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History of the band
National Debt

The roots to the band National Debt can be traced back to the summer of 1989. While attending California Polytechnic State University, expatriate San Pedro musician Salvador España began hosting the KCPR radio program Audioscapes. During the Labor Day weekend, Sal invited several musician friends for an improptu, on-air jam. Pleasantly surprised, the group decided to make the sessions quarterly activities, occuring the weekend following finals. Each time, the ensemble grew in size, with as many as 16 musicians performing (limited by the size of the mixing board). Members of the local electronic band Equinoxe joined James Ellis and other San Pedro musician friends of Sals; both groups brought other musician friends. At one point, someone mentioned that "This band is growing faster than the National Debt." Now armed with a name, the musicians followed only one rule: No 12 Bar Blues. (A few years later Rule # 2 - No Senior Projects - was adopted.)
National Debt performing live at KCPR
National Debt performing live during Audioscapes on KCPR 27 May 1989.
Pictured (Clockwise from bottom) Steve Seidman, James Ellis,
James Martin (in booth), Sal España, Chris Ambler
[Photo by Lori Acalin]
Being based in a college town meant that over the years people move on; consequently, the core of the band settled around five or six musicians. The performances began to be more structured; live improvisation remained the focus, but rehearsed compositions were beginning to become prominent in their sets.
National Debt performing live at KCPR
Taking a break between live sets.
Left to Right: Larry Rodenborne, Tim Crooks, James Ellis, Sal España, Mike Funk
[Photo by Lori Acalin]
Each musician performed in other bands as well, and as those bands achieved various levels of success, the musician pool further narrowed. By 1995, the only two fixed members were Sal España (keyboards, synthesizers, effects) and James Ellis (guitar, bass, drums, synthesizers, effects). While other musicians still joined in, the compositional aspect of the band remained with these two.

Shuttling between San Pedro and San Luis Obispo, James and Sal began an extended period of recording. Gradually compiling a long list of finished tracks, they began thematically assembling the compositions for release. Just Planting Seeds, completed in 1999, displays the band's wide range of influences. Europa, Monolith, and Elegy in White demonstrate the band's more ambient/space inclinations, while 10:37 and Range of Light show the influence of Steve Reich and Philip Glass. For good measure, James and Sal included one "trance" track Kobayashi Maru, as well as their first collaboration, Radio Moscow.

Cover art for the Electrical Language CD Third Eye Opener Further recording trips resulted in the band's second CD Third Eye Opener. The four extended tracks are much more in the ambient/experimental realm. Dusk and Crop Circles are almost industrial, while House of Rumour adds rhythmic elements. The 22 minute Riddles in the Dark encaspulates many of the band's styles.

In 2000, the band was invited to contribute a track to the Bill Nelson tribute CD Confessions of Young Moderns. In a whirlwind weekend session, Esoteric Knowledge was produced. Inspired by its success, James and Sal recorded a longer version which became the title track of their third CD. The seven tracks that make up Esoteric Knowledge again show the band's various styles. Darkness at Noon is symphonic, while No Time To Lose is a rhythmic jigsaw. Floating Face Up and Obscured By Cows are shorter, more up-tempo pieces, while the album's closer Et Tu Brute is about as ambient as you can get.

Over the next several years, the recordings continued. The politically charged Cold War was followed by the Joseph Campbell inspired The Call To Adventure and The Road Of Trials. While 2005 produced the ambient collection Dark Matter, National Debt moved to a more acoustic sound for Natural Selection in 2007. Currently, National Debt is working on their ninth album, expected to be completed in early 2008.
National Debt Discography:

Just Planting Seeds (1999)
Third Eye Opener (2000)
Confessions of Young Moderns (2000)
Esoteric Knowledge (2001)
Cold War (2002)
The Call To Adventure (2003)
The Road Of Trials (2004)
Dark Matter (2005)
Natural Selection (2007)

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