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Review + Q&A: Morrison Graves- Division Rising (2022, Self-released)

It’s the most depressing time of the year. Next week it will be blue Monday, the day the most people in this world feel down and out. It is the perfect setting for Morrison Graves‘ gloomy doom rock. On their debut Division Rising they perfectly channel early dark post punk like Echo and the Bunnymen, modern psychedelic rock like The Black Angels, and early psychedelica like The Doors (what’s in a name?). The album is a concept studio effort challenging the topic of gentrification and the woes of modern capitalism. That may all sound heavy and without any fun, but luckily these guys write some killer songs.

The best example is probably Demolition Man, a subdued rocker that rings a bit like The Black Angels’ Currency but bleaker and with a delightful gothic undertone that would also appeal to fans of Woven Hand or Roadburn darlings Grave Pleasures. Another favorite is the atmospheric A Puppet Dance, with a chorus that will haunt you in your sleep for many nights…

It is quite unbelievable that Morrison Graves was conceived as a studio only project, with no intentions of hitting the stage any time soon because the album is a living, breathing thing. An album that projects images of smokey basement stages and shoegazed dancing by black clad audiences. It is definitely a perfect album for these unjoyous times after the holidays, but I am delighted that they released it so the feeling becomes a shared experience, and one with a perfect soundtrack.

I wrote this Portland, Oregon threesome without any expectations or premeditation. I just liked their music. To my surprise they insisted to all collaborate on the interview, and it became a cool joint effort, shedding some light on all three their perspectives. So without further ado, here’s Gary Jimmerson, Ryan Brown, and Rob Bartleson about their studio project Morrison Graves

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

Gary: I’m good, thanks for asking. The past couple of years have been rewarding, despite the isolation. I’ve been learning to play guitar (historically I’m a drummer), and focusing on songwriting. I’ve always wanted to release music on vinyl, so I was fortunate enough to rope Rob and Ryan into this project to make that happen. It’s a milestone for me to say the least.

Rob:  Unfortunately, working in music every day does not allow me to do my own creative things as often as I’d like.  Doing Morrison Graves with Gary has been a very welcome break from the day to day, and I’m very proud of how it turned out.

Ryan:  I’m doing really well. Currently, I’m working with a couple of different musicians on an industrial project (on top of working hard with Gary and Rob putting this album together), so this year has been incredibly fruitful musically.  I know that the pandemic period was very hard for many, but for me they were the most productive musical years I have experienced.  I lost my job 3 different times, so I spent all of that time making music holed up in my house.

Can you introduce yourselves?

Gary (multi-instrumentalist): I’m the founder of the project. I’ve been entrenched in the sounds of “psych rock” for the past several years, and decided I needed to make a similarly-themed album. I now live about 90 miles outside of Portland, Oregon, which is home to an incredible music scene, and most of my friends. Inspired by small-town boredom, I started demoing songs in my home, while shamelessly soliciting help to make the songs better. Rob is a close friend of about 20 years now, and is an incredible studio engineer and bass player. I knew right away that he would be an integral part of the project. Ryan is my best friend from high school, and has a powerful voice that I knew would be perfect for these songs. Miraculously, they both agreed to help out.

Rob (bass + engineer): I’ve been the owner of Haywire recording for over 2 decades now and have worked in music my entire life.  I’ve also toured extensively as a bass player, and that is how I met Gary, at a show in Montana in March of 2000.

Ryan (vocals):  I have been involved in music most of my life as well, in many different veins. I recently moved back to Portland after a six year hiatus with the intent of actualizing my dream of being in a band.  The last place that I lived was amazingly beautiful, but the music scene there was lacking in many respects.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Gary: I am a self-taught musician. I started playing drums in middle school, jamming to The Cure and Nirvana. In high school, I played mostly in Dischord-influenced punk bands. In the early 2000s, I played drums in an instrumental post-rock band from Missoula, MT called This is a Process of a Still Life. In the mid-2000s, I played drums/vibes/keys in an electronic influenced indie band from Portland, OR called Small Sails. Those years were all about jumping in a van with your pals and criss-crossing the US. I then took a hiatus from music through most of the 2010s to establish a career as an ER veterinarian. It was really hard to play drums in apartments, and I didn’t really have the mental time/strength to play. But once I graduated from school, it wasn’t long until I was back at it.

Rob:  I started off in 3rd grade as a jazz musician playing alto saxophone.  When I was 16, one of my best friends (David Devery) needed a bass player so I talked my mom into buying me a bass. David & I went on to form Slackjaw, along with Joey Prude & Eric Schopmeyer, who are both guests on the Morrison Graves album.  Slackjaw went on to record 6 albums, and extensively tour the United States, playing over 400 shows.  I also have toured and recorded with the bands The Exhale and Southerly.

