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Review + Q&A: Super Pink Moon- Iron Rain (2023, self-released)

Somali Yacht Club guitarist and singer Ihor Pryshliak also lives out his creativity on his own sometimes. Through Super Pink Moon he channels his inner shoegazer, while at the same time maintaining his signature sound. In a way it is an even more interesting album than last year’s Somali Yacht Club record The Sea, because you get the feeling that anything goes here.

The context of Iron Rain is the war in Ukraine. The album was written and recorded in the midst of the chaos, and you can feel the density all through the songs. The vocals are clean, sincere, and dreamy. The lyrics are heavy, and breathe war and loss with titles like Doomscrolling, Collision, and Hollowness. There is also a tiny speck of hope; because despite all the horror and despair there is the possibility of beauty and reparation, so much becomes clear.

From Hum-like bombast to My Bloody Valentine vacuumcleaner antics, Super Pink Moon sounds like a machine, sucking it all up and taking it into space. At times the heavy end prog doom of Somali Yacht Club pops up too, but never too long. Overall Iron Rain is a strong and consistent album that will appeal to heavy mood heads anywhere in the world.

How are you? How has the past year been for you as a musician, especially considering the Russian invasion and the war?
It was rough. Probably the most challenging year of my life. Music was/is a way to escape from a harsh reality.

Can you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Ihor 🙂 I love music, dogs, and coding.

What can you tell me about your musical background?
I started playing guitar when I was 16. The first song I learned to play was Nothing else matters 

🙂

 I remember the first time I asked to “test” the distortion pedal in a music store the first thing I played was Nothing Else Matters and it sounded absolutely terrible. Everyone looked at me like pleeease stop it, no no. And I was having the greatest moment in my life lol.

What does a regular day in your life look like?
8am wake up, 9am crossfit or walking in the woods with my dog, 10:30 work, 2pm eat, 3pm work, 7pm music/rehearsals/gaming/chilling pretty every day 🙂 Yeah, I’m a boring software developer/musician.

What is the best thing about Iron Rain?
It’s interesting. You can listen to it several times and find something interesting to you each time. It was designed as a Castlevania-like game or like Elden Ring 🙂 You’re free to roam wherever you want to, but you’re also always welcome to come back and try to go deeper.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?
I guess the biggest challenge is the underdeveloped local music industry. If you play anything harder than hard rock -> you are the underground. Here, it’s a big difference between popular artists and good underground artists who are actually pretty famous abroad. Another challenge is money. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me a guitar or hire a teacher till the moment I got my first scholarship. So yes, I’d say it’s challenging, but not impossible.

What is your main aim with your music, is it complete artistic expression, or an escape from the every day world? (or something else ;))
Initially, it was an artistic expression because I needed to do something with this energy. Now it’s a form of escapism. When I do music I’m in a flow, it’s like a mediation. It means that for a couple of hours a day I can forget about all bullshit going around me and that’s a blessing. I wish everyone could develop such a skill to ignore the outside. Good for your mental health.

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?
Oh, it’s different each time. You just sit and play with sound, rhythm, lyrics, riff, whatever is interesting to you at that moment. It’s like a sandbox or Minecraft if you like. Music is pure magic, so it’s always interesting for me to play with it.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?
The future plan is pretty straightforward – survive. Immediate -> release IRON RAIN, start another record, and keep going till the moment I get bored.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?
Go over here and donate to Ukraine -> https://war.ukraine.ua/donate/

Review + Q&A: Tajak – La Sombra Del Agua (2022, Little Cloud Records/Cardinal Fuzz/The Acid Test Records/Hole Records)

Strange and exciting things happen when creative minds decide to drop everything they were doing and move to into the woods. Whether it is the falling away of urban overstimulation, the closer contact to nature, or just the increased focus on the task at hand; beautiful and meaningful things are made. Novels are written, poems are conjured out of thin air, and musicians find new sources of sound within themselves. Tajak definitely did. Their previous album Ciclos was a great album of noisy shoegaze, but it did not fully prepare of what was to come…

Hailing from Mexico, one can imagine that the forest Tajak chose for a creative hideout is rather a different affair than let’s say than Thorough’s when he wrote Walden. I recently got to see the second Avatar movie, and I feel Tajak would have done a much better job scoring the beautiful rain forest and underwater scenes. The music on La Sombre Del Agua (The Shadow Of The Water) is rich and dreamy, layered, and filled to the brim with tiny little sonic easter eggs that make it a true headphone feast. This is a studio album mind you, but one that feels organic, a living breathing thing.

The songs are set up like paintings, and can spread out often longer than twelve minutes. When there is the need for a word or two there are some sparse humanoid voices, but they mostly remain whispers or echoes of wavering guitars and synths. The roots of this psychedelic soundscape music lie in improvisation, but like the grand maesters of kraut Can, Tajak have filled in their jams in the studio for an optimal sonic experience.

And that is why La Sombre Del Agua is what it is; a wet rainforest of sound with a sonic palette as rich as the flora and fauna. Tajak dares you to put on your headphones and disappear with them, away from the hassles and speed of modern life, into the shadow of the water.

Ok, so I had to talk to this band. I needed to know where they came up with their beautiful ideas and how they worked on it. The language can sometimes be a barrier though, standing in between a short and stand offish answer, and the whole thing. I am therefore glad that Tajak gave theirs in their native tongue. I would like to send mad props to Roman Tamayo of Doomed & Stoned Latino for the translation into English so we can all follow…

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for Tajak?

We are fine, everyone surviving as they can. We live in different places so we could only see each other once in a while. During the pandemic, we were recording La Sombra del Agua, in La Orduña, and Zoncuantla, Veracruz. We spent a year over there recording and producing the album, first in a place that a friend lent us in the woods and the rest in an abandoned factory.

Can you introduce the band and how did you meet them?

Tajak are:

Alvaro Castro: Drums + FX and Synth + FX.

Carlos Arias: Electric guitar, effect pedals, and voice, he generally uses other instruments such as Sitar on the album Ciclos and LSDA, Didgeridoo on our self-titled Ep. And flutes and thunder drum on La Sombra del Agua.

Coco Badan: Bassist + Effect pedals and voice, just like Carlos he uses instruments like flutes, and ocarina on tracks like Camino.

Coco and Carlos are originally from Ensenada B.C. for what has been known for quite some time and Alvaro de La Paz B.C.S, we met at the university, and we met during out studies of Audio Engineering.

What can you tell me about your musical background?

I (Alvaro) started playing electric bass in a black/death metal band, when I was 13-14 years old, I started to be interested in drums. I played drums in a band called Orthodox. After that, I started taking classes and playing as a session musician in several bands. I went to a music university but I didn’t feel comfortable, so I left and began to study Jazz with a private teacher, this was in the city of Guadalajara.

In 2013 I moved to Mexico City to study Audio and that’s where I met Carlos and Coco, we lived together for a few months and one day we jammed at a colleague’s house. From that day we kept playing and that’s how the first songs of Tajak were born. It is safe to say that there was never the intention of starting a band, we would get together to play for pleasure.

Carlos started playing the guitar at the age of 12 and formed his first band in Ensenada at the age of 15, called Mr. Saldos (shoegaze, noise pop), Coco was part of that band for a while playing the keyboards and singing as well, it was the first time they experienced playing together.

Coco: I started studying music at an early age, taking flute classes from the age of 7, and then I went to a formal music school where I played clarinet in an orchestra, but the truth was that the whole experience was quite unhappy and I almost lost myself. They made me hate music. For me, all those years were a waste of time. It wasn’t until I dropped out of that school and started teaching myself guitar that my musical journey really began. Since then, I have continued on a self- taught path.

What is a typical day like in your life?

Alvaro: I work in a dubbing studio as a Pro Tools operator, usually, I’m recording most of the day, I come home in the afternoon, spend time with my girlfriend and play video games or read some manga or books. Sometimes I do sound design, and effects for audiovisual material such as documentaries or advertising.

Carlos: me and my wife own a vegan restaurant in Ensenada, we are both the chefs there, plus we do music events right there since we have a great outdoor space. Excellent projects from the independent scene in Mexico have been presented. In addition, sometimes I did work related to audio, mainly mastering, recording and production. I really like watching movies and series, playing video games, and sometimes I take the time to record new music or write.

