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Review + Q&A: Super Pink Moon- Iron Rain (2023, self-released)

Somali Yacht Club guitarist and singer Ihor Pryshliak also lives out his creativity on his own sometimes. Through Super Pink Moon he channels his inner shoegazer, while at the same time maintaining his signature sound. In a way it is an even more interesting album than last year’s Somali Yacht Club record The Sea, because you get the feeling that anything goes here.

The context of Iron Rain is the war in Ukraine. The album was written and recorded in the midst of the chaos, and you can feel the density all through the songs. The vocals are clean, sincere, and dreamy. The lyrics are heavy, and breathe war and loss with titles like Doomscrolling, Collision, and Hollowness. There is also a tiny speck of hope; because despite all the horror and despair there is the possibility of beauty and reparation, so much becomes clear.

From Hum-like bombast to My Bloody Valentine vacuumcleaner antics, Super Pink Moon sounds like a machine, sucking it all up and taking it into space. At times the heavy end prog doom of Somali Yacht Club pops up too, but never too long. Overall Iron Rain is a strong and consistent album that will appeal to heavy mood heads anywhere in the world.

How are you? How has the past year been for you as a musician, especially considering the Russian invasion and the war?
It was rough. Probably the most challenging year of my life. Music was/is a way to escape from a harsh reality.

Can you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Ihor 🙂 I love music, dogs, and coding.

What can you tell me about your musical background?
I started playing guitar when I was 16. The first song I learned to play was Nothing else matters 


 I remember the first time I asked to “test” the distortion pedal in a music store the first thing I played was Nothing Else Matters and it sounded absolutely terrible. Everyone looked at me like pleeease stop it, no no. And I was having the greatest moment in my life lol.

What does a regular day in your life look like?
8am wake up, 9am crossfit or walking in the woods with my dog, 10:30 work, 2pm eat, 3pm work, 7pm music/rehearsals/gaming/chilling pretty every day 🙂 Yeah, I’m a boring software developer/musician.

What is the best thing about Iron Rain?
It’s interesting. You can listen to it several times and find something interesting to you each time. It was designed as a Castlevania-like game or like Elden Ring 🙂 You’re free to roam wherever you want to, but you’re also always welcome to come back and try to go deeper.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?
I guess the biggest challenge is the underdeveloped local music industry. If you play anything harder than hard rock -> you are the underground. Here, it’s a big difference between popular artists and good underground artists who are actually pretty famous abroad. Another challenge is money. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me a guitar or hire a teacher till the moment I got my first scholarship. So yes, I’d say it’s challenging, but not impossible.

What is your main aim with your music, is it complete artistic expression, or an escape from the every day world? (or something else ;))
Initially, it was an artistic expression because I needed to do something with this energy. Now it’s a form of escapism. When I do music I’m in a flow, it’s like a mediation. It means that for a couple of hours a day I can forget about all bullshit going around me and that’s a blessing. I wish everyone could develop such a skill to ignore the outside. Good for your mental health.

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?
Oh, it’s different each time. You just sit and play with sound, rhythm, lyrics, riff, whatever is interesting to you at that moment. It’s like a sandbox or Minecraft if you like. Music is pure magic, so it’s always interesting for me to play with it.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?
The future plan is pretty straightforward – survive. Immediate -> release IRON RAIN, start another record, and keep going till the moment I get bored.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?
Go over here and donate to Ukraine ->

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tajak are:

Alvaro Castro: Drums + FX and Synth + FX.

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

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

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

What can you tell me about your musical background?

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

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

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

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

What is a typical day like in your life?

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

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

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

What is the best thing about La Sombra Del Agua?

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

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

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

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

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

Tajik’s previous album Ciclos

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your immediate and long-term future plans?

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

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

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

video for Ricochet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

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

What does a regular day in your life look like?

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

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

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

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

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

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

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

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

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

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

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

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

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

Review + Q&A: Warp- Bound By Gravity (2023, Nasoni Records)

I should not like Warp as much as I do. Their raw mixture of stoner rock and doom metal is far from the left field weirdo psych I mostly enjoy these days. And yet, Bound By Gravity has a certain something that draws me back to it each time.

