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Review + Q&A: Ambassador Hazy- The Traveler (2022, Cardinal Fuzz/Hazy House)

On his second album of home made trippy lo-fi fuzz, Sterling DeWeese AKA Ambassador Hazy once again proves he has a whole band in him. His jingly/jangly tunes feature acoustic guitar, fuzzy solos, distorted keyboards, and his characteristic vocals that walk the thin line between insecure and lazy in an undeniably sympathetic way.

It’s music that lets it all hang loose, in proper Velvet Underground fashion, but with a distinctive smelly attic vibe that is definitely not as cool, but all the more cosy and comfortable. Like that ugly rug you kind of need to throw out, but you won’t because of all the memories and because it ties the room together. Yeah, it’s proper “dude” music.

The Traveller isn’t in any way cartoon character goofy though, there are some serious undertones flowing through these tunes. They are just being dealt with in a very laidback, hazy way. And if you don’t like that, well, that’s just your opinion man…

I talked with the dude Sterling Deweese himself, and this is what he said:

Hi Sterling, how are you? How have you been these past pandemic years?

I’m very well thank you.  All things considered, it hasn’t been so bad. My family is healthy and I managed to make a couple of records.

So, this may be a weird question; but are you named after the drum part? And do you use it?

When I played in Heavy Hands our old Slingerland kit did use to to have those heads on it. The guys took to calling me that or just Hazy due to certain habits of consumption that might have given me a bit of brain fog.

How do you usually spend your day?

By day I work doing architecture and design.  

How does music fit in your life usually?

Usually it fits in wherever I can find time which can be complicated between work and family life.  Most often I’m working on music when my wife is out of town on business and my son is asleep (well upstairs supposed to be asleep), so that makes the time I do have limited and I usually get right down to business and try and get something going.

Ambassador Hazy is purely a solo project, right? How come you don’t work together anymore? 

I’ve been recording at home for many years on a 1/2″ 8 track so I have piles of old stuff – but most of it is more in the way of demos that were recorded while I was playing in other bands as a way to develop material.  Eventually the tape machine stopped working, and this coincided with a period where I got married and had a kid so there was 5 or 6 years there where I was pretty much entirely dormant and not doing music.  Then one day I decided it was time to get back at it and I spent some months finding the right guy to service the machine (long story).  And I built out a small studio in my basement, bought some new toys to equip it and then I started making some noise again.  Initially I tried to get together some guys for a band but it was always complicated to schedule and pretty erratic but we did do some stuff which you can hear on the first Hazy record.  For the new record The Traveler it is entirely a solo endeavor as it wasn’t really possible to collaborate in a airless little basement room due to the pandemic.   I have finished a third solo record as well recently and that will probably see the light of day in about another year given the long lead times for pressing etc.

What is your goal with Ambassador Hazy?

 The goal is to make cool music – and just get lost in it. It’s definitely a sort of escapism from the mundane everyday life.   

What are lyrics to you? Do you tend to overthink them or are they rather more of an afterthought? How do they form in your head?

Typically I don’t start with the lyrics, it’s usually something that comes in after there is already some flesh on the bones of the song.   I do try and structure things so there’s a space for the lyrics but rarely do I start there.  I think the only song that was done in a more “traditional” style and written on an acoustic guitar with a lyric already in place was Gone to My Head.   All the other tunes are layered up where I start with one idea or riff and go from there.  When writing lyrics I usually try to do it in a naturalistic way so I’m not overthinking them and usually it’s something that happens very fast and I prefer not to do a lot of takes.  Keep in mind I’m working on tape so most of these takes are straight through and not edited in little bits and pieces. I prefer the song to feel like it was done live.  Some songs are basically improvised around an idea or a phrase and if I like what I get I’ll just leave it, other times I will spend a bit more time composing, but I don’t usually ever get past 2 or 3 verses.

What have your influences and inspirations been as a solo artist? 

Mostly on the turntable at home I am still stuck in the 60’s and 70’s or even earlier (lots of country blues etc).  Also lately I have been revisiting the music of my teenage years; Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Jesus and Mary Chain etc.  Though I would say one of the great things about doing these records has been getting exposed to a lot of great contemporary artists thanks to all the heads out there running great labels and doing radio shows.  

Will Ambassador Hazy change a lot in a post corona world? Will there be live shows/a band/etc?

I think Hazy will probably remain a studio project, though I would like to start collaborating again.  As far as doing a live band I don’t know that it’s in the cards just yet, but who knows what the future may bring.   

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after this interview?

Roll a number.  Pop on some headphones and listen to a few numbers from my new record.  And, of course, please buy a record. 

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