Coco: I am currently living on my family’s ranch in Ensenada, B.C. A rather lonely life but one that I really like, especially in winter. I work in tourism, but during my free time, I paint, read, make music and walk in the countryside. I am preparing a drawing and painting exhibition that will be on February 16 in Ensenada. In Mexico City, I am managing a gallery/venue with a group of friends where we will do a small festival for our label in March.

What is the best thing about La Sombra Del Agua?

Alvaro: The whole process: we went through together recording and producing this album, for my very uncomfortable moments, where I felt that nothing was flowing, but even so, I kept looking for a way to improve the tracks. The best thing was to give ourselves the time and space to be able to work on each track carefully and be as satisfied as possible.

Coco: That such a long and arduous effort has given a very satisfactory result.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

Alvaro: I live in Mexico City, and there are many places to play music of any genre, and new bands emerge very often. It is more difficult to earn enough money to live with your band: festival fees are generally very low for Mexican bands, compared to foreign bands that visit our country.

Carlos: In Ensenada (where Coco and I live) there are few places to play, there is much less public for this music than in CDMX, that is one of the reasons why I promote shows and bring projects from different parts of Mexico, to contribute this to my city.

Tajik’s previous album Ciclos

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Alvaro: I really enjoy some Oneohtrix Point Never records, like Replica. Darkthrone has always been a band I enjoy listening to, their record A Blaze in the Northern Sky. I’m also a fan of Beherit, they recently released an album called Bardo Exist, which oscillates between black metal and dark ambient. Mabe Fratti is also a great influence in the way she uses her musical resources and presents ensembles that I have enjoyed very much live. I also admire Pedro Tirado a lot, his album SalsiPuedes, his lyrics touch me in a deep way. I also really enjoy Container. Lately I’ve been somewhat short on new music, recommendations are welcome.

Carlos: I don’t believe in heroes, but the music that has influenced me the most in my life is: Bardo Pond, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Swans, Wolf Eyes, Donovan, Bhimsen Joshi, A Place To Bury Strangers, Celestial Processions, Mabe Fratti, Sunn O))), The Shangri Las, Jorge Berumen, The Ronettes, Nada, Mito Del Desierto, Coco Badan, Cloks, Jesus And Mary Chain, The Residents, Fernanda P, Oneohtrix Point Never, Silver Apples, Lorelle Meets The Obsolete, The Kowalskis, Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Curvo, Julee Cruise, Dirty Beaches, Pedro Tirado, Manto Blanco and many others that I can’t remember right now.

Coco: It makes me very happy to be able to say that many of the projects I admire are people close to me. If Tajak has given us anything, it is the opportunity to meet all these people.

Celestial Processions, Myth of the Desert, Electrical Services, Aviation School, CCOOWWSS, Beru, Mr Saldos, Cloks, Nada, le trash can, Choco bestia, Shax, Mental Induction, gnois, José Orozco Mora, J Zunz, Concepción Huerta, Love Die, Nine Lives, Rogelio the 3rd, etc. etc.

Outside of the local scene I’ve been listening to KMRU, Lucrecia Dalt, Coby Sey, Aaron Dilloway, Lea Bertucci, Keiji Haino, Jun Konogaya, His Name is Alive, Alex Zhang Hungtai, John Tavener, Wolf Eyes, Cindy Lee, Cosey Fanni Tutti , Brin, Ryuchi Sakamoto, lots of rapping and my two biggest obsessions: Nocturnal Emissions and Coil.

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?

Generally, we get together to improvise, we come up with something we like and we record it with our cell phone, then we record with bass, drums, and guitar microphones. On top of that we are adding more layers of other instruments such as synthesizers, flutes, etc. Then we edit and select what we like the most about what is recorded, we add effects and volume automation.

On La Sombra Del Agua, we had so much time to do it, we would sometimes spend a month without listening to the tracks, then we would listen again and when we listened again, we would think of new things to add to give each track more depth and dynamics. This was only the case on LDSA, our previous albums were recorded very quickly and mixed in a short time as well.

Being from The Netherlands, I am quite interested in the background story of Amsterdam 211, did you live here for a while?

Amsterdam 211 is the address of an apartment in Mexico City where Carlos and Coco lived. Much of the beginning of Tajak we spent a lot of time there, listening to records, talking about music, experiencing sounds, and having a good time with friends. We listened a lot to Black One by Sunn O))), Amanita by Bardo Pond, Cop, and Filth by Swans, Wolf Eyes, Boris, Barn Owl, Fuck Buttons, Oneohtrix Point Never, among others.

What are your immediate and long-term future plans?

Getting a European and American Booker to spin La Sombra Del Agua, we’ve struggled with that. Record new material in February.

Review + Q&A: The Psychotic Monks- Pink Colour Surgery (2023, Fat Cat Records)

Writing about The Psychotic Monks with a headache. It fits the mood. On Pink Colour Surgery even more than before the band shows off their eerie quality to crawl deep under your skin and rattle your bones. Electronic beats like drills, shattering pots and pans, urban field recordings, the French postpunkers use it all to paint their drab picture of life as they know it.

Like my throbbing headache, it refuses to back down, until it finally drives away its stubborn point; there is no escape. You need to let go and give yourself up to the bleakness. White walls, grey streets, zombified youths robotically dancing in the alleys. Sweat and energy and movement, but no joy. We have come to an understanding. The future is grim, so we dance, and move our bodies, we are beaten by the drums, by the inevitability of defeat.

At various points on Pink Colour Surgery the band lets their blackened crust crack, and light drips in. A song like Imagerie is a good example of this. Decors is another one. Even when you hear the world around it crumbling to dust on the background the songs have beauty and hope, whether they are in vain or not. On goes the beat again though, throb, throb, throb. The Psychotic Monks plod on, they smile sad smiles and rip open another can of melancholic soundscapes and cling-clanging stomps.

Does this review have a happy ending? My headache will subside. Pink Colour Surgery shows the beauty of decay. We will fade and our current world will crumble, but humans can make songs about it that last forever.

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for The Psychotic Monks?

We’re fine thanks, and you? A lot of work since the pandemic, music helps to get though the week since then. We had a great year in 2019 with a lot of shows, when everything stopped it actually felt good but the pandemic period wasn’t easy, we had a lot of perspective on what we were doing since 2015, ideas and fears for the future. We managed to keep on jaming, playing our instruments, discovering new instruments, catharsis thanks to the music. We agreed on planning our 3rd album, composed with all the material we recorded since the lockdown ect. We had at least one or two shows every months since 2015, when everything stopped we filled that blank with jams sessions and a lot of rehearsals..

Can you introduce the band, and how did you meet?

Artie : Guitars/vocals // Martin : Guitars/vocals // Clem : Drums/vocals/synths // Paul : bass/synths/vocals/trumpet . Clem arrived in Paris almost 10 years ago , he met Artie and Martin in a music school , then I (Paul) joined the band in 2015 and we recorded our first album, went on our first tours in France..!

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

There were some music schools in our musical background, nothing crazy, just enough to learn musical technical stuff, we discovered a lot on tour actually x). // Musical background could mean « references »  (2015-2018) : BRMC, BJM, QOTSA, RATM, POND, Pink Floyd, Ty Segall.. // (2018-2020) : Slint, Nick Cave (w/ The Birthday Party), Aldous Harding, Gilla Band, Shame, Swans, Shanon Wright… // (2020-) : Throbbing Gristle (w/ Genesis POrridge), Giant Swan, Talking Heads, BCNR, This Heat, Clara Rockmore, Sophie, Sega Bodega

What does a regular day in your life look like?

We rehearse at Mains D’Oeuvres in Saint-Ouen, close to Paris. We go there, we chat, we play some music, play again because it is not good enough yet and then we go back to our own lives, or we stay together to hang out in someone’s apartment.

What is the best thing about the new album?

The best thing about the new album is that it was produced by Daniel Fox (Gilla Band-ed). Cheers man!

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

I live in Lille (north of France) the rest of the band live in Paris. It is a great environment, we’re able to see a lot of artists performing around, it is very inspiring. Lille is more quieter which is fine to me, I can get easily to Bruxelles or Paris for a gig or something. There are also a lot of bands.artists to meet around, and Mains D’Oeuvres which hold our rehearsal room, also have a kind of theater, expositions room, dancing classes… we met a lot of people there , ❤ on them.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Mine would be Injury Reserve, By the time I get to Phoenix moved me a lot recently.

