P (Depp’s Band)

“P” formed in late 1992 while Johnny Depp was filming What’s Eating Gilbert Grape in Austin, Texas. The lineup included Johnny Depp (guitar/bass), Gibby Haynes (vocals), Sal Jenco (percussion), and Bill Carter (guitar/bass). They performed their first show at the Austin Music Awards Show in March of 1993 and released the first and only album two years later on November 21, 1995. The song, “Michael Stipe” was the only single released.

The Lineup

Gibby Haynes

  • Lead singer for The Butthole Surfers
  • Hails from Austin, Texas
  • Used to be an accountant for KPMG, one of the largest professional services companies in the world and one of the Big Four auditors
  • Named Accounting Student of The Year at Trinity University
  • Designed the album art for P

Gibby HaynesGibby Haynes has stated that he met Johnny Depp at a Halloween party in 1992 which is when they formed the band–exactly one year before River’s death. Four months later, they performed their debut show at the Austin Music Awards Show in March of ’93. Haynes also designed the album art for P two years later. Haynes says he was good friends with River as well as John Frusciante. He was onstage with P, Frusciante and Flea the night River died:

“We were playing a song and River Phoenix was right down in front of me, to the left. We started the song “Michael Stipe” and it’s got River’s name it, so it was going to be cool, he’s a friend of mine and he’d never heard the song. So we were singing up on stage, ‘Him and River Phoenix were…’ And right at that moment, he was basically on the sidewalk. I saw him right at the beginning of the song, then I didn’t see River anymore.”


Bill Carter

Also from Austin, Carter is an accomplished musician who shares a matching tattoo on the backside of his hand with Depp, Damien Echols, makeup artist Joel Harlow and sound designer Ken Wyatt. Depp is said to have had his done sometime in early Fall 2012. Echols told People magazine in early September, “The art is a nod to the 1994 movie The Crow about a man who is murdered, but comes back to life. When somebody comes back to life, it’s the crow that brings them back to the living.”

Sal Jenco

Jenco was an old pal of Depp’s from 21 Jump Street.

What’s the P stand for?

In an interview with David Letterman, Depp proclaimed that it was nothing more than a letter from the alphabet, and while I can’t dispute that, I imagine it carries much more significance. That being said, I still have no idea what the P stands for. I’ve toyed with the theory that perhaps it stands for Phoenix as the band itself appears to have formed for a sole purpose–River.

Michael Stipe (The Song)

The lyrics for the song, Michael Stipe, ironically name the people who were on stage at the Viper Room the night River died. Frusciante, Flea, Depp, Haynes and River himself are mentioned in the song as well as Michael Stipe. The line, “Michael Stipe cried tonight,” is particularly interesting. One has to wonder why he’s crying, after all, River’s death had yet to happen.

Below are the lyrics:

I finally talked to Michael Stipe, he touched me on my arm.
I met him up in the Hollywood Hills, among the movie and TV stars.
I’m glad I met old Michael Stipe, I didn’t get to see his car,
him and River Phoenix were leaving on the road tomorrow, and I tonight.
Michael Stipe cried tonight.
Then I met old Michael Stipe, I met the girl in his video too.
Sophia Coppola looked at me, I didn’t know what the hell to do.
I’m glad I met old Michael that day
up the Laurel Canyon way.
Neil said it was full of famous stars,
hell I was driving Johnny Depp’s car.
Michael Stipe and I, tonight. Michael Stipe.
We said goodbye to John Frusciante at his Chateau Marmont suites,
but we couldn’t find a part not a piece of our heart,
not Michael, River Phoenix or Flea or me.
I guess I’ll go back to Texas soon, leave these Hollywood Hills,
cuz I’ll shoot myself dead with a gun in my head
cuz that’s what this town would have me to do.

Laurel Canyon

The song also mentions Laurel Canyon. Located in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, California, Laurel Canyon is a favorite neighborhood among celebrities. According to author and researcher Dave McGowan, it’s also the catalyst for the 1960’s hippie movement that involved an astounding number of military sons and daughters. Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Gram Parsons and Stephen Stills (just to name a few) all have some sort of military/government connection.

“These icons were, to an overwhelming degree, the sons and daughters of the military/intelligence complex and the scions of families that have wielded vast wealth and power in this country for a very long time. Are we to believe that the only kids from that era who had musical talent were the sons and daughters of Navy Admirals, chemical warfare engineers and Air Force intelligence officers? Or are they just the only ones who were signed to lucrative contracts and relentlessly promoted by their labels and the media?”  (Dave McGowan)

Weird_Scenes1In his book, “Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon,” McGowan also touches on a little known studio located in Laurel Canyon called Lookout Mountain Laboratory, which was originally envisioned as an air defense center. Hidden from view and surrounded by an electric fence, the facility featured a fully operational movie studio.

“With 100,000 square feet of floor space, the covert studio included sound stages, screening rooms, film processing labs, editing facilities, an animation department, and seventeen climate-controlled film vaults. It also had underground parking, a helicopter pad and a bomb shelter.” (Dave McGowan)

It’s also believed that the facility was used by the CIA to create films for MK Ultra mind control programming. Project MK Ultra began in the early 1950’s and was used by the CIA to force confessions through mind control. Numerous methodologies were implemented to manipulate people’s mental states and alter brain functions, including the administration of drugs, hypnosis, sexual abuse and various forms of torture. Lawrence Teeter, attorney for convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan, believed Sirhan was under the influence of hypnosis when he fired his weapon at Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Teeter linked the CIA’s MK Ultra program to mind control techniques that he claimed were used to control Sirhan. Project MK Ultra used horrendous forms of torture to manipulate, control and break the will of the victim.

