2011 has seen THEE OH SEES bringing us their masterpiece ‘Carrion Crawler / The Dream’, think Syd Barrett playing guitar in the Butthole Surfers doing 1960′s garage punk rock songs….The Saviours of rock music?? Quite possibly….
Category Archives: Interviews
With their third and arguabily their best album to date about to be unleashed Wooden Shjips Ripley Johnson takes time out to speak to Behind the Wall of Sleep….
1) Wooden Shjips in this form have been around since 2006, can you tell us how it all came together? How does it differ to the earlier pre 2006 WS?
The first iteration of Wooden Shjips started a few years earlier as a group of non-musicians, aside from myself. The idea was to make very primative but intuitive improvisational psychedelic music. It was great while it lasted but eventually lost steam, with some of the members not wanting to perform live or commit further to the project. After it fell apart I started over with the current lineup, all friends in San Francisco.
2) How did the deal with Thrill Jockey come about?
We recorded the album with Phil Manley of Trans Am, Life Coach, Jonas Reinhardt, and he recommended Thrill Jockey to us. Everyone else we talked to had nothing but good things to say about the label.
3) ‘West’ is an awesome album and probably your best yet. How does it compare to your early stuff; ‘Dos’ for example?
To be honest I haven’t listened to our older stuff in over a year, so it’s hard to say. Whenever I listen to our albums they sound really slow to me, which is funny. I guess this one is mostly different sonically because we were working with Phil, in a proper studio for the first time.
4) How did it work as your first ‘studio’ based album? Will all WS albums now studio based? How was it working with Sonic Boom?
It was a great experience. We worked very fast, sort of Neil Young style. I think it was three days of tracking, two of mixing. I’d like a little more time for the next one but I could imagine doing something similar. Sonic Boom is real a pleasure to work with. Really we just send him the tracks and he peforms his magic. But he has a real enthusiasm for music that is inspiring. It comes through in the work and even just in his emails.
5) ‘West’ is about the mythology of the Wild West. What attracted you to this?Did your move West yourself have anything to do with this?
It’s been an ongoing fascination since I was young. It’s a very American sort of obsession. What brought that focus to this record was partly my move. But oddly enough it was a move east, not west. I moved from SF to Colorado, a state which feels more “western” in the 1800′s, gold rush, cowboy sense. So that was on my mind, and also leaving San Francisco and all that I love about California and that aspect of the west.
6) Although you are not originally from San Fransisco – could WS have come from any other city?
Probably but it’s hard to imagine. We all lived in San Francisco for so long that we’re very much a product of that culture.
7) Are they any / many current bands you feel WS have an affinity with?
There are certain bands that we bro down with when we cross paths at festivals or shows I guess. It’s more personal than musical though. In a lot of ways I feel like we function inside a bubble.
8) Do you write differently for WS as compared to Moon Duo?
Not really. Some songs might have a particular bass line so I’ll set them aside for the Shjips. But usually I just focus on whatever project is at hand and just start writing.
9) Where do you think WS have had a most impact – the US or Europe?
I really have no sense of any impact. I’m kind of oblivious to that sort of thing. We’ve toured more in Europe and the west coast of the US than anywhere else, so that has had some effect maybe.
10) WS seem to be well respected with psych fans, indie kids, skate kids, rock fans – what ingredient makes this?
I hope that’s true. We try to be righteous.
11) Anything you what to add?
Be cool. Stay in school.
San Franciscan improvisational space rock outfit Carton Melton play loud, experimental, instrumental, psychedelic music and record live inside a dome using omni-directional microphones. If you like old SST label cassette tapes or an early Spaceman 3 cassette you recently found wedged in the back seat of your car you may dig some of this… or perhaps you like to listen and gaze at an old David Crosby LP now and then. You’ll dig this….Drumming power horse Andy Duvall recently took time out to speak to Behind The Wall of Sleep’s Jason Stoll:
1. What’s the philosophy behind Carlton Melton? How did you guys get together again?
CARLTON MELTON began innocently enough in the summer of 2008. I guess we wanted to find out what our idea of psychedelic music would sound like being played LOUDLY inside a geodesic dome in the sticks of Mendocino County, California. (Brian McDougall resides here/ he is also ‘dome’ drummer much of the time on our recordings/ he also records us). No neighbors/ no anything to worry about- surrounded only by redwoods, a beautiful view of the Pacific ocean and the occasional mountain lion or brown bear. To us, it seemed like the ideal venue for what we wanted to do. Honestly though, we didn’t have any idea what it was going to sound like; it was- and still is- a free for all. Totally off-the-cuff; there is no preparation/rehearsal/rhyme or reason.
