In warm and humid Sicily, the deep, deep south of Italy, two men find each other again and again in waves of symbiotic creativity. The chemistry between Gioele Valenti (JuJu) and Nicola Giunta is strong. Together they are Lay Llamas, and Flag Of Breeze is their new EP of dreamy psychedelia. If one thing is clear, it is that their common electricity has not lost any of its power.
Flag Of Breeze is a short affair, consisting of four new songs, intermixed by short weird sounds, described by the duo as ” like a sort of radio tuning listening session among FM stations and misterious shortwaves transmissions”. The songs are very varied, from the dreamy post wave of Flag Of Breeze, to the tribal surf pop of Bury Me Tonight, the gothic witch dance of Mixtures And Potions, and the psychedelic dark cabaret of Underwater Jungle.
The result may be short, but it is a sweet little adventure. And it creates a hunger for more to come from this wonderful duo.
I gladly took on the opportunity to do a second interview with Gioele and Nicola, this time together. We talked about the creation of Flag Of Breeze, why it took so long to physically release it, and what the future might bring…
Hi Gioele and Nicola! How have you been since we spoke last year? GV. Very well, thanks. Lost in magic. NG. I’m fine, thanks.
What is the main reason you two keep on finding each other in Lay Llamas? In what way do you complement each other? NG. I think Gioele is among the best vocals composer out there… and I’m so lucky that he’s a very good friend of mine at the same time. So, basically when it’s about Lay Llamas I provide to send him instrumental tracks on which he writes and performs vocals, and I mean melody, harmony and lyrics. There’s a kind of chemistry, something magic. GV. I personally think it’s a matter of vibrations. We have a very long-lived friendship as Nicola said. I think me and Nicola work together in a very strange and special alchemic way. I have this “pop” attitude… and Nicola has this very incredible taste in exotic things, music, art, he has a great sense for aestethic… I think that is the main reason we find each other.
The album is listed as Lay Llamas & Juju, what is the difference from a regular Lay Llamas release? It’s always the two of you, right? NG. Right. But anyway we liked to add on Juju name to underline how much strong was his work as composer. For the rest it’s basically the same thing we did in the past… with a different typing on the sleeve maybe. GV. Yes, basically the same process.
Can you tell me about the conception of Flag Of Breeze? What made you start these songs, what was your intention? NG. We recorded these tracks during the same sessions for GOUD LP (Black Sweat Records, 2022). But too much tracks for a single LP so we did an EP for this second release. Nothing different about creative process: I compose and record the music, send it to Gioele that compose and record vocals, lyrics and sometimes any overdub with guitars, synth, etc., finally I do the mix. GV. Yes, we had a lot of stuff coming this time.
Even more than before this album is very psychedelic, hazy, dreamy. Is there an explanation for this? Can you tell me about the specific influences for this one? NG. Hazy and dreamy, more than psychedelic in my opinion. As always when we meet to make music together as Lay Llamas a kind of mind-travellers music comes out. Other(inner)worldly music I call it! GV. I would call these songs “lazy” rather than “hazy”. Haunted more than psychedelic. There’s this universalistic afflatus underneath. Songs for globetrotting spirits. I like to put it this way.
What can you tell me about the release process, I heard that some people had to wait for a long while on their orders? Can you explain what happened? It seems that in the mean while Juju and Lay Llamas both released another record, right? NG. Oh man, that was a real mess! The label sent the master to the pressing plant in April 2021 and it had received the vinyls one month ago or something. The Covid delay was huge, at the same time the label could have handled it better maybe. Mainwhile a Lay Llamas LP titled GOUD It was released in March 2022 by italian label Black Sweat Records. Anyway, here we are. GV. Very long time. Friend, let’s take it as another “long covid symptom”.
What can you tell me about the background stories behind the lyrics? What was your inspiration for the words this time? NG. I wrote only one lyric; Underwater Jungle. It was strongly inspired by Jules Verne novels. GV.I used to read a lot of quantum physics stuff while writing the songs. The collapse of the wave function. Of how reality is an interactive process between the observed object and the observer. Reality, basically, does not exist. Thought is everything.
Would you say that you are “typical Sicilians”? Why/why not? NG. Not a simple question. As I think Sicilian people are quite complex. For example, Sicilians often use ‘maybe’ word rather than ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We talk using a layering language. In this way I feel ‘typical’. But not if you consider ‘typical’ the sicilian guy with mustache and shotgun on the back. GV. I don’t like clichés, which immediately become a stigma. It depends on what you mean by “typical”. If we mean a cultural trait, well, yes, then I feel I belong to a broad culture, of great historical breadth, of great tradition. The other reflections on being a typical Sicilian doesn’t make sense in my opinion. I’m no more typical than a typical Englishman can be, these days.
What is the thing you look forward to most in 2023? NG. new music and art, still living with my dears, be a better human. GV. Staying alive already seems like a great goal to me
What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do immediately after reading this interview? NG. go out and take a walk, breath deeply, elevate yourself. GV. Take care of you loved ones. You will save the entire world.
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: OCH – Pö 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.
With the re-release of Farflung’s 1995 classic 25.000 Feet Per Second only last year it seems like Farflung has not been off our collective radars for a while, but in fact their last outing This Capsule was released over four years ago! Four years in which a lot can happen, like a freaking pandemic! Luckily our four spacemen can travel space and time, and will not be held back by distance or time. Even with lyricist and guitarist Michael Esther living on another continent (Europe) and the rest of the band in Los Angeles, USA Farflung kept on writing and recording. The result is no joke! Like Drones In Honey feels in everything like a full band operating with all engines running full speed. There is Hawkwind worshipping space rock madness, there is postpunk tripping, there are full blown weirdo experiments fueled by nightly escapades in the Californian desert…in other words, not much has changed.
But hey! Why take my word for it when you can have the full band explaining what is going on in your ears when you are listening to the new album? Tommy Grenas, Michael Esther, Paul Hischier, and Chris Nakata were kind enough to spend some time describing their thoughts on the writing process, and ultimately on taking a full blown walk through the album. So buckle up, it’s going to be a spacey ride…
Hi guys! First of all: how are you and how have you been since last time we spoke? (at the re-release of 25.000 ft per second LP in January this year).
Paul: Hi there. Things have calmed down after turbulent times; the pandemic, the death of my father, collapsing relationships, but those struggles have passed. Now it’s mellow vibes on the West Side. We did an interview the other day and it wasn’t until I saw the other guy’s faces that I realized how much I miss seeing my Farflung brothers. We were so happy to see each other! I’m pleased that Like Drones in Honey has officially released. Stoked to be on Sulatron!!! Dave rules!!
Michael: Things are ok here. Not much has changed…working on the music and art… hoping for more positivity in the world…
Tommy: Things have been good. I ‘we’ve’ been very happy working with Dave at Sulatron, and the releases that have come out so far. I was glad to do it, and with all the guys to come up with the concept and artwork for the new lp , and the groups overall construction on the mixes and vibe of it all. There’s new things on the back burner and ideas are already starting to formulate. There were also a couple of interesting sessions out at Saturn Moon (Nakata’s studio in Yukka valley] and I’ve been working on ideas out here in Woodstock, NY. I hope to get out to the desert to see Chris and Paul soon to continue with things. Out here in the Catskills, NY, things slow way down in winter, so I’ve been taking Jobs here and there to prep for it. This is quite a contrast to the Covid shutdown of the recent past. I’ve also been working with a local cinema, and record store, putting on events that are live music to film, or visual to music also. We’ve had some great artists involved and it’s been a great experience. I also built a small print shop and have been making posters and shirts, sleeves, for the event, and other things. Yes, been a quite busy year so far.
