Design a site like this with
Get started

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pic by Hayley Ward HEW

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

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

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

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

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

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

What is the best thing about Rewilding?

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

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

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

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

Pic by Hayley Ward HEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pic by Hayley Ward HEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dead Sea Apes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lot of punk literature and art books.

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

What can you tell me about your musical background?

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

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

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

I paint whilst I listen to mixes.

Painting by Mike Vest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy music and art.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are you? How has Cazayoux been lately?

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

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

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

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

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

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

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

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

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

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

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

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

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

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

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

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fambiz Marching Band

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

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

A 90s-era photo of the band

Interview: Fred Laird (Empty House, Artifacts & Uranium)

The last time I talked to Fred Laird (Earthling Society, Taras Bulba), things were still strange with covid, and I had just discovered meditation. I noticed that a lot of instrumental drone artists around me moved in similar directions, and Fred was one of them. Through the article about meditation I first came into contact with his Empty House project, and Secret Suburbia is his fifth release since!

Secret Suburbia is still music you should listen to with your eyes closed. In a near-meditative state it will bring you places. The almost complete lack of percussion creates a deep stillness in every track that reverberates a mysterious tranquility throughout the album. With my eyes closed it is like discovering a secret garden, and then discovering nine more gardens even deeper hidden within, each with their own ambience and sounds.

Secret Suburbia is another place that Fred Laird created for the listener to go to and find creativity in stillness. Just close your eyes, and let him lead you through this new chapter of Empty House

We return to Fred Laird, in actuality the first musician Weirdo Shrine ever talked to. That is not a coincidence, as his work resonates deeply within this blog, from his early days into heavy space rock with Earthling Society, to his psychedelic solo work with Taras Bulba, to his quieter work with Empty House, and his collaborations with Mike Vest in Artifacts & Uranium. And then of course we share a pandemic story arch, as we both changed a bit through covid. Fred discovered meditation and Empty House, I started this blog and discovered experimental ambient music. Now that we are both came out of the drabness pretty well it is time to catch up!

Hi Fred, how have you been lately?

Hi Jasper. Yes things have been good thanks. Keeping myself busy with music, reading, movies and martial arts. Just finished reading the water margin or Outlaws of the Marsh as it’s known officially. 2100 pages of mayhem set in the Song Dynasty with a 108 leading characters all with similar names!! 

Last time we spoke it was deep lockdown everywhere, how did you come out of that? Are there things that have changed since?

Yes I changed physically and mentally. I had just decided to quit drinking about a month before and with the lock down and sobriety,  decided to fling myself into an exercise regime that i still maintain now. It really has made me more focused, more attentive to things, especially being more meticulous in song construction. As for mental health, I no longer rely on antidepressants which I was on and off with over the years. I feel physically stronger and no longer feel like a self depreciative slob that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Uriah Heep!

What musical ventures are you working on currently?

I’ve recorded some guitar stuff for Mika of Astral Magic which is coming out soon (listen to it here-ed). I have also recorded another Artifacts-Uranium album with Mike (Vest) which also features Mitsuru Tabata on lead guitar. Its sounds good. Primarily its Empty House for me from there on in. Thats my main focus now. I Have some new ideas for the next release which are quite interesting.

I had a really good time listening to the last Empty House album Secret Suburbia, what can you tell me about making that album?

It was a joy to make i know that much. No hassle. It was like a meditation in itself. I’m thoroughly pleased with it and its sold out really quickly which is great. I kind of knew what i wanted with each song and just took my time layering it down then stripping stuff away to keep it focused.

What can you tell me about the field recordings you did for it?

There’s an eccentric woman who’s garden faces mine. She has lots of canaries and other birds. They are on the album. I also used radio Garden before they restricted the licence to UK members. So i would sit with my phone plugged into a handy recorder and tune into these desert radio stations in the middle of Africa and pick up random sermons or tribal chanting. There’s a lovely little station where these girls just recite psalms and chat away.It seems like it’s outdoors as you can hear dogs bark and whatnot. They are on track 1. Such a lovely part of the album for me.

What can you tell me about the upcoming Artifacts & Uranium album? Did you and Mike Vest spend some time jamming this time?

Gateless Gate was a lot more focused than the previous albums. I had this idea, it was a theme – Visions of Albion part 1&2. I had Penda’s Fen or some other folk horror stuff going in my head. It was a ritualistic idea, a trance like soundtrack to William Blake or Arthur Machen. I was trying to capture Terry Riley, Coil, Throbbing Gristle, Joy Division, Monster Movie CAN throw it in a cauldron and have them coming out as odes to the book of Thel or Lud Heat. Anyway long story short it was changed to Gateless Gate which is a reference to a zen book of koans. Still sounds great though. Very different.

What new music are you listening to at the moment?

New music? Beth Orton ‘Weather Alive’. I had a habit of playing Sandy B‘s ‘Student Night’ constantly which I think was pissing off the rest of the house ha. Suede‘s ‘Autofiction’ is great too.

Do you have any music tips for people that would like to try meditating?

Keep at it, let the thoughts come and go like little fluffy clouds, don’t fight them..say Shoo!!

