Einseinseins – Zwei (2022 Tonzonen Records)

The robots are among us! With their highly developed AI they have wormed their way into the mainframe of human conscious and are now taking over music to reprogram us through catchy electronic tunes, 80s wave, and pure and uncut krautrock that will make you shake your limbs robot style. Oh, and they sing in German of course, but that’s selbstverständlich, not?

EinsEinsEins -it’s a lovely bandname, isn’t it- from Germany have definitely embraced their inner robot and are engaging their music through a machine-built 80s mainframe, recalling Kraftwerk, Genesis, and 80s wave bands like DEVO. Total nerd music of course, but absolutely loveable and well executed. I can totally see this rocking some smoking hot chemistry students party on a Saturday night.

The songs are long, but memorable, and varied enough to hold their own separately. EinsEinseins wrote them as such, with a different approach each time, and even though they are total robots, Zwei does not sound repetitive or soulless. Especially for people that grew up listening to a lot of 80s music on the radio their will be plenty of Easter eggs to discover within.

Don’t believe me though, I have been 100% reprogrammed to write favorable things about these German machines. The music did that to me. I don’t mind it either, and neither will you. In fact, by the time you read this while playing their tunes on the bandcamp player, it is already too late!

THANK- Thoughtless Cruelty (2022 Box Records)

Once again UK’s Box Records proves its worth as a trustworthy outlet for completely weird and unhinged music that defies old fashioned ideas like genre or style. Let’s welcome Leeds’ natives THANK, and thank them for their noisy presence and their gigantic sized balls making their own brand of noisy rock music the way only they do.

I mean starting your album stating THERE’S NEVER BEEN A GOOD BAND FROM LONDON takes some major guts. Or maybe a mental error of some kind. But probably both. It must be said THANK do sort of come back to their own words by stating there’s never been any good band at all, but still. Balls.

Musically the band creates a cacophonic hodgepodge of industrial beats, nerdy half-spoken/half-screeched vocals, heavy bass, heavier drums, and painfully distorted guitars. Somehow they make that sound a lot more appealing than the sum of its parts might seem. That is in large part due to their sympathetic presentation, their raucous humor, but even more to their terrific sense of songwriting. THANK writes some HOOKS, people. These sloganesque lyrics will worm their way straight from your earholes into your black heart.

Box Records have once again proven themselves finders of pearls among swine. They constantly mine the English backwaters for the cream of the crap of art rock. After Dorcha and Obey Cobra here is another one of those genre shakers that will thoroughly question your good taste and beliefs of what is right or wrong. You will THANK them very much later.

Hi guys, how have you been the past horror years?
Freddy (vocals/guitar): We have been biding our time, plotting.

How did you guys team up? What was the plan?
F: I met Lewis (guitar/synth) in our first week of university, and we’ve been playing in bands together for over a decade now. Most of our projects have been quite shortlived, but for some reason Thank seems to have stuck. The rest of the band are stragglers we’ve picked up along the way.


Can you explain why Thank sounds the way it sounds?
F: When we started Thank, I was listening to a lot of quite abstract and impenetrable noise rock like ‘Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men’ by Harvey Milk and ‘Sinews’ by White Suns. Around the same time, Lewis was getting really into techno, and was starting to put together his first “proper” analog synth setup. We decided we wanted to combine all that stuff, and I think we have mostly succeeded.


What happens when you write music?
F: It varies, but usually I write the first draft of a song by myself. Lewis kind of acts as quality control – he’s good at recognising the non-starters. The first draft usually has a lot of instrumentation figured out, with programmed drums and so on, but the other guys will always flesh out and adapt whatever parts I’ve written. I think the bassline is the most important element of most of our songs, and even though I tend to “write” those basslines, I think the twists and turnarounds Cameron (bass) adds are always integral. He is a clever man.


How do your lyrics take shape?
F: I don’t always stick to this, but something I try to keep in mind is that the first line of a song should be really funny. I think it’s good to open with a joke. Beyond that, I constantly write down fragments of thoughts in the Notes app on my phone, and I gradually pull them together into something intelligible. Some of the lines which ended up on this album have been floating around for 5 or 6 years, so it’s been nice to see them finally take shape.

What is Leeds like as a hideout for experimental music? 
F: The music scene was the main reason I first moved to Leeds. It feels like there is more of a community than a lot of other cities I’ve visited, with more cross-pollination between different scenes. We used to rehearse at a place called CHUNK, and in particular the early days of CHUNK (around 2015/2016) had some amazing crossover between noise rock, grindcore, doom metal, post-punk, hip hop, harsh noise and all sorts.


What are your ultimate goals as a band?
F: To promote the Short King lifestyle.


What would you like our readers to do after this interview?
F: Pre-order the incredible debut album ‘Thoughtless Cruelty’ by Thank.

THANK, the band

Cloakroom- Dissolution Wave (2022 Relapse Records)

There is a powerful musical movement on the rise, with new bands combining heavy doomy guitars and dreamy shoegazey melodies and vocals into something sometimes dubbed doompop or heavy shoegaze. Bands like Pelagic Records’ SOM, Willowtip’s Seven Nines And Tens, and now Relapse’s Cloakroom are all weird ducks in their particular pond, treading more melodic and less aggressive waters than most of their label mates. And yet still being heavier in their dark atmosphere than most.

