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Review + Q&A: 10-20 Project – Snakes Go Dark To Soak In The Sun (2023, Echodelick Records/We Here Now Records/Worst Bassist Records/The Weird Beard)

Music is a universal language, but to speak it anywhere universally is a different thing. For 10-20 Project to be a psychedelic jam unit in their country of Tunisia in Northern Africa is a complete world apart from any similar band in a regular city in Europe or North America. Even apart from the political turmoil in the country you can imagine this to be true.

For me music is just music most of the time, and especially these kind of instrumental jams. However, there is a completely different spirit haunting over 10-20 Project‘s sounds. More than anything I have heard this year so far this jam session called Snakes Go Dark To Soak In The Sun is a ritual celebration of pure unadulterated freedom. The use of saxophone and didgeridoo strengthens this ancient ritualistic feel, as if you were present at a wild shamanistic dance in the desert around a gigantic fire.

Playing the music they play does not feel like killing some time or shooting the shit, it feels like an act of rebellion, and a cry for freedom. Hell, even from my own Western safe haven I felt a bit more alive and free cranking Snakes Go Dark To Soak In The Sun at actual venue level volume through my speakers. Such is the power of imaginative improvisation, and 10-20 Project wield this power with expert skill and a deep, rich soul.

The sonic rebellion is here, joining is easy. Just find yourself a vinyl copy of this record, play it really loud, and sail freely through the endless desert.

I reached out to the band through the the boundless channels of the interweb and found 10-20 Project at their home in Monastir, a city on the central coast of Tunisia. I taked to bass player Dhia Eddine Mejrissi and he introduced me to the rest of the band consisting of Marwen Lazaar (Guitar), and Ismail Bnouni (Drums). Together they are “sonic rebels”, and if you want to know what that means I happily invite you to read on, my dear reader…

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for 10-20 Project? 

Hello, and Thanks for asking. We’re doing fine. I think the pandemic was manageable, we succeeded to survive. How does it affect the band ? For Rock music in Tunisia, with or without the pandemic, it’s nearly the same situation. 

Can you introduce yourself, how did you meet, etc? 

Well.. where to begin ? we are instrumental, DIY, free-form band that plays heavy psychedelic sounds. We change musicians so often.. But due to the fact that marwen and I are the core members, we take control about everything, the style has not changed, but the sound and emotions always depends on the musicians who are involved in recording or live concerts. Our Current line-up is : Marwen (Guitar), Ismail (Drums) and I, Dhia (Bass).

How did we met ? Since we live in Monastir, a small Town in in the central coast of Tunisia, everybody knows each other. We started playing together in 2009, in different bands and line-ups. 10-20 Project is a continuation of all this musical dynamics in 2018. We didn’t really start it with any ambition in mind, or… there was no plan. We wanted to do something different. To create something out of our confort zone when we came to a conclusion that structured songs are restricting and that’s just not how we like to play. 10-20 was born as a meme, all revolve aroud the way we perceive freedom, out of all kind of concepts, ideologies and constructive narratives . Just living the present and playing music the best way it reflects us instantly ,  we worship human imperfection and we FREAK OUT !! .. We have never been ones to abide by conventional styles or certain artistic norms.. we love to act like « Sonic Rebels »

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

We are in the middle of our 30s now, so a lot of music… As teens we were lucky to witness the best era of Tunisian independant underground music in the 2000s.  Bands tried out all sorts of musical genres, moving the boundaries of what is considered underground, the frequency of concerts was acceptable. The scene was so real, resilient and decentralized. You know .. The notion of underground music is really diffrent in Third world countries ..
Marwen played in a heavy Metal band called Passchendael. I joined him at 2009, in a cover band called Stone Age, we tried a lot of Hendrix, Rory Gallagher. I think that era really shaped our musical growth. In 2013 we started another band Green Bottles Blues and we began experimenting with our own primitive sounds and recording it. Generally, our taste is eclectic. We share a lot in common regarding our musical taste, even I’m softer than marwen (laughs). It saved us a lot of grief in 10-20, all music is made by consensus. Maybe a lot of Blues/psychedelic rock from the ’60s and ’70s in our bags. In my opinion, there’s a lot of freedom and originality to the music that bands from these genres show us and no one does it quite like they do. The sounds and the ferocity they express have such a strong impact.

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

In Tunisia, no regular days. We have to improvise. 

What is the best thing about the new album?

Ammm.. The way it was done.

We came out from the lockdown with kind of sounds resonating in our mind like Snakes , it’s hard to explain it.. We just decided to play it and Sailing Stones asked us to film it We combined their visual background with our sonic know-how. 

 As a band we tried to give a psychedelic model of how things could be done collectively and independently from ashes, we gave all people involved a free space to contribute in our music the way they feel it. It was strange. It was an odd process, but at the same time, it was really creative. And I feel like it kept us a band, as a reference of what we can do and what we have to change…

So, It was an honest recording for us, It’s just kind of like… whatever happened. It was important to make like, not super cleaned up. It was really fast to put together. Do a quick mix, master. And it was done live..

Where do you live and how does it affect your music?

Well a lot of things have to be said here (laughs).

 Honestly, if we talk about the Rock music scene, it is now in clinical coma, it is practically non-existent. 

Last decade, it was an era of social and political instability. We witnessed how all kind of ideologies and constructive narratives turned into its opposite, producing violence, Frustrations, insecrurity, angst about the futur, dividing people and turning them into isolation. It’s deadly environment for co-operating things like rock music, and the scene has simply collapsed .. 

The lack of ressources too, has turned the scene into more cost effective solo projects and the underground music is more depending on Authority and Europeans Funds depriving it from an important amount of freedom, shaping how the music must be created.

 We’ve been upset about this situation, maybe accidentally we turned all these limitations into our own favors , into primitive sounds, loud music and manipulating feedbacks.. it’s like turning Hendrix into our own reality and environment. All these emotions are melt in our music. I don’t know, maybe a kind of nostalgia, not nostalgia for a past that was missing, but a nostalgia for the present, a nostalgia for there to be link to the past once again. 

We are stubborn, we’re doing things from ashes by our own terms and we hope we’re doing it well.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Hard question .. still active ? Earthless, Earth, Colour HazeSula Bassana (all the stuff), sharing music moments with him on stage was one of our best memories. Temple Fang was one of our best discoveries in 2022. Maybe something related to Tunisia, Pärson Sound, From Tunis to India in Full moon.

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

How we compose ? It’s all about emotions and flow. We’re not story tellers, we play above our heads.. Mostly it just one take and done. We just choose a key and we go through it, I keep the time and mark changes in modal themes for the fuzzy guitar of Marwen. And we feed off of eye contact in a certain way… kind of vintage psychedelia.. we have our tricks..
For recording.. old cheap gears, a mixing console, simple daw, with some eq, compressor, low cut etc… the usual stuff. 

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

We live day by day, We don’t have future plan. We’re excited about our first Vinyl and we’re happy our music has found its way into a bigger psychedelic family

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

To Take it easy but take it.

Review + Q&A: Maragda – The Reckless/Evil Seed EP (2023, Spinda Records/Nafra Records)

A little while ago we announced this little live EP by Barcelona’s Maragda. Now the time has come to dive a little deeper into what the band has on offer. The EP will be out soon, and the band embarks on a European tour in support of it. If you look at the video below you will get an idea of what that will look like.