Rich and I are dear friends. We have been playing music together for 21 years now. We played in Zen Guerrilla from 1990- 2003. Rich took a breather from the live circuit for a few years to raise his children. Even then, though, Rich and I would jam together on occasion, usually up at the dome. Now with CARLTON MELTON, Rich and I feel truly comfortable with what we are doing- it’s almost telepathic. It’s honest.
2. What are your influences?
Spacemen 3, Country Joe and the Fish, My Bloody Valentine, Roscoe Holcomb, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Bardo Pond, early Flaming Lips, Loop, Neil Young, Canned Heat, Charlie Tweddle, VOID, 13th Floor Elevators, Hendrix- it goes on and on.
3. Where did the name come from?
Rich and I knew this guy Carlton Melton from Wilmington, Delaware (our hometown)- I went to school with him and Rich played (American) football against him. He was just this bad-ass little guy who everyone looked up to. Years later, Rich and I meet another guy with the same name in California. And on that first jam session in July ’08, we decided that must be the band name. The name definitely has a ring to it- works well for a psych rock band.
4. You played in Zen Guerilla – how does the music scene today compare with your times then? The music scene today- at least the one I partake in- is much more easy-going and a pleasure do be a part of than the ZG days. Rich hit the nail on the head when he recently said many bands/labels in the ’90′s seemed to go out of their way at being cynical/negative/’tough guys’- people going out of their way to be an ass. Nowadays it seems people are more on the same page- maybe that is just a sign of getting older. I like the scene much more now.
5. Is San Fransisco the psych capital of the world??
San Francisco is definitely psychedelic, as is much of northern California. You can smell it in the air. It’s in the ground you walk on. But there is too much wonderful psych music coming from everywhere on the planet to give SF the trophy.
6. You recently toured Europe with Acid King – how did it go? How is playing Europe compared to US dates? (Wooden Shjips said they prefer playing Europe as audiences are a lot more receptive)
The tour with Acid King was a blast. Two weeks with them in Europe, then we did another week in the UK on our own. I love touring Europe/UK! It’s sad to say, but touring the US is a grind. For the most part, LONG drives/ poor guarantees/ poor turnouts. ZG toured the states several times before we made it to Europe; it’s like night and day. But, I’m really glad I got my feet wet touring America first/ no frills/ no expectations. Then you go to Europe and it feels like the red carpet is rolled out for you every night. AND you get fed! Yes, the European crowds are much more receptive.
7. How did the deal with England’s Agitated Records come about?
We met Simon Keeler in the ZG days- actually, I think the first time he saw us was in Austin, TX @ SXSW, maybe ’97? Years pass, CARLTON MELTON is born, Simon catches wind of us, and here we are. He gets us.
8. How well has ‘Country Ways’ been received?
“Country Ways” is getting great press- 4 stars in MOJO, Kerrang loves it; I’m pleasantly surprised that there are people out there that really get what we’re doing. I know we are not everyone’s cup of tea, but so far I haven’t read/heard much negative feedback. And if someone doesn’t like it, that’s fine too. You are not going to please everyone.
It’s pretty cool- the metal crowd digs us, the psych crowd digs us- we can play with almost any band and it will work.
