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Review + Q&A: Lay Llamas & JuJu- Flag Of Breeze (2023, Backwards)

In warm and humid Sicily, the deep, deep south of Italy, two men find each other again and again in waves of symbiotic creativity. The chemistry between Gioele Valenti (JuJu) and Nicola Giunta is strong. Together they are Lay Llamas, and Flag Of Breeze is their new EP of dreamy psychedelia. If one thing is clear, it is that their common electricity has not lost any of its power.

Flag Of Breeze is a short affair, consisting of four new songs, intermixed by short weird sounds, described by the duo as ” like a sort of radio tuning listening session among FM stations and misterious shortwaves transmissions”. The songs are very varied, from the dreamy post wave of Flag Of Breeze, to the tribal surf pop of Bury Me Tonight, the gothic witch dance of Mixtures And Potions, and the psychedelic dark cabaret of Underwater Jungle.

The result may be short, but it is a sweet little adventure. And it creates a hunger for more to come from this wonderful duo.

Gioele Valenti

I gladly took on the opportunity to do a second interview with Gioele and Nicola, this time together. We talked about the creation of Flag Of Breeze, why it took so long to physically release it, and what the future might bring…

Hi Gioele and Nicola! How have you been since we spoke last year?
GV.
Very well, thanks. Lost in magic.
NG. I’m fine, thanks.

What is the main reason you two keep on finding each other in Lay Llamas? In
what way do you complement each other?

NG. I think Gioele is among the best vocals composer out there… and I’m so lucky that
he’s a very good friend of mine at the same time. So, basically when it’s about Lay Llamas
I provide to send him instrumental tracks on which he writes and performs vocals, and I
mean melody, harmony and lyrics. There’s a kind of chemistry, something magic.
GV. I personally think it’s a matter of vibrations. We have a very long-lived friendship as
Nicola said. I think me and Nicola work together in a very strange and special alchemic
way. I have this “pop” attitude… and Nicola has this very incredible taste in exotic things,
music, art, he has a great sense for aestethic… I think that is the main reason we find each
other.

The album is listed as Lay Llamas & Juju, what is the difference from a regular
Lay Llamas release? It’s always the two of you, right?

NG. Right. But anyway we liked to add on Juju name to underline how much strong was
his work as composer. For the rest it’s basically the same thing we did in the past… with a
different typing on the sleeve maybe.
GV. Yes, basically the same process.

Can you tell me about the conception of Flag Of Breeze? What made you start
these songs, what was your intention?

NG. We recorded these tracks during the same sessions for GOUD LP (Black Sweat
Records, 2022). But too much tracks for a single LP so we did an EP for this second
release. Nothing different about creative process: I compose and record the music, send it
to Gioele that compose and record vocals, lyrics and sometimes any overdub with guitars,
synth, etc., finally I do the mix.
GV. Yes, we had a lot of stuff coming this time.

Even more than before this album is very psychedelic, hazy, dreamy. Is there an
explanation for this? Can you tell me about the specific influences for this one?

NG. Hazy and dreamy, more than psychedelic in my opinion. As always when we meet to
make music together as Lay Llamas a kind of mind-travellers music comes out.
Other(inner)worldly music I call it!
GV. I would call these songs “lazy” rather than “hazy”. Haunted more than psychedelic.
There’s this universalistic afflatus underneath. Songs for globetrotting spirits. I like to put it
this way.

What can you tell me about the release process, I heard that some people had to
wait for a long while on their orders? Can you explain what happened? It seems that
in the mean while Juju and Lay Llamas both released another record, right?

NG. Oh man, that was a real mess! The label sent the master to the pressing plant in April
2021 and it had received the vinyls one month ago or something. The Covid delay was
huge, at the same time the label could have handled it better maybe. Mainwhile a Lay
Llamas
LP titled GOUD It was released in March 2022 by italian label Black Sweat
Records
. Anyway, here we are.
GV. Very long time. Friend, let’s take it as another “long covid symptom”.

What can you tell me about the background stories behind the lyrics? What was
your inspiration for the words this time?

NG. I wrote only one lyric; Underwater Jungle. It was strongly inspired by Jules Verne
novels.
GV.I used to read a lot of quantum physics stuff while writing the songs. The collapse of
the wave function. Of how reality is an interactive process between the observed object
and the observer. Reality, basically, does not exist. Thought is everything.

