“Broken things let the light in”, and “I know that everything hurts, but I know that everything can heal”. Just two phrases from the new album Beware Believers by London dark post punkers Crows that show that no matter how dark, dense, and pounding these tunes may sound, there is actual light shining through the cracks of these leather vests.
Make no mistake, Crows so far have been the big brutish brother of bands like FontainesDC and The Murder Capital, but slightly more goth. They still are a bunch of eyeliner wearing Donny Darkos, but on their second outlet Crows they have not shied away from writing some killer hooks into their heavy post punk dirges. This time around there might be an extra spoon of Interpol-ish songwriting to add to their modern post punk raucous.
And then there is the light at the end of the tunnel that they have written into their angry bitter music. It’s this glimmer of hope in songs like Healing and Room 156 that makes it perfect post pandemic music. It’s music made in a long dark tunnel, but it finally sees a way out in the end.
Can’t wait to celebrate the end of the tunnel with them on a stage nearby soon…
Lay Llamas is an Italian band project featuring Nicola Giunta and Gioele Valenti (JuJu, Herself) who have been releasing records for quite some time. Their previous record Thuban was released on Rocket Recordings and featured guest artists among which Mark Stewart of The Pop Group, and members of Goat, Clinic, and Julie’s Haircut. Goud (Gold) is just the two of them though, but it definitely sounds as eclectic, if not even more.
What we get is an imaginative jungle of bird sounds, flutes, new wave synths, all kinds of percussion elements, and vocals that sound at times like Leonard Cohen at his very darkest, and at other times like the most lysergic and stoned hippie choir you can imagine. It is dreamy music, and as surprising as dreams can be as well. One moment you find yourself in a primitive hut in Peru chanting shamanic mantras, the next you’re dancing a drugged up dance on heavily pulsating dub beats.
It’s this freedom and complete creative open mindedness that is so compelling about Lay Llamas and their new album Goud. You never know what they will do next, and what sound collage or filmic scenery lurks around the corner. It’s definitely a trip, and a recommendable one at that.
I talked to Nicola Giunta, who was happy to explain what he and Lay Llamas are all about:
Hi Nicola! How are you, how have you been doing the past years of the pandemics? What has it meant for you as a person and for being in a musician?
NG: Hi, I’m quite well, thanks!
My past two years were been…busy! And I don’t talk about Covid and pandemic issues as usual. In february 2020 my second child were born. Just at the start of pandemic here in Italy. So I did it as full time family-man.
At the same time this never seen before situation gave me a strange and lovely feeling of peacefulness. So I did a lot of new music, art, video and projects.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your daily life?
Sounds Of New Soma is Dirk Raupach, also the owner of the revered psych/krautrock label Tonzonen Records from Krefeld, and Alex Djelassi. Their albums are usually mastered by Krautrock legend Eroc from Grobschnitt, but this time around the band decided to do something really special and invite a whole crowd of fellow Tonzonen artists to contribute. So members of bands like The Spacelords, Grombira, Taumel, Vespero, Nazca Space Fox, and MOOP got the chance to contribute a piece of their music, which SONS would then work into their own krautrock creations. The result is an incredible piece of newborn krautrock history with lots of varied angles and sounds. It is a much welcome fresh injection of creativity into the genre, and a celebration of ten years of the Tonzonen label and some of its finest contributors at the same time. This caused for a celebration and an interview with not only Dirk and Alex, but also with most of the other artists, as we walked through the album’s tracklist together…
I have the feeling that Musique Bizarre is probably the most ambitious of your records until now. Where did the original idea for the album come from and how did you come up with the idea of all the guests?
Alex:The original idea for „Musique Bizarre“ was a concept album that reflects all kinds of influences we’re exposed to – musically and socially – as well as our creative work and progress over the past couple of years. Dirk came up with the title, as some kind of counterpart to „La Grande Belezza“. He also had the idea of asking some Tonzonenbands to participate in this project. Expecting a large scale artistic range, I insisted on making it a double album.
Dirk: We always like to try something new and develop ourselves in this way.
Did making the album go completely according to the original plan? Were there any hickups or perhaps artists you would have liked to participate that wasn’t possible?Alex:Usually we start out with a blank „canvas“, brainstorming ideas. Sometimes there’s a certain sound, a picture in our mind or a song title that sets the direction. This time the approach was a little bit different. We asked the other artists to send us sound files they think would fit in our „cosmos“. What we received was an overwhelming variety of „sonic information“. Some acts sent us hifi drum and bass tracks, others sent us lo-fi street sounds or jam-room recordings.Having to deal with inconsistent material and transform it into a Sounds Of New Soma – cosmic round-trip turned out to be a new challenge. I’m glad Dirk and I can rely on our working method and complement each other.It was a relief that everyone who contributed to Musique Bizarre was happy with the result. There were quite a few other artists that would have liked to participate, but were not able to record and send their material in time. Maybe we pick up the idea once more on another album.
Did the global pandemic have any influence on the process?
Alex:Yes, absolutely.The creation of song titles, the use of field recordings and the basic mood are definitely influenced by the current situation and the origin of the story that defines „Musique Bizarre“.
Dirk: Yes, there was a delay in the recording, but I think the result speaks for itself.
Let’s walk through the album and all its guests! Where I found them willing they also contributed to the interview!
thanks to Pauline Le Loc‘h and Lucille Kremer
2. Das Salodenprinzip
with Ark Fedotov and Ivan Fedotov from Vespero
Dirk: The song is a collaboration with the Russian band Vespero. I remember exactly how difficult we had it at first with the sound files that were sent to us. But at some point it clicked and the ideas were flowing. It turned out to be an intense, great song.
Ark: “Dirk’s idea was that we would record rhythm section of bass / drums in style that we want to move them into another understanding how to do new stuff for album and it was great result -we try to do some kraut/motorik with reverse bass sound – like Harmonia/Cluster and they done great answer to this with fantastic synth feeling – industrial/Dusseldorf and floating guitar. Really great and we don’t re-record anything- everything works as itself We like to take part in something like that – two different universes that can give each other side something interesting”
with Armin Schopper
Alex:These days some of us feel like they spend the whole day running on a hamster wheel, no progress, …repetition.To capture the atmosphere we recorded a motorik drum track with our friend and permanent guest musician Armin Schopper and worked our way through
spoken by Tom Engstfeld from Kommune 100
Lyrics (excerpt): „Das Dadalyripipidon“ by Wieland Herzfelde
Dirk: An avant-garde track with excerpts from a Dadaist poem. The recordings were made with a good friend who recorded the text.