The Israeli trio mines the oldschool stoner well from which legendary early acts like Astroqueen and 7Zuma7 sprung. They add aggressive yelling vocals that remind me of Big Business and enough jamming and repetitive solos to make this record a favorite for the real stoners that like. to get high and dive into their speakers.

I thoroughly enjoy the raw honesty with which this record is crafted. What you see is what you get, and that is three guys riffing the hell out and just having a good time. Nothing more, but definitely nothing less either. If you like to toke up from time to time and enjoy a good riff then don’t let anything stop you from blasting the new Warp album this year.

I found guitarist and vocalist Itai Alzaradel at home in Tel Aviv, Israel, and more than willing to talk about his band. We chatted about line up changes, growing up punks, and being under the influence…of good music.

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

We’re good, thanks! The pandemic caught on us a bit after our first European tour, which made everything stop for a while. We took the time and started writing new material from scratch, trying out riffs, dig a bit deeper and finding sounds and writing directions which eventually lead to a new album which we are very proud of. 

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

I’m Itai, I play guitar and contribute some lead vocals. Me and Sefi (Bass+Vocals) were roommates back in 2014, having known each other since we were teenagers in the Israeli Punk scene, we always played in Punk/Hardcore/Post-Hardcore bands. At some point we must have sat in our shitty living room and expressed our desire to form a more riff-driven and heavier band which will incorporate our Doom/Stoner/Rocknroll influences. Our friend Ezra joined the band as a drummer and we began writing and practicing for a while without anyone knowing. Eventually we played some shows but soon after, Ezra left after being involved in a traffic accident and not wanting to drum anymore. 

We asked Mor, who was playing in multiple bands and was always a cool guy to hang around with to join us, so this is the current lineup, for the past 4-5 years or so. Each of us contribute to the writing process, we all share leading vocal duties, we all write lyrics – so it’s very much a team effort. 

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

As I mentioned, me and Sefi come from the Punk scene, both played in several bands, mostly Punk/Hardcore/Post-Hardcore stuff. We knew Mor as the drummer of one of the coolest Punk bands around – Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but he’s more of an all-around band member, playing a lot with Rock/Heavy Metal bands.  I feel like all of us brought the Punk attitude and energies into the first record, which can be identified by the raw sound and sheer energy and by the fact that we recorded it 100% DIY at our practice space. 

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

Unfortunately, Rock music, especially alternative Rock, isn’t very popular in Israel which requires us to work regular jobs. I (Itai) work as HR at a cyber company, Mor is a software developer and Sefi is a Pro dog trainer. After the workday is done, we meet with at the practice space (each of us has several active bands) and then home! 

What is the best thing about Bound By Gravity?

For me, it’s the broader sound we achieved, compared to the previous album. The fact that each song is a bit different but remains interesting. Also, the fact we’re 3 different vocalists which adds more diversity to the record, and last, the lyrics. Our lyrics are more about everyday life, dealing with our experience living in a very problematic place, politically. That’s why “The Hunger” or “You Fascist Pigs are Back” have more substance, in my eyes. 

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

We all live around Tel Aviv, which is one of the only cities around where artists/musicians go to, given its liberal atmosphere, even though living in Tel Aviv has become impossibly expensive. Tel Aviv’s alternative scene is small and consists of people from all over the country who looked for something else and poured into Tel Aviv at a certain stage. There aren’t a lot of bands in the genre so a lot of the times shows would be very versatile – sharing stages with both Punk and Death Metal bands or even some Noise or Indie ones. 

We didn’t get to play a lot of shows since the pandemic, exactly because we were spending the time writing and recording. Also, Mor left us for almost a year to live in Holland, but now he’s back and the record is ready, we can’t wait to perform again. 

What are your favorite contemporary bands and albums right now?

I listen to a lot of Hardcore Punk and dig the New York scene – mostly the Toxic State roster. I think a lot of the bands there were able to give Punk an extra edge with a lot of wit and innovation. I love Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Witch, Dopelord – these are the bands who manage to combine heavy riffs and melodic vocals, like what we do. Also Pigs X 7 are pretty fucking awesome (Viscerals SHREDS!), successfully combining elements of both stoner and punk. 

