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Review + Q&A: Sound Of Smoke- Phases (2023, Tonzonen Records)

Have you ever wondered what the sound of smoke sounds like? Well you won’t find out here, but judging from the cover and the psychedelic rock oozing out of the speakers while playing Phases, Sound Of Smoke from Freiburg sure do like to smoke one themselves!

With a huge progression from their previous album, especially production wise, Phases engulfs the listener, drowning you in a purple haze. Beautiful, beautiful vocals pop up out of nowhere like sirens, drawing you in, and for three quarters of an hour you’ll be entranced.

The songs are subtle, stripped, and on point, always including enough earwurm to stick with you, but not so much as to be poppy or annoying. The band has truly found their own sound, a rare thing in female fronted psych rock, where belting divas often set the tone. Not here though. Singer Isabelle Bapté keeps you on your toes, her aura radiating more 60s beat pop than 70s larger than life rock (I am looking at you Blues Pills!). Which in my humble opinion is a very good thing, and a feature that makes them stand out from the rest.

So what does smoke sound like? I still do not know. But I do know that Phases is a perfect album to smoke one to. Just let the haze hit your eyes, and let Sound Of Smoke take care of your ears.

Interview time of course! I talked to the band, and they all pinched in for the answers. Nowadays singer Isabelle has moved away from their hometown of Freiburg to live in the big city of Berlin, but that does not hold Sound Of Smoke back…not even close!

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for Sound Of Smoke?

Hi! Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to do this interview! We are all fine, we just had our pre-release show and we are very excited for the official release of our new album Phases. The pandemic period was very productive for us. We wrote most of our Songs in this time and in 2021 we went to the Big Snuff Studio in Berlin to record the songs for the upcoming album. Of course the pandemic had also some negative effects. There where no live shows and meeting with the band was not always easy due to all regulations. ‘Anyway we are happy this time is over and we are looking forward to play a lot of shows in 2023.

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

The band was founded by Isabelle, the singer and florian (former guitar player – now Bass and synth). Florian knew the Drummer Johannes from school and he was in to jam and see whats gonna happen. As the final member, Jens joined the band and became the guitar player of Sound of Smoke. After 2 years of searching for their musical direction, the quartet released their first LP Eletheromania in 2018 and 2021 followed the LP Tales via Tonzonen.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

We all have a similiar taste of music. We are all strongly influenced from the psychedlic retro bands of the 60s/70s. Also the german kraut bands like NEU, Kraan, Kraftwerk have affected the sound of the band. But the roots of the music are mainly coming from blues and boogie.

Anyway we never tried to copy anyone and we where looking for our own way of creating music and going for new directions.

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

The members of the band all have jobs next to music (unfortunately). So we are mainly avarage working people… But if we talk about a free day for all the band. It probably would start with a nice brunch followed by some somke 😉 then a lot of jamming, dinner and a show at night for the perfect day with the band 🙂

What is the best thing about Phases?

Thats a hard one. The songs for the album where created in different times (Phases) of the band. Some songs existed long before corona others came to life in this time, some where written just days before the studio. So that is it what inspired us for the title Phases. The songs vary from heavy to soft to psychedlic to stoner. Blues to kraut to oriental. The best thing of the record is probably that we are finally can release it and finally have a proper LP with descent sound. Also we really love the artwork, which was done by an artist called Mirkow Gastow.

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

We all used to live in Freiburg (south west Germany). Now Isabelle moved to Berlin but we still will continue to make music, even if its now a bit harder then before. Berlin is a paradise for creative people and any sub culture you can think of. Freiburg is compared to Berlin a pretty small and quite town. But the music scene is very active there and full of talented musicians. Of course there is room for improvements. Rehearsal rooms are pretty hard to find and most sub cultural live venues had to close down.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

King Buffalo, All Them Witches, DeWolff, Pentagram, Electric Octopus, and many many more. And all the old dudes who are still alive of course as well (Sabbath, Floyd, Deep Purple, Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane).

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

Most of our songs are created from jams. We pick different parts from the jams and put it together to an arrangement. Then mostly isabelle is adding the lyrics. After that we are rehearsing the songs and change the structure.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

For this year we want to focus on the release of the LP. We plan to play some festivals in summer and maybe do a little tour later that year. We are also working on new songs but this will take time. We plan to go to the studio in 2024 and hopefully release the new record end of 2024.

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

Smoke a spliff and listen to our new record 😀

Thanks so much for this interview! Lots of Love to all supporters and listeners out there!

Isa, Flo, Jens, Johannes

Review + Q&A: Ambassador Hazy- The Door Between (2023, Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube Records)

Basement stoner and lo-fi music maker Sterling DeWeese is back from not going anywhere since his last Ambassador Hazy album The Traveller. On his third album The Door Between he once again explores his inner band, this time really creating an organic, living and breathing structure.

Rather than a human dude playing his instruments, DeWeese has tweaked his guitars and keys in such a way that they form a throbbing, pulsating, alien-like sound-being that is unlike anything you ever heard. It is like the sonic equivalent of when Jeff Goldblum teleported himself into a horrible pink gooey creature in The Fly, only not horrible but wonderful, and something you would actually take home to show your girlfriend.

At times rocking out full fuzz blazing, at other times more weirdly folking about, the album is a varied mixture of ideas and sounds, but with a very distinct Ambassador Hazy signature. It is with much respect and reverence I thought more than once of Eels, and Mark E. is a similar soul perhaps. It is definitely quirky and “out there”, but it also has an undeniable charm that makes you return to it time after time.

The Door Between is another chapter in the strange life of Ambassador Hazy, and it is most definitely not the last. As spectators on the side line we can hope his hazy run will last for a long time, so we can enjoy his quirks for a long time to come.