5. Berlin Marrakesch
with Sven Pollkötter & Jakob Diehl from Taumel and Ralph Nebl from Grombira
Alex: Accepting different cultures and the understanding among nations is crucial for peace.The basic idea for this track was combining berlin school type of sounds with classical arabic instruments. Our friends of Taumel and Grombira sent us sounds that were just perfect for this topic, so we made it a trip from Berlin to Marrakesh via space
Ralph Nebl: When I was asked to compose something unique for SONS, I felt touched. Dirk’s call reached me while I was hiking in Italy and i had a lot of ideas directly. I remembered my electronic album: Sheyk rAleph- shifting perspectives from 2016. It was never released finally in lack of a label but there where tons of written and recorded stuff on my HD. I just had to think over what could be that interesting for a production like this. I visualized my self, sitting in the desert and listening to the wind. With eyes closed every whisper of the softly singing streams morphed more and more into a symphonic structure. This structure was binary and started to defragment itself. Just to manifest again in several forms of flying grains of sand. From this moment on, everything was possible. I recognized ancient maqams, old oriental compositions in ornamental forms, moving like a kaleidoscope on the horizon. Great picture indeed. I started to search for any Oud (Oriental Lute) recordings i did for “Shifting Perspectives”. I decided to take an Oud track for “silver wings” which was originally an oriental dance track for my band Grombira but never used. Tension! After few months I received the track they built around, through, under, over, beneath, behind, in front and inside my solo. I was overwhelmed by the organically created piece which seemed to be alive: Anytime I listened to it, it went to become something different. There where soundscapes made of crystals, at the same time musique concrete and layers like the early Klaus Schulze tracks or The Silver Apples from New York. It all meshed up with some mysterious, oriental semblances and was exactly on point. I like it very much and would like to jam it live one day… who knows”
Sven Polkotter: We got a request from the SONS around March 2021 if we would like to participate to their project / experiment. We found the idea very cool, to be able to do what we want – there was no specification at all – absolute freedom! But it took a while until we could deliver something, because we were in the middle of recording our own album.In the end we recorded something quiet with some relaxed chords combined with some ambient sounds. When we got the result we were very surprised that the whole thing was a 3 piece constellation…with Grombira– how cool is that!I’m a total fan – I like this oriental touch in their music! the track is very well done in my opinion! I think it’s great that these two very different fragments (our chords and the somehow improvised melodic fragments from Grombira) are juxtaposed and the music from the SONS puts it all together in an interesting way. Somehow they managed to make those differences sound very homogeneous in conjunction with their own music…as if that’s exactly how it should be. Very cool!
with Stefan Bahlk from Nazca Space Fox
Dirk: Stefan from Nazca Space Fox played us something with trumpet. You have to come up with that idea. Above all, what should we make of it! But… the result is very cool, I think.
Stephan: As you might know I play the Bass in NAZCA SPACE FOX, but almost nobody knows I also play the Guitar and Trumpet since childhood. During a telephone call with Dirk, regarding the Artwork for their new Musique Bizarre album cover (I work as a freelance graphic designer, bands.digital-arts-design.de), we were exactly discussing this fact. Dirk liked the idea to have a Trumpet on one of the tracks for the new SOUNDS OF NEW SOMA album and I was also stoked of it. So Waidmann was born! The whole process of creating was very open. Dirk and Alex let me do whatever I had in mind. So my idea was a trip outer space; kind of ominous; Ridley Scott vibes. I recorded the Trumpet files in my home studio using a vintage Shure SM58, which is known for giving trumpets a very slight dirty sound. After sending the files to Dirk and Alex, we were talking about wobbly synth sounds, and that I like that much. Then the two let their creativity play. When I heard the final raw mixes, I was totally stoked! The song is exactly what I had in mind! I really like the idea of a band making an album with guest musicians. So much creativity, influences, different ways of creating and of course great musicians. I was very curious about the whole album. After listening to it, it really blew my mind. Every song is different, but the album is still a whole in the end. You feel the guest musician’s influences as well as SOUNDS OF NEW SOMA making the songs their own! Feels like a soundtrack to me, great to listen to! Thanks Dirk and Alex for letting me be a part of this awesome project!
Alex: Dirk had the idea of „piano and sunrise“ – with a positive mood to it. This is what I came up with.
with William Brandy, Julien Coupet & Erwin Toul from Moop
Alex: Goekotta, is Swedish and means to get up very early in the morning to listen to the first birds chirping outside. MOOP had a jam track for us which, after adding our SONS-spices, seemed to awaken this feeling in a very bizarre kind of way.
William: First, we sent Dirk a collective improvisation made for a compilation of improvised music for “Jazz à Poitiers”. We had recorded 2 improvisations: one was used for the compilation “Jazz à Poitiers”, the other was sent to Sounds of New Soma (it required more editing work and therefore corresponded well to Dirk’s project). Dirk then sent me the result. I think he used the different effects well to make this improvisation even more psychedelic. It doesn’t really look like MOOP’s music anymore: it’s really new music from material from MOOP. After re-listening, I find that he brought an “underwater” side to this improvisation. As if we were walking around in an “underwater” version of Gotham City, mysterious and full of dangers. I haven’t listened to the other Musique Bizarre tracks yet.
with Akee Kazmaier & Marcus Schnitzler from The Spacelords
Dirk: Balkenspirale was created in collaboration with The Spacelords. Actually a classic psych rock song in the sound garb of Sounds Of New Soma
Akee: “Dirk wrote a circular to all Tonzonen bands and their members, including me, asking to record a short music sample each. In this mail, he explained the sense and purpose as well as the procedure. Of course, Marcus and I gladly agreed and recorded a snippet for Dirk and Alex. The most interesting part was, what they would create out of our two fragments. Now, the product is finished! I was very surprised and liked the outcome a lot. Really a nice idea, happy to be part of it.”
Dirk: A purely electronic song. Short and crisp. A video will be published for this song, as well as for Balkenspirale.
Alex:A „Holzwurm“ (woodworm) eating his way through a wooden spaceship. When the ship’s structural integrity finally fails, the worm dissolves into space
with Clumsy & Jokey
Alex: As you know we don’t take ourselves too seriously. The base of Fliederbusch is a spontaneous studio jam. Artistic freedom, the joy of creation, no rules – that’s what Sounds Of New Soma are all about.
Perhaps one of the most underrated and unnoticed releases of last year was this gem of a collaboration by Portuguese psych wizard Saturnia and Setúbal stoner rockers Um Corpo Estranho. Together they have created a perfectly exotic mixture of psychedelic space rock and desert rock tribalism, all sang in their native tongue Portuguese, which gives the album an outlandish and mystical feel.
The music runs the gamut between hazy and rhythmic desert rock that at times reminds of Queens OfThe Stone Age at their dreamiest, and folky tribalist space rock on the other side, definitely more the Saturnia influence on it all. Of course Luís Simōes’s sitar plays an important role, but Um Corpo Estranho’s rhythmic approach and multiple vocals layers definitely add to a rich more = more approach that works terrifically well for this project.
Perhaps the only big mistake these brilliant Portuguese artist made is that they did not bother to market their album outside their home country much. That’s why a lot of psychedelic and hazy rock appreciators out there will unfortunately miss out on this gem. So in order to counter some of that error I contacted Luís Simōes to talk about his life and about this great record he made. This is what he had to say:
How have you been these past Corona times? Has it affected your musical career in any way, and if so how?
Luís Simões – I’ve been OK, as Saturnia is primarily an artist that mainly does albums and I don’t play live a lot, it didn’t really affected me that much; I did a one off unique presentation for a film festival over here in Setúbal and two special shows with O Místico Orfeão Sónico.
My internet activity increased significantly, and at a certain point, my CD and LP sales had a boost. As I am basically a loner, the confinement that the authorities forced had little difference from my usual day-to-day life. I know a few people who got COVID really hard, and sadly, I lost a relative.
You released two brilliant records last year: Stranded In The Green as Saturnia, and a great collaboration with Um Corpo Estranho, congratulations! How have the responses been so far?
Luís Simões – Thank you very much for your kind words.
The reactions have been very good. Stranded in the Green had a very good response from both the public and the press, even more so than usual. I think it’s one of the best works in my discography and it shows. The O Místico Orfeão Sónico album with Um Corpo Estranho also had great reactions.
Can you tell me what your average day looks like? How do you keep creative?