Would you say that you are “typical Sicilians”? Why/why not?
NG.
Not a simple question. As I think Sicilian people are quite complex. For example,
Sicilians often use ‘maybe’ word rather than ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We talk using a layering language.
In this way I feel ‘typical’. But not if you consider ‘typical’ the sicilian guy with mustache and
shotgun on the back.
GV. I don’t like clichés, which immediately become a stigma. It depends on what you
mean by “typical”. If we mean a cultural trait, well, yes, then I feel I belong to a broad
culture, of great historical breadth, of great tradition. The other reflections on being
a typical Sicilian doesn’t make sense in my opinion. I’m no more typical than a
typical Englishman can be, these days.

What is the thing you look forward to most in 2023?
NG.
new music and art, still living with my dears, be a better human.
GV. Staying alive already seems like a great goal to me

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

NG. go out and take a walk, breath deeply, elevate yourself.
GV. Take care of you loved ones. You will save the entire world.

Nicola Giunta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tajak are:

Alvaro Castro: Drums + FX and Synth + FX.

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

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

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

What can you tell me about your musical background?

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

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

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

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

What is a typical day like in your life?

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

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

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

What is the best thing about La Sombra Del Agua?

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

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

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

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

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

Tajik’s previous album Ciclos

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your immediate and long-term future plans?

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

Review + Q&A: Sunburned Hand Of The Man- Headdress (20th anniversary re-release, 3Lobed Records)

Picture yourself in the middle of a dark and crowded room. The band stands in a circle around you. Feral men, wild eyes, long hair and beards. They chant shamanic hymns or sing lost words in broken sentences. They seem to have a secret communication. Through telepathic signalling they orchestrate their singular music. Completely in synch, they wander, not knowing where to go but feeling it together as one. As you start to feel it too, you close your eyes. This is what improvisation can be, and it is awe inspiring. When Sunburned Hand Of The Man do it on a good day, it is the best thing in the world.

Headdress is not a new album. It is a session from 2001, set in the early post 9/11 era of chaos and darkness. You can feel the apocalypse hanging in the air in these jams, perhaps even picture these chants the rituals of human civilisations that will outlive us after we have nuked ourselves to oblivion. There is a dark madness in the air that translates really well into the mostly instrumental music.

Clearly inspired by German improvisation legends Can, Sunburned Hand Of The Man has made this intuitional way of playing their own and added a certain wildness to it, a dangerous “anything could happen” vibe that I personally dig extremely well. Open minds are obligatory with this kind of music of course, but hey, if you came this far on this internet page and this review, I am quite sure you are already through that habit hole…so enjoy!

It took some hardcore stamina and some professional tree shaking to get Sunburned Hand Of The Man to respond to my emails, it is the reason this article was published over four months after the album’s official release date. But hey, when you finally get to reach out to American improv legend John Moloney you do not complain. I felt gratetful with his honest and thorough answers to my questions below…

Hi guys, how is Sunburned Hand Of The Man these days?  

Sunburned is doing great, we’re settling into our usual winter playing and  recording routine. Plus, Michael Josef K just moved to town and returned to the  fold after about a 15 year hiatus. We’re psyched. Phil Franklin is here visiting from  Australia too. We just did a few shows with him and that was fun. We’re getting  ready to record our next LP for Three Lobed and we’re finishing up artwork for  our new album Hypnotape which is coming out on VHF this spring in the first of  many CD, etc, focused releases.  

We’re all happily married to each other and bamboozled that we still foam at the  mouth to be able to do this after so many years, phases and music scene crazes.  

What have you guys been doing since your last release? 

Breathing, working, making art, reading, listening to records, looking at phones,  raising kids, stressing, guzzling, playing and recording more music on the  regular.  

Personally, I tour manage and play second drums on occasion with Dinosaur Jr  as my “real job.” I love it and we just finished up a very busy year of touring with  Ryley Walker, Pink Mountaintops, GBV and Garcia Peoples on the various tours.  So it’s nice to be home with my family and getting busy with Sunburned again. I  could do without the New England winter though… 

Tell me what kind of band Sunburned Hand Of The Man is these days?  

We’re a country-western massachusetts mental ghetto ensemble and psychedelic  trap house. There’s no way out. 

Who decides what and when? Do you see each other frequently, etc…

Sunburned itself makes all the decisions, I act as the conduit but most usually we  decide things as a group. We see each other all the time. 2 guys share an  apartment and 5 of us live within a mile radius of each other, the rest are just  minutes away.  

What can you tell me about this new re-release of “Headdress”?  