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?

We are lucky to have the right stuff in our studio to be able to record multi-track. So when we jam we can easily isolate one person’s part and rework on it, make it musical with another with some perspective.. Almost all songs of our upcoming album come from jams with the 4 of us during the pandemic. Then we rework and compose a structure with the parts from the jams, trying to find the balance. It ends often with a ≥ 6min songs lol.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

This december we go on 4 gigs in France and then we’re gonna work on a soundtrack for a short movie about a young vampire. I think that might be a lot of fun ! Our album is release in February, we will start our tour in march and hopefully we will travel a lot , and in the UK during the year to share it live and loud ! Miss the UK !

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

Get to know us ! We just released a live session of a new track, come to watch it, tell us if you liked the energy! Cheers

Photo Credit: Benedicte Dacquin

Review + Q&A: Atsuko Chiba- Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing (2023, Mothland)

It’s hard not to drop The Mars Volta as a reference when listening to Montreal, Canada’s Neo prog outfit Atsuko Chiba. It’s not that they sound so much alike, but they have similar left field technical chops, a same genuine strangeness and forward thinking spirit. Yet they are not a carbon copy, far from it. Atsuko Chiba mines more genres for their unique blend of progressive rock.

For instance, you can tell these guys are big Rush fans, but they are into more subdued post rock as well, creating beautiful gigantic soundscapes and welding them together with more violent passages. But there is a more oppressive side to the band as well, an angularity that links them to a band like Japanese prog postponers Bo Ningen, or their label mates Yoo Doo Right.

But enough with the name dropping. Atsuku Chiba deserves to be mentioned in their own right. With Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing they have created a powerful statement of eclecticism. It is an album that, like water, has many shapes and forms, yet always flows. It can be awesome and majestic, and harsh and incomprehensible, but it remains at all time recognisable.

It will also take some patience from the listener to fully grasp what is going on here, because when you think you get it, Atsuko Chiba will have darted around the corner to creep up on you the next moment. A very exciting album therefore, and one of this year’s first really great features.

How are you? How has the past year been for you as musicians?

We’re all doing well! Spent the last year quietly finishing our newest album “Water, It Feels Like It’s growing”. Given the state of things in the last few years, it took us a little longer than anticipated to finish up this record. But we pushed through it and it gave us a lot of time to explore and experiment with our writing process. It definitely feels good to be back in the grind of things. We recently started playing shows again, opening for King Buffalo on their recent Canadian dates. And we’ve got a pretty busy year ahead of us. We’re all quite excited to get back on the road and play a bunch of new songs for people.

Can you introduce yourselves?
Anthony Piazza: Drums, Projections
David Palumbo: Bass, Vocals
Eric Schafhauser: Guitar, Keyboards
Karim Lakhdar: Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Kevin McDonald: Guitar, Keyboards



What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?
We all grew up in the east-end of Montreal playing music together in different bands since the early 2000s. About 10 years ago, we finally decided to all come together and start something new. We wanted to create a band where there were no rules, and we had the freedom to explore any idea we wanted to. 

What does a regular day in your lives look like?
A regular day for the five of us involves each of us holding a day Job. We routinely meet at our studio, at least three nights per week, around 7:30 pm and jam until midnight. I think it’s fair to say that our weekly meetups are somewhat “sacred”.  During that time we are either rehearsing, writing, or recording. 

Atsuko Chiba



What is the best thing about Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing?
Well that is a difficult question to answer. But a few things standout about this record that we’ve never done before. The first thing that comes to mind is writing for a professional string quartet. We got the string section arranged and recorded at planet studio here in Montreal. When looking back on the writing process and the recording of this album… I think we found a nice balance in the writing process and we all felt very comfortable and relaxed throughout and I think people will be able to hear that in the music. The world around us felt like it was falling apart but our time together, slowly writing and recording through all of it, served as a bit of a sanctuary. We would spend our time doing long distance bike rides to the studio and then spend nights honing all this new music and hanging out as friends. So on a personal note, this album will always represent a feeling of comfort and a sort of “safe haven”. 

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?
Montreal is a very unique city. The music scene is very diverse and vibrant, and people are generally very open and excited to support music and art that lives outside of the mainstream. Bands are really able to be themselves and explore ideas freely and at the same time have a support system that encourages them in this endeavour. Being involved with Mothland (our label) has been a blessing, because they have opened up many doors for us and allowed us to grow outside of our own expectations. 

What is your main aim with your music, is it complete artistic expression, or an escape from the every day world? (or something else ;))
I guess you can say it’s a mixture of all these things. But I’m not sure there is a specific aim for the outcome of our music. The creative process is really the most important thing. I think on a really basic level the point is to communicate and connect with each other through the language of music and art. Sometimes that looks more like musical conversation wrapped up in time signatures, harmony, our individual tastes and other times it could be the result of our lives being filtered through the process of making music or jamming together. At times we have something to say and we want to say it with our music and other times we just want to feel and so we make music. Put simply, I think our lives feel enriched by the act of making music together and we always hope to enrich others with our music the way so many artists have done for each of us. 

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs? And what is the main difference from last time around?
Every song we write has a different approach. Early in the pandemic, Montreal was forced to lockdown and we were under  a pretty strict curfew so a few ideas got started remotely. We would pass around demos and sketches and elaborate on each other’s ideas. In the past if we worked from someone’s demo or sketch we would all come together in the studio and work through the ideas in person. But due to the restrictions we found a new way of doing things. We were all setup with Ableton live and we would send each other ideas to look at. The results were always really interesting because when we were able to start jamming again we sometimes had two or three variations on the same song. And the songs written that way further evolved once we got to playing them together. Another major difference in the overall writing process for this record is that we were writing and recording at the same time. In the past we would rehearse a group of songs and then block out the time we needed to record them all. But this time around we were able to work one song at a time. 

What are your immediate and long term future plans?
Our main priority right now is to release our album, which is set for release on January 20th. Immediately following that, we have a couple of shows around Quebec and Ontario, followed by a 2 week tour of the US. We also began writing new material, so we will continue on that as well. 

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?
Drink plenty of water. think of something you are grateful for. Tell the people you love that you love them…  if you are interested in what our band is up to, head over to our Facebook page or instagram for all upcoming news, and check us out on all the streaming platforms, including Bandcamp! 🙂

Interview with Santtu Laakso (DJ Astro, Astral Magic, Astral Zone)

Excuse me, can I perhaps borrow five hours of your time? That’s how long it will take you to let everything that Santtu”Astro” Laakso has created this year wash over you and take your head into deep space and beyond. The pandemic has been a double edged sword for many musicians. For some it meant postponing tours and album releases, for others the discovery of hidden wells of creativity and of course the time to do something with it. Laakso definitely falls into the latter category, being extremely prolific and releasing album after album non stop with his Astral Magic project. Of course it is cool that Laakso has found a muse so endlessly generous, but it has its downsides too. For instance, where do you find the record labels to release all of your work on in these times of financial turbulence and vinyl pressing depression? I talked about this and more with this Finish space rock composer, and added links to all his 2022 releases in between, so enjoy, and if you hear anything you like please support!

How are you? How has the past year been for you as a musician, and how have you “survived” the pandemic?

I’m pretty okay, thank you! Actually, I have the pandemic to thank for even starting this project. In March 2020 I decided that it was time to start home-recording and making music again after a long hiatus. My old, psychedelic space rock band Dark Sun has stopped in 2007 and since then I had only played a little bit in Octopus Syng and UFO-tutkimuksia and a few jams with friends. Now I had a lot of time in my hands because of the lock-down and I had to keep sane somehow. This was the best (and healthiest…) way I could think of! So I got myself some recording gear, new synths, first ever electric guitar and here we are now.

In 2022 I have just kept on going, making connections with new collaborators, producing and releasing more music and so on. It’s been great! If only people had more money to actually buy my releases… Then I could do more! But I have made some new fans over the world, which is cool. I’m always looking for labels to release my music on vinyl (or in any other format), since I can only afford to put it occasionally out on CD or CD-R. I have no intention of playing live, but there have been some requests, so who knows…

Our all family had the virus once this year, but it was luckily pretty mild (all had several vaccinations, thankfully).

Can you introduce yourself?