Luís Simões -Well, there is really no specific usual routine. I basically hang around with my set up always ready to record and when something comes up, I just try to capture it. That’s it. My mind and spirit are permanently wandering and drifting into odd interior universes, creating fantasies and plots of a conceptual, visual, lyrical, and musical nature. It has been like that all my life, it’s the way I am. In my experience, you should never force creation; instead, you should always be open and ready to pick up when the muses grace you with their presence.
Can you tell me about where you live in Portugal, and how it affects your music?
Luís Simões – I am from Linda-a-Velha a middle class suburb of Lisbon, known for its Hardcore scene but I’ve been living in Setúbal, the first main city one hour drive south of Lisbon, since 2007. When I was in Lisbon the vibe was more uptight and I was much more an alienated bedroom suburban dreamer, maybe because of the snobbery of the capital, everybody just pretends to be cool, I never liked the poseur-ism… I love Lisbon but Setúbal is a city that retained its more traditional vibe, I feel really comfortable and have a real sense of belonging, I have real countryside, beach and mountain nearby, not to mention the wine… So, since the Alpha Omega Alpha album I think my music became much more pleasurable and total because I live in a much more pleasant place.
What can you tell me about Saturnia, how did you start it, how did you get into contact with record labels, how did you decide on your style and sound?
Luís Simões – I started Saturnia in a period when I needed to work in a different way that I had worked up until then, which was a Heavy Metal, Rock modus operandi. I was tired of being locked all day long inside a dark room with a couple of guys, just banging away in a noisy atmosphere. For several reasons, not just musical, I needed peace of mind and had to go in another direction.
Initially, I had no real Stylistic plan, I just wanted to work from home and do a type of music that happened naturally and felt good, picking a few elements from several types of music, mainly Psychedelic and Space Rock and to a much lesser extent Prog. Saturnia always had many influences, that range from indo-Jazz to Classic through easy listening, ambient Electronica and musique concrete.
Initially I meant Saturnia to be like a multimedia artistic collective, but I quickly realized that it would be wiser to just stick to a more orthodox band format, but as time went by I just started doing everything on my own and Saturnia turned into a one man band with some friends helping out on live shows. Curiously, although early Saturnia was consciously a bit removed from Rock, with the passage of time my Rock roots worked their way back in and what Saturnia is now, and has been since the Muzak album, it’s pretty much inside the area of what is traditional Rock music.
Your collaboration with Um Corpo Estranho is very special, as it brings together two unique sounds and really melts it into one. How did the two bands find each other and how did you decide to make this record?
Luís Simões – Me and Pedro Franco, guitarist of Um Corpo Estranho, just kept bumping into each other over here in the Setúbal night scene and talking for hours and hours about our favorite music and bands and also about music gear and general instrument fetishism. It was always clear that we could do something together and at a certain point they had a song that they wanted some sitar in and that was what triggered the whole process.
We started to work together, sharing ideas and then we realized we had a full album in our hands, it really happened that naturally. This O Místico Orfeão Sónico album with Um Corpo Estranho is one of those situations when you never know where things are going, just take a chance based purely on feeling and hope for the best. We fused naturally and it was a pleasure to surprise them and be surprised by them. I think the result is quite unique and we did a very strong album at a level that Portuguese music hasn’t really heard for quite a while.
Can you tell me about the beautiful artwork and the lyrical concept? As I don’t understand much or any Portugese I feel like some explanation is very welcome 🙂
Luís Simões – The cover was made by Illustrator Paulo Buchinho, he did a colorful composition with elements of our own personal universe and some Setúbal historic references such as eighteenth century Arcadian poet Manuel Maria Barbosa du Bocage and lyrical Singer Luísa Todi. Lyrically the album is a loose concept about Setúbal and its river Sado with Classic mythology and Tarot mixed with our own personal experiences.
The album has a great production and sound, and the songs are really good too. Still, the release felt a bit restricted to Portugal only, was that intentional? I feel like a lot more people would be enjoying this if they knew about it!
Luís Simões – Thank you for your kind words. Yes, it was intentional, we see this record mainly as a Portuguese experience that is why we never even looked for any distribution, its a boutique thing, we have the album and sell it ourselves and that’s it. I agree, this album has qualities that could reach a very wide public.
Can you tell me about your future plans? Was the album with Um Corpo Estranho a “one off”? Will there be more live shows also in Europe? Will there be a new Saturnia album? Anything!
Luís Simões – Although for the O Místico Orfeão Sónico we never thought of doing more than one album, we already got carried away and we do have new material, if this turns into another album or not its still early to say. Yes, there Will be a new Saturnia album, i have lots of material for a new album but everything is still at an early stage. Regarding concerts with O Místico Orfeão Sónico outside Portugal I don’t think that’s possible due to everybody’s agenda.
Regarding Saturnia, I would truly love to tour Europe constantly but without some sort of agency or booking structure support, which I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to find for years, that is just not possible. That is one of the main reasons why Saturnia is mainly an album artist and not so much a live artist.
What is your ultimate life goal, personally or musically?
Luís Simões – To be free, to do art which is authentic, honest, pertinent, based on instinct and intuition but crafted with Intelligence with intrinsic quality regardless of any opinions or trends. I don’t really separate personal from artistic that much but on a personal level its the same.
Who are your heroes and inspiration?
Luís Simões – I have respect for a lot of different artists and I am a fan of lots of things in art in general and music in particular but i am simultaneously also very critical of my heroes and to a certain point an iconoclast.
What I mean is that I don’t love all albums by my favorite bands, when something sucks, it just sucks, I can’t and won’t brainwash myself to love something I don’t love. Some of my main references: Johann Sebastian Bach, Nik Turner, BillBrufford, Steve Harris, Ray Manzarek, Mike Rutherford, Klaus Schulze.
What will you do after this interview, and what should the Weirdo Shrine readers do? (and especially: where should they go if they want to buy your records?)
Luís Simões – Well, after this I’m going to finish the mixes for a live show of O Místico Orfeão Sónico that my friend, film maker João Bordeira kindly filmed in January, I’m also remastering the second Saturnia album, The Glitter Odd, for a possible special LP limited release and start organizing the new material I got for a new Saturnia album. Weirdo Shrine readers should do whatever they like and just keep it Weirdo!!! To get our albums the best thing is to contact Dave Schmidt on Sulatron records or myself through our respective websites or Facebook.
I am in love with Lammping’s guitar tone. The moment I discovered it on their previous full length album Flashjacks I knew something heartwarmingly fuzzy and special was going on. That album wasn’t one of my favorite and most listened records of 2021 for nothing after all. So I was thrilled like a little schoolgirl getting an ice cream when they announced a new EP and opener Everlasting Moor kicked in right instantly with that fat tone.
The EP pretty much kicks off where Flashjacks left us, so if you were paying attention you’d know that these Torontoans are the kings of kickin’ it back. The sleepy, “all good bro” vibes are still there, but Stars We Lost sounds somewhat more hopeful and positive, hell even damn poppy and catchy most of the time. It’s perfect Sunday morning wake ’n bake music. Somewhere in between psychedelic stoner, 90s nerd bands like Cake (Never Phoenix), and the wavering hippie psych rock of a band like Wooden Shjips, there’s the unique amalgamation of Lammping. It’s just as quirky as their moniker, and I hope they’ll never lose their unique style of being weird and genuine.