The new album has been finished for quite a while, right? Can you tell me about the writing and recording process
Paul: From my angle the process was, and the product is, pure ecstasy in the Greek meaning: “entrancement, astonishment, insanity; any displacement or removal from the proper place”. The time of recording this LP is the most free that I have ever felt making a record. 100% the process for me was to disassociate from the pandemic and it’s ripple effects. To me (us?) it’s sculpture and collage, improv avant-freedom-rock, no boundaries. We create & capture everything; the deeply psychedelic and confrontational, the perfect and the sublime, the incorrect and the wrong. Add in existential void screaming, found sound, field recordings, then exploit our limitations, then add in a dash of kosmische moon howling. Reverse everything and start over.
Michael: It’s different than it was years ago…seeing that we are spread across the globe… from my side… the difficult thing is and the thing I miss most is all of us being in the studio at the same time…. we trade track ideas and overdubs back and forth via the internet and Chris does his magic…
Tommy: Well this will be a long answer, but ~Most of it started at Tarantula Ranch [my wife Abby Travis’s old studio in Los Angeles]. It was an interesting time. We ‘were already prepping to pull up anchor and leave that city. Abby was on tour and the studio was basically 3/4 gutted of stuff for the move. All that remained was faulty equipment, pieces of drum kits, stuff too sell, low grade amps and dodgy synth gear. Chris had a mobile pro tools unit he would slung around to jam sessions, and brought it over and set it up. We had no planning, just, let’s try to use what’s here and if it’s crappy sounding well so be it. It turned out to be quite the challenge and totally rewarding. Chris basically duct taped and bolted a kit together using what was around into a rather strange set. He also just set up things to hit that would give off sound. Me and Paul chained our gear together and experimented with the tweaky ramshackle amps to get tones. Between what was glitchy and operating, and with the rather bizarre keyboard selection Chris had at Saturn Moon, I created the synth pad arena. Last but not least, Skott Rusch, old time Farflung, when science fails guitar psych-scaper, showed up with the wired out troglodonic noisemaker, and generators amongst everything else. Mean while in Italy Michael was conjuring strange worlds and patterns at his mobile unit, that would be transmitted to our radar station of sorts. I think this all started around may of 2019. It certainly was not an album session as many of Farflung’s were, but just another field of experimentation. Sessions were whoosey, and magical. It seemed like we’re we’re on another off charts adventure with the band. Sonically, it was an experimentation on a new level for me. I’d like to think Farflung has never been a slave to a genre, even though sometimes we’ve been pigeonholed to it by certain folk, but that’s ok. Whatever there pleasure is. We have never been interested in trends or tags, and this compendium of tracks is clear of that on this lp. Coincidentally, Chris was living in Los Angeles, and that is where the original Saturn Moon was. I’ve spoken about that wonderful lab before, but Chris also pulled up anchor, and found a place to set up studio in Yucca valley . It was a bit later, but we got together and started to flesh out the tracks more into song there. I did not bring any gear really, Just used what Chris had there. We were also joined by Bobby Lee [moso groto] who had played a bit on the original sessions. He put down some great low and driving stuff on a couple of the tracks, and he’s an all all round swell guy. After some long walks in the desert and “stimulation” later, we were laying down the vocals and finishing touches to the tracks from Mike’s emu3 in Italy, and the Los Angeles, and Yucca sessions . We Mixed remotely, but had a good idea of what it should be like. Chris doing most of the honors on that end.
Can you both tell me your favorite thing about the album and why?
Tommy: To me it’s a natural continuation of This Capsule, the previous LP. It felt like it should be. It does go off in its own tangent here and there but they still seem related. The same is reflected in the look and artwork continued in a more sparse and forward visual. We have also become tighter with friends and family. Everyone put a lot into it and I can feel it. I sure the next one will be quite different, but for now this is still the focus. My favorite tracks are King Fright and Tiny Cities [best section is the end of side one, where it really levitates to me.] it’s in the sound on there very clear. I don’t think anyone who has followed what we do will not see that’s but essentially, we [I] also do it for ourselves own goal.
Paul: My favorite thing about the album is the journey. I prefer to listen to the whole LP in a sitting with headphones. Like when I was a kid listening to LPs, hyper focused on every detail. It’s a love letter to decay and collapse from wizened survivors.
What can you tell me about the title Like Drones To Honey?
Michael: We were tossing ideas around and this one worked… I like the open reading possibility of the word drone…(a bee, a sound, a flying device). I think about recording in terms of layers of sound… of ideas that come together and arrive at a song, then a group of songs, then album artwork that solidifies into an object.. sonic and physical…Bees carrying pollen flower to flower…Honey as residue… similar to the way in which ideas float person to person…thought as a productive function of the body…a type of secretion……all these types of things I’ve been fascinated with for years…. it just worked for this album
Tommy: I think Michael came up with it. There was a photo of a woman laughing in a garden by photographer Peter Graham we were going to use, but I don’t think it was in a place were the label were too excited about it. I ended up making collages around the title. It was a lot of fun and I like doing things by hand and not on a computer. I liked the triple meaning of the LP title, a kind of calvertesque sci fi vibe to it. Drunken workers floating in the mead, mind bombs gliding without fuel, the sound of open chords together, something like that.
Paul: We started it in May 2019 without a hint of what would happen 6 months later. At that point we were personally undergoing a ton of changes; Chris moving out of LA to the desert, Tommy moving to Woodstock after living in LA for so many years, and I had just moved back here after living overseas for a long time. Mikey had a lot going on in Italy. A lot of major changes with us were already underway. A good portion of the music was recorded during the height of the pandemic, so there was a lot of strange feelings happening all around us, which the music captures. A lot of fear/uncertainty/doubt permeating the atmosphere. The music and the rituals around the music making were a bright spot during that period, but it was very dark and isolating time for everyone. Like Drones in Honey was a coping mechanism for me (us?).
On to the walkthrough: let’s go through all the songs of the album and their meaning:
Tommy: Lyrically, someone I knew had passed away from dementia, and did not receive much needed help. She left a great sweetness behind her in her past, so both things colliding there a bit. Musically, a little nod to Can, but definitely also one of my favorite movies, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, all those ominous melodies creating a weird score. That was the first track recoded We believe. Paul’s Pro One making fuzzy bass freak outs on the chorus, and lots of vocal mayhem.
Perfect start “klingggg”
3 tix to CS
Tremmmy guitars and pings, such a swirl happening
Gut punches and screams
A rich tapestry of tones, zones zones zones zones zones zones zones
Chris: Yes, this was the first track we recorded. I remember familiarizing myself with the drums, and liking them. Tommy was excited by the sound from the start. That was a great way to begin, and pretty much set the tone for much of the album. I can still see Paul, peering at me through the small opening of the hood of his hoodie, zipped up to the top because it was cold in the garage, his wide eyes growing even larger from the massive sound of his synth.
Earthmen Look Alike To Me
Chris: This one seemed to go down quickly. Just a lot of fun. Tommy could often be seen shaking his butt to this one during playback.
Tommy: Moving to the Catskills forests in autumn was mystical and surreal being in a big city for so long. There was a big male red bull cardinal who would fly into the windows dawn till dusk relentlessly waking us to explore things early, very early. The silence, and sounds of trees and animals that has become normal now. We had discovered weird rock formations on the property that were were told to be paleo Indian. It was magical an foreboding. The title was a working title, and the lyrics came much later, so it just stuck with a quote from and old analog, pulp novel. The musical session was a big jam. I was channeling RCA period Hawkwind a little I think. Then it just goes into Farflung, it reminds me a lot of what a session from us in the 90s would of sounded like.
Sick Casio beat into Uncontrollable Urge acoustic
Super sick turnaround
50 tracks of guitars, or 50,000?
Chrome-esque Helios-y ‘Destroyed My Brain” turnaround is incredible
Tommy: Mike’s original track, overdubbed by the rest of us, then mike back on it again. Lyrically the main thread is Michael. I interpreted it as having an almost Nick Cave vibe to it, but the retort that I vocalized came off rather PIL in a weird way. Political PIL meets Crass ha ha. The sound in the beginning is an old printing rack slamming and creaking with me being, well drunk, blabbering . Chris was percussively playing his whole kitchen on that track.
Another fooking amazing Mikey Surprise
Turns into a face puncher
Then the bells, so many bells, bells and swirls
GREEN HAS LEFT THE BORDER
Chris: Basically, a back-and-forth between Michael and Tommy. A great juxtaposition, and very gratifying to lay down tracks on this.
Tiny Cities Made Of Broken Teeth
Tommy: I was sitting in an old art warehouse in Woodstock, in the middle of winter looking out into a dead frozen woods surrounded by water. It truly looked like an alien planetscape. I thought about how life almost dies but is dormant, in a dream state we can’t imagine. I was listening to a lot of old dub at the time, and there was a cinematic vibe to the jam. We were a little confused what to do with it, but one night a layering session in the desert just blossomed and we’re were all lying around just spacing on it. It just came to be like that. Two worlds collide, and end with someone standing on a flyover in Los Angeles in the rain. Past future present.
Chris: A very soothing trip. Such a groovy bass from Bobby. In the last section, Tommy hummed the bassline for me to play, and I really liked the orchestral sound of the bass part. Then, Michael sent his parts with such an orchestral approach, fermenting the gentle crescendo that allows for the exhale to end the side.
From where do these seeds sprout?
I’ve hitched my space-steed to the goddamn ring mod on this one
Early Pink Floyd chord progressions
Michael’s slide, perfect as always
The tremolo guitar has so much sustain
The ending is straight off of a LA ’68 Love re-issue
Chris: Honestly, I wasn’t sure where this one was going, but somehow Tommy’s other-worldly mind managed to bring it all together. Originally, a working title (again, from Tommy’s mind) that I insisted on keeping. Resistant at first, Tommy relented after he saw how particular I was about the original spelling and pronunciation.
Tommy: 3 sessions fused into one, but strangely , also recorded in that order. I really love Manuel Göttsching‘s inventions for electric guitar, and it’s funny that, well, I always thought Steve Hillage’s, Rainbow Dome Music LP is also related musically. I got this new guitar pedal thing in the mail, that just happened to sound like that and went for it. Old Farflung luminary Skott Rusch [hunting lodge] just happed to be around and added his trogotronic transmission device to the whole track, levitating it out of orbit. Part two, a little Rudimentary Peni vibe on it. Just a great fun punk moment for us that’s always there. Paul phrased “self cleaning oven” as a way that nature gets rid of an irritating presence on its skin, the rest of the lyrics just ran in. Title ? No idea.
Infinite pings and unceasing pongs
glissando guide master Michael
Chirps, tweets, and sweeps
Jaki Liebezeit beat to the T
Delay 68 Can meets Heldon
With INSANE turnaround after “OKAYYYYY!!!!”
The teeth on that guitar and the drummer, Jesus what a drummer . . .
Sneaky fucker on bass, the balls on that kid performing those sick runs
A SELF CLEANING OVEN – a lack of empathy will destroy us
Baile an Doire
Tommy: I always thought some surf music sounded kinda Celtic, or euro ethnic. Or maybe it had an influence on it in the 60s, probably the latter, anyhow always loved the rousing element to it. We laid down the track and thought it was also kinda goth sounding. My grandparents some aunts uncles spoke a little Gaelic, and I remembered the pigeon English that would happen after a few drinks behind the piano or even transistor in the kitchen. I was burnt out that day and could not come up with any theme or idea, so I started to run off in that banter. Paul and Chris both loved it, but also we’re amused by it. I decided, why not. the rousing tribal drums almost sound like a battle call and I was reminded of an area where I grew up, where the river crossed into the Lough Neagh through an oak wood. I used to go fishing there. But I was told a site of great turmoil. If you’re up for some history, look it up, Baile an Doire, Ballinderry. Just probably channeling spirits, of sorts.
Chris: My main memory is the night we recorded vocals. As soon as Tommy started singing in this style, we knew it was right. Or was it? Who knows. All I know is that Paul and I couldn’t stop laughing.
Why don’t you try the lyrics in Gælic?”
Turns into a Killing Joke song
Who did the haunting lead?
All of a sudden it is an Echo & The Bunnymen song
Absurdddd-uuu ringgggg-uuuu moddd–uu klannnnggzzz
The forever-ending is too beautiful
Touch of the Lemmings Kiss
Tommy: Mikes lyrics. Sounded ominous and soothing. Felt like I was lying down in a meadow somewhere, waiting for it to end.
Mikey flying in from a deep and beautiful place to give us his blessings
Dolce piano pianissimo
Goddamn always with the bombers, love it!
Chris: Michael’s tracks were trippy and didn’t need much, really. We just added a few instruments here and there.
A Year In Japan
Chris: A late-night video-call led to making the background for Tommy’s whispers.
Tommy: Talking birds in the forest one night. I just recorded me speaking back to them after enjoying things I found to eat there. These birds fly to japan in winter. Hope they took my message. I miss Japan a bit. Would like to go there again. Very different.
Beefheart gone wild
Right into a later Wire song
What are your immediate future plans? (hoping for some tours!!!)
Paul: The immediate plan that I want to happen is for all of us to hang out in person again. It’s been far too long. A tour will happen at some point after all the uncertainty dissipates. Until then I’m good to stay in the studio and work on the next batch of songs.
Michael: It would be great to tour. We have to see how things shake out ….
Tommy: Oh boy I don’t know. I’d do it with Sula Bassana or a Dave Sulatron thing. Cosmic minds, for like minds. Good vibes, no neg stuff. We play better when it’s connected. I’m kinda over the random stoner rock night out, and we’re the lemon band not riffing off 3 bars to hard shit. I’m not that into getting sick on the road either. We’ll see. I’d love to travel with my friends, no pressure no worries. We’re a bit older, just don’t want to be away from home and sick. That may not sound very rock n roll, but fuck that shit. I don’t care. Recording stuff can be way too much fun sometimes. Especially with the guys in Yucca valley, and Milan.
What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after reading this interview?
Michael: It’s difficult times these days in the world…I’d say, produce some joy. Think of joy as a transformational act…
Tommy: Do whatever is possible to support the true people to end this global tyranny wherever you are, and also support those who do it. It’s a frightening world, and I’m very concerned for the next generations. There’s no way you can’t be concerned about that. Things have to be better than this.
Paul: Give Like Drones in Honey a spin and ride the cosmic tides. Then head out into nature.
It must be so wonderful to live in a quiet mountain village surrounded by nothing but beautiful nature, with life adjusting its pace to your inner clock, and to really have time to listen to it and reverberate that beauty into your music. It is what Alessio Ferrari does with his alter ego Upupayãma. On The Golden Pond, his second effort, he connects with his inner Eastern spirit once again to channel all that surrounding nature and stillness into nine brilliant psychedelic folk rock tracks.
Guided by his own invented language and a self-minded and brilliantly naive way of songwriting, The Golden Pond smooths out and continues the Japanese feel (Kikagaku Moyo fans take note!) of the debut album, and adds to it a unique layer that could have only come from where and how Ferrari lives. There are lots of folk instruments briefly popping up and fading out like flutes, sitars, and all kinds of percussion, but primarily it is bass, guitar, and drums that determine the flow.
Sometimes there is room for heavy fuzz, sometimes the rhythms invite for a wild dance, but most of the time it is serene listening music. Music to walk in forest to, music that draws you in, and invites you to look over the edge of that cliff over yonder to gasp at the wide views…
The beauty of The Golden Pond is that even if we might not always have time to go out and be in around nature and stillness like Ferrari, we can actually have his experience by partaking in his records. It is this extra experience that music can bring that makes it so incredibly valuable, and artists like Upupayãma a phenomenon to cherish deeply.
I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with Upupayãma’s sole member and multi-instrumentalist Alessio Ferrari about his life, his whereabouts, and his influences. Sometimes the music gives you a certain vibe of a person, and it is cool to have that vibe fully affirmed when you connect…
How are you doing? How was living under covid restrictions for you?
Hi Jasper! First of all, thank you. I am fine, always in a hurry as today’s world dictates, but I am fine. During the strict lockdowns we had to go through, I must say that I ‘travelled’ a lot. Being forced to live only the horizontal part of our lives, I tried to explore the vertical part, that is, myself. I have climbed, I have descended and I have climbed again many times. This was to try to travel within myself and I must say that I have not spoken to myself so clearly for a long, long time. I also have to tell the truth, living in a very small village, I also allowed myself a walk in nature every now and then. Ultimately, I tried to make the best of that time, both musically and humanly, and I succeeded.
Can you tell me about yourself and your musical background?
It’s a very trivial story: I started listening to music thanks to a tape of punk music from my brother, from there I wanted to learn to play some instruments, not so much to remake the songs I was listening to, but to write new ones. I have played in a few bands over the years, playing a bit of everything from punk to post rock, from the most brutal noise to indie rock. As for myself, I studied foreign languages and literature, English and Spanish, and I have a job I like to call ‘gypsy’, which gives me a certain autonomy and freedom. In short, pretty boring as a story ahahah.
What does an average day look like for you? How do you mostly like to spend your free time beside making music?
I have a job, so let’s say I work Monday to Friday. Then in the evenings I often play, or when I’m not playing I watch a film, read a book, although I must say that I really enjoy walking in the evenings. Living in a small mountain village, in the evening you can hear many beautiful sounds such as the howling of roe deer, on a few rare occasions I have also heard the howling of wolves. Then you also happen to meet a fox, that’s very nice. But I spend most of my time playing. Then of course, I have to work to be able to afford to buy all the instruments and my trinkets ahahahah, in Italy whoever makes music is considered a layabout, it’s very difficult to make a living from music.
I feel that where you live is important for your music, can you describe your living situation and how it would effect your music?
I live in a small village in the mountains near my home town of Parma. I live in this fairly large house in which, on the ground floor, there is a barn that I have turned into a recording studio/rehearsal room; it has a beautiful natural reverberation. I must say that yes, the choice to stay and live in a reality that is anything but comfortable is due to music. Earlier I talked about the sounds of animals, of nature in general, and certainly this is an element that influences my music, but even more than this the influence that the place where I live has on me and consequently on the music are the rhythms that I can give to my life. Let me explain: the place where I live gives me one of the greatest privileges you can have today, which is to decide your own pace. Do you want to go slow? You can do that. You want to speed up? Go for it. In recent years, living in the city didn’t give me this feeling, it rather gave me the feeling that the only choice was to go faster and faster. Sooner or later I will return to the city, but not now.
How do you go to work on a song? Do you play all the instruments yourself?
Yes, even on this second album I played and recorded everything myself, apart from the drums on ‘Come here, Noriko’ which was played and recorded by Sheila Bosco, the great drummer of Dire Wolves(Just Exactly Perfect Sisters Band). My approach to the song has a lot to do with improvisation, as you can also tell by attending our live shows. However, I don’t have a precise methodology. Not having studied music, I do not have and do not claim to have a method, which I find advantageous with my project. So yes, a song can come from a bass line, one from a sound that popped into my head while walking, sometimes I improvise for hours with a looper, so I have to say that I don’t have a method and I’m really happy that I don’t.
I really love your artwork for the first album and also the new! Who made it and what was the inspiration?.
The cover of the first album was designed by Daniel Onufer, an extraordinary Seattle-based illustrator who, among other things, is the founder and runs Halfshell Records, a very interesting record label. The second cover was designed by Peter Grey Hurley. They are both wonderful in my opinion and both inspired by places I often daydream about, sometimes even while sleeping. Obviously I wanted, especially talking about the first album, that the cover also reminded me a bit of the places I live. I wanted the cover of the second album to be a little bit like the cover of the first album because I wanted it to close a discourse. Whereas in the first album I went on a journey, in the second album I stopped at a place and explored it far and wide.
There is a certain “Japanese” feel to your music and concept, do you agree? Could you pinpoint where that comes from?
Yes, you are not wrong. I have always had a soft spot for Japan and its culture, it fascinates me so much. Only in the last few years, however, I’ve tried to get to know it better, going deeper into its culture and arts such as movies, literature and music, especially music. I find in many Japanese musicians a freedom that is unparalleled. I am thinking of Shinki Chen, Food Brain, The Flower Travellin’ Band, Acid Mothers Temple and of course Kikagaku Moyo. I could stay here and list hundreds of them. When I listen to their music I think ‘hear how they have fun? They don’t have any rules, they don’t put any brakes on their creativity’, they don’t jerk off and that’s what I try to do in my own small way, I try to let things happen, and not having an academic musical background helps me a lot.
Can you tell me about your vocals and the lyrics? How do they form?
It is an invented language, a kind of grammelot, but with very precise rules, few, but very precise. So far only one song is sung in English, which would be White Oak, and it has only four verses.
You worked with Yui Kimjima before, which must have been pretty cool! Who did you work with this time, and how did you find the right record labels?
As for working with Yui Kimijima on the first album, it was all very naive. I wrote him an email convinced he would never reply, but instead after a few hours he replied enthusiastically with that little material I had sent him! It was beautiful. As for record labels, etc., let me say that my aspiration was this: ‘I put the album on Bandcamp, if fifteen people listen to it and three of those fifteen people like it, I have already realised the dream of my life. I also sent it to two or three labels without receiving a response. However, after a while I noticed that people started talking about it in some webzines, on social media etc. and from there Mike from Centripetal Force and Dave from Cardinal Fuzz wrote to me. Boom! From there I went crazy, two of my favourite labels wanted to release my album!
What are your immediate future plans? And what is “the dream”?
I am already working on a third record. It won’t really be an album, but more a collection of songs that are not as connected as in the first two records. And then of course playing as much as possible on the road. The dream…the dream… I have many, but if I had to choose one today I would choose playing in a nice festival. Very corny?
What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after reading this interview?
I would recommend watching, just to link to a few questions ago, Yasujirō Ozu’s ‘Banshun’, a beautiful 1949 film by the wonderful director that is Ozu. Also because it inspired a song featured in The Golden Pond.
Somewhere in a scorching desert outback three men in black walk the thin line between surf and postpunk. They smoke heavily and psychedelically, purple clouds permanently emanate from underneath their black rimmed cowboy hats. Among them they share a love for old bands like Joy Division, Dick Dale, and The Gun Club. And currently they are entranced by outfits like A Place To Bury Strangers, The Horrors, and King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard. Mostly they just want to rock out though, and they want their audience to dance like there’s no tomorrow.
Like their fellow Italian countrymen A/lpaca they know exactly how to make crowds sweat, and how to write the ear worm tunes that could potentially entrance the masses. Lumen Del Mundo is not easy listening though, and it is still rough and heavy enough to scare most dancing little girls back to their respective mamas. It is doubtful then that this album will bring 23 And Beyond The Infinite any popstar fame, but just might bring them to enough dark and smelly basements across Europe to achieve a steady underground status.
I for one can’t wait to join them in their dusty desert trip, as they surf the waves of sand from dystopian post punk bomb shelters to other borderline shady rock ‘n roll communities where they will reap new souls for their quest of bringing their Lumen Del Mundo to the world…
I had to have a chat with drummer Gianluca from the band, we talked about pandemics, influences, and new hopes and dreams…
Hi guys, how is 23 And Beyond The Infinite doing? And how have you managed the past few years? Now we’re fine, we’re playing as much shows as we can. We released our previous record during the pandemic and had to cancel a 15-shows European Tour and all the upcoming dates and it’s been frustrating… But luckily things seems to be going definitely better. We hope so.
Can you introduce the band? That band name definitely screams for an explanation :)) The band was born on May 23rd 2012 and that’s the reason for the number 23 in the name. Beyond the Infinite because we don’t want to have any kind of limit and also because it’s a nice quote from 2001: a Space Odyssey. We started as a 4-piece band but now we’re the 3 of us. Our music is influenced by a lot of different things like post-punk, shoegaze, psychedelia, surf rock and we never thought about playing a specific music genre. We just meet and play as it comes.
Can you describe your hometown/regional scene in Italy? Are there many bands you feel connected with? Here in Italy, probably more than anywhere else, there’s a truly shitty mainstream scene but also a lot of cool bands and artists moving in the underground and we love this kind of a strong contrast. There are also many independent spaces, radios and webzines and we hope we’ll be able to create a strong independent net in the underground one day. In some ways we feel connected with many artists. Here are some random names you should listen to: Forever Alien, Unruly Girls, Faintin’ Goats, Clustersun, Hate Moss, God Of The Basement, Lame, Movie Star Junkies, Maria Violenza, Iosonouncane, Violent Scenes, The Jackson Pollock.
What can you tell me about the making of Lumen Del Mundo? What was your goal at the start, and how did the process go? Lumen Del Mundo is our first record as a 3-piece band. It started as an experiment but easily became our roughest work until now. We put a lot of energies in it and we hope we’re also able to transfer them to the listeners. The composing process has been very natural and the live recording and the post-production (made by a magician called James Aparicio) truly emphasize our live impact and energy and our natural way of playing this strange mix between post-punk, garage, shoegaze and surf rock.
What other bands in the world do you feel a connection with? Are there certain bands or types of music that all band members agree on? Sure there are. Spacemen 3, The Black Angels or Messerchups for an example are bands all of us have been listening to a lot and they probably influenced our way of playing. But we all listen to a lot of different Italian and International stuff. Recently we’ve often been listening to King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard while on tour, they’re crazy.
There is a certain Western/surf vibe throughout the record that gives it a warm vibe, even though it is quite a dark record at times too…can you explain where that comes from? It’s not easy to explain it, but for us has been really easy to mix this deep dark post- punk sacredness with some warm desert-surf-psych waves. We really didn’t think about how the record should play before composing it, we just met and started playing and we wrote all the songs in a few months. Lumen Del Mundo contains all these vibes and it’s kind of a sum of our art. We feel it like a strong ray of light coming from the deep space to rip the darkness.
What can you tell me about your upcoming tour? Any other future plans? We’re playing many shows around Italy during this Spring-Summer and we’re also working hard to tour Europe again during next Autumn. Stay tuned, beautiful news are coming soon.
What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after this interview? Obviously he has to listen to our last album and then to all the other interesting music that is coming around.
Mankind has sung songs from the moment they could utter words, and probably even before. In folk music and pagan cultures people have always used their mother tongue to tell each other ancient tales of their people. Of course since the introduction of pop music almost a century ago the world has mostly switched to English as a universal language to express ourselves, but of course there are exceptions. Today I’d like to highlight two of them, and focus on why they use the language they use, and what it means for their art. They are Moura from Spain, and Leda from Italy.
With Axexan, espreitan (2022, Spinda Records) Moura from Galicia emerges with their second album of adventurous psychedelic and progressive folk rock. Galicia is an autonomous community in the North of Spain, and Moura is proudly raising its flag for awareness and pride in their heritage. The music breathes a certain ancient folklore tradition, through its rhythm, and instrumentation, but also very much through its lyrics. Now, I cannot understand more than basic Spanish, let alone the Galician language Moura sings in, but it is clear that these lyrics are meaningful tales of Moura’s Galician roots, and the music brilliantly helps painting this picture.
More than just a traditional ethno folk group though, Moura has implemented influences from psychedelic 60s and 70s rock, like lush organs and hazy repetitive jams, that give their sound a unique twist. The fact that they have maintained their original language helps them stay absolutely sincere. It might raise the bar for interested people from without the Spanish language sphere, but once you’re in there is a captivating world of colorful depth to explore.
Axexan, espreitan is a wonderful album of psychedelic music in a language different from mine that still speaks to the same heart; the universal love for self-minded and creative music. The English language is faling me in expressing how highly I recommend this album.
Leda- Marocco Speed (2022, Il Piccio Records)
(Leda is not on Bandcamp)
The first time I heard of Italy’s Leda it was the title track of their latest album Marocco Speed. I was deeply impressed by the unique sound, and placed it somewhere between the 90s triphop of Portishead and other amazing slightly psychedelic female fronted metal bands like Dust Moth. The Italian language used in the song gave it a unique twist.
The Italian language fits Leda’s music so well because it has a very Italian feel. It is quite smooth and streamlined like a well known Italian sports car, it accentuates female beauty in the center with its wonderful singer Serena Abrami, and it focuses on a light industrial vibe and style. Furthermore a song like Il Politicante has a certain bombast that feels Italian as well, like it wouldn’t be out of place echoing through a big football stadium.
Not all songs hold a similar amount of magic as the aforementioned title track, but Marocco Speed does hold a certain spell over its listeners that make you bound to it for the entire ride. It is not every day that we can take a holiday in Italy through a new and exciting rock album. Leda makes this day dream a reality.
Sometimes you just have to be bold. So when I saw my Facebook friend Melissa Crema was in the studio with her band (and one of my personal favorites) Giöbia, I couldn’t help contacting her. She has been the driving force of these Italians behind the keyboard, and to my absolute delight she was willing to answer my questions and even add some pictures. The result is a cool “look over the shoulder” of these great psych artists while they do their thing recording the new album and unveiling some details about one of the albums I most look forward to in 2023…
Hi guys, how have you been this pandemic period?
Even though the last two years of pandemic have been very stressful because of the lack of gigs, we managed to take advantage of the bad situation to work on new songs, so that our upcoming album will be ready to be released next year. On October last year we also released a split album with The Cosmic Dead on Heavy Psych Sounds. We have never stopped making music and we can say most of the time music gave us the strength to go on.
What are the current studio plans? Is everything written? Do you leave room for improv?
We are currently finalizing the new album recordings in our third studio session. For what concerns the songs we have composed and worked on so far, we have already recorded drums, guitars, bass and organs, so right now only the vocals are missing before having everything properly set for mixing. By the way, like we did in our last albums with the songs Heart of Stone and Sun Spectre, the upcoming one as well will feature some studio improvisations. We do have a natural inclination to jam, it is something we really love to do. Besides the recordings, recently we have received several proposals for gigs and festivals, so now we are focusing both on the new songs and the rehearsals in order to hit the road soon.
Is there a big difference in writing and recording compared to your last record Plasmatic Idol?
One of the differences between the previous albums and the upcoming one is that now we are recording in a new studio, called Elfo Studio, based in Piacenza, Italy. We are working closely with a very competent technical staff which has been helping us to make the most of our instruments and gear. We are really happy about this and satisfied with the sound of the songs we are working on. Unlike “Plasmatic Idol” the new album will sound rawer, I mean less sophisticated and more straightforward, so that the songs will be very impactful for the listener.
What are the lyrical themes?
The lyrics reflect the strange period we have been living, with all the frustration it brought into our lives so far. We are used to put in music our feelings and this is what we did this time too – disorientation and confusion may blur vision, but they may also be inspiring somehow. The listeners who sharpen their ears will also notice some references to the war in our songs, being that we could not remain indifferent to the what is happening in Ukraine and our hearts ache for all those who are involved.
Around what time is the album going to be finished? And which label will it be on?
We plan to finalize the new album before summer and to release it at the beginning of 2023 on Heavy Psych Sounds. It is still too early to unveil the precise date, however you will hear from us soon… stay tuned
What are your plans after recording? What is your ultimate goal for Giöbia?
Our ultimate goal is to leave a lasting mark with our music, which is our lifeblood. Our priority and what we care most about besides the recordings is to start playing again like we did before the pandemic, touring abroad and meeting old and new fans and friends. We miss the contact with people and standing on the stage in front of the crowd – that’s a unique and invaluable feeling. Our next stops will be Sideral Fest, Heavy Psych Sounds Fests in Winterthur and Salzburg, Volcano Sessions and Saalepartie. Please come and join us!
Any other projects you’re working on?
Another project we are working on is La Morte Viene Dallo Spazio. The guitar player and I we also play in this band with which we released our second album called Trivial Visions on Svart Records in March 2021, in the middle of the pandemic. We can say Giöbia and La Morte Viene Dallo Spazio run on two parallel tracks, as with this band as well we are recording the new album and getting ready for several gigs and festivals.
Lay Llamas is an Italian band project featuring Nicola Giunta and Gioele Valenti (JuJu, Herself) who have been releasing records for quite some time. Their previous record Thuban was released on Rocket Recordings and featured guest artists among which Mark Stewart of The Pop Group, and members of Goat, Clinic, and Julie’s Haircut. Goud (Gold) is just the two of them though, but it definitely sounds as eclectic, if not even more.
What we get is an imaginative jungle of bird sounds, flutes, new wave synths, all kinds of percussion elements, and vocals that sound at times like Leonard Cohen at his very darkest, and at other times like the most lysergic and stoned hippie choir you can imagine. It is dreamy music, and as surprising as dreams can be as well. One moment you find yourself in a primitive hut in Peru chanting shamanic mantras, the next you’re dancing a drugged up dance on heavily pulsating dub beats.
It’s this freedom and complete creative open mindedness that is so compelling about Lay Llamas and their new album Goud. You never know what they will do next, and what sound collage or filmic scenery lurks around the corner. It’s definitely a trip, and a recommendable one at that.
I talked to Nicola Giunta, who was happy to explain what he and Lay Llamas are all about:
Hi Nicola! How are you, how have you been doing the past years of the pandemics? What has it meant for you as a person and for being in a musician?
NG: Hi, I’m quite well, thanks!
My past two years were been…busy! And I don’t talk about Covid and pandemic issues as usual. In february 2020 my second child were born. Just at the start of pandemic here in Italy. So I did it as full time family-man.
At the same time this never seen before situation gave me a strange and lovely feeling of peacefulness. So I did a lot of new music, art, video and projects.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your daily life?
To travel space is to travel time. Modern day space rockers have always also traveled back in time a bit, specifically to the 1970s when krautrock sprouted from bands like Can, Neu!, and space rock started coming up with the legendary Hawkwind featuring a certain mr Lemmy Kilmister…Farflung is very much aware of this history, being around for quite some time themselves already. Now they are returning to the international stages through the vinyl re-release of their stellar 1995 debut album 25.000 Feet Per Second on Sulatron Records. Cause for celebration of course, and for an elaborate chat with the band’s main two members TommyGrenas and Michael Esther. Better buckle up for this one, because it is going to be quite a trip into the past and present of this space rock institution!
Can you tell me how you have managed as a musician during the corona crisis so far? In what way(s) has it affected your ways?
Michael: it has changed everything here. We live in a small town in Italy close to the first epicenter of the pandemic. It’s been really difficult and I worry about how it will effect the independent music scene and what it will look like going forward…. In terms of my own creative practice, the current vibe has affected it in what ways I am not sure. I will need a bit of distance, a bit of of time to see in what manner it shaped things.
Tommy: It did not really effect me that much for a couple of reasons. I moved away from the big city [Los Angeles] about 3 years ago to Ulster county, NY, in the Catskills, and it’s in the forest on the side of a mountain, kinda isolated. I still go back to Los Angeles to do non musical work to keep me financially afloat.
Farflung has never really earned the band much money, and I do get some small royalties from the many Lps and Eps released over the years, but I certainly don’t make any sort of living from it. The band is also spread around the globe a bit, so we don’t just get together and play a lot of shows either. This is the way it’s usually been for quite a while.