Another album, another chat! Sterling DeWeese was definitely up for it, so of course so were we! Here’s the Ambassador himself, explaining all of his doings and undoings:

How are you? How have you been since last we spoke?  

I’m very well thank you. I think like everybody it has been nice remeriging from the Covid cocoon and finally going to see a few shows again including Stereolab, Kikagaku Moyo, TBWNIS (very fun to meet them and join in for a few numbers on a recent visit to Ottawa).

What contemporary music have you recently discovered that we should know about?  

If you leaf through the record pile there aren’t too many new records but a few favorites from the last year or two are Rick White – Where It’s Fine,  Witches Broom – s/t,  Primordal Undermind – An Imaginal Abydos, Spiritualized – Everything Was Beautiful, Mouth Painter – Tropicale Moon, Stereolab – Pulse of the Early Brain.

What is the best thing about The Door Between? 

 I think it’s the best thing I’ve put out so far, so for me it’s gratifying to still be creating something relevant and that I’m actually excited about.  I hope other folks find that it strikes a chord with them too.  As always I try and keep the artifice low and the sincerity high.  

Who did the album cover, and what can you tell me about it? It seems a lot gloomier than your last record…

I actually discovered the image via Instagram, it’s by a photographer friend of mine Cary Whitter. I just saw it and loved it, and thought it would make a great cover.  And it’s seemed to fit well with the album title- sort of the mysterious veil between the mundane and spiritual.

What was your aim when composing these songs, and how is it different from last time? 

I think this record is a bit more focused, though consistent with the sort of themes I usually end up singing about, sort of being an outsider, or at least feeling outside of things and the ways one might find connection be that through drugs, music, love. It’s all pretty simple stuff, and as always I’m usually just doing most of the lyric compostion off the cuff, so whatever pops into my head I’ll try it and then just massage it a bit until it sits right with the song.  

Usually I start with the backing track and building it up in layers until there is enought of a frame to hang some lyrics on. I don’t really do narrative stuff so it’s all about the feeling and vibe. The title track, for instance, I started with the title “the door between” which was borrowed from an old detective novel I was reading at the time and then I developed the idea, basically chronicling

 taking mushrooms and opening the doors of perception if you like, so you can see the connectedness between all things while also being very aware of your own solitude.

Can you tell me how you got into contact with your record labels?  

With the first record I did reach out to various labels via email etc but I got no bites, so that’s why that one ended up as a self release. Thanks to my friend Josh Schultz (Lime Eyelid, Traveling Circle) I got that self released record into the hands of some of the “Psych Lovers” (Hi Lovers!) in particular John Westhaver (TBWNIS) who was too kind and said some nice things which caught the eye of Dave Cambridge, head honcho of Cardinal Fuzz and that’s how I ended up working with him on The Traveler and now The Door Between.  And Dave reached out to Feeding Tube who are handling the US release on this new record.  Thanks and three cheers for Dave, Byron and Ted for supporting independent artists.

What are your immediate and long term future plans? 

I think I’ll still be hanging out in the basement taking drugs to make music to take drugs to. No plans to take it on the road or anything though that would be fun it’s probably not in the cards as yet.

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

Dear Reader – mark your calendars and standby for the record release on Jan. 27th.  I hope you enjoy it. 

Review + Q&A: ZOAHR- Apraxia (2022, self-released)

I met ZOAHR on the road with my band when we played a show together somewhere in the South of Germany. Good dudes, and their music stood out in total solidness, especially the vocals, that strongly reminded me of Graveyard‘s Joakim Nilsson, which is of course a total hero of modern heavy blues rock. ZOAHR’s Jessie Schmidt definitely has a throat to match though.

On Apraxia the band proves they are able to channel their sweaty psychedelic blues rock energy on tape as well. The album breathes smokey underground blues bars and whiskey soaked brawls. It’s music to drink too many beers to and then rip your throat trying to howl along the songs. It’s a varied bunch of songs as well, jumping from heavy uptempo barn burners to booze soaked bluesy power ballads.

Fans of Graveyard will have found a new favorite here, but ZOAHR will also appeal to fans of oldschool grunge bands like Soundgarden, Blind Melon, and Screaming Trees. In the end though, modern rock music is all about the blues, and ZOAHR is a band that has pinned this knowledge on their sleeves. A solid album, by three solid dudes!

Live in Landau (GER) playing in support of No Man’s Valley

I talked to singer/guitarist and songwriter Jessie Schmidt. He carefully explained what is like for an underground rocker to survive in contemporary Germany. It is no fairytale but the true musician bravely soldiers on.

How are you? How has the pandemic period and its aftermath been for ZOAHR?

Hi Jasper. First of all thank you for inviting us to do this interview. I’m doing good. A great relief, after the last couple of month with crunch time and deadlines leading towards this release. Since we are an DIY operated band I’m involved in every single step in the making process of our releases but also in the afterwork of promotion and booking. The whole pandemic thing hit us pretty hard. We just had our first album released in late 2019 and about 8-9 shows played so far to support OFF AXIS and then we had to cancel weekenders, festivals and all single shows for the rest of the year. That was pretty flattening for all of us cause we ultimately lost the whole album circle. We played one streaming Show in June 2020 and after that we went straight into pre-production for Apraxia but the lockdowns made it almost impossible to work on the songs for longer periods. Luckily we somehow made it happen to finish all songs just in time to enter the studio in October 2021. We live recorded the whole album in only five days at RAMA Studio Mannheim together with Tobias Schwarz. The mix and master took us a while and I definitely lost some years of my life there with that whole production but now it’s all good.

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

Our band is called ZOAHR and we play some kind of guitar driven Blues music with Psychedelic and Stoner Rock touches as a three piece. Mostly melodic, dynamic and playful I would say. I have known Thorsten and Philipp for almost half of my life, they are both avid musicians in our local scene, it just never happend to play in a band together, Although I’ve played some standing shows with Thorsten’s prior band Ampersphere when they were without a bass player some years ago.