Ryan:  I started studying classical piano in the 4th grade, and started singing in choirs in middle school.  My high school choir teacher was one of the most influential people in my life, so I decided to get my undergraduate degree in music education — so I could follow in her footsteps.  That pushed me to continue studying classical piano and classical singing throughout university, and I taught myself to play guitar and bass over those years, too.  Not having any musicians to really work with over the pandemic, I sat down in front of a drum kit for the first time and taught myself some elementary drums, to have something to record and write on top of.  Playing drums feels amazing… even when you suck at it!!  I also spent those isolated years deep diving into production by watching mastering engineers divulge their depth of knowledge in Youtube videos.  It’s amazing how much one can progress by themselves, both in playing and knowledge, by studying online.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

Gary: My life is fucking great right now. I walk our dog for about 1.5hr while listening to music on my headphones. Eventually, I’ll cook up some bad-ass food with a beer in hand, and watch the day fold into night with my wonderful partner. Often we listen to the rain on our Oregon rooftop, or spin a record, as the day comes to a close. There are many dog belly rubs involved! I feel very fortunate to have that roof over my head, warm food on the table, and the bandwidth to have a luxury like music in my life. I work as an ER veterinarian which requires long shifts and a lot of weekends/nights, so most of my creative time is done on days off when my partner is at work. I don’t envy anyone who lives with a drummer/blossoming guitarist! I get a lot of days off, which is rad. Oregon is rad.

Rob:  Although I have my misgivings in life, I’m proud to say that most days in my life I do not have to get up before noon!  I work in rock & roll, so that’s the goal right?  Days off don’t exist for me because there is so much crazy shit going on in my life. At some point, I’d like to work on that and simplify it, but for now that is my reality.

Ryan:  I work as few days a week as I can (as a server), making just enough money to squeeze by so that I can make as much music as I can on my days off.  

What is the best thing about Division Rising?

Gary: I particularly love the subject matter of the album. Division Rising is a concept album about homelessness, gentrification, displacement, and socio-economic gaps. All very timely problems. Even the band and album names are based on this subject matter. Division Street (PDX) keeps going skyward, while class divisions rise. Morrison/Belmont (and other streets) are turning into condo graves. Our cities are on fire.

Rob: I’m going to completely agree with Gary on the subject matter. The album didn’t start out with that as a goal, but I’m glad it went in that direction.  Also as an engineer, I’m very happy with how experimental we were able to be with all of the sounds, especially the drum sounds. Gary: oh my, the Studer tape compression on Bent Beyond the Break is so good!

Ryan:  Finally finishing something. Anything!!  Lol!  My computer is filled with unfinished tracks….tons of them!  AND working with your best friend.  Gary was my closest person in high school, and we’ve worked on music together in many different configurations over the years.  So getting to come back together once again, after a long time away from one another, to create something of this scope was incredibly special.

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

Gary: Rob and Ryan will have better responses for you. I live in Corvallis, OR – a small university town with a pretty vacant music scene. Thankfully, there is a small punk collective here, but not much outside that. A few dad bands, some singer-songwriters, cover bands, etc, typical small town stuff. Portland, Oregon speaks for itself.

Rob: Portland, OR.  Where else is there in the US? We have this locked down in Portland.  The average artist’s grip on P-town may be experiencing some hardships, but right now, we’re still doing amazingly well compared to the rest of the US.  The rest of the world?  Well, we can have a different conversation about that.

Ryan:  Like I mentioned before I just moved back to Portland, OR. I moved back specifically for the music scene here. It does not disappoint in that respect. This city is brimming with artistic creativity of all types. It feels raw here. Unhinged.  Feral.

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

Gary: Morrison Graves was started as an avenue to make studio albums with friends, with a focus on sound design and studio techniques. Rob is a wizard at that stuff. Then release it on vinyl! I’ve learned over the last few years that music is an integral fabric of my existence, so it appears that I will always need an outlet.

Rob: I definitely like the sound of complete artistic expression.  Gary has pushed me creatively into an area that was new, and I feel like the result of it was pretty damn cool.

Ryan:  For me, music making is about personal exploration and growth.  Having grown up submerged in classical training, I have such an incredible foundation of technique, which has served me in so many different ways. But it also was my biggest hindrance — in that it’s so structured and formulaic.  The first time I started genuinely loving music was when I started writing my own songs, but I ran into many barriers with it because of all of that training. It really got in the way of having my own voice and expression. That’s what happens when you spend so much time learning the “proper” and “correct” way to do this and that. I have spent much of the past years breaking down those structures to find myself musically.   It’s been incredibly rewarding, and also very challenging, finding myself in it all.  It’s a continual work in progress.