9. I love the footage on YouTube of you jamming with J Mascis. How did that come about?
J Mascis bought a copy of our first lp, “Pass It On…” at Aquarius records in SF (they happened to be playing it when he walked in). I guess he liked what he heard; he ended up putting it on his list of top ten albums of 2009. When I read that, I was floored. And this past January, CM played a gig with Dead Meadow and Sweet Apple. J plays drums for Sweet Apple. My friend was tour managing for them and the day before the SF gig he asked J if he would be interested in jamming with us. Mascis showed up to the gig, I asked him if he wanted to jam “When You’re In”, and he said yes. We even got in a soundcheck with him since he was using a guitar he purchased earlier in the afternoon. That was definitely a highlight in my rock world.
10. Future plans?
Maybe some California dates with White Hills in September. Also, Europe 2012 with Mugstar! We’re just gonna keep on keeping on.
Portland’s Grails bring joy to my world. Since 2003 they have released 8 albums, including four volumes of ‘Black Tar Prophecies’ and have toured Europe extensively. They even have a member of Om amongst them. Their latest album “Deep Politics” is a record deep in atmosphere and Morricone-esqe stylings bringing with it a feeling of post-apocalyptic-rock. Alex Hall speaks to Jason Stoll.
1. Can you tell us how Grails came together?
Emil and I were introduced by a mutual friend in 2000 in order to play a brief set at a kind of mixed media art show. But it was surprisingly well-received and went from being a one-off thing to a recording project and the rest of the guys were recruited to help in the studio. And then the recordings were well-received, so it became an actual band, and here we are somehow in 2011…
2. Has the band developed in the way you expected?
The only constant in the band has been a lack of expectations. For as prolific and active as the band has been, we’ve never had anything resembling a “career” path. After completion of a record, we honestly have no idea what the next one will sound like. Or when the next tour will be once we’re back home. This attitude has certainly not benefitted the band, when it comes to things like success in the marketplace, but I guess the notion of careerism in rock music has just never settled well with me.
3.You seem to have moved from a post-rock perspective to a Morricone-esqe soundtrack style – Do you think being instrumental has helped this?
Sure, it’s probably easier to absorb as an influence the music of someone like Morricone when your band isn’t built around one person telling stories. But I guess I’ve never thought there was anything very remarkable, or even inherently interesting, about playing instrumental music. Instrumental forms have had a huge place in popular music from the very beginning.
4. How does Emil’s involvement in Om / Holy Suns impact on Grails? Especially with Om being quite high-profile. Has this worked for or against the band?
It’s worked out fine so far, since Emil’s been willing to way overextend himself in order to make it all work. We’ve benefited from his suffering, I’m sure.
5. How is Temporary Residence as a label compared to say Important Records or Neurot Recordings?
Each label has its own way of operating, and we’ve taken that into account when it comes to finding homes for releases. In the last several years, Temporary Residence has been a better fit for the “proper” albums, with Important better suited for the more idiosyncratic stuff. In general, we’ve been incredibly lucky with the labels that we’ve had the opportunity to work with. This band has never had a bad label experience. How many people can say that? The folks behind all of the labels we’ve worked with are some of our best friends in the world.
6. Are there going to be Black Tar Prophecies Vol. 5, 6, 7, etc?
Yeah, Vol. 5 will be out later in the year, and we’re going to pull 4,5,&6 together on a cd to make a complete album, just like with Vol’s 1,2,3. The cd will be next year. But then that’s it, promise.
7. There seems to be an occult leaning to your music – is this a fair comment and if so what is your interest in this?
It’s mostly an escapist device, a backdoor to altered states or spiritual realms. We make music to escape the more mundane aspects of our own lives; why write a song that sounds like a trip to the grocery store?
The Silver Apples tour was kinda weird. We were billed as the headliners for all but one of the shows and it just felt a bit awkward. Simeon is a wonderful guy and was very gracious about it, but I swore that you could catch tiny glimpses of his despair over the situation. His is a sad story – a totally seminal figure in the history of electronic music, supremely fucked over for decades by the recording industry, finding himself doing support for our band 45 years into his career? That’s a tear-jerker of a documentary, right there. But like I said, he was very very cool and even jammed with us at the end of our set on a few of the nights. There’s a live recording that’s not bad of us playing together in NYC that’s floating around on the internet somewhere.
