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Review + Q&A: Anona- Anona EP (2022, Sound Effect Records)

Welcome to another episode of music-book pairing. In this chapter I will try to link Anona’s free thinking Canterbury indie rock with the bestselling young adult novel series Mrs Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. The novel is full of mystery, (time) travels, children with weird powers, and an altogether idea that it is ok to be strange. I can’t shake of the feeling that Anona has embraced that same idea as well.

This self-titled EP by Anona is all kinds of strange, but beautiful as well. There is a mysterious edge to it, but a childlike naivete and lightless as well. There is some time traveling going on, past 60s Canterbury folk for example (the flute plays an important role), and dark smokey jazz combos from the 30s. And then there is the band that consists of all kinds of weird kids with special powers of their own, nine of them in total.

Both the novelist Ransom Riggs and the singer songwriter Ella Russel are story tellers. They take you, the spectator, by the hand and lead you just around the corner to a place that you would have never imagined on your own. Whether it is the story of The Boy And The Lion, or the story of Jacob Portman finding out his secret heritage, you will be sucked in and hanging on to every word…

So I had to dive into this Anona phenomenon. Who are they? Or who is she? Let’s find out. Bristol, UK resident Ella Russel takes us by the hand while she leads us on a tour through here life…

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

Ah the big questions. Well, the cold has finally arrived here which brings mixed feelings. I love the winter storms and island weather, the winter skies are really crazy over the sea here, but the damp and darkness affects me after a while. The pandemic brought an end to some projects and a beginning to new ones. It definitely felt like life bookmarked a new era when it began, there was no choice. We finished recording the bulk of Anona two weeks before the first lockdown and then I worked on it throughout, so the EP kind of feels like a time capsule now. The pandemic of course has been a challenge, but I can also be a bit of a hermit and having so much time to work on my own things was kind of incredible. I only got back into playing shows this year, with my other band The New Eves. It has felt really powerful and we don’t take anything for granted. I love them. 

Can you introduce yourself, is it just you or are there more people in Anona?

I’m Ella Russell, a musician and a painter living in Brighton, UK. Anona is my first solo project, but it features 9 of my friends & incredible musicians. Their names are Lau Zanin, Toma Sapir, Adam Campbell, George Lloyd-Owen, Todd Cowell, Freddie Willat, Isobel Jones and Hugo Ellis. Anona’s lineup will be constantly evolving around the music I write, but I’m hoping lot’s of these guys stick around. 

What can you tell me about your musical background(s)?

I’ve always been very affected by music, and if you had asked me what I wanted to do when I was a child I would have said “an artist and a singer”, which is pretty much what I do now, except I have learnt some instruments along the way. I play the flute, guitar, drums and a little piano, all a bit unconventionally. I recently had my trombone debut! It was funny, I had painted myself green for halloween and looked like this tiny goblin playing the trombone.

I’m completely self taught and started playing in bands when I was about 19, learning everything as I went along. I started composing this EP when I was 21 and it was my first time writing music in full, doing everything myself. It began as a challenge to myself to see what I was capable of and ended up opening a whole inner world. 

The most recent projects I have been involved with are The New Eves, Wax Machine and I did some recording with The Ancient Infinity Orchestra this summer, who are about to drop an incredible album.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

At the moment it’s different everyday! Which is how I like it, I strangely find lack of routine very inspiring. Like today I was sewing someone’s curtains and last week I was recording poetry for the BBC – though it’s definitely not always as exciting as that. Often I will be rehearsing and playing music with people in the evenings and when I have spare time I will be painting in my little studio. It’s quite a turbulent way to live, to be patching things together week by week, but I’m only 24 and just about have the energy to deal with the uncertainty my lifestyle brings. For now the adventures outweigh it all, I get to travel around a lot.

What is the best thing about your new EP?

That’s a hard question. Everything? That it’s finally being released? That it was so fun to make? That someone took the time to turn it into vinyl?

For me it was especially a pleasure to meet cellist George Lloyd-Owen. They were the only person that I didn’t know before making Anona, and we had such an instant creative connection. I can’t read music so I would just sing to them and they would translate it and make it a thousand times better. They blow my mind everytime we play together. I have long had the ambition to make music for strings and meeting them has made it feel possible.

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

I live in Brighton UK, which is where I was born and also where some of my ancestors are from. It’s by the sea which I love and is only a 45 minute train ride to London. It’s a small city but it’s got a big music scene and is ideal for meeting musicians, they are literally everywhere… though I have been spectacularly shit at going to shows recently. I’m lucky to have a life full of musicians, artists and like minded people, it feels abundant in that way and our community is strong, we are always collaborating and everyone helps each other out. A downside to Brighton is you don’t really get paid much for shows, or anything creative. Rents are going up and soon it will be too expensive to live here.

I have actually been waiting for the time to leave Brighton and city life for a while now, but things keep happening. The times i’ve felt most alive have always been outside of cities, probably on a mountain somewhere. But my family are still nearby and it will always be a home for me.

What are your favorite contemporary bands and albums right now?

Some of the best shows I’ve seen this year were by Abel Selaocoe, Modern Woman, Junior Brother, Bingo Fury and Broadside Hacks. Last year I saw Johnny Greenwood perform some of his soundtracks at a festival and it was probably one of the best hours of my life. My friend Ozzy is secretly a genius composer and his group Ancient Infinity Orchestra are going to be releasing an incredible album with Gondwana next year. I have a lot of friends releasing beautiful things at the moment; Daisy Rickman, Wax Machine and Platypus Complex are definitely ones to watch. 

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

For me it’s a very private process, it can take a long time and often feels like I’m unveiling something, like helping a flower to bloom. The music really has it’s own spirit. When I was writing this EP I was living in a garden cabin and would lock myself in there for hours at a time experimenting with different instruments and building a relationship with the sounds that wanted to come through. I had to muster a lot of faith to actually show it to people and conduct them, it was a great learning process. This whole project was created in gardens, for recording I found another garden cabin that had a piano and Lau (producer) and I built a little studio in there. Everyone learnt the material whilst we were recording, so what you hear on the record was incredibly fresh, it has a youthful spirit to it. It was really fun 

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

I think having enough to eat, a roof over your head and time to create. The pleasures are very simple really, but quite hard to sustain in this world.  

Tell me something nobody would have guessed about you?

Hmm… I’m really into Star Wars? And I’m terrible at reading clocks.

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

Go outside and look at the sky, then listen to Anona.

The single ‘Ruby Mountain’ is out on Thursday 24th and the vinyl is being released the next day on the 25th. The only way for people to listen to the full EP is by getting the vinyl, until the whole thing is released online in January. A bit unusual, but it’s the way it’s happened 🙂

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.  

Review + Q&A: Gambardella- Caracas (2022, Spinda Records)

Gambardella is a Barcelona trio of musicians who stand for absolute creative freedom. So much so, that they ditched their vocalist as soon as they could so that they would be more free in their stylistic approach. On their third album Caracas this translates itself into an album of instrumental experimentalist art rock that is almost impossible impossible to pinpoint, and that seems to be the whole point from the get go.