I’m Santtu Laakso, a 51-year old Finnish guy. I’m into a lot of different music, mostly space/psych/kraut/prog rock but also (old) metal, doom, stoner, ambient, electronic, experimental stuff. I have a master’s degree in theology and I was supposed to become a priest, but I decided otherwise and realized how organized christianity (or any other religion, for that matter) is fake. All you need you can find inside. I love sci-fi and fantasy literature and films, am very interested in human psyche, the (pre-)history of mankind, magic, extraterrestrials, parallel universes, other worlds, altered states of the mind etc.

What can you tell me about your musical background?

As a kid, I used to first listen to Elvis/rock’n’roll, then all kinds of rock, pop and punk etc., you name it. I have teenager’s background in heavy metal, joined my first band Oppression as a singer in 1986. Other band’s worth mentioning include Exitus (a short-lived doom metal band, a post-humous LP was released on Svart Records a few years back) and Dark Sun (1991-2007, I played bass and some synths, several releases out there). I used to also organize gigs (mostly in the psych/stoner genre) and write album and gig/festival reviews and interviews for several magazines and web sites. Some people know me as Dj Astro and I still do occasional dj gigs if it suits me. I used to play at Roadburn Festival for many years, for example.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

I wake up, make some breakfast, walk the dog, and go to work unless I can work at home or have a day off. If I’m not at work I listen to music all the time, usually on headphones. Nowadays, I tend to listen to my own stuff the most: I have several albums I’m working on all the time and I need to figure out what more they need etc. I also collect a lot of LPs and listen to them when I can and have time. I like to cook and I make all the food for my three kids and my wife. Most of my free time I make more Astral Magic music… Sometimes I go to see bands live but not that much lately. I try to see some friends once a week and discuss and listen to music mostly and have a few beers and relax… Sometimes I read or watch Netflix or something, but only if I know there is something really interesting there. I don’t watch TV at all. I like to walk in the nature, so I do that quite a lot too, now often with our dog (an Irish Terrier, one year and nine months old).

What is the best thing about Astral Magic?

It’s my own project so I can do anything I want with it! I’m tired of fighting band members with their own agendas and problems. For other people I think the best thing is that Astral Magic makes some pretty great music with cool, trippy vibes!

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

I’m now living in Espoo, Finland. This is close to the capital Helsinki, where I have lived most of my life. It only takes 30 minutes to get to Helsinki, and there are quite a lot of places for bands to play there. Nowadays, I think it is also quite easy to find rehearsal places, but I don’t need one at the moment. Needs money, though. There is no way I could support my family as a musician, so I’m forced to work full-time. I like my work, so it is okay, but I would prefer to devote myself just to music. The state could support underground artists more, like they do in Sweden, but the situation is pretty okay, I think. Most people listen to different kinds of stuff that I make, though… But there is also a small scene for psych around here and we get some foreign acts to play live as well.

What is your main aim with your music, is it complete artistic expression, or an escape from the every day world? (or something else ;))

Both, really! My main aim is to make music that might have healing and/or mind-expanding effects on people. I know it has for me! Since Astral Magic is a solo project with guest musicians, I have full control of what I can do with it. And I do a lot of different things! Of course I also listen to my collaborators and ask opinions, if they have any. Music is a great escape from all troubles and stress of the every day life, it’s maybe the biggest blessing we have after love. It means so much to me. I could not live without music and I like to spread my own music to as many people as possible so they might enjoy and benefit from it as well.

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs? And what is the main difference from last time around?

I just sit on the computer, open the DAW and start playing synths, bass or guitar and the music comes out by itself from some other dimension. I always compose and record right away simultaneously. I might change some things later, but not often. I tend to keep everything fresh and as it fist came out, not too complex or rational. With other musicians I always loved to jam and improvise, I think I sort of do that now on my own as well. I just play and record something and usually keep that and add overdubs later. If a track or a full album needs something else, I’ll just ask some of my many international musician friends to add their parts which is just amazing! In Dark Sun we had almost all the guys writing songs and it was much more complicated and needed much more compromising.

I do miss working together with other musicians, so I recorded two songs in a totally analogue studio with members of a Finnish space rock band Kultti-25 which was really fun! Should be out  on 7″ next year. We might do some more.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

Just make more Astral Magic music for as long as I live and can hold my body and mind together! I hope I can find more labels to get interested in my music (so far I have worked with Sleep Fuse, Space Rock Productions, Weird Beard Records, Tonzonen Records, Clostridium Records, NoiseAgonyMayhem, Fruits De Mer Records and We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges). I’d still keep on making more music even if no-one else would be interested in it, but it is always nice to notice others enjoying it as well. Astral Magic is also a cool, big experiment for me, I’d like to see how far I can go with it.

 I also started a Hawkwind tribute album this year which I hope to continue and finish in 2023. Hawkwind is my favourite band, so… It will be a full CD/2LP if I can find some one to release it.

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

They should ALL go to my Bandcamp site https://astralmagic.bandcamp.com/music and check all my releases and buy those they like if they are still available! All releases are limited editions, some are already gone. LP’s, CD’s, CD-R’s, tapes or just digital downloads, they are all there. Then they should put out the lights, put the music on, close their eyes and relax and let the music take them for a magical journey and heal them. Everything is also available on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube etc.

Thanks a lot for your interest, I hope we will meet in some reality sooner or later!

All Peace to You, Galactic Brothers and Sisters…

Review + Q&A: Domadora- Renaissance (2022, Kozmik Artifactz)

In a field somewhere in rural France a trio of musicians has set up their gear. Without any plans or preparations they begin to play. What happens next is magical and hard to believe, if it weren’t for the fact that someone had the audacity to press the record button on the portable studio. Renaissance is that recording.

Whether you believe the background story that founding member Belwil lays out in the interview below is pretty irrelevant. Even without any story this forty-one minute jam beast is a mighty trip that you need to either micro dose or schedule off your weekend for. It builds up terrifyingly for almost ten minutes before diving in one of this year’s heaviest fuzz riff maelstroms. After that we get a bluesy come down, and then the building begins again. The record does that sequence once more after that, and ends in a total ghosting doom fest and the creepiest outro ever.

I do believe the weird and eerie voices and samples throughout the record are somehow edited in, but nobody wants to confirm that. A bit of a mystery has to be upheld I guess, and it fits Renaissance as an album. It is an enigmatic and highly impressive jam fest for adventurous fuzz heads, and stoner thrill seekers.

I found Belwil Domadora(lead guitar) willing to converse with me and tell me more about Domadora’s background story. This is what he had to say….

Hi Domadora! How are you doing these days?

Hi Jasper. We are fine. We can’t wait for Renaissance releases and the experience which will support this. We ‘ll show a textured medium-length movie at an art-house cinema on december 8 in Paris.

Can you please introduce the band; where are you from, how did you meet?

We are from Paris. We met in jam’s music clubs in Paris in 2010.

What are your musical backgrounds?

Every music which is free and improvised at any time. No rules, only sounds, strange ambiances, psychedelic and mental environments.

We hate to play the same things.

We consider that If we fully relax and let go, it feels like we are no longer the ones making music. It feels like some benevolent entities have joined us, taken charge and are the one playing.  It feels like being under a harmless hypnotic trance for hours

Where do you live, and how would you say that influences your sound?

We live in Paris. Like France, Paris has been a sick city for some years. There is a lot of insecurity. Everything is under construction and destruction. Life is becoming hard and people begin to be really angry again everyone. Then our music is improvised and our current emotions are the only thing that leads us.

What does a typical day in your lives look like?

We try to be satisfied of ourself every day. Always be yourself and never betraying what we are. It’s a daily hard work.

What can you tell me about the writing and recording process of Renaissance?

It’s a one shot experience with some additions to illustrate our state of mind. The context is funny and creepy. Each of our improvisation session is tinted with the state of mind we are currently in while playing.

As usually, we were roaming the countryside, looking for a secluded and atypical location, where we could play our music. We stopped in an isolated clearing, not too far from ‘la Basse du Diable’ in Les Vosges. We set up our whole gear, the band, the amps, the drums, the grill for the barbecue …We stopped playing at 9 pm, completely drained. Before leaving the clearing, we quietly had a meal. Then, we started looking for a place where we could spend the night before getting on with our trip the following morning. We ended up heading toward an isolated house, at the end of a path, not far from ‘la Basse d’Enfer’

We knocked on the door to ask if we could set our tents on their property. An elderly man opened the door. His name was Claude. He was tired, rough looking man, and had deep voice. He was neither welcoming nor the opposite. To put it bluntly, he didn’t care at all. ‘Set your camp there, do as you please. If you’re hungry, I’ve got some food.’  We weren’t hungry, but we didn’t dare saying no. We set our tents and got inside Claude’s house. It was a real mess, with neon lighting and a dark and gloomy atmosphere.