Who are your influences, all time and contemporary? 

Gary: I absolutely love the garage/psych/fuzz rock from the late 60s. Some classic favorites are: The Seeds, The Eyes, Les Problemes, The Litter, The Blues Magoos, Electric Banana (Pretty Things secret project), Syd Barrett, and Billy Nicholls. Some contemporary influences are: Temples, Black Angels, Night Beats, Babe Rainbow, The Mystery Lights, Levitation Room, The Lazy Eyes, Wine Lips, etc. Radiohead and Blonde Redhead are all-time favorites for me. We recently had a vinyl release party where Joey Prude spun some pretty awesome wax. That list is below if you’re interested.

Rob:  Lately I’ve been getting into bands like Black Angels, and Crumb. Always been into old school psych like Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd. Some of my all time favorite bands are The Cure, Blonde Redhead, Afghan Whigs & the Replacements. I’ve always had somewhat of an obsession with Icelandic bands like Kaelan Mikla, Sigur Ros, & Bjork. I’ll also give a shout out to my favorite (and the best) Portland band ever, (as an influence for my distorted bass sounds):  Thirty Ought Six.

Ryan:  I grew up listening to my dad’s records. The Beatles were the first band I fell in love with, along with Led Zeppelin and Cat Stevens.  The Beatles always blew my mind because of the scope of their writing abilities and their exploration and evolution as musicians over the years.  Radiohead was also a band that blew my mind for a very same reason.  I also feel such a pull towards The Beatles and Radiohead because their music is so rich sonically.  One of my favorite composers to play growing up was Debussy – I loved his concept of tone painting where tone was like paint on a canvas that conveyed meaning and emotion through the imagery that it evoked.  Those two bands really excel at that, which is very difficult to do. 

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

Gary: I have about 8 demos started for the second record. Ryan is coming down soon to start messing around with vocal ideas. I have a lot of drum parts to write! Hopefully we can start recording those songs sometime later this year. We are also in discussions about whether or not to try this thing out as a live show. I have no idea what we will settle on for that. I also want to start a garage rock recording project. 

Rob:  We have many requests coming in to make this a live band too, and I’d be up for it, but we’d have to figure out one other person to make it happen of course. 

Ryan:  Be in a rock’n’roll band.  Stay in that band!

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

Gary: Go walk your dog, scratch your cat’s ears, and/or cook someone dinner. And listen to some of those late 60’s songs/bands you are unfamiliar with. Obviously The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin were smashing out worthwhile classics, but that era is deep with incredible music.

Rob:  Let’s all try to do the best we can to help solve the issues brought up by the lyrical material in this album. It won’t be easy, but change is always anything but that.

Ryan:  Pursue your dreams.  Enjoy your life.  Because it seems to pass by quicker and quicker as the time goes on.

Review + Q&A: Black Toska- Dandelions EP (2022, self-released)

When renowned Seattle radio station KEXP sings their praise about you and Gallon Drunk‘s James Johnston does your artwork you know you are doing something right. Madrid’s Black Toska plays their “bluesy, goth-tinged post-punk” (-KEXP’s Don Yates’ words) with a theatrical performance that reminds of Woven Hand, Money For Rope, and Wailin Storms. In fact, they have the songs and the presence to stand among those names as equals.

Black Toska’s sound is very atmospheric. It has that serial killer blues vibe that should get them on the next Peaky Blinders soundtrack. The galloping drums, the threatening subdued songwriting style, and the caustic vocals all paint a haunting picture. This is a band you should probably see in black and white, in a sweat soaked bar somewhere rural, with too much whiskey and endless beer bottles flying all around.

Dandelions is a terrific calling card for them, but at fifteen minutes it is of course not even remotely satisfying. Let’s hope they are working their dark magic on new material, because with everything happening in the world right now it could sure use some soundtracking by Black Toska.

Victor of Black Toska

I spoke to Victor of Black Toska, the vocalist of the band. We talked about the difficulties of being an underground band in Spain, and the endless strife for new inspiration. Lucky for us, it seems that we have not seen the last of them.

How are you? How have the past year(s) been for you as musicians?

I guess we cannot complain. Black Toska was born in 2017 so it is a project that maybe it is in its best possible moment after these years of work. I think that for us, as musicians, Black Toska means a period of great artistic maturity and development. 

Can you introduce yourselves?