These songs effortlessly bend their way from spastic free jazz to cosmic kraut through interstellar postrock and even Albini worshipping noise rock. Their great musical skill is always on display here, but they make room for atmosphere as well, being careful to let the songs flow, and preventing Caracas from becoming a self indulgent noodle fest.

Should we spend more words on it though? The band themselves don’t seem to think so, Opting to let their instruments speak for them. So you better find somewhere to listen to this album fast, and let your ears be the judge for you. Open minded jam freaks will rock themselves a third eye, that’s a Weirdo Shrine guarantee!

I am Jaime L Pantaleon  the guitarist , synths and noise guy in the band.

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

Gambardella is a Barcelona based trio. Our first LP  Benicarló came out in 2017. The second one Sant Andreu in 2019 and finally our last album Caracas  in 2022 but it was created and recorded during the worst days of Pandemic in the city of Barcelona. I remember that we made false passes to reach the rehearsal space and recording studio to avoid street prohibitions. Focussing on music we could confront the fears of the apocalyptic situation.  

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

We formed around 2015 in Barcelona  and we were friends who knew each other from other projects. Personally my former band was called 12twelve and we recorded two albums in Chicago with Steve Albini during the 2000s. Check out Speritismo from 2003 and L´univers from 2006.  In Gambardella both Victor Teller  (Bassist) and Oscar Altaba ( drums) came from other bands more focussed on Post hardcore and post metal bands like Room of Mirrors, Zimt, Oso….

Initially we met as a vocal band but early we realized that instrumental stuff was more inspirational and explosive.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Our band is always like a washing machine of influences but mostly we hear jazz, minimal music, krautrock, early electronics and  every instrumental conception . We always conceive our music as a soundtrack and lately we are experimenting as a multi disciplinary act mixing audio visual design, music and improvisation at our live gigs.

In our  sound you can feel some base of bands like Fugazi, June of 44  but maybe our greatest influence would be Tortoise,  a band that we love and who taught us a lot.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

A regular day in our lives is very normal, just guys trying to survive. Our idea of music is quite away from commercial and we have to work for a living.

In our opinion, controlling all your processes in creating, recording and distributing gives us more freedom and autonomy. Our last record is gaining a good reputation and we are so happy with it. 

What is the story about the band name?

Gambardella is the surname of Geppe Gambardella the main character of the  Paolo Sorrentino´s film La Grande Belleza from 2014.

We love that film for being a kind of modern Federico Fellini and for representing the empty life of  luxury of a former writer that had great succes in the past, but  now he is like in deception of the human condition. A very philosophical film, in our opinion  very critical and introspective in some way.

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

At the moment Victor lives in Barcelona city and both Oscar and I live in small villages quite far from the urban turmoil. Covid as you said was a radical change in our points of view about living and I decided to run away from the cement. Oscar lives in Benicarló ( the title of our first record) his hometown. We are working on several projects with our band. The latest project is creating music in a program inside a jail for women. It s amazing the places where music could bring us.

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 think creating every kind of artistic discipline is the most healthy activity in order to express yourself, feel and discover  a lot of things and always learning.

During 2017,  2018 and 2019 we did a lot of gigs in Spain and  we  played  as well in London, Leeds, Canterbury, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague,  Paris, Geneve, Pisa  and a lot of European cities.  Pandemic stopped a good tour in Spain in 2020  you know, and just like a lot of other musicians we had to re make our entire world. 

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

We are fortunate in Gambardella because the three components have a super good workflow between us. Songs, sounds and passages normally come with a natural feel and we create relatively quick and easy. 

It s a real democracy and we used to create from improvising and compose in the moment. Not a writing leader. Our music is based in the whole band as an organism. We enjoy playing together and generally the three of us share the same idea. 

The big source of inspiration used to be experimenting with new instruments, patterns and music. We can play  from a totally electronic composition to a traditional Rumba. It s amazing, we are happy and conscious of this situation.

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

I can imagine that the dream of an artist is being able to focus in your creativity and forget a lot of the external world. Of course you have to be aware of certain mechanisms and lines of our cultural fabric in your country. In Spain there is a very little help for musicians if you  are not a teenager or you don’t have ( or don’t want)  commercial potential. We always thought in the richest countries in Europe it could be easy, but in the post pandemic times we suppose it  is difficult for everyone.

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

Of course listen and enjoy mostly the album Caracas.  We are very happy with this record because we have been able to recorded it live  in Wheel Sound Studios with Txosse Ruiz and all the glorious feeling and organicity of playing live gives that album just what we were looking for.

Thanks a lot Jasper!!!! A big hug to all Weirdo Shrine readers and keep on it.

Interview: John Forbes (Tijuana Hercules, Skin Graft Records)

Recently, I received word of the 150th SKiN GRAFT records release Sounds To Make You Shudder, a Halloween album featuring many of the iconic bands the American label got notorious for like Yowie (featuring David Yow), The Flying Luttenbachers, and members of Dazzling Killmen. Also featuring the band Tijuana Hercules, orchestra of SKiN GRAFT US office manager John Forbes, who I had the pleasure of shooting a couple of questions at. Just because SKiN GRAFT is such a legendary label, but also because he is an interesting character himself, a frequently asked cartoonist, a charismatic frontman, and an industrious record label man. Needless to say, when the opportunity to get in touch with him arose, Weirdo Shrine jumped to the occasion!

Hi John! How are you doing these days? How was the pandemic for SKiN GRAFT and yourself as an artist?

I’m doing good! I was down in Denton, Texas, running the SKiN GRAFT Records booth for the No Coast Fest. It was a gratifying experience. I was glad I got to go for many reasons! 

The pandemic delayed the release of our latest record MUDSLOD & THE SINGLES by over a year. To fill the gap we worked on and released the EVENING DRESSINGS E.P. right as the pandemic was taking off. That E.P. caught my mood for that doped-out feeling of being in uncharted territories.

I also painted a mural for Illuminated Brew Works tap room in Chicago and did a handful of animations for my band and other clients. My animation skills are on THE ROCKY & BULLWINKLE level of crudeness, but it takes me an eternity to get them finished! 

Tell me something about yourself! What is your musical background for instance, and how did you get involved in music?

I started playing in bands in junior high school. It was an entry into a unique world. Somewhere between being a greezer and an intellectual. The first recordings I made were when I lived in Atlanta, Georgia. Those two bands were Phantom 309 and Dirt. When I moved to Chicago I started the band Mount Shasta that also started my long-term relationship with SKiN GRAFT Records.

I’ve been into music as far as my earliest memories. I’m talking way back to being a toddler.

You are also known for your cartoons and illustrations, how did you start with that and how did that evolve in what it is today?

From the day I was born my grandma babysat me. To keep me occupied she would give me paper and pencils. I would draw for hours while she would watch her soap operas. I was really into animal cartoons and the local newspaper’s comic section.We got the daily newspaper and I looked at the comics section religiously. I taught myself how to draw by copying what I saw in the comics section. I could really get my head around PEANUTS, BEETLE BAILEY & BUZ SAWYER.

The longer I’ve been drawing, the looser my drawings have become. I think it will take me about another thirty years of hard drawing to get to where I want to be.

Can you explain how you got involved in the record label business? 