‘Have a seat over there, I’ll be with you in a moment.’ We sat around a big wooden table, a stained-covered, hole-covered, broken wooden table. Everything was creaking in this house, the chairs, the wooden floor, the table, and the walls.

We remained silent. Claude was certainly in the kitchen.

Suddenly, we heard a deep growl filled with rage. We stood up and went to check on the man. We reached the kitchen and found him; his hand covered with blood. He had sliced one his fingers open with a huge knife. Apparently, he was in the middle of cutting up a rabbit for us. It was such a weird situation. Either there were no windows in that kitchen, or the blinds had been closed. The walls were dirty. One of the lights kept flickering, and there was this old rough looking man with his bleeding hand on top of the butchered rabbit.  ‘Everything is fine, leave me alone. I can take care of myself’ he uttered with palpable annoyance.

We didn’t go back to the table. We needed to breath some fresh air. We went out.

We pondered over the situation. We couldn’t help but be wary about this man. It looked like he was living on his own, but we could swear we had heard some noises coming from upstairs and from the basement. We started to come up with crazy scenarios. ‘There are four of us and he’s just one man. So, we’re good’, ‘Well, I think we’d better leave’, ‘Yes, but imagine that despite being a little ill-mannered, he’s still a nice guy. He’s even trying to cook us a meal. It would be quite an embarrassing situation if we left.’, ‘Maybe, but what if he’s a maniac. Things could get crazy if we stay.’, ‘Yeah, let’s just trust our guts and leave!’

We went back inside the house to tell him about the decision we had made. We were no longer spending the night out there; we were going straight home instead. We waited. No answer. We took down our tents as fast as lightning and left.

We had an appointment at DGD Music Studio on the following day for a recording session.

We played for more than 40 minutes without taking any break.

The result of this session is Renaissance.

How does one write a 40+ minute song?

We don’t write, we just play. There is no preparation, no intro, and no outro. There are no restraints, there is just pure music expressed through vibrations, strong or soft ones

Can you tell me what music’s on the daily band playlist?

Impossible, many many different artists and different styles like Billie Holiday, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Beethoven, Debussy, our San Diego friends Earthless and Tia Carrera, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Sunn’O, Black Sabbath, Motorhead

I must say, the children’s voices at the end of the album creeped me the hell out! Waht can you tell me about those voices?

AH AH I’m happy to read that!! Hey Jasper, you don’t want to know that! are you sure you really heart children voices? Try again! I’m sorry but it’s like a secret. Some years ago I was somewhere far away from my country to live strange things and I recorded this voices but I don’t really understand what is that..

What is “the dream” for your band? And what are your immediate future plans?

I think our way to play music is almost unique and we would like this approach become obvious and natural for everyone. Music is a way to your mind and everyone should understand that. Because when you open the doors, everythings are magic and beautiful.

When our music make someone let go, it is a great satisfaction.  

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

Get up in the middle of the night, take a good headset, extend on the floor and let go with Renaissance and try to listen all music’s nuances that you can’t detect in one time.

Review + Q&A: Solitär- Bus Driver Immigrant Mechanic (2022, Tonzonen Records)

Listeners that tune into Solitär‘s album Bus Driver Immigrant Mechanic need a short disclaimer perhaps: this album does not sound anything like Mikael Tuominen’s main band Kungens Män, or his other band Automatism. Not even close. Like his moniker may give away, Solitär is Tuominen’s solo project. And all by himself he made a beautiful dreamy indie pop album with a crystal clear production and a collection of great, moody songs.

It seems a bit counter intuitive for a master jammer and improviser as Tuominen, but Bus Driver Immigrant Mechanic is an immaculately plannend and orchestrated affair. With a melancholic pop sound that reminds of the melodic progressive indie of Midlake, or the arty pop of The Notwist, Solitär in fact nestles itself quite high in the ranks of the international indie scene. The compositions are tastefully layered, dynamic, and constantly keep the listener wondering what the next move might be.

It is refreshing to hear Tuominen take a break from psychedelic jamming and fully expanding his personal horizons on this solo album. If you shake off before risen expectations on what you might expect, you might well be positively surprised what you will find here…

I talked to Mikael Tuominen about his new outlet, and his many other musical projects. Who knew this Stockholm librarian had so many sonic tricks up his sleeve…?

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for you as a musician?

I’m doing fine, thanks! The pandemic was a weird time for sure, but I wasn’t affected too hard since I’m not a full-time musician. I have a day job as well. But of course it was strange to not be able to play live and tour and not knowing whether it would be possible to do it again. Actually this Solitär record was made during the pandemic, maybe even thanks to it in a way – I’m not sure if I would have had the focus to make it if it would have been normal circumstances.

Can you introduce yourself and your musical enterprises?

I am Mikael Tuominen and I was born in 1973. Solitär is my solo project where I do everything and Bus Driver Immigrant Mechanic is my new album. I have previously released the album ‘1989’ under the Solitär moniker. I’m also in a bunch of bands – I play guitar in the psychedelic improv rock band Kungens Män, as well as in the free rock/no wave/free jazz group Eye Make The Horizon. And I play bass in the instrumental rock/jazz rock band Automatism, the psych/classic rock band Fanatism and the avant garde doom metal act Maulén. I also play bass regularly with Per Wiberg’s band (Kamchatka, ex-Opeth etc). I sing as well to a various degree in the different bands.

What can you tell me about your musical background?

I began playing bass in 1985 after I had fallen in love with heavy metal. Then I started my first band in 1986 with Hans Hjelm who I still play with today in Kungens Män and Automatism. My dedication was all consuming from the first moment and shaped a one track mind in many ways, and years and years of musical struggle and occasional insights have followed. I have played a lot of rock, punk and metal, but also jazz, free improvisation, funk, cover bands and whatnot. However I always gravitated towards the outskirts of popular music for some reason. I have always been extremely eclectic and have found different pleasures from different kinds of music, but never took the easiest way out. I guess it has been a way to keep the music fresh to myself.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

I wish I could say every day was an outburst of free spirited creativity, but unfortunately it’s not. On the contrary I have to be really disciplined and heavily structured to be able to do everything I do. So much for the rock myth… A regular day means going to work, which is that I am a coordinator for all matters regarding the premises of Stockholm Public Library. After work I spend time with my family, rehearse, record or mix music or work out to keep sane and in decent shape. Then there’s all the admin for the bands – booking gigs, managing social media, PR, talking to business partners and such. I also try to consume as much culture as possible, going to concerts, cinema and theater. 

What is the best thing about Bus Driver Immigrant Mechanic?

Probably that I stepped out of my comfort zone. I have never written this personal or even private lyrics before, and I have never pushed my vocals up in the mix the way I did with this record. I don’t know if it was a good decision, but it is what it is, and the process of making this album was very important to me. It came from a deeply honest place and is all about connecting with things that matter for real – emotions, politics, death, family. No posing or fancy rock moves. It’s basically a diary of what was going on inside of me during the time I made the record. It also includes what I feel is the best song I have ever written – ‘Ship of Excitement’. I found something in that song that I would like to explore more in the future. 

There’s something about the combination of the flow, vibe and melancholy of that song that feels very special to me. I think I would like to do more of that, but go deeper into shoegaze and dream rock land. 

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

I live in Stockholm, Sweden. There certainly is a need for improvement here. A lot of venues have closed down over the last years and it’s always a struggle for alternative culture. It is generally very neo liberal and money driven, plus the fact that a lot of people that live in the middle of the city expect it to be quiet, which means they have rock clubs closing down after complaints. That’s how you create a dead city folks! We’re also geographically quite far from the continent, so touring is costly for us – just driving down to Hamburg takes 12 hours. However, it’s not all black and gloomy. It is the biggest city and capital of Sweden after all and that means there’s a lot of creative people here and you can always find a way to do interesting stuff even if it sometimes is unnecessarily hard. What I’m saying is that it takes dedication and energy to keep on doing this.