Too bad Stars We Lost is “just” a twenty minute long EP, but with these guys it’s like one of your best buddies just came by to chill and have a couple of beers. In other words; they are always welcome, and always a good time to hang out with. I’m glad I found their company and I can’t wait to see what their good vibes will bring home to me next time.
There is no indie scene in Cologne, or that’s what we pick up from Gong Wah, when I talked to them recently. Still their second album sounds bustling, urban, ready for a night on the town. This is a band that is informed of what’s cooking in indie town in 2022, ready to make some grown up choices since their debut. One of those choices is a less hazy and fuzzy appearance, and more emphasis on song structure and catchiness.
A Second is still lovely and dreamy, something you can wrap yourself in and be comfortable with. At the same time Gong Wah does not forget to dance, albeit slowly and more sexy this time (Paint My Soul, or The Violet Room for instance). You can imagine yourself getting lost in a big dark venue and somehow reaching the basement stage and encountering Gong Wah, smokescreens up high, the music pushing the bodies to move and swirl even against their will. It’s an environment bands like Savages, Desperate Journalist, and in the quieter parts Mazzy Star would thrive in. Ready to go and rock some stages, yet with corona and no scene…where to go but inside your head? There is a subsided part on this record that reflects on that issue as well. It definitely makes for a well of depth and melancholy that is deeper and richer than previously…
Time to talk to them and let them explain more about themselves:
How has Gong Wah been? How have you managed between the release of your first album and the new one?
Due to the pandemic we couldn´t promote the debut live with a tour, so we decided to make the best out of this situation and recorded the new album.
The new album sounds pretty different from the last, what was the difference in approach when writing and recording it?
There was no masterplan. If there was an idea, it would have been not to make the same record again, but definitely sound like Gong Wah. We have many songs in the vault, and they cover many different styles of music. Before we started recording, we listened through the demo-versions and then decided which ones would fit best together on an LP. This list has changed a few times, because during the production we wrote new material that would change the face of the whole album for better. In the end it’s a bit poppier than the first record, but at the same time it’s much darker.
Can you tell me about your studio and the way you record your records? You’re doing a lot of it yourselves, aren’t you?
Our studio is located in the north of cologne and it’s the Gong Wah headquarter where we do almost everything. There’s a big chestnut tree right in front of the entrance, so we called it „Chestnut Tree Studio“. We recorded the whole album there. Usually we arrange a song and create a guide-track, then we arrange and record the instruments and last the vocals. But it’s never really the same. Sometimes songs change during the recording process, they start life as a ballad and end up as doom metal or EDM, whatever. Sometimes we realize that a song needs another interlude, another drum part or a different guitar sounds and redo everything. Sometimes we take the vocals or synth tracks from the demo because they sounded perfect. Like on the debut, we did everything ourselves: production, recording, artwork. Only mix and mastering was done by Eroc, who did a great job. We are very lucky to be on Tonzonen Records, because they give us complete artistically freedom.
How do you guys combine life and being in band(s)? Was that easier/harder the past corona period?
The combination is always a bit of a balancing act. In an ideal world we would only be making music 24/7. But the way it is, we all have different jobs to pay the bills. So we meet after work several times a week, sometimes with varying members, depending on whos available, and work on new stuff, playing each other new ideas, recording, listening or simply planing the bright glorious future ahead of us… as is reflected in our lyrics…
Despite the few lockdown weeks nothing has changed too much for us in that regard. But the prospect of being able to present our songs in a live setting has been pretty much taken away. But so far we managed to keep ourselves busy as mentioned above and not be too disillusioned. At least no more than usually…
Can you describe the difference in writing the lyrics this time around? Did you have different perspectives when it comes to influences?
Since we have different lyricists approaches, perspectives and influences vary. We try not to write the same stuff in the same way again and again. But everyone writes about what concerns them personally.
Can you sketch a picture of the alternative music “scene” in Cologne? Is there one? Who’s in it? What does it look like?
To be honest there’s not really a scene in cologne. Or maybe its hiding from us. Of course we know a few people here and there, like the DEAD MAN’S EYES for example, but there isn’t a spot where all the bands meet or play together or rehearse or something. Sometimes even we are surprised by media reports about bands from cologne we never heard of before.
What are your immediate and longer term future plans? Any exciting things coming up apart from releasing your new album?
As the pandemic seems to be winding down the plan is to play live again. As much as possible. As of now we got a festival in the summer and a gig in cologne in may but we sure hope to and are working on getting to tour this year. We want people to hear our stuff live ‘cause its a different animal to the records and we would love to present that side of us. Apart from that we are working with different filmmakers on upcoming videoclips. A lot of love has been put into that lately. And even though that may sound as if we were doing porn, it’s not…
And we are working on our third record already, ‘cause why not. As long as we are trapped in Cologne…
What are you doing after this interview, and what should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this?
After this interview we will start filming the next video, which should be released in connection with the album release in march. As you are reading this the first video for the first single ‘This Life’ should be out already. So we encourage every Weirdo Shrine worshipper to watch that lovely little ditty, done by Saba Moghadami & his team.
Through all the noise of daily life, the constant pull of social media, the wars that are fought allover the world, the stress of pandemics and the worries about climate change, it would seem like a good idea to escape everything and push all of those things away and out of your head. In stead of constantly being on edge about everything it would seem like a better idea to try to live in the moment, with nothing more than your senses. Try for a second to just sense your surroundings without judgment. It seems impossible. And yet, mindfulness and meditation are based on that principle; to live in the moment and to empty your mind. Some musicians are aware of this, and they write music to accompany this idea. In this article I tried to experience a meditative state while listening to their music, and I asked the makers about their own experiences.
El Hombre Al Agua- Memories Can Be Injected (2022, Echodelick Records/Up In Her Room Records)
Starting off with Dave Read’s solo project El Hombre Al Agua, basically the reason why I came up with the idea in the first place. Very differently from his work in bands like Moths & Locusts or Annunaki, Read here completely lets go of the principle of the “song” and simply goes with the flow, letting the sounds, bleeps, and effects do the talking. Is it music for meditation? Well, the first track is called Three Minute Meditation, which features a singing bowl, and a deep male voice telling us to “relax” and how to breathe. I tried this, and it works! Closing my eyes, and breathing in deeply twice, then letting go I got in the right mood to let the other songs wash over me in a very dreamy mental state as well. I wouldn’t directly say I was already meditating, but I was definitely listening more intensively and with full attention. I have to say though, the exercise worked better with the tracks without any rhythmic throb or beat, especially on the title track Memories Can Be Injected that got a little in the way of my quiet state of mind.
Do you meditate, what brought you into contact with it?
I do meditate, in my own personal way, generally just taking time daily for mindfulness and reflection. It helps me calm my mind and focus on whatever needs focussing on. I have a bunch of meditation LPs in my collection, some I’ve had for many years, I guess you could say that’s how I got into it. That and reading people like Thich Nhat Hahn who inspire me to pursue the best life possible for myself and others.
In what way does (your) music play a role in meditation?
I apply breathing and repetition exercises in both music and meditation, and I find drone music in particular is especially receptive to using these techniques. I’m a big fan of long form musical pieces that slowly ebb and flow, they feel like the musical equivalent of meditation. I also take inspiration from old 1970s New Age spiritual guru type records.
Can you describe the importance of meditation in your life and in general?
It is something that helps me keep calm and focussed, not an easy task in today’s society. I find it’s important to take a few moments each day for meditation, it helps me stay positive and productive. Ram Dass introduced me to the philosophy of Be Here Now.