Dissolution Wave for example sounds like being drugged under water, and watching the lights in the sky slowly fading in a subdued haze. It is beautiful, deadly, and melancholic at the same time. On their new album Cloakroom has two faces; they are either The Smiths on horse tranquilizers (take Dottie Black Thrush), or they are a very stoned Jesu. Needless to say I dig both faces quite a lot, being into all of these bands and able to stomach the mood swings.

It’s also perfect music for current times. Subdued, lurking, chilled, drugged, a constant threat always on the surface, yet never really manifesting itself that clearly. It is a soundtrack to listen to on your headphones while you bury yourself underneath a mountain of blankets waiting for better days.

Cloakroom

New Song: No Man’s Valley- Strange Fruit (cover)

“The past couple of years have been weird, exhausting, and downright tricky for most of us, but being in a band was nearly made impossible. As always though, creativity finds a way, and me and my bandmates found ways to keep in touch, keep writing, and keep focussing on ways to make new things. One of those things was to build our own studio inside our practice space, and try out recording and mixing. We already recorded a couple of rough demos for our new album that way, but with Strange Fruit we found a song that appealed to us so much we wanted to polish it and release it into the open. We found Pieter Kloos willing to participate in the mixing and the mastering, and the result is something we are proud of and excited about doing more songs in this way on our road to complete the new record.”


Strange Fruit
 is a protest song against American racism in 1937, written by Abel Meeropol and performed by (among many others later) Billie Holiday. It is a subject that is still very current today unfortunately. With much respect for the original No Man’s Valley have created a new version to once again make the listeners known to this important piece of music history. Strange Fruit is the first song of the highly anticipated third studio album, which will once again be released by German boutique psychedelic music label Tonzonen Records


The song will be released digitally only on most streaming platforms. Due to legal matters streaming services will not be available in the USA and Canada. It will be available as a free download on Bandcamp for all regions. 

Silverbacks- Archive Material (2022 Full Time Hobby)

Silverbacks are huge ferocious apes that are known for their brutish strength, their alpha male behavior and bad tempers. You might expect a band calling themselves after such a beastly animal to sound pretty heavy and aggressive, but that is not the case.

Archive Material, like their stellar debut Fad, instead is a danceable mixture fueled by Silverbacks’ love for great underground early postpunk bands like Television, Talking Heads, and Pere Ubu. It is quite a wonderful and versatile collection of songs that all catch a similar vibe of late 70s artsy angst, yet it’s all tongue in cheek enough to dance to and just have a good time, even in these dreary times of not going out and making do with the little freedoms we get.

Not unlike fellow neo postpunkers Squid, who’s 2021 album Bright Green Field I absolutely adored last year, Silverbacks reach a certain level of great nonchalant intricacy in their songwriting that gives their music a very high level of replayability. A great part of their appeal comes from their versatility, both in their songs and in the vocal department, where Daniel ‘O Kelley’s David Byrne/Richard Hell channelling throat is interchanged with the angelic voice of bassist Emma Hanlon.

It takes a pretty special well of creativity to come up with a take on indie rock that hasn’t been tried and chewed out to death yet, but apparently that well is located in Dublin at the moment. Silverbacks could have used the time after the release of Fad to sit home and mope about not touring. Let’s rejoice the fact that they chose not to do that and write Archive Material in stead. It is just the right dose of intelligent artful dance punk that we need at this time in life.

Grombira- Desert Warp (2022 Tonzonen Records)

Grombira from Würzburg, Germany, play “oriental” space rock using electric sitars and traditional melodies to mind travel to a hippie 60s time where everything was a lot more simple and laid back. A time where you could easily tune in and drop out with your Shisha bong in one hand and your favorite Pink Floyd and Grateful Dead albums in the other.

Desert Warp is their second outing, a record like many other independent releases plagued by Corona delays. It has been finished for quite some time, and I reckon that bandleader Ralph Nebl and his fellows are dying to present it in a live setting, where instrumental space trip music like this is at its best.

The record starts with an ode to an Indian Goddess through So Far Goddess, a track riddled with spacey Sitar sounds and ambient oriental musings. It gets a lot weirder next with the extra terrestrial space funk song Alien Communication, which lets in some of those sweet Funkadelic influences and is deliciously larded with weirdo synths and reverb trickery. It is followed by the album’s title track Desert Warp, which is a heavier rocking, desert style jam that has an extremely cool and laid back camel riding vibe through it all. It is also the first track to feature some chanted vocals, although Grombira mostly keeps their jams 100% instrumental. The album closes with the ambitiously conducted Per Aspera Ad Astra, a twenty minute space odyssey that is cut into three separate chapters. It is a long jam, starting out funky, turning more into all out space rock through the middle, then getting very spooky and minimalistic for a while building up to a great crescendo that hurls us all in a desert warp around the milky way again.