The music shows a labour of love by this band, in which they combine all of their favorite rock flavours into one smooth and tightly executed cluster bomb. There are clear traces of old school metal present, but without the gimmick or the make up. Standing out more perhaps is the lush way the band makes room for psychedelic guitar licks and solos, in a way that makes the whole thing quite unusual in a refreshing fashion.

But hey, better to watch that agenda and witness for yourself. This two song EP is just a glimpse of what Maragda can do so you better stay focussed and don’t miss out when they play you town in the near future…

Introduction time! Let’s see what these Barcelona natives are all about then, shall we? The threesome consisting of Marçal Itarte (bass, vocals), Guilem Tora (guitar, vocals) and Xavi Pasqual (drums) is ready to take over the scene and shows a pretty hungry attitude. Here is Maragda.

How are you? How was the pandemic period  for Maragda?

Hey! We are all fine. Maragda was still a work in progress during the pandemic. The original tracks were already writen by our bassist, and the pandemic just made it a bit more difficult to meet up and rehearse/produce these songs. As the band wasn’t touring yet, and the first record was still to be released, we believe the pandemic did not hit us as hard as it did with other bands or other music projects we are involved in.

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

Guillem and Marçal (we) used to live in the same town as a kids, we were friends and played football in a highschool team. At some point we were flatmates too, and we also had a music project together as teenagers. Maragda came some years after, it was a project in Marçal’s head and asked Guillem about being the guitarrist. He was cool with it but we did not have a drummer, so Guillem asked a drummer he knew, and he suggested Xavi as someone who could fit. We reached him out and he jumped in! At that point we started working on the original tracks, and eventually the first record arrived. The the first shows, then a short EU tour, and now this live EP. Busy times at Maragda!

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Guillem is really into 70’s rock. Of course he listens to other stuff, but he is a Led Zep fanboy and everybody knows it!. Marçal used to navigate different genres of metal and rock music, with a strong influence of desert, stoner and psychedelic rock. Xavi listens tomany different genres of music. 

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

We think our regular day is the average regular day of a working class 30-35 y/o dude. The tree of us have our jobs and family. Guillem is teaching guitar lessons, recording guitars and playing live with some bands. Xavi is a graphic designer and Marçal works as a social worker. Nothing special here, except the ability to combine obligations with music projection and many other activities we might do to feel alive. Xavi summarixes it like this “Work until 6pm, arrive at home, make the laundry, make the dinner, maybe hangout with friends, maybe read some pages of a book, go to sleep.”

What can you tell me about the relationship with your labels Spinda and Nafra Records?Berto of Spinda Records has always helped out Maragda, since the first moment. We reached him out shortly after we recieved our mastered tracks and he decided to participate in the first vinyl edition of our first record. That comes with so many promotionan work and advise. We can’t thank him enough and we are aware the band is going places thanks to his work.

About Nafra Records, this is a DIY non profit project that our bassist started a few years ago, together with two friends. They basically contribute funding vinyl edition of local bands, sell them, help promoting the band and occasionally booking some shows. That money is 100% destined to press other vinyl editions for other bands, and keeping thw wheel turning somehow.

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

Xavi lives in a town called Sant Celoni. It’s a big town or a very small city. There is some cultural activity there, and so many musicians. Even though they are not specificaly centered in psychedelic rock as us, the activity is quite notable for a town of that size. Marçal lives in Granollers, which is quite bigger, but paradoxically there is not so many activity as in Sant Celoni. Or at least we feel it’s like that. Guillem, on the other hand, lives in Barcelona, where so many things happen at the same time, and where you have to wisely choosw what show you will attend, as you will be missing others at the same time.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Guillem’s heroes are LedZep, no discussion about that. Marçal is a declarate fanboy of Motorpsycho, and recently he’s also digging into the producer’s side of artists like Omar Rodriguez of Mars Volta or Kurt Ballou of Converge. Xavi’s ones would be Red Hot Chili Peppers, King Gizzard, Berri Txarrak, he has a wide range actually. 

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

The first record was approached more like a production process of already written songs, or at least, original ideas that were demo-ed. We used to meet periodically to work on each part of these original ideas. We set some deadlines and booked a recording studio for a few months later. That way we ended up having our first record recorded in about seven months. The new songs are a bit of a combination of working styles. Some of them are ideas we play at our rehearsal room, jamming riffs and all that stuff. For example, in this new EP, “The Reckless” is a song that was originally jammed and almost 100% completed in the rehearsal room. “Evil Seed”‘s harmony was born in a rehearsal, and then Marçal took it home and developed a bit, developing a vocal melody and song structure to the next rehearsal, and then work it together a bit more.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

We believe there are a few processes going by at the same time. Probably the most immediate is to have a succesful release of this live EP. By succesful we mean to sell some copies and make people be curious about it, and spin it, share it, you know.
Our not so immediate plan (but “getting close plan”) is our upcoming EU tour, which will happen in August. We are really excited to be part of the almighty Krach am Bach festival, together with sick bands we love; and we are also very happy to have the chance to tour Europe once again, including new countries like Switzerland and Germany. Last, but not least, we are into iour long term future plan, which is the crafting of what will be our next LP. We are writing new songs slow but steady, and we are expectant of what will be the result of this cool process.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?The best for us would be that you (the reader) listen to our music and support the band if you like what you hear!! But the best for you would be just listening to yourself and do whatever the F you want. That is one of the healthiest things in live!

Review + Q&A: Loma Baja – Piscinas Verticales (2023, Spinda Records/Echodelick Records/Lay Bare Recordings/Clostridium Records)

Piscinas Verticales…take a good look at the picture above if your Spanish is a little rusty and you’ll get there too. You’ll be needing those wits, because the quirky title and artwork are only the start of this weird adventure you are about to embark on. Loma Baja is the name, and this Spanish collective of experienced noise mongers have made an effort to shake up all of their favorite musical styles and genres to appeal to the true adepts of the weird and avant-garde…and they succeeded gloriously.

I won’t be throwing around those genre tags or styles and spoil the surprise for you, but the fact Loma Baja listed the following artists as their influence speaks volumes in my book: Beak, True Widow, Breach, Black Midi, Liars, and Portishead to name only a few…I could add Tom Waits, Thom Yorke, Captain Beefheart, and Hey Colossus, but the list would still not be complete. It does give you an idea of the self-minded pioneership of these artists.

What we get then from this mixture is a distillation of the finest strain of musical creativity, bottled in years of hardworking band experience, and served with the craftsmanship of a skilled film director to completely pull you in as a listener, and only let you go after these 45 minutes are over.

The thing I like most about Loma Baja though, is that they don’t “try” to be different, weird, or “out there”. Their accumulative backgrounds and personalities just made them like this, forward thinking, staying far away from cliches and stylistic straight jackets.

It makes Piscinas Verticales into the the exciting adventure it is, because you never know what will happen next, and your (fixed) mindset and genre concepts are constantly challenged. If there were a prize for the album that fits most on this Weirdo Shrine internet space of mine, Loma Baja would win it hands down.

In line with their characteristic combined performance, Loma Baja also answers their questions with combined synchronicity, leaving room for the individual touch while ultimately remaining a strong collective. Here the story of the band as told by Víctor Teixeira (guitars), Pacomoto (bass, keyboard, vocals), Jorge García (synths, samplers, guitars, vocals), and Raúl Lorenzo (drums).

How are you? How was the pandemic period  for Loma Baja?

ALL: ”Hello! We are fine, at the moment we are aging correctly. First of all we want to thank you for giving us space in your blog.