9. Are your live shows still expanded with Randell Dunn?
No, that was just for one tour. We have a couple of ace musician friends that are playing with us now, filling out the frequencies with synths/keys, lap steel, melodica, percussion, other stuff…..The band has honestly never sounded better live. It’d be great to bring this lineup to Europe soon..
10. What are the high and low point of being Grails?
There’s really not very many low points. It’s easy enough on certain days to get bummed out by ‘lazy journalists’ or by the more shallow or satanic aspects of today’s musical culture….but other than that, we feel very privileged to do what we do. We get to make whatever kind of records we want and still have amazing label support and an audience of active listeners to whom the music means a great deal. I don’t know what else we could ask for.
11. When are you back over to Europe?
Not really sure…Like always, we have a limited amount of time that we can devote to touring and we’re focusing on playing in the US this year. So it won’t be until next year at the earliest.
12. Future plans?
The band exists to make records, so as long as Grails exists, that’s what we’ll be doing…
Keith Morris Circle Jerks / Black Flag front man’s new project is a force to be seen; a punk rock supergroup featuringBurning Brides frontman Dimitri Coats, Redd Kross bassist Steven Shane McDonald and Rocket From The Crypt / Hot Snakes drummer Mario Rubalcaba. The band came together after a Circle Jerks recording by Coats fell apart, so Morris and Coats formed Off! They released 1st EP in October 2010 which, along with three more EPs, were later released as a four 7″ vinyl box set entitled First Four EPs in December 2010. Behind The Wall of Sleep’s Marc Glaysher talks to Dimitri Coats….
So how did you guys start jamming together and form what was to be OFF!?
It sort of happened by accident. Keith and I found ourselves in a situation where we were writing songs together. I was hired to help out his other band and the whole thing crumbled around us so we decided to do something with the tunes. Steven and Mario were our first choices for a rhythm section. We played them what we had and they both said yes.
As Important Records reaches its tenth year; Behind The Wall Of Sleep talk to John Brien about his experiences of running one of the most eclectic record labels out there.
Important was started in 2001 in a small house on the beach along the New Hampshire seacoast. The first two releases, from Daniel Johnston and Merzbow no less, stated the breadth of intentions and set out to run a label that would function much like a good record shop with a wide range of interesting records under one roof. After ten years and 300 records Important Records are only getting better.
1) It’s been ten years of Important Records can you tell us how this all started?
I was working at a record shop in Portsmouth, NH with a great customer base and incredible co-workers. It was an environment of sharing and caring and it couldn’t have been better. We were part of a 10 store regional chain and the manager had really insulated us from the demands of the head office which, ultimately, got him fired. I quit the day he was fired because there was no way I was going to work for the office. I had a teaching degree which I wasn’t using and I started Important as I was trying to line up a teaching job. Initially, it was a label and a web-store. I was so busy that the teaching job fell by the wayside and I kept going with Important.
2) What have been you highlights of doing Important Records? And your fave release… if you can pick one? One of mine is Cave’s debut…
Personal highlights have been getting to know artists I really admire and developing layout and design skills. I’ve had to learn a lot of things I didn’t go to school for in order to run this label and this process has been a tremendous source of growth for me.
The highest points have been working wtih new artists and seeing them not only succeed under Important but then continue on to even greater successes.
3) Any low points?
Plenty. I think the weirdest might have been when Nate from Wolf Eyes threatened me physically (via email) over a packaging dispute. I’d used some 10″ inserts for a 12″ LP and they hated it. They’d recently used almost the same packaging for an Ecstatic Peace! LP so I thought it would be okay. I reprinted the jackets immediately and lost money on the project but still got harrassing emails from them about trying to “capitalize on Wolf Eyes.” The false perception of my intentions and the threats were upsetting enough but the worst is when artists you admire are upset with your work. Obviously, there have been many tremendous successes and this sort of thing is rare but when it happens it’s pretty rough. Working from home is hard because when you’re upset everyone knows it.
4) Important Records is renowned for having an extremely diverse catalogue – was this something you sent out to do from the start? Or has it changed from your initial vision?
I wanted to run a label that functioned like a great record shop.
5) Artwork and presentation seems to be an important esthetic of many Important releases. How do you work with this?