We were asked to reissue the record by Cory Rayborn at Three Lobed. We needed  to remaster it first and none of us could find an original cd master. It was all  recorded on cassette tape. I have 99% of our archive semi-organized here at the  HQ and it still took me over a year to track down all of the original tapes and one  is still missing. It drove me insane having to listen to all that headdress era music  and eventually Ron tracked down the master. 

All of the original art is here. This was pre-easy computer so we rebuilt it from the  parts and expanded on the art. 

Marc Orleans who passed in 2020 was a HUGE part of this record so its great to  have his spirit still burning hot on this record. He made it the record it is with his  amazing playing and I’m glad Cory really pushed to put this back in circulation.  Carl Saff made it sound even better than the original too.  

We were going to maybe do an expanded version with other material from the era  but that didn’t happen.  

 Can you take me back twenty years to when you made it?  

A lot of the music on Headdress was made the day after 9/11/2001 and the  following weeks. Those times were crazy and we were 20 years younger and  wilder with most of us living together in a loft space in Charlestown, MA. We were  also doing a weekly residency at the Burren in Davis Square Somerville which is  still a killer traditional Irish music pub. I tended bar there for a while. They had a  back room where non-Irish music played once in a while and we were given the  Wednesday night slots. 20 years ago we the project was based in Boston and  Somerville, and now we’ve all drifted out to Western Mass which is odd and  amazing to me.  

Do you still recall what it was like to be in the band at that time? What is the biggest  difference to the present in your mind? 

At that time being in Sunburned was essential to the mental health and survival of  everyone involved. We weren’t thinking about being a “band’ in the traditional  sense. We were bonded in our need for group therapy and the fun that  surrounded it.  

Is the Manhand label still alive?  

Yes, Manhand is still very much alive. 

What is your relationship with 3Lobed like? 

Very good. Cory is a friend and brother to all of us and we’re so happy and  looking forward to the future together. We just put together a loose schedule of  releases with Bill at VHF too and I’m personally beyond excited to have  Sunburned working with my two favorite labels.  

Where should a Sunburned Hand newbie start in your rather extensive discography?  

Start with Headdress, then check out Jaybird, No Magic Man, Rare Wood,  Anatomy, Get Wet With The Animal, My Accident, Fire Escape, A, Earth Do Eagles  Do, The Spacial Crime Symbol, Double Puberty, Vugarisms, Pick A Day to Die and  Headdless. That’ll give you the broadest potpourri of vibes.  

What are your proudest pieces of recording as a band?

All of the above. Is an honor and pleasure to be In this crew.  

What kind of music are you listening to today? Which contemporary bands do you  dig? 

I’m listening hard to Bardo Pond’s reissues on Fire and Three Lobed this week.  Right now I have Bitchin’ Bajas’ Rebajas on the cd player.  

Can you tell me some of the most memorable stories of being in this band? The  weirdest, most outrageous, or just beautiful parts of it? 

There’s way too many to write out here but I will shamelessly plug the 8 part  Sunburned Podcast, which is still in production that’s coming out worldwide later  this year which will be full of the best and most colorful stories.  

If you’d go back to the 90s when you started the band, what would you do differently?

If I could go back to the 90s I would have bought a lot more music gear at  Cambridge Music and a couple of triple deckers in Boston with my bartending  money instead of spending a lot of it on partying, fine dining and up to a dozen  plane tickets at a time for Sunburned tours instead back then. I don’t regret any of  it.  

Do you have any wisdom to share with the Weirdo Shrine readers reading this  interview? 

Experiences rule. Take yourself places physically and mentally.  

Review + Q&A: Buddha Sentenza- High Tech Low Life (2023, Pink Tank Records)

Buddha Sentenza does not play it hard to get on their new album High Tech Low Life. From the the get go album opener Oars puts it all out there, everything that makes this band so freaking awesome in nine glorious minutes. The Heidelberg, German instrumental band consists of five individuals, each wearing their distinct influences on their sleeves. On Oars you can hear it in an energetic culmination of heavy metal, prog rock, punk, space rock, and soundtrack atmospheres. It is in-your-face-heavy, virtuoso, but has its subtle moments as well where guitarist B.B. Blacksheep shines on violin.

video for Ricochet

There is a strong sense of joy emanating from the album. A more commercial band might opt for a more uniform sound perhaps, but you can hear these guys are bored easily. Not a minute is the same, and the songs gallop in all kinds of different directions from double bass drum trigger happy to epic fantasy movie soundscapes. Buddha Sentenza does what they want, and they sound thrilled doing it.