What is your main aim with your music, is it complete artistic expression, or an escape from the every day world? (or something else ;))

It is definitely not an escape, it IS my everyday world. I have been playing music for almost ⅘ of my life and it’s so deeply integrated with my neural and emotional system that I can’t imagine what life would be like without it. I think about music or music related stuff every day. Artistically it’s basically a constant ongoing process, a patchwork of things that happen. I don’t have a clear vision of where I am heading – it often presents itself through improvisation and circumstances. A great example is Maulén where I play bass – I’m so happy to be a part of that band which I consider to do great art – it wasn’t something I could have imagined would happen. I mean, this last summer we were in Morocco recording a desert doom version of Oum Kalthoum’s Enta Omri, meeting and playing with fantastic Moroccan musicians and sleeping under the stars in the Sahara desert. The same goes for Kungens Män. That shit wasn’t planned! We were just hanging out and suddenly our primitively recorded jams took off. Now we are already ten years into that band. It’s like being presented with new lumps of clay non-stop – you just have to understand what you can make out of it in the given situation. And everything you create leads to something else, often unexpected. The conclusion is that I want to keep on following this path that keeps unfolding in front of me. As a matter of fact that’s what the song Spegel Spegel on the Solitär album is about. 

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs? And what is the main difference from when you are in a band?

I almost always start with the drums and bass. That’s where I come from musically, from the rhythm section. I build a skeleton from there and actually assemble the parts with those instruments first. Then there’s generally a rhythm guitar and then everything else, in various order depending on where the song leads me. For Solitär I compose and record at the same time – I use the studio as a composition tool, so composition and recording are completely integrated. I sometimes wish I could be more “professional” and make demos, but I don’t. When a song is finished, it is what it is. I don’t paint the same painting twice. As for lyrics they almost always come last. Usually I start off with a phrase or something I might have stolen and then write pretty abstract things around that, but with this record I was very methodical and decided beforehand what I wanted to write about for every song. I made an outline for the lyrics and then worked pretty hard on finding the right phrases and to say things that actually meant something.

When I’m in a band it is different from band to band. Kungens Män and Eye Make The Horizon are doing completely improvised music. Automatism is part improvised. We only use “themes” in a jazz way with a harmonic framework, so it’s not as heavy on the composition side either. For Fanatism I sometimes compose in a way that’s quite close to Solitär, but I always leave it open for the other members to change things around and add new stuff. We also compose together a lot of the time, often using the studio as a tool as well. So the main difference when doing Solitär is that it is more structured and there is no musical compromise or dialogue involved. And that’s not entirely a good thing since it’s easy to get lost in your own stuff. But I do enjoy it.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

Right now I’m just happy if someone listens to the album and finds a way to connect with the music. It’s not very easy to reach out with a solo project like this. I am often a bit skeptical about solo projects myself, don’t know why really. It seems like the brain is programmed to like rock bands more than just a random dude. However, I hope that a few people will listen and would like to hear this music live. I promise I will have an awesome live band in tow, I would even dare to say some of the finest musicians in Sweden. Apart from that I’m starting to feel the urge to compose and record more music, I’m beginning to hear a sound ringing in my head. What happens after that is too early to say.

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

Have an orange, they are really delicious right now.

Review + Q&A: Modern Stars- Space Trips For The Masses (2022, Little Cloud Records)

Space Trips For The Masses by Italy’s Modern Stars is a total headphone album. The slow majestic pace of it, the deeply layered fatness of the sound, and the male/female double vocal approach make the production value a trip in its own right. And then we haven’t even talked about the stellar Spiritualized-minded compositions yet

Putting on your black shells, closing your eyes, you are immediately immersed in a different dimension. You can picture the astronaut on the album cover floating around in a sea of green, while gravitational forces are pulling like a maniac, and in the distance you hear an angel singing. It is a lot, and in the wrong hands it could have turned out bloated and pompous, but Modern Stars steers this space ship far from of those murky waters.

The best compliment for Space Trips For The Masses is probably that while seemingly little happens, and the tempo hardly changes, it keeps your attention with its stifling atmosphere, in such a way that the 40 minutes pass before you know it, and you are forced to press the ignition button again. So let’s float some more in deep, green space…they dare you.

I traveled at warp speed through a bunch of black holes to contact the band, and found them chilling on one of Saturn’s rings. In a joined effort they fired back my questions at me. This is what Andrea Merolle (AM), Andrea Sperduti (AS), and Barbara Margani do things:

How are you? How has the pandemic period and its aftermath been for Modern Stars?Here in Italy the pandemic period has been hard in terms of social distancing. We could not rehearse and go live as a band, so we concentrated on studio work. We entirely recorded Psych-Industrial and Space Trips for the Masses in the period between 2020-2021. Anyway, despite the more time you may dedicate to music, composition is negatively affected by the lockdown period because limitations to real life inevitably limit your sensations.

Can you introduce the band, and how did you meet?

Andrea Merolle and Andrea Sperduti began playing Spacemen 3 and The Brian Jonestown Massacre covers. Andrea Merolle and Barbara were already a couple before he asked her to sing the choir on our Hey Man cover. They are friends and enjoy spending time together.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Barbara is a graduated soprano and her main influences are Maria Callas and classical music. Andrea Merolle is influenced by delta blues and experimental music. For me (Andrea Sperduti): there isn’t a musical genre that has particularly influenced me, I had my preferences when I was younger but I never knew how to answer the question: what’s your favorite music? In music I have always really appreciated rhythmic parts and not too sophisticated arrangements.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

AM: Wake up, prepare kids for school, work, produce, consume, play with kids, go to bed. Then you need to play something to be yourself. 

AS: I work, always trying to be more creative than the previous day and I must say that I don’t always succeed. During our time together I try to teach my little girl how to try to be free and make conscious choices. I listen to new and old records and watch old movies. I have an extreme admiration for Anglo-Saxon literature and for some classic Italian authors: Moravia, Pavese, Calvino, to name just a few. In the time I have left I try to take care of the sound of my drums.

What is the best thing about Space Trips For The Masses?

The fact that it sounds like a sort of concept album, there is a continuity between tracks and it’s so hard for us to think about them out of that context as single. Even if we extracted two for videos. It also sounds similar but different compared to Silver Needles and Psych-Industrial.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

We and the other new members of the band (Mario Bruni, Berry Margani and Simone Viscogliosi) all live between the big city (Rome) where we work and the small provincial towns where we were born and raised. It is not a great environment for our kind of music, people prefer Italian easy listening indie pop, but maybe this is positive because it helps to be original and to spread it worldwide. If you listen to our records maybe you may feel that they are composed and recorded in other nations and places and this is great because it means that we can travel with our cosmic music.

AS: The city where I live, Rome, doesn’t have a proper underground music scene. And if there is, I don’t know it enough, perhaps also due to the fact that there are no places where live music is played that deviates a bit from the mid or mainstream. In the province where I was a teenager, however, the attention for music was much more lively, it is in the province that I trained musically. What I can add is that those who listen to English-speaking rock or psychedelic music in Italy do so by appropriating a culture that has never really been theirs, and I’m part of it too. But that’s what I’ve always liked and that’s what I like to play.

What are your favorite contemporary bands and albums right now?

AM:  In the middle there is Andrea Merolle, who does not listen so much to new published music, with few exceptions, but tries to find new music going back to the past and thanks God for the internet.

BM: On the other hand Barbara Margani is immersed in her classical musical influences and does not listen to new records.

AS: I admit that I no longer have the time I wish I had to devote myself to listening to music. However, I don’t want to fall into the commonplace saying that new music releases are worse than the old ones. I happen to hear very interesting ideas on records dated 2022 and boring stuff that came out 20 or 30 years ago and vice versa. Probably what disorients today’s listener is the great overproduction of music, which makes it practically impossible to judge without investigating.

Andrea Merolle: OCHPö Om Pö

Andrea Sperduti: Oren Ambarchi/ Johan Berthling/ Andreas Werliin – Ghosted – 2022

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?

Our songs mainly derive from ordinary world noises, which may be birds singing, a fridge humming or water creating a drone and flanger sound while going down the sink. This inspiration is translated into guitar riffs and melodies and so we may say that is how we write down tracks. Then the process is building electronic parts, that are a sort of auto-sufficient song in themselves, adding stringed instruments, voices and acoustic drums on top. A personal method that works fine for us.

What is “the dream” when it comes to being an artist?

