So originally, I intended to write a little piece about Stratford, Canada’s improvisational psych rockers Underground Mountains and their uncanny brand of “anything goes, let the universe guide us, and let’s record every jam CAN style” psych rock. They ARE pretty cool, and you really should check out their debut cassette tape and track everything that there is still to come if you are even remotely into that original kraut rock improv sound. But then I started talking to guitarist Shane Hartman, and it turned out I had already met him two times or more in different online entities. For Shane is a human centipede of psychedelic music, manning a weekly radio show, a record label, a solo project, next to occasionally jamming the stars from the cosmos with Underground Mountains.
It is people like him that keep this tiny psychedelic universe going, and being a fan of the music is first and foremost in that. We are not in it for the money or the fame, we are here to strive for that one ultimate Godzilla jam, whether it is with our own musical projects, or through some other human making noise somewhere on this awful ball of dried up lava. We do it because we have to, because it is better to create and participate than to just consume and get fat. Although we do hunt for that sweet vinyl from time to time, and it can’t be limited enough…
Anyways, meet Shane Hartman people. Lover of psychedelic music, fan of bands like CAN and The Band Who’s Name Is A Symbol, and a valuable contributor to the scene in his multiple enterprises. Let’s meet him and find out all there is to explore through his stories and his sounds…
How are you? Can you introduce yourself and you multiple endeavors?
Hi Jasper! Thanks for the interest in all this business. I’m Shane, I have a few irons in the fire but I’ll do my best to cover everything!
I produce a weekly radio show / podcast called Acid Test Radio whose motto is “Fuzzed Up Sounds In Search of Higher Elevation” since 2019. I play loads of psych, space rock, punk, free jazz, drone, noise, new age…basically everything I’m into and the occasional funk 45. It can be heard on svpradio.com THURSDAY @ 5pm EST and Midtownradio.ca Saturday @ 7pm EST.
I play guitar, synth and mess around with tape loops in Underground Mountains – we are currently a 6 piece and play free heavy, psychedelic and krautrock informed music, predominantly in our rehearsal room “The Jam Cellar” located beneath the most excellent Sound Fixation record store here in Stratford.
Currently Underground Mountains is..
Andrew Hunter, Trevor Worsell, Andrew Enns, Jeremy Cox, Tim Nicholls and myself.
I also record solo as Metal Machine Ascension – tape loops, effects, synths creating a droning Maximalist Meditation Music.
aaaand I run We, Here & Now! Records – a psych / experimental / heavy sounds label. I originally started to help release one record which seems charming in retrospect as the amount of projects the label has taken on has snowballed more than I anticipated! Since beginning in April, WHN has officially released 7 tapes and co-released one record with plenty more on the way for 2023!
Shouts and much respect to Jeff @ Echodelick Records and Dave @ Cardinal Fuzz for all the help and encouragement! These guys release some of my absolute favourite records, I’m sure readers of Weirdo Shrine are probably aware but if you don’t know them, do your ear holes a kindness when you can!
What can you tell me about your musical background?
I’m a bit of a late bloomer and mostly self taught.. I didn’t start playing guitar until my early 20’s. A friend gave me an acoustic guitar he’d made from the remnants of two broken ones (dubbed the Franken-twanger) and from there got down to learning in earnest. I loved The Replacements and Leatherface the most before hearing The Constantines‘ Shine A Light record which is still one of my all time favourites. In the last year I’ve been exploring the wide world of synths and tape in my music while slowly acquiring more gear and developing an interest in using non-musical objects and field recordings in my process. I promise that it’s not as pretentious as it sounds!
What does a regular day in your life look like? What role does music play?
My partner Catherine and I adopted our pup Fred (Australian cattle dog) in February and we’ve since become very early risers and avid walkers.. if I don’t have to work I’ll be getting caught up on label projects (several at different stages of development right now that I’m VERY excited about!), new music for Acid Test Radio, reviewing our jam recordings. There’s always music on at home, be it records, tapes, streams, radio or one of us singing to the pup. Our house is a very musical house.
What do people often forget when they think about owning a record label?
I think going into this, what I wish I knew and perhaps what others might not understand is how many hats one can end up wearing! Being a one person show, there’s quite a lot to do. I love it and I think for folks who enjoy doing several different tasks, it can be an incredibly satisfying way to help get the music you love further out into the world.
Where do you live and how does it affect your musical doings?
I live in Stratford, Ontario, located about 2 hours driving from Toronto. The city is famous for the Stratford Theatre Festival as well as being home to and having a lot of incredible musicians from here (members of The Band, Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band, Colin Fisher, Darren Dumas (The Salads) immediately come to mind.. oh! Justin Bieber’s from Stratford as well..)
I moved here from Ottawa several years back and knew that I’d like to play the kind of music I make now but finding like minded heads historically has often been challenging.. I met the fellas I would later end up playing with in Underground Mountains here and I honestly couldn’t believe my luck! We jam weekly if possible, record everything and it’s always a trip! Pre-covid, travelling to see bands in Kitchener, London or Toronto was a frequent occurrence. Post Covid, live music is slowly coming back.. I’m hopeful for the new year!
What is your take on making improvisational music? What is the ultimate jam?
I think it can be one of the most transcendent and powerful expressions and in a group setting can produce incredibly magical experiences. Communicating without speaking, call it the cosmic nod, whatever you call it, it’s something special.
The ultimate jam.. whether it’s an epic hour long sprawl through space, shifting between psych, blues, funk, dub and freakouts with full on “godzilla” passages to borrow a line from CAN or 10 minutes of focused pocket dwelling.. when it’s over and we’ve re-entered our bodies and can say that was really good!
Who are your favorite current other artists and record labels at the moment?
Oh boy! Honestly this could go on and on there are so many quality labels putting out so many great records! The short list would include Cardinal Fuzz, Echodelick, Feeding Tube and Noiseagaonymayhem.. and Dreamlord.. oh! Up In Her Room as well! and Fuzzed Up & Astromoon! Weird Beard, Worst Bassist..
For artists.. The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol are pivotal, Dead Sea Apes are un-fuck-withable and Anunnaki are a force of nature! Big ups to Thee Cosmic Brick Road, Wasted Cathedral, Pallbearer Industry and pour one out for the fellas in Hawkeyes as well..
(sorry, it’s hard to keep it narrow!)
What is “the dream” for you as an artist, and as a label owner?
As an artist.. to just be able to keep making music. It’s an obsession and probably in my DNA.. Collaborating and growing.. The same applies to the label as well I suppose, in terms of releasing records I’m excited about but I’d also tack on being sustainable – to focus on doing the label full time would be the dream come true!
What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?
Tell the people you love how much you do.