VICTOR: For Loma_Baja it was the beginning of everything. Originally, the band was structured differently. During the lockdown, each of us contributed songs from our homes. When we finally managed to get together, we realized that things weren’t working out and decided to start from scratch, proposing ideas as a band. Raul’s entry was what set the direction of the band. It was his first time playing drums, although he had a lot of experience with other instruments. Jorge also took the opportunity to play synthesizers instead of guitar. I think these two elements are what best define Loma_Baja’s sound

PACO: Loma_Baja GOOD  Pandemic period BAD; still recovering.

RAUL: The pandemic hit me at the perfect age, 41 years old. I wouldn’t have liked to be locked up at home for three months at 16.

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

PACO: I’m the oldest but undoubtedly the most handsome guy in the band. I live near the mountains of Madrid and besides playing music with Loma_Baja, I’ve been playing bass with my bros from G.a.s. Drummers (punk rock from southern Spain) for almost 25 years. I also work as a TV producer (working for the enemy), but I love my Loma_Baja bandmates.

RAUL: I am the drummer, a friend, and a companion in a thousand adventures with Jorge since we were about 20 years old. One day in June 2021, Jorge asked me to join one of his bands to replace their original drummer. At that time, I had only been playing the drums for two or three months, but since the rest of the band were also old acquaintances and friends, I wasn’t afraid of the challenge.

VICTOR: I’ve played guitar all my life, and that’s what I do in Loma_Baja

JORGE: Synths and samples (which are new instruments for me), guitar and vocals are my world in Loma_Baja.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

PACO: I grew up in a very musical family (thanks to my mom and dad) and have a wide spectrum of musical tastes, including rock and roll, punk rock, hardcore, heavy metal, krautrock, psychedelic, pop, classical, folk, and jazz. In Loma_Baja, I play bass, synth bass, and also handle some vocals.

RAUL: I have played guitar all my life and I regret not discovering the drums earlier.

VICTOR: Well, all of us come from playing metal, hardcore, and punk. That’s our connection. Some of us have known each other for more than 25 years. With our previous bands, we have played together many times.

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

JORGE: I work as a freelance animator and Designer so i use to spend all day sitting in my studio working in pijamas. When I finish I like to go skateboarding, play some Miyazaki’s vídeo games or enjoy my time with my girlfriend.

VICTOR: I’m a first-time father, so you can imagine.

PACO: My life revolves around working, sleeping, listening to and playing music, eating, reading books and watching films, and spending time with my family. The best moments of my week are drinking coffee, playing with Loma_Baja, and visiting my baby niece.

RAUL: On weekends, I don’t set foot in my house because I work as a sound technician. However, during the week, I lead a fairly quiet life, dedicating my time and energy to what makes me happy: playing the drums, cooking, making electronic music, and watching series with my partner.

What is the best thing about Piscinas Verticales?

RAUL: I would highlight two things: its honesty and the pleasure it transmits when listening to it from beginning to end

VICTOR: It’s really otherworldly. It wasn’t until we had it recorded that we became fully aware of how we sounded. We believe it’s a pretty original album, with all that entails. It’s not a genre-specific record, and the best part of it is that anyone who listens to it can enjoy it quite a bit.

PACO: Personally, the best thing about this album is that I had the opportunity to meet these guys whom I love and respect not only as individuals but also as talented musicians. We were able to share our different perspectives on music and help each other develop new ways of composing.

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

VICTOR:The Spanish music scene (where we’re from) has always had a niche of unclassifiable and quite surprising bands. Everything is pretty interconnected. It has all come from the scene from 20-25 years ago related to punk and hardcore (especially in attitude), and many of these people continue to do very interesting and completely original things. This fact is fundamental for us. Loma_Baja didn’t have to start from scratch, people have been interested in what could come out of the union of four people with such different backgrounds. And that’s thanks to this freaky and interesting scene in which we have grown up all these years.

PACO: I live by the mountains, away from the big city; Madrid city is a good spot for musicians, there’s not a bad offer for rehearsal rooms, venues and freak people that come to shows of bands like ours.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

PACO: Jeff Lynne, Nick Cave, Neil Young, Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto.

RAUL: People who make music in the world and do not have the impact or ease of making a living from it.

VICTOR: (from the band perspective) The cornerstone of Loma_Baja’s influences may be things like Beak, True Widow, or Breach (perhaps these are not so new). We don’t deliberately try to sound like any particular thing. In the band, there are people who still listen to a lot of new music, while others delve into music from other eras and try to bastardize those sounds and make them meaningful in what we do. Nationally, we’re into Akron or Tze Tze, not as a direct influence but in the way they create from very personal concepts.

JORGE: As Victor said many of out influences aren’t very contemporary but I love the music of Blank Mass, The Bug, Gnod, Black Midi, Squid and now I’m digging in a band called Trees Speak.

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

PACO: Composing for us is about getting four guys in a rehearsal room and seeing what happens, along with automatic writing. When it comes to recording, we prefer to do it live and Pedal to de Metal!

RAUL: When it comes to composing, we usually quickly realize what works and what doesn’t. Communication between us is fluid at all levels and we don’t take long to shape the songs. To record PISCINAS VERTICALES, we were respectful of the composition since we recorded it entirely live except for the vocals and some overdubs. We wanted the mixing and mastering of the album to be natural as well, and Rafa Camisón in mixing and Victor García in mastering did a perfect job.

VICTOR: We don’t have a very premeditated way of composing. Sometimes someone brings a more or less complete idea, other times they are more or less defined concepts or ideas, and many times they are improvisations. Among us, we have a fairly closed and primitive language that works quite well for us. There are no impositions of any kind. It’s fundamental both in how the band sounds and in composing that two of us started from scratch with our instruments. That has kept us away from any preconceived idea of what we could have sounded like coming from the bands we come from.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

PACO: We are excited to announce the upcoming presentation of our first album! It will take place at Sound Isidro in Sala Maravillas, Madrid on May 26th. We would like to express our gratitude to our record labels: Spinda Records (Spain), Lay Bare Recordings (Netherlands), Clostridium Records (Germany), and Echodelick Records (USA).

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

PACO: Deep breathe, survive, love your family, friends, Fugazi and Beak and (of course) listen to Loma_Baja.

RAUL:Put more cowbell on everything.

Review + Q&A: Dead Sea Apes – Rewilding (2023, Cardinal Fuzz Records/Feeding Tube Records)

The Dead Sea Apes have returned out of their pandemic induced slumber. Domesticated were they, caged, like all of their musician brethren. Sure, they managed to make new music still, but it was never as raw and alive as before. Until now. They found the holy fire again, being able to play together renewed, free in the live experience. The jam, the very blood flowing through their veins. The Apes could roam again, wild once more. Bear witness to the Rewilding of the Dead Sea Apes.

On their new album the revitalised Apes have stripped their sound to the very core: guitar, drums and bass. Just three guys in a room picking up on a vibe and rolling with it, six times in a row for forty-two minutes. The sheer pleasure of the solid click Brett Savage, Chris Hardman, and Jack Toker have is infectious, and it is not difficult to visualise the energy in the room with your eyes closed.

You can feel it too, in your limbs, in your stomach, the rumbling bass, the tribal hacking of the drums, the gyrating howl of the guitars. This is a band of wildling apes released from their cages once more, ready to crush, ready to shed some sweat, ready to breathe. Rewilding presents a band finding back their holy fire; the mighty jam, the intuitive ritual, and we get to be there in this moment. It is a good time to be alive.