When I was in Phantom 309, one of the members had his own label and distribution. I really dug hanging at his work space and seeing how things were done. We were in our early- to mid-twenties but he carried himself like a grizzled independent record man from way back. I’ve always been attracted to seat-of-the-pants endeavors located on the fringes.

Originally Mark Fischer and Rob Syers started the label, right? Can you run is through the label’s history, and where did you step in?

Mark and Rob started a zine called SKiN GRAFT Comix back when they were in high school.  Mark spun the record label off from that, and Rob continued to do artwork for the label. He did the cover art for Mount Shasta’s first few records.  My introduction was meeting Mark when we worked together at Touch & Go Records. We became friends immediately.

What is your opinion about how the music industry evolved until now? Are we heading in a good direction with streaming and wide accessibility of music to pretty much anyone?

I’m well aware of streaming and all the gripes against it. It doesn’t seem to affect me one way or the other. I do like the music I listen to to be on a physical format. It adds to the whole concept of music being an art form. On the other hand, I can’t get enough music to listen to. I’m insatiable and streaming is handy for that. I don’t care if what I’m listening to came out right now or a century ago. I like hearing a steady stream of things I have never heard before. Streaming music is one of the few benefits of the information age.

Who are the most inspirational artists around these days in your opinion?

Marshall Allen. He’s still blowing his ass off with the Arkestra at 98 years old!!

I’m also crazy about George Freeman and have been since the first time I saw him play guitar. He’s also an ancient guy. He’s 95. He stretches all the way back to Charlie Parker, who he recorded with. He’s still doing stuff today and is incredibly idiosyncratic.

Can you introduce your band Tijuana Hercules?

Joe Patt plays drums and chili pot. Doug Abram does the baritone saxophone. Tony Mendoza is the second drummer and junk percussionist. Tony has also been in the first drummer chair before Joe Patt claimed the throne. And Mike Young is the primo on junk percussion. Mike has been with the band since the beginning. He comes and goes, depending on where his life takes him.

The band has been around for a while. It has a revolving-door policy. There have been over twenty musicians involved over the course of the band’s history.

Any records/events we should look forward to?

SKiN GRAFT Records recently released a Halloween-themed comp, SOUNDS TO MAKE YOU SHUDDER. We contributed a song called THE LONG SLIDE. We are also nearly finished with a new record that will be released on SKiN GRAFT Records in the future.

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

Stay true to yourself and keep on vibrating!!!

Review + Q&A: More Experience- Electric Laboratory of High Space Experience (vinyl release 2022, Sound Effect Records)

Birds are singing abundantly in a Polish forest near Lublin in the East of Poland. It is how this album by More Experience starts and ends, and where we find bandleader Piotr Dudzikowski musing about music, life, and the current affairs in his home country. Together with his band, his family, he has been perfectly re-creating the 60s atmosphere since the 1980s. And like their previous work, Electric Laboratory of High Space Experience sounds like some obscure and unknown album from that era that has been carefully unearthed, mixed, and remastered. It is nothing new under the sun, and that seems exactly the point.

Female and male voices interchange duties, a Hammond organ wails, and an electric guitar twirls and twitters. All the while it is like the 60s never ended, and echoes of Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Soft Machine, and Captain Beefheart reverberate all around. Sometimes rockin’ out, sometimes weirding up in smoke, always playing it from the heart. What more can you ask from a listening experience?

Of course we contacted Piotr, and asked him about his band, his life, and his passions. This is what he told us…

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for More Experience?

Well, I’m getting old, so I’m not strong enough to still be a psychedelic hippie warrior trying to celebrate the cosmos on stage. So actually I was under the ground in my recording studio and making music with great musicians just for ourselves and we had great fun without the witnesses.

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

More Experience is a kind of artistic project. In the beginning (that was late 80’s) it was just the music and fascination of psychedelic 60s a especially Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and Pink Floyd. But it must be said: that was Poland – wild, rotten, communist swamp without any musical tradition to listening anything which is avantgarde, any places to play and create the music and any professional equipment like guitars and amps. All that stuff was unavailable for young people. The first band we’ve made was on musical school and we were playing on pianos and old classical guitars. But instead of this we started to play as a psychedelic quartet with female vocals in my room! On the beginning of 90s there was spark in this dark tunnel and we started to play in some small, underground clubs and youth fests. Our friends helped us to make this gigs magical with some lights and dioramas and later on some para-theatrical spectacles. In that times there were probably only one band in Poland making music like this and that was More Experience. Of Course no one cared about that.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Well, I’m a classical pianist and I really like Chopin, Debussy, Stravinsky and so on. But my life has changed since I heard Hendrix! (More Experience played a really lot of gigs titled a tribute to Jimi Hendrix but there is surprise: in Switzerland there is another great band called More Experience which is a great tribute Hendrix band!). Now I’m traveling to some progressive-psychedelic-space-jazz-rock bands like Gong, Soft Machine, Steve Hillage and stuff like this.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

I’m PhD of art history and I’m trying to study the relationship between Polish art and philosophy of the Far East, especially Buddhism. I’m also working on preservation office and giving a second life to very old documents and books. But the most important stuff in my life is music. I’m a studio owner and this is what I do, much to my wife’s despair!

What is the story about the band name? More experience of what exactly?

In the beginning it was about Hendrix. There is concert from Albert Hall London, first part of it is called Experience and second: More Experience. But later on the name started to be connected with east philosophy: and the meaning is that everything is the experience and all that stuff is creating your consciousness and making you a living human.

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

I’m from Lublin, the biggest city in the east of Poland. We have here five state universities and a few private ones. So lot of young people in one place but this is sad place, with sad history and no perspective to live and work in it. So almost nothing is happening! We have no clubs or serious places to play live music (like jam sessions) and there are no people interested in that stuff. We have two state jazz schools and no place to play jazz! Psychedelic stuff is deep under the ground and no one cares about it. In Poland we’ve sold five CD copies of our new album! (six in Australia!)

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

Music is my life, I am the music, I live inside the music, everything in my life is music. I’m not thinking of any strategy, I don’t have any plans, I’m just the musical man doing his life possible and physical. My studio is the tool. Many years ago I’ve tried to show this miracle to people, now I’m old enough to be myself without any outside needs and fame.

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

It’s like out of the blue. Bang! and there is a song. It’s hard to say how it works. Probably is going about having an open mind and experience, more and more experiences. Recording is a process. Modern studios give unlimited possibilities. Your imagination is the only limit. So if you don’t know what you want, you’re done! It’s also knowledge if you want to recording music that sounds good for you, you need very specialistic knowledge and loot of experience. So I’m still trying to be better and I spend long hours and days in the studio and I love it!

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

I really don’t like my country. We have really stupid government that harms the country and I think there is no hope for our generation. But I have very talented son who is actually great drummer (you can hear him on the More Experience album). I hope, some day he will be independent artist, creating his art in more pleasant space for more educated and interested audience.

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

Take a deep breath, be kind for others and get more experience!

