For nearly 50 years, Johnima and Kalassu Wintergate have been the husband and wife team behind the rock band Lightstorm. The unit has always had a split personality, with major stylistic differences in both their lyrics and their music. As a result, they’ve recorded and performed under a variety of other monikers, including One, 33 1/3, and Teeth. Drag City Records (in partnership with Yoga Records) is about to release the first-ever compilation showcasing the yin-yang of Lightstorm.
The group formed in Los Angeles in the late ‘60s, touring the world over. In 1972, they issued their first album, Warning (under the name Lite Storm). As they continued to tour and release records, members would come and go, with Johnima (lead vocals, guitar) and Kalassu (lead vocals, keyboards) the sole mainstays. Regardless of whatever musical mode they happen to be in, their message has always been driven by their belief in spiritual truth and unconditional love.
In the late ‘70s, the Wintergates decided to give filmmaking a try, writing a script and starring in their own movie. Johnima, who had some movie production experience, directed the picture, which was shot on video in 1981. The result was the 1982 horror-comedy, BoardingHouse, a gory, perplexing, and super-entertaining flick that must been seen to be believed. It has the distinction of being the first shot-on-video (SOV) horror feature to be blown-up to 35mm and shown in theaters. BoardingHouse has since developed a cult following, with the most recent DVD edition a celebration of its 30th anniversary.
Drag City/Yoga’s Lightstorm compilation, Creation, comes out February 19th on vinyl and digital formats. The collection draws from Creation Earth: Who Am I—released in 1977 as One—a highly spiritual double album reflecting their taste for the lighter side of psychedelic rock; and the self-titled 33 1/3 LP from 1980, a record that explores their carnal side, lyrically, while embracing the musical approaches of new wave, punk, post-punk, and hard rock, resulting in a style that’s completely uncompromising and totally awesome.
The absolute highlight of the entire set is the 33 1/3-era track extolling the virtues of unconventional sex, “Missionary is Impossible.” Kalassu’s vocals, initially breathy and confessional, shift between snotty, sultry, and defiant tones, as the music progresses through various stylistic changes, punctuated by Johnima’s chugging guitar riffs and loud, distorted chords that hang in the air. The track ends with an incongruous vocal refrain that sounds like it was shouted from the heavens.
I recently emailed the Wintergates to ask about the genesis of “Missionary is Impossible”; here’s Johnima’s reply:
“Missionary,” well, that was recorded as the last song for the 33 1/3 album and was strictly done for fun. Larry (Williamson), who co-produced with us, playfully suggested to Kalassu to be as vivacious and sexy as she was on stage. Kalassu laughed and then we all recorded the music and her improvised performance on the spot. It was great fun—hilarious and sarcastic—and we all thought it was a fitting end to our recording session.
Though they had some success, the Wintergates’ various musical projects failed to develop a mainstream following. By the mid-‘80s the couple was looking for change, so with two young children in tow, they left L.A. for the mountains of Idaho and a quieter life. But Johnima and Kalassu continued to record and perform, and still do, sharing their faith in peace, God, and love everywhere they go, both as a duo and as part of Lightstorm.
Dangerous Minds is pleased to present the premiere of “Missionary is Impossible” from Creation:
Before you go, check out the BoardingHouse trailer—you’ll be glad you did: