Sometimes the less you know about a subject, the more interesting fantasizing about it becomes. Take space travel for instance In the 1970s and 1980s. Even before space telescopes started mapping our milky way (animated) movies about space travel showed us wild and foreign habitats like Le Planete Sauvage (1973). Korb knows about this, and plays with this notion when they vibe on space with their instruments. The video for Ritual For The Gods for instance consists of images from the French series Maitre du Temps from 1982. Korb take this naive and free flowing fantasy about space travel and go with it, weaving their 70s oriented electronics in the finest tradition of oldschool kraut rockers Can, Neu! and Cluster while maintaining a fresh outlook. Welcome to the third chapter of Korb, in which nostalgia and modern creativity fight for the upper hand creating an exciting modern carpet of instrumental psychedelic music.
It’s music to clear your mind to, letting everything go and just flow with it. You might encounter strange planets and exotic civilizations, you might not leave the confines of your home or even your head. It does not matter, Korb has got your soundtrack for spacing out covered. For the third time around, let’s take a trip…
I talked to Jonathan Parkes and Alec Wood about being in Korb and maintaining their record label Dreamlord Recordings. Here’s what the duo came up with….
How have you been guys? Can you tell me about the period between the previous record and the new one?
We’ve been busy. Since Korb II we’ve had various releases – a split 10″ with Kombynat Robotron on Weird Beard, a 7″ on Woodford Halse, Korb and Arboria tracks on Undulating Waters 6 & 7 on Woodford Halse, Arboria II on Dreamlord Recordings and Up In Her Room and most recently our album From the Mountains to the Oceans a collaborative project with El Hombre El Agua, another joint release between Dreamlord Recordings and Up In Her Room.
Can you tell me about the start of Korb? How did you find each other and decide on the sound?
We’ve been working together for over 20 years. We started out in a jazz quartet and having bonded over our love of Krautrock we started work on what would later become Korb.
Krautrock is very important to you guys, right? What could you recommend as the best (classic) albums to start with the “genre”?
Some of our favorite Krautrock bands are Can, Faust, Neu!, Amon Duul II, Ash Ra Temple, Kraftwerk.
How do Korb songs come into existence generally? Is there a lot of spontaneous jamming or is everything more composed?
The tracks start spontaneously and are developed over a period of time.
Where do you guys live and would you say your environment plays a role in the music that you make?
We live in the UK but we don’t think that Korb has a ‘ British ‘ sound, We’re part of an international psych scene, our other project Arboria probably has a more distinctly rural British sound.
Korb’s music is -mostly- instrumental right? Did you ever experiment with vocals? Would there be a vocalist you’d make an exception for if he/she was available to work with?
All of Korb’s releases have been instrumental so far, but that doesn’t mean wouldn’t be up for working with a vocalist in the future. We worked with vocalist/songwriter Shane Horgan on the Wolfen album.
Do you listen to a lot of contemporary music? What are some names you’d recommend diving into at the moment?
We listen to a lot of releases on contemporary independent British labels such as Weird Beard, Up In Her Room, Woodford Halse, Library of the Occult, Drone Rock Records, Buried Treasure Records, Fruits de Mer Records and Feral Child Records.
The artwork is pretty amazing! Who made it and how does it relate to the music?
The artwork for Korb III was created by Russ Brown [ https://www.instagram.com/mrrussbrown/ ] and coloured by Dom Keen of Studio Kosmische. We asked Russ and this is what he said – ” Essentially it’s how I visually picture the music you create, I get myself into the zone by listening to your previous work and inspiration comes from ancient civilizations and 70s sci fi book covers “
What are your immediate future goals, and what is “the dream”?
For Dreamlord Recordings‘ tenth release we have a special double album with 24 tracks featuring rare and unreleased tracks that will particularly interest Korb fans, which we’re co – releasing with Fruits de Mer. The first Dreamlord Recordings release ‘ Mutante ‘ DR-01 is getting it’s first vinyl release on Up In Her Room Records soon. We are always working on new material. Currently we are working on various projects including Arboria III, Mutante III, Korb IV and The Hologram People.
What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after this interview?
Space; is has always attracted and fascinated heavy psychedelic musicians. Ever since Hawkwind coined the term space rock, you could easily visualize why this type of music would associate with the deep dark outer limits. It represent weightlessness, endless travel, and a sense of being infinitely small in the gigantic body of the galaxy. And yet space poses a strange paradox to heavy psychedelic rock as well. For in space there can be only silence, and that is what these bands are anything but.
Take Nashville, USA’s trio ElonMusk for example. They are the opener on this Worst Bassist Records International Space Station compilation. With their instrumental psych rock jam Gods Of The Swamp Planet they paint pictures of serenely floating in space, regarding the Earth from great heights, and feeling completely and blissfully insignificant. The twenty-something minute track is a great opener of this album as it takes its good time slowly unfolding into a full blast before dying out again like a falling star…
Germany’s renowned space rock power house Electric Moon is next, with a recording that still features the since departed Sula Bassana on guitar. They don’t spend any time lingering around the bush on Duality, but in stead kick off full fuzz force and deeply heavy. You can almost see the planets grinding into another while the bass relentlessly circles and the guitars flicker and howl. Tribal drums appear from the deep, and push the cacophony to even greater heights, ever pushing and pushing until a great crescendo and big comedown halfway. What is next is a piece of sheer beauty, as if all the previously unleashed violence has lead to some sort of thoughtful realization. It is pure peace, a revelation of the beauty of outer and inner space.
And then it’s time for Swedish instrumental magicians Kungens Män, who offer the brooding Keeper Of The One Key. In its whopping 23 minutes the track shows all the beauty that can be found in the power of repetition. Carefully and meticulously like craftsmen bricklayers Kungens Män adds variation upon variation while they build their gigantic space ship on which they sail us through the sonic boom and far beyond. It feels just great to be in the presence of these master jammers for such a great stretch and be taken on their journey as they completely let go of time and space and just are in the moment for as long as a vinyl record side can last. Wonderful stuff.
Finally there is the grand finale from Norway’s Kanaan. Their contribution is aptly named Beyond, and it takes its time to fully display what this powerful instrumental trio has on offer. The digital version was even extended to a mind blowing twenty-seven minutes (!), but of course a vinyl side can only hold so much music so the physical track is a bit shorter. All of this seems to say that Kanaan thinks you cannot really capture outer space within normal Earth time at all. First you have to free yourself from linear time, and only then you can understand what exploring the firmament on your instruments should really be about. Kanaan are builders. They are builders of beautiful atmosphere and spacious repetition. Only after very careful contemplation and very slow building do they unleash more and more of their might upon the listener, adding momentum with every repetitive swing. Finally when they have found their time, they add jazzy rhythmics and crazy distorted fuzz wails to shoot their rocket far up into space leaving us completely exhausted but still wanting more.
In its almost 90 minutes Elonmusk, Electric Moon, Kungens Män, and Kanaan have been given plenty of room to display their take on space travel. Together they have forged a memorable first volume of this International Space Station, of which I hope there will be plenty more to come. After all, space continues to inspire instrumental jam bands from all over this planet, and it will continue to do so until the end of time and beyond…
For a psych head, Switzerland’s Harvey Rushmore & The Octopus are a big box of chocolates. From the elusive band name, to the weird fishes artwork, right up to the music in which they effortlessly reference every cool band you have been listening to for the past five years. And they write songs! With jiggly earworm chorusses that will enter your hearing organ and never leave.
Opener Plastiq channels The Black Angels doing their best King Gizzard impression, while Speedmaster brings that eerie weirdo surf vibe that washes salt water over your head the way The Horrors could in their early days, but with a super stoned subdued Wooden Shjips motorik beat. It’s only an impression of what this band has in store for your head, because even when a trained psych ear can trace these tunes back to their roots without too much trouble, that never bothers as these psycho chocolates all contain a nice and balanced mixtures of delicious substances and in that way stay fresh and crispy every time you spin them.
The songs mostly range around the four/five minute mark, never overstaying their welcome and all displaying an experienced songwriting skill, except maybe title track and album closer Freedomspacecake, which is a kaleidoscopic stoned mountain climber of almost nine minutes that sees Harvey Rushmore & The Octopus letting go, surrendering to the beat the way Can could, and creating their own genuine Godzilla…
So I guess we have found another good reason to visit Switzerland. Next time you enter that beautiful Alp country add some Swiss chocolate to your space cake, find this band playing some smoke filled liquid light den, and fill your lungs with total psych indulgement.
I talked to singer/guitarist Massimo Tondini, who I already met some time ago when our bands played together in a rather terribly organized gig in the belly of Germany. This time we conversed over more joyous circumstances: a new album, and the apparent end of the pandemic, which allows his touring machine Harvey Rushmore & The Octopus to finally do what they do best once again: to blow minds on a live stage.
Hi guys! How have you been the past pandemic period?
It was not an easy time. We missed definitely going on Tour and having shows. It was quite depressing sometimes. But it also gave space to use the additional time to go to the studio and work on some new material. In the end we have been lucky, that the album release was not planned during the lockdown period.
Can you introduce the band to the Weirdo Shrine audience?
Of course, we are Harvey Rushmore & the Octopus and we play a mixture of psychedelic, garage and kraut rock. We like that certain atmosphere and a live experience – dark and crowded concert rooms, loud repetitive music with a psychedelic approach and lot of fuzz guitars. We use visuals, drum machines and lots of synths, samples and effects and we love reverb on guitars.
Can you tell me about the new album? What is the best thing about it do you think?
I think the new album is a step further in our musical development and the result of many shows and lots of playing together. We improved musically, in terms of song structure and sound design, but it also offers a variety of songs with different moods that go well together.
In what ways did you approach the writing and recording differently than previously?
The guitar parts are more mature and precise than in the previous albums. We also did a lot of jamming and recorded mostly everything, that lead later to those songs we have here. The whole album was also self-recorded at our own studio in Basel, which gave us more space and time to figure out specific things without having to much pressure.
What is the biggest force that drives the band? Why do you do it?
We really love to play in front of an audience and going on tour, with everything thats involved in it. I think HRO is not so much a “studio” band. I think our qualities stay within our performances and that is certainly our biggest motivation.
Just doing music together is probably the easiest way to describe our motivation – with all the involved ups and downs. It’s maybe just that.
Can you tell me about your home town? In what way did/does it influence your sound?
Hmm, yes we are all living in different cities, so it makes it difficult to answer the question. I guess we are more influenced by the music we like and listen to or weird movies and art in general. I’m not so much aware about the influences of our hometowns. Maybe more in terms of an anti-posture. The core values of our hometown or country in general are heavily performance or economically oriented. They’re all doing their thing, trying to distinguish themselves. Of course you cannot say that in general and its much more complex, however with our band or the approach to a kind of music that is outside the mainstream, we find a way to get away of that. It gives us a certain satisfaction and a kind of bond to stick together. The madness of current political, environmental and social issues is something that has a big influence on our sound and the lyrics.
Choose: touring with The Black Angels or King Gizzard? (and why)
I think The Black Angels: it was one of the bands that opened a new world for me, when I was starting to get into music more seriously. I like their albums more and the sound has a deeper effect on me then King Gizzard’s sound, although I think their an amazing live band.
Can you tell me about your future plans?
Playing live shows: We are currently up to organise a small tour in Europe and working on new material. It would be nice to have another new album soon.
What is a bucketlist achievement you still want to do with Harvey Rushmore?
Touring through the balkan states, going further and record a live album in Istanbul.
What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after this interview?
I think you should listen to our new song “Speedmaster” and watch the official clip after a weird night of party – with earphones and while walking home late.
Nostalgia, the yearning for a bygone era. An era perhaps without all the incentives and stimuli of these modern times. A world without mobile phones, social media, or even the internet. A world in fact, that not so very long ago was a reality. In the 90s we had to find new music through magazines, word of mouth, real live contact, live shows, or by listening to mix tapes that we made for each other. It was the time of great excitement when crate digging and finding stuff you never heard before, and a time of full venues and bristling underground festivals…
A time you understand a guy like Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt yearns for. He lives by himself now, in a forest-y area of Germany and composes music for himself, for his bands Zone Six and sometimes other projects. But the times of the 90s, that time of true underground excitement, even before he lifted of the ground with Electric Moon and shone, that time will never come back. It seeps through the music on this album, from the grand cinematic post doom opening tones of Real Life, to the indie rock anthem We Will Make It, reminiscent of unsung 90s post hardcore heroes Slint, Sonic Youth, and Lungfish. It’s music that is quiet in all its heavy fuzziness. It has a warm glowing energy about it, but it is burning for the past, and through this fire it bears a heartbreaking melancholy too. For these times will never come back, and “the world has gotten itself in a goddamn hurry” to paraphrase one of my favorite movies of all time, Shawshank Redemption…
Sula Bassana will not follow in this rush of modern times. He will go his own tempo or no tempo at all. His stubborn creativity shines through his love of the music he makes, the effort he puts in it, his desperate attempts to preserve some of that glow that he felt in the early 90s and that slowly lost a lot of its magic but that also somehow still perseveres. That is Nostalgia; it harks back to the good old days, but it also stands strongly in the present. It is an album that could not have been made then, it is also very much now. Through all its reminiscing and melancholy that is in fact an uplifting message, and I am sure the deep diving listeners will agree that after relishing in it for all of its mesmerizing 42 minutes, you will invigorated and are ready for more.
I had to speak to Dave Schmidt again. The pandemic “ended” since last time we spoke, he left his longstanding band Electric Moon, and the world had gotten a lot more challenging for small underground labels like his bread and butter Sulatron Records. And now this brilliant new album, here is what he said about that…
How have you been since we last spoke in December of last year? With the start of the war against Ukraine the sales went even lower, but the production prices rose a lot, so life for a small but professional indie label like mine became pretty hard. But we started recordings for a new album with Zone Six. It was short time after the war started, so it became dark and heavy. We try to go on working on it soon, but bureaucracy rose too so I have a lot of shitty office stuff to do and less time to be creative. My new album arrived and promotion started and soon I will ship all pre-ordered copies out etc. You see there is always work. 🙂 Also I went to concerts and festivals as a visitor, spend much time with friends and enjoy life. And I found 3 very cool other musicians to form my Sula Bassana Band and we start rehearsing soon and want to rock the nice stages in Europe from next year on. 🙂 This gives me a lot of good feel and power.
You mentioned back then you were burnt out, are you feeling better, and/or how are you dealing with that? I’m still off power very fast and need a lot of rest. Now I also recover from Corona which makes me even less powerful. But I hope I will find back my energy soon.
In the meanwhile you quit Electric Moon, would you like to elaborate on that decision? Do you feel it is over for good or is there room for a reunion at some point? I went off the band for private/personal reasons. Maybe we will be ready for a concert together in a bunch of years or so. No idea, and I focus on new things, especially my own band.
When one door closes, others open, right? I heard about your new project with Ax Genrich? What can you tell us about that? Exactly! I guess I haven’t seen Ax Genrich since our last gig with Psychedelic Monsterjam (or Neumeier, Genrich, Schmidt) in 2006 (at Burg Herzberg Festival) but met him on the Take Me To The Moon Festival a few months ago and we decided to make music again. At the same festival I met Steff Bollack again after many years and met Conni Maly. So we had the idea to do something together which led to the new project called Die Raumpatrouille, and to our first concert in November. This will be completely improvised krautrock and I’m really looking forward to this gig and hope we will go on then. Last weekend I joined Ax Genrich and his band for a little jam at their show in Kassel, at the Free Flow Festival, and it was soooo good to spend time with Ax! And the jam was great too.