Nowadays Black Toska are: Diego Fernández (guitar) , Jorge Fernández (bass) , Miguel Ángel Santos (drums) & Víctor García (vocals)

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

To talk about our musical background it is to talk about decades of curiosity and sometimes a compulsory search into styles and genres. The four of us have some cultural backgrounds in common but we have also our own past paths.

If we also take into account that there are two past members Hélène Caulfield (bass) and Jesús Vallejos (drums) and that they helped to build the foundations of what Black Toska is, our musical background can be as wide as the music can be. 

What does a regular day in your life look like?

A day in our lifes it is just another day in life. We are just parents, sons, lovers, friends…just people. We have needs and hopes, sorrows and pains. Anything really special.

What is the best thing about Dandelions?

The best about Dandelions it is that we did it. We gave life to these songs and now they are something real, they have an own existence and unlike us, they can be eternal. 

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

We live in Spain. Black Toska is based in Madrid.

Black Toska is a band from the underground, we follow our own ways down the surface. So it is difficult to fix Black Toska in a particular environment. We have the support of a bunch of people, creative lovely people who share with us a common point of view and help Black Toska to survive in different ways.

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

Definitely both. It is not possible to separate both, don’t you think so? Humans express ourselves through art and we do so to redefine life and existence . And how do we humans do so?  We escape from life and our daily routines to create a space to express artistically. 

Who are your influences, all time and contemporary? 

There is no a list of influences or particular artists that we can write down. 

Our songs are solid pieces of bluesy, goth-tinged post-punk. These are not my words, Don Yates from KEXP wrote them a few years ago. Brief and accurate, I could not describe it better myself. 

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

We have no plans at all. We are blessed to have a way to express ourselves through Black Toska and that’s all that we will do. 

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

Well, I am not going to be the one to say…  But if they would like to give a chance to our little songs, we will really appreciate it. Means a lot.

I would like to extend our gratitude to you for giving me the chance to talk about Black Toska. Thanks so much. 

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: Opossum Sun Trail- Mojave/Klamath (2022, Echodelick Records)

We are out in the Mojave desert, a rocky and dry place with the characteristic Joshua Trees throwing their silhouettes on the barren grounds. Somewhere far out in that deserted area, away from the occasional tourist or drug weirdos, a trio of musicians is channeling their surroundings. Vibing on the pale desert floor, the stern rocks and the worn trees they play a music that could have only sprung here. This is Mojave, the first side of the new album by Opossum Sun Trail.

For you can hear the American-ness oozing out of Opossum Sun Trail, channeling Cash, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and more modern bands like Reverend Horton Heat or Woven Hand but there are a more ancient roots showing too. Somewhere in this weird hodgepodge of psychedelic rock ‘n roll styles there is a basis of profound respect for the earth, its environment, and its previous peoples as well. Without any trouble they drop their twang-y noise making to explore the mystical side of the desert, brooding, still, as if they are listening to the night and emulating the sounds it makes.

The second part of the album is called Klamath, and it was recorded in the Klamath mountains of California. It is a forest-y area, extremely rugged, and lowly populated. OST’s music reflects this environment as well, at times pushing their jams to mountain wall proportions, and at other times bringing it down to serene mountain lake reflection. Singer Nola’s voice shines on this side, in a beautiful shamanic lament.

It is a beautiful, interesting, and versatile journey that we are asked to join by Opossum Sun Trail. The songs never linger too long, and before you know it the band is showing you a completely different vista, in that way they made me think of a wilderness guide showing me all the cool places of his surroundings. I am a lover of nature and hiking, but OST does not require it, you can perfectly enjoy the journey in your most comfortable chair without leaving the house, and let them show you the beauty of Mojave and Klamath.

I talked to Michael Dieter about his band, how the record came into being and the trio’s musical background. This is what he said:

Hi guys, how are you these days? And how have you been during the pandemic?

We are doing well! Nola and I spent a lot of time boondocking in the desert in our 1999 Ford Econoline during the early part of the pandemic, and then eventually moved up north to the woods. Our drummer John spent this time in Los Angeles.

Can you introduce yourselves? What are your musical backgrounds?

My name is Dieter, I’ve spent a lot of time playing pretty diverse types of music and instruments including jazz, country, afro-beat, funk, psych, salsa, etc… I think we all are very eclectic which is why our music is probably so all over the place haha. John Daren Thomas was a percussion performance major in school and has also played in a diverse variety of projects. Nola has a lot of experience doing eastern european and afro-cuban acapella music as well as singing jazz before jumping on keys for this project. 

What can you tell me about the beginning of Opossum Sun Trail? How did you find each other and decide on the music?