I talked to guitarist Brett Savage, who was more than happy to tell us more about the who/why/how of Dead Sea Apes. It is so great to be able to connect with passionate musician lifers like him and his band mates. It is the main reason for keeping up this Weirdo Shrine of mine in the first place…

How are you? How was the pandemic period for Dead Sea Apes?

Hello Jasper! Im all well and good, thank you. Hope that you are too! Personally speaking, I’ve got very mixed feelings about the pandemic period. I realise that it came with a real heavy cost to a lot of people – but I also thought it was really an interesting time to be alive. The lockdown period here in the UK was a really odd time. There was a real uncanniness to that time that I don’t think that we will ever experience again in our lifetimes, and I do think it ended up having a huge bearing on Rewilding. The empty streets, clear skies and the general quietness was a little bit spooky.

Here in the UK, we were allowed to go outside for short periods for exercise and get a breath of fresh air. I was out walking with my dog on a quarry local to me and I was listening to some really spooky music (Dire Wolves, as it happens), it was April and still quite cold and windy. The wind was making all the trees sway wildly, flecks of snow were flying in the wind – and all of a sudden, two deer just run out in front of me. It was like something out of a dream. It kind of felt like Mother Nature was reasserting herself in some way. That had a profound effect on me. It was both dreamlike and visceral at the same time – and that really seemed to jive with the times.

I also felt like a lot of people were affected rather oddly by the overall atmosphere of the lockdown. I’ve always been interested in conspiracy theories (not as a fan, more as an observer) and it was interesting to see how these ideas had started to promulgate so fervidly, as they often do in periods of uncertainty. These themes and the general uncanny vibe of that whole era seemed to fit with the primal and red-blooded music that had started to come out of us when we finally got back into the rehearsal room.

Obviously, it was frustrating for anyone in a band during the lockdown, as it was incredibly difficult to make music together beyond recording stuff and sending it over the internet, but we managed to get some ideas together with Adam Stone and Stephen Bradbury (Black Tempest) to make Dataland, which we are all really proud of and which I think captures some of that weirdness of the pandemic era really well, not least in Adam’s words.

Pic by Hayley Ward HEW

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

Originally, Both Chris Hardman (drums), Nick Harris (Bass) and I (guitar) met through online musician’s noticeboards way back in 2009. We were a steady line up, up until Nick Harris left at the end of 2017. It took us a good few months to find Jack (Toker), who came in to replace him on the bass. I used to see Jack at quite a few gigs down in London and had always got in well with him. I ran into him at gig for The Heads in Manchester when we were looking for a new bass player after a few false starts. He had not long moved back up to the North of England and was keen to join. And we are so glad he has. He has given us a new lease of life and has fitted right in.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

All of us have had experience playing generally loud and weird stuff in a number of bands, up and down the country!

What does a regular day in your lives look like? (jobs/hobbies/vocations…)

Well, music is a connective tissue in our lives. In his day job, Jack builds and fixes guitars (he has just built me a beautiful custom guitar, by the way!). Chris is a sound engineer for the BBC. He also records and produces all of our stuff. We have recorded everything in our rehearsal room and Chris makes it sound pretty much as if we have been in a recording studio! I’m definitely biased here, but I think Chris is a true artisan when it comes to recording. He has a lot of creative talent backed up with a high level of technical skill. As for myself, in recent years, I’ve opened a record shop, so making music is kind of a ‘busman’s holiday’!

What is the best thing about Rewilding?

I think Rewilding has been an absolute rebirth for us. Although it took its time in coming, I think that we have bounced back with a real passion. I think we were really hungry to get back to playing as a band and let that unspoken communication can come back into play. You really can’t replicate it playing it in a back bedroom and sending it over data transfer. We wanted some of that ‘rehearsal room democracy’ to inform our music – and as a result, I think it made this album much more focussed, cohesive and our most passionate yet. Admittedly, we have taken our time in making it, but I feel that we have got the feel and the sound just right. We wanted it to come along in its own time. We haven’t laboured it to the point where it had drained all of the life out of it. It feels wild and spirited. We’ve been Rewilded!

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

Both Chris and I live in different parts of Greater Manchester and we have always pretty much rehearsed in the city centre. Jack lives a bit further out in Todmorden. Both Manchester and Todmorden have great promoters and audiences that are really supportive for music like ours.

A friend of ours told me recently that they felt that the Dead Sea Apes sound is very ‘Northern’, not so much that we sound like Oasis or The Stone Roses or anything (at least I hope not), more that it captures the vibe and space of the surrounding hills and local environment etc. I took that as a real compliment.

Pic by Hayley Ward HEW

What are some of your best memories with the band so far?

We have a lot of good memories with the band – and most of them revolve around the friends, including a lot of great bands, that we have made and met along the way. We have been really lucky to meet loads of great people – and Facebook has allowed us to keep in touch. We’ve also played with bands that we are real fans of such as The Heads, Carlton Melton, Part Chimp and loads more.

We also have a back catalogue of albums that we are proud of. I don’t feel that we have any real weak spots in our collection, nor feel the need to rewrite history to reframe them to make sense of them. They all capture us at a point where we were at that time – and I feel that they all stand up really well.

We have also been incredibly lucky to work with Cardinal Fuzz on all of them. You really could not wish for a more supportive label owner than Dave Cambridge – who is a great friend of all of us in the band. We have also co-released with some great labels including (the legendary!) Feeding Tube, Sky Lantern, Sunrise Ocean Bender (RIP Kevin McFadin) and Deep Water Acres. Also, a big shout out to Andy Uzzell who released a couple of groovy lathe cuts with Adam and Steve on his great Misophonia label! We could also do with giving props to Adam at Drone Rock Records and the Terrascope guys for adding us onto their great compilations too. And finally, thanks to all at Golden Lion Sounds for releasing a split single with us and the mighty Carlton Melton!

Can you tell me about the recording sessions of Rewilding? How did you get in the right flow?

I think just before the pandemic, we felt a little bit lost – and not a lot of stuff was coming together. We kind of entered the lockdown period with nothing really solid to work with as a band.

When we got back in the rehearsal room we regrouped and returned with a newfound energy. Some new ideas seemed to just arrive fully formed, which really shocked us. Some other ideas that we really liked took some time to percolate into what they are now – but definitely showed promise. We could feel our confidence returning and I think when you are excited by what you are doing, the album then starts to build up its own momentum. And as I said before, we are lucky in the sense that Chris is a sound engineer and records everything – so nothing is really lost to the ether. We can listen back to the jamming out that we do with each song and take any ideas that come from the sessions and apply them to the songs.

I also feel that Jack had really bedded in and stamped his authority all over this album too. That’s not to say that he hadn’t on the last two, but I feel that he has really brought lots of ideas and a real energy to this one. It really has confirmed that he was the right choice!

Pic by Hayley Ward HEW

What is the secret of a good jam? What would you recommend aspiring jam bands to do?

Jamming is a pretty strange thing to try and quantify as I feel that there is a lot going on in the mix! I think it really helps if you are actively listening to each other and that you can pick up on cues for dynamics etc – but I also think, when I put my ‘magical thinking’ hat on, that a lot of unspoken communication comes into play. Peak states, flow states, third mind, whatever… but it definitely feels like something spooky is going on when you hit your stride.

I’m also a big advocate of the input/output rule – the more music that you listen to expands the scope of your own musical imagination. Its also good to work with other people who like stuff that you have never heard – and they can subsequently open you up to it – and likewise, it’s also good to work with people who share similar touchstones as you.

I suppose an openness to follow where it goes is also good. It might not hit the spot everytime – but you are more likely than not to hit peaks the more that you play together!