Do you have any tips/tricks for starters?
John Lennon says it best, ‘Turn off your mind and float downstream’
Anything you would like to add, names to drop, etc
Check out Ram Dass, Sufi Inayat Khan, Thich Nhat Hahn, Chino Burga, Wasted Cathedral, Ravi Shankar, Brian Eno and Sunn O)))
Empty House- Blue Bamboo (2022, self-released)
For my next exercise I used the latest Empty House release Blue Bamboo by UK psych wizard Fred Laird, also known for his work in space rock band Earthling Society and his current endeavor Taras Bulba (which featured on this blog twice before). Needless to say I am a big fan, and follow his ever growing creative outlets under various different monikers with great interest.
For Blue Bamboo he wrote: “Blue Bamboo consists of four improvised pieces for meditation or total chill out. Recorded over a few days in February and built upon drones created by the organ through a dream pedal or Tanpura box. The tracks were then splashed with colour and hues with treated piano, shakuhachi flute, bells, synth, field recordings and other instruments. Inspired by my faith in Buddhism as well as the music of Eno, David Sylvian, Midori Takada and Popol Vuh – Blue Bamboo is 30+ minutes of escape from a bullshit warmongering climate.”
And so I prepped myself with the breathing instructions I gained from Dave Read’s Three Minute Meditation and dove right in. The music on Blue Bamboo is very tranquil, very open, and less focussed on spacing out. Perhaps its more written about spacing “in” if you catch my drift. There are lots of beautiful moments to ponder about, similar to taking a morning forest walk and really taking in the beauty of what you see. Like El Hombre Al Agua, some spoken word is used, which adds to the experience, and can be pushed aside if you will your mind to it. Thirty minutes later I return back into my room. I open my eyes and for a moment think of nothing. I think I succeeded.
Fred adds: I started practicing meditation from the date the first lockdown began in March 2020. Whilst my employers where wondering what to do with the work situation and the rest of civilisation thought we were entering the opening chapters of Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’, my lazy old self thought it was ample time to kick back and practice some Chi breathing and other relaxing pursuits. I started reading the books of Taoist master Mantak Chia which taught you how to develop the cosmic orbit meditation. This technique is performed by breathing through the naval similar to how an unborn child breathes when attached to the umbilical cord, or when you see an infant breathe and the tummies extend because they still have the antenatal instinct. This enables you to fully engage your lungs rather than a fraction of what adults use. Apparently you lose the art of how to truly breathe.
However as normal life starts to come back and crush your spirit, trying to put 30 minutes aside to stare at a wall and breathe like a baby starts to become an impossibility.
Instead I incorporate meditation into other concepts. I put 20 minutes core exercise into my routine 4 times a week. This involves a number of abdominal and leg exercises that are pretty steady and usually performed to music. I prefer Brian Eno’s ambient albums or Tony Scott’s ‘Music for Zen Meditation’ which is an absolute classic. I started to paint in watercolours to music as well. A lot of my paintings feature clouds and blue skies, pretty aimless images, bamboo, flowers that kind of thing. I like to listen to Susuma Yakota’s Sakura album, Midori Takada, Mkwaju Ensemble or Popol Vuh whilst I paint.
As I practice martial arts, I use the poomsae which is the patterns you learn for grading as another form of meditation. Emptying your mind and focusing your energy on the poomsae helps block out things that maybe troubling you and helps you focus on the now.
So there are lots of ways to meditate without sitting under a bodhi tree waiting for enlightenment. Meditation walking for another example.
A good guide to start would be the book ‘Peace is every step’ by Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s a very clear and simple book from a zen master.
Invokaciones by Peruvian psychedelic drone master Chino Burga was brought to my attention last year by Echodelick Records when they sent me a test pressing of this piece of dense instrumental drone. I have to say it took me a while before I knew what I was to do with this, but in writing this piece about meditation all fell into place. I contacted Chino, and to my delight he was already deeply immersed into meditation.
Getting rid of time and tempo is exactly what Invokaciones does. It lurks and lumbers in a very eerie, and unfathomable way. It rather fills up an entire room with audio smoke, engulfing its listener with its soundwaves and lulling you in a trance. I could very well see me losing myself in a tranquil meditative state on this record. The way Chino Burga himself talks about, it might even been written to do so…
Do you meditate, what brought you into contact with it?
I passed throught a very dark period where I had almost no control of my own life, leading by anxiety, depression and addictions, it was reflected in several months with no sleep at all. So I started to calm down my brain with binaural frequencies and that was the first step for a deeper search
In what way does (your) music play a role in meditation?
My music is the result of a lot rituals, where meditation is one of the phases that I set up to be able to process a new album. I found the act itself of playing as a meditation practice. As I try to play with no tempo and repetitively, soon I lost the sense of time, leaving me in a no-space-or-time place, perfect for introspection. But of course it’s a very own thing
Can you describe the importance of meditation in your life and in general?
Most people think meditation means close your eyes and relax for a certain period of time. To me represents a state of mind where you are aware of yourself, can happens listening music, reading a book or watching the trees, it just takes me to a silence in mind state that I appreciate each day more
Do you have any tips/tricks for starters?
I’m not a point of reference for sure….but…Try to keep silence in every sense in order to be able to listen in every sense
Anything you would like to add, names to drop, etc
Thank you and Echodelick for the support
Angad Berar- A Broadcast, Underwater (2020, self-released)
I got to know Angad Berar through his 2019 album Elephants On The Beach, that was re-released on vinyl by Echodelick Records last year. I was immediately struck by the immense tranquility and peace that emanated from his work. Samples of birds chirping and spoken word are worked delicately into his layered solo guitar structures, making for beautiful soundscapes that stay wonderfully captivating. A Broadcast, Under Water is a later release on which Angad Berar explores an even more tranquil and silenced mode of himself. It is a record that seems purposed for meditation. And so I contacted its maker, and once again asked him to comment.
Do you meditate, what brought you into contact with it?
Yes, however the frequency is lesser than I would like (hahaha). I got introduced to meditation whilst living~working in a community located in South India. Invoked by the lush green vegetation, the quiet neighbourhood and the beauty of nature near the equator — the place offered dynamic meditation. We were gently motivated to live our day consciously and actively meditate on the tasks in hand.
In the evening, we collectively meditated in a shared space. A practice similar to Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa’s teachings — a branch of conscious meditation.
This new found approach to life brought significant changes to my approach to music, in terms of listening and playing. Hence, it was natural to continue this practice.
In what way does (your) music play a role in meditation?
Music is both the path and the vehicle when it comes to meditation. Often, it takes a form of either and on those rare occasions, it embodies a dual nature. As a role, currently my music is still maturing and the preferred form is yet to be established. Most of the music I play is intended to calm the listener or to the very least induce joy. That’s the dream, you know? Until now, I haven’t yet consciously created music for meditation. However, I feel its meditation which has played a role in my music. There is more air and pace between the notes.
Can you describe the importance of meditation in your life and in general?
I think it boils down to Cause and Effect. If the ‘cause’ is created mindfully then the ‘effect’ of it is true to it’s intent. For example if a song is created to induce peace or happiness, and for some reason the artist wasn’t mindful about what they were playing and how they were playing, it might happen that the final piece does not fully solve its purpose (of spreading happiness). In my family often when my mother or grandmother cook food – it induces happiness and joy amongst everyone. I feel that they cook mindfully with love and that gets translated into the food.