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

Go and buy Secret Suburbia of course! Oh and be kind to one another.

The Artifacts & Uranium project is a monolith of ritualistic experimentation in which two psychedelic noise veterans meet and test their amps upon the unsuspecting crowds. Fred Laird found Mike Vest (Blown Out, 11Paranoias, Modoki) and together they bring out the otherworldliest and most bombastic version of themselves in this project. The Gateless Gate finds the trilogy come to a close, after their self-titled debut and the impressive Pancosmology.

It is an album divided into two great rituals; a throbbing, danceable, uplifting sermon called Twilight Chorus, and a tribal monolith called Sound Of Desolation.

Twilight Chorus hits the beat button right away, turning the post apocalyptic wasteland into a psychedelic dance floor for stoned zombies. Eventually the track mutates into something Stereolab could have done if they would have jammed with Neurosis, and the ending is in fact quite serene and beautiful.

Sound Of Desolation is the grand finale, and it could be what I imagined the soundtrack of the beginning of 2001:A Space Odyssey would have sounded like when the monkeys discover the black monolith. It builds up for a good ten minutes, and then fully bursts open, displaying love for early industrial music and even some Joy Division (that bass line!).

It is a colourful, multifaceted album, with an album cover that prepared the listener beautifully for what is coming. Ambient noiseniks know where to go from there.

Psychedelic Source: Bence Ambruce’s Lemurian Folk Songs – Maro (re-release) and :nepaal – Protoaeolianism (2023, Psychedelic Source Records)

In a small rural village in Hungary, a couple of real time hippies have founded their own pastoral version of heaven. Inside the compounds of their community, time hardly seems to exist, and they can truly immerse themselves in what they call (in their own words) “a deep life wave”. Part of that deep life is making music that echoes this kind of being; existing outside time and space. Songs that can easily flow for twenty minutes or more, and which are meditative and hypnotic in character. This is the Psychedelic Source, not a record label in the traditional sense, but a group of people jamming and releasing their music upon the world. At the helm is Bence Ambrus, often aided by his wife Krisztina Benus, and various others. Just visit their Bandcamp and get ready to get lost for a while…

Here at the Weirdo Shrine headquarters we don’t mind shedding space and time, so we dove into a couple of doozies in their discography, starting with a serene jam by Bence and Krisztina, followed by the new hyper chilled space rock jam by :nepaal, and finally talking to Bence about re-releasing Maro by his Lemurian Folk Songs band.

The liner notes “Special guests: the dingo, some birds and the chicken” say more than I ever could about this lovely two song garden jam by Bence Ambrus on guitars and Kriszti on keys. They create a beautiful ambient stillness that is quite rare in today’s hectic world. It’s the ideal soundtrack to throw your phone out of the window to. Just let your chores be, let your kids solve their own problems, tell your boss to do his job himself, and zone out into this tranquil Hungarian garden with Bence and his wife. They know the deal.

A new :nepaal album is keen to turn some heads. The last effort Black Batik I&II was well received internationally, and rightfully so. It is Space rock with a capital S. Three songs, over forty minutes, so you know where you will be going. Up, up into space you go, the endless void, warp speed, no gravity. :nepaal has turned the jam into an art, nay, a religion. They are meditating monks of space rock, who mastered the art of levitation by improvisation. Best to get ready. Pack some of that squeezy fruit and a couple of protein bars, because this one is going to take a while…

Maro by Lemurian Folk Songs is the first full album with vocals by this Hungarian band. You could also say that they found their true form here, a combination of stoner jams and kraut spirituality. Previously released on CD in 2017, the band has finally found the means to properly release it on vinyl this year. After six years it still has not lost any of its weird power, and sympathetic warmth. In fact, I was wondering about the circumstances in which it was recorded back then, so I asked Bence Ambrus, and this is what he told me:

Can you describe what the circumstances of Lemurian Folk Songs were before recording Maro?

Our first material in 2015 born from a jam session , but the problem was: we were too dumb on our instruments, but then with Krisztina we went to travel in Spain for 2 years. In these times we were living from street music, so it was a great time for learn guitar. The first song with vocals was Magister Blues which I wrote while we were living in a cave on the island of Tenerife. When we got home, I had some songs in my pocket, so we reunited the band and Krisztina joined.

Can you walk us through the album?

The first song was Magister Blues when I felt like we are in the center of the world in a desert in a cave by the ocean. Melusina is an old jam, we used to play  always before. La Caleta was born in the Andalusian village ‘Maro’ where we also lived by the sea in a diy cane house. The playa was called ‘La Caleta de Maro’. On this playa we spent a lot of “high” time with Gergely, the bassist.

The Other 3 songs are a Mesopotamian story sung, about a princess who wants to get initiated, but the monks say she has to gain experience, (Temple of the Moon) then she goes to the tunnel where she meets with herself, she kills her “guardian” then she gets to the hall (Grand Sanctuary), then she realizes that she is one with the universe, she is all etc..(Messianic Atrium) . It’s a usual initiative tale. I wrote those in Hungary when we got back home.

