FIREZINE: We recently found out that you participated in Mama Cass' 1968 "Dream A Little Dream Of Me" album.

PHIL AUSTIN: Yeah, that's right. I'd forgotten completely about that.

FIREZINE: Since we last talked, we sent you a tape of it. I can definitely hear your voice on several songs, especially "Jane The Insane Dog Lady", where you introduce the song as a carnival barker.

PHIL AUSTIN: Who was listed as the producer?

FIREZINE: John Simon, who later produced some of the Proctor and Bergman albums.

PHIL AUSTIN: Ok, so John must have written "Jane The Insane Dog Lady".

FIREZINE: Do you remember how you became involved with the album?

PHIL AUSTIN: My participation on this project was because Cyrus Faryar (the bass singer for the Modern Folk Quartet) and I became friends and through him I came to live for a while at what was called 'The Farm' in the Hollywood Hills, once described by Rolling Stone as a "ramshackle semi-commune". I never really knew Cass Elliott, although she was certainly around. It was in Cyrus' and my driveway - that is the Upper Farm - that I remember this guy from the East named John Simon opening the trunk on his rental Mercedes and giving me copies of something called "Music From Big Pink" which turned out to be the first album by "The Band", a work he had produced. Changed my life, sure enough and probably yours as well. John then moved in to produce an album for Cyrus and the Cass Elliott album in the studio built into Cyrus' house.
On the Cass album, the voice your hear - all the spoken voices you hear - as announcer and radio voices - are mine. John and I recorded them in one session when the studio had pretty much taken over. I lived in the garage of the Upper Farm and so I was mostly allied with the Upper Farm and not the lower, although the Lower Farm (that is, Anton Green's house) was the actual place where Nick Danger had been written by the entire Firesign Theatre.
This was the time - in the very late 60s of the nearly lamented 20th Century - when Oona and I met up. She was singing for John on this album when I fell in love with her literally the first moment I saw her. My horrible ex-wife was about gone by this time and I was finally free to go head-over-heels for Oona. And I did, to the amazement of all of our friends. Oona and I have cheerfully lasted over 25 years at this point and that's certainly the opposite of what anyone would have predicted at the time this album was being recorded. Cyrus was married at that time to Renais Jean Hill, the Queen of the Upper Fram and Oona lived down the hill at the Lower Farm, where there were no queens to speak of. You can hear Oona and Renais quite clearly on the backgrounds as well as John's eternal love of the tuba. I'm not saying it's a great album, but it's fun to listen to it now, years later. Here's to Cass, God bless her. Here's to John and his wife Caroline, whom we miss, and here's to 'The Farm', which is now extinct, the 2 houses bulldozed into the arid hills and a vast apartment complex built there, Jack's teepee and Annie's Chicken Shack and all the other country landmarks of the place are no more - places that meant a lot to a wide variety of people in Hollywood at the time. Incidentally, the pictures of Firesign Theatre on the cover of the Danger album were shot in the driveway of the Upper Farm.

FIREZINE: Oona, you sang on the Mama Cass album sessions. What do you remember about it?

OONA AUSTIN: Ah... I remember a lot of great musicians in the big room on the vocal sessions, but then there were a lot of projects going on at that time. I remember some of the guys from the jazz ensemble Oregon, people from Apple Records and The Fool, Linda Ronstadt, John Sebastian, Henry Diltz, members of the Association and so forth, but I'm not sure which cast of singers went on what album. It was a typical night at Cyrus' when all the musicians would show up. It wasn't anything really unusual. A lot of people were making albums around then. I'd sing backgrounds for John Simon and Cyrus if they needed it, particularly the ones with any big chorus on them that Cyrus and Renais actually wrote. It was fun. Cass was there and all the Mamas and Papas.

FIREZINE: The production is really strange with a lot of stuff going on.

OONA AUSTIN: Well they were just getting into 24 tracks and synthesizers had just come in the studio, I remember all that. It was a very big deal because someone paid for all that. I remember an engineer named Johnny Horton, I think, and he was Ike and Tina's engineer and that's where we would hear all the horror stories about Ike Turner, doing literally, a cup of cocaine. The kinds of stories where you would just go, "Oh Yike!". He was a great guy, Johnny Horton. He did like 5 or 6 albums out of that studio. It was in one of the bedrooms. The whole living room was one of the studio parts. He soundproofed the whole thing. Everyone did everything there. It was great, it was fun. The (Firesign) boys got together in the lower house at that point too, for one of the first albums. So they all have fond memories of 'The Farm' too, because they all sort of got together writing there for the first time. I lived in the actual hunting lodge part. I had one half of it and a big stone fireplace. It was simply the ideal place to live in Los Angeles. It could not have gotten better. You know, everyone was really sad to leave.

FIREZINE: Why did it break up?

OONA AUSTIN: The land got sold. No one could come up with $60,000,000.