By being stubborn and sticking to their own values they have created a thing of their own that is hard to relate to anything else going on at the moment. I will give it a shot. Within the instrumental rock/metal spectrum they might be closer to a band like Long Distance Calling then to many of the more improvisational jam bands out there, but there are some Farflung-related space rock parts as well (synthesizers from outer space). They are not quite as technical as Animals As Leaders (they definitely don’t “djent” -thank buddha-), but they make up plenty by being adventurous and original. Ultimately though, Buddha Sentenza is their own beast. High Tech Low Life is a unique album of five gifted musicians doing what they love, and doing it right.

I talked to drummer Tom “Jesus Malverde” of the band about their new album, the place they are from, and contemporary influences. If anything, he definitely is as passionate about music as he sounds like drumming.

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for Buddha Sentenza?

The conditions for small underground acts and event organizers were already tough before the pandemic. This situation became even worse, but we don’t want to complain, we still keep on doing what we love.

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

We met as students at the University of Heidelberg who enjoyed playing as a jam project together, just directly what came in our minds. Time after time we began to develop more complex song structures, but still integrate jam parts till this day.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

We have different musical backgrounds. I played in a punk band before, the guitar players are more into metal, the bassist played garage/indy rock and the keyboarder is a prog head.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

I work mainly as a drum teacher in a music school, but beside that I also run a small screenprint business and organize underground shows.

What is the best thing about High Tech, Low Life (and what does the title mean)?

The title is an hommage to an old friend of us called Ombo. He was a homeless man who lived a while in our rehearsal complex. He was a connoisseur of the art of living, a bohemian and a hedonist. He was the perfect example of a man living in a modern world but really reflected his needs and was satisfied with the little property he got and showed us that you don‘t need much to be happy.He was also an artist, who used everyday garbage to create partial complex art. That impressed us.

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

We live in Heidelberg, Germany, but originally I came from a small village where you had no options to do music and art and stuff. So we where forced to create our own entertainment by going in the fields with an generator and played from the back of a tractor trailer. We‘re used to create our own creative environment. We like the idea that you don‘t just consume culture. Create culture yourself and live the D.I.Y. spirit. If the environment doesn‘t fit your needs, start getting active yourself.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Mhhh, I‘m not the hyping type of guy and no fan of big names. I prefer people doing their stuff without any intentions of getting rich and famous. So I would recommend the underrated artists. To drop some Names however: Oma Hans, Nekropsi, Clutchy Hopkins, Dakh Daughters, Neptunian Maximalism, The Budos Band, Dead Quiet, Daniel Higgs, Matt Eliott.

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

Sometimes we just start jamming and arrange the occured parts we like the most. Sometimes one of the guitar players develop a basic structure and then we add instrument after instrument to it until all of us played a part. It‘s quite grass roots democracy based.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

Playing Shows, releasing more music, meeting interessting people, having a good time.

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

In general support your local underground, visit shows, buy some merch or start beeing creative yourself. In particular visit our bandcamp Site or check out some Videos on Youtube we did and maybe leave a comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you introduce yourself?

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

What can you tell me about your musical background?

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

What does a regular day in your life look like?

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

What is the best thing about Astral Magic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

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

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

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

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

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

All Peace to You, Galactic Brothers and Sisters…

Review + Q&A: Fabriccio De la Mora- Entropy Death (2022, Echodelick Records, Dirty Filthy Records)

Instrumental music takes me to the movies. When there is no story told by a lyricist it is up to the mind to put images to the wordless music. In case of Fabriccio de La Mora (also check out his previous album) this is a very easy thing to do. He loves sci-fi and horror and the mixture of the two genres. David Cronenberg and Stuart Gordon are his celluloid heroes. So if titles like Robo Warrior, Bride Of Re-Animator, Dead Ringers, or Scanner mean anything to you, you’d be able to summon these images as well.

The music is often up tempo and oppressive, with a stifling eerie feel to most of these tracks. Synth effects warp up the sci-fi feel, while the guitars do most of the talking. It is like de La Mora and his band have watched a lot of flicks with speedy space ships and intense pursuit scenes while creating their jams. The guitars howl, the drums thunder, the riffs maul the listener in seemingly endless repetition…it is definitely not kraut rock for the hippie generation.

Steampunks and 80s VHS watching sci-fi nerds should however definitely take heed. Entropy Death might summon up a bunch of unseen movies they might enjoy…

I talked to Fabriccio de La Mora, who dialed in from his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico. It is amazing how popular culture can connect people allover the world, as my music listening head was fully emerged in the sci -fi world and unsuspecting of its Earthly origins. It is a sign once again that music is universal, and a language we all speak fluently.