It’s changed over the years. Originally, I was fixated with the idea of developing a cardboard LP style CD jacket that had strength and quality but over the years my interest has focused more on the quality of the design than the quality of the packaging. I think a great record looks/sounds/feels great if it’s designed well even if it’s packaged in a jewel box or a digi. These days I’m less concerned with packaging and more concerned with quality.
6) Many bands seem to release records on Important and also have a home with other labels – i.e. Grails. How does this work for you?
I’m happy to have a non-exclusive relationship with artists, most of the time. I must admit, however, that losing Cave to Drag City broke my heart.
7) Has having a label become more difficult with more and more people downloading music legally? You now give free download tokens with any vinyl release – has this helped?
Important is structured so that I don’t have to sell a lot of copies to break even. The label started in 2001 when downloading was really picking up steam so I’m not sure I’ve ever really been conscious of the impact of illegal downloads. Important has never sold a lot of any one specific title so I don’t really have any comparative experience.
8) You seem to release a number of records each month – you can’t have another job too?
It’s been my only job for ten years. I’ve never rented space and instead ran it from home with a barn for a warehouse. To be honest, after ten years of doing this all day I’m feeling a bit burnt out. The label is better than ever, I love what I’m releasing more than ever too but I’m really burnt out from all the time I spend in front of a computer. I recently broke ground on a little greenhouse and I felt more satisfied after a day of digging than I have felt after a day of sitting in front of a computer. I started a cassette label recently and the packaging is quite elaborate. It requires screen printing, cutting, scoring, letterpress printing, dubbing and assembly. I do all of these things here and it gets me away from my desk to other parts of my office and it’s helped eliminate some of the monotony of sitting at this desk all day.
Important couldn’t possibly be more engrained in my life. We live within it for better or for worse.
9) Do you hope to continue at this prolific rate?
For the time being I need to continue and there are constantly more and more incredible records landing on my desk but I’m not sure how long I can be this prolific for. That said, I have no idea what other job could bring me so much satisfaction and pride. For the time being, there are a lot of records planned and I’m moving forward while trying to balance desk work with other more stimulating work.
10) What sells best CD’s / vinyl / tees?
We sell about the same amount of CDs as we sell vinyl.
11) Future plans?
There’s a new website coming, IMPREC300 which is an LP only pressing of live tracks from Mugstar, Grails, Master Musicians Of Bukkake, Bass Communion, NHK yx, Bardo Pond and a couple of others. New records are coming soon from Christina Kubisch, Larsen, Asva, Master Musicians Of Bukkake, Eleh, Eliane Radigue, Ellen Fullman, Barn Owl.
To celebrate 10 years Important Records present IMPREC300, a vinyl only collection of exclusive live tracks from a handful of Important bands including Master Musicians Of Bukkake, Grails, Mugstar, Cave, NHK yx, Bardo Pond, Grails, Master Musicians Of Bukkake, Chord & Bass Communion.
Cave “Encino Mang”
NHK yx “15 hell think i bamboo 5″
Bardo Pond “Absence”
Grails “Back To The Monastary”
Master Musicians Of Bukkake “Iron Age Nativity/Black Moss Invocation”
Chord “C9sus4 NYC”
Bass Communion & Pig “Lost Session Edit”
For the past five years Wolf People have been making some beautiful music:
For MUGSTAR, lovers of Paris, Oneida and DW drum kits, “there isn’t enough time in the world”. In 2010 they put out two full length albums “…Sun, Broken…” and “Lime” they aren’t waiting about…Jeanette Timmons recently spoke with three members of the band.
Steve: They play a big role, usually the beginnings of tracks emerge from jamming at rehearsal, or even if one of the band brings in a rough idea or riff idea, it’s then thrashed about at length – mutating and growing towards something substantial… hopefully. Often thrashing about for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, riding the moment, reacting to what each other throws up. Then over a matter of weeks or months, tracks are replayed and reshaped.
2.How do you derive your compositions? Collaborative brainstorming / performative experimenting or compositions brought roughly hewn to the table for joint working? Do you all pitch in on composing?
