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Multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter David Roback, who formed Mazzy Star with vocalist Hope Sandoval, died Tuesday, according to the band’s publicist. The cause of death was not disclosed. Roback was 61.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Roback graduated from Palisades High School in 1975. Shortly thereafter, he formed a band, The Unconscious, with his brother Stephen and future Bangle Susanna Hoffs.
Roback found initial acclaim in the mid-1980s as the leader of the Rain Parade, who were leaders of L.A.’s neo-psychedelic revival known as the Paisley Underground. Roback left the band after one album, however, citing musical differences. After releasing a record with Rain Parade, Roback formed Opal with Dream Syndicate bassist Kendra Smith in the mid-1980s. When Smith abruptly left Opal in the middle of a tour with the Jesus & Mary Chain, Sandoval replaced her, and the seeds of what would become Mazzy Star were planted. The duo would go on to create a soundscape of psychedelic dream-pop, with hints of alt-country and textured blues.
Mazzy Star’s debut, “She Hangs Brightly,” was released in 1990, but the 1993 follow-up, “So Tonight That I Might See” featured the band’s biggest hit, “Fade Into You.” This was followed by the critically acclaimed “Among My Swan” in 1996. After a 17-year span between albums, they released “Seasons of Your Day” in 2013, following that up with the “Still” EP in 2018.
The reclusive Roback wrote the music and played himself in Olivier Assayas’ 2004 drama, Clean.
Tributes from fellow musicians and those who worked with his bands have already started to pour out.
L.A. native Jason Anchondo, drummer for the long-running psych-rock band the Warlocks, noted that Mazzy Star’s sound set them apart from other rock being made here at that time. “His music was always powerful yet beautiful at the same time,” Anchondo wrote on Facebook. “When I first heard Mazzy Star, it was unlike anything that was going on at the time, especially coming out of the hair metal straight into the grunge era of music. It was like Los Angeles had a voice.”
“His songs and guitar playing in all his endeavors, whether it be the Rain Parade, Opal or Mazzy Star, were so dialed in, and so beautiful, I studied him and his gorgeous subtleness,” wrote Sharif Dumani, who’s been a member of many L.A. bands and a touring guitarist. “Never overstated, but always straight to the heart.”
Wrote Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins: “A brilliant musician and producer, he gave us some amazing music. A quiet, private and brooding man during the time we worked together … We were labelmates at Capitol, and Mazzy Star supported us in the USA during a long tour in the ’90s. Dave then produced some tracks of Beth Orton’s ‘Central Reservation’ LP at our September Sound studios in Richmond during 1999. He leaves us way too early.”
And Hoffs, on Twitter, writes: “Peace and love David Roback… My first musical partner and my very dear friend. You will be eternally missed.”