AM: To do something that may survive us. In this capitalistic and consumer society, we aim at releasing music that we hope will be appreciated by future generations. Something in between Back to the Future when Michael J Fox plays Chuck Berry and Horace Non Omnis Moriar concept. That’s why it is crucial for us also to physically print our music. One day after an apocalyptic disaster maybe someone will find a vinyl and put it on a still functioning stereo to rebuild the world.

AS: I’ve always been fascinated more by the creative process behind a music album than by the results in terms of listening or sales or, even worse, fame or notoriety that can derive from it. I have always participated in the creative process trying to have fun, always doing something different than the previous time. To answer your question, I have never considered myself an artist, in the most literal sense of the word. I consider myself quite a music listener.

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

Go listen to our albums and get some of the coolest colored gatefold vinyls of the world from our Bandcamp page or Little Cloud Records website.

Interview: John Westhaver (Birdman Sound, The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol)

Brett Savage, John and dave Cambridge in Birdman Sound 2018

As I am evolving in my writings and diving deeper in the world of psychedelic rock and instrumental jammery, I could not ignore a powerful force emanating from Canada’s capitol city of Ottawa. It is where John Westhaver keeps is world renowned Birdman Sound record store, and where his improvisational jam unit The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol is based for years now. I needed to know more about this psychedelic institute and its stories. Their gigs with legendary CAN vocalist Damo Suzuki for instance, and a lot more. Please take your time, and dive into this piece of living psych history with me….

How are you? Can you introduce yourself and you multiple endeavors?

All good here in Canada, just getting used to winter setting upon us once again!  My name is John Westhaver and an old alias “Johnnie Feck” pops up once in awhile. Since the late 1970’s I’ve been selling records in 4 different establishments including Birdman Sound since 1991as a physical shop.  I was a radio show host at 3 different community radio stations starting in 1980 and spent 35 years at CKCU-FM here in Ottawa as programmer of numerous shows as well as a paid position as music director and program director in the late 80’s.  I have booked and promoted 100’s of shows over the past 40 years and been in 7 working bands with a vast catalog of releases.  Currently the drummer in The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol and running Birdman Sound III.

2018 session recording “Ensemble III” session with Brett savage (Daed Sea Apes) and Dave Cambridge (Cardinal fuzz) both on guitar.

What can you tell me about your musical background?

I guess some of that got covered within the first question.  I would add, that my late mother and an older cousin really nurtured my interest in music in the late 1960’s and I was off to the races then with records and an utter obsession regarding music. I sung in an all male boys choir as a pre-teen and had my first drum set up around the same time.

What does a regular day in your life look like? What role does music play?

Well for 29 years I ran Birdman Sound out of a location in the downtown core of Ottawa (Canada’s Capitol). I’ve always lived in the country outside the city so did a round trip 72 km. drive,  6 days a week.  Rehearsing with bands, putting on shows, and doing radio all happened within the city, so at the end of everyday it was a journey to get home.  Of course during each day it was non-stop music in the shop and then whatever was going down on whatever evening…lots of music!

What do people often forget when they think about owning a record store?

That it’s not as simple or fruitful often as some think it must be.  The reality is that the majority of people that come into a shop, often don’t have a clue about much other than the very obvious.  Most humans don’t have the propensity for being very “deep” about most things actually.  Lack of exposure, lack of solid historical influences as a youngster and lack of thirst of knowledge are pretty standard.  Curiosity is integral to learning and sadly people get stuck early in life it seems.  We live in a society where it’s much easier to fall into line and become spoon fed.  Not sure how anyone thinks that that’s a good thing?  There are days in a shop where you have little to no sales as you have little to no customers.  That happens and it’s total shit.

Cool shot at an album release show in 2015

Where do you live and how does it affect your musical doings?

As I said since the late 80s I’ve lived in the countryside in two different places. Nature has been abundant in both.  My wife and I are into dogs, cats, gardening and cooking.  All that rural goodness keeps me grounded. In whatever band I’ve played in or whatever music related thing I’ve ever had on, at the end of it all I could get out the agro and knew that solitude and recovery was gonna happen at the end of the day once returning to the crib!

Tell me about your band The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol, when did you start it, who’s in it, what has been your aim and how are you doing at the moment?

TBWNIS was born 15 years ago by myself and Mark McIntyre after we both came off a 5 year stint as a power trio called Four ‘N’ Giv’r.  We gigged a bunch, sharing the stage with Lost Sounds, Bellrays, Dirtbombs, Plastic Crimewave Sound, King Khan & The Shrines, Simply Saucer and loads more.  Released 2 albums and folded.  Mark and I wanted to do a heavier more improve oriented jam psych kinda’ thing and TBWNIS was born.  We got our longtime friends from othere groups to join; Bill Guerrero on guitar and Nathaniel Hurlow also on guitar.  We operated as a 4 piece for a couple of years before adding Jason Vaughan and Dave Reford into the operation.  Over the next few years we continued to add members and play gigs and self release many LPs.  We became more of a collective.  Some band members left the regular thing but would return on occasion to record or even play the odd live show.  All of our music is born out of improvisation.  Some of that became “pieces” that lent themselves to be repeated but just because you heard “Sour Kraut” on our record never meant that it would sound the same when played live, or, would be the same live the next time.  Sometimes it was 7 minutes long, sometimes it was 15 minutes long. That’s how we rolled. A few times we played live with up to 9 members.   The pandemic coupled with me closing the downtown record shop (where tbwnis rehearsed) changed a lot for us.  The current group consists of myself, Bill, Nathaniel, Jason and Dave as mentioned earlier.  Scott Thompson has been with us for the past 5-6 years now, so we are a 6 piece currently.   We have played 5 LIVE shows since covid recorded and released a few albums of course and don’t have a rehearsal space at all.  All our live sets have been fully improvised.  At this very moment this is how we are working.

Can you tell me about your fondest memories with the band?

There are many actually as we always have so much fun!  I’d have to say a show in a very small venue back in 2017 when myself and Christopher Laramee (Shooting Guns/Wasted Cathedral) paid for a plane ticket to fly Dave Cambridge of Cardinal Fuzz over for the weekend !  The show was on a Sunday evening and The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol and Shooting Guns, blew the roof off the sucka’ with The Cardinal in the house!  Amazing!  Also LOVED the next summer 2018 when both Dave Cambridge and Brett Savage (Dead Sea Apes) flew over for Ottawa Psychfest I and we made a record together, fully improvised, called “Ensemble III”.

2014 with Damo Suzuki at House Of Targ

What can you tell me about your time with Damo Suzuki?

We did 3 performances with Damo between March 23rd , 2012 and May 25th, 2014.  We prepared ourselves for the honor of backing him on the first outing by rehearsing based on what might happen to throw at him.  We met up at the club and hung out for a few hours until soundcheck, chatting and so forth.  He was very quiet in general and despite me asking him politely a few historically accurate questions regarding his career, Damo clearly was in the here and now and didn’t really want to talk about history!  Fine by me.  We hit the stage to a packed house, he started and we jammed, throwing out all we were prepared for.  The whole thing; near 3 hours, was recorded luckily live to cassette and myself and Bill edited it into fitting on a single LP and we released it the next year.

Damo’s second trip was like seeing an old friend and he was genuinely happy to be playing with us again!  We hung out for awhile in Birdman Sound, shooting the shit and he was quite interested in looking at my records.  I showed him a huge stack of CAN , solo LPs and related records, he seemed impressed and I got him to sign my Tago Mago LP and one of his solo records.  He was staying with JasonVaughan;  our synth man,  about 100 yards from the gig space Pressed Café,  so was very convenient.  Jason took him shopping for blue jeans after the Birdman visit and they showed up for soundcheck with Damo offering us all shots of whiskey he had purchased earlier in the day.  We played a wicked set that night which sadly was only captured piece meal on video in two separate segments by a friend who happened to be working on a piece for an online mag about TBWNIS. This show was extremely self fulfilling and Damo said he LOVED it as well, which was a huge high for us!!!  The 3rd show was at a much bigger venue in 2014 at House Of Targ and was also a ripping and very “heavy” show to a large appreciative crowd.  A friend captured most of the audio and video on a hand held.  Again Damo was in great spirits and had a great time. That show may be found on our bandcamp site and remains only in the online digital world.   In 2020 there was a plan to do a 4th show here with him as we were asked to be the band but of course everything got fucked by the pandemic !  TBWNIS LOVE Damo and CAN and they are a definite influence regarding what we do!