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

Most of the times we jam together, finding some cool riffs/lines and build the song from there. Sometimes one of us will bring an idea from home and we’ll develop it together but as I said before, It’s a team effort. On this record we wrote most of the materials without any lyrics for several reasons such as our willing to experiment with lyrics once the instrumental track is done. At some point we suggested recording the instrumental parts, listen to them and get the inspiration, which eventually worked out. 

Some of my songs were written on my way to the session. My writing is very intuitive and involves whatever is going on in my head at a certain point. Sefi and Mor’s writing is a bit different, each has his own methods, I guess. The recordings themselves were also pretty swift, recording most of the backing tracks live and layering some lead guitars over in one weekend. Later on we got to mess with some sounds and effects that gave more depth to the tracks. 

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

For me the dream is to stay “hungry” to create some interesting new stuff and to be able to share it with the world.  Would love nothing more than to tour once again, get exposed to new crowds and meet new people. The ideal is to do so until we die. Anyone anywhere who’s interested in booking us, can email to

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

Go get our new LP from our label Nasoni Records . Our first single out of it titled “Dirigibles” will be out on January 3rd, so look it up as well!  The whole album will be available on all streaming platforms from February 1st. Look it up! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you introduce yourself?

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

What can you tell me about your musical background?

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

What does a regular day in your life look like?

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

What is the best thing about Astral Magic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

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

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

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

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

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

All Peace to You, Galactic Brothers and Sisters…

Dead Meadow- Force Form Free (2022, Blues Funeral Recordings)

I am quite late with this write up about the latest album by US psych rock heroes Dead Meadow. To be honest, I was waiting for a response to my interview questions. However I decided that we as listeners perhaps did not need too many words from the band, as they themselves also mostly let their instruments speak for them on Force Form Free.

On their debut album for Blues Funeral Records Dead Meadow dive into their own riffs so incredibly and completely that it seems like guitarist Jason Simon just forgets to start singing entirely, fully immersed as he is in letting that riff wash over himself again, and again. At least that’s the impression on opener The Left Hand Path.

The Lure Of The Next Peak shows Dead Meadow’s wacky side, in a beautiful pastoral jam with a dancing wah wah pedal. On the third song Valmont’s Pad the heavy distortion returns on another quite merry tune that feels like a stroll in the countryside. Still no vocals though.

The vocals and lyrics only show up on To Let The Time Go By, a mostly acoustic affair with Simon’s characteristic lazy just out of bed vocal delivery dreamily accompanying the soothing tunes. Only he can sing it like The Black Keys just fell head first in a huge tub of jello, it’s quite magnanimous and heady.

And then it’s on to some more heavy jamming with revved up amplifiers and a ton of fuzz. Title track Force Form Free hits it off with a nice long build up that pretty much keeps on building and layering until the very end, leaving you with one more jam left. It’s the mighty Binah, that brings everything that makes this record awesome together and even adds some vocals.

But I’ll leave the comments for it to the legendary producer Steve Albini, who says it better than anyone here:

“Dead Meadow have laid down god’s own riffs over the years but the guitar solo that blankets the last four minutes of “Binah” from the new piece is a psychedelic chemical so pure I would drop it into my eyes from a pipette and stare at the stars.”

Put that in your pipe and smoke it Dead Meadow. You done did it again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you introduce yourselves?

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

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

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

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

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

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

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

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

What is the best thing about Eternal Light Brigade?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

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

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

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

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

Review + Q&A: Domadora- Renaissance (2022, Kozmik Artifactz)

In a field somewhere in rural France a trio of musicians has set up their gear. Without any plans or preparations they begin to play. What happens next is magical and hard to believe, if it weren’t for the fact that someone had the audacity to press the record button on the portable studio. Renaissance is that recording.