Let’s go on to Nostalgia, your new album. What can you tell me of the recording sessions? I started recording new songs in 2013 when my freshly bought Mellotron arrived, sadly only the new digital one, sampled from the original mastertapes from the sixties. Anyway, I love these sounds so much and recorded a track instantly (Mellotraum). Later I recorded more tracks here and there which not fitted to other albums, so I collected them and decided they fit perfectly for a album. But man, 2 of them were real songs, where I need vocals. And writing lyrics is definitely not my superpower, hahahhaha. So they stayed unfinished for years. And in late 2021 I forced myself to finish them, what I did. The title track based on a guitar-theme I had in mind since the early 2000’s, but it changed to a Mellotron dominated track. In 2015 I played around with my Korg Polysix (a early 80’s synthesizer) a few days before the first Electric Moon concert at the Planetarium Bochum, where I used this synth. I found a nice arpeggio thing and recorded it without knowing what to do with it. Some days later, at the mentioned concert, the synth died due to the leaking memory-battery (you can hear that in the first song of the concert: https://electric-moon.bandcamp.com/track/the-last-words-of-mister-p). Later I added drums, bass, guitars and more sounds around the arpeggio and the result became one of my favourite songs of the last years. 🙂
Who was involved apart from you and what did they contribute? Musically I did everything alone. But for mastering Eroc did his great work again and for the cover I used a fantastic painting by french painter Hervé Scott Flament. I also used some pix a friend did (Kilian CabGuy) and the title font painted by Ryan Koster.
A song like We Will Make It has a strong 90s feel, it kind of made me think of Slint, one of my favorite records from that time! Do you know them and do you feel the same? To be honest I don’t know Slint. Will search and listen to it. After recording the basic guitars it reminded me a bit of Sonic Youth, what I heard a lot that time (around 2016 or so, when I did the recordings). Back in the 90s I was much more into electronic music first and then into late sixties and early seventies psych, kraut and space rock. Haven’t heard much of the 90s music.
I’d say the general mood of the album is quite melancholic, was that intentional? Can you recall what brought that up at the time? I’m a very melancholic person. I guess you can hear it in a lot of my music. And the words in these 2 songs with vocals are impressed by the feel of these times…
Will you play any of it live? And when in which band will we be able to see you live soon? There are too many things going on on that album, that I don’t think a four piece can nicely perform these tracks. But we will rehearse some older Sula “classics” and some more new songs. Also I want to play much more with my old bands Zone Six and Interkosmos. And of course with Die Raumpatrouille.
Would you like to pitch any upcoming Sulatron Records releases? What should we be looking out for? There will be the new Farflung album Like Drones In Honey out in October (hopefully) on CD and LP. And I just received the testpressings for the debut LP Echo Colonnade by Ukranian krautrockers Reflector and listen to them right now. Sounds great on vinyl! :-). In the same package I got the testpressings of the split LP of Speck (The Metz Sessions) and Interkosmos! Both LPs will be out in early 2023. And Tetrao Urogallus from Hamburg work on their new LP right now which will be released next year too.
What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after reading this interview? Hug someone, spread love and listen to great music. 🙂
Upcoming Gigs: With ZONE SIX: 02.09.22 GER-Bielefeld, Potemkin Bar With DIE RAUMPATROUILLE: 10.11.22 GER-Heidelberg, Commissary PHV (South-Gettysburg Avenue 45)
The third and final chapter of the album threesome that King Buffalo recorded during the pandemic lockdown in 2021 is called Regenerator and once again it shows a different side to the band. Where The Burden Of Restlessness was an aggressive, heavy and metallic record, and Acheron was the psychedelic jam album, Regenerator does exactly what it says on the tin: it lifts up the spirits and revitalizes the band and its listeners with its open and spacey sounds.
Before I could listen to the full album I had the chance to see King Buffalo play at the Valkhof Festival in Nijmegen (Holland) and two things stood out; how frontman Sean McVay used a loop pedal to create massive guitar walls all by himself, and how motorik and hypnotic the new material sounded in a live setting. Songs like Regenerator, Mercury, and Hours all have a certain forward drive that has a definite kraut rock feel, especially when King Buffalo bring on the spacey synthesizers.
There are some softer, more melodic moments as well, and album closer Firmament showcases McVay’s most intimate vocals to date. This too fits the band like a glove, and once again you feel as a listener that this is a band at the very top of their game. It is so incredible to think that these three albums sound so differently and varied, and yet they were recorded in such a short time of each other. Regenerator is a perfect closer a well, a positive outlook on the band and its future, and a testament to what this band is capable off under duress. What will the future bring? I decided to ask Sean McVay himself.
How are you guys doing? And where are you at the moment? You are playing so many shows these days!
We just returned home after an incredible European tour. I’m currently sitting on my couch drinking a big bottle of water while typing out this interview.
Can you tell me your most memorable moment of the tour so far?
Probably playing PALP Festival in the Swiss Alps. It’s not everyday you get to play literally on the top of a mountain.
Listening to Regenerator, and also (finally) seeing you live (in Nijmegen!) I got the feeling that some of the dread of The Burden Of Restlessness and Acheron has been lifted, is that correct? What changed?
At the time of writing Regenerator I don’t think much had really changed in all honesty. Things were still pretty much locked down, and the world continues to be a bit of a horrific mess in a lot of different ways even still, but I knew I wanted the 3rd record to wrap up with a more optimistic tone and kind of stand as an inverse to Burden. With how dark and grim that record was, I felt like it was necessary to counterbalance it with something brighter, if only for my own sanity while writing them honestly. I feel like it was maybe me trying to find something to look forward to and strive for while reckoning with a swath of negative things.
You guys are playing live a lot at the moment, how do you keep up? And how do you keep it fresh each time you are playing?
We make little tweaks to the setlist just about every show to help keep things interesting on our end. Also a lot of our songs have spots that lend themselves to little bits of improvisation so I always try to add some sort of different twist to at least one song every night. The kind of thing that might not be super noticeable, but maybe a fan who’s seen us a bunch would notice and find it interesting or refreshing. Shows are the best thing about being a band in my opinion. That block of time onstage riding a sort of energy wave with the crowd is a feeling like no other. So really it doesn’t feel like its that hard to stay engaged and excited.
Listening to your set and to the new album I felt a certain stronger emphasis on repetition and groove I guess?It’s almost kraut rock at some point! Also some more uplifting stuff going on? What is your take on the most important changes for Regenerator?
I really made an effort to highlight melodies on this record. Whether that was in the vocals, guitar hooks or even with some of Dan’s bass work (see Mercury for an example of the bass really carrying the melody of the entire song). I wanted to go for a little bit more of a stripped down, sort of “band in a room” sound than previous records (especially Burden). Everything is a little bit warmer, a little bit dirtier, and a little bit drier than a lot of our previous work. I cringe at using the word “organic” to describe it, but I honestly can’t think of a better word for what I was aiming for with the production style haha. It was a challenge, and a bit scary for me personally. I’ve always been super fond of lots of reverbs and delays on either my guitars or vocals. Making a conscious effort to strip away some of that was a bit terrifying. The opening verse of Firmament is probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever recorded.
With Regenerator you made right on your promise to release three albums in a row, congratulations! Although the plan to release them all in one year did not work, was that all pressing plant delays, or was there more to it?
Well the initial plan was actually to RECORD 3 albums in 2021 and ideally have them all released that year. Things snowballed a little bit with the announcement and it became RELEASE 3 albums haha. Lesson learned to be a little more careful with language haha. With that said, I can’t put all of the delays on the pressing plant. They were certainly backed up and completely swamped with demand. That on top of global supply chain issues really slowed things down. But we also had some studio/equipment issues that slowed down production at a couple points. There were of course a couple COVID scares in there that prevented us from meeting up occasionally. And we had a couple of issues receiving final artwork for a couple of the records past their deadline. So basically there was a lot of small inconvenient delays that added up on top of the already existing pressing plant delays. It was an absolutely chaotic and hectic year trying to get everything done, but we are super happy that we were able to stay busy and focused, and are incredibly proud of the result. We can’t thank everyone enough who participated and helped in some way, and especially appreciate the patience and support from our fans when it became obvious that we weren’t going to have everything released in 2021.
How do you look back on the albums as a trilogy, they have the same protagonist and overarching themes right? Do you feel it turned out exactly the way you envisioned it or did the plans also shift a bit when time passed over it?
There definitely is a single protagonist, with an overarching storyline encompassing all 3 records. Each record focusing on a different part of the story. In a very general way, yes I think it turned out how I envisioned it, but in smaller more specific ways not at all. No matter how well planned something is during pre-production, the final product always comes out different than expected. That’s simply part of the process. I think its important to be open to the possibility of things changing. Falling too much in love with the demos creates a sort of tension and stress during the actual production that just slows things down. It’s important to have a grand vision that your excited about, but you have to be open to changes when it comes time to actually make it. So there a lot of little things on the records that are completely different than what was initially conceived, but that’s simply part of the process.
So what now? With such an ambitious project now finished I can imagine your just want to tour a lot, which you are doing at the moment, but do you already have album plans for after that? Any dreams you want to make true in the studio environment?
The focus for now is definitely touring and playing live, especially with all the time we had to take off from touring. There aren’t any solid albums planned at the moment. There’s definitely some stuff that was left on the cutting room floor that we’re still excited about. Who knows if they’ll ever get dug back up. We’re always a little bit antsy. So I’ll say that we don’t have anything planned release wise for now, but that can always change in an instant haha.
What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after reading this interview?
I put on Explorations by the Swedish trio CB3, find a comfortable chair and close my eyes. Immediately I let my defenses go and feel myself drop in a gigantic pink translucent jello pudding. Everything becomes soft and fuzzy, and a rosy smile appears on my lips as the world has become slower, softer, and pinker…
I hear a wonderful mixture of sounds ranging from the shoegaze haze of My Bloody Valentine, through the fuzzy sludge wall of noise of early Baroness, to the angelic voice of singer Charlotta reminding in a far and distant way of 90s icons The Breeders and Sonic Youth. As gravity starts becoming weaker I feel myself slowly spinning upside down, letting the full impact of the killer song To Space And Away hit me with all its hazy repetition. In all of this crazy pink gooey reality it is the perfect soundtrack to just losing control and letting go.
The album continues with more killer riffs and skycraper walls of fuzz, completely encapsulating me while I am listening and disappearing further and further into the sweet and warm pudding. I know this will probably the end as oxygen will have to run out at some point, and yet I want this hazy pink bliss to continue. I want it to never end. I am In a Rainbow With Friends and it is just the best.
When the final tones of Through Space And Time have drifted away I feel the ooze and jelly melting away. I am still alive, but now I feel empty and wishing very much to return. Luckily there is a repeat button…
I was pretty lucky to reach out to CB3 and find band leader, vocalist, and guitar hero Charlotta Andersson willing to answer some of my most burning questions. Here’s what she made of them:
Hi guys! How’s CB3 doing these days? Hello! We are good.
How have you been holding up during the pandemic? What kept you going? I work as a guitar teacher when I’m not doing this band and projects, so it was as usual, almost. I’m a creative person and like to create stuff and I sit at home doing demos to the band. Then share it with the members. The pandemic gave me extra time to think about our music and at the time I was bored by playing endless guitar solos, repeating myself. I wanted to tell a story with words not just with melodies. When teaching guitar, I have to sing, or else it can be kind of boring just playing a chord progression. That’s when the idea of singing emerged. I started to experiment with vocals and how to find my sound and incorporate it into our songs.
CB3 stands for Charlottas Burning Trio, right? Did the meaning evolve over time or is it still a kick in the face of the jazz world? 🙂 Yes, CB3 is Charlottas Burning Trio. The meaning has evolved, but I think history still stands. So both I think. When I started out the band I felt that I was an outsider playing guitar and soloing, that I always had to prove something, that I wasn’t ordinary and I hated that. Then also there was or is some kind of “anti-shred” – thing going on. So the “burning” was a statement, in your face, against all people saying “You can’t play like that, or like that…”. I felt and still feel that everyone can play whatever they want, the important thing is having fun and that it feels good. I think it also has evolved into meaning: a band that explores music, being ourselves, not trying to fit into an agenda.
Are you the band’s “leader” in a way? How would you describe the dynamics within the band? Yes I am sort of. I organize almost everything. Natanael, the drummer, has been in this band since almost the beginning and he helps me out with different organizing things. When we look at new material I’ve written, we jam on it. For example: Sometimes Pelle adds a cool bass line and it turns out a little bit different and so on, so they are a part of the writing process as well.
How’s living and playing in Sweden for a band like CB3? Not so easy, we play too uncommercial music and funds can be hard to get. I think that goes for most of the bands to be honest. To live a life only playing music in Sweden is hard, but you can do it by combining it with other work or other musical projects. I do this band and some other projects I feel are meaningful and combine it with my work as a guitar teacher. So it works for me.
You’ve started out as jazz musicians but are now somewhat adopted by the “stoner” scene, do you feel comfortable there or do you see CB3 eventually branching out into different, perhaps even bigger stages?
I love the underground/DIY/stoner scene. People, fans, bands and so on are genuine music lovers. They go to concerts and I feel there is a nice atmosphere, like everyone is welcomed. When I started to go to a live scene called “Plan B” in Malmö, Sweden, I first made contact with that underground/DIY/stoner or what you will call it. If I felt that I was an outsider before I felt totally at home. It was people doing creative stuff. And I was so inspired and I wanted to play at scenes like that. I would love to play more scenes like that in Europe for example. But to evolve as a band and play other stages would be exciting as well.
What made you pick the bright pink for the album cover? Was it perhaps in some way inspired by My Bloody Valentine? Not inspired by MBV, but I love that band, they truly explored music with that album. The artist we have collaborated with since the beginning is called Robin Gnista. When we collaborate I only give him the music, the title and what colors and themes we think about. Then he is free doing his thing. He always does awesome work. So I thought that the album felt kind of pink and purple.
The album title is Exploration, what was the most interesting thing you explored in making the album? For me it was creating songs with vocals, finding my vocal sound and to develop our song structures.
Were there any psychedelic experiences during the writing or making process of the album or is that just my imagination ;)? As the drummer of our band said during our last band practice: “We are the most sober stoner/doom band in the scene.” 😀 When I think more about it, the most psychedelic experience must have been the high rush of love, a mesmerizing sci fi tv-series and jamming with the band.
What are your immediate future plans and what is “the dream”? Releasing the album, release concert and a small tour with a local Malmö band during the autumn. My dream is continuing this band and hopefully go on tour in Europe. Another dream is to play Desertfest Berlin, Roadburn and Levitation or other experimental music festivals. Also doing something collaborative with another form of art.
What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after reading this interview? Check out our new music. And if you like it, tell your friends 🙂
Broken Clover Records is a new underground label run by Mickey Darius from San Francisco, California. Apart from its very cool and extremely diverse roster I was drawn to find out more about Broken Clover Records because of their policy. They strive to be very honest and clear about their relationship with their bands and pay 100% of the royalties up front. I was curious to find how Darius was doing with such a progressive way of running a business. It turned out a fascinating moment of getting to know one of the true originals in underground independent music today.
Hi Mickey! How are you doing these days? How was the pandemic for a small-ish label like Broken Clover?
These are 2 seemingly innocuous questions, but they have countless (complicated) answers, depending on the day/hour. As long as we’re acknowledging that humans are treating each other and the planet worse than ever before (and potentially irreparably) and that’s our bar, then my day-to-day is OK. I’ve got my hurdles (mostly financial and emotional), but with my little family and my music and work and soccer and the other joys I can find, I’m faring pretty well. My pandemic experience, specifically relating to how BCR is doing, is hard to qualify. We had only put out 3 releases before COVID hit and I was really just getting my sea legs. The following 17 releases came once we’d embarked on this new reality, so I don’t really have a comparative frame of reference. I can say that I think we’d have fared a little better if we’d been able to have release shows AND weren’t battling for attention…and by that I mean that we’ve been steadily fighting for column space from journalists, since there is not only a lot happening in the world, but also A LOT of music coming out. We are then also fighting for social media space from fans, as everyone has so much more to process and share. Beyond this, from what I hear, the journalistic competition is crazy fierce right now and everyone just wants to write about a safe/sure thing. What we’re doing at BCR is certainly not safe or predictable, so it’s been hard to gain momentum. All this said, because we’ve stuck to our guns and just do what we do, it seems that the tide is starting to slowly but organically turn. It is also helpful when folks share our releases or posts through word of mouth, reviews or their social media channels.
Tell me something about yourself! What is your musical background for instance, and how did you get involved in music?
I have always been involved in music. I don’t say that facetiously. With both parents being musicians, our house was a noisy one since I was a baby. Early photos show pianos and shakers and microphones and drums and harmonicas and anything else I could play on or sing along to. The same went for my brother (Charles Darius), who is 5 years my junior. The only difference was/is that he is wildly talented and can somehow seem to master instruments and scales he’s only just discovered. Anyhow, from early bedroom recordings to school bands to organizing shows to DJing to starting my own bands to recording other bands to starting a label (where I am owner/operator) to starting a booking agency (where I am owner/agent) to managing a venue and a lot in between…I was called in to this music world and don’t know if I could really do anything else. This is my happy place and this is the language I speak and this is where I feel I can do the most good.
I have to say I am very intrigued by the set up of your label; can you explain your vision when you started Broken Clover Records?
This is a hard question to answer, as there are myriad ways for me to answer. In a nutshell, I saw things that I wished other labels would do/avoid and decided to try and lead by example. Some of these things are around streaming, artist payment, promo, album-oriented music and the general care of curating a roster/catalog.
Can you take me back to the start? When did you start and how? What were some of the highlights/lows?
I wouldn’t be here, doing this (or anything), if I hadn’t stopped drinking 5 years ago. As I was freshly navigating this new alcohol-free landscape, I was working with a therapist who had also become my friend. It started very much as patient/client, but after connecting over a lifetime love of music, we slowly became pretty close friends. At one point, it came up that he had a significant sum of money that he wanted to invest in a music project. I’d long had the idea of running a label, but that was really just a way for me to think about artists I like and would love to meet/work with in any capacity. I now had a very real way of making this half-baked dream a reality and after discussing things, it seemed that he was willing to bankroll a new label and let me drive…which I quickly realized I wouldn’t feel good about. If I am steering the ship, I needed to feel free of shackles or responsibility to anyone other than the artists and fans and myself. I quickly told him thanks but no thanks and then committed to BCR001 with my own savings.
With each new artist relationship and release, there is a new high. So much of this job is incredibly rewarding. Even (and sometimes especially) the hard stuff. My 3 biggest lows are…
1) Turning away cool/interesting projects due to financial concerns.
2) Having to deal with damaged shipments and a lack of responsibility from manufacturers/shippers.
3) A new album not landing/resonating with people in the way we’d hoped.
What is your opinion about how the music industry evolved until now? Are we heading in a good direction with streaming and wide accessibility of music to pretty much anyone?
Evolved vs. devolved? I dunno. I kinda see running a label in our fragile music ecosystem like child-rearing…I don’t know that there’s a right way to do it (if there is, I haven’t found it), but you know right away when something feels wrong. Specifically regarding streaming, my opinions are strong/loud. First, I want to be clear that I have zero issue with streaming. I love streaming music and being able to share tracks and add to playlists and all of that. What I do have a huge fucking problem with is everyone’s sense of entitlement to instant AND free AND across all platforms. Because of this, we hold off on pushing content to the major streaming sites until 6 months after the release. I actually had initially set it at 12 months and then flexed to 9 months and have again recently shifted to 6 months. We do this so that buyers can have the excitement of showing the music to people and feel like their commitment to the music is reciprocated. There’s a relationship there and I don’t want to cheapen it. This is not at all to say that anyone else’s method is wrong or harmful. I’m just running BCR in a way that I think is helpful to the industry and in a way that I think is respectful to the art and in a way that honors the customers who support.
Who are the most inspirational artists around these days in your opinion?
Anyone who is making challenging music. In order to get through all the uncertainty that we face daily now, everyone seems to be leaning in to the classics and things that they find familiar. I get it. With the world on fire again/still, we find comfort in those friendly faces/sounds. I’ve definitely found myself returning to classics like Midnight Marauders (A Tribe Called Quest-red)and Physical Graffiti (Led Zep-red) and Against The Grain (Bad Religion-red) far more than normal. That kind of music (and security) is very important right now, but the folks who are really inspiring me are the folks who are creating music that requires a little discomfort or disorientation. They’re likely to lose listeners – listeners that are at a premium these days – but they feel so compelled to create that they can’t help it. That’s powerful to me.
What kind of artists are you looking for when you scout new music?
The criteria is pretty simple. Does the music move me? Are the humans that make it horrible people? If it’s a yes/no situation, then we’re in good shape and can figure out the rest. Make music I’d want in my collection and give a shit about people other than yourself.
What should bands do that would like to be on Broken Clover Records?
I will listen to anything sent to me and will reply to anyone who reaches out. That said, it behooves you to wait until the thing you’re sending is ready to be listened to without a bunch of explanation…ie: here’s a demo, but the hi hats on #2 are gonna be gone and the bassline on #6 needs to be tweaked or whatever. I shouldn’t need a map to decipher how to navigate your demo. Beyond that, be straightforward with what you want from the relationship and make sure you’re prepared to do some basic self-promo. If talking about yourself and asking folks to buy your stuff really feels that terrible, then maybe I’m not the label for you. I abhor the current standard means of promo on social media channels, but I’m not seeing other effective ways to get people to listen/buy, since folks also don’t want to make physical flyers or do mailers or anything like that. Look at things though the eyes of a label owner…what would you want to see/hear and how would you want it delivered?
Do you have a tip for other small labels and people who’s like to start one?
Only do it if it moves you…ie: don’t get in to it for $. There will be a lot of thankless days and the only thing that keeps the fire burning for me is feeling confident that I’m putting out a quality product and treating people well and putting my best foot forward. Think about being a fan. Make the thing that you’d want to buy. Your output will be amazing if you’re doing what feels good to you and it’s who you are. I can not talk about authenticity enough. If it really means something to you, it’ll show. Conversely, if you’re just going through the motions of what you think you should be doing or what you think people want, it’ll also show…and that is not a good look.
What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after reading this interview?
1) Please visit the Broken Clover Records Bandcamp page and check out the roster/catalog.
If I’m being honest, while the past few years have yielded great records for our catalog, our business has been dangerously slow. In order to keep releasing the diverse international content that we’re now known for, we need to sell records…accolades don’t pay advances. I hope that doesn’t sound snotty. I am being real. Our catalog is pretty vast and I would bet that even the most finicky or adventurous crate digger/downloader/streamer can find multiple titles that do something for them.