It started as a home recording project in 2009 or so and I’d just kinda layer instruments and play everything. I quickly started to incorporate other musicians. I don’t think a live show happened until 2015, and that was also the first year we released any music. it wasn’t until this last record where we are playing live as a band on the recorded music with minimal overdubs. 

It seems to me that the music is very much influenced by your cultural background and the environment, right? The Mojave desert? What can you tell me about that? 

The music has always been influenced by desert type of vibes and of course Ennio Morricone and his western soundtracks are a huge influence. We are really drawn to the sparseness of that environment and I think that comes through in the tunes. 

The abbreviation OST makes one think of Original Sound Track, was that intentional? What is your relation to movies and soundtracks?

That OST thing was not intentional, but I wish it was! It’s a nice coincidence since the music is written with a cinematic approach. A lot of pieces are short. Texture is often a focus. We’d be thrilled to work with someone making a film someday and provide a soundtrack. 

What can you tell me of the album, or are they albums? They are two separate entities, right?

They are two sides of one album, about 20 minutes each. There are recurring motifs, chord structures and tonalities for each side. I think they could stand on their own but end up together for the sake of a vinyl release. The first side was written in the vast Mojave desert of southern California and the second side was written in the twisted Klamath mountains of northern California. We tried to let the depth and extremes of the landscapes inform the music. I’m not sure how well that came through but that was our intent.

Recording in the Mojave desert

Can you tell me any stories from writing and recording the album? You guys out there in nature? It’s very different from any other recordings I reckon 🙂

When we started writing, Nola and I were out in the Mojave Preserve boondocking like I said. This was early covid after returning from a Baja, Mexico road trip. We would isolate for a few weeks until we ran out of food and then drive a hundred miles each way for more supplies. During this time we’d work on writing music for the Mojave side. 

The Klamath side was written in rural northern California, a drastically different landscape, much more dense and dark. We ended up rehearsing both sides with the aid of solar panels in Death Valley in the spring of 2021. We picked up John and practiced with him for a few days in LA before heading up to record with Tim Green in Grass Valley, CA. Our friend Anthony Taibi, a former bandmate of mine in White Manna, added a few tasteful samples throughout the recording as well. 

What are your future plans? And how about your other bands and projects?

I’m headed back to the Mojave desert pretty soon where I work seasonally as a soil scientist. Nola and I are looking to eventually get a cool spot to set up for recording, maybe get a garden going. We just finished a tour, but hope to get some more short runs going in the near future. Nola and I also have a pared-down twangy, cosmic Americana duo project that we do shows with called Landers Drifters. John’s always up to random music things like drumming and drum tech gigs for all sorts of different LA projects. Plans are pretty loose at the moment but we have our goals!

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

Go camping! 


Review + Q&A: Staraya Derevnya- Boulder Blues (2022, Ramble Records)

Weird. The word has gotten a certain negative connotation about it over the years. Like standing out and being different from the group is a bad thing. Here at Weirdo Shrine we do not think so. We worship the weird. The dare devils. The genuine weirdos that proudly wear their weirdness on their sleeves. Relish it, push it, twist it and turn it, not resting until minds are boggled and skin is crawled. Boulder Blues is doing all that and more. This is some weird shit, and boy is it good.

There is little you can do to prepare you for what Staraya Derevnya has on offer for your ears. The international collective creates songs telling strange stories with vocals but without words. Well, not words that are found in any language any way. At times they are pure “dada”, kicking your shin anti art style. But once you are fully immersed and over their initial edginess there is a whole world of depth opening up, revealing truly undiscovered places. The German sound pioneers Can come to mind, the way they always went for the original groove, and put everything in its service, human vocals included. But if possible, band leader Gosha Shtasel’s vocals are even more unhinged and “free” than Damo Suzuki’s. He repeats his fantasy incantations to full on hypnotism, guiding the listener into a trance leading to nobody knows where…you’ll have to find out for yourself.

The music is a blend of anything the groove needs to get going, a bit of jazz, a bit of underground blues, some freakish folk, a touch of kraut…but never an imitation, always at most just an echo of something you ever heard before. True weirdness then. A thing to be cherished. I wish you all a very open third eye when you dig in. Don’t give up easily, and Staraya Derevnya will show you places you did not know existed.

Steraya Derevna

We talked to band leader Gosha Shtasel about his strange collective, because it really is worth ask questions about. Here is what he had to say…

How are you doing these days?

Just released a new record and played in Cafe Oto and Supernormal festival. Enjoyed every moment of it!

Can you introduce your band and tell me more about why you started it?