Any touring plans? Would love to see you guys in Europe!

We do have some touring plans. Not least, we are playing at Ottawa Psych Fest in September – at the invitation of Mr John Westhaver of the amazing The Band Whose Name Is a Symbol. He is a good example of one of those really good friends that you meet along the way. We cannot wait to play over there. John has been a real advocate for us over there – and we have been told to expect a warm welcome. Christopher Laramee is also playing as Wasted Cathedral, and he is another exceptionally fine fellow who I’ve met a few times now. Its going to be great! We do have a few UK dates for the rest of the year, but not for Europe unfortunately. Maybe next year? (and so long as the Brexit related admin nonsense is not too much of a stumbling block!)

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

I’ve always loved it when The Minutemen’s Mike Watt used to shout ‘learn an instrument… form a band’ at the end of shows. I think that is good advice, so I will steal it!

Dead Sea Apes

Interview: Mike Vest (Drunk In Hell, Modoki, Artifacts & Uranium, Downtime, Neutraliser, Mienakunaru, Bong, Blown Out, 11Paranoias)

Ok, so we just had to talk to Mike Vest, right? Known throughout the underground for his involvement in Drunk In Hell, Bong, 11Paranoias, and of course the mother of all psych jam breakouts: Blown Out. In stark contrast to his regular noise mongering on record and on stage, we find the man in the quiet environment of his vegetable garden in Newcastle, UK. “I much rather visit the chaos, than live in it” is a beautiful quote from the man who seems to live very much in the presence, and does not dwell on the past for a second. So open your eyes, but definitely also your ears for this one, because there will be a lot of new and upcoming sounds in this one…

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

I’m good, enjoying these lighter nights, I’ve been gardening, I farmed a lot of potato soil end of last summer. Trying to get the garden soil back to a good pH or whatever. Starting to see the benefits now. De bois, gariguette and cambridge strawberries plants are growing well,
especially happy with the Ceanothus (Lilac Tree). The roots run deep, took about a year for it to be able to stand on its own. Hydrangeas are returning stronger, dark violets and royal reds hopefully, like last year. Going to plant a pear tree in the autumn. Tulips came out nice too. Winter pansies holding strong. Nice to have some freshly picked flowers around the house again.

So…two new LPs out now, MODOKI with Mitsuru Tabata playing leads.
I play bass and do the mixing and Dave Sneddon, handles the drums.
‘Atom Sphere’ our debut is available from Riot Season (UK) and Echodelick Records (US)
Our second, ‘Luna To Phobos’ should be seeing the light in a couple of months I think.
The second has more twists and turns. These were both recorded and mixed around the same time as each other.

New album from Artifacts & Uranium, our 3rd ’The Gateless Gate’ is out on Riot Season (UK) and Echodelick Records (US). Fred Laird did a great job with the production and mixing, as he has done with all our albums. We have just completed the 4th. This has Mitsuru Tabata as a guest feature. As I was working on Modoki stuff at the time.

The Tomoyuki Trio LP should be seeing the light soon as well.
A trio with legendary guitarist Tomoyuki Aoki from UP-Tight. Awesome album. Was a pleasure to work with him. Foundations are laid for our 2nd. Up-Tight have just released a couple of lps on Cardinal Fuzz. Reissues, well worth checking out. kawabata

I completed a new debut album with IIkka Vekka, Ohto Pallas, Otto Juutilainen from Haare & Nolla. New project called Kaliyuga Express, total Hawkwind experience, specifically the Warriors and Masters periods.

Did a lot of experimenting with ultra delays on the guitars and micro tonal changes, lots of automation and octave chords. Tried to mix the guitars so every four/eight bars, something changes tonally. Just recently signed this off with the label.

DOWNTIME, a duo with me and Dave Sneddon. Our debut tape came out on Cruel Nature Records (UK) in January. Might be a few left. Weird instrumental noise rock. Slide guitar ventures. SNED runs a publishing house.

Lot of punk literature and art books.

NEUTRALISER, collaboration with Charlie Butler, released a tape on Cruel Nature Records (UK) in January.‘Capsule Bowed Space’ There is some copies of the 2nd run of tapes.
Also self released a digital album a month back, called ‘Liquid Oxygen Kerosene’.

What can you tell me about your musical background?

Been playing guitar & bass in bands’ since I was 16, got into improvisation and noise/drone music specifically when I was 20, I think. Started BONG, loosely, when I was 22/23. Played in noise, drone, improv sludge, noise rock, thrash, punk, grindcore bands through my 20s. Started playing gigs heavy from the age of 25 till 38. Probably more known for playing in BONG, 11Paranoias, Drunk In Hell, Melting Hand, Blown Out, Mienakunaru….

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

Most days I’m working on music, mixing, recording or just listening and making notes.
I’ve got so many notepads full of numbers, track names, ideas, edits…etc. Maybe for only for an hour or so. But everyday, there is something to check over. I minimised my recording setup and the way I record albums. So it’s not a big thing to just start checking/recording/mixing various projects I’m working on. Its a fluid motion, I’ve made it easy to just pick up, play and start recording/mixing and so on..

I paint whilst I listen to mixes.

Painting by Mike Vest

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

I lived at the coast for years, now I live close to the boarder between Gateshead and Newcastle. I used to be away all the time, playing shows/recording in larger cities, so, with being away lot, made me appreciate the smaller scale and calmer atmosphere I would return to. Less daily stress means more time to be inspired and productive, I guess.
Like a pirate, I would go and gather all gold from the capitals and go back to the sea.

I much rather visit the chaos, than live in it.

Can you highlight some of your favourite releases you were involved in, and tell us why?

The stuff I’ve released over the past 2-3 years and LPs that are on the way. I’m most proud of. I don’t save any copies of any album I have done. They either all get sold, given away or traded, everything is in the outbox. Test pressing etc, everything goes eventually. Being able to create music with Mitsuru, Junzo & Aoki over the past couple of years has been great. Same with Fred Laird with A&U & Charlie Butler in Neutraliser, got me back into enjoying, what I love the most about music.

The creating of it and the evolving process. Most importantly though is Dave Sneddon, without his drums, many of these albums/projects/bands would not be possible.

What is “the dream” for you as an independent artist?

To have 10% of my followers, buy my music and art.

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

Buy music and art.

Review + Q&A: Cazayoux – Cazayoux (2023, Weird Beard/ Echodelick Records/Worst Bassist Records/We, Here&Now! Records/Ramble Records)

This colourful debut album by Austin, Texas based psych funk orchestra Cazayoux is such a welcome surprise to me this spring. Outside the weather seems hesitant to get out of dreary winter mode, and of course that mood is transferred to the people. Enter Cazayoux; a festive funk kraut jazz party that blasts from your speakers with trumpets blazing! The cool thing is; it is not a musical style that I would have quickly sought out on my own, but now it’s been supported by five of my favorite psych record labels I practically could not miss it, and you shouldn’t either.

On this self-titled album we get the cream of the Austin, Texas music scene joining forces and basically having a real good time in the studio. It is lucky someone had the time and mind space to press the record button so we can enjoy it now too. It is not hard to imagine this fantastic orchestra travelling the world and spreading joy, madness, and limb movement wherever they go.

The music itself is a wild mixture of every world music influence the individual musicians brought to the table be it from Louisiana, Mexico, Africa, or even Japan. Whether they take on jazz, funk, afrobeat, or samba, you can be assured it is impossible to sit this one through untouched.