Review + Q&A: Dommengang – Wished Eye (2023, Thrill Jockey)

It takes a bunch of American boys to really play the blues. The deep blues, the blues that is actually blue, the one you feel deep in your stomach when the guitarist hits that high note. Ask All Them Witches what it is all about, or ask Dommengang, because they know too. Both bands are the kings of contemporary psychedelic blues, dusting off the genre, and giving it the swing necessary to elevate it into the future.

From the moment that Everybody’s Boogie from the debut album hit my eardrums I was in love with this fuzzy threesome, and every album they kept on growing. Wished Eye is in every way a bigger album than they did before with a richer sound. But also with bigger songs, like the incredible opener Runaway, a six minute epic Dead Heads meet Pink Floyd stair builder, that leads the listener into this album majestically.

Society Blues then deeply hits the fuzz pedal and shows us the filthy boogie blues Dommengang are notorious for. The band always keeps room for their songs to breathe though, no matter how high the wall of distortion, there is always time to draw back and contemplate.

Last Card gives a little nod to the man at the recording helm, Eric Crespo who rubbed off some of his African desert blues folk vibe here. It is a beautiful song too, with a bassline that could go on forever. Little Beirut definitely has a bit of this outlandish vibe as well, and it shows us another side of the band that dares to explore far beyond their safe psychedelic blues haven.

Blue & Peaceful and Petrichor are two of those psychedelic blues rock burners we know and love Dommengang so much for, but the band has saved the best for last with title song Wished Eye, which channels golden era Pink Floyd through All Them Witches‘ amplifiers, and Flower, which feels like a summary of all the aforementioned distilled into one five minute crescendo of blissful fuzzy epicness.

Which brings us to a conclusion of another brilliant addition to the Dommengang discography. Wished Eye is the album on which the band has found their most idiosyncratic selves. An epic album that pushed the band to the forefront of contemporary psychedelic blues rock.

I was lucky to find a hole in the band’s touring schedule through which Dommengang could squeeze out a couple of minutes to do this interview. Do read it all the way through, because at the very end I had producer and Abronia member Eric Crespo at some vital comments as well…

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

Hi! We have been well. The band has been steadily playing shows over the past year and our new album finally comes out this spring on Thrill Jockey. We also head to Europe again in May for a tour. Bouncing back. 

Can you introduce yourself, how did you meet, etc? And I have always wondered about the band’s name: sounds Scandinavian?

This is Brian from Dommengang. I’m on vocals and bass. Sig Wilson plays guitar and sings as well. Adam Bulgasem is on drums. 

Dommengang is a made up name with no direct meaning other than the music we make, derived from a combination of the French “dommage” (damage) and the danish “drøme” (dream)- we tacked on “gang” at the end because we’re best friends and rally together. We all met in New York City. We all worked behind the scenes for a coffee roastery and quickly became good friends. 

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

I grew up in Virginia listening to indie rock and country. Sig was raised in Alaska and was a dead head. Adam is from Portland Oregon and started in noisy hardcore and metal. 

What does a regular day in your lives look like? 

We work blue collar jobs and make music to stay sane in the capitalistic hellhole.

What is the best thing about Wished Eye?

We finally made a record on our own terms. Took our time. Recorded with our good friend Eric Crespo who plays in a great band in Portland called Abronia. Had some good friends play on the record and were able to spend more time and be more focused on the lyrics and arrangements. 

You toured Europe recently, right? Did you bring home any good stories?

Always so nice meeting new friends, bands and be immersed in the community and counterculture of each city. Also castles and other stuff much older than our country. 

Can you tell me about the difference between touring in Europe and touring in the USA?

A higher appreciation for artists on a cultural level in Europe and less cell phones(!). Travel puts us outside of our comfort zone. And it is more impactful when we play and our senses open when in a foreign space. But we still love playing in America. 

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Dead meadow. Earthless. Thee Oh Sees. Michael Hurley. Dungen. Space Lady . Yob. Grails. Beak>

Can you tell me about how you went about composing and recording songs differently after No Keys?

Everything came out of open jams and improvisation. Lyrics definitely influenced composition. Both dynamically and structurally. Less pressure and more joy. 

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

Immediate : share these new songs with as many current fans and new listeners alike. 

Future : tour more and write our best record to date. 

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

Listen to our discography from front to back and guess where the next record will take them. We’re woodshedding a BEAST.

I also talked to recording engineer and producer Eric Crespo:

Recording and mixing albums and running live sound is how I pay the bills (though recording and especially mixing is my preferred work). I’ve known Dan “Sig” Wilson (guitarist for Dommengang) for forever. We go way back in Portland. He moved to NYC and then LA, then Seattle, then LA again (I think?) and during the pandemic he kinda quietly moved back to Portland.

I was aware of Dommengang because I knew that was the band Dan had started in New York.  Dan had an instrumental three piece band in Portland called Hookers shortly before he split for NYC.  They were fantastic—I don’t think they ever made any real recordings.   I remember people in Portland early on referring to Dommengang as “Hookers East.” 

The Dommengang boys eventually all ended up in LA for a little bit and Abronia even shared a bill with them in LA on our west coast tour back in 2017. But then a few years later they all ended up in Portland after having not all living in the same city together for many years.  I was hanging out with Dan once (during the era of only outside hangs) and talking about Dommengang stuff and I just told him that I’d love to record Dommengang.  