We went through various stages, being a live band, then a studio project, then a live band again. Over the years many people came and went, but I feel that the current lineup is truly like-minded. They also happen to be some of the kindest and most talented people I know.

Where are you from and how did it influence your music do you think?

I was born in Ukraine, grew up in Israel and moved to the UK in 2000. I would say it had hardly any influence on our music. 

I am sorry to say I could not really make much of the lyrics, which language are they in and what are you singing about?

There’s a mix of Russian and a made up language. It is more about loose associations and intonations than “a message” or “a meaning”. Therefore, I think listening to the music will give a much better understanding than a literal translation.

I have to say Boulder Blues is really something else, it is unlike anything I ever heard before. Sometimes the vocals and music are really quite out there, and made me think of a theatric production, perhaps a puppet play 😉 Do you have a theater background or do you recognize this influence?

Not me personally, although many of my friends are involved with theatre. We try not to pay much attention to genre boundaries and just do what feels right. Saying that, we try very hard (with various degrees of success) not to sound “melodramatic” or “theatrical”. 

Will there be visuals to accompany the music in the future? I think that would really fit!

For us, the music and visuals are interconnected. Like the two dimensions of what we do. It is less obvious when listening to the album, but becomes more apparent at the live shows. 

It made me think of Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits or Mike Patton at times, what music were you influenced by?

Everyone in the band has their own, very distinct influences, but since I do the mixing, mine are more obvious 🙂 

What happens when you create music? 

The recording is fast, usually quite intense and mostly improvised. The mixing/editing stage is a complete opposite – slow and meticulous. 

Zone Six- Beautiful EP (re-release 2022. Sulatron Records)

A long time ago, in December 1997 to be precise, a couple of gifted musicians found each other and started jamming. They jammed for hours and hours, and decided that they would name themselves Zone Six. At that time the band consisted of a couple of ex-Liquid Vision members (Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, Hans-Peter Ringholz, and Claus Bühler), a keyboard player named Rusty, and an amazing female singer from Australia by the name of Jodi Barry. The EP pretty much revolves around her Portishead-like story telling, while the band anticipates and weaves its patterns of psychedelic triphop jamming.

The EP starts off with Something’s Missing, a mysteriously spiraling thing, that strangely resonates the lyrics “Beautiful” throughout its ten minute haze. Jodi Barry’s vocals are of a mystique subdued beauty that fits the mystery. The lyrics forbode the next song Beautiful, which is a twelve minute triphop piece revolving around Jodi Barry telling her creeped out story about Jack and Jill. It is quite a different piece to anything Zone Six did before or after, but that’s also the cool thing about it. It makes you wonder what this amazing vocalist did after Zone Six, apparently she moved back to Australia but I cannot find anything else…

I guess it is a fitting final mystery for this hazy little gem, which will be released on “beautiful” green vinyl by Sulatron Records. An obligatory buy for later krautrock completist to say the least.

Review + Q&A: tAngerinecAt- Glass (2022, self-released)

While the album was written well before it began, Glass by the UK based duo tAngerinecAt seems in everything to breathe the caustic anxiety and darkness of the current war in Ukraine. Glass shatters to the floor throughout the album on more than one occasion, symbolizing destruction and death, while the eerie post-goth atmosphere on the album smells of bombed buildings and cities emptied of all humanity.

It’s not so strange that an album by tAngerinecAt would have a Ukrainian vibe, both members Eugene and Paul have strong ties to the country having either been born there or lived there for a long time. They have also toured the country and region extensively. Vocalist Eugene has a distinctive accent when he sings, which gives the album its character.

The music is very hard to pinpoint exactly, but it balances somewhere on a tightrope between electronic goth dance like Anne Clark, dark ritualistic music, dark action movie music, and absolute self-minded avantgarde art rock. The main atmosphere is quite bleak, but there is also room to dance, to ponder, and most of the songs are actually quite catchy.

Glass is a unique experience, and an album with a strong urgency and feel for current times. Adventurous minds are highly recommended to take a peek…

Once again, I had the pleasure of talking to Paul and Eugene. I just had to ask them about Glass and the connection to current events. This is what they said:

-The album feels strongly like a concept album, can you describe what glass, and especially the breaking of glass represents for you? What is the overall feeling you got when creating the album?

Paul: The concept for Glass came after we created Something Broke Inside. In this song we used a breaking glass sound that we had recorded while smashing a bottle on a stone floor. The concept of shattered glass fragments came to represent Eugene’s story of struggling to survive, heal and thrive. 

Eugene: Glass is a human’s life and self shattered into shards. Every song on the album is a different story and like another razor-sharp shard of glass.