3) Tell someone that you love ‘em and pet an old dog and play your favorite record LOUD.
Once again we enter the Motorpsycho realm. If you have not been living under a rock the past twenty years you know what kind of realm that is. It is a world in which anything is possible, at any given time. The only determining factor is the creative flow that Snah, Bent, and Tomas are picking up at the time they press “record”. The result often is surprising, breathtaking, engaging, and always an adventurous trip.
“So different all yet still the same//all travellers on the astral plane…“
Opener The Ladder takes its time to built momentum and then starts out with a familiar heavy riff reminiscent of the more heavy rocking moments on Kingdom Of Oblivion and the Gulvag Trilogy. But it fully takes use of its six-plus minutes building up with the theatric mellotron madness Motorpsycho has been making their trademark for some time now.
Next track The Flower Of Awareness is a bit of an intermission affair, building up its ambient noise soundtrack for two minutes, mostly to prepare the listener for the next full song.
“Some say shit, some say sublime, a quest, a deep dark crime…“
Which is Mona Lisa Azrael, a song that starts off very sensitive and serene, and quite beautiful. It almost becomes an archetypical love song and ballad, but just as Motorpsycho skillfully lulled you into a daze they throw a fire cracker on the fire by quickly spiraling out of control and turning into a hot and hip shaking jam fest. It conjures up images of The Mars Volta kicking up full salsa mode, never caring about anything else then following that muse, and worshipping the god of letting it flow on waves of extremely flammable improvisation. It is this kind of completely flipping the mood and going from calm and sensitive to absolutely crazy freak jazz jam rock that makes Motorpsycho stand out from so many others. It is a band at the very top of their game, caring about nothing else than that game, and winning it all the way.
To prove the point of creative independence the fourth and final track is a breathtaking 20+ minute affair called Chariots Of The Sun- To Phaeton On The Occasion Of Sunrise (Theme From An Imagined Movie). The song takes its time to introduce itself in a style that fits the title; gentle, soundtrack like, very slowly but steadily building up to the choral vocals in the first five minutes. A minute later the guitars kick in and the trip is finally ready to take off, still building and gathering steam for a good six more minutes until culminating in the grande finale. After the grande finale there is a big comedown to reflect on what just happened. Is it strange to go through twenty minutes of your favorite band jamming at full force and not notice the lack of lyrics for a second? Not if that favorite band is Motorpsycho, who could not write a dull piece of music if they tried.It is thoughts like these that shoot through my mind during this time. The choral voices pick up again and lead up to a final sweeping goodbye, and then the album is over.
Thanks again for another great trip Motorpsycho. In a world of so much instability, hypes, and crises it is a blessing to have you churning out so many magical jam sessions like this. Keep ‘m going guys, the Weirdo Shrine will always welcome them with ears wide open.
To my great surprise and delight the band was available for interviews, even for obscure and teeny tiny fanzines like this one! A long cherished wish came true as I fired these questions at bassist/vocalist Bent Saether who proved a funny and enthusiastic writer himself!
Hi Bent! How are all of you doing these days? I am so thrilled that you wanted to do this interview! Hey, no sweat! we are, as usual, taking most of July of from band work, and I am chilling in the sun on an island in the Oslo fjord with the family for two weeks, feeling blessed and sunburned in equal measures while waiting for the new album to be released. what the others are up to, I have no idea! Can you sketch Motorpsycho’s current living situation when you’re not on tour? I imagine you guys live close to each other and a studio, right? You have been so prolific! Well, the three of us (with families) all live in Trondheim (Reine is in Stockholm), in an old converted farm building with three separate living quarters, where the barn is converted into a studio/rehearsal room. my wife is the manager, Snah’s the cook/psychologist, and Tomas’ girlfriend the babysitter/teacher. There used to be a lot more communal activity, but these days we mostly do dinner etc separately. rituals are obviously obligatory for all.work hours are from 10 in the morning and for as long as we have focus. usually until 14 15-ish. this way we get a lot of work done
Have you always built your home situations around the band? Has it always been your main focus? more or less. practical and also extremely focused. Snah and I met in high school and have never had outside jobs since starting the band in 1989. extremely lucky, we know, but also a result of putting everything into it.
Can we go back in time a little bit? Can you take me back to before you started working on the “Gulvag Trilogy”? Did you oversee it would lead to all this music it actually became? Because apart from the three albums Kingdom Of Oblivion also stems from those recordings, right? whoo, big question, but I’ll try! Kenneth K quit after the 2016 spring tour. not unexpected, but still rough. we had some theatre work lined up for the summer/fall that year, and dove deep into that while contemplating the future and writing more songs. Tomas got in touch in December. we played for a bit and soon figured this would work. we rehearsed that winter before starting recording The Tower in California in March 2017. those songs were the most finished ones we had, and most of them were written after KK left, but there was no overarching theme as such – except for the political one that was unavoidable with the rise of Trump. another new aspect at this time was the artwork. Kim Hiorthøi did most of our covers from 1994 until Here Be Monsters (2016), but the last few covers he did for us felt like they belonged in a different reality to the one we felt we existed in, and on this new album we started working with designer Håvard Gjelseth instead. while discussing possible artists I mentioned Gullvåg. Håvard really liked that idea and organized it so that we got to use existing art for The Tower and The Crucible and that Gullvåg painted the cover for The All Is One on spec. It was perfect for us and for those albums, but three was enough – we didn’t want a Snaggletooth/Eddie thing to develop and ended it there. except for a synchronicity in feel, and it being a total honor to work with him, there is no other theme to this ‘Gullvåg trilogy’ than his art. the songs were written all the way through the period, and were not from some big pool we had going in. but the albums do feel like they belong together and it was a strong presentation that we are very happy with! to go on from the Gullvåg albums, we felt we needed contrast, and Malling is pretty much as technically far away from Gullvåg as you can get! Great drawing though, and a really memorable and evocative cover!Kingdom of Oblivion was – like almost all our records – not recorded in one spot at one time: it had recordings from a two year period on it, but it was in no way a compilation of leftovers or any such thing: it was a full blown proper album that took the mayhem and riffage further but also had moments of quiet and beauty. to me it is perhaps the best balanced of the four albums we’d done with Tomas so far. the new one is still to close for me to say anything smart about, but it is very much a snap shot of where we were – mentally, groupwise – the week we recorded it, and it feels like the world felt to us in the summer of 2021. as an artist you can’t ask for more than that. The pictures on the cover were taken the week before the album was recorded and helps show what it felt like to us. we hope! and that is new: we have not been on the cover of many of our albums before! How do you relate Ancient Astronauts to what yo did with the Gulvag Trilogy? It feels somehow more open, flowing and “jammy”, did it exist more out of a free form approach? well, it is less dense, for sure! one of producer Deathprod’s bit things was to make it open sounding, so it is a bit more sparse, with fewer instruments on it than usual, and since the two longest songs were arranged while developing a dance performance, they are not compact pop structures at all, but rather more meandering and exploratory structures we hoped would suit the occasion. since this is kinda what we like doing the best anyhow, it felt very natural. but the album has a vibe of its own, and since it is a rather short album, it doesn’t outstay its welcome either. ‘leave them wanting more’ is an old showbiz adage, and a true one in this case!