And they let me!  

I remember early on they were saying they wanted to spend a little more time on this one and also have it be a little more raw and dirtier maybe than their past two albums. They were talking about liking the sound of old WITCH records. I tried to approach the album with the idea of bringing in that sorta raw old dirtiness while still retaining the power and dynamics of their live show.  We tracked to two inch tape at a studio in Portland called Red Lantern and transferred to Pro Tools for overdubs. There were a few performances (synths and bass clarinet) recorded remotely by musicians at home that they sent me the tracks and I mixed their takes in.  

The studio in Portland

The Dommengang guys wanted Rick from Abronia on pedal steel for one song—I recorded that at my studio.  There are some cool little flourishes from guests on the album. But yeah, there was a lot of sitting with the Dommengang guys in the mixing room.  They were very present for it.  I tried to make sure all three of them were happy with it—they’ve told me that they are, so I feel that mission was accomplished in that regard.  

As far as my future plans: I’m excited to record an album for Etran de L’aïr (from Niger) for the Sahel Sounds in April. Abronia will be releasing an album (probably later this spring or early summer) of mostly improvised material we recorded on a cassette 8 track at a house in the Oregon desert. Abronia will also be doing a West Coast tour this summer. And we’re writing stuff for what will be our fourth proper studio album. 

And I’m always on the lookout for more albums to record or mix. I’ve been doing a fair amount of remote mixing for people lately—people send me their recorded tracks from anywhere in the world and I mix them and send them back.  One perk of living in is this era for me is being able to do this!  

The gang while recording, Eric Crespo upfront.

Interview: Alexander Donat (Blackjack Illumnist Records, Vlimmer, Fir Cone Children, Assassun…)

Alexander Donat from Berlin, Germany is a true millipede of music. While he runs his Blackjack Illumnist label, he mostly releases albums consisting of primarily himself in various incarnations. Three of those I will point out in a bit more detail below. It is amazing to see how one person can have so many different faces and sounds within, sounding like a chaotic punker at first, and then a sexy gothic electro darko the next. It must have something to do with his extensive music collection, which he also shares on his socials, and the 2022 music list alone will already keep you busy for a couple of days…! But let’s dive into a couple of his most important creative outlets first, before we meet their maker and talk to him in person…

Today There’s No Tomorrow by Fir Cone Children was my first encounter with Donat and his many aliases. On this album he sounds like a psychedelic rock band, a schizophrenic anarcho punk band, and an artsy electro pop unit all at once. If you didn’t know, you would never have expected it all to be the work of just one guy in his bedroom. The album sounds bigger and more extensive than that. It sounds like this band is ready to tour and take over the squatter venues of the European underground. I don’t know if that might ever happen, but when it does Weirdo Shrine will be present in the pit!

Vlimmer is Donat’s darkest solo project, abruptly throwing us from our purple fumed punk cloud and into a shady studded leather dungeon. The lyrics are completely in German this time, which is a perfect language for this gothic rave party nightmare. Just when things get too creepy for me, Donat throws the rudder sideways again, sounding like an 80s worshipping pop act echoing Aha, or Dead or Alive, but in German of course. It’s not 100% my kind of party, but it is a danceable party for sure!

Assassun is Donat’s electronic dance project with a gothic twist. There is a strong 90s euro goth feeling here, as Donat interchanges faux rap shouts and gothic lamenting vocals. It’s music The Cure fans can pick coins on, but neon dreadlocked cyber goths can dance to as well. I think fans of bands like Hocico and VNV Nation might dig it, but at the same time it has a weirdo campy side to it that might appeal to fans of DEVO and even The Residents. Personally I love the feeling of being sandwiched between thick layers of synthesizers that the album gives me a couple of times.

So let’s meet mister Donat himself! Ever wondered what it is like to be the most prolific artist on your own DIY label? Check it out:

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

Everything’s mostly looking well, thanks! My name is Alexander Donat, and I run an independent record label that has DIY written all over, focussing on small edition releases in handmade packaging. On Blackjack Illuminist Records I release music of international bands as well as my own music, and I sell it on tapes, CDs and sometimes vinyl, too. It’s a lot of fun, even though it feels like doing at least seven jobs at the same time: musician, producer, mastering engineer, art director, social media coordinator, promotional guy, postal dude… 

What can you tell me about your musical background?

Both my father and my grandfather are respectively were professional musicians, not like me in alternative music scenes but in the classical music field. Our house was filled with music all the time and I tried out several instruments, some of which for a longer period of time, others for just a year. Today I see myself as a passionate dilettante who doesn’t practice his instruments, I simply play the stuff I like, record it and usually never play it again.

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

At daytime I’m an elementary school teacher in Berlin Neukölln, and when the sun goes down I head into my cellar where my studio is, doing all the musician and label things mentioned above. Luckily, I get along with much less sleep than an average person. It allows me to produce a lot in a relatively short time. Music is my life, and I’m lucky and grateful I have the chance to still pursue my dreams even though I’ve got a challenging job.