It is a lovely instrumental space nugget that will definitely finds its way to the right hippie ears out there. Let’s hope it will also lead to a bunch of well deserved live rituals, because that’s where these spacey sounds belong first and foremost.

I talked to Grombira bandleader, guitar, voice and sitar player “sheyk rAleph” aka Ralph Nebl about the making of the record and a lot more:

How are you? How has Grombira been during the pandemics? Any upsides to it, would you say?

I’m ok thanks. We were stopped like all the other bands and artists. There were lots of plans and concerts cancelled but on the other hand I had time to write and we used the time for sessions. That was a very creative time finally were we encountered layers of our creative personalities. That’s an upside I guess.

Can you describe the process leading up to the release of this album, it’s been a bumpy ride, wasn’t it? 

Well…Our Studio Album was almost done in spring 2020. But due to the right feel and the right moment I decided to listen to our session materials. After one week of listening I realized there were a lot of outstanding sessions, in particular two days with about 6 hours of direct to tape recorded magic. We decided to ask Tonzonen if they’d like to put it on vinyl. After few hours at the studio everything was at the right place. The bumpy ride began when vinyl got rare suddenly and my cover artwork went too complicated to realize. But there was somewhat like a good spirit carrying us… don’t know how but it felt good all the time. We had a lot of fun during the free sessions and I did the cover ideas in one night. Well, after nearly one year we have a wonderful production done which would have never been realized without Chris and Dirk at Tonzonen. Rough times but we went tough through it 🤓

Can you tell me about the writing process and the recordings?

Writing is an ongoing process. We draw a large part of our compositions from the joint sessions. That has always been the way with me and this is how magic hours arise that, with a lot of luck, we also record. It is important that you play authentic, anyway with or without an audience. The idea for the name Desert Warp came about after the title track had been mixed. It was like a wild flight through the desert at night. The track Alien Communication works like a musical encounter of the 3rd kind. I think it has a cool flow and carries the laughter and humor we had during the recording. At: So far goddess I was able to return to my Indian music roots. That hasn’t happened to me in sessions for a long time. With Fred, Achim and Andy, musical journeys through the universe of styles are possible, which I have always dreamed of. This mixture of session flow, humor and professionalism means a lot of fun. At: Per Aspera ad Astra we really went on a journey. The original track was 71 minutes long and unfortunately had to be cut. Otherwise the LP was recorded completely live in the magic caboose. I did the mixing and mastering with Ali Lionnet at Jam Productions which appeared to be really enriching in every moment during the process.

Can you tell me about your relationship with Tonzonen Records? How did Grombira end up there?

I remember that a friend called and told me, that Dirk of Tonzonen asked him about us. We were in the studio at this time and I was working on a few tracks we’d recently performed live and wanted to fit them into a more structured form. Tonzonen seemed to be perfect for us and offered us to produce our first official LP. Since 2006 we had released lots of tapes, limited CDs, limited vinyl singles, EPs and stuff. But my label Sheykwheel music was too small for the next step. With Tonzonen we entered the next level and it still feels very comfortable being able to share authentic non mainstream sounds with our fans.

What are your plans and ambitions with Grombira? 

Oh let’s see. We are all hoping for better times to come and perform live again. In 2022 our studio album and two tapes with outtakes will also be released. Actually I’m working on a few oriental electronic & acoustic jams I did with friends from Canada in 2020. I’m optimistic for 2022 and beyond. Whatever will happen- we are at the right place at the right time. I always had a crush on oriental music and fusion. With Grombira a star gate opened and I’m lucky to invite everyone to join us.

Q&A with Farflung- 25.000 Feet Per Second (2022 Sulatron Records vinyl re-release)

To travel space is to travel time. Modern day space rockers have always also traveled back in time a bit, specifically to the 1970s when krautrock sprouted from bands like Can, Neu!, and space rock started coming up with the legendary Hawkwind featuring a certain mr Lemmy Kilmister…Farflung is very much aware of this history, being around for quite some time themselves already. Now they are returning to the international stages through the vinyl re-release of their stellar 1995 debut album 25.000 Feet Per Second on Sulatron Records. Cause for celebration of course, and for an elaborate chat with the band’s main two members Tommy Grenas and Michael Esther. Better buckle up for this one, because it is going to be quite a trip into the past and present of this space rock institution!

Can you tell me how you have managed as a musician during the corona crisis so far? In what way(s) has it affected your ways?

Michael:
it has changed everything here. We live in a small town in Italy close to the first epicenter of the pandemic. It’s been really difficult and I worry about how it will effect the independent music scene and what it will look like going forward….
In terms of my own creative practice, the current  vibe has affected it in what ways I am not sure. I will need  a bit of distance, a bit of of time to see in what manner it shaped things.

Tommy:
It did not really effect me that much for a couple of reasons. I moved away from the big city [Los Angeles] about 3 years ago to Ulster county, NY, in the Catskills, and it’s in the forest on the side of a mountain, kinda isolated. I still go back to Los Angeles to do non musical work to keep me financially afloat.