As my former band Colaris started to dwindle down into some kind of hiatus, over 2016/2017 I reached out to Philipp and told him that I wanted to start a new project with more blues, psychedelic & stoner rock vibes. I already had a lot of ideas pre-recorded on my laptop so we jammed around on the first couple of tunes and progressed pretty fast. Thorsten came in just a few months later in 2017. 

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

My uncle and his friends introduced me to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Tangerine Dream, RUSH, Black Sabbath and all those great bands I still adore at an early age like 8-9 years old. I always loved digging though their record collections and got totally excited about all those iconic artworks. From there I was hooked. I still have the same feelings when I dig through some of my friends’ collections nowadays. I went through a lot of Hardrock, Grunge and Metal in my teenage years, then discovered a lot of Postrock before I got occupied by bands like Graveyard. But I’m totally possessed by music in general. I’m pretty much open for everything that takes me to that special place.

Thorsten and I share a pretty similar musical background with a lot of Grunge and 90`s Bands like Kyuss, TOOL, Clutch, Alice in Chains, Monster Magnet, Helmet and Soundgarden for instance. Philipp strays away a little bit. He has a way more heavy background, with a lot of let’s call it „Extreme Metal“ stuff. But also Opeth, Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson on the other hand. But he is the one who always wears band shirts with names on it that I`ve never heard before. 

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

Nothing fancy here. Thorsten and I both work full time Philipp studies and works jobs on the side. I`ll guess we all more or less do the same things in our daily routine. Cook, sleep, work, do yoga, listen to music, read books and try a little bit more to live healthy, eco friendly and sustainable. And most importantly coping with all the things happening in this world right now. Besides that we usually try to rehearse once a week.

What is the best thing about Apraxia?

That has to be two things:

For me the best thing is the evolution of my vocals. I never really sang before ZOAHR and only started singing because we couldn’t find a singer. On the first record I was always belting high range the whole time. Now that I have accepted my voice in some way I also try to sing lower and calmer to be more versatile. The second best thing is that I illustrated the CD artwork by myself. I mean I do flyers and stuff all the time, but never ever would have dared to work with pressing plant specifications. We only had the front and back cover for the vinyl which now is delayed to somewhere in 2023. Deadlines came so close almost to the point of postponing the release to early 2023. So I cropped and added some stuff to expand it for the CD artwork. Now I’m pretty stoked about how it turned out. But that’s only on my behalf. 

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

We live in three different but nearby cities. Thorsten lives in Zweibrücken where we play a lot live. Philipp is from my hometown Pirmasens but moved to Saarbücken some years ago. He has to drive 45 minutes one way for rehearsals. The music scene was pretty big in Pirmasens at one point but totally died out over the last 10 years. Almost all venues closed their doors and sadly now there is mainly boring cover music happening. Draws more audience and more money. So we decided to play our so-called hometown shows in Zweibrücken 20km away from Pirmasens. There is at least a small music scene for underground DIY music.

What are your favorite contemporary bands and albums right now?

That’s a tough one, because I’m always digging in the past. There is still so much music to discover. I don’t have Spotify so can’t tell what’s my most played songs are but I had a lot of good times this year with:

Sacri Monti, Astra, Golden Void, Slow Season, Earthless, The Grand East, Siena Root, Spidergawd, Molior Superum, Thee oh sees, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Michael Kiwanuka, King Buffalo, Elder, Opeth, The Allman Brothers, Coogans Bluff, Khruangbin, The Budos Band. That list could go on forever. 

Can’t name any particular albums though, over the pandemic I became a heavy binge listener where I totally fanned out on one band and listened to their whole catalog back and forth to make sure I’d get into the overlooked albums and deep cuts too. And I got a lot into Soul, Funk and Jazz stuff. Brass instruments together with good grooves on guitar, bass and drums has really grown on me lately.

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

Mainly I write at home just doodling around. If I get stuck at some cool riffs I record them on my cell phone so they won’t get lost. From there I mostly just write in my head as silly as it sounds. I listen to the ideas on long walks on my headphones and hum vocal ideas over it. In the beginning I used to work a lot with Cubase and pre-produce a lot, but somehow I drifted away from that. When I have 2-3 good flowing parts I’ll show it to the guys at our rehearsal room and we start jamming on it. When it comes to recording we only record live together in one room. We play each song as often as we can to get a good take and run with that. So there will always be mistakes on our records but for me these flaws are charming. 

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

Writing your own music and going the whole way for the full experience wherever music drives you. Just never stop doing this. Hopefully we all can stay healthy as long as possible. I can totally see me old and grumpy playing the blues, learning to play the harp and sitting with my guitar in a crusty bar. And for my teaching to pass on something to the future generation of little musicians. I know I’m getting in full Obi-Wan mode here but I’m just in awe of music. 

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

I’m pretty sure that all the readers of Weirdo Shrine are aware of it but please support smaller bands and artists, always try to buy music straight from the band, try to support your local music scene and go to concerts. Those bands don’t get any penny from Spotify, Youtube and all those other streaming services. Even Bandcamp is starting to get more and more complicated with taxes all over the place. Besides that, just be creative, maybe pick up an instrument, it’s never too late. And if you read this until here: Thank You! 

At their “secret” release party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

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

What does a regular day in your life look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review + Q&A: Dead Man’s Eyes- III (2022, Tonzonen Records)

There are few records I have been looking forward to more this year than Cologne’s Dead Man’s Eyes and their third album, simply called III. For one thing they seem to grow with every output, and their previous album 2018’s Word Of Prey already showed an uncanny skill to bend all kinds of (psychedelic) rock out of shape and into something completely new and yet strangely familiar.