How are you? How has the past year been for you as a musician?
All good! Pretty chill actually. Been mostly composing and recording and mixing and making art and all that good stuff.

Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Fabriccio De la Mora. I’m 33 and I’m an artist from Guadalajara, Mexico. 

What can you tell me about your musical background?
My dad is a musician. He plays acoustic guitar since he was a teenager, but he couldn’t pursue a full-on music career because my mom got pregnant when they were both young. So me and my brothers and my sister lived in a musical environment, listening mostly to latin american ballads, son cubano and some rock classics of course. All of my brothers got to choose their favorite instruments, and I started playing drums when I was 12, which I sold later at 15 to get my first electric guitar. I played in a few bands. Been playing both guitar and drums since then. I went to art uni later and took a few experimental sound classes there, so that gave me that part of my background. I started a project called Par Asito in 2010 as a solo project, mostly to release noises I recorded independently. That project grew into a heavy psych band that still exists today. I started my solo project on 2019, and I released my first 2 albums this year. I play this solo work with my friends Bubu, Ratita, Fausto, and my cousin Buki.

What does a regular day in your life look like?
I usually wake up to read. Currently digging William Gibson. I’m a software engineer so I usually spend most of my day programming and by the end of the day I take an hour or two to work on music, but I’m currently on sabbatical so my day to day is quite different. Right now I’m mostly working on either art or music. I’m currently working on some art pieces involving circuit boards, I’m also mixing my 4th solo album which I plan to release on the latter half of 2023, and I just started working on my fifth album. I’m also a fan of old electronics and media so I go out thrice a week to flea markets to see what treasures I can find. I just found a working Powerbook 520 that works perfectly well.

What is the best thing about Entropy Death?
I feel like that album came out straight from the gut. I think there’s a lot of coherence between the conceptualization of the tracks and what is expressed sonically in them. I also think my friends and I did a good job recording it. Overall it feel like a solid art piece.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?
I live in Guadalajara. There’s lost of bands. They mostly don’t last more than one EP. People don’t seem to like spending more than $100 MXN (around $5 USD) on a local band. Some of the older bands I’ve played along for years seem a bit desperate now to get signed, so they come up with these goofy sounding silly looking side projects. Local venues are now being extorted by the cartels. I would say it is mostly not fun.

What is your main aim with your music, is it complete artistic expression, or an escape from the every day world? (or something else ;))
My main aim to create a body of work full of futuristic alien landscapes worthy of Stuart Gordon and David Cronenberg movies.

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs? And what is the main difference from last time around?
I started composing Grand Unified Theories on the guitar and then moved to the rest of the layers. I started Entropy Death on the drums and moved my way up. I just play until something interesting comes up and then I work on it. Usually takes a week per track. Once I have around 40 minutes I call the friends I work with and record things properly at home. I like having someone else mixing and mastering it.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?
Short term I could really use some help booking some cool shows. As far as the future goes, I have no idea.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?
Go watch From Beyond by Stuart Gordon.
From Beyond (trailer)

Review + Q&A: Les Big Byrd- Eternal Light Brigade (2022, Chimp Limbs)

Joakim Åhlund is a producer and songwriter from Sweden who has done some pretty impressive things in his career. He fronted garage pop band The Caesars, as well as electro pop band Teddybears STHLM, and wrote hit songs for famous artists like Cheryl Cole, Robyn, Sia, and collabs with Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Iggy Pop. You can imagine he is a musician with some freedom to roll the way he likes. Les Big Byrd is how he likes to roll. Together with Frans Johansson of Fireside, drummer Nino Keller, and keyboardist Crille he explores cosmic space krautrock style. Eternal Light Brigade is their best album to date.

Eternal Light Brigade is so incredibly cool because it oozes hazy relaxation while throbbing up fierce urgency at the same time. Stereolab-esque drum repetitions, super spaced up keys, and Jocke’s characteristic sleazy “Caesars” vocals make it a unique kraut pop experience. And there are songs! Whether they last seven minutes, two, or five, they are all laced with that Swedish earwurm quality that will make you hum along in the shower whether you want to or not. To me personally it is the warmth the album radiates that is most appealing. It is the perfect morning record, a ray of relaxing sunshine to the face that is so much needed in these days of darkness and cold.