Farflung has never really earned the band much money, and I do get some small royalties from the many Lps and Eps released over the years, but I certainly don’t make any sort of living from it. The band is also spread around the globe a bit, so we don’t just get together and play a lot of shows either. This is the way it’s usually been for quite a while.

It has not ‘Artistically, ‘ affected us either. Michael works on ideas and music in Milan mostly, and I pen lyrics, flesh ideas out and write mostly play riffs, melodies on guitar and make note of them when the urge takes me. As I said I travel to LA to work, and at the end of a job, meet up at Farflung’s 2nd home now’ “Saturn moon “ studios in Yucca Valley, the high desert. I’m joined there by Chris’s Nakatta, owner, multi musican, engineer, and Farflung drummer. Also longtime guitarist and swell guy, Paul Hisher meets up to add to whatever gets created. The core drums, guitar and bass is laid down, and then we flesh it all out between Milan, NY, and Yucca to create something.

We rarely play in the States. I’m just not really into doing that here. But we do love playing in Europe. We usually play at least every couple of years there, and that’s where Corona virus effected us. Unavoidable really, but I have to say we’re not like a lot of bands that heavily rely on that. I really do feel for other musicians and our booking company IBD, who must have suffered through it. We’ll be out again when it passes I hope.

Can you tell me a little bit of where and how you guys live and how you usually go
about your day?

Tommy:

I usually go for a long hike with my dog into the forest, and to the bottom of the small mountain I live on. It takes me through the trees and along streams , rivers ,rock formations and shady areas where I can find mushrooms and plants to take home . After that I usually call into Los Angeles to try to set up work , check in with my friends online, family in Northern Ireland, Michael in Italy etc…

There’s a lot of maintaining and work to do at the house, it’s a constant or nature and the elements can take over fast, but it’s work outside mostly and I love that. We also have our own water now, and a backup generator cos the power is out often. We are subjected to a lot of freakish sudden weather sometimes. My wife Abby Travis is a musician also, and we’ve made a pretty good studio in the old basement dug into the side of the hill. It sounds good. She works there more than I do.

My life is mostly keeping the house alive, then sporadic hard periods of work in LA to make money. I work on music here and there, but it needs to come naturally. Farflung I think has worked this way for a long time. There’s never been an urgency to release something, and we’ve never been on a big label that’s demanding a life on the road or a lot of commercial work opportunities. I don’t think back in the day we would have turned that down, but now we’re groaning old men. It works out ok I guess ha ha.

Michael :
I live in a small town in Northern Italy, on the banks of a river…
The opposite of Los Angeles, things here are slow and quiet….
A day usually consists of, in no particular order
Play with my cats….
House chores
Work on visual art
Work on music
Bake bread
Read

Farflung in 2021

You have been around in the psych/stoner/kraut scene in Europe and the USA for quite some time, what is or was the best time for this scene would you think and why? Can you share some memories?

Michael:
That’s difficult to say, when you’re young everything is new and exciting….
I hope the psych scene will keep rebirthing itself in interesting ways….

In terms of memories there are so many. Maybe meeting people and having the chance to play shows and collaborate. Roedelius, Going fishing with Damo, shrooms with Del and Nik, Dave Catching’s and BOC’s cooking and generosity, Ian Maclagan’s guitar, Hutch’s workshop. Tom Grimley’s noise bombs, Raging Slab’s farm, Silver Apples, Gong, Amon Duul, Ronnie Wood, weird parties in the hills……I could go on and on and on……

Tommy

It’s always been my favorite genre. I grew up in the world of post punk and alternative, but as mark e smith said, know your history. Older friends and of course John peel taught us of the forefathers of it all, and this is what really interested me. I lived in the shadow of Hawkwind, Gong, and here and now, but it was upon discovering Can, and Neu I really got inspired to make the music I do. Yes, I grew up and played in garage bands in Belfast and the UK doing our version of our punk hero’s etc, but the cosmic route was the grounding rod.

After living briefly in london, I moved to Los Angeles in the mid 80s with this firm in my brain, and what surprised me was that space rock, krautrock awareness was almost non existent. I met some folk like Don Bolles of the Germs, and Damion Romero of Slug who loved the sounds of kraut especially Neu but that was it until I met Len del Rio, my partner in my first band Pressurehed, then Michael Esther of course in Farflung. Pressurehed was a cross pollination of industrial punk, and spacerock. I released about 3 Lps with that band and did many shows in the collage rock underbelly of Los Angeles. I had heard a few bands around the US spacerock scene, but apart from fi, Mars everywhere, alien planetscapes, architectural metaphors, and scattered planets, it seemed like a lot of bands were Hawkwind tributes or rather weak sounding pseudo prog cover bands. Pressurehed , Helianthus, and Farflung were always a movement combining trippy elements to take the influences and move it forward.


I also think as far as Hawkwind was concerned, people totally missed out here on the tribal, freak, political communal intent of the group of musicians I grew up listening to, and being artists trying to create a movement of radical and conceptual sound. Same goes for Amon Duul II, and Faust etc. You had people that were just not in a band for being a band, but movements including radical visual, theatrical and spoken word artists creating a movement. Later with psych I feel, things got really boring and predictable when rather square characters were basing their sound on pseudo metal concepts that I never understood. whilst I somewhat kinda loosely liked some metal, I thought it was mostly a cheesy gag . I still don’t understand the rather silly culture around it other than having a rocking when drunk like for the music, but a chuckle for the content.