Review + Q&A: Ivan The Tolerable- Black Water/Brown Earth + The Aleph (2022, Up In Her Room Records, Echodelick Records)

No less than three albums will UK solo artist Oli Heffernan AKA Ivan The Tolerable have released this year. One of them, The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (Library Of The Occult Records) flew under Weirdo Shrine’s radar, but the other two have boldly found their way to the editor’s desk. Last year of course I talked about his incredible album The Long Year (ft. his Elastic Band) and interviewed the incredible American poet Karen Schoemer who featured on the album. This year I felt like the musician behind that album and many many more deserved a little extra attention, and therefore I hit him up for a chat, which he generously indulged in. Vinyl pressing issues might mean that the albums talked about below haven’t quite reached their target audiences yet, but they will, and you need to know about them and about Ivan The Tolerable.

Black Water/Brown Earth (2022, Up In Her Room Records)

Before jumping completely within the skin of his alter ego Ivan The Tolerable, Oli Heff was in King Champion Sounds, with members of The Ex, and collaborating with illustrious rock icons like Mike Watts of the Minutemen, and J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. This is just to say that he is a veteran musician, a skillful sound maker, and you know, he’s been around the block a few times (just check out the incredible musical library he is building with Ivan The Tolerable alone!).

On Black Water/Brown Earth, his second of three albums in 2022, Heff called in the help of his Dutch friends Mees and Elsa in King Champion Sounds again, and wrote the album in a long distance session. The album feels like an excursion in nature, featuring bird song, flowing water, pots and pans percussion, and a genuine feel of wandering about and experiencing the outside world with eyes and ears wide open. It is a band effort too, with organic sounding drums, the characteristic saxophone, and droning synths. Out of the two albums on display here it is probably the most likely to return on a live stage somewhere as a vibrant jam session.

The Aleph (2022, Echodelick Records)

The Aleph is a rather different beast than its predecessor. Much more than painting a certain atmosphere in nature it feels like an immersion into a different world. It is an ancient Mesopotamian world, guided by tribal drums, Morphine-like saxophones, droning synths, and an allround stifling atmosphere. Is it free jazz? It is definitely free…and the rhythmical excursions are definitely quite out there at times. But there is a strong repetitive element to The Aleph as well, a drone, a pulling power that takes the listener into a spin and sucks it into this “other” world. It is unlike anything I have heard before, really. An adventurous experience, both for musicians and listeners.

On The Aleph Heff did work together with Thomas House (Haress, Sweet Williams) who mixed the album and added some guitars, but it is mostly a solo album, and sounds like less of a joint effort too. In a way that makes it a more exciting listen because you feel that the music could go any direction its maker pleases, and yet it remains a coherent story that somehow resonates its background story and its artwork (check out the interview below).

So let’s meet the mastermind behind the sounds: Here is Oli Heff(ernan), Ivan The Tolerable himself! What drives him, where does he live? And how the heck does he make so many beautiful records each year…read on to find out.

How are you, and how have you struggled through the pandemic period?
Aside from the impending collapse of it all, I’m good thanks! How are you? The pandemic was a total shitshow – so many unnecessary deaths caused by an appalling governments colossal mishandling of the situation. I found the whole ‘stay at home’ aspect of it quite a blessing! I got 8 months off work and I’m not very sociable anyway so I got loads of music recorded and watched an awful lot of TV – there was a point where I thought I’d completed Netflix! It was the longest time I’ve had away from work and touring since I was a teenager, so it was a welcome break really. I think i made about 8-9 LPs in 2020-21 during covid, so yeah… PRODUCTIVE! I lost my day job at the end of it mind, but it’s all good now! Haha

Can you tell me about your musical background?
I guess it’s the same as most peoples – I started playing guitar when I was a kid, probs around 1994, just teaching myself as I went along by figuring out songs I liked, then formed a band with my mates at school, then more and more bands followed until we get to today! I’ve never stopped really, not for more than a month here and there anyway…I’m kind of the odd one out in my family as no one else is into music or plays an instrument which was kind of nice growing up cos I could just find my own way without being made to take lessons or listen to things that were forced on me. I liked that way. I’m a firm believer in just finding your own way to do things

Can you tell about Ivan The Tolerable, when is it just you and when do you have a band
recording with you?

Ivan The Tolerable started by accident in 2013 when I recorded a bunch of songs for my band at the time (Year Of Birds) but they were a bit left-field for a speedy garage band so we didn’t end up doing them and I just put the tape out myself to get rid of it ( I hate having stuff hanging around) and then I kinda just never stopped doing them – for the first 4-5 years it was just me playing everything but for the last 4 or so years I’ve got a lot more people involved – it’s kind of like a very loose collective pool these days, which is great for me as I can work on stuff a lot faster! IDEAL! I have three albums on the go at any one time (with three different sets of musicians) so while I’m waiting for people to do their parts on one album, I can crack on with my parts for the next one – it works well if you are as impatient as me ha-ha. I still do stuff on my own quite often, but i prefer the ones with other folks more as I’m lucky that I get to work with some of the very best people! I think I’m up to about 25-30 albums? I’ve lost count!

You music is like entering a completely different world! How do you go about creating it,
especially all by yourself? Is there for instance a narrative you have in your head?

Not really, I never have a plan really, other than to make an album and I just start recording and keep going until its finished – occasionally if I’m working to a set of lyrics, I’ll have more of a plan but mostly it’s just instrumental stuff so I can just do whatever, which is the best way to do it! No constraints and nothing to overthink! I guess that’s the key for me – I can just do whatever I like! I never spend a great amount of time recording an album – that’s not fun for me – I see it more like audio photographs of a moment, rather than some overproduced, overblown “artistic statement” – life’s too short for that kind of thing, i just love recording and like to do it fast! If once I finish an album I feel like I never want to hear it again, then I know I’ve overcooked it! ha-ha the thing I do notice is that I can make two different albums a few years apart with totally different people and totally different gear and it always still sounds like me – that’s a pretty cool thing I guess. Like some sort of intangible quality that is there but also isn’t…Dunno how it works, but it’s true! I can also hear anything I’ve done and tell you exactly what I was doing, where I was and how I was feeling when it was recorded – which goes back to the audio photo theory!

Where do you live and how does it affect your music?
I live with my girlfriend and a cat in Middlesbrough, England (Between Leeds and Newcastle, right up in the North East) and it has zero impact on my music other than I find it hard to find the right people to play with in my town. There are lots of bands and musicians but it’s all very indie/rock/acoustic/covers-bands kinda stuff round here so I have to look further afield for people who are into the more left-of-centre stuff, which is why I record a lot and play live very little! A lot of the folks who play on my records live in Netherlands, USA and Spain so practicing is a bit of a pain! Hahah! but I do have a UK live band finally so we can play shows if something good comes up – we played Astral Festival in Bristol earlier this year which was the first time we’ve done it and it was lots of fun – I’d deffo be up for doing more so we shall see…But anyway – Middlesbrough has no effect on what I do – its where I live and where all my friends are, plus it’s a relatively cheap place to live (not that anywhere is truly cheap anymore) but I could make these albums anywhere I reckon, and they’d
sound the same. I could spout a load of bullshit about how I’m influenced by the hills and the industrial heritage and all that, but it would be a lie! It’s all just rattling around in my head trying to punch its way out, and my head can go anywhere!

The first album I am reviewing is Black Water/Brown Earth, what can you tell me about its
conception and its background story?