What do people often forget when they think about starting a record label?

If you start from scratch and want to be recognized, it’s a helluva job, ‘cause usually things don’t happen on their own. You will have to put a lot of work and passion into it, don’t do it for the money! Also, if you don’t release on a regular basis you might be forgotten quickly, there’s so much music out there and the zines and blogs out there come and go, you should always try to stay up to date. Finally, my personal and very subjective standpoint, I have the impression that many musicians start a label for their own music in the first place, and when they open up for artists outside their own bubble – which is something a record label makes a record label really – they suddenly make less music of their own. Make up your mind if that’s something you want to do. Also, ask yourself what your label might look like after a year – do you think you have the necessary resources: time, money, patience, resilience and passion?  

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

I live in a Berlin suburb, and while I go to shows in Germany’s capital, I barely play live here, which is not only primarily due to the fact that there’s probably too much going on gig-wise, but also because I’m more of a studio person. I do have occasional gigs with WHOLE which is a duo, but recording new music is more important to me, although I’m a stage maniac and love the limelight. I simply wouldn’t have any capacities left for doing all the booking. 

That said, I don’t think Berlin has an influence on my music, I’m rather influenced by artists from around the globe than by a certain location.  

What is your take on music reviews these days? (seeing as you started your own way of doing it ;)) 

Talking about music is awesome and a lot of fun. I’m a huge fan of the good old print magazine, and reading reviews about new and old bands is one of the most inspiring things to do. You never really know if you can trust the reviewer, sometimes I have a feeling that even though a rating is not the best I might end up liking the record, and vice versa, a raving review might leave you with a disappointing record. Music’s best when it’s some kind of surprise box. When it comes to my own music, it always excites me to read reviews, it’s maybe the highest praise when someone takes the time to listen, make notes of their thoughts to finally sit down and type words into their computer. To me reviews are an important variable in the whole music-making process. Not because I want to make music someone has to like, no, it’s because I’m curious what listeners think about the songs I love making.

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

In 2022 I found myself in another black metal phase with Blut Aus Nord’s “Disharmonium” ending on the very top of my top 20 list of best releases. I started discovering a handful of other albums by the artist on Debemur Morti which was probably my favourite label last year. Aara and White Ward were also new bands to me, they also released music on Debemur Morti in 2022. 

What is “the dream” for you as an artist, and as a label owner?

For a long time I thought my dream would be to see Blackjack Illuminist Records keep expanding and getting bigger each year, but I figured that it sounded rather capitalist, and it eventually would lead to disappointment. Now I’m simply grateful when people listen to the stuff I release, whether it’s my own music or someone else’s. Personally, it always feels great when someone orders from a country I haven’t received an order from before. I’m still waiting for Bandcamp email telling me someone from the African continent ordered a CD or something! What I also love is surprising stuff, like meeting new people, getting asked to participate in projects, seeing that Blackjack Illuminist bands get attention. Another dream which is actually coming true: In a couple of months I’m going to release a live album by my favourite band, No Age. And it’s not even the first time! Still, it feels so unreal …

Can you tell me about your immediate future plans?

Besides that No Age tape there will be a new ASSASSUN album coming on 24th March. Later this year you can expect new albums by Feu Follet, Fir Cone Children, WHOLE, Vlimmer and, hopefully, Social Union. It’s going to be exciting!

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

Listen to my best-of 2022 Spotify playlist, because it was an extraordinarily amazing year for music. If you have an open mind for genres like black metal, avant-garde and post-punk as much as indie pop, psychedelic rock and noise go here:

Interview: Green Uncle & The Black Hole Surfers / Зелёный Дядя u Сёрферы Чёрной Дыры

Music transcends borders, boundaries, politics, big mouthed opinions, and a current state of affairs. Art is art, and people are people (just ask Depeche Mode). So when I recently browsed the Danish label Virkelighedsfjern‘s discography and found a Russian band called зелёный дядя u сёрферы чёрной дыры (Green Uncle and the Blackhole Surfers) I decided I wanted to know more. The crazy artwork is what drew me at first, the even crazier music is what made me stay. The music consists of a nonconformist mixture of postpunk, spacey synthesizers, heavy galloping drums, and reverb puking vocals, all in Russian and absolutely unintelligible to these ears. I saw the Finnish band Circle once at Roadburn in their “heavy metal” period, and they came close to the madness these Russians have on display.

But there was more, lots more. In The Animal World was just a snippet of what these guys had in store for us. While their country ruthlessly bombed the shit out of their neighbouring countries, these guys were holed up in their psychedelic venue in Nizhniy Novgorod by the illustrious name of Tago Mago. There they worked on their creative psycho outlet, all the while with nowhere else to go than to express themselves artistically.

They released a more straightforward and smoothly produced album called Delight In Octaves (the “crazy cat” album pictured above-the cover depicts a popular motif in medieval iconography-the mouth of hell), which showed a more ambitious side to their music with a slightly more approachable sound. They are still way too weird for their own country, and so they are planning on heading over the border one day to show the more psychedelic minded people of this world what they are capable of.