Meditation helps me clear the noise and centre myself. This ‘state’ allows me to be 100% focussed on the matter in hand – a being, task, dance, music whatever : )
In the words of Satprem – When the mind is silent, words come, speech comes, action comes, everything comes, automatically, with striking exactness and speed. It is indeed another, much lighter way of living.
Do you have any tips/tricks for starters?
For starters, I would suggest finding a mentor / guru to guide you. It might take some time to find the right person but in the end it will make all the difference.
Anything you would like to add, names to drop, etc
Astronauts, when looking at the planet Earth from high above in space, have often felt epiphanies in which they felt compelled to protect it from our own silly behaviors. More than once these epiphanies led to climate activism, or at least an urge to tell as many human beings as possible what a great thing we have here, and that it would be such a pity if we wasted it. A change in perspective can do so much, and here is where Wild Rocket flies in.
The Dublin based band offers a ride into space for anyone willing, and you don’t even have to be a rich asshole like Musk or Bezos. You just have to squeegee your third eye and hop on the Wild Rocket, as it embarks on its massive space rock journey away from our tiny little blue planet and bound for anywhere your imagination dares bring you. While your facial skin tightens from the rocket’s warp speed, the gigantic engines thunder with orbit flinging gravity; this band knows that space rock needs to be heavy to mean anything.
On Formless Abyss, the Wild Rocket has three stages: the heavy Farflung goes postmetal scorcher Formless Abyss, and the dark ritualistic space drone InterplanetaryVibrations. They each last about ten minutes, and then there is the grand finale of the 20 minute monster space jam The Future Echoes. The track becomes heavier and more metallic as it unfolds, even reaching straight up doom metal boiling point at times. The shamanic vocals remind of US sludgy space doomers Zoroaster, evil and low, conjuring up all kinds of imagery that depicts that our future echoes might not be all that bright…
Still, in all its heaviness, Wild Rocket’s space rock journey does give us some perspective on our meaningless life on this little blue dot. We might not all become climate activists after this, but we will be a bit more humble.
I spoke to Cian “Moose” Meganetty (bass) about Corona, being heavy, and influences…
Hi guys, how have you been these past pandemic times and how has it affected being in the band and making music for you?
Same as most people I presume. Was very hard to get all of us in the same room for most of the pandemic. Myself (Moose) and Niallo did get to jam fairly regularly which was good and defo helped keep us sane. We wrote the guts of a record but there’s still plenty of fleshing it all out with the rest of the band. Things always evolve quite a bit once everyone gets involved so don’t be expecting anything too soon.. Obviously we had no gigs to play or attend which was very strange but we all have our health which is the main thing.
Can you introduce yourselves? Where do you come from physically and musically?
We all come from various parts of Ireland, mostly based in Dublin or Wicklow (bordering county) except Bres on drums who’s been living and working in London a good few years now. We broadly come from a punk/metal background with some experimental beat music/electronics/noise/kraut along the way too. Music with a high level of intensity is the connecting factor across what we listen to and this is reflected in what we do as a band.
In what ways does your geographical situation influence your music?
We like to think we have a fairly strong Irish identity to our song writing and avoid sounding like a band trying to be English or American. Our use of the Irish language reflects this too. The sea surrounding us here plays a big part of our lives too between swimming in it. Having to cross it to play another country. Being in pure awe of its power. Then there’s a fascination with the ocean depths and it’s parallels with deep space.
Formless Abyss sounds freaking dense! What has been the biggest influence for that do you think? And, always a question with space rock. was there a lot of chemical enhancement involved?
We aim to make music that is tangible and can be felt as well as heard by the listener. We also live in heavy times so it makes sense to us that our music reflects this. I love the sound of thundering rivers after heavy rain and waves crashing on the shore so want to also reflect that kinda heaviness in our sound.
There’s also two drummers of course, nothing really sounds as full as two lads on two full drum kits. The effects used play a big part too. All dirt for guitar and bass comes from Moose Electronics, on this record guitar is mostly Battlehammer drive/distortion and bass is the Nomad fuzz. We’re tone chasers too so all the guitars/bases have been customised along the way. Any space after the above was pretty much filled up by George with his modular synth. Production philosophy on all our records has been “everything louder than everything else” So the answer to that question is really that everything together makes the record what it is so there’s no real biggest influence on it’s sound.
Not a lot of chemical enhancement, we’d be more into beer/stout. Ireland does have a long deep relationship with the other world and we certainly try to tap into that too.
What is the favorite letter in your record collection and why?
Can’t go wrong with B. Close to the start of the collection and includes Black Flag, Black Sabbath, Bong, Blown Out, Bloody Head, Beak>, Beastie Boys, Bongzilla, Bad Brains, Big Country, Bruxa Maria, Buczzcocks, Big black, Black Eyes, Buttholes Surfers. Yepo defo a good letter.
What constitutes “jamming” to you. When do you know it’s been a good one?
We jam riffs and see where we end up. A good one is when everyone has enjoyed it and/or we get a song/song section from a jam. Live we mix up tight structured sections with sections that allow more exploration while sticking to the core theme.
With what goal in mind do you play shows? Is there a big difference in jamming when there are more people there?
Jamming for us is us in a room together exploring riffs and sounds. Once there’s an audience it becomes a performance. We may explore with the audience present but most if not all we do in front of an audience will be within a predefined structure. We’re certainly not a jam band. If both band and audience can achieve a sense of catharsis and/or otherworldliness we’ve been successful. We also try to have as much fun as possible, it’s pointless playing music if you’re not enjoying it.
How did you end up releasing a record with Riot Season Records?
We’re all huge fans of the label. Andy has released some of our favourite records over the years. I (Moose) became friendly with him when he did a tape release for Worst, a band I played in too. We’d spoke briefly about working together with Wild Rocket so when this one was ready I sent it to Andy to check out and he was into it and offered to put it out for us. We’ve been more than happy working with Riot Season Records and hope the relationship continues.
What are your immediate and more distant future plans?
Get back to playing live regularly starting with our record release party in a couple weeks here in Dublin. Get the next record written and recorded. Keep moving forward.
What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after reading this interview?
Obvious answer, check out our record Formless Abyss if they haven’t already and dive into the Riot Season discography.
Die Geister Beschwören is an odd duck, in any proverbial pond, really. They are German named, yet they (mostly) reside in the USA, but they travel allover the world and pick up all kinds of (other-)worldly influences along the way too. The result is Ghost, This Is Survival, and it does not sound like anything I have ever heard before, which is of course right on the money for Weirdo Shrine and I was happy they tracked us down and sent us their sounds.
Shall I try to capture these two, twenty minute long, sound adventures in words? Should I tell you exactly what to expect? Will words do it justice? Or shall I send you on your own adventure? An album that raises so many questions might be better off unexplained, but experienced, and unveiled by your own ears as the enigma it is. I’ll tell you one thing though; it is an exciting, never dull trip, through all kinds of nooks and crannies of soundscapes, freaky folk, world music, desert blues, beautiful film music, triphop, and endless oscillations. You will be weirded out, and you will push the repeat button once it’s over.
Unprepared to reveal too much myself, I did contact the band to lift some of its mysteries. Oryan Peterson-Jones was kind enough to shed some light on what’s all going on…
Hi Oryan, how has the past Corona period been for you and your band? (How) have you managed to cope?