III kickstarts the record like a moped on a bumpy country road. It’s an easy going earworm that somehow reminds me of a Coen Brother’s movie, with its jailmen’s choir and jangly harmonica. I’ll Stay Around gives off a completely different vibe, feeling more like taking a walk outside on a warm and breezy day, the jazzy trumpet and beautiful Rhodes passages battling for attention in the background. A couple of spins will reveal a painter’s palette of layers that shows you the skill and song-craftsmanship these guys have developed over the years. It is this use of layers and little quirks that makes this record so extremely playable, a trait it does need with its meagre 30 minutes.

My favorite song has to be In My Fishbowl, a weird little thing, reminding of Blur at their blurriest. The lyrics in particular shine a strange light within singer Simon Mead’s brain; they are strange and yet you feel exactly what he is singing about.

With Time And Space Dead Man’s Eyes then show they don’t even need lyrics or vocals to draw and keep your attention with this smooth instrumental nu-jazzy intermezzo. Then Take Off Soon fuses Balthazar‘s Belgian pop rock with Arctic Monkey‘s British bravoure. On The Wire has the band driving the ol’ country on a moped again, with a joyful swagger that is extremely infectious and will be the shaker of hips on many barn dances in the German countryside. Into The Madness will do well at those dances too, boogying the night away with its flaming harmonica solos and great sped up barnburner finale at the end.

Two songs remain; the catchy uptempo pop rocker Never Grow Up displaying the band’s love of 60s rock like The Kinks or The Beatles, and Nobody At All, which feels like Dead Man’s Eyes version of a stadium rocker, complete with anthemic shouting and pumping rock drumming. It is a proper bang to end this great collection of songs.

Once again this band has grown, and proven themselves to be proper songsmiths. It can only be a matter of time until the world outside their hometown will recognize this prowess as well and throngs of people will be spinning III over and over again complaining about the shortness of this album while probably playing it more than any other record this year…

I tried to contact the band through email but had no luck, so I had to write my questions on a piece of of paper which I put into a bottle and threw upstream in the river Rhine. Well over a month later this is what returned to me on the neck of a skillfully navigating pigeon…all things considered it did not even take the band that much time to respond!

Hi guys, how have you been these days?
We’re feeling pretty excited about how people will react to this record. This time we tried something new: Three different vibes were what we aimed for. We spoke of ‘bundles’. One that feels you’re in a barn, one with songs you can nod your head to in an old smelly car and one that feels a bit dirty and not too overproduced. It was a bit of a challenge to write and eventually choose the right songs to fit those specific terms, or most importantly to overall make it feel like one record.

How has the pandemic been like for DME? Did it bring any upsides
next to the obvious downsides?
what are you going to do as a band if you can’t meet to make music anymore? it was and is a shitty situation but we are lucky that it didn’t hit us as hard as others. we tried to make the best out of it, found a way to still be productive and write new songs. One upside is the artistic freedom this band allows to each member in bringing songs to the table. Usually we end up working on ideas together. Sometimes one guy knows best what the song needs in terms of instrumentation. There are two songs on this record that were recorded almost entirely by one person. We were happy with the outcome and didn’t hear the need to rerecord any instruments over it. Other than that the record has been done with most of us exchanging ideas and shaping the songs.

Can you introduce the band to us? How long have you been a band?
We‘ve been making music since 2010. Nima joined in 2012 when we were still uncertain how to mix Meet me in the Desert. Nima got it done in his bedroom and joined the band exactly then. Phil got in touch with us in January 2018 when we played in Cologne Music Week at the wonderful „Stadtgarten“. That was Geir Johansen’s last show with us which left Phil’s jaw dropped because of Geir’s obvious insane drumming abilities. Phil has been a profound backbone of Dead Man’s Eyes ever since, constantly chasing the best way to improve our drumsound. He is now an amazing Mixing & recording engineer on his own at Fattoria Musica Studio in Osnabrück. Check out his work!

Can you walk me through the writing/recording process? You did a
lot yourselves, right?

That’s right, basically we do the whole production ourselves, except for mastering. The basic idea for a song usually comes from Peter. If we like it, we start working on it. This could mean many things: Sometimes the song is already perfect, sometimes it needs some extra love and care. Sometimes we change the entire arrangement, change the rhythm, change key, don’t end up using an acoustic drum kit and flip on some crazy samples. Sometimes it’s just vocals and handclaps. Nothing stands in the way of making the songs shine. Not even the pandemic.

As I told you before, I freakin’ love the new album III, the only
gripe I have with it is its length! Can you explain why there is not more
of it?

Of course we had more ideas that didn’t make it onto the album. The songs that you can hear on III were the ones that fit the ‘three-ish’ concept of the record. if the album appears too short, listen to it again – you might find some hidden sounds that you didn’t notice right away. The good thing about a record that ends too soon is that it might give you the urge to replay it. The good news is, we do have more songs that can be released in the future. They just did not feel right to be put on this album.

Can you tell me about your best experiences with the band so far?
We had so many. Even after thinking about it for a while, it wouldn’t be fair to pick out one in particular. Having a song on Spotify that has reached half a million streams is pretty unusual. Other than that we have had some crazy days on the road that we would not want to trade for anything.

What are you looking forward to most in 2022? And in 2023?
New songs and the rest we will see. This year we will be releasing a few videos so we are happy to get those out in the open.

Where do your lyrics come from mostly? I really like them, they’re
quite original :))

All lyrics are written by Simon Mead. He’s got that talent to make lyrics almost visible, giving the reader & listener a lot of room to imagine what’s going on on top of what the instruments are doing.

Who did the artwork? And what is the story behind it?
The artists name is Azura Daze. Definitely check out her work!

You have just released a really cool video, tell me more about it!
The video to our latest single „Take Off Soon“ was done in collaboration with Azura Daze, Paula Paez & Lenia Friedrich. They put an incredible amount of work into this. Finally we have an animated video of our own, which represents our song in the light in which we wrote it. We could not be happier!