Farflung I like to think, was more aligned with things cross pollinating in the early 90s with many influences. Like many folk might have quoted the Butthole Surfers with a rock vibe like Chrome or tg, Loop channeling- seminal Stooges, Spacemen 3 – vibing Suicide, I’d more think of us as a kinda Amon Duul, Ashra Temple, Cabaret Voltaire , sorta thing at the time. That’s just my opinion for what we were doing when we started. We were playing lots of free shows and collage gigs when we started, our roots were firmly planted in that atmosphere. We shared the stage with a very eclectic and diverse crowd of performers and audiences.

Farflung in 1995

Can you tell me specifically about the time 25000 FT was released? What was the status of the band at that time? What was the reception? Did you tour a lot…etc!

Michael:
It was a great time filled with lots of energy and musical experimentation.
Brandon and I were students at Calarts  and were tied into that scene. There were three schools: Calarts, Art Center and Layola Marymount, each had it own little music scenes and they cross pollinated in the East LA music scene……

Tommy:

It was a somewhat  unique crowd of people and performers all trying to create and melt in a mostly non rock environment in Los Angeles based around collage radio and individualism as I just described.

Europe is no stranger to themed events or outsider festivals, but it was rather non existent in Los Angeles where the band was based at the time we started. Apart from the odd event type things set up by likewise minds here and there, it was the usual hair band nightclub like venues where most bands had to run the boring gauntlet to get a gig.

We did not have any desire to be a part of that, so warehouse , art studios, loft gigs were more our thing. Most of these were themed evenings combining mixed media artists and performers. It was not necessarily a rock type thing.

When I met Michael, when his band Helianthus was playing gigs around the Calarts collage area and my band Pressurehed, around punk and loft venues. When Farflung was born, we were writing a lot and playing in this circuit when flipside magazine approached us to record our first lp 25000 ft.

We had known the work Tom Grimlry had been doing with Slug, the Haden sisters, Beck, Rod Pool, Polar Goldicats , Uphill Gardeners, etc, etc, and liked his sound. It was also important to me that there was a diversity and total individualism with each band, with the outcome being equal in productive freedom.

When we went there with our post punky, krauty alternate sounds it was a total un-challenged freedom to create that first lp. We have definitely weaved our way through different periods but the intent has never changed. We continued to play what I remembered as cool events and interesting evenings at that time.

Michael:
We did a few short tours. But it was difficult in those days in the states. We did one with Raging Slab and another short East Coast thing with Nik. Nik Turner and Farflung as the Sons of Cydonia…..

Tommy:
Long tours really weren’t an option.

 We would also jaunt up to sf at that time but that was the extent. When 25000 ft came out it was a very local underground type of deal. We had our fans and people but it was very localized.

During that period we realized demos and the cd were spreading between the collage radio stations and reaching the early networks of diehard spacerock fans. I was also keeping in contact a bit with some of the Hawkwind folk like Nik, Hawkwind guys, and Helios Creed.

Farflung live in 1995

Which or what influences have made you into the musician you are to today? Can you recall the moment you knew you just had to “go for it”?

Michael:
Music for me while growing up, was a thing that was always present. It gave me an overwhelming joy….
Music as well as books and visual art were mysterious and transported me to other worlds.
I just naturally gravitated to towards doing those activities.

I grew up in San Francisco,  the Stones  were playing. Probably the 1972 tour maybe the Winterland. There was footage on the evening news of Jagger dancing around with a huge scarf. To my parents  dismay, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I just wanted to dance around with scarves…I wanted to be just like him but I ended up  more like a damaged Richards. Tommy and I even to this day after a few whiskies  have been known to  break out our Jagger dances….

Tommy

As I said, early Hawkwind, Neu!, Can, Cabaret Voltaire, Amon Duul II, the Fall, This Heat, lots of post punk bands. But I also love early dub, severed heads, soundtrack music ect ect. The biggest influence though is the day to day experience and my band mates around me. I’ve always bounced ideas between me and Michael, and now Chris and Paul.
We’re a band in every sense of the word, I just tend to move rather fast on things and go off the wall here and there. As a kid, I remember the first time I had the go-for-it experience was probably hearing radio Luxembourg playing, neon lights by Kraftwerk in bed one night on a transistor radio.

I was just blown away by the simplicity and change in the rock dominated sound at that time. It really sounded to me like things had moved into modern times, and it did not mean anything to me specifically about synthesized sound or whatever, rather than I was entranced and moved by it. Not long before that, like most kids in Belfast, it was Never Mind The Bollocks. My gran was mortified when by accident she walked into my room when Johnny sung Bodies and dropped the tea tray. Also, they were all over the papers etc. I just loved them and that lp at the time. Fondness but not necessarily influence was watching Top of the pops in Ireland as a kid, Sparks, the Sweet, T-rex, Bowie, all that stuff in the mists of time.