For the tiny eyed psychedelic crowd especially a little hip shaking might be a good idea, so get up, run to your local record store and dance through your home on the sunny sounds of Cazayoux!

I connected with drummer and name giver Forrest Cazayoux to shed some light on his fantastic new project. You can feel the enthusiasm and love for music throughout his answers. This guy is on a roll, and we get to enjoy it. Life is good people!

How are you? How has Cazayoux been lately?

I am doing great thank you so much for asking. Things here in Austin with the band have been very smooth. We are keeping busy that’s for sure, and we enjoy the work we do.

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

Sure I can intro the band. We have John Slavin on Trumpet (Philadelphia), Damien Valenzuela on Sax (New Mexico), Todd Rodgers on Trombone (Texas), Alex Freeman on bass (Austin TX), Fernando Flores on congas (Mexico), Forest Cazayoux (Louisiana) Drums, Aboubacar Sylla on Djembe and Balafon (Guinea, Conakry), Fumihito Sugawara on guitar (Hiroshima Japan),  Ben Fisher on keys (North Carolina),and Joe Woullard on bari sax (Austin). We all met in Austin TX in the music scence. The music we are all attracted to sort of brought us together.

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

Our musical backgrounds are very diverse. We take influence from lots of different styles and music. Some of the main themes that brought us together as musicians are stuff like funk music, jazz, West African folk music, soul and rnb, New Orleans 2nd line, Latin Music, and so much more. We all agree that we love this music and we try and create our version of our influences when we write and play live.

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

So a regular day for us here in Austin Tx consists of some of us working jobs and playing gigs with various bands around the city. Some of us are full time musicians and some of us supplement income by doing other things. The good thing about Austin is for musicians there are tons of clubs and bars to work in any day of the week. We also get time to relax too!

What is the best thing about the new self-titled album?

I feel like the best thing about our new record is that the sounds we made are a true reflection of who we are. All of our influences and experiences molded together collaboratively to create something that we feel is worth sharing. Thank you for asking.

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

The music here in Austin is thriving. There are tons of great musicians here in the city and clubs to play. Everyone for the most part respects one another and we all work to push our scene forward the best way we can.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

There is so much music that I love. I feel like its a long list but I will name some of the first that come to mind. Johny Vidacovitch, Tony Allen, Lettuce, Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band, The Meters, Dr. John, Fela Kuti, and the list goes on

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

Our process actually starts mainly in the studio for this record. We started out as just the rhythm section arranging and recording ideas on the spot. Then we  observe it and write new parts and add more music once we have some time listen. It is 100% a collaborative effort.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

Our immediate plans are to keep working and writing new music and do our best to bring joy into peoples lives any chance we get. Long term we plan to hit the road and hopefully bring our music to the world.

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

We would love for you to check out our music, and if you dig it share it with a friend. Records Are available for anyone to purchase online for  whoever  is interested. We at CAZAYOUX thank you for having us. We appreciate you and wish you well!

Review and Q&A: droneroom – Rusted Lung (2023, Echodelick Records/Ramble Records)

Drone music is not for the casual listener. It’s about as far from pop music as one can get if not the exact opposite of it. You can find plenty of ambient drone on random Spotify lists like Music for Plants and Sleeping, but if one were to purchase a drone record, they’d have to be quite the musical explorer.

One of the modern purveyors of drone music is Blake Edward Conley, who calls himself a cowboy of drones. Rusted Lung is the name of his new album, released on April 28th and recorded in Louisville, Kentucky, and Las Vegas. Under the moniker droneroom, Conley has amassed an impressive catalog of drone recordings on Bandcamp since 2012 and seems to shy away from much self-description. He simply releases his country drone into the world and lets the minimalist music speak for itself.

Rusted Lung comprises three songs of, “What this country looks like as its promises decay and crumble,” according to the Bandcamp profile. As America lurches toward ruin, droneroom is making the soundtrack for our madness, paranoia, and demise. The songs contain “heavy scuzz” and drones that are sometimes gentle but other times harsh. Droneroom closes his description of the album with the phrase, “Hope only lasts so long.” This is certainly not something you’ll find in a bedside daily meditations book, but perhaps it’s true.

Conley used a Telecaster, chord organ, and field recordings for Rusted Lung, and everything was recorded between 2020 and 2022. “Blood Goes Warm” opens the album, and at nearly 11 minutes long, it courses through your veins like a slow-acting poison. “The Distance From Myself” is next, clocking in at a little less than nine minutes. This song and the others conjure images of bleak desert landscapes and the shuttered, desolate strip malls of middle America. 

“Rustic Lung” closes things out; it’s the longest track at just over 19 minutes. If you had any hope for salvation, this last song’s diseased, dissonant tones will crush you and leave you empty. But that’s probably the point. As I said, drone music isn’t for the faint of heart, especially from droneroom. Conley makes music with extraterrestrial vibes that capture the dark spirit of America in all its weirdness and mania. Fans of Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor will likely recognize this album’s heavy sorrow and enjoy it.

We got to catch up with Blake Edward Conley of droneroom during his travels throughout the barren locales of America. He was kind enough to answer our questions and reveal a bit about his cowboy drone recordings. Let’s offer a warm Weirdo Shrine welcome to Blake Edward Conley of droneroom.

How are you? How have the past few years been for droneroom?

Oh, alright. Trying to find grounding within a steady stream of change and chaos. The past few years have been crazed and hectic. On my 4th address change in 9 months. Droneroom has been sort of reflective of that chaos in the form of an overkill of material ranging from big and small acoustic albums (Whatever Truthful Understanding on Desert Records and Secondhand Failures on Marginal Glitch), lap steel albums (The Most Gorgeous Sleep on Ramble Records), pure grade what the fuck albums (Easy Payday on Moonlight Cypress Archetypes and You Drown Out the Crowd on Imploding Sounds), duo collabs (Rabbit Hash and Rivers of Glass)and some droneroom classic albums (Rusted Lung).

Can you introduce droneroom? When did this project begin?

Droneroom started in 2012 as an at-home solo thing for fun. Slowly became my main musical identity as bands I would start or join would break up, or I would leave (or be asked to leave), coupled with some moves. Having a solo musical identity makes it easy to move with. Can’t quit yourself, as I like to say.

What can you tell me about your musical background?

I didn’t really start participating in music in any big way till 2011 at the young age of 29. This would have been a 2 piece metal leaning band. But we were still into the use of space, repetition, and minimalism, so I can see a throughline from that to here. From there, it was a ton of different bands but with droneroom always hugging the bottom edge of it all. droneroom was always an easy sub if a project I was in couldn’t make a gig.

What initially got you interested in drone music?

I’m not sure about that. I always liked albums that ended with the big dirty number, and as I grew, I always sought out weirder and weirder things. Often with an undertone of either strong repetition or big spaces. I was definitely into the new weird America scene (Six Organs of Admittance, Magik Markers, Wooden Wand) as well as more extreme weird metal adjacent music (the Body, Earth) and then getting into more experimental solo guitarists (Loren Connors, Alan Licht) or guitarists who were kind of gadfly, going from one end to the other (David Pajo, Mary Timony, Brian Case). 

All this coupled with a childhood rooted in constant movement. My father was a truck driver, so the visions of things flying past were often scored by country music.  I dunno. To me, in a way, everything can be drone. 

What is the best thing, in your opinion, about the new album Rusted Lung?

Well, I would have to say, for me,  the stellar art by Cory Fusting. This was a big bucket list thing for him to do, and he knocked it out of the park.