If only for the horrible godforsaken war that leaves artists in Russia to be pariahs in the world and cut off from most communication methods and ways to reach out (PayPal and Facebook for instance). The band was pretty desperate and fed up with their own country and its stupid war they started on their own anti war statement, their new album Collective Irresponsibility, which will see the light of day digitally at the end of this month. The artwork is featured below. It might not be a literal upfront political album, but the lyrics leave nothing to be guessed:

“God be with you//go ahead! //straight into a fresh graveyard!//best will gesture-negative growth”

Cover art for the new album “Collective Irresponsibility” out on March 28.

Collective Irresponsibility is the best produced recording of the band so far. They might have lost a bit of their wild fuzzy ferociousness along the way, but they bring a cool and freaky progressive post punk side in return. And still they can rage like a bunch mouth frothing lunatics, just check out Negative Growth, it is heavy and characteristic like nothing you have heard before…

Their absolute uniqueness is why it is such a damn shame that they find themselves in such a shitty situation. While everyone should be able to enjoy their stubborn self-minded anti-war anti-Putin anthem, they are being cast out and regarded with apprehension at best. I must admit I thought for a minute about writing this too, but especially after contacting the band and hearing them out I understood that in the end it is still just a matter of people being people. These Russians are people, pretty cool people actually, and some badd ass must-listen musicians while we’re at it too.

I contacted the band through their Bandcamp, and found singer/guitarist Vova Sokolow very much inclined to reach out. Reaching out and contacting the outside has been more and more difficult for normal Russians these days, and the boycotts see Black Hole Surfers and their underground scene in hometown Nizhny Novgorod in absolute tatters. Their dreams of releasing an international record and touring extensively crushed, they have very little to look forward to these days. Like the people on the other side in Ukraine they find themselves only cogs in a machine, played by powers much bigger than themselves….

Hi guys, how are you these days? 

Hi! First of all, I would like to thank you for your attention. We sit in this depressive country and look at colleagues in psychedelic rock, we see how they go on big tours, play on big venues – and we only give concerts in our city and somewhere else around once every six months, without having absolutely no possibility of being heard outside this close circle. building a tour of russia with our music is very difficult, as these are huge distances and, most often, terrible venues with a disgusting sound. the music we play is not popular here – young people prefer rap, pop punk and midwest emo. I follow many bands from different countries and envy them, because they were not born in Russia, not in this terrible time. We dream of the same venues and tours, but so far everything is not going as we would like.

Can you introduce your band to the Weirdo Shrine audience, who are you, when did you meet, what style do you play, etc…

Our band consists of 4 people, we play a mixture of garage, psychedelic and kraut rock, but lately we are moving into other directions, such as post-punk and goth stuff. We live in Nizhny Novgorod and run the coolest underground club in the city – Tago Mago. We live with music from morning to evening, despite the fact that we very rarely play concerts. My name is Vova and I am the author of Black Hole Surfers music and the owner of the club. My friend Misha plays the drums – and this is the best drummer in Nizhny Novgorod, he is crazy for drums. Nastya plays the keyboards – she is a musicologist by profession, but alas, the education system in Russia is terrible and a diploma is worth nothing, yet she is passionate about her profession and classical composers. Kostya plays bass – he is a virtuoso and is known far beyond the borders of Nizhny Novgorod, especially in metal circles. He plays in a huge variety of teams, some of which are international, and he is the only one of us who has had the opportunity to tour all over the continent.

Last year you released the amazing In The Animal World which was released by the Danish label Virkelighedsfjern, what can you tell me about that album and its creation process?

In The Animal World came out 2 years ago, but on physical media it appeared only last year, when we had already released the first full-length (Octave Delight). It was the last release recorded somewhere other than our practice space. I wrote almost all the material at home in Ableton, we rehearsed it (then still three of us) and recorded it in a couple of weeks. Back then there was no bassist in the band and I played with an octaver and created my own playing technique – without solos, but with a lot of rhythmic patterns. I played both bass and guitar all my life and I wanted to combine them, but, alas, this drove me into certain limits, so we decided that the group should have a bass player.

The album came out on a Danish label and it’s a miracle for us. the first EP was released on the same label, but on cassettes. Despite the fact that the next release, Delight in Octaves, in material is head and shoulders above that of In The Animal World, no one has published it yet, and I no longer hope that someone will. There are 2 factors here – it’s not popular music and it’s hard to find a label in Europe/USA that wants to release this kind of music, also from a Russian band.

Can you describe what it is like to live in Russia right now for an independent artist like you?

It’s a complete ass! You have a million ambitions and you realize that your life and musical career is actually ruined by your government. Russia had a great music scene in the 13-18s. Now, after the start of the war, all the cool promoters have left here and are working in other countries, for example, in Serbia. We have all become hostages and victims because of the actions of these terrible people at the helm. Of course, we can go on a tour of 10-15 cities in Russia, play in small bars for 50 people, but this is not what we dreamed about and what we want to come to. We should be in the lineups of all these cool European and American festivals. It’s just that it’s a million times more difficult for us to break through there than for foreign colleagues. The music scene in Russia is now experiencing many problems, it has simply been erased from history. despite this, there are many young people in our city who go to concerts and appreciate what we do. Before Covid, a huge number of foreign groups came to us and there was a feeling that you were in the same reality with them. After Covid, the war began and now we seem to be in different worlds, they live in the real one – and we are in a backwards and parallel one.