I had a mental block between November and April this year where I couldn’t seem to get anything done – my head was just not in it (It felt like the end of the world at the time, it always does – but in hindsight I think I just needed a break) I had started a couple of sets of songs but I was making no progress on them and just annoying myself – so I shelved them for a bit and started a new thing that I wanted to be very simple, just me and two other people (Mees and Elsa, who play on lots of my stuff) we were in King Champion Sounds together for almost a decade so we are very used to playing together, so even doing it via email it still sounds pretty organic) so I sent them sketches for a bunch of songs and then when I got their stuff back I added some more stuff and then mixed it very quickly and it all just came together really fast – it was such a relief to finally finish something after 6 months
of frustration! The week I finished mixing it I got an email off the folks at Up In Her Room asking if I wanted to do an album with them (They had seen us play at Astral Festival) so I sent them it and they liked it so that’s how it all came about! think it’s a nice sounding record – I cycle down a river every morning when I go to work and I made some field recordings on my phone over a couple of weeks of the birds and the water and they are mixed into the tracks too…aside from those bits it’s just the three of us playing on it – the trio thing is always fun, working with a smaller palette is nice sometimes!

The second album, quite quickly following the previous is The Aleph, what can you tell me about that one?
The Aleph was one of the ones I started in Autumn last year, but I hit a wall with it and shelved it for a while. After I finished Black Water/Brown Earth I returned to this one and it all came together quite fast now I was back on the proverbial horse – I added few more synths and doubled some bass tracks up and then sent it to my pal Thomas House (he plays in Sweet Williams and Haress, and used to run Endless Records out of Brighton, who put out a couple of Ivan tapes and records over the years) and he added a bunch of guitars and then mixed the album for me – he’s very good at stuff so it was very painless- again! Mostly 1st mixes of everything are what you hear on the album – he’s got the good ears for stuff – I’m really pleased with this record – I’m normally guilty of the “throwing everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach whereas Tom is all about space and minimal layers – but I wanted a different sound and he’s totally nailed it – he’s a genius. I was reading a book
of Jorge Luis Borges stories while we were making the record and there is one story called The Aleph which is all about the idea of there being a point in space that contains all other points, from where you can see everything in the universe from every angle simultaneously, without distortion, overlapping, or confusion – which I really liked and it felt kind of apt, so I named the album after it.

The Aleph especially has some incredible artwork! Who made it, and what is the relationship with the music?
I did the sleeve for this one (PLUG ALERT! I have a side-hustle doing sleeve art for bands, check out @ackackackdesign on Instagram for recent work – I’m cheap if I like you! PLUG OVER!) The image is a close-up scan of the endpaper from a Victorian encyclopaedia which I really liked the colours on, so I matched everything else up to it and all the lettering is hand done, one letter at a time with Letraset from my personal collection! ha-ha. Old school cut and paste! I think it suits the music nicely though, which is always the main goal. I do most of my own sleeves but in the last couple of years I’ve had too many records out so got a few other people whose work I liked to do some here and there, so I wasn’t swamped – Limited Output (my old pal Chappy from Newcastle) did the sleeve for The Long Year, Jordan Warren did the sleeve for White Tears and Nathaniel Winter-Herbert did the one for The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe – check them all out, they are fine folks!

Now you have released two albums in one year, what is the next step? More recordings?
Playing live?

I think its three albums this year actually! The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe LP on Library of The Occult was earlier this year wasn’t it?! ha-ha – so yeah – 3! it’s not my personal best (I managed 5 in 2020) but it’s a strong effort! After The Aleph and Black Water/Brown Earth are released, I have another album which is already at the pressing plant which is due out in April (it’s not announced yet so I can’t say any more, but I’m
REALLY pleased with this one cos it’s the first time I’ll have an entire ITT album I am actual able to play live so watch this space…) but I have plans to record a new album for Library of The Occult during November and December as I have some good chunks of time off work, and then after that I’ve got a couple of live things coming up that I need to work on…that’s as far as I’ve planned! I love watching TV too much to commit any further than that! I’m still getting used to not really touring anymore – Brexit and Covid and everything getting so expensive has really made it impossible for the small acts to make it balance anymore, sadly! I toured Europe for a month out of the year every year for the last decade, so it feels weird not to have any stuff on the calendar but I’m sure I’ll get used to the idea eventually. It’s probably why I’ve made so many records over the last two years – I’m overcompensating!

What is your ultimate dream goal as an artist?
I don’t think I have any! I just enjoy doing what I do! I’ve never wanted to be a musician as a job, I like having a normal job (I work in a print room) and doing music around it – stops it getting boring – I reckon it would suck if you HAD to do music every day, especially these days with all the bullshit social media you have to do constantly – i couldn’t do all that, which is probably why I’m not much further on than I am! I like it the way it is though. But yeah, my only goals are to keep making records until I peg it – keeps me sane! It’s a good release for an overactive imagination. But BIG goals nah, don’t have any! I wish I’d got to do a Peel Session, but I never did, does that count? Probably not seeing as it’s no longer possible! I’ve kind of done everything i ever set out to do and more! I’ve made loads of records, toured in loads of countries and met lots of the very best people. JOB DONE! I would secretly love to make a record in Studio 2 at Abbey Road though, but shhh don’t tell anyone.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after this interview?
Well, I’m going to go outside for a smoke, listen to the new Szun Waves album AGAIN and have a beer and then watch some TV. So you could do that if you want, but I’m not yr fuckin boss! DO SOMETHING THAT YOU LOVE! Eat a cake! Knit a jumper! Paint a room! Go for a bike ride! Have a sleep! If you are happy then, so am I.

Oli

Review + Q&A: Gloin- We Found This (2022, Mothland)

I swear, these amazing Toronto, Canadian bands are randomly crossing my path, I am not even seeking them out! Yet after Comet Control, Lammping, UWUW, and C. Ross, Gloin is another crystal clear piece of evidence that there is something in the water around those parts…

Mothland label mates Yoo Doo Right already reached the Weirdo Shrine editorial desks, and Gloin are equally self-minded and weird, a little wilder even still! On their album We Found This they find themselves mixing up fiercely angular noise rock, hip shaking post punk dread, and plenty of random noises into a steaming and modern sounding cocktail that somehow tastes fresh. Fans of The Horrors, The Cramps, Hey Colossus, and Liars do take note!

The vocals are shapeshifting between male and female, while the music is equally ambiguous: is this anger and frustration? Is this gloomy dread? Is this post apocalyptic disco? The fact that Gloin does not make up their minds make them such an intriguing listen, and We Found This into an album that you will have to spin a whole bunch of times before you completely “get” it. Or do you?

So of course there are some important questions to be asked and answered. I am a lucky person to find myself being able to reach out to all these wonderful artists and that people like Gloin are kind enough to answer…

Hi Gloin! How are you doing these days? 

We’re great. We just released our latest album, We Found This. Through the label Mothland. We’re answering these questions while on the road to support it. We recorded it in 2019 but due to delays with Covid, we had to wait a long time to release it. 

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

Gloin is; John, Richard, Simon, Vic. 

Simon Richard and John had been working on various musical projects together and apart in Toronto for a few years. Richard and John knew each other from high school, while Vic knew John’s partner from high school. When Vic moved back to Toronto after living abroad for a few years, she was looking for a new project. 