What can you tell me about your songwriting process?

I’m not sure there is a process beyond ‘sit down and play’…it’s all improvised. 

What are your immediate and long-term future plans for droneroom?

Immediate is mostly just promotion promotion promotion. The future is unwritten.

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

Take a nap.

This review and Q&A was done by fellow weirdo Nick, who runs the psychedelic rock and music blog, The Third Eye. Born in the Philly area, Nick currently lives in Tennessee with his wife and three annoying animals. When he’s not writing about music, you may not be able to find him because he’s grown increasingly reclusive as he’s gotten older.

Cheer-Accident announce their new album Fringements 02 on SKiN GRAFT Records, new song streaming now!

Legendary underground chameleonic Chicagoans Cheer-Accident are ready to release a second album of rarities, demos and outtakes on their label home of SKiN GRAFT Records on June 16th. The album is the second in a series that “will apparently continue well into perpetuity”…

You can hear the the first track off it here, which is a song that originates in the 90s, and shows the band apparently locking heads with a real marching band for a swinging street parade…

The band has said this about it in the liner notes:

Fambiz Marching Band

Why?  – “Because we know that you’d always wanted to hear what that plaintive melody from “Enduring The American Dream” would sound like if a high school marching band had gotten a hold of it”. 

During their thirty-plus spanning career Cheer-Accident have always been a band that have presented themselves as true Houdinis for pigeonholing music journalists. With a sound that has been compared to musical birds of paradise from This Heat to Yes, and from Ween to Elliott Smith and even Andy Kaufman you can imagine that to be the truth. This series of recordings from their rich existence over the years might shed some new light on that, and perhaps bring us to a better understanding of what they were really all about.

A 90s-era photo of the band

Review + Q&A: Kanaan – Downpour (2023, Jansen Records)

There are instrumental bands that can take you to other worlds in psychedelic bliss, and there are instrumental bands that stay very much in the now, just being themselves and happy to be there. Kanaan out of Norway has heavy “now” vibes. They are “just” three dudes hitting it off instrumentally, but doing it so incredibly well and spontaneous that you find yourself locked in the groove in seconds, jaw to the floor, 100% captivation.

Downpour is the band becoming a jam machine seven consecutive times, and we as lucky bystanders get to watch and learn. Whether their jam session is based on one or more brain splitting riffs or on a hip jiggling jungle groove, these Norsemen make it so that you instantly become their puppet, and all you can do is move to the music.

The whole thing is a top notch trip, but few personal highlights cannot be left unnoticed; the title track Downpour for instance because of its rhythmic acrobatics and smooth Motorpsycho vibes, Amazon because it features a collaboration with the magnificent Hedvig Mollestad and one of the most memorable riffs this side of 2023, and finally the two parts of Solaris, that make up a thrilling psychedelic space jam that would not be out of place scoring the actual movie.

Sure, Kanaan are “just” three dudes out of Oslo, Norway hitting it off musically, but they hit it off so extremely well they make us witness the power of sheer human musical synchronicity. This is what three people locking in and being in the now can accomplish. Better take notice!

Picture by Gonçalo Carvalho 

I found drummer Ingvald André Vassbø in Oslo booking their tour for Downpour and being generally satisfied with life as his band is hitting it off quite well and turning heads allover the world. Life is good when you have a team of musicians that understand each other so well on multiple levels. Let’s meet Kanaan.

How are you? How was the pandemic period  for Kanaan?

The pandemic period was for Kanaan as for other bands all over the world a hard time. We had to cancel concerts, postpone studio sessions and in periods weren´t able to meet up at all. Even though it was a hard time for us we were actually able to finish up some work we had to do. We managed to record our album Earthbound in June 2020, our quartet-album Diversions Vol 1: Softly Through Sunshine in May 2021 as well as our addition to the Sampler “International Space Station” which were released on the great label Worst Bassist Records last year. Even though meeting up, planning things and organizing the band was a hassle during that period we were actually able to do some work that we´re all really happy with and proud of. 

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

The band consists of myself (Ingvald), Ask Vatn Strøm our guitarist and Eskild Myrvoll, our bass player  We met at the Norwegian Academy of Music where we had some very fun jam sessions and found out that we had a lot of common interests, particularly when it came to electric jazz (we studied jazz there) and rock music. We also quickly found out that we liked to play and work together and that we “locked” socially in a very good way. We started to write songs together and booked our first gig which took place in one of the rehearsal-rooms in the basement of the academy. From there on it´s been a very natural thing to play music and do everything that has to do with organizing and playing in a band together. 

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

None of my parents are musicians but i was musically brought up a variety of places. On of them was in my dads record-basement where he had and still has tons of experimental rock-vinyl and cds. Krautrock, Prog, “Rock in Oppostion”, Avant Garde stuff, jazzrock, psychedelic stuff… Since I was quite young we’ve been regularily  having these really great listening sessions in the weekends where he still manages to blow my mind with super obscure, and completely amazing music. Listening to music together with him defininetly formed my musicality a lot. Since i was around 9 years until late in my teens we went to Burg Herzberg Festival in Hessen which is a legendary German hippie festival. There I heard a lot of great music from a young age which inspired me a whole deal. We got the chance to see so many of all the legendary 70s kraut rock bands as well as a broad range of what was and still is going on in the german underground scene. I´m really thankful for that! 

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

For me, one of the best things about being a freelance musician is that no day is the same. I have a quite busy musical life which consists of practicing alone and with different bands, writing music, going to rehearsals and off course doing administrative work and having meetings. Travelling is also an integral part of my life and is actually one of the things I like the most about being a touring musician. Travelling around and seeing different places, meeting new people and exploring new forms of art and music fits my personality really well and is one of the things about my own life i appreciate deeply. 

What is the best thing about Downpour?

There are many things that I’m happy with about Downpour. One of my favorite moments are the first minutes of Solaris pt I. I’m a person who has a lot of energy and often feel that I’m “on the edge of things” musically speaking and often “pushing the beat” and therefore it’s always fun when there are moments when I feel that I really manage to stay calm and “find peace” within in the groove and with the music. On that track I really feel that we managed to create a lush atmosphere with a high degree of energy and direction while at the same time having a sense of calm and control within the music. I hope that I can manage to do the same thing live! I love when one is trying to “nail” or “interpret” a specific vibe for the music and it ends up transfering so much emotion back to you. That I feel happened a lot during the recording of this album.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?
All three of us live in Oslo at the moment and there is a really fruitful music scene at the moment. There’s a lot of interesting music going in Oslo and in Norway in general so it is a great pleasure to be part of. One of the best parts about it is that we feel that people are quite open and one is able to try out different things and be parts of many different “scenes” at once. There´s no “poppers vs the rockers” or anything like that. People are into a lot of different stuff which i really like. There are also a lot of concerts every night, so I never become deprived of inspiration. That’s for sure! 

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Ingvald: Some of my biggest contemporary-ish musical influences are Oneohtrix Point Never, Moor Mother, James Ferraro, Caroline Polachek, Poil with Junko Ueda, Lightning Bolt, Zach Hill and Hella, Daughters, Punkt vrt. Plastik, Ambrose Akinmusire, Viljay Iyer, Elder, Black Midi, Steve Lehman, Domi & JD Beck, Marcus Gilmore, Guro Moe, Horse Lords, Oneida, Njaaljos Ljom, Danny Brown, Slift, Björk +++ 

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

For the most part we’ve been writing songs together in our rehearsal space. Normally one of us comes up with an idea for a groove, a riff, a chord progression, a vibe etc and then we work and expand on it together. We’re always discussing and trying out different ways of playing and experimenting with the ideas. This approach changed a bit during the pandemic when we weren’t able to meet up in the same way as before. The Downpour album was therefore more composed more individually with demos and so on. The demo-ideas was of course changed, re-arranged and experimented with collectively but less so than with the other albums. 