Each track is saturated with different, sometimes contradictory, feelings. But the general background could be described with the words (translated by us) of the Ukrainian poet Vasyl Stus:

You were raised on rage. Now

You won’t find peace from it,

It will grow and grow, until

The prison doors fall.

I feel like his words echo the lines from the last song of the album Spell. This incantation is the essence of protection and solidarity, glorifying the survivors of state persecution, war, famine, severe trauma, repression, and other forms of ghastly suffering:

Not to burn in the fire

Nor freeze in the chill

Nor be soaked in the rain

Nor lost in the fog

To see in the dark

Like a bird take flight

And not to die.

-Having strong ties to The Ukraine, I can imagine you have strong feelings about the invasion and the ongoing war, what have been your experiences so far? Do you have a lot of contact with people there still?

Paul: I have been in contact daily with a number of friends and have been emotional very involved. I got up at 5am every day to check my messages to see if everyone was alive. Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to reply to people who are literally sheltering from bombs. I have been following the travels of my friends who have left the country or have been internally displaced. I try to be as much help and encouragement as I can. My friends asked me to be on watch for them because there was fighting very close to their house. We agreed they would contact me at 12 noon every day. If they didn’t contact me I had a list of emergency numbers to call so I could tell rescuers where they are located and how many people are there. Thankfully they are in a safer place now, but they had to evacuate from their home and move to another part of the country.

Eugene: I have family and friends in Ukraine. Some of them are refugees now and some are still in Ukraine and their towns are being bombed right now. One photographer that took photos of LGBTQ and anarchist protest actions that I attended in Kyiv was recently killed by Russians. I was devastated back in 2014 when Russia first attacked Ukraine and I expected that they would go further but of course I always hoped that it wouldn’t happen so this was the most terrible news for me and I feel like all my life has changed since. It’s especially painful to see photos of what was once dear to you totally destroyed and awful images of mutilated civilians, and hear about mass raping of women and children.

-Personally it mostly made me feel very helpless. Do you have any suggestions what people should do that would be helpful to the situation? 

Paul: First of all, I would like to say not to make things worse. I have seen people spreading slander and propaganda against Ukrainians. I will never forgive them for that. Ukrainians often felt abandoned by the whole world and even now when there has been a lot of media coverage they are still fighting alone against the Russian invasion. They need NATO to close the sky over Ukraine or at least aircraft to defend themselves, and this is what they are asking for constantly. 

Eugene: Ukrainians are fighting fiercely and they can’t lose. But it’s at a great cost and there is a possibility that Russia could also attack other bordering countries, so I agree with Paul. And the world definitely needs to put tougher sanctions on Russia, otherwise we can expect worldwide terrorism connected to energy dependence on Russia who are trying to reach their imperialist goals threatening the world with nuclear weapons. 

-Will the conflict (War-ed.) have a great influence on yourselves as a person or on the band as a vehicle for your feelings and thoughts?

Paul: It has definitely changed things. There has been a long shadow looming for sometime but still I never expected the scale of what happened or the amount of indiscriminate war crimes by Russian soldiers against civilians and soldiers alike. A lot of people in UK have shown their solidarity with Ukraine but many surprisingly haven’t and there has also been a lot of propaganda directed against Ukrainians. I was also shocked by both the lack of reaction and total lack of empathy from Russians and by how many actually wholeheartedly support the destruction of Ukraine. After this it isn’t possible to just go back to how things were. It really made me realise who my friends are.

Eugene: It’s a war, not a conflict. In a conflict there is equal responsibility between the two parties involved. But there is only one outside aggressor and it’s Russia. Protest against Russian imperialism and genocide of Ukrainians has always been integral to our music. I wrote poetry against Russian imperialism from ten years old. We searched for witnesses and interviewed Ukrainians who were in Gulags. After and because of one of these interviews tAngerinecAt was born. Also there are a lot witnesses from my family. So, it’s always been something very personal for me and it is a central theme to all our creations. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much solidarity in the UK, and this speaks of how little people know about the part of the world where I was born and raised and we need the voices of Ukrainians to finally be heard. Of course, isolation, lack of solidarity, silencing and even hate on the grounds of my nationality lead to re-traumatization and this made our music even «darker». Despite all the tracks on Glass being written before the full scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, it could be called a prelude to the catastrophe that we now face and in some way a prediction of it. There is a track called Hereafter. It has a more global context but was produced recently under the shadow of feelings about impending war. We wanted to call it Forthcoming originally.