And finally, Eternal Light Brigade is a fun record. These four guys had a good time making it, and it shows. Good music does not need to be overtly complicated at all, as long as it takes you the right places. Les Big Byrd spreads their enormous wings, and takes you to space. What more do you need?

I had the good fortune to reach Joakim “Jocke” Åhlund through the interwebs. He was friendly enough to introduce us to the rest of the band, their plans, and how they generally roll. I got the feeling that life in general is good to these birds.

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

I feel good, thanks. The pandemic was awful of course for the world and for a lot of people and it’s not like I can’t feel empathy with that but I have to say that for me personally, it was kind of not entirely unpleasant. If you could avoid the whole apocalyptic feeling of it all. 

I liked that the ever spinning wheels of capitalism sort of got a spoke in them and I liked the calmness and even to some extent, the isolation. 

Can you introduce yourselves?

We are four guys from Stockholm Sweden that like to make and play music together. We have been around for a long time although you have not heard about us. We play some sort of space rock I guess one might say, sometimes reminiscent of krautrock from the seventies, sometimes with psychedelic elements and sounds. Nino, our drummer has a day job as a mailman and Crille, our keyboard player is really good at cooking. Frans our bass-player works in a bar and he was previously in a band called Fireside, who were signed to Rick Rubin’s Def American label in the US. I have a recording studio in a little 400 year old cabin right in the middle of Stockholm. 

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Nino, the drummer is classically trained, but all three other of us have learned by failure. 

I have been in hundreds of bands over the years, some have had some little limited commercial success and others have been quite good artistically I think. Frans, our bassist, was in Fireside as I mentioned above and also played in a bunch of different other projects, Crille, our keyboardist used to be the percussionist and composer in a avant garde string-quintet.  

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

I wake up super early mostly, especially if I have had a drink or more the night before. I like those quiet hours before the rest of the family wakes up. That’s when I write stuff mostly, I usually make a pot of coffee and then I sit by the kitchen table and play my electric guitar really quietly without plugging it in, and with the morning news rolling on my laptop. 

Then I usually go to the studio and work on some music. I make music for films and stuff, and sometimes I produce other artists when I’m not making my own music.

Then I will go and have some beers at the bar where Frans works and maybe see some friend or my girlfriend. And then I go home to my apartment, wich I am so grateful to have, and go to sleep, if I can, in my nice warm bed, while the icy winter wind howls in the street outside my window.  

What is the best thing about Eternal Light Brigade?

I like the songs and I like the sounds. And we had fun making it, it was probably the least hard and painful record we’ve made so far. We all stayed friends during the process and the fighting was absolutely minimal. I have to say that I’m real happy with the way it turned out also. I like the spontaneous parts of it the most.

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

I was born in Stockholm and have lived here ever since. It’s like a quite small town at the edge of the world, but that can also have its advantages. When I was was younger I used to be bothered and frustrated over the fact that I lived sort of like outside of where the real world was taking place. I used to always dream about moving to NYC or LA or someplace more vibrant and happening. But as time has passed and I can appreciate the calmness here more. Nino, our drummer and Crille are also born and raised in Stockholm. Frans originally comes from further up north in Sweden from an even smaller town, or more like a village even. But he moved down to Stockholm pretty much as soon as he could, when he was something like 19 or so. 

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

We do this because we find some kind of satisfaction in making music together that we groove to. But the better we get an d the better we think the music gets, the more fun we think it is.

We do have a lot of freedom of expression with this band, that’s the best part of being a small indie band with very limited ”success”. 

There’s no one who can or even wants to try and tell us what to do. I guess that makes whatever comes out of this project, if it’s great or shit, at least it comes from ourselves and it’s kind of real and honest. I grew up with that whole DIY aesthetic from punk and hardcore and underground rock and I guess I still believe in that part of it. It comes down to the artwork record covers and everything. It’s homegrown. 

Of course there’s still a lot of limitations for our artistic expression and possibilities but at least those limitations don’t come from outside the group. And they’re something that we can work on overcoming.  

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

We recorded most of this album in an island in the baltic called Gotland. I loved the isolated and calm feeling of Gotland in the off season. Gotland gets invaded by tourists during the summer months, but if you’re there pretty much any time except june to august, it feels like a calm and secluded place, the nature is very special and Visby town is a super special and very beautiful town. We spent most of the time in the studio, but we also found time to go for long walks, we met up with friends of ours that live on the island, and I even swam in the sea one morning. It was in october and really refreshing haha. But mostly we were in the studio of course, since we had a limited amount of time that we could stay away from home because of other duties and we wanted to concentrate on the album. 