What is your take on making improvisational music? What is the ultimate jam?

I’ve played in loads of structured bands and enjoy the aspect of that.  In BELD, Exploding Meet and TBWNIS it was or is all based on improvisation, it’s just a load more fun.  The creativity that happens can often be just “WOW”!  When that happens, there is nothing better, I love spontaneity!   The ultimate jam is when clearly the whole group involved, are feeling happy and high and feeding off one another.  Whether or not in front of a crowd or by themselves and they everyone is in the zone,  then that’s the jam, hands down.

Who are your favorite current other artists and record labels at the moment?

Current Artists : Acid Mothers Temple, Circle, Sula Bassana (everything), Dead Sea Apes, Carlton Melton, Sendelica, Oresund Space Collective…

Labels: Cardinal Fuzz, El Paraiso, Sulatron, Feeding Tube, International Anthem Recording Company, Bad Afro, Adansonia, Clostridium, Weird Beard, Rocket Recordings, Blue Fog, Noiseagonymayhem, Bam Balam, Long Hair…

What is your top 5 of psychedelic records of all time?

United States of America – S/T

Fifty Foot Hose – Cauldron

Christmas – Heritage

Hawkwind – Space Ritual

Miles Davis – Dark Magus

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

Eat pizza or cheeseburgers & fries, drink beer and listen to RECORDS !

2018, opening for Yawning Man

Check out John’s musical outlets here:

Interview: Shane Hartman (Underground Mountains, Metal Machine Ascension, Acid Test Radio, We, Here & Now Records)

So originally, I intended to write a little piece about Stratford, Canada’s improvisational psych rockers Underground Mountains and their uncanny brand of “anything goes, let the universe guide us, and let’s record every jam CAN style” psych rock. They ARE pretty cool, and you really should check out their debut cassette tape and track everything that there is still to come if you are even remotely into that original kraut rock improv sound. But then I started talking to guitarist Shane Hartman, and it turned out I had already met him two times or more in different online entities. For Shane is a human centipede of psychedelic music, manning a weekly radio show, a record label, a solo project, next to occasionally jamming the stars from the cosmos with Underground Mountains.

It is people like him that keep this tiny psychedelic universe going, and being a fan of the music is first and foremost in that. We are not in it for the money or the fame, we are here to strive for that one ultimate Godzilla jam, whether it is with our own musical projects, or through some other human making noise somewhere on this awful ball of dried up lava. We do it because we have to, because it is better to create and participate than to just consume and get fat. Although we do hunt for that sweet vinyl from time to time, and it can’t be limited enough…

Anyways, meet Shane Hartman people. Lover of psychedelic music, fan of bands like CAN and The Band Who’s Name Is A Symbol, and a valuable contributor to the scene in his multiple enterprises. Let’s meet him and find out all there is to explore through his stories and his sounds…

How are you? Can you introduce yourself and you multiple endeavors?

Hi Jasper! Thanks for the interest in all this business. I’m Shane, I have a few irons in the fire but I’ll do my best to cover everything! 

I produce a weekly radio show / podcast called Acid Test Radio whose motto is “Fuzzed Up Sounds In Search of Higher Elevation” since 2019. I play loads of psych, space rock, punk, free jazz, drone, noise, new age…basically everything I’m into and the occasional funk 45.  It can be heard on svpradio.com THURSDAY @ 5pm EST and Midtownradio.ca Saturday @ 7pm EST.

I play guitar, synth and mess around with tape loops  in Underground Mountains – we are currently a 6 piece and play free heavy, psychedelic and krautrock informed music, predominantly in our rehearsal room “The Jam Cellar” located beneath the most excellent Sound Fixation record store here in Stratford. 

Currently Underground Mountains is.. 

Andrew Hunter, Trevor Worsell, Andrew Enns, Jeremy Cox, Tim Nicholls and myself.

I also record solo as Metal Machine Ascension – tape loops, effects, synths creating a droning Maximalist Meditation Music.

aaaand I run We, Here & Now! Records – a psych / experimental / heavy sounds label. I originally started to help release one record which seems charming in retrospect as the amount of projects the label has taken on has snowballed more than I anticipated! Since beginning in April, WHN has officially released  7 tapes and co-released one record with plenty more on the way for 2023!  

Shouts and much respect to Jeff @ Echodelick Records and Dave @ Cardinal Fuzz for all the help and encouragement! These guys release some of my absolute favourite records, I’m sure readers of Weirdo Shrine are probably aware but if you don’t know them, do your ear holes a kindness when you can! 

What can you tell me about your musical background?

I’m a bit of a late bloomer and mostly self taught.. I didn’t start playing guitar until my early 20’s. A friend gave me an acoustic guitar he’d made from the remnants of two broken ones (dubbed the Franken-twanger) and from there got down to learning in earnest. I loved The Replacements and Leatherface the most before hearing The ConstantinesShine A Light record which is still one of my all time favourites. In the last year I’ve been exploring the wide world of synths and tape in my music while slowly acquiring more gear and developing an interest in using non-musical objects and field recordings in my process. I promise that it’s not as pretentious as it sounds! 

What does a regular day in your life look like? What role does music play?

My partner Catherine and I adopted our pup Fred (Australian cattle dog) in February and we’ve since become very early risers and avid walkers.. if I don’t have to work I’ll be getting caught up on label projects (several at different stages of development right now that I’m VERY excited about!), new music for Acid Test Radio, reviewing our jam recordings. There’s always music on at home, be it records, tapes, streams, radio or one of us singing to the pup. Our house is a very musical house.

What do people often forget when they think about owning a record label?

I think going into this, what I wish I knew and perhaps what others might not understand is how many hats one can end up wearing! Being a one person show, there’s quite a lot to do. I love it and I think for folks who enjoy doing several different tasks, it can be an incredibly satisfying way to help get the music you love further out into the world. 

Where do you live and how does it affect your musical doings?

I live in Stratford, Ontario, located about 2 hours driving from Toronto. The city is famous for the Stratford Theatre Festival as well as being home to and having a lot of incredible musicians from here (members of The Band, Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band, Colin Fisher, Darren Dumas (The Salads) immediately come to mind.. oh! Justin Bieber’s from Stratford as well..) 

I moved here from Ottawa several years back and knew that I’d like to play the kind of music I make now but finding like minded heads historically has often been challenging.. I met the fellas I would later end up playing with in Underground Mountains here and I honestly couldn’t believe my luck! We jam weekly if possible, record everything and it’s always a trip! Pre-covid, travelling to see bands in Kitchener, London or Toronto was a frequent occurrence. Post Covid, live music is slowly coming back.. I’m hopeful for the new year! 

What is your take on making improvisational music? What is the ultimate jam?

I think it can be one of the most transcendent and powerful expressions and in a group setting can produce incredibly magical experiences. Communicating without speaking, call it the cosmic nod, whatever you call it, it’s something special.

The ultimate jam.. whether it’s an epic hour long sprawl through space, shifting between psych, blues, funk, dub and freakouts with full on “godzilla” passages to borrow a line from CAN or 10 minutes of focused pocket dwelling.. when it’s over and we’ve re-entered our bodies and can say that was really good!   

Who are your favorite current other artists and record labels at the moment?

Oh boy! Honestly this could go on and on there are so many quality labels putting out so many great records! The short list would include Cardinal Fuzz, Echodelick, Feeding Tube and Noiseagaonymayhem.. and Dreamlord.. oh! Up In Her Room as well! and Fuzzed Up & Astromoon! Weird Beard, Worst Bassist.. 

For artists.. The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol are pivotal, Dead Sea Apes are un-fuck-withable and Anunnaki are a force of nature! Big ups to Thee Cosmic Brick Road, Wasted Cathedral, Pallbearer Industry and pour one out for the fellas in Hawkeyes as well.. 

(sorry, it’s hard to keep it narrow!) 

What is “the dream” for you as an artist, and as a label owner?

As an artist.. to just be able to keep making music. It’s an obsession and probably in my DNA.. Collaborating and growing.. The same applies to the label as well I suppose, in terms of releasing records I’m excited about but I’d also tack on being sustainable – to focus on doing the label full time would be the dream come true!

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

Tell the people you love how much you do.