and light, all of which have unearthed a specialized wizardry that allows him to master each of the trades he has chosen.
Unck’s first exposure to “Echoes” by Pink Floyd fascinated him: the bass line, the slide, to the drums. “How they recorded it,” shares Unck, “blew my mind. I had to know all of it.” His relentless fascination with music, weaving all its parts together, would bring him pain and hard-earned lessons, but it also took him all over the US and the world. Today, however, all roads have led this wandering wizard to Joshua Tree where he has found his tribe, his heart, and his sanctuary.
“It’s interesting how many people out here offer to help, and then actually follow through with it. They are genuine with it. It’s the first time I’ve been in a place that mirrors what I feel in my heart and soul. Don’t get me wrong, there is always the yin to the yang, but I’ve seen some of the most beautiful exchanges of love I’ve ever witnessed.”
“Chris is first and foremost a craftsman,” attests recording artist, Tim Chinnock of the band, Adobe Collective. “His musicianship, songwriting, music production, and custom silver jewelry-making are all approached with a focus on excellence in craft. In the studio he uses dreamy tones, flawless engineering, an easygoing vibe, and personal service, to craft a great studio experience. You can hear it in the music that comes out of his place.”
Of all the magical things this wizard specializes in, the power of authenticity is at the heart of it all, and it is clearly infused into every piece of jewelry (or recording) he fashions. These unique statement pieces, be they hand-dug minerals, faceted gemstones, cabochons, sand-casted silver, or electroformed copper pendants, knives, rings, cuffs or freshly engineered record albums, they all mirror this one-of-a-kind artist’s heart for empowering others. You can feel it whether you wear it or hear it.
Find the Wandering Wizzard at the Joshua Tree Market in Joshua Tree on Saturdays, or online at WanderingWizzard.com (remember the two ZZs in the address). Follow @crystaldiggerz on Instagram for amazing footage of actual digs. You can also check out information regarding recording at High Lonesome Artist Retreat at www.highlonesomeproductions.com.