What do you think about the psych “scene” today, is there one? Do you feel there is a lot of support for our music these days? Was it better before, and how?

Tommy
Yes. I am glad that in recent years, Wooden Shjips, Electric Moon, Dead Skeletons, etc are around, but also I the recent past Loop, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, 35007, the Heads etc are making sound. I don’t care for “stoner rock” or Sabbath clone rock, it’s overdone and always has been. It’s time to get over the desert thing. Most bands out there have been over that and moved on a long time ago. As I said before I don’t listen to progressive metal or any metal stuff for the most part, but don’t have any thing to say to people do. It’s their own bag. I’m a bit of a historian, I’m still discovering new bands from the past to this day. I’m a crazy record collector and have a lot of obscure and interesting things. I’m so caught up in discovery, I don’t really pay that much attention to the current. Paul in Farflung turns me on to a lot of new things. Some of them I’m like. It’s a pity we have not toured in a while due to Covid, as it’s a great opportunity to shatter the past and the now in the van.

The psychedelic music scene has of course always had associations with drug use, or at least being inspired by the use of certain psychedelics. In what way have you experienced drugs as an inspiration for your art?

Tommy:
Yes of course. I live up here in the wilds of Ulster co New York. There’s a lot of things growing in our woods, not also for the mind but also the body. I’ve learned a lot. I can’t think of any Farflung lp were it might not have played a part in something. My musical contribution with FF is a form of shamanism in some form or another. What grows is a gift.

Michael:
In my youth, it was about expanding my consciousness. A search for greater meaning and understanding. A type of slowed down focus….a soft world……but that’s a long time ago now. We’ve seen the upside and downside of that path……
In relation to our collective musical work. I am always searching for a kind of feeling inside the sound that we are making, that is difficult for me to locate with words. Sometimes we accomplish it and sometimes not….

Farflung live in 1995

Can you tell me about your current status? What about Farflung should be aware of or waiting for?

Michael:
I am hoping this year will be one of lots of activity. We have lots of ideas we are kicking around….

Tommy
We just finished a new lp that is in the works with Dave and Sulatron records. We are very happy to be working with our old friend. It’s basically mixed but who knows when it will come out.

(The pressing situation in general is quite dire and there’s a huge backlog dave has to deal with due to Covid,. )

It’s mixed and I just finished the artwork. I think it’s a natural progression from all the last Lps. We don’t like to repeat ourselves, but broaden the horizons. It’s a very natrual progress, and maybe this is the most cohesive recording from the most solid lineup of me, Mike, paul, and chris from the past, 10 years or so. It’s a transcendental journey that has the “Farflung flow” that is our signature, passages and journeys through the minds of the disturbed, euphoria, and unknown. I rather happy with it.

Which current artist do you like? Which artist would you like to read an interview with?

Tommy:
I kinda like the psych band A Place To Bury Strangers, but they seem to be getting rather popular and maybe have enough interviews already. Dave from Sula Basanna ‘s Loop Drones lp is astounding, I think maybe you just did one from him. I don’t know really.
I’ve never read an interview with Del Dettmar from Hawkwind. I know he lives alone in Kootenay Bay in British Columbia and has done so for the past 35 years. He played with the band Melodic Energy Commission in the past, but has been steadily making music on the VCS3 since he moved there. He lives alone in a cabin and used to plant trees out there . His music is very interesting and cosmic. I’d love to hear about what’s going on in his world.

Michael:
In terms of new artists Tommy is much more up on that than I am….
Del sounds like a great choice to me …..

What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do directly after this interview?

Tommy:
Go outside and look up at he sky.

Michael:
Then look down, dig a hole and plant a seed….

Seven Nines and Tens- Over Opiated In A Forest Of Whispering Speakers (2022 Willowtip Records)

It’s a new year of pandemic antics, and if there’s anything that I for one need during these uncertain times it is comfort. I am definitely not alone in this respect. People allover the world are looking for their comfort in things like food, booze, or drugs, or even in hooking up with other people online. I am glad I can also find it in music, and the new album Over Opiated In A Forest Of Whispering Speakers by Vancouver trio Seven Nines And Tens could therefore not have been released at a better time.

The new album, released on revered extreme metal record label Willowtip, is comfort food made sound to me. The self-described “warm wall of sound” consists of parts shoegaze, parts progressive metal, with nods to quite a varied bunch of influences ranging from Jesu to Intronaut, to Cave In, and Alcest. It is a gigantic and bass heavy sound, with at times thundering drums and guitars, but the beautifully layered clean vocal choirs take the aggressive edge off it, and in stead fill your heart with a melancholic sense of comfort that you are not alone in this world, no matter how turbulent the times.

I talked to main songwriter and guitarist Dave Cotton about the album, and an album we both agreed loving is Habitual Levitations by Intronaut. And while “Over Opiated” stays far away from being a carbon copy, one can definitely hear echoes of that gigantic progressive sludge sound for example in the proggy (fretless?) basslines and in the way their vocal harmonies carry the music.