The Album

The artwork created by Gibby Haynes for P’s album depicts Michael Stipe in a peculiar, if not disturbing light. In the three smaller pictures, he appears to be under some sort of hypnotism with the spiral design used for one of his eyes, and the others dilated and looking off in opposite directions. The concept of dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality) and hypnotism ties in with Laurel Canyon and Project MK Ultra.  

In the first picture, he appears to be slipping something into some type of container.

The second picture shows Stipe rolling a pair of dice that can either be read as snake eyes, or a seven and a two. This is the same combination displayed on one of the Viper Room’s logos.

The third picture depicts Stipe as a skeleton (representing death?) with a P on his tongue. Two peas are shown on either side of him, but Stipe zeros in on the one to the left. A symbol is shown below the pea that looks like an arrow/P pointing up; however, since the band’s name is already shown on Stipe’s tongue, the symbol must have a different meaning. Inspired by the period to the right of the symbol, I propose that it actually spells out River’s name, the period actually a dotted “i”.  If this is correct, than the album art is telling us that Stipe (a victim of Monarch Programming) is inadvertently responsible for River’s death at the Viper Room.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The inside spread of the album depicts Michael Stipe undergoing electric shock symbolized by the eel-like figures with forked tongues targeting the genitalia and head area. Stipe has five different faces indicating dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality). We see four little pea’s (Haynes, Flea, Frusciante and Depp?) looking on in horror as the snake-like eels (the MK Ultra programmers) administer the treatment.

The monstrous figure offers a collage of clues, for not only does it suggest Stipe’s miserable disposition, but it also hints at Heart Phoenix’s involvement in her son’s death. The balding male figure is shown to have female anatomy and we also see a bloody organ that could be construed as a heart valve. The dog-looking image with x’s for eyes that morphs out of the figure’s leg is also significant. Stipe saw himself as River’s dog in a sense, acting as the middle man between Heart Phoenix, The Kingship and River by delivering and sending messages. When the dog was killed, the mean cat alter took over. Perhaps that’s what this artwork portrays. Perhaps that’s why Michael Stipe was crying up the Laurel Canyon way.

The figure also has toothbrushes for arms and a stray tooth is shown just above its forehead with the word tooth written next to it. Victims of Monarch Programming have spoken about implants being inserted somewhere on their body as a way for their handlers to maintain control and trigger different personas.

P is a band, NOT a liquid or a fruit.

I believe this to be a reference to the poisoned drink that killed River. Please visit E-bow the Letter for an in-depth analysis. The emphasis on NOT, gives a negative connotation to the liquid and fruit in this riddle. The theory I put forth is that seconal, Spanish fly, absinthe, kerosene, and cherry-flavoring were the actual ingredients used to poison his drink. If the members of P are trying to give us insight into the night River died via their album’s artwork, than this one-lined riddle is highly significant.

Depp and Flea, Viper Room, Oct 94

Three months prior to the release of P’s album in 1995, The Red Hot Chili Peppers released One Hot Minute which includes a solo track by Flea called, Pea. The lyrics don’t tell us much as Flea strums his bass guitar singing, “I’m a little pea, I love the sky and the trees. I’m a teeny tiny little ant checking out this and that…” and so on and so forth, but it’s an interesting name for a song don’t you think?

So what’s the P stand for?! Although not considered part of the band, River’s good friends Flea and John Frusciante were also on stage that night. Perhaps “P” stands for The Kingship’s peons and paupers, the small change, the pyramid’s peanuts, friends of Phoenix who gathered at the Viper Room in an attempt to help him carry out his plan, his volcanic change of plot. I’m still working out the details on that one, but I do believe that P (whatever it stands for) directly relates to River.

So what does it all mean?

At first glance it’s easy to assume that P was formed for sinister purposes. The owner of the Viper Room, River’s rival, forms a band and ends up playing a song mentioning his name while he convulsed outside on the pavement on Halloween morning. Depp and Bill Carter have a matching tattoo that resembles a phoenix bird. To an outsider’s perspective it looked bad, and while I still believe River’s death to be a sacrificial killing, I don’t think Depp and company helped pull it off. In fact, I think it’s just the opposite.

RiverPhoenix10Although P only released one single, were never a popular band, and hadn’t played together since 1997, Johnny Depp and the other members re-released the album for a limited time in 2007. They said they may one day release it again. Most people have never even heard of this band so I don’t see the album as being much of a money-maker. Why re-release it? Maybe they’re just honoring their word and trying to keep their promise to River that if things went wrong, they would somehow get the truth out. It’s almost as if P was River’s personal rock band.

Worth Noting: In a scene from Dark Blood, River’s character Boy is standing outside and throws a rock at some large pieces of metal hanging down off the house. He then explains that he got them from a scrap yard filled mostly with leftover titanium from a nearby lab. “I set em up,” he says. “It’s my rock concert…that’s death’s music you’re hearing.”


P’s Debut performance at The Austin Music Awards

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