Whether you believe the background story that founding member Belwil lays out in the interview below is pretty irrelevant. Even without any story this forty-one minute jam beast is a mighty trip that you need to either micro dose or schedule off your weekend for. It builds up terrifyingly for almost ten minutes before diving in one of this year’s heaviest fuzz riff maelstroms. After that we get a bluesy come down, and then the building begins again. The record does that sequence once more after that, and ends in a total ghosting doom fest and the creepiest outro ever.

I do believe the weird and eerie voices and samples throughout the record are somehow edited in, but nobody wants to confirm that. A bit of a mystery has to be upheld I guess, and it fits Renaissance as an album. It is an enigmatic and highly impressive jam fest for adventurous fuzz heads, and stoner thrill seekers.

I found Belwil Domadora(lead guitar) willing to converse with me and tell me more about Domadora’s background story. This is what he had to say….

Hi Domadora! How are you doing these days?

Hi Jasper. We are fine. We can’t wait for Renaissance releases and the experience which will support this. We ‘ll show a textured medium-length movie at an art-house cinema on december 8 in Paris.

Can you please introduce the band; where are you from, how did you meet?

We are from Paris. We met in jam’s music clubs in Paris in 2010.

What are your musical backgrounds?

Every music which is free and improvised at any time. No rules, only sounds, strange ambiances, psychedelic and mental environments.

We hate to play the same things.

We consider that If we fully relax and let go, it feels like we are no longer the ones making music. It feels like some benevolent entities have joined us, taken charge and are the one playing.  It feels like being under a harmless hypnotic trance for hours

Where do you live, and how would you say that influences your sound?

We live in Paris. Like France, Paris has been a sick city for some years. There is a lot of insecurity. Everything is under construction and destruction. Life is becoming hard and people begin to be really angry again everyone. Then our music is improvised and our current emotions are the only thing that leads us.

What does a typical day in your lives look like?

We try to be satisfied of ourself every day. Always be yourself and never betraying what we are. It’s a daily hard work.

What can you tell me about the writing and recording process of Renaissance?

It’s a one shot experience with some additions to illustrate our state of mind. The context is funny and creepy. Each of our improvisation session is tinted with the state of mind we are currently in while playing.

As usually, we were roaming the countryside, looking for a secluded and atypical location, where we could play our music. We stopped in an isolated clearing, not too far from ‘la Basse du Diable’ in Les Vosges. We set up our whole gear, the band, the amps, the drums, the grill for the barbecue …We stopped playing at 9 pm, completely drained. Before leaving the clearing, we quietly had a meal. Then, we started looking for a place where we could spend the night before getting on with our trip the following morning. We ended up heading toward an isolated house, at the end of a path, not far from ‘la Basse d’Enfer’

We knocked on the door to ask if we could set our tents on their property. An elderly man opened the door. His name was Claude. He was tired, rough looking man, and had deep voice. He was neither welcoming nor the opposite. To put it bluntly, he didn’t care at all. ‘Set your camp there, do as you please. If you’re hungry, I’ve got some food.’  We weren’t hungry, but we didn’t dare saying no. We set our tents and got inside Claude’s house. It was a real mess, with neon lighting and a dark and gloomy atmosphere.

‘Have a seat over there, I’ll be with you in a moment.’ We sat around a big wooden table, a stained-covered, hole-covered, broken wooden table. Everything was creaking in this house, the chairs, the wooden floor, the table, and the walls.

We remained silent. Claude was certainly in the kitchen.

Suddenly, we heard a deep growl filled with rage. We stood up and went to check on the man. We reached the kitchen and found him; his hand covered with blood. He had sliced one his fingers open with a huge knife. Apparently, he was in the middle of cutting up a rabbit for us. It was such a weird situation. Either there were no windows in that kitchen, or the blinds had been closed. The walls were dirty. One of the lights kept flickering, and there was this old rough looking man with his bleeding hand on top of the butchered rabbit.  ‘Everything is fine, leave me alone. I can take care of myself’ he uttered with palpable annoyance.

We didn’t go back to the table. We needed to breath some fresh air. We went out.