It has been astoundingly inspirational, productive and prolific, while equally frustrating and devastating. Luckily, Andrew, Joey, Evar and myself are separated by time and distance, but not as much by “space”. We’ve still been able to communicate and see one another fairly often during the pandemic. We’ve been recording. A lot. We met for a few weeks in Arcata, and then Portland, to mix a briarpatch of new material. We released two albums, one in 2020, and one in 2021. We had the opportunity to play a couple outdoor shows. But… Touring is what keeps our spirits high. We were all very well travelled individuals before meeting. Touring has allowed us an opportunity to mold that lifestyle into a communal creative outlet. Forming lasting connections with folks we meet on the road and constantly learning from new surroundings compliment our music. Not having that opportunity has been challenging, to say the least. However, I think I can speak for the rest of the group when I say putting touring and gigging on hold was the responsible decision to make.
Can you introduce your band? Can you explain your German band name?
I’ve always been fascinated by Germany and it was the first place out of the States that I travelled to by myself. Adopting a German name was intended as an existential nod towards communication, reconciliation, and rebirth. This is music for healing, by tearing down walls. Initially, Die Geister Beschwören, as an outlet for my solo work, was a jumbled mess of 4-track demos, field recordings, and humble concepts. The mess of material originally behaved as the folk-appendage of my grandiose, psych-rock outfit, Datura Blues. I didn’t begin taking it seriously, or performing under the moniker until 2009. Shortly after that, it evolved into an ensemble effort. Die Geister Beschwören is: Joey Binhammer, Andrew Pritchard (also of Datura Blues), Evar Restad, and myself. Owen Ott III (who I formed Datura Blues with), and Katarina Rohsmann, a close friend from Austria who I met while backpacking through Europe, were both visiting Arcata in the summer of 1999. We had an epic adventure of shroomy sight-seeing, concluding our trip by sitting upon a mossy log in the marsh. A symphony of crickets, frogs, and gentle wind playfully improvised a soundtrack, while bats danced and darted hungrily overhead, showboating their ballerenic swerve and camber. We were tapped into something ancient. A sacred moment. I asked Kat, who was teaching me a bit of German at the time, how to say “…And now, we summon the spirits.” It seemed fitting and appropriate language to commemorate the evening. Summon the Spirits – Die Geister Beschwören. There you have it!
At a first glance there are plenty of enigmas to unravel about Die Geister Beschwören. There’s the band name, but also your extremely separate locations (Portland, Prague, Havana???), and then we haven’t even talked about the music! Can you perhaps talk about your musical background to shed some light on these mysteries?
Members of the band are physically located in Portland, Davis, and Arcata (though after the past couple years, we may all be somewhat mentallyandspiritually adrift). I’m an Ethnomusicologist. My background is in musical anthropology. I travel a lot. Sometimes for on-location documentary filmwork, sometimes to study and explore, sometimes to collect records, instruments, and field recordings. These experiences often find themselves woven into the fabric of Die Geister Beschwören. The songs of birds from Gorée, or farmers hawking their wares on the streets of Centro Habana. Muezzin criers over the Bosphorus, or footsteps on wet cobblestone echoing through the Žižkovský tunnel. A strum of a baglama from Anatolia, or pluck of a kora string from Casamance. I’ve lived on and off in Prague for many years and have a large community of musician friends there. My blood brother, Nick, has called Prague home since 2004. He and I write/record a lot of music together, much of which gets cycled into Die Geister albums. Our latest work, The Immaculate Concussion, was built upon improvisations between Nick and myself in Prague. As a band, we try to include as many friends in our process as possible. This is a collaborative effort, subject to change, though the four core members remain the same. So while there is a defined skeleton beneath Die Geister Beschwören, the flesh and blood, muscle and tendon, cartilage and skin, are malleable. A musical Golem, so to speak.
Your album Ghost, This Is Survival consists of two 19 minute pieces of experimental music. Can you explain how you go about creating such gigantic pieces of sound when “jamming” seems to be impossible at such great distance from each other?
We have come to appreciate the layout and richness of analogue formats (the majority of tracks are recorded onto reel-to-reel, using high fidelity tape). This album is meant to be experienced on vinyl or cassette. Therefore, the material is divided into two sides. There are actually six pieces of music on Ghosts, This Is Survival, interwoven with found sounds and field recordings. That said, so much of our creative process actually occurs in the studio. Recognizing the sacred in a moment. Die Geister Beschwören are devotees of the Great Concept Album, often structuring our material into evolving soundscapes. There’s a lot of improvisation in our recordings, but always grounded by a solid foundation, a riff, an idea (however, those ideas, riffs and foundations are almost always born from a previous improvisation). We all met and began playing together while living in Portland, wrote a bunch of music in the same room and linked souls. Those early rehearsals really brought out the best in each of us, and prepared us for the challenge of working together from afar. I think there was a little concern amongst the group when Evar moved to Oakland, and I returned to Arcata, but that sentiment quickly faded when we reconnected after our first few weeks apart. Now, all the pieces fall back into place wherever, whenever, and however we meet. I like to imagine that by each of us maintaining so many other hobbies, interests, and projects, in a sense, Die Geister Beschwören still “jam” by telepathically feeding off of each others’ creative energy. No instruments required.
The “ghost” theme surrounds your work quite obviously; where does it come from?
It’s a cosmic middle finger towards the limitations of our earthly bodies, and the perception of death as an unavoidable finality. The Spirits of our ancestors hop trains and ride rails between shadow realms, sharing their histories and mythology with the Attuned. Those stories from the beyond are eternal. That’s the electricity we attempt to tap into. Anytime the four of us are in the same room, we are in communion. Conduits. In a broader sense, the recurring ghost theme is also tied to our use of symbolism and sacrifice. We believe in ghosts. We extend an invitation towards an audience of those who came before. We employ theatrics to call up the spirits, but our rites and rituals are conducted with focused determination and pure intent. We are proud spellcasters, sincere in our practice.
Obviously music like this isn’t aiming at airplay or football stadium sized audiences. Can you explain what it is like for an artist on the fringe like you? How full time can you be about your art? Where do you find your niche? Etc.
Having cut my teeth on punk rock, and growing up in such an isolated region as Humboldt County, commercial success was never of much concern. My inner delinquent and sympathies for tie-dye were often at odds with one another, but a characteristic both the punk and hippie scenes shared, was an emphasis on community. I was lucky to have supportive parents, and a vibrant. tolerant, all-ages local music scene. Experimentation, on many levels, was encouraged. I shunned the mainstream, and spent many years ignorant of music that I would come to enjoy later in life. It wasn’t until I returned from living in Prague that my process of experimentation came to include mainstream and popular designs. Die Geister Beschwören was always intended to be communal, accessible, folk for the masses, while still willing to revel in the mist and fog. To me, being a fringe artist merely means relationships are orbiting within a smaller circle. That ultimately makes connections more accessible, and establishes a negligible distance between artists and patrons. The stage is lower. There’s more inclusivity, humility, a sense of purpose, belonging, and resolve. We have so many kinships with folks we’ve met in our travels, and a thriving community of like-minded spirits here in the States. Family is most important.
What are your musical influences, who are your heroes? And what are you guys currently listening to?