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

Our first upcoming project is a concert together with Øvre Eiker Kulturskole (a music school where Ask teaches) which we’ve been planning for a long time. We’re going to perform two songs from our first record Windborne, one from Earthbound and one song from Downpour together with over 70 kids from 6 to 20 years who play a wide array of different instruments. (violins, trumpets, classical percussion, acoustic guitars, clarinets etc). Our music was arranged by a super talented jazz-singer, composer and arranger called Vilde Aakre Lie so we´re super excited about that. It will be really interesting and fun project. 

In May we´ll play a handful of club shows in Norway to promote our upcoming album Downpour, and after that we´re going on a two week european tour between the 17th and 28th of May. We are also planning a few festival shows in Finland, Portugal and Germany this summer as well another European tour in august and September which we’re really looking forward to do! 

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?
Order tickets to an upcoming Kanaan show and come and meet us. We´re really nice people 🙂 

Picture by Gonçalo Carvalho 

Review + Q&A: Helicon – God Intentions (2023, Fuzz Club Records)

When you are a psych band from Scotland, it makes sense that you turn inwards. Between the rough weather, and the lack of many places to play it makes sense that you want to hole up, lift off, and pretend to be somewhere else. Just read Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and you can get an idea what it can be like if you don’t feel like choosing normalcy, and instead pick opting out. Glasgow’s Helicon are masters at pretending. They can conjure up complete dream worlds and live in them. On God Intentions they have created eleven such worlds, and each of them travels to very different realms.

Helicon plays a brand of contemporary psychedelic rock you might expect on a label like Fuzz Club, but they add a certain darkness, and on God Intentions they have visibly sought to branch out, seeking aid in various guest musicians and putting multiple different perspectives on the genre.

The singles actually paint a good picture of what the album can all be. It is at once dreamy and familiar like on Flume, cinematic and curious like Disobey, and darkly driving and fuzzed out like on Tae The Moon. Helicon covers it all with their signature reverb blanket, synth freaky and sitar antics, and makes it their own.

God Intentions shows a band that is so comfortable in their own skin, that they can move freely into many different territories without losing face for a second. If you live in rainy Scotland, or any other place you might want to briefly escape from, here is your ticket.

I talked to vocalist/guitarist John-Paul Hughes as he and his lads prepare to launch their new baby into the world. Tours are being planned, and release parties organised. In the middle of all of this he has some time to talk to Weirdo Shrine, as he and Helicon are proud to share what they made, and rightfully so.

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

We’re in good spirits mate. New singles are being well received and buzzed for the release of the new album, ‘God Intentions’ on Fuzz Club on 28th April. The pandemic was a highly productive period for us. The core of this new album was mostly written during that period. We were lucky that none of us were seriously impacted in terms of health during that time, so we used it to be as productive as we could. Songwriting, learning new instruments, streaming live performances from home and anything else we could do to keep moving forward. 

Can you introduce yourself, how did you meet, etc? 

We’re a “neo-psych” band from East Kilbride / Glasgow. But I think our sound is more than that. The band was formed by my brother Gary and I about 12 years ago. We’ve been through a few members over the years but he current line up is John-Paul Hughes (guitar and vox), Mike Hastings (guitar), Graham Gordon (sitar and synths), Mark McLure (multi instruments), Billy Docherty (bass) and Seb Jonsen (drums). We’re all friends from the Glasgow underground music scene over the years, with a shared love of psychedelic music. 

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Helicon is the only band I’ve ever been in.  And probably ever will be. Mark played in a few local East Kilbride bands when he was younger but he’s been with us from very early on. The other guys have much more colourful backgrounds. In the 90s Graham was in a relatively successful band called Figure 5.  He’s toured with Asteroid#4. Seb has played for more bands and done session work with more artists than I can remember. He still plays with Lavinia Blackwall – whom he’s done a few BBC 6music sessions – and his folk duo, The Poachers. Billy has been there, seen it, done it with multiple bands at various levels of success over the years. Mike is ex Trembling Bells and has done work with guys like Mike Heron – Incredible String Band. A few years ago, Mike, Seb and Graham all toured as the band for Peter Daltrey’s Kaleidoscope UK and for Twink. I think a few of them have all played The Royal Albert Hall at different times too. Told you they were all more interesting than me. 

What does a regular day in your lives look like? 

We all work full-time. Advertising, delivering fresh fruit n veg, running a caf, gardening, care work, and quality control in a fucking drugs factory, ha ha, nae joke.  When we aren’t working, we’re writing, rehearsing, gigging, drinking and eating. Or you might find Graham drawing. He’s a pretty incredible artist. 

What is the best thing about God Intentions?

It’s an album unlike anything else in your collection. It’s our most uplifting album to date but is still a wild helter skelter of emotions and themes. You’re hearing the album we wanted to make the way we wanted to make it. And its packed with fuckin bangers. Wait till you hear ‘Heliconia’ with the string quartet and Lavina Blackwall on vocals. 

What is the scene like in Glasgow? Also if you compare it to Scotland in general?

It’s always been so wide and varied, but we’re old farts in our 40s, so we aren’t exactly plugged in to what’s happening with the young team. and strangely, we’ve only ever played (as Helicon) in Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland. I guess there isn’t much of an appetite for psychedelia here in the homeland. We get much better crowds in Manchester, London, Paris and so on. But I would like to draw attention to some Scottish artists worth your time, some of whom feature our members: The Poachers, Lavinia Blackwall, Rhona MacFarlane, Tomorrow Syndicate, Mike & Solveig, Filth Spector, Domiciles, Kundalini Genie, Black Cat Revue, Son of The Right Hand, Floating Heads, Big Hogg, The Wellgreen, Delta Mainline, Dead Otter. 

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours? 

Jedward, Daniel O’Donnell and that guy off the Go Compare ads. 

Can you tell me about how you went about composing and recording songs differently after This Can Only Lead To Chaos?

Time and money were the big differences. The pandemic afforded us more time to craft and hone the best set of songs we’ve ever made. And with backing from Creative, Scotland, Fuzz Club and our fans buying our back catalogue, we had a bigger budget than ever before to spend proper time in the studio on production and experimenting with our producers Jason Shaw and Luigi Pasquini. We could afford to hire a string quartet and even get Mark Gardener from RIDE involved to do the mastering. Collaborators and contributors on the record included Lavinia Blackwall, Mark O’Donnell, Anna McCracken, Rhona MacFarlane, and artwork from San Francisco based artist Nina Theda Black. Every element, from concept to cover art, hit a new level.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

The album is out 28th April. And we’re releasing a single from that each month in the run up to release day. We’re performing ‘God Intentions’ in its entirety, with the string quartet, at Stereo, Glasgow on Saturday 27th May.  Then we’ve a couple of tours planned. A short run in July including Kozfest in Devon 28th and The Black Prince in Northampton on 29th. Then we head out on a UK/EU tour in October with our friends Acid Rooster, from Leipzig, Germany. Dates to be announced. All the while we’ll be working on new material for the next record. 

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

Scream ‘FUCK THE TORIES!’ at the top of your lungs then head to and pour some Helicon right into your lugholes.