It has not ‘Artistically, ‘ affected us either. Michael works on ideas and music in Milan mostly, and I pen lyrics, flesh ideas out and write mostly play riffs, melodies on guitar and make note of them when the urge takes me. As I said I travel to LA to work, and at the end of a job, meet up at Farflung’s 2nd home now’ “Saturn moon “ studios in Yucca Valley, the high desert. I’m joined there by Chris’s Nakatta, owner, multi musican, engineer, and Farflung drummer. Also longtime guitarist and swell guy, Paul Hisher meets up to add to whatever gets created. The core drums, guitar and bass is laid down, and then we flesh it all out between Milan, NY, and Yucca to create something.
We rarely play in the States. I’m just not really into doing that here. But we do love playing in Europe. We usually play at least every couple of years there, and that’s where Corona virus effected us. Unavoidable really, but I have to say we’re not like a lot of bands that heavily rely on that. I really do feel for other musicians and our booking company IBD, who must have suffered through it. We’ll be out again when it passes I hope.
Can you tell me a little bit of where and how you guys live and how you usually go about your day?
I usually go for a long hike with my dog into the forest, and to the bottom of the small mountain I live on. It takes me through the trees and along streams , rivers ,rock formations and shady areas where I can find mushrooms and plants to take home . After that I usually call into Los Angeles to try to set up work , check in with my friends online, family in Northern Ireland, Michael in Italy etc…
There’s a lot of maintaining and work to do at the house, it’s a constant or nature and the elements can take over fast, but it’s work outside mostly and I love that. We also have our own water now, and a backup generator cos the power is out often. We are subjected to a lot of freakish sudden weather sometimes. My wife Abby Travis is a musician also, and we’ve made a pretty good studio in the old basement dug into the side of the hill. It sounds good. She works there more than I do.
My life is mostly keeping the house alive, then sporadic hard periods of work in LA to make money. I work on music here and there, but it needs to come naturally. Farflung I think has worked this way for a long time. There’s never been an urgency to release something, and we’ve never been on a big label that’s demanding a life on the road or a lot of commercial work opportunities. I don’t think back in the day we would have turned that down, but now we’re groaning old men. It works out ok I guess ha ha.
Michael : I live in a small town in Northern Italy, on the banks of a river… The opposite of Los Angeles, things here are slow and quiet…. A day usually consists of, in no particular order Play with my cats…. House chores Work on visual art Work on music Bake bread Read
You have been around in the psych/stoner/kraut scene in Europe and the USA for quite some time, what is or was the best time for this scene would you think and why? Can you share some memories?
Michael: That’s difficult to say, when you’re young everything is new and exciting…. I hope the psych scene will keep rebirthing itself in interesting ways….
In terms of memories there are so many. Maybe meeting people and having the chance to play shows and collaborate. Roedelius, Going fishing with Damo, shrooms with Del and Nik, Dave Catching’s and BOC’s cooking and generosity, Ian Maclagan’s guitar, Hutch’s workshop. Tom Grimley’s noise bombs, Raging Slab‘s farm, Silver Apples, Gong, Amon Duul, Ronnie Wood, weird parties in the hills……I could go on and on and on……
It’s always been my favorite genre. I grew up in the world of post punk and alternative, but as mark e smith said, know your history. Older friends and of course John peel taught us of the forefathers of it all, and this is what really interested me. I lived in the shadow of Hawkwind, Gong, and here and now, but it was upon discovering Can, and Neu I really got inspired to make the music I do. Yes, I grew up and played in garage bands in Belfast and the UK doing our version of our punk hero’s etc, but the cosmic route was the grounding rod.
After living briefly in london, I moved to Los Angeles in the mid 80s with this firm in my brain, and what surprised me was that space rock, krautrock awareness was almost non existent. I met some folk like Don Bolles of the Germs, and Damion Romero of Slug who loved the sounds of kraut especially Neu but that was it until I met Len del Rio, my partner in my first band Pressurehed, then Michael Esther of course in Farflung. Pressurehed was a cross pollination of industrial punk, and spacerock. I released about 3 Lps with that band and did many shows in the collage rock underbelly of Los Angeles. I had heard a few bands around the US spacerock scene, but apart from fi, Mars everywhere, alien planetscapes, architectural metaphors, and scattered planets, it seemed like a lot of bands were Hawkwind tributes or rather weak sounding pseudo prog cover bands. Pressurehed , Helianthus, and Farflung were always a movement combining trippy elements to take the influences and move it forward.
I also think as far as Hawkwind was concerned, people totally missed out here on the tribal, freak, political communal intent of the group of musicians I grew up listening to, and being artists trying to create a movement of radical and conceptual sound. Same goes for Amon Duul II, and Faust etc. You had people that were just not in a band for being a band, but movements including radical visual, theatrical and spoken word artists creating a movement. Later with psych I feel, things got really boring and predictable when rather square characters were basing their sound on pseudo metal concepts that I never understood. whilst I somewhat kinda loosely liked some metal, I thought it was mostly a cheesy gag . I still don’t understand the rather silly culture around it other than having a rocking when drunk like for the music, but a chuckle for the content.
Farflung I like to think, was more aligned with things cross pollinating in the early 90s with many influences. Like many folk might have quoted the Butthole Surfers with a rock vibe like Chrome or tg, Loop channeling- seminal Stooges, Spacemen 3 – vibing Suicide, I’d more think of us as a kinda Amon Duul, Ashra Temple, Cabaret Voltaire , sorta thing at the time. That’s just my opinion for what we were doing when we started. We were playing lots of free shows and collage gigs when we started, our roots were firmly planted in that atmosphere. We shared the stage with a very eclectic and diverse crowd of performers and audiences.
Can you tell me specifically about the time 25000 FT was released? What was the status of the band at that time? What was the reception? Did you tour a lot…etc!
Michael: It was a great time filled with lots of energy and musical experimentation. Brandon and I were students at Calarts and were tied into that scene. There were three schools: Calarts, Art Center and Layola Marymount, each had it own little music scenes and they cross pollinated in the East LA music scene……
It was a somewhat unique crowd of people and performers all trying to create and melt in a mostly non rock environment in Los Angeles based around collage radio and individualism as I just described.
Europe is no stranger to themed events or outsider festivals, but it was rather non existent in Los Angeles where the band was based at the time we started. Apart from the odd event type things set up by likewise minds here and there, it was the usual hair band nightclub like venues where most bands had to run the boring gauntlet to get a gig.
We did not have any desire to be a part of that, so warehouse , art studios, loft gigs were more our thing. Most of these were themed evenings combining mixed media artists and performers. It was not necessarily a rock type thing.
When I met Michael, when his band Helianthus was playing gigs around the Calarts collage area and my band Pressurehed, around punk and loft venues. When Farflung was born, we were writing a lot and playing in this circuit when flipside magazine approached us to record our first lp 25000 ft.
We had known the work Tom Grimlry had been doing with Slug, the Haden sisters, Beck, Rod Pool, Polar Goldicats , Uphill Gardeners, etc, etc, and liked his sound. It was also important to me that there was a diversity and total individualism with each band, with the outcome being equal in productive freedom.
When we went there with our post punky, krauty alternate sounds it was a total un-challenged freedom to create that first lp. We have definitely weaved our way through different periods but the intent has never changed. We continued to play what I remembered as cool events and interesting evenings at that time.
Michael: We did a few short tours. But it was difficult in those days in the states. We did one with Raging Slab and another short East Coast thing with Nik. Nik Turner and Farflung as the Sons of Cydonia…..