What are your musical backgrounds?

John has been a lyricist and self-taught guitarist since he was 19.

Richard has been playing guitar since he was in middle school and started up playing synth for this project.

Vic first picked up the guitar at age 11 and always dabbled in bass playing but started taking it seriously for Gloin.

Simon has been drumming for 15 years.

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

The aggression and frustration in our music is heavily influenced by the diminishing art culture in Toronto. In a lot of ways, it’s an extremely difficult city to thrive in yet that is also what feeds a driving force within us and I think that is evident in our music. We are surrounded by competition urgency and impatience.

What does a typical day in your lives look like?

We all work full-time in various trades and try to balance work, art, and personal lives in a way where we are not half assing’ anything.

What can you tell me about the writing and recording process of We Found This?

One person comes in with a riff that they have worked on and loved. They present it to the band and from there we might destroy it or reinvent it but either way we usually have a “no bad ideas” attitude. When we’re stumped we sometimes try to think of the most chaotic direction a song could go and do that and honestly it’s usually pretty sick or at least inspiring. John writes all the lyrics. When we bring a song into the studio it can come out a bit different because we are also open to creative ideas from our recording engineer Dylan Frankland. 

How do your lyrics usually come into being?

Lyrics are written sporadically. Some songs are more thought out than others, but all lyrics lean towards shared frustrations at that point in time. The frustrations for this record range from struggles financially, work life, toxic masculinity and religion, but are really based around any personal or shared struggles at that point in time. Lyrics are written far in advance of the instrumentals, during or in the studio when it comes time to sing. The strategy for vocals is always changing.

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

Vic: Any energetic pop music, catchy punk music, or extremely emotional ambient music and of course a good gay beat.

John: Warmduscher, Gilla band, Full of Hell, Portal, Dry Cleaning, Cola, and Viagra Boys.

Rich: CCR, Jim Croce, Gillian Weltch, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Lou Reed.

Simon: Anything funky, groovy, scary, noisy. A lot of BADBDNOTGOOD, N8Noface and Full of Hell lately.

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

To play music full-time. 

Immediate plans are to just keep givin’er.

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

Channel your rage, listen to our record, and let it out.

Review + Q&A: Wyatt E. – āl b​ē​l​ū​ti d​ā​rû (2022, Stolen Body Records)

Majestic, engimatic, cinematic, and whole lot of adjectives more. Such is the sound of Belgian mystical instrumental doom unit Wyatt E. Just look at that awe inspiring artwork, and imagine being sucked in. Gliding the back of that ancient Mesopotamian wyrm, straight in the darkness of that abandoned tower block. Is it Babylon? Where are we? What are those strange letters and words in the title? We will not know, but we will conjure up images from within our own minds while listening to the two gargantuan tracks on āl b​ē​l​ū​ti d​ā​rû.

It’s not even that the music on this album is ridiculously heavy or anything, one might even say the genre tag “doom” is a bit far-fetched. However, the music is deep and dense in an overwhelming atmospheric sense. Like wandering into a deep, and everwinding cave, or stepping inside an opium den all engulfed in a cloud of thick smoke. There are two tracks, one for each side of an LP, and both are completely different, yet similar stories. I could tell you my mind’s story of them, but it would spoil your experience. In stead, just listen to them by yourself, check out the artwork, and step inside it….

A long time ago, much earlier this year, I sent a message to Wyatt E. with the questions below. Until recently I did not get anything back, and I thought they might be lost forever. Yet suddenly a portal opened in my living room, and the answers were there on my table, scribbled in a language I could not read on a scroll of papyrus. This is what Google Translate made of it:

Greetings Wyatt E. How have you been? What have you been up to?

Hey, We’re good. We’ve been touring a lot to promote our latest album al beluti daru until this summer. Since then we’ve been working on the repress of our record and on the release of the music we wrote for a french motion picture. 


Can you introduce the band to the Weirdo Shrine audience?

In a nutshell, Wyatt E. is a band based in Belgium playing some sort of Levantine Ceremonial Doom. We released an album on Jerusalem’s label Shalosh Cult in 2017 and collaborate on a regular basis with Israeli singer Tomer Damsky. The leitmotif of the band is born to merge music and the will of one of its members with syrian-jewish ancestor to look for its past roots. 


I have been trying to wrap my head around your new album āl bēlūti dārû and it took me a long time to “get” it. Can you tell me what you set out to do when you were creating it?

When Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon wins over the city of Jerusalem after a two years long siege in 587 BC, he forces the cities’ elites into exile. He deports them to Babylon (the eternal city > āl bēlūti dārû) and our music is there to accompany them in this forced travel. It’s still playing when they’re discovering the gate of Ishtar with their very own eyes. Al be.


What is the language the title and the songs are in? Google Translate didn’t give me an idea…

It’s Akkadian language. āl bēlūti dārû means the Eternal City (aka Babylon)
Mušhuššu is the sacred animal of Marduk and Sarru Rabu means The Great King (Nebuchadnezzar II)


What inspires you to write this type of super long “journeys”, what images do you have when you are making it? Is it intuitive or deeply thought through?

It’s both of them. Once we have the theme of our storytelling we start creating layers of music to create some sort of landscape/soundscape to accompany that same story telling. At first it’s super intuitive; it then becomes deeply thought through once we start arranging the whole thing to make a song out of it. So I’d say that the sound is primal and intuitive but then built up during months of arrangement and choices. 


Who are your musical heroes?

Fazıl Say, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Chelsea Wolfe.

How did you get signed by Stolen Body Records?

Honestly, I had their CEO sleeping in my living room once a couple of years ago. That helps for bonding. 🙂


What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming year?

There’s a tour to be announced in April with a couple of cool festivals that have been on our bucket list for years now. 


What are your ambitions and future plans?

We’re now rehearsing a special set with two drummers and this might be a new challenge for an upcoming album we’d like to work on this winter. 


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

They should Get back to question 6, copy paste “Fazıl Say” and Google it. 

Review + Q&A: El Universo- S/T (Echodelick Records/Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records/The Weird Beard)

Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space, in Mexico, where the floating is good and very very experimental…

Leave it to El Universo to do away with any Earthly boundaries and conventions and just lift off into unchartered space rock territories with their amazing mixture of oldschool kraut (Neu!, Can) and modern instrumental postrock/minimal music. Throughout their self-titled album the listener is constantly kept on the edge of their seat because you never know what they will serve you next.

Will there be ten minutes of clip clop beats and distorted guitars? Will there be suffocatingly thick reverb blankets that take away all your sense of gravity and equilibrium? Will there be fuzzed up stomping about, will there be soothing repetitive guitar stroking? Yes, yes, yes and yes. But you never know what happens when, and since your sense of directions is very much screwed at a certain point you will find yourself spinning in a vacuum and seeing colors where there are none.

In other words; a pretty darn good time if you like to put some extra weird in your space rock. Which you do, because duh! You have found your way to the Weirdo Shrine

Originally, El Universo is just Eder Ademar doing all the work, but that’s no fun live and so Eder decided to branch out and add some members to a real live band that plays shows. About this, and more we talked over the interweb communication systems…

How is El Universo doing these days?