Azura Daze had this to add: „Even though many things collided as we were finishing the video and it was not an easy time for us, we found the necessary energy and passion to deliver on time. But for while we started believing the project was a cursed artifact, passed on to us the by some angry god (…)“

Who are your biggest musical influences these days? What music
would you play in the band bus?

Viagra Boys, Gorillaz, Atahualpa Yupanqui, ODB & Warren Ellis.

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

Listen to Dead Man’s Eyes – III on repeat, put your favourite song in your playlist & go buy some records. Also wash your hands.

DME, 2022

Review + Q&A: Opossum Sun Trail- Mojave/Klamath (2022, Echodelick Records)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you introduce yourselves? What are your musical backgrounds?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recording in the Mojave desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go camping! 

OST

Review + Q&A: Pretty Lightning- Dust Moves (2022, Fuzz Club Records)

Knowing when to say the right thing is an important quality, but so is knowing when to be silent. German psychedelic duo Pretty Lightning have always sung the right words at the right times, but for their fifth album Dust Moves they felt it was better to let the music do the talking. And lo and behold; it loudly speaks to our collective imagination, perhaps even more strongly than a record with lyrics ever could.

Whether its the slide guitar Western ride of Glide Gently, or the Tommy Guerrero-like desert caravan trip Gewgaw For Beginners; every song on Dust Moves tells a different story that you can experience with your eyes closed, filling in the images that take place where usually words may have been.

Pretty Lighting‘s approach is a gentle, subtle, layer building work, where they seduce you into their song’s small little environment in such a vivid way that it feels like you can live there for a while. Most of the sounds are linked to rhythm and blues and old time western folk, but Pretty Lightning manage to meld them together in such a way that they become their own little entities.

Being a vocalist myself I find myself often sceptic of instrumental music, but I feel that this distrust is not justified here. Pretty Lightning has pulled the vocals out of their music, but they put the listener in the front seat in stead. In the setting Dust Moves offers it therefore feels all the richer, and never like something is “missing”. It’s the real great instrumental works that can do that.

Pretty Lightning

Once again I found myself in the privileged position to be in contact with the band. (Former) singer and guitarist Sebastian Haas was willing to introduce the band and answer my questions…

Hi guys, super stoked to talk to you! How have you been the past pandemic period?

S: Hi, in general and according to circumstances, mostly ok. Like the “it could be much worse” sort of ok. None of our friends and families was or is seriously ill due to covid.  

Music wise it was obviously worse, it actually still is, but that applies to every band and artist, I guess… Personal conditions unfortunately force PL to take social distancing even more seriously and we have to hold back a bit longer. But it’s getting better, slowly, I hope. I mean, of course it sucks, and even if it could be much worse, I’m sure everyone has been tired of it for a long time.

Can you introduce yourselves and your band to the Weirdo Shrine audience?

S: Dear Weirdo Shrine reader, my name is Sebastian and I like animals. I also play guitar and (used to) sing in Pretty Lightning. That’s a band started out as a garagerock duo over a decade ago, has drifted more into psych territory and recently recorded an album with some instruments they had never been using before. 

So, Dust Moves! A first instrumental album! You felt like music speaks louder than words? What motivated you to leave out vocals altogether this time?

S: No, it doesn’t speak at all, and that’s what it’s all about. Not that I do not like voices, I do, but vocals or lyrics can also have what it takes to ruin a song, depending on the personal mood or likings, of course. It happens from time to time, when you’re really enjoying the music and as soon as one brings in a story by singing or talking it’s somehow killing the vibe. It just doesn’t fit to the mood that you otherwise find in the sounds. Sure, this is totally personal, maybe rare and vocals and lyrics can be great, so it’s not a question of loud or quiet, better or worse, it’s just different and that’s what we wanted to try out this time. To me, the fun in instrumental music is caused by the flow it can initiate, a movement but without a fixed direction. Metaphorically speaking, it can provide a blank canvas and maybe some paint tins, the rest is up to your own imagination. Describing instrumental music as boundless may sound cheesy, but due to the lack of words or stories, it feels less specific at least and this leaves room for your own ride. Maybe like sounds for dreamers (cheesy, again!). I´m sure that there are others who can find similar journeys in lyrics etc., this is just our own humble approach trying to talk about what we didn’t want to say with lyrics. Another motivation was that I find it easier to enjoy listening to our music without hearing my own voice. 

What change did you notice about yourselves going from the previous album Jangle Bowls to Dust Moves? It’s quite a step! Can you identify the trigger that started this change?

S: It actually didn’t feel like taking a big single step at once, more like some sort of process. We’ve already had instrumental songs on our previous records, very few indeed, but we’ve been playing around with the idea of an instrumental record for a while. After 4 records we felt like it was time to give it a shot and we had already collected plenty of ideas and material over time. However, most of them didn’t make it on the album as we wrote new stuff that formed the final album as a whole. I think this record turned out more consistent and that’s one thing we do like about it. That also was the initial intention and going instrumental just made sense to us.

Personally it had me thinking of Tommy Guerrero’s music at times, which I adore! Who are your favorite instrumental artists, and why?

S: I only know Tommy Guerrero from hearsay and have never listened to his music, but there are lots of instrumental artists we like for sure, I list the first names that pop up in my mind now:

On the guitar-heavy side:

75 Dollar Bill, because the rhythms are crazy.

Marisa Anderson, because being an amazing guitarist without being annoying is a rare gift.

Earth, because it feels restrained and wide open at the same time.

Bobby Lee, because it choogles.

On the electronics:

Emerald Web, because synths and flutes fit together well.

Orphan Fairytale, because it sounds so charming.

Phantom Horse, because I know one of them personally.