What has been the biggest change since the war? Do you for instance notice much from the boycotts in daily life?

I feel a little out of touch with civilization. I can’t use Paypal. I can’t sell my releases at Bandcamp. Despite the fact that I have always been against the war and against our regime, I fall on the same wavelength with the rest. About boycotts – I don’t know, we never went on tours in other countries. but earlier it was at least possible, but now I can’t imagine how to do it, getting a Schengen visa has become much more difficult. We were cut off from civilization, but there are pluses in this – we have to create our own reality – without McDonald’s and Ikea.

You speak out against the war openly, and you are about the release an EP against it called (translation) “Collective Irresponsibility”, what can you tell me about it?

To speak openly against the war is to go to a single picket in the center of the city. In this case, you are guaranteed to be detained by the police and can go to jail for it. I don’t want to go to jail, but I can’t remain silent either, so I speak out with the help of my art. There are no slogans in it, but after reading the texts, you understand what it is about. This album is about the four generations that surround me now. Old people – Putin’s only real electorate, like himself, support all this horror. I feel very sorry for them, they live on a beggarly pension, despite the fact that these people survived the Second World War and it would seem that they should understand the horror of the war – but over the past 20 years they have been brainwashed so much that they really believe that NATO and America they want harm. The younger generation – my parents, live under the anthem “we did not live well – don’t fucking start.” They do not have a civil position, it is because of them that a bloody dictator was in power. Many representatives of my generation have now left Russia – there are many creative and intelligent people among them. well, the generation of Zoomers just sits and looks at all this darkness. They can’t go anywhere. They have lived all their lives under Putin and I sincerely feel sorry for them.

If we talk about the music on the album – it’s garage rock, dirty, raw and heavy. but there are also psychedelic elements in it, I grew up on this music.

What can you tell me about the city of “Gorky” where you live? How is the music scene for instance?

Gorky is the pseudonym of the world famous writer Maksim Gorky, who was born and raised here. In English it is translated as “bitter”. In the Soviet Union, Nizhny Novgorod was renamed Gorky, and in the 90s back to Nizhny Novgorod. If we talk about the music scene, it is now in bad shape, it is practically non-existent. Its heyday was at the beginning of the 10’s, then there was a very large and powerful community here, Nizhny Novgorod bands went on European tours and created their own labels. Now there are few really interesting bands here, but those that exist are unique and it is difficult to compare them with anyone. You know, people here make music very honestly – they generally have a shitty life and for us it’s not entertainment, for us it’s survival. I think there is no such honest scene anywhere else, since we are really creating it in terrible conditions, we have something to sing about. If we talk about specific groups that now regularly perform with us – «Yazva“, “the July days» , «Pospish Potom“, «Nochnaya Igroteka»,  «Orwell’s magazine“, «Magnitola“, «Apodemus“, «Passeisme“. they are all worth seeing!

What are your immediate future plans? And long term?

No sane person in Russia can make long-term plans. We live in one month, already in the summer everything could change. It becomes more and more difficult to survive here, it is difficult to realize one’s ambitions here. There is one good Russian proverb – a holy place is never empty. Now we are a mouthpiece, a voice in the gray crowd and many appreciate it. But everything is stagnant, there is no sense of growth, so sometimes I seriously think about moving to another country. Speaking of our band, we really want to go on a European tour next year. Right now it is very difficult, it is practically unrealistic – first of all financially. Even if you get a visa, it is very difficult to save enough money to recoup all the costs. I want to be where there is a potential listener, and in our case, these are the so-called countries of the “Western world”. Many Russian bands now go to Georgia, Armenia and Kazakhstan, but most of the locals just don’t understand this music.

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

Of course, listen to all of the above bands! You can also subscribe to us on social networks, but this is not necessary!

@blackh0lesurfer – music, guitars, vocals

@nyanogen – drums (apodemus)

@highbrow_blockhead – bass (Passeisme, Wombripper, ex-7H.Target)

@nosok_v_polosochku – keys

Review + Q&A: Hands Up Who Wants To Die – Nil All (2023, Human Worth, Sleeping Giant Glossolalia, Fonoradar)

Hands Up Who Wants To Die are a love ‘m or hate ‘m affair. And the the reason for either would be the same. They are a dangerous lot, unpredictable, a bunch of loose cannons that could go off at any minute. One moment they are whispering sweet things in your ear at the cinema, the next they are tearing the covers from the seats in a mouth foaming frenzy…

Their tribe are the dark and weird noise rockers of this earth. The Jesus Lizards, the Oxbows, the Enablers, and the Made Out Of Babies. Bands that wear their feral instability proudly on their sleeves. Within the realm of this tribe anything goes, which makes their records such fascinating and adventurous journeys. And deep too. Because for every “hobo-afraid-to-lose-his-liquor-outburst” there are intelligent lines of smart poetical mumblings with an absurd but artful twist.