Some of my earliest local influences were Ethan Miller’s and Ben Chasny’s primitive musical efforts (Hooka, Plague Lounge, Eta Corina, My Name is Chris) and I’ve followed both of their careers with enthusiasm. Ben turned me onto a lot of the music I enjoy today. My heroes have always been the people I grew up with (those who made it out of Humboldt and succeeded in their artistic endeavors). Akron/Family are high on the list of favorites, as are The Wipers. Friends in Portland: Rllrbll, The Social Stomach, Crowey. Anything from Sublime Frequencies or Awesome tapes from Africa. John Fahey, Sandy Bull, Robbie Basho, Leo Kottke. Shizuka, White Heaven, Ghost. Khun Narin’s Electric Phin Band has been on constant rotation. Also, I recently revived my long-running radio program, The Difficult Listening Hours, on the upstart station Humboldt Hot Air (humboldthotair.org) Each episode explores experimental music from all over the world, offering a deep-dive into a particular artist, album, country, or genre. In putting together shows, I’ve been turned on to so much new music that it’s almost overwhelming! Recent discoveries include: PapeNziengui Ngombi, Aby Ngana Diop, Ofege, Dur Dur Band, Modrý Efekt, Phoenix, MeruangWaktu, Dawn of Madness, Indoraza, Dos Mukasan, Fire, Survolaj, Sýček, Mud Spencer, Meridian Brothers, Yasmin Williams, the list goes on…
What are your immediate and long term future plans? Any news about a physical release? Any touring plans?
We are happy to announce that Ghosts, This Is Survival will be released later this year by Australian label, Ramble Records. I was introduced to Ramble Records by way of an American Primitive compilation they released, and am very excited to be working with a label that puts so much care and attention into their catalogue. We are currently promoting our most recent album, The Immaculate Concussion, and shopping it around. Die Geister Beschwören have a couple festivals lined up for the summer and may opt for doing a few out of town shows with a smaller incarnation of the band, but we certainly won’t be booking any big tours any time soon. Things are moving slowly but we will rise again.
What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?
I have a deep respect for fully improvised (psych) music and musicians that dare to dive deep into the unknown. The “jam” to me is an enigmatic thing, and to always jam, and never know how it will end up, is terribly frightening for a control freak perfectionist like me. So for a band like Swedish improv jam band Neon Heart to devote their existence to just that: to float freely without constraint, no verses, no choruses, just to listen closely to each other and go go go. That is heroic.
Not to say that they are the first or last to do it, -cough CAN, cough-, but Neon Heart are definitely one of the few bands I have recently met that are completely devoted to play their music unrehearsed, unprepared, unwritten. Surprisingly the result is not chaos, but a very natural sounding band, mixing up repeating rhythmic pulse with beautiful jazzy horns, subtle postrock guitar noodling, and enigmatic -also improvised- vocals.
Just listen to Livet/Ytan and realize these individuals are truly living in the moment while recording. They are one living, breathing organism together that pulsates and throbs wherever the vibe takes them for an hour and a half, without missing a beat.
I was impressed, and flabbergasted no record label had been willing to take them on for this trip! Feeling the need to tell people about this discovery, I sought contact with the band, and found drummer Magnus Nordén willing to elaborate on his beautiful project.
How have you guys been during the past corona years? How have you managed as people and as a band?
The pandemic hasn’t been much fun. Even if Sweden didn’t have the total lockdowns of other countries, we did have restrictions that concerned most areas of life – live gigs were banned some periods.
Just before the pandemic, in September 2019, we released our five-track album Trio. We had gathered some momentum, and had decided to self-release a vinyl lp in 2020, Neon Heart. Which we did in May. By then, the pandemic ruled the world, and we had to cancel the release party.
On the other hand, we got very creative. From June to August 2020 we recorded all the material for our third album, temporaria. This happened between the first and second corona waves here in Sweden. After temporaria, we began working on yet another album (our latest release Livet/Ytan) and continued recording for this until 27 October. Then, the second wave hit Sweden, and we couldn’t meet up to play until June 2021.
This was frustrating, as we had a good thing going and were getting great international reviews.
On a personal level, we’ve been okay. Even if we couldn’t play together for long periods, we kept in touch in other ways, because we are also good friends.
Can you introduce Neon Heart to us?
Neon Heart was started by me in 2006. Our concept is simple: No verse-refrain structure. No written songs. No soloists. Improvisation. Freedom to do what you want.
But this also entails responsibility. If everyone is free to do what they want, it is also easy to swamp the freedom of others. So listening is extremely important.
Neon Heart has had various members over the years, but we’ve been the same five players since 2018.
What is your musical background?
As a drummer, I come from post-punk/new wave, and I also play jazz.
Johnny and Petter have a background in post-punk/new wave like me.
Björn was a founding member of Commando M Pigg, a legendary Swedish new wave band.
Daniel has strong links to art music, progressive rock, and jazz.
Johnny played guitar in the first version of Neon Heart, left and then re-joined as a bass player. I met the others through an impro network here in Stockholm.
How did you get drawn into the world of the psychedelic?
I had a penchant for psychedelia when young, I listened a lot to the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, the Moody Blues, Gentle Giant, the Doors, Cream, Love, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, the Mothers of Invention and other early psychedelic rock bands. Primarily, though, I think I just like long delay lines.
All the other members in Neon Heart have monumental pedal boards, with multitudes of fx boxes, so we all like freaky sounds, I guess.
But we are not that psychedelic as people. I do have round glasses, though.
Can you tell me about the writing and recording process of Livet/Ytan?
We don’t write songs. At all. Not even the tiniest note. Everything we play is improvised. Even Johnny’s lyrics are improvised. We literally never play the same song twice.
During the pandemic we started recording all our rehearsals. We did this since it was almost impossible to have live gigs and we wanted some pressure on ourselves. This resulted in a lot of material.
The tracks on Livet/Ytan were recorded between June and October 2020. I do all the recording, set up the mics, wire up the speaker cabinets etc. I also do all the mixing/production.
I go through the recordings and choose the parts I think are good. I work on those a lot. When I’m happy with the resulting song/track, I present it to the rest of the band for their feedback, which I incorporate, and eventually a finished song trickles out the other end. Our process is very similar to how Can worked.
For Livet/Ytan we chose between 47 tracks, which were all good enough. There are 13 tracks on the album, so a lot of material has never been heard by anyone outside the band, except my wife.
When the track list for Livet/Ytan had been agreed upon, we sent the mixes to Subvert Central Mastering in the UK. Leon Smith there is a great mastering engineer, who has mastered almost all our releases.
We knew that it wouldn’t be easy to find a label for a vinyl version of Livet/Ytan. So, instead of waiting around, we decided to self-release the album as a double-CD. CDs are way cheaper to make than vinyl, and still physical. We had already self-released our two previous albums. Temporaria was picked up by Adansonia after we had self-released it as a CD, so a double-CD was the right thing to do at the time.
Can you tell us about your hunt for a label? What are you looking for? Perhaps some of them are reading?!
I’ve contacted labels about Livet/Ytan. Adansonia released our previous album, Temporaria, on vinyl. However, a vinyl double-lp is a big ask. Perhaps two labels could partner up, splitting the costs for such an ambitious project?
A double album wasn’t the wisest choice, perhaps. But the material we had craved a double album. So, there we are.
What are your immediate future plans, what is your ultimate band goal?
Our immediate future plans include live gigs in Stockholm and Göteborg. We would love to participate in festivals in Europe, and to do a European tour. We would also love to release Livet/Ytan as a vinyl double-LP.
We’re already working on our next album. Nothing is set in stone yet, but I would certainly love it if we could release it towards the end of 2022.
What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after this interview?
The reader should head over to our Bandcamp, listen to our music, enjoy the weirdness, buy one of our albums, help us find a label for a Livet/Ytan vinyl, and invite us to their local psychedelic festival/venue.