Eugene Purpurovsky and Paul Chilton

Studio Report: Giöbia

Sometimes you just have to be bold. So when I saw my Facebook friend Melissa Crema was in the studio with her band (and one of my personal favorites) Giöbia, I couldn’t help contacting her. She has been the driving force of these Italians behind the keyboard, and to my absolute delight she was willing to answer my questions and even add some pictures. The result is a cool “look over the shoulder” of these great psych artists while they do their thing recording the new album and unveiling some details about one of the albums I most look forward to in 2023…

Hi guys, how have you been this pandemic period?

Even though the last two years of pandemic have been very stressful because of the lack of gigs, we managed to take advantage of the bad situation to work on new songs, so that our upcoming album will be ready to be released next year. On October last year we also released a split album with The Cosmic Dead on Heavy Psych Sounds. We have never stopped making music and we can say most of the time music gave us the strength to go on.

Melissa Crema in the studio

What are the current studio plans? Is everything written? Do you leave room for improv?

We are currently finalizing the new album recordings in our third studio session. For what concerns the songs we have composed and worked on so far, we have already recorded drums, guitars, bass and organs, so right now only the vocals are missing before having everything properly set for mixing. By the way, like we did in our last albums with the songs Heart of Stone and Sun Spectre, the upcoming one as well will feature some studio improvisations. We do have a natural inclination to jam, it is something we really love to do. Besides the recordings, recently we have received several proposals for gigs and festivals, so now we are focusing both on the new songs and the rehearsals in order to hit the road soon.

Melissa Crema recording

Is there a big difference in writing and recording compared to your last record Plasmatic Idol?

One of the differences between the previous albums and the upcoming one is that now we are recording in a new studio, called Elfo Studio, based in Piacenza, Italy. We are working closely with a very competent technical staff which has been helping us to make the most of our instruments and gear. We are really happy about this and satisfied with the sound of the songs we are working on. Unlike “Plasmatic Idol” the new album will sound rawer, I mean less sophisticated and more straightforward, so that the songs will be very impactful for the listener.

Drummer Pietro D’ambrosio recording

What are the lyrical themes?

The lyrics reflect the strange period we have been living, with all the frustration it brought into our lives so far. We are used to put in music our feelings and this is what we did this time too – disorientation and confusion may blur vision, but they may also be inspiring somehow. The listeners who sharpen their ears will also notice some references to the war in our songs, being that we could not remain indifferent to the what is happening in Ukraine and our hearts ache for all those who are involved.

The band in the studio

Around what time is the album going to be finished? And which label will it be on?

We plan to finalize the new album before summer and to release it at the beginning of 2023 on Heavy Psych Sounds. It is still too early to unveil the precise date, however you will hear from us soon… stay tuned 🙂

What are your plans after recording? What is your ultimate goal for Giöbia?

Our ultimate goal is to leave a lasting mark with our music, which is our lifeblood. Our priority and what we care most about besides the recordings is to start playing again like we did before the pandemic, touring abroad and meeting old and new fans and friends. We miss the contact with people and standing on the stage in front of the crowd – that’s a unique and invaluable feeling. Our next stops will be Sideral Fest, Heavy Psych Sounds Fests in Winterthur and Salzburg, Volcano Sessions and Saalepartie. Please come and join us!

Guitarist Stefano Basurto recording

Any other projects you’re working on?

Another project we are working on is La Morte Viene Dallo Spazio. The guitar player and I we also play in this band with which we released our second album called Trivial Visions on Svart Records in March 2021, in the middle of the pandemic. We can say Giöbia and La Morte Viene Dallo Spazio run on two parallel tracks, as with this band as well we are recording the new album and getting ready for several gigs and festivals.

Crows- Beware Believers (2022 Bad Vibrations Records)

“Broken things let the light in”, and “I know that everything hurts, but I know that everything can heal”. Just two phrases from the new album Beware Believers by London dark post punkers Crows that show that no matter how dark, dense, and pounding these tunes may sound, there is actual light shining through the cracks of these leather vests.

Make no mistake, Crows so far have been the big brutish brother of bands like Fontaines DC and The Murder Capital, but slightly more goth. They still are a bunch of eyeliner wearing Donny Darkos, but on their second outlet Crows they have not shied away from writing some killer hooks into their heavy post punk dirges. This time around there might be an extra spoon of Interpol-ish songwriting to add to their modern post punk raucous.

And then there is the light at the end of the tunnel that they have written into their angry bitter music. It’s this glimmer of hope in songs like Healing and Room 156 that makes it perfect post pandemic music. It’s music made in a long dark tunnel, but it finally sees a way out in the end.

Can’t wait to celebrate the end of the tunnel with them on a stage nearby soon…