We pondered over the situation. We couldn’t help but be wary about this man. It looked like he was living on his own, but we could swear we had heard some noises coming from upstairs and from the basement. We started to come up with crazy scenarios. ‘There are four of us and he’s just one man. So, we’re good’, ‘Well, I think we’d better leave’, ‘Yes, but imagine that despite being a little ill-mannered, he’s still a nice guy. He’s even trying to cook us a meal. It would be quite an embarrassing situation if we left.’, ‘Maybe, but what if he’s a maniac. Things could get crazy if we stay.’, ‘Yeah, let’s just trust our guts and leave!’

We went back inside the house to tell him about the decision we had made. We were no longer spending the night out there; we were going straight home instead. We waited. No answer. We took down our tents as fast as lightning and left.

We had an appointment at DGD Music Studio on the following day for a recording session.

We played for more than 40 minutes without taking any break.

The result of this session is Renaissance.

How does one write a 40+ minute song?

We don’t write, we just play. There is no preparation, no intro, and no outro. There are no restraints, there is just pure music expressed through vibrations, strong or soft ones

Can you tell me what music’s on the daily band playlist?

Impossible, many many different artists and different styles like Billie Holiday, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Beethoven, Debussy, our San Diego friends Earthless and Tia Carrera, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Sunn’O, Black Sabbath, Motorhead

I must say, the children’s voices at the end of the album creeped me the hell out! Waht can you tell me about those voices?

AH AH I’m happy to read that!! Hey Jasper, you don’t want to know that! are you sure you really heart children voices? Try again! I’m sorry but it’s like a secret. Some years ago I was somewhere far away from my country to live strange things and I recorded this voices but I don’t really understand what is that..

What is “the dream” for your band? And what are your immediate future plans?

I think our way to play music is almost unique and we would like this approach become obvious and natural for everyone. Music is a way to your mind and everyone should understand that. Because when you open the doors, everythings are magic and beautiful.

When our music make someone let go, it is a great satisfaction.  

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

Get up in the middle of the night, take a good headset, extend on the floor and let go with Renaissance and try to listen all music’s nuances that you can’t detect in one time.

Review + Q&A: Modern Stars- Space Trips For The Masses (2022, Little Cloud Records)

Space Trips For The Masses by Italy’s Modern Stars is a total headphone album. The slow majestic pace of it, the deeply layered fatness of the sound, and the male/female double vocal approach make the production value a trip in its own right. And then we haven’t even talked about the stellar Spiritualized-minded compositions yet

Putting on your black shells, closing your eyes, you are immediately immersed in a different dimension. You can picture the astronaut on the album cover floating around in a sea of green, while gravitational forces are pulling like a maniac, and in the distance you hear an angel singing. It is a lot, and in the wrong hands it could have turned out bloated and pompous, but Modern Stars steers this space ship far from of those murky waters.

The best compliment for Space Trips For The Masses is probably that while seemingly little happens, and the tempo hardly changes, it keeps your attention with its stifling atmosphere, in such a way that the 40 minutes pass before you know it, and you are forced to press the ignition button again. So let’s float some more in deep, green space…they dare you.

I traveled at warp speed through a bunch of black holes to contact the band, and found them chilling on one of Saturn’s rings. In a joined effort they fired back my questions at me. This is what Andrea Merolle (AM), Andrea Sperduti (AS), and Barbara Margani do things:

How are you? How has the pandemic period and its aftermath been for Modern Stars?Here in Italy the pandemic period has been hard in terms of social distancing. We could not rehearse and go live as a band, so we concentrated on studio work. We entirely recorded Psych-Industrial and Space Trips for the Masses in the period between 2020-2021. Anyway, despite the more time you may dedicate to music, composition is negatively affected by the lockdown period because limitations to real life inevitably limit your sensations.