Syrinx, because I don’t know anything similar.

Other:

Zomes, because a little goes a long way.

Steven R. Smith, because I don’t know where to start.

France, check it out, you’ll understand.

What is the biggest difference in approach about writing a song without vocals? 

S: You don’t need to worry about lyrics. That can be a relief, especially in times you don’t have much to tell. Still, you’re putting out something, musically, but it doesn’t matter what you were thinking or what you mean, if you mean anything at all, it’s up to the listener. Now I already have the picture of the blank canvas in my mind that I mentioned before. Besides that, I think it’s more about exploring and expanding sounds, less like writing songs.

You are from Saarbrücken, that always strikes me as quite a remote place, what are the advantages and disadvantages of living there? And do you think it influenced you as musicians?

S: Yes, Saarbrücken isn´t London or Berlin, that´s true and not each of the bands you´d like to see stops by, but still there´s something going on (in case there´s no pandemic going around…) There are bands and people who do shows and art and stuff of course and it´s also well located, very close to France and Luxemburg. But even if I´m sure that your surroundings have an impact on what you do or how you do it, I can´t name anything specific in relation to our city. Friends definitely inspire us, and sometimes they don´t have to live nearby necessarily to make an influence. But still, it´s good to have likeminded people around who gather when anything cool is happening.

Pretty Lightning has always been a duo, right? Have you never felt like taking along other musicians? There are for instance more instruments on the album than could be performed live simultaneously, aren’t there? Will PL always be just the two of you?

S: Yes we’ve always been a duo and it always felt right, this was never in doubt. But your question about the number of instruments is well justified and it’s also something we had to discuss recently, so we’re prepared. To sum up: even on the previous records there were songs that only emerged during the recording sessions, when it’s easy to evade the limitations of being only two people. Some of these songs can’t be played live in our duo lineup, not in a satisfying manner at least, so we dropped them from our live set, means we’re used to recording songs that we can not play live. But these were only a few songs per album, so it didn’t really matter. Now, with this new record, it’s different. None of these tracks could be performed as a duo, not in a way that would make sense to us. But even with an adequate amount of musicians we could hardly imagine playing this album live. Dust Moves is rather seen as a recording project. What we could imagine is including some parts or fragments of this record in our live set, to add a bit of that vibe. But that’s something we’re still working on and I don’t know where it leads…

In this connection I have to think of a show I’ve attended a few years ago. I don’t want to name the artist here, but the debut record was absolutely stunning, still is, not only because of the songs itself, but especially because of the sounds and the production. It doesn’t sound “expensive” or “big”, but creative, weird and sometimes mind blowing and that was such a crucial part of the whole album. So I was really wondering how they’re going to perform this live. Unfortunately, they didn’t do it very well, not because they were bad musicians, but because these songs really shine in this extraordinary production of the recording and I’d bet it was part of the overall writing process from start to finish, but impossible to translate to a live set. I don’t want to claim that Dust Moves has such a crazy production, but it reminds me of that experience and confirms that some records are not meant to be performed live. But who knows, maybe we change our minds some day. Never say never.

Apart from that, we are also in Datashock, which is a rather loose collective of friends playing improvised, experimental krautpsychfolkwhatever, sometimes with up to 8 or 9 people, so it’s not always just the two of us.

What are your immediate future plans? And how about for the longer future? Any dreams you’d like to share?

S:We’re looking forward to the release of Dust Moves and hope some people will enjoy it half as much as we did while recording it. And as much as i’d like to answer your question, the past two years didn’t help developing confidence in future plans. Dreams, ya, sweet dreams…

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

S: Somersault.

Thanks a lot for your time!

Thanks for the talk, the pleasure was ours.

Pretty Lightning

Review + Q&A: The Swell Fellas- Novaturia EP (2022, self-released)

With a band name like The Swell Fellas you’d expect a barber choir, or an acoustic bluegrass group from a Coen Brothers movie. What you might not expect is the psychedelic riff monster these guys really are. No, bands like this are often called after something involving buffaloes, witches, or crows. As their hazy fuzz waves conjure up images of the old America, wind swept plains, stern mountains, and galloping horses…

On this 33 minute EP/mini album The Swell Fellas have clearly set their gears to “epic”, as they pull off big riff after big riff without breaking a sweat. However somewhere in the back of my mind I can hear that they have been under the spel of All Them Witches, as well as King Buffalo, as they subtly mix their epic riffery with more subdued vocals. Like their bigger brethren they do rock hard, but they never take it over the edge and become larger than life. They keep it real and believable, which is a rare thing in rock ‘n roll, and especially in epic riff land.

I do hope they get picked up then, because we can all use some intelligent psych rocking in our lives. And whether they are called The Swell Fellas or King Mountain Witch Crow Buffalo, it really don’t matter to me. As long as the rock rocks, and the roll rolls as much as it does on Novaturia.

Swell Fellas

I was lucky enough to catch these guys in between touring and writing their new album so that they could answer all these questions that popped up in my brain when listening to Novaturia. Drummer Chris Poole was kind enough to answer.

Hey guys! How has Swell Fellas been doing the past period of pandemic weirdness?

We’ve been really good, as good as we can be. Stayed busy writing and doing a lot of skating while the world was locked down. We all live together so it makes it pretty easy to just hang and create on a whim. Seems like things are looking up for the most part as far as covid goes, so we’re excited to put some more miles behind us on the road and crank out more music.

Can you introduce the Weirdo Shrine readers to the band?

For sure, we’re a trio from Ocean City, Maryland interested in creating something unique together that we all enjoy and feel connected too. The band consists of Conner Poole (Guitar/Vox), Mark Rohrer (Bass/Vox), and Chris Poole (Drums/Vox).

How did you meet? And how did you determine your initial sound?

