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December 16, 2008
Sacramento Single: Pus Cavern Allstars "Happy Christmas (War is Over)"


With more than two dozen musicians (and their egos), conflicting schedules and a tight production timetable, it could have been a disaster.

Lesa Johnston, co-founder of the Pus Cavern Recording Studio, admits she was worried.

In the end, however, the Pus Cavern Allstars' recording of "Happy Christmas (War is Over)" was as fun and peaceful a project as its name suggests.

"I was concerned - all those egos coming - but the recording sessions ended up being so much fun," she says. "Everyone was just so cool."

The song, recorded to benefit the Sacramento Children's Chorus, is a who's who of Sacramento musicians with, among others, members of the Deftones, Tesla, the Hoods, Far, the Skirts, the Secretions and the Snobs stepping into the recording booth.

Johnston - along with her husband, engineer Joe - had put together local Christmas CDs before but this year, as the deadline approached, she was faced with a lack of material and the gnawing need to get something done.

"We didn't get enough submissions this year (but) I had the urge, I needed to do this (because) at the end of the day we give the money to someone who needs it," she says.

So, w ith the holiday season approaching, the Johnstons called on their friend Dave Buckner. The former Papa Roach drummer, now playing with his own band Last Angels, agreed to produce and quickly decided on just the right song.

"Happy Christmas (War is Over)" is probably the coolest rock'n'roll Christmas song ever," Buckner says of the John Lennon-penned tune (alternately known as "Happy Xmas" (War is Over")).

"It's just not your average holiday tune - it goes much deeper."

With the song decided, Buckner says, everything else just fell into place even as musicians scrambled to meet their tight production schedule.

"There were some scary moments but in the end everyone was extremely easy to work with."

So, no trashed waiting rooms? No outrageous demands? No holding out for the choicest guitar solo?

Nope, not even one tantrum.

"It was one of the loosest, most fun vibes," says Daycare guitarist Sonny Mayugba (pictured above, photo courtesy

"It was just everyone learning the song together and not sweating it - we're all older, we're all professionals and it was just about getting down the best song we could."

The Pus Cavern Allstars

Song: "Happy Christmas (War is Over)"

Style: Rockin' around the Christmas tree

Behind the song: Sonny Mayugba, who plays rhythm guitar on the track, says the modern Christmas classic proved to be a difficult undertaking.

"I thought I could just play it by ear but the song is really not that easy - Beatles' chords in general are pretty tricky," Mayugba says. "I had to get the sheet music to learn it and was totally just cramming to learn it in time for the session."

But with the chords finally figured out and parts learned, the gathering became relaxed, filled with impromptu covers and jam sessions.

"Recording studios are usually kind of nerve-wracking but this was almost like playing a live show," Mayugba says. "Everyone was playing - you had five or six guitarists, totally solo-ing their heads off. I think that's why the song comes out sounding so fun - those guys are just having a good time."

Listen to "Happy Christmas (War is Over)" here:

Download "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" for 99 cents at All proceeds benefit the Sacramento Children's Chorus (

For more information and a complete list of participating musicians visit

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