We are very excited about our new tour that will end with the Hipnosis Festival, featuring so many amazing bands that I really admire and that inspired me. Personal heroes.

Can you introduce the band to the Weirdo Shrine audience? 

We are playing live with Emilio Ponce on drums & Synths, Samuel Osorio and Gabriel Gavidia sharing bass and guitars, and me (Eder Ademar) playing guitar and synth.

What is your musical background?

I started to play guitar when I was 15 years old, I was taking lessons at a small school very close from my parents’ house and I remember I dropped it very quickly because the method was kind of boring for me. Some months later me and my friends started a band of surf music, we were really into that, almost without any idea of what I was doing. At that time I only had an electroacoustic guitar, I still remember my friends’ faces when I arrived at our first rehearsal. What I know about playing guitar is what I learned by playing.

Can you talk us through your discography so far? The S/T record that is issued right now through Echodelick is not your current newest album, right? 

Yeah, we put out a live bootleg in march of this year with some tracks of the first album and some new ones that we are playing live.

What is the best thing that happened to El Universo so far?

We played at forum indierocks for a HIPNOSIS showcase and the Vans Channel Session.

What can you tell me about being a space rock band in Mexico?

I think in general the Mexican scene is very open to different kinds of music but is true that is not easy to be an instrumental rock band, so many people always ask why the music does not have lyrics and I like to say that our music is like an open source software, we just give you some tools and you create your own stories and landscapes with your imagination.

What are your hopes and dreams for your music?

I hope to play so many festivals and live shows all over around the world, I know and I trust in the power of music.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Originally from watching documentaries of the universe, space missions and sci-fi movies, now I’m living with my girlfriend and my dog in San José del Cabo a very small Town with beach in Baja California Sur and I feel really inspired and connected with that place and with all the surrounding places.

Who are your favorite artists, current and in the past? 

I’m a big fan of CAN, SILVER APPLES, NEU!, GALAXIE 500, SONIC YOUTH, RADIOHEAD, MOON DUO, FLAVOR CRYSTALS & THE BLACK ANGELS.

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

Listen to El Universo 👁️🕳️🔺

Review + Q&A More Klementines (2022, Twin Lakes Records)

To me these days, there are few things as satisfactory as a bunch of free form musical artists finding each other and jamming like there is no tomorrow. To me they are like mind readers almost, or cosmic weavers of sonic threads. The band Can were based on this principle, and they spend many months perfecting their jams, often culminating into what they called “Godzillas”; slowly built up eruptions of sonic energy.

More Klementines definitely bear fruit from that can, and they definitely share four of their most successful Godzillas on their new album Who Remembers Light. There is in fact little about it that I do not like. Whether they wax instrumentally like on opener Hot Peace, or add lyrical poetry like on the much shorter Key Of Caesar, they do it in a way that is ephemeral in nature, here one moment, gone the next. Like ideas, and thoughts, More Klementines’ improvisational music comes and goes, back and forth, sometimes steady rockin’, sometimes more fragile, but ever flowing.

Who Remembers Light is a photograph of this ephemeral power of More Klementines, a recorded moment in time where they rocked, and flowed freely amongst newly discovered sounds. Freshly picked klementines for your listening pleasure…

So I discovered about More Klementines rather late, more than a month after the release of Who Remembers Light. The more I found out about them the more I liked them though, because aside from cool musicians im multiple bands they are also proud record label owners…let’s quickly dive deeper into that with the trio that makes up More Klementines!

Hi guys, can you please introduce yourselves to the Weirdo Shrine audience?

Kiefer: Hey Jasper, thanks so much for taking an interest in More Klementines. Michael Kiefer here, and I play drums in the band. 

J: This is Jon – I’m the only person in the band not named Mike or Steubs. I play guitar, banjo and lap steel.

Steubs: Esteemed congregants of the Weirdo Shrine, I greet you heartily! I am Steubs, and I play strings, keys, delay, and bells. 

How have you been the past pandemic years? How did you see it affect your musical careers?

J: The pandemic required stepping back and putting things on hold for a bit – in a way it was nice to pull out of the game for a bit and spend time listening and going for walks in the woods. Fortunately, we were able to share ideas and work through new material. One highlight of the pandemic was recording our “sk8 @ yr own rsk” record where we regrouped for an afternoon outside and got to play in my backyard in the fresh air.

Steubs: All that time to play with no real agenda but to try to entertain myself, led to some new ways to hold the instruments, and make happy noise with less of a focus on plucked notes or stacked harmonies. Something about that time led me to seek out lighter ways to make the instrument move the air. Something about melody, harmony or even traditional dissonance seemed to bring the dark quarantine times into unwanted high relief, and finding ways to make the instrument hum, hiss, wobble, and take up new sonic spaces made it seem like I was moving through the time better. 

Kiefer: It definitely afforded me some more time to get back to practicing the rudiments of drumming, while also exploring ways to create new textures around the kit. 

Can you tell me about your band(s)? I have just been listening to the last More Klementines a lot! It’s awesome! But there is more, right?

Kiefer: Thanks so much! Yeah, I also play in a psych duo called Spiral Wave Nomads with Albany, NY’s Eric Hardiman. We’re just about to put out our 3rd LP, Magnetic Sky in November–another co-release with Feeding Tube Records. And Jon and I also play in another outfit called Drifting North. It’s kind of a fresh take on the Cosmic Americana that’s been bubbling up from the American underground the past several years…psychedelic folk tunes and garage rockers that can morph into motorik train beat jammers or freeform meditative folk ragas.

J: Yes. As Mike mentioned, he and I play in another project called Drifting North that includes some heavy hitters from New Haven – we’re moving into recording mode with a batch of songs and jams and hope to put out songs in the coming year and a full record to follow.

Steubs: My recent side project joy has been to play drums with my kid’s band, and to work on some solo sound compositions and try to teach myself about synths.

What can you tell me about the Twin Lakes record label? 

Kiefer: Well, Steubs and I started the label back in 2007, I think when we were still working as a duo called Myty Konkeror

Steubs: Ah yes, I remember it well! We had a lot of friends at the time with tape labels, or self-recorded labels, and it seemed more logical to pursue the music and the distribution on our own terms. The surprising bit, was that as soon as we released anything by ourselves, we were overwhelmed by amazing musicians seeking help to release their music. We’ve always sought to do limited runs, records if possible, and with the band bringing a unique or handmade art design to the table. It feels like, and felt like, even way back then, that to put a physical object into the world, it had to have some love baked in as well as some aesthetic merit. 

Where are you guys from, and how does it affect your music?

Kiefer: Jon and I live just outside of New Haven, CT in Branford/N.Branford, while Steubs lives in Brooklyn. I’m not sure how it affects our music. There’s certainly a lot of great music around the New Haven area, like our friends in the Mountain Movers, Headroom, the C/Site label run by Stefan Christensen, Henry Birdsey, Mercy Choir, Lys Guillorn and many others. Plus other CT artists like Michael Slyne and Fatal Film in New London. Seeing them all continue to keep working and push their creativity in new ways pushes us to keep going and exploring new sounds.