Seven Nines And Tens have delivered a beautiful first sound of 2022 with their new album. It’s a piece of art I reckon much more people need at this time, sending out a message of comfort while sharing their own hardships through music. It is that universal message that is so incredibly important: we are not alone.

Interview with Dave Cotton who loved to introduce and talk about the why and who of his band:

How have you been these past pandemic years? Can you take us through your doings from the outbreak til now?

Since the live music community is all but non-existent in our home of Vancouver, we haven’t been able to schedule performances of any kind.  On the other hand, I write music daily so I’ve just taken this time to work on our 4th record.

How has corona affected your new album with Seven Nines and Tens?

We signed to Willowtip records in February 2020,  Pandemic restrictions started March 2020.  We took a long time to sign the contract with them and then recorded two brand new songs to complete the album which took over a year.  We take our time with everything so it was business as usual for us.  I’ve been to one concert since then (Quicksand in October 2021, it was incredible)

Can you introduce your band? What would a SNAT elevator pitch sound like? And where does that enigmatic band name originate from?

Alexander Glassford is our drummer/vocalist, and Maximillian Madrus is the bassist/vocalist.  My name is Dave and I founded the band in 2008 and write 95% of the music.  In the past I’ve referred to our music as a “warm wall of sound” or “that I blend all styles of guitar rock into one.”  

The band name is an equation.  If you multiply the numbers together, you get the exact depth in nautical miles from the surface of the ocean to the bottom of Marianas Trench.  The Trench was at least at one point, considered the deepest known place on Earth.

You have signed with Willowtip Records, on which roster you guys are rather an “odd duck”, can you take us through the motions of that decision?

The first tune mixed and mastered for our record was “Popular Delusions.”  The guys and myself did a year of pre-production for the first 5 songs we did for the record.  We recorded the songs over and over at our rehearsal space to get them as perfect as humanly possible before our “formal” recording session.  Once we heard the rough mixes, the confidence that we had slowly been building from being meticulous in the production of the songs really started to manifest.  This confidence coupled with how well the vocals turned out gave me a lot of energy to try and shop the record to anyone and everyone that would hear it.  It helped having a decent sized discography to begin with and a track record of playing with some pretty heavyweight bands.  I sent the mix of Popular Delusions to over 200 labels.   Overall I heard back from 10 labels, one of which was Willowtip.  Discussions over months and sending freshly mastered songs to them led us to believe it would be a good fit..  The response I initially got from Willowtip was “I love the song you sent me, I’ve listened to it 25 times already, do you have anything more?”  That got the ball rolling for sure.

In terms of style I really love the band Pyrrhon from New York city and they are signed to Willowtip.  Them and another Willowtip band, Slugdge, gave me a huge amount of interest in contacting the label to see what they thought.  Pyrrhon is a death metal band which is stylistically unlike us, but similar to us, they blend a ton of different flavors into their sound (in their case Noise Metal, Psych Metal, and Sludge, among others) which gave me the inclination that Willowtip would at least be open to hearing our music.  

Much like you alluded to, there isn’t another band on the label that sounds anything like us, and I consider that a point of pride.  We’re the band they first put up on the block in their 20 year career to signify a stylistic change.  Our record is on the same release schedule as legendary American Grindcore band Discordance Axis which in itself is fucking nuts.  (our record comes out the first week of January 2022 and theirs the third week.)  Discordance Axis are so revered and championed in the underground, and then you have my tiny band that no one really knows outside of Vancouver.  I’m perfectly happy being a “gateway” band that could potentially expose fans of bands on Willowtip’s roster to stuff that influences us like Mylene Sheath or Hydra Head records discographies. 

What is it like to be in an underground metal band these days? How do you keep your head up, what role do you see for social media in this?

Despite the pandemic and the inability to play live, underground metal to me is pretty much the same.  A band’s success is largely determined by how much work they are willing to put into the project.  Social media is important for announcing releases and keeping fans aware, but at the same time it’s painfully corny at times.  Too much oversharing/irrelevant information, Rock and Roll used to have mystique.  

On to the new album: Over Opiated in a Forest of Whispering Speakers; sounds very drug-inspired…was that intentional? Can you describe the writing process?

I’ve lived in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver for 15 years now.  For those unaware, it’s one of the largest open air drug markets on earth.  It’s essentially a living hub for people who are homeless, mentally ill, addicted to drugs, or a combination of all three.  A major social issue is that the drug supply has become poisoned with the introduction of Fentynl and Carfentinal which are opiates that are many, many times stronger than Heroin or any other opioid.  This increased strength of toxicity has created an epidemic in terms of overdose deaths.  My dayjob is supporting drug addicts in trying to lessen harm from use and helping them access services that they may have barriers accessing.  This gives me a front line view of the epidemic and as a result I have a ton of empathy for addicts.  People don’t consider that 99.9% of addicts are victims of trauma whether it be their parents, partners, abuse, loss, grief, marginalization, the list goes on.  The album title is a couple of references to song lyrics that I will save for another time.