Tommy: Long tours really weren’t an option.
We would also jaunt up to sf at that time but that was the extent. When 25000 ft came out it was a very local underground type of deal. We had our fans and people but it was very localized.
During that period we realized demos and the cd were spreading between the collage radio stations and reaching the early networks of diehard spacerock fans. I was also keeping in contact a bit with some of the Hawkwind folk like Nik, Hawkwind guys, and Helios Creed.
Which or what influences have made you into the musician you are to today? Can you recall the moment you knew you just had to “go for it”?
Michael: Music for me while growing up, was a thing that was always present. It gave me an overwhelming joy…. Music as well as books and visual art were mysterious and transported me to other worlds. I just naturally gravitated to towards doing those activities.
I grew up in San Francisco, the Stones were playing. Probably the 1972 tour maybe the Winterland. There was footage on the evening news of Jagger dancing around with a huge scarf. To my parents dismay, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I just wanted to dance around with scarves…I wanted to be just like him but I ended up more like a damaged Richards. Tommy and I even to this day after a few whiskies have been known to break out our Jagger dances….
As I said, early Hawkwind, Neu!, Can, Cabaret Voltaire, Amon Duul II, the Fall, This Heat, lots of post punk bands. But I also love early dub, severed heads, soundtrack music ect ect. The biggest influence though is the day to day experience and my band mates around me. I’ve always bounced ideas between me and Michael, and now Chris and Paul. We’re a band in every sense of the word, I just tend to move rather fast on things and go off the wall here and there. As a kid, I remember the first time I had the go-for-it experience was probably hearing radio Luxembourg playing, neon lights by Kraftwerk in bed one night on a transistor radio.
I was just blown away by the simplicity and change in the rock dominated sound at that time. It really sounded to me like things had moved into modern times, and it did not mean anything to me specifically about synthesized sound or whatever, rather than I was entranced and moved by it. Not long before that, like most kids in Belfast, it was Never Mind The Bollocks. My gran was mortified when by accident she walked into my room when Johnny sung Bodies and dropped the tea tray. Also, they were all over the papers etc. I just loved them and that lp at the time. Fondness but not necessarily influence was watching Top of the pops in Ireland as a kid, Sparks, the Sweet, T-rex, Bowie, all that stuff in the mists of time.
What do you think about the psych “scene” today, is there one? Do you feel there is a lot of support for our music these days? Was it better before, and how?
Tommy Yes. I am glad that in recent years, Wooden Shjips, Electric Moon, Dead Skeletons, etc are around, but also I the recent past Loop, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, 35007, the Heads etc are making sound. I don’t care for “stoner rock” or Sabbath clone rock, it’s overdone and always has been. It’s time to get over the desert thing. Most bands out there have been over that and moved on a long time ago. As I said before I don’t listen to progressive metal or any metal stuff for the most part, but don’t have any thing to say to people do. It’s their own bag. I’m a bit of a historian, I’m still discovering new bands from the past to this day. I’m a crazy record collector and have a lot of obscure and interesting things. I’m so caught up in discovery, I don’t really pay that much attention to the current. Paul in Farflung turns me on to a lot of new things. Some of them I’m like. It’s a pity we have not toured in a while due to Covid, as it’s a great opportunity to shatter the past and the now in the van.
The psychedelic music scene has of course always had associations with drug use, or at least being inspired by the use of certain psychedelics.In what way have you experienced drugs as an inspiration for your art?
Tommy: Yes of course. I live up here in the wilds of Ulster co New York. There’s a lot of things growing in our woods, not also for the mind but also the body. I’ve learned a lot. I can’t think of any Farflung lp were it might not have played a part in something. My musical contribution with FF is a form of shamanism in some form or another. What grows is a gift.
Michael: In my youth, it was about expanding my consciousness. A search for greater meaning and understanding. A type of slowed down focus….a soft world……but that’s a long time ago now. We’ve seen the upside and downside of that path…… In relation to our collective musical work. I am always searching for a kind of feeling inside the sound that we are making, that is difficult for me to locate with words. Sometimes we accomplish it and sometimes not….
Can you tell me about your current status? What about Farflung should be aware of or waiting for?
Michael: I am hoping this year will be one of lots of activity. We have lots of ideas we are kicking around….
Tommy We just finished a new lp that is in the works with Dave and Sulatron records. We are very happy to be working with our old friend. It’s basically mixed but who knows when it will come out.
(The pressing situation in general is quite dire and there’s a huge backlog dave has to deal with due to Covid,. )
It’s mixed and I just finished the artwork. I think it’s a natural progression from all the last Lps. We don’t like to repeat ourselves, but broaden the horizons. It’s a very natrual progress, and maybe this is the most cohesive recording from the most solid lineup of me, Mike, paul, and chris from the past, 10 years or so. It’s a transcendental journey that has the “Farflung flow” that is our signature, passages and journeys through the minds of the disturbed, euphoria, and unknown. I rather happy with it.
Which current artist do you like? Which artist would you like to read an interview with?
Tommy: I kinda like the psych band A Place To Bury Strangers, but they seem to be getting rather popular and maybe have enough interviews already. Dave from Sula Basanna ‘s Loop Drones lp is astounding, I think maybe you just did one from him. I don’t know really. I’ve never read an interview with Del Dettmar from Hawkwind. I know he lives alone in Kootenay Bay in British Columbia and has done so for the past 35 years. He played with the band Melodic Energy Commission in the past, but has been steadily making music on the VCS3 since he moved there. He lives alone in a cabin and used to plant trees out there . His music is very interesting and cosmic. I’d love to hear about what’s going on in his world.
Michael: In terms of new artists Tommy is much more up on that than I am…. Del sounds like a great choice to me …..
What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do directly after this interview?
Tommy: Go outside and look up at he sky.
Michael: Then look down, dig a hole and plant a seed….
Talking about a record that does exactly what it says on the tin: The Intergalactic Connection: Exploring the sideral remote hyperspace is exactly the super psychedelic trip into space and beyond it promises to be.
The two veteran bands, Giöbia from Italy and The Cosmic Dead from Scotland, complement each other quite brilliantly on this 38-minute wonderful little split record released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Giöbia contributes two new songs and a cover of Pink Floyd‘s Julia Dream, while The Cosmic Dead takes up the entire B-side with their 20 minute monster jam Crater Creator.
Giöbia is one of my favorite psych bands out there, playing a lush melodic style of psychedelic rock with influences from ancient folk music as well as early Pink Floyd and classic space rock. Their sound is heavy on the synths, and I love the way they interchange male and female vocals. It’s a very versatile sound that never bores and keeps me hungry for more (where’s that next full length!).
The Cosmic Dead on the other hand are by far the heavier of the two. Taking their time to let their jam Crater Creator warm up, they then embark on a sonic space journey full of distorted guitar wailing and intuitive psychedelic outbursts. You can hear the eardrums pop when imagining this band in a live setting. I find it a consolation that on this record I am the master of the volume and the captain of this sonic space ship.
This split album presents us with two completely different bands embarking on the same mission: to conquer space and to leave its listeners swirling and longing for more new tunes. Hopefully their black hole will be filled by Heavy Psych Sounds soon, but for now this brilliant split will do nicely.