J: Living in the woods of Connecticut near the shore gives the opportunity to listen to the trees, lapping of the water, and drive winding roads while listening back to recordings and mixes. Something about these surroundings permeates the music – it’s kind of a state of mind-  the ebb and flow of the tides that pulls on things and has profound influence in subtle ways.

Steubs: The music scene in and around New Haven, CT is very special, and one of the most underrated deep beds of weirdo-music talent in the U.S. People are caring and real and involved the rest of the community at large. I’m so lucky to know Mike and Jon and to be able to get up there to bang around with these guys, skate with these guys, ride down mountains with these guys and surf with these guys.

I am a NYC native, from the boroughs, and I’ve always had an affinity for the music NYC has produced that has aligned itself with sounding out the uncomfortable and harder parts of NY life in a DIY-way:  New York Hardcore (CroMags, LifesBlood), Crust and Squatter Punk (Nausea, Missing Foundation – Germans who were nevertheless in Tompkins Square Park), No-Wave (8-eyed-spy —- first time I got to read a Byron Coley cassette insert!), that whole scene that Sonic Youth eventually presided over, metal and crossover (Leeway rocks!), etc, etc… there are so many kinds of heavy music bands and players and composers who have been from here, and it’s so humbling  …. so much jazz, noise, beats…John Zorn!, Velvet Underground, SWANS, RUN DMC, KRS-One, Eric B and Rakim, Wu-Tang… it’s made me want to open up to hear so many things, and feel like I always have beginner’s mind when I try to write and perform. 

There is a strong kraut vibe in your music, where did that come from? And who are your kraut rock heroes? 

Kiefer: CAN tops the list for me. Amon Duul II and Neu! are right up there as well. I’ve always loved the repetition and motorik beats that you’d often hear in those bands. I really liked how propulsive and groovy the rhythms could be while also leaving so much room for the songs to open up with interesting, weird textures and sounds. That coupled with the free approach you hear in a lot of that music…to me it represents the joy of discovery in new sounds that I love experiencing with my friends and collaborators.

J: What Kiefer said is exactly what I’d say on this subject.

Steubs: All of that for sure ++ I also spent a lot of time with 90s kraut-rock influenced bands like Th’ Faith Healers uk (still a rhythm/lead guitar north star for me— the opening riff on Imaginary Friend is just so definitive. Not to mention, I took that whole mark chime thing into song into our own last album.) Thank you, Th’ Faith Healers uk. Incidentally, this has been and remains an album I put on during larger gatherings, and people always start clamoring: “What is this record?!? It’s so great!”

I think we try to be respectful about celebrating our love of these bands that take heavy repetition and building freakouts, but we are trying to move to an entirely new place. I think that one of the things we’ve started to explore more and more,  is how you can create the effect of repetition without actually doing it, but instead taking the listener into new places while they think they are hearing repetition. This is almost the opposite of a lot of older psych and krautrock, which would use the repetition to make the same sound unfamiliar. I think we are using heavy music, and playing with dynamics, to make the listener follow us to places that are different and radical, but leaving aspects in place that cushion the giant steps so suddenly what sounded like repetition is doing something totally different.

Who are your favorite contemporary musicians?

Kiefer: Oh man, there are just so many, so I guess I’ll focus on the ones I’ve been listening to most the last couple years. We recently played a gig with Michael Beach at Tubby’s in Kingston, NY, and he just released an EP that confirmed he’s one of the best singer-songrockers out there. The new Elkhorn LP is amazing, and the new Bill Callahan album has been on repeat for me since it came out. I also keep going back to the Myriam Gendron record that came out earlier this year. Oh, and Steubs turned me on to a Curtis Harding record that came out last year that I also revisit a lot. Pretty much anyone on Three Lobed Records…that new Eli Winter record is so good, and I’m always excited when a new Gunn-Truscinski Duo record comes out. Our New Haven buds The Mountain Movers continue to inspire us with each release. Another New Haven artist that blew us away recently is Henry Birdsey’s Old Saw project, specifically his 2021 album Country Tropics

J: I’ve really enjoyed all the music that Rose City Band has been putting out the past few years – very inspirational stuff right there. I’m a huge Steve Gunn fan as well. I’m continually discovering musicians that are long gone such as Amanaz that just blow me away – I seem to have them on continuous play even though I discovered their record from 1975 a few years back. I’m still discovering decades old records by King Tubby and Lee Scratch Perry that pull me in more than anything.

Steubs: Wille Nelson. Bill Frisell. Mitsky. Jim White. Pete Kerlin.

What is the coolest thing you have done so far? And what is still on the bucket list?

Kiefer: Hmm…I’m not sure there’s one coolest thing. We’re just super grateful to have joined bills with some of our favorite artists. We’ve had such a blast sharing bills with bands like Oneida, Howlin Rain and our buds Garcia Peoples. Playing some shows in Europe is definitely on the bucket list.

J: Probably the coolest thing may have to be our first improv gig at Cafe 9 in New Haven – I can’t remember all the details (year, who else was on the bill, etc) but I recall that Steubs played a gamelan and the three of us managed to levitate a few feet off the ground during our 30 minute set. It was one of the most profound musical experiences I’ve had… 

Kiefer: Oh yeah, that gig was amazing. And the fact that we improvised that night was borne more out of necessity than anything else. I remember a couple days before the show Steubs let us know he couldn’t make it, so Jon and I practiced the day before as a two-piece with some rough ideas. But then the day of the show Steubs let us know that he could make it and would just jump in and improvise. I think Jon and I started out the set with whatever approach we had prepared for, but then the set just sort of took on a weird, beautiful life of its own. That show definitely gave us the confidence to keep improvising, and I’m not sure if we’ve written any structured songs since, with the exception of “Key of Caesar.”

Steubs: Getting older and having these two buddies to bang around with is the coolest thing. It’s like that lyric from ‘boogie chillen’: “Let that boy boogie-woogie/cause it’s in him, and it got to come out.” That’s music for me- I don’t have a choice. It’s weird stuff, not universally appealing, and if I could have chosen, I’d probably have chosen to play more popular and profitable sounds. But these dudes and I find some peace and release in playing this noise out of ourselves together—wherever it might originate from. Having a handful of people that seem interested in listening to the noise we make is just gravy. 

Kiefer: Yeah…that’s definitely the coolest thing for sure. 

What are your immediate future plans? 

Kiefer: We do have one gig on the horizon that we’re excited about. We’ll be playing the I Heart Noise Festival on December 10 in Williamsburg at Pete’s Candy Store with some other artists we love, like Wet Tuna, Jim White & Marisa Anderson, Solilians, Skyjelly, and I Feel Tractor. We can’t wait!

Aside from that, we just wanna continue getting together when time allows and jam. We’re all great friends and we feel really lucky that our bonds go beyond the personal connections we have. We have this deep musical connection that allows us to converse in our own language not studied, but fluently spoken and all our own. So we’re looking forward to more of that! 

J: I’m about to eat some fresh from the oven apple crisp made from hand-picked macouns. One of the best things about autumn in New England. Don’t forget the scoop of vanilla ice-cream to cool it off!

Steubs: I’ve gotta catch up on a few late parking tickets, and we’re almost out of dog food at home, so I’ll probably head out to the store in a few minutes.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after this interview?

    Eat More Klementines!