These days Motorpsycho would be more categorized in “psychedelic” music, but it wasn’t always that way. Is this scene where you most feel at home? I bet being as self-minded as you guys are it could sometimes feel like you did not belong anywhere at all…did it ever feel lonely? we never felt comfortable being a part of anyone else’s club or scene or … what have you. even today we find it extremely awkward to play genre-specific festivals, and are never less eager to pile on the riffs than when playing e.g. a ‘stoner’ festival. to paraphrase Groucho Marx: ‘we don’t want to be a part of a club that would want a band like us as a member’! since we hate being told what to be or indeed who we are more than anything, we always intuitively go against the grain if given the chance. we are not two-dimensional entertainment puppets, but hope and try to be three-dimensional humans in all our work. and we only ever play motorpsychodelic music :-)( i also think that if you go into music for the community spirit you are on the wrong track: this biz is full of self obsessed ego maniacs who don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves. at least we don’t rely on them for our sense of self! )
With Ancient Astronauts you lyrically take up some big themes, like the arch angel Azrael, and Phaeton out of Greek mythology…where do those subjects come from? And how do they relate to our current world? the dance performance was called ‘Sacrificing’ so I wanted relatable themes for the lyrics/titles. these somehow showed up in my head, made sense in some way, and stuck it is easier to deal in myths and archetypes than in personal specifics when the musical structures are as big as these too, so that is an important reason why these made sense to use. such references are more open and interpretable than very personal stuff, which is what you want, and since themes like these are eternal they are always as current (or not), so i guess it depends on the listener how relatable they are to our world? You have played live so much and in such different ways and places too, is there anything you till dream about in that area? The next one! always and only the next one, because that is the first chance to find meaning through art that is available to us. every night is a new chance to experience transcendence through music, and there is nothing more rewarding than that. where it happens doesn’t matter. we’d like to play more and in more places, but have no ‘Big Gig’ dreams.
What advice would you give a new and upcoming band/artist that looks up to Motorpsycho? do not trust every story we tell to be 100% factual! we lie. a lot. some of the answers in this interview is total bullshit, but are more fun to read and more inspirational to any young band/artist than the truth would’ve been. when we don’t lie, we always try to tell the truth. always be honest in your art though: that is the only thing that matters.
What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do immediately after this interview? laugh at it and think ‘what a pretentious git’, then listen to our music to see if it doesn’t all make a little sense anyway. maybe?or go kiss their girl-/boyfriend before making some art of their own. that’d be better!
So the new Snakes Don’t Belong In Alaska album…is freaking dense! It’s like they took all their dark thoughts and frustrations with the past pandemic period and channelled them into these five slabs of heavy psychedelic space rock. There’s even a sense of sci-fi horror and evil lurking over Interstellic Psychedelic, oozing out of it. A sense of dread that is fed by the spoken word snippets left, right, and center, theatrically building images of lost souls and dark visions…but keeping their tongue firmly in their cheek at the same time.
Because at the same time that some of this record will give me the shivers, the campy keyboards, the over the top theatrics, and the thick emphasis on spaciness also made me conjure up images of Douglas Adams‘ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy…Interstellic Psychedelic could well have been one of its hazier chapters. You know; it’s about total death and the destruction planets, but it’s gruesomely funny at the same time. You can totally see Zaphod Beeblebrox throwing down some Pan-Galactic Gargleblasters and rocking out to this in his space ship.
Nothing about their true intentions becomes entirely clear though, and that is on purpose. Snakes Don’t Belong In Alaska are true improvisationalists; they love taking things as they present themselves. That’s how you have to listen to this album as well. You’ll never know what lurks beyond the corner, because neither do they! Anything is possible, from playing the electric Kazoo to including a 12-year-old kid’s poetry. It makes this mostly instrumental journey all the more exciting. It moves from dangerous to funny to epic in minutes, like the good sci-fi movies of yore used to. Best thing to do is light one up and let these intergalactic Englishmen take you to the next dimension…
So with this being the second time I reviewed Snakes Don’t Belong In Alaska, I could certainly not just leave it at that? I had to talk to them! Luckily Aaron Bertram (bass snake) kindly and swiftly replied...
How are you guys doing these days? How did you deal with the dreaded pandemic?
Absolutely awesome. We were very lost in the beginning of the pandemic but I (bass snake) decided to buy equipment to record and produce from home and spent hundreds of hours watching YouTube video tutorials. our first home recording experiment was Electric Bong Water. After finishing that we realized with a bit more hard work we could probably record an album this way, so we set to work on The Eternal Electric Landscape. The strangest thing about it was actually having to write music as everything up until this point was completely improvised. After electric bong water Dan from Up In Her Room Records got in touch about working together. So overall i’d have to give us a pat on the back and say we done pretty well through the pandemic. If you listen to Enter The Psychedemic from the new record the lyrics reflect this.
Can you introduce the band to the Weirdo Shrine readers? Anything people really need to know up front about your band?
Our motto is try everything and anything, record it, see if it works. This mindset has led to the use of things such as electric kazoo on The Eternal Electric Landscape and Interstellic Psychedelic. Our live sets are mostly improv jamming our own tracks loosely. The weirder something sounds the better.
What can you tell me about the making of Interstellic Psychedelic? In what way did your approach to record differ from The Eternal Electric Landscape?
We begun the writing and recording of this record in October 2021 and at first approached it in a very similar way to The Eternal Electric Landscape. However the record slowly started becoming its own entity and we viewed it that way. The last song on the record called Nature Of The Evil Within is A poetic story direct from the twisted psychedelic mind of 12 year old honorary baby snake Layland Bertram (my son). Sound tracked and performed by dad’s band. He won an award at school for it and once I read it I knew we had to work on it to make it into a sound tracked version of the story. So we were taking influence from places we’d not normally think to explore.
How important is jamming and improvisation for SDBIA? How do you make sure that comes across right on record?
It is the core of what we are. Even in this record although it has been written, it was all written and recorded in one take to maintain the core vibe and we stay away from thinking too hard about structure, you’ll never hear us doing verse, chorus, verse, chorus.
You guys are from Newcastle, right? In what way does living there influence you as an artist? Is there a psychedelic scene for instance?
We are yes, although Jarrid is actually Canadian. When people think of Newcastle they think of poverty and a tough social attitude and i think that comes across in our rough and ready, high energy sound. There isn’t much of a music scene at all in Newcastle now, many touring bands completely miss the city. That being said there is still a pretty cool underground scene that consists of many genres working together, which is pretty cool.
In what way is playing psychedelic music and using psychedelic substances interwoven with each other do you think?
Oh dear my mum will be reading this haha, Hi Mum. I think the two are part of the same entity. Psych music, at least our psych music is completely about exploration of the mind and I’d say that psychedelic substances have the same purpose. Although we’re mostly good boys these days haha.
What would you say is your biggest influence, both musically and otherwise?
We all have a similar core of influence, Hawkwind, Floyd, Earthless, 35007, etc. But we all have our own individual musical influences too, myself being into a lot of punk, Alex being into British indie and Jarrid being classic rock and folk. We also take a lot of influence from the psych world in general, people like Kenneth Anger.
What are you looking forward to most in 2022? And in 2023?
We are going to put way more energy into gigging, we’ve all been so buys in our home lives recently. We are currently organizing a short UK tour for the back end of the year and hopefully looking to slither our tails a little further a field next year.
When will your spaceship land in The Netherlands?
We are hoping to put together some mainland Europe shows next year but it’s difficult with finances, if we can get the right deals with promoters so we can actually afford to do it, the Netherlands will definitely be one of our top priorities of places to play.
What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after this interview?
Go listen to Interstellic Psychedelic and some of our historical stuff so you can hear the evolution of SDBIA and continue to support your local psych scenes especially the DIY ones. Thank you everyone!
Knowing when to say the right thing is an important quality, but so is knowing when to be silent. German psychedelic duo Pretty Lightning have always sung the right words at the right times, but for their fifth album Dust Moves they felt it was better to let the music do the talking. And lo and behold; it loudly speaks to our collective imagination, perhaps even more strongly than a record with lyrics ever could.
Whether its the slide guitar Western ride of Glide Gently, or the Tommy Guerrero-like desert caravan trip Gewgaw For Beginners; every song on Dust Moves tells a different story that you can experience with your eyes closed, filling in the images that take place where usually words may have been.