Well, Conner and I (Chris) are brothers so that sums that connection up haha. Mark and I met when we were 11 or 12 on a school bus during a field trip. We shared some headphones and next thing you know we were recording shitty demos in a bedroom on Audacity together. He was and is primarily a guitar player, so getting Mark to play bass naturally turned into basically having a sub-octave riff outlet. Finding our initial sound was tough at first, it took about two years before we really fell into a groove of writing songs that seemed universally agreed upon between the three of us. A lot of which made up our first record “The Big Grand Entrance”. The process of writing that record really opened a lot of doors for us as a collective consciousness, we’re big fans of conceptual records. Albums with a good flow. So feeling out how to intertwine songs and parts seamlessly was integral to our initial sound, and ultimately threw us into a world of writing longer explorative songs in our recent releases. Also, great pedal boards are essential. 

Can you tell me your relationship with All Them Witches? (one of my favorite bands actually…)

One of our favorites too! They rip… hard. We got the opportunity to meet up and record with Ben while he was in the process of mixing our first record. We were on a diy tour that landed in Nashville for a few days in October of 2019 to cut “The Great Play of Extension”. He took us in, we tracked the EP, drank beers, cooked out, and chilled with his cats. It was sick. Later on met the rest of the guys. Really cool humans, a serious inspiration.


In what way did your geographical situation effect your music?

Growing up by the ocean is a beautiful thing. Life feels a bit slower there, it gives you more time to think and opens you to ponder the world a bit. There’s a feeling of being close to that force that’s overwhelming. Definitely have written lyrics about it… and I suppose that headspace could be a bit of where we pull some psychedelic aspects from? I’m not sure, I’ve never really thought about it until now.

What is your general aim when writing a song?

Make it our best and capture a feeling.

Who influenced you most musically and otherwise?

Family, friends, sick riffs

When you play music in the band van, what do you play? And what is an absolute no-go?

Some DO’s to name a few: Knocked Loose, ASG, MF DOOM/CZARFACE, Alice in Chains, The Psychotic Monks, OM, The Black Angels, Fuzz, Meatbodies, Oh SeesPortayal of Guilt, Gangstarr, Queens of the Stone Age, Kikagaku Moyo, King Gizz, The Melvins, Meshuggah, Raekwon, TOOL, Betty Davis, Chamber, Harms Way, Wheeler Walker Jr.

DON’T: Bud light. Dirt roads.

What are your immediate and more distant future plans?

Right now we’re focusing on writing the next record and booking more shows! Releasing our new EP, Novaturia this Friday and just going to keep at it. It’s hard to plan a distant future, so we’ll take the opportunities as they come and see where it leads. We’re excited for it, that’s for sure.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after this interview?

Call your mother.

Swell Fellas

Jeff Gburek- Vigilance Suite I&II (2022, Ramble Records)

I could have written a long and winding piece about why you should listen to Jeff Gburek’s new double album of fantastic accoustic guitar noodlings, but I won’t because he is perfectly capable of doing that himself. I will grant him my Weirdo Shrine podium though, as the cause and muse of his work is a noble one, and of course because the music in its context is very worthy of your time. Here is what Jeff wrote on his Bandcamp about it:

Music played privately at home doesn’t count as much as humanitarian aid, on the ground, where events are scattering lives — but making these tracks was one of the ways I began to weather the storm, when one of my homelands went under military siege.

It was over a century ago my ancestors on my mother’s side left regions within and near Ukraine to come to the USA, perhaps as refugees of some similar conflict. Vigilance Suites were recorded on February 24, 25 and February 28 and March 1, 2022. I used a slightly drop-tuned acoustic guitar in open D tuning, zither, e-bow various preparations over the course of time to represent shifts of mood and transformations of mind.

The colorful rag doll depicted on the CD disc is called a Motanka. I bought it in a market in Lviv, Ukraine in 2015. It reminded me of Hopi Kachinas, Voodoo figurines and Roma magic-spell fetishes. Motanki are hand-made, using scraps of cloth or discarded clothing of relatives.The use of needles, scissors or machines, is forbidden. Motanka is a composition of energy and substances inside can be coins, herbs, grain, intentionally charged. They are house-guardians and they represent the healing properties of plants, seasonal and nature spirits. The cross on the face represents the sun. Motanki links us back to the ancient Pagan and animist cultures of the people who live in the Transcarpathian regions.The Motanka set upon the background of the traditional pattern of head scarf from Ukraine represents the folk culture of the people.

This music, born out of the time of reflection, waiting for news, perhaps carries the hopes, fears, perhaps within its imagery some of the brokenness being transmuted into sound, as struggling distant friends endure these trials, these ups and downs, the outrage and the sense of rebound, the sense of loss, displacement, bewilderment.


Many thanks to Michael Sill (Ramble Records-ed) for offering to release these works.

War is the polar opposite of vitamin D, low in nutritional value, hard on the eyes, even at a distance, the kids look like they will start smoking at an early age. Do we have leaders or bleeders? I don’t really want to go anywhere. Can the volume of gunpowder be lower. My thoughts about it remain maladjusted. Perhaps I am slightly more sane when asleep. It’s getting more difficult to write letters starting out of with how are you or what’s up. First you whistle then you duck. People stop on the bridge. People are looking at one another with eyes asking from where do you come.


Only now has ceased to exist. Retinal linkages acknowledge infinite regressive passage over this scroll of enzyme-grammar. It would be easier to survive as a simpler form of life. It is too much to deal with here. Unless it ends, soon, suddenly. All those children of the bloodlands wandering now as living ghosts, perfect mirror, for I, who lived as a shadow all these years, no I at all, just outline, a man sunken somewhere behind the shade.

There are no large bottles of water in the supermarket. The whole half-aisle where they keep bottled water is an empty palette ghost town. Something starts to snap. Inside. Many new faces in the streets. I couldn’t find AA batteries. Sudden sense of confusion and the voice inside says you don’t need any batteries.