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

Andrea Merolle and Andrea Sperduti began playing Spacemen 3 and The Brian Jonestown Massacre covers. Andrea Merolle and Barbara were already a couple before he asked her to sing the choir on our Hey Man cover. They are friends and enjoy spending time together.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Barbara is a graduated soprano and her main influences are Maria Callas and classical music. Andrea Merolle is influenced by delta blues and experimental music. For me (Andrea Sperduti): there isn’t a musical genre that has particularly influenced me, I had my preferences when I was younger but I never knew how to answer the question: what’s your favorite music? In music I have always really appreciated rhythmic parts and not too sophisticated arrangements.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

AM: Wake up, prepare kids for school, work, produce, consume, play with kids, go to bed. Then you need to play something to be yourself. 

AS: I work, always trying to be more creative than the previous day and I must say that I don’t always succeed. During our time together I try to teach my little girl how to try to be free and make conscious choices. I listen to new and old records and watch old movies. I have an extreme admiration for Anglo-Saxon literature and for some classic Italian authors: Moravia, Pavese, Calvino, to name just a few. In the time I have left I try to take care of the sound of my drums.

What is the best thing about Space Trips For The Masses?

The fact that it sounds like a sort of concept album, there is a continuity between tracks and it’s so hard for us to think about them out of that context as single. Even if we extracted two for videos. It also sounds similar but different compared to Silver Needles and Psych-Industrial.

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

We and the other new members of the band (Mario Bruni, Berry Margani and Simone Viscogliosi) all live between the big city (Rome) where we work and the small provincial towns where we were born and raised. It is not a great environment for our kind of music, people prefer Italian easy listening indie pop, but maybe this is positive because it helps to be original and to spread it worldwide. If you listen to our records maybe you may feel that they are composed and recorded in other nations and places and this is great because it means that we can travel with our cosmic music.

AS: The city where I live, Rome, doesn’t have a proper underground music scene. And if there is, I don’t know it enough, perhaps also due to the fact that there are no places where live music is played that deviates a bit from the mid or mainstream. In the province where I was a teenager, however, the attention for music was much more lively, it is in the province that I trained musically. What I can add is that those who listen to English-speaking rock or psychedelic music in Italy do so by appropriating a culture that has never really been theirs, and I’m part of it too. But that’s what I’ve always liked and that’s what I like to play.

What are your favorite contemporary bands and albums right now?

AM:  In the middle there is Andrea Merolle, who does not listen so much to new published music, with few exceptions, but tries to find new music going back to the past and thanks God for the internet.

BM: On the other hand Barbara Margani is immersed in her classical musical influences and does not listen to new records.

AS: I admit that I no longer have the time I wish I had to devote myself to listening to music. However, I don’t want to fall into the commonplace saying that new music releases are worse than the old ones. I happen to hear very interesting ideas on records dated 2022 and boring stuff that came out 20 or 30 years ago and vice versa. Probably what disorients today’s listener is the great overproduction of music, which makes it practically impossible to judge without investigating.

Andrea Merolle: OCHPö Om Pö

Andrea Sperduti: Oren Ambarchi/ Johan Berthling/ Andreas Werliin – Ghosted – 2022

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

Our songs mainly derive from ordinary world noises, which may be birds singing, a fridge humming or water creating a drone and flanger sound while going down the sink. This inspiration is translated into guitar riffs and melodies and so we may say that is how we write down tracks. Then the process is building electronic parts, that are a sort of auto-sufficient song in themselves, adding stringed instruments, voices and acoustic drums on top. A personal method that works fine for us.

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

AM: To do something that may survive us. In this capitalistic and consumer society, we aim at releasing music that we hope will be appreciated by future generations. Something in between Back to the Future when Michael J Fox plays Chuck Berry and Horace Non Omnis Moriar concept. That’s why it is crucial for us also to physically print our music. One day after an apocalyptic disaster maybe someone will find a vinyl and put it on a still functioning stereo to rebuild the world.

AS: I’ve always been fascinated more by the creative process behind a music album than by the results in terms of listening or sales or, even worse, fame or notoriety that can derive from it. I have always participated in the creative process trying to have fun, always doing something different than the previous time. To answer your question, I have never considered myself an artist, in the most literal sense of the word. I consider myself quite a music listener.

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

Go listen to our albums and get some of the coolest colored gatefold vinyls of the world from our Bandcamp page or Little Cloud Records website.