Pretty Lighting’s approach is a gentle, subtle, layer building work, where they seduce you into their song’s small little environment in such a vivid way that it feels like you can live there for a while. Most of the sounds are linked to rhythm and blues and old time western folk, but Pretty Lightning manage to meld them together in such a way that they become their own little entities.
Being a vocalist myself I find myself often sceptic of instrumental music, but I feel that this distrust is not justified here. Pretty Lightning has pulled the vocals out of their music, but they put the listener in the front seat in stead. In the setting Dust Moves offers it therefore feels all the richer, and never like something is “missing”. It’s the real great instrumental works that can do that.
Once again I found myself in the privileged position to be in contact with the band. (Former) singer and guitarist Sebastian Haas was willing to introduce the band and answer my questions…
Hi guys, super stoked to talk to you! How have you been the past pandemic period?
S: Hi, in general and according to circumstances, mostly ok. Like the “it could be much worse” sort of ok. None of our friends and families was or is seriously ill due to covid.
Music wise it was obviously worse, it actually still is, but that applies to every band and artist, I guess… Personal conditions unfortunately force PL to take social distancing even more seriously and we have to hold back a bit longer. But it’s getting better, slowly, I hope. I mean, of course it sucks, and even if it could be much worse, I’m sure everyone has been tired of it for a long time.
Can you introduce yourselves and your band to the Weirdo Shrine audience?
S: Dear Weirdo Shrine reader, my name is Sebastian and I like animals. I also play guitar and (used to) sing in Pretty Lightning. That’s a band started out as a garagerock duo over a decade ago, has drifted more into psych territory and recently recorded an album with some instruments they had never been using before.
So, Dust Moves! A first instrumental album! You felt like music speaks louder than words? What motivated you to leave out vocals altogether this time?
S: No, it doesn’t speak at all, and that’s what it’s all about. Not that I do not like voices, I do, but vocals or lyrics can also have what it takes to ruin a song, depending on the personal mood or likings, of course. It happens from time to time, when you’re really enjoying the music and as soon as one brings in a story by singing or talking it’s somehow killing the vibe. It just doesn’t fit to the mood that you otherwise find in the sounds. Sure, this is totally personal, maybe rare and vocals and lyrics can be great, so it’s not a question of loud or quiet, better or worse, it’s just different and that’s what we wanted to try out this time. To me, the fun in instrumental music is caused by the flow it can initiate, a movement but without a fixed direction. Metaphorically speaking, it can provide a blank canvas and maybe some paint tins, the rest is up to your own imagination. Describing instrumental music as boundless may sound cheesy, but due to the lack of words or stories, it feels less specific at least and this leaves room for your own ride. Maybe like sounds for dreamers (cheesy, again!). I´m sure that there are others who can find similar journeys in lyrics etc., this is just our own humble approach trying to talk about what we didn’t want to say with lyrics. Another motivation was that I find it easier to enjoy listening to our music without hearing my own voice.
What change did you notice about yourselves going from the previous album Jangle Bowls to Dust Moves? It’s quite a step! Can you identify the trigger that started this change?
S: It actually didn’t feel like taking a big single step at once, more like some sort of process. We’ve already had instrumental songs on our previous records, very few indeed, but we’ve been playing around with the idea of an instrumental record for a while. After 4 records we felt like it was time to give it a shot and we had already collected plenty of ideas and material over time. However, most of them didn’t make it on the album as we wrote new stuff that formed the final album as a whole. I think this record turned out more consistent and that’s one thing we do like about it. That also was the initial intention and going instrumental just made sense to us.
Personally it had me thinking of Tommy Guerrero’s music at times, which I adore! Who are your favorite instrumental artists, and why?
S: I only know Tommy Guerrero from hearsay and have never listened to his music, but there are lots of instrumental artists we like for sure, I list the first names that pop up in my mind now:
On the guitar-heavy side:
75 Dollar Bill, because the rhythms are crazy.
Marisa Anderson, because being an amazing guitarist without being annoying is a rare gift.
Earth, because it feels restrained and wide open at the same time.
Bobby Lee, because it choogles.
On the electronics:
Emerald Web, because synths and flutes fit together well.
Orphan Fairytale, because it sounds so charming.
Phantom Horse, because I know one of them personally.
Syrinx, because I don’t know anything similar.
Zomes, because a little goes a long way.
Steven R. Smith, because I don’t know where to start.
France, check it out, you’ll understand.
What is the biggest difference in approach about writing a song without vocals?
S: You don’t need to worry about lyrics. That can be a relief, especially in times you don’t have much to tell. Still, you’re putting out something, musically, but it doesn’t matter what you were thinking or what you mean, if you mean anything at all, it’s up to the listener. Now I already have the picture of the blank canvas in my mind that I mentioned before. Besides that, I think it’s more about exploring and expanding sounds, less like writing songs.
You are from Saarbrücken, that always strikes me as quite a remote place, what are the advantages and disadvantages of living there? And do you think it influenced you as musicians?
S: Yes, Saarbrücken isn´t London or Berlin, that´s true and not each of the bands you´d like to see stops by, but still there´s something going on (in case there´s no pandemic going around…) There are bands and people who do shows and art and stuff of course and it´s also well located, very close to France and Luxemburg. But even if I´m sure that your surroundings have an impact on what you do or how you do it, I can´t name anything specific in relation to our city. Friends definitely inspire us, and sometimes they don´t have to live nearby necessarily to make an influence. But still, it´s good to have likeminded people around who gather when anything cool is happening.
Pretty Lightning has always been a duo, right? Have you never felt like taking along other musicians? There are for instance more instruments on the album than could be performed live simultaneously, aren’t there? Will PL always be just the two of you?
S: Yes we’ve always been a duo and it always felt right, this was never in doubt. But your question about the number of instruments is well justified and it’s also something we had to discuss recently, so we’re prepared. To sum up: even on the previous records there were songs that only emerged during the recording sessions, when it’s easy to evade the limitations of being only two people. Some of these songs can’t be played live in our duo lineup, not in a satisfying manner at least, so we dropped them from our live set, means we’re used to recording songs that we can not play live. But these were only a few songs per album, so it didn’t really matter. Now, with this new record, it’s different. None of these tracks could be performed as a duo, not in a way that would make sense to us. But even with an adequate amount of musicians we could hardly imagine playing this album live. Dust Moves is rather seen as a recording project. What we could imagine is including some parts or fragments of this record in our live set, to add a bit of that vibe. But that’s something we’re still working on and I don’t know where it leads…
In this connection I have to think of a show I’ve attended a few years ago. I don’t want to name the artist here, but the debut record was absolutely stunning, still is, not only because of the songs itself, but especially because of the sounds and the production. It doesn’t sound “expensive” or “big”, but creative, weird and sometimes mind blowing and that was such a crucial part of the whole album. So I was really wondering how they’re going to perform this live. Unfortunately, they didn’t do it very well, not because they were bad musicians, but because these songs really shine in this extraordinary production of the recording and I’d bet it was part of the overall writing process from start to finish, but impossible to translate to a live set. I don’t want to claim that Dust Moves has such a crazy production, but it reminds me of that experience and confirms that some records are not meant to be performed live. But who knows, maybe we change our minds some day. Never say never.
Apart from that, we are also in Datashock, which is a rather loose collective of friends playing improvised, experimental krautpsychfolkwhatever, sometimes with up to 8 or 9 people, so it’s not always just the two of us.
What are your immediate future plans? And how about for the longer future? Any dreams you’d like to share?
S:We’re looking forward to the release of Dust Moves and hope some people will enjoy it half as much as we did while recording it. And as much as i’d like to answer your question, the past two years didn’t help developing confidence in future plans. Dreams, ya, sweet dreams…
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