Indeed, I did buy 3 extra sets a few days ago but now not being able to see any where they used to be starts to bother me. Like somebody cut down a tree whose shade you once enjoyed or whose strength and tenacity you admired. Something comes a bit more unhinged. When I go out I see the Sinti family with their shopping cart piled high. But this is normal. Thank god something is normal. Walking out of the shop I tear off my mask and I wonder how ironic the empire of the mask may just be coming to an end.

Walking down the street I pass the Ukrainski Smak Pierogarnia and glance at the women — they have the kitchen with an open window, so you can always seem them at work, rolling, pounding, folding the dough on the floured long tables. It’s at the door to the restaurant part, the small, traditionally minimalist “bar mleczny”, it’s there I see the sign-board, not a menu, but a long list of words in Polish that are mostly unknown still to me, but the known part tells me clearly it’s a long list of supplies, medical and otherwise, being collected to take to their people.

That’s where I kind of lose it for the first time, something goes out from beneath my feet and I stagger to the wall. That distance that separated the war “over there” from us in our reality over here was suddenly removed. Let’s call it a quantum entanglement. A missile struck me.


Jeff Gburek 

Review + Q&A: Ambassador Hazy- The Traveler (2022, Cardinal Fuzz/Hazy House)

On his second album of home made trippy lo-fi fuzz, Sterling DeWeese AKA Ambassador Hazy once again proves he has a whole band in him. His jingly/jangly tunes feature acoustic guitar, fuzzy solos, distorted keyboards, and his characteristic vocals that walk the thin line between insecure and lazy in an undeniably sympathetic way.

It’s music that lets it all hang loose, in proper Velvet Underground fashion, but with a distinctive smelly attic vibe that is definitely not as cool, but all the more cosy and comfortable. Like that ugly rug you kind of need to throw out, but you won’t because of all the memories and because it ties the room together. Yeah, it’s proper “dude” music.

The Traveller isn’t in any way cartoon character goofy though, there are some serious undertones flowing through these tunes. They are just being dealt with in a very laidback, hazy way. And if you don’t like that, well, that’s just your opinion man…

I talked with the dude Sterling Deweese himself, and this is what he said:

Hi Sterling, how are you? How have you been these past pandemic years?

I’m very well thank you.  All things considered, it hasn’t been so bad. My family is healthy and I managed to make a couple of records.

So, this may be a weird question; but are you named after the drum part? And do you use it?

When I played in Heavy Hands our old Slingerland kit did use to to have those heads on it. The guys took to calling me that or just Hazy due to certain habits of consumption that might have given me a bit of brain fog.

How do you usually spend your day?

By day I work doing architecture and design.  

How does music fit in your life usually?

Usually it fits in wherever I can find time which can be complicated between work and family life.  Most often I’m working on music when my wife is out of town on business and my son is asleep (well upstairs supposed to be asleep), so that makes the time I do have limited and I usually get right down to business and try and get something going.

Ambassador Hazy is purely a solo project, right? How come you don’t work together anymore? 

I’ve been recording at home for many years on a 1/2″ 8 track so I have piles of old stuff – but most of it is more in the way of demos that were recorded while I was playing in other bands as a way to develop material.  Eventually the tape machine stopped working, and this coincided with a period where I got married and had a kid so there was 5 or 6 years there where I was pretty much entirely dormant and not doing music.  Then one day I decided it was time to get back at it and I spent some months finding the right guy to service the machine (long story).  And I built out a small studio in my basement, bought some new toys to equip it and then I started making some noise again.  Initially I tried to get together some guys for a band but it was always complicated to schedule and pretty erratic but we did do some stuff which you can hear on the first Hazy record.  For the new record The Traveler it is entirely a solo endeavor as it wasn’t really possible to collaborate in a airless little basement room due to the pandemic.   I have finished a third solo record as well recently and that will probably see the light of day in about another year given the long lead times for pressing etc.

What is your goal with Ambassador Hazy?

 The goal is to make cool music – and just get lost in it. It’s definitely a sort of escapism from the mundane everyday life.   

What are lyrics to you? Do you tend to overthink them or are they rather more of an afterthought? How do they form in your head?

Typically I don’t start with the lyrics, it’s usually something that comes in after there is already some flesh on the bones of the song.   I do try and structure things so there’s a space for the lyrics but rarely do I start there.  I think the only song that was done in a more “traditional” style and written on an acoustic guitar with a lyric already in place was Gone to My Head.   All the other tunes are layered up where I start with one idea or riff and go from there.  When writing lyrics I usually try to do it in a naturalistic way so I’m not overthinking them and usually it’s something that happens very fast and I prefer not to do a lot of takes.  Keep in mind I’m working on tape so most of these takes are straight through and not edited in little bits and pieces. I prefer the song to feel like it was done live.  Some songs are basically improvised around an idea or a phrase and if I like what I get I’ll just leave it, other times I will spend a bit more time composing, but I don’t usually ever get past 2 or 3 verses.

What have your influences and inspirations been as a solo artist? 

Mostly on the turntable at home I am still stuck in the 60’s and 70’s or even earlier (lots of country blues etc).  Also lately I have been revisiting the music of my teenage years; Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Jesus and Mary Chain etc.  Though I would say one of the great things about doing these records has been getting exposed to a lot of great contemporary artists thanks to all the heads out there running great labels and doing radio shows.  

Will Ambassador Hazy change a lot in a post corona world? Will there be live shows/a band/etc?

I think Hazy will probably remain a studio project, though I would like to start collaborating again.  As far as doing a live band I don’t know that it’s in the cards just yet, but who knows what the future may bring.   

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

Roll a number.  Pop on some headphones and listen to a few numbers from my new record.  And, of course, please buy a record.