My job has given me a ton of insight and respect for less privileged, vulnerable people.  I’m the middle child from a middle class white family.  Both my parents are educated.  Though my older brother, younger sister, and I, all had pretty serious health issues as children, my upbringing was pretty idyllic.  As a result I had little to no exposure or understanding as to what it’s like to be traumatized, marginalized, abused, victimized, exploited, discriminated against, or pre-judged.  My day job has shown me the other side of life that a middle class, privileged upbringing wouldn’t necessarily.

I feel like my work is important but it doesn’t by association make me a good person.  Being understanding, having self awareness, being mindful of my emotions, and trying to exhibit an ounce of selflessness and not being a total meta/twitter/reactive knob, finger pointing, shithead, does.  

The lyrics sound rather sarcastic; Throwing Rocks At Mediocrity, Edutainment, Fight For Your Right To Partial Relevance…whereas the music sounds completely sincere and serious.Can you explain that balancing act?

Very, very nice observation!  It is a balancing act in terms of taking the composition, execution, and production of the music as serious as a heart attack, but also having fun with it, and not taking yourself too seriously.  The song titles are very much meant to be cheeky but myself and the guys have a quiet confidence in the music we play.  We did the leg work in terms of pre-producing the songs as close to perfection as we can humanely get.  Doing the work is the groundwork for this confidence. At the end of the day, the experience of playing in a band has to be enjoyable, creative drive and ambition can only take you so far. 

Seven Nines And Tens is your first album releasing band, is that right? Can you tell me about your musical experiences that lead up to it? 

I’ve been musical from a very, very young age.  My Mom and Grandmother had me singing solo at a notable Canadian music program, the Kiwanis festival, when I was 5 years old.  I’ve taken lessons in Violin, Guitar, and Piano.  My parents gave me the platform to play and my total obsession with music just ran with it.  

When I was 14 and cutting my teeth in terms of learning the electric guitar, 2 brothers that lived down the street from me were just learning the Bass and Drums respectively.  I’m still friends with them to this day.  We used to spend hours in their parents basement jamming, learning songs, smoking grass, and just being kids.  That was hugely important in terms of learning how to play in a band context for me.

We are Facebook friends, and so I noticed you have a very varied musical taste 🙂 What would you say are the biggest influences on your band’s sound? 

Very cool observation, man.  I’ve never told this story in the context of my work with this project.  I worked at a record store from the ages of 21 to 25 and that just opened my mind to a ton of music I would never have otherwise heard.  This really made an impact on my music taste.  I ended up sharing an apartment with some of my co workers and it was music nerd fest 101, there was always a record on the turntable and never was it just one genre or style.  True story:  I had to get a 2nd job at Chapters to pay for all the records I was buying at the record store.  

I started the band because I loved Boston band Cave In and wanted to sound just like them.  I still love them and can hear their influence in anything I do, but over the years there have been other styles that supplement that foundational style.  When I first started it was Cave In, San Diego bands No Knife and Drive Like Jehu, Oxford band Swervedriver, Jesu aka Justin Broadrick from Godflesh, stuff like that.  Very guitar driven material.  I’ve been looking at best “Metal” lists of 2021 and I barely recognize half the bands anymore.  I used to blog for American sites American Aftermath, and then their sister page Svbterreanen and during that era I was as dialed into new releases in terms of heavy music as one could possibly get.  Lately, I think I don’t pay as much attention to the metal community simply because I’m obsessed with the Golden Age of Rap from New York City.  At first I was really into the years  1990 to 93 but I’m so obsessed with it it’s more anything 1987 to 1996ish, even if it’s bad, I’ll still give it a spin.  I listen to so much New York rap that I’ve started to try and get into New Rap.  People don’t realize it’s just a slower rhyme flow delivered in a lower voice.  That is all it is.  Producers like the Alchemist are pioneers of the music side of things in terms of contemporary rap music as the beats are rarely simple kick/snare patterns anymore.  He pioneered an almost psychedelic production style by using unconventional soundbytes.  

What would be your dream tour package? And where would you go?

Oh fuck, we’ve been lucky to play with a handful of legendary bands over the years.  There is a really good American band called SOM that I love.  Their main songwriter also helmed the band Constants.  SOM were supposed to tour with Katatonia but it was postponed due to the pandemic.  It would’ve been cool to add us to the bill, Katatonia/Som/Seven Nines and Tens.  Another would be a Boston Cream Special (both bands are from Boston):  Cave In/Junius/ and Seven Nines and Tens.  I’ve always wanted to tour Europe and Australia, so we could do a run of shows there.  I could go on and on.  Touring Europe with Alcest or Enslaved would be incredible!  I bloody love the band Enslaved, I would love to have a long career like them.  Oh man, opening for My Bloody Valentine on an Australian tour would be unreal.  My Bloody is easily one of my favorite bands of all time.  I’ll stop now.  

If there is one thing that you would have liked to achieve in five years, what would it be?

A long time goal of mine is to get a Juno nomination.  The Juno’s are the Canadian version of the Grammys.  When I started the band in 2008 that was a goal and it still very much is.  

What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after this interview?

Read a book, that shit is important!  After that, listen to the new Seven Nines and Tens album “Over Opiated in a Forest of Whispering Speakers.” 

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