I love the sounds we got in that studio and the seclusion also worked in our favour, it was so much easier to concentrate and stay in the bubble of making the album. 

I love it when sounds in music are not too familiar to me, when you can’t really understand where they derive from, that’s why we love love experimenting with weird electronics and pedals and stuff. I suppose that’s where the psychedelic element in our music comes in. 

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

We are in the middle of a tour of Sweden right now, we have a couple of shows left before christmas, and then next year we will continue touring in Europe and also hopefully other parts of the world. 

At the same time we are also working on scoring a documentary about a big industry poison scandal, so I’ making a lot of ominous and foreboding music for that in my studio on the days off from touring. 

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

Take a listen to the album that John Cale and Terry Riley made together in 1971 that’s called Church Of Anthrax, that’s a really good one. 

Review + Q&A: Thee UFO- Ponderous Fug (2022, Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records

Thee UFO are a band that brings a piece of the fuzzy ultraviolence to your living room. Fifty something years after Stanley Kubrick launched his celluloid masterpiece A Clockwork Orange, this Irish band channels exactly the kind of snotty, botched up psycho punk energy that would have been its perfect soundtrack….

Lending their ears to American examples like Thee Oh Sees (duh!), and 60s garage rock, Thee UFO clearly is not afraid to wander weirder pathways still. Channeling Neu!‘s krautrock sound on album interlude Structure Collapse for instance, or stretching their usual short attention spanned song writing to the impressive seven minutes of underwater noise rocker Transparent Seed.

Album closer Ponderous Fug is another slow burner, with a hair raising impression of The Velvet Underground at their druggiest and most broken. It is a thoughtful and deep ending of an album that started off with loud and raucous banter and violence. A bit like the way Kubrick created different layers into his movie, making A Clockwork Orange such a wild and interesting watch.

I asked the band ten questions, and rebels as they are, they only answered six. The things they did say definitely give us a good idea of who we are dealing with here though…

What is the best thing about Ponderous Fug?

The best thing is the fact that vinyl is out now. We’re officially done with it, we’re moving on. 

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

We live in Dublin, Ireland. The musical environment is good if you plan on making somewhat commercial music or if you’re big on marketing. There is a small psych scene, however we’re not completely married to that genre we’re very much interested in making anything and everything we can. Overall we’re not involved in the Irish music scene, we fall into every other subset. 

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

We want to create, that’s the most important thing about doing this, just being able to create. Artistic expression will never be eased, we have material ready for at least the next 10 years.  It’s really easy to find yourself lost in a song, an instrument or a piece of equipment, that is a really fulfilling, comfortable, calming thing, to be so interested in something as simple as two notes and getting completely lost in that for hours. 

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

It can be quite similar to getting lost in something for a while and building a song out of two notes, however songs do often come about generically. We do tend to jam on some songs that maybe aren’t of interest initially; eventually by trial and error we make songs worth recording. Other times we record, then cut up and combine songs. 

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

To create as much as possible. 

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

Listen to some music, read a book, watch a movie, go for a walk, tell someone you love them. Live. 

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

Brett Savage, John and dave Cambridge in Birdman Sound 2018

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

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

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

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

What can you tell me about your musical background?

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

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

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

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

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

Cool shot at an album release show in 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 with Damo Suzuki at House Of Targ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

United States of America – S/T

Fifty Foot Hose – Cauldron

Christmas – Heritage

Hawkwind – Space Ritual

Miles Davis – Dark Magus

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

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

2018, opening for Yawning Man

Check out John’s musical outlets here:

Review + Q&A: Falling Floors- S/T (2022, Riot Season Records/Echodelick Records)

For a psychedelic rock band Falling Floors are pretty hard to pinpoint. I found out that talking to them helped a great deal to place them better in my head. These guys are fans of Butthole Surfers and Jefferson Airplane, the weird and offshoot bands in a genre full of followers, and while they don’t sound like those oldschool heroes at all, it is clear what their aim was here. For contemporary reference I would say that Falling Floors would not be out of place inside the cult following around Hey Colossus and their modern mixture of post punk, noise rock, and psych.

This self-titled album sounds raw and heavy, and was recorded without too many overdubs I am sure, to capture a certain ferociousness and live energy. This is something you might want to plow through a little bit the first listen, but when it “clicks”, like about half way through the eight minute barn burner Infinite Switch, you are hooked.