And there is humor, albeit hidden underneath a thick layer of dark tar. Just check out the video for L’inconnue below and watch the band writhe in agony while squeezing lemons into their faces…

So is this a nice little Diddy you can play at your in-laws’ neighborhood barbecue lawn party? Nope. But it is a confrontational piece of art that will tell you a few things about being uncomfortable that you might need to hear. Go on, you might learn something valuable, even if you might not want to hear it.

In my global search for weirdo music I stumbled upon Dublin, Ireland before. For instance I talked to No Spill Blood, but also to Wild Rocket quite recently. And lo and behold; the world is a small place, because members of those bands are also in Hands Up Who Wants To Die. For undisclosed reasons we will not reveal their full names here, but I talked to the guitarist and the drummer who told us all about their band(s) and the Irish underground scene.

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for Hands Up Who Wants To Die?

J: We’re ok, thanks. Collectively, we have kids & dogs & cats and another kid on the way. So it’s busy busy. Pandemic was manageable, we slowly got a batch of new songs written for our fourth LP. We’ve been playing some of these numbers at the album launches of our third LP, which was also finalised over the pandemic period: mixing, mastering, labels on board etc. That one is Nil All and has just been released.

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

P: I met Rory at a Tenpastseven gig in the Bowery in Waterford. 

I met Matt at a Sylvan gig in Pine Lodge in Myrtleville, Cork. 

I met John at a Shellac gig in the Button Factory in Dublin.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

J: We actually like music and have played in various DIY bands over the years. We’re all ‘self taught’ I suppose. We play, or used to play in Shifting, Tenpastseven, Wild Rocket, The Bridges of Madison County, No Spill Blood, Chirps, Elk, Molossus, Ügly Mind, Sylvan, Nippons.

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

J: We all have different jobs and have to do them, we then play music and sleep when we can.. we all eat somewhat regularly too. Paul tends to need more regular feeds than Matt, for example. We have drinks sometimes too. Water, beer, coffee, wine, stuff like that. Matt is an illustrator/visual artist, Rory a designer and I work in video/TV production, so having that day-to-day knowledge of image and video manipulation helps with what’s needed for the band sometimes. The album art for Nil All (and our last LP Vega in the Lyre) is all Matt’s original work, digitally altered and laid out by Rory. And I made this video for the ‘lead single’ from our album: So, days are all quite different for us.

What is the best thing about Nil All?

J: That it’s out.

P: There are no losers.

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

P: I live in Dublin. That makes me want to make loads of money from music so I can afford to live in Dublin. 

J: I live in London. That makes it difficult to meet up regularly for rehearsals/hangs with Hands Up (Paul & Matt are in Dublin, Rory is in Cork) but also means that I get to see an abundant variety of live music that influences my drumming. I’ve met and played with a lot of great and sound musicians here too.

Picture by Thom McDermott

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

J: Katie Kim, Percolator, Jana Rush, Charles Hayward, Agathe Max, Natalia Beylis, Stef Ketteringham, Will Glaser, Icebear, Rising Damp, David Lacey, Sweet Williams, Lankum, M(h)aol, Girlfriend, Aya, Rattle, Sunn O))), Horse Lords, Fax Machine, Black Shape, Andrew DR Abbott, UKAEA, Roger Robinson, Part Chimp, Crowhammer, Crying Loser, Roslyn Steer, Seán Clancy, Declan Synott, Patrick Kelleher, Elaine Malone, Myles Manley, The Bonk, The Altered Hours, Lex Amor, Kae Tempest, Gnod, Shifting, The Ex, My Disco, Circle, Benefits, Natalie Sharp, Olivia Furey, Mykki Blanco, my bandmates in Wild Rocket, Phil Langero, Conor Hickey, Beak>, Don Vito, Grief Eater, Slomatics, Sly and the Family Drone, The Maori John Wayne, Section 4, The Eurosuite and Junk Drawer.

P: Noxagt, Oxbow, Enablers, Psychic Graveyard, Dead Rider, Shimmer, Conformists, Yowie, Ni, The Hoaries, Thank.

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

P: The songs usually start with one small idea and then we try to twist in as many directions as we can squeeze out of it and just keep building on that. They go through years of cul de sacs, digging trenches, knocking walls etc with occasional public unveilings to see how they fare. 

For recording, myself, Matt and John (guitar, bass, drums) play together live to get the energy in the room for the drum takes. Then we will overdub a good portion of guitar and bass to concentrate on getting specific sounds. Then Spud and Ian, who we work with regularly in this and other bands, work their magic. Due to lockdown and us all living very far away from one another, we did a lot more mixing remotely than usual with Nil All but we got there in the end. 

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

J: We have a couple of gigs with Psychic Graveyard in Ireland in May, which is very exciting. Then we go to the US to play Caterwaul festival and seven other dates.

P: After that, we’re sitting on the rest of the next album so we just need to figure how to shape those songs and filter them through everyone’s brain. A few more jaunts abroad for some concerts would be lovely too. 

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

J: Have a laugh. Enjoy the company of a friend or loved one, or one’s self. Practice a bit of self care, wash your face or head or something. Have a listen to our new album.

Picture by Thom McDermott