Between every long(er) form song like the catchy Ridiculous Man, and Flawed Theme, there is a weird interlude, building up from half a minute to two minutes, before all hell breaks loose in the eighteen minute noise jam extravaganza of Elusive And Unstable Nature Of Truth. It is where Falling Floors let’s go of all restraints and just sets the controls for the heart of the sun, in their own noisy botched up psych head way.

A very interesting and mind expanding experience then, this first encounter with these UK psych mongers. Fans of the afore mentioned bands, Wrong Speed Records, GNOD, and genuinely being surprised while taking your overdose of reverb drenched rock, this is your cup of tea.

So let’s have a chat then! As hard as it was to fully grasp what Falling Floors were doing sonically, as easy is it to connect with them. In the following interview they kindly and honestly explain what they are all about and where they come from. Drummer Colin Greenwood gave us the tour…

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for Falling Floors?

We’re all grand thank you for asking. The pandemic was, in the scheme of things, pretty OK for Falling Floors. We all lived in a wild and beautiful corner of the UK where we could hunker down, hope for the best and wait for it all to pass. And without the pandemic and desire to see people and make a big, messy load of noise, the band would probably never have come to pass.

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

So we are Rob on guitars and vocals, Harry on bass, and me, Colin, on drums. Rob and I know each other from the London psych / prog / rock / 60s music scene. We have almost certainly exchanged sweat on a crowded dance floor. I’m originally from around here, so once everyone had moved up north we all became friends. Harry and me started jamming and then Rob joined and brought some much-needed discipline to our freeform mucking about.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

So Harry has spent a lot of time getting lost in free-noise jams and found himself hankering after a tune. Rob’s actually had some moderate success, first with Elks and then with Early Mammal, who found kinship with the London stoner / avant garde rock scene based around the Baba Yaga’s Hut nights. I’ve noodled in bands for years without achieving much of note. We all like a tune and we all like taking said tune and bashing it to a bloody pulp.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

First off we’ve all got day jobs 🤘so let’s be real here and accept there’s fair bit of selling our life, one day at a time, to suck on Mammon’s teat. And then we’re all pretty different. Harry makes films, Rob’s an academic (handy if you find yourself in a tight spot and needing a bit of emergency jurisprudence) and I’m a designer, with two kids and all that comes with that.

What is the story behind the album? It has a strong “live” feel to it, could you explain that?

Well first off we’re not session ninjas, so there’s gonna be rough edges. And then we’ve all played in bands which have recorded and mixed and EQ’d and noodled themselves to a standstill. We didn’t want to make perfect product. We’d got some songs, we were quite excited, and we wanted to capture that. We wanted to make something righteous and true in a world drowning in almost unbearable bullshit. A mini, futile, defiant stand. 

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

Ace, basically. Harry and me live in the Calder Valley, which is one of a few valleys which cut through the hills that run down the spine of England. It’s all rain and mud and moorland and wet stone and scudding clouds. Beautiful. And inspiring. The rehearsal rooms are cheap, there’s a joyous DIY spirit, and a great music scene based around a couple of fearless, supportive venues. Rob moved down south to Devon just after recording the album. He’s still in the countryside, but it’s a softer, fatter vibe down there. He claims not to miss the north, but I think he’s lying.

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

Make something true and honest. I can’t speak for Rob and Harry but I’d love to get wilder and weirder. It’s so easy for ideas to get censored and trimmed and sanitized. I’ve always been inspired by bands like the Butthole Surfers who made genuinely weird things, the likes of which the world had never heard before. Doing things that haven’t got a name yet, to quote Jefferson Airplane. If we could make something that was pure unfettered expression, but still had a killer tune, I’d die a happy man.

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

There isn’t really a pattern yet. Rob brought one song pretty much fully formed. Harry brought some bass lines which were the spine of another couple. And one was jammed into existence starting with a drum pattern. I hope we’ll all keep writing and contributing and it’s doesn’t become one person’s project. As for recording, we get in a room, we point microphones at things, we play the song a few times, few overdubs and we call it done. Old school.

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

Crikey. Making the charidee album with Eric, Keef and Bono obviously. No, not that. Playing something which you’re proud of, which adds something new to the world, to people who appreciate the effort. I’m sure we’d all like our Falling Floors jet, but I think them days are over.

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

Walk to the top of the highest hill you can find, strip to the waist and whilst wearing headphones listen to our tune ‘Infinite Switch’, square off into the wind and rain and scream your fury at all the see-you-next-tuesdays of the world. Then go home, have a nice cup of tea and kiss your kids / dogs / loved ones on the head.