Pete: I would say all of the above, there is no right or wrong way of writing. Whatever sounds good and sticks with us. You put stuff together and stuff happens.
3.How do you see your work in relation to Krautrock? Are you developing that tradition in new directions or merely reflecting in your work the importance /influence of Krautrock to your own musical path?
Neil: I think we all have a great fondness for many late 60s/70s German bands, but one of the strengths of that era was the diversity of the music produced. Many of the bands evolved their styles in isolation from each other, so it’s hard to think of it as some sort of stylistically coherent scene; the Krautrock tag was just a label of convenience from the British music press. I’m impressed by the way a lot of those bands built on the example of the more progressive American and British bands and brought in a lot of fresh influences and technological innovation to create something individual. Hopefully we bring something of that attitude to building on the bands who have influenced us.
4.Will you tour America?
Steve: Yeah, we’d love to. We seem to get really positive feedback – particularly from San Francisco area, be amazing to play over there.
5.What was it like to do a John Peel session?
Steve: Just brilliant in every way. Great to know John liked and supported us, a genuine privilege to be asked to do a session, a fantastic day recording at Maida Vale Studios…
After playing the session on air John commented that he was looking forward to following Mugstar’s progress over the coming years, sadly a few months later he was gone. Like many others we still miss him of course, he was a unique and towering presence in all our lives.
6.Are you working on the next album? What should we expect from it?
Pete: We’re working on some new tracks which I think we are going to release as split 12′s with some bands, like Kinski.
Maybe an album will come out of it.
7.If each of you could be one other musician in the world (alive or dead) rather than yourselves, whom would you each choose?
Neil: J. S. Bach
Steve: Say from a drummer’s perspective, from the past? – maybe Mitch Mitchell, being part of that whole Hendrix Experience explosion – pretty good. Or, of course John Bonham, working with Jimmy Page as the majestic Kashmir starts to emerge – just guitar and drums, JPJ then adds his fabulous textures, plus a searing Plant vocal, does it get much better? As for right now, well I love Murph’s playing and wouldn’t want to wish him any ill, but if the drumstool in the currently re-invigorated Dinosaur Jr was available…
8.What does it mean for Mugstar to be a band from Liverpool – do the geography, local culture and current music scene as well as the musical heritage associated with the city in any way inform / shape Mugstar particularly? And if so, how?
Neil: I’ve lived my entire life in Liverpool so undoubtedly the culture has imposed itself on me at some level. I don’t consciously set out to be part of the lineage of Liverpool music though. I think all of us have wide-ranging musical tastes, and Liverpool bands would probably be far less significant than, say, New York bands. In terms of the current scene, there’s a lot going on in Liverpool, a lot of bands trying new things, which can only be a positive. Also, the number of venues is helpful. It’s always easy to get gigs in Liverpool and the audience is willing to listen and support bands.
9.What challenges does the band hope to overcome in the next few years (musically or practically)?
Steve: Something we seem to be saying more and more frequently, we need to be doing Mugstar full-time.
10.If each of you could have one superpower what would you each choose?
Pete: To freeze time, because there’s not enough time in the world. You would be able to do loads of stuff, like write lots of music and go on long holidays. Save children from burning buildings and rob banks.
11.What significance does the work of minimalist composers like Philip Glass – or the Brian Eno variant thereof – have for the musical directions of Mugstar?
Neil: I recently met Rhys Chatham during his stay in Liverpool and it was fascinating to discuss minimalism with someone who is so well connected with that movement. Personally, I’m very interested in minimalism but I’d say the music we make in Mugstar only has a passing resemblance, mostly due to our love of repetition, rather than any use of systems. And repetitive music doesn’t begin with In C. Perotin was writing repetitive organa in the 12th century. I did use some electronic drones in the soundtrack though which explore tuning systems, so that’s probably the most explicit reference to minimalism in anything we’ve done. As for Eno, I’m more interested in his warped version of pop (like Before and After Science and Taking Tiger Mountain…) than his experiments in systems music.
12.Please explain the genesis and motivation behind the Hawkwind tribute project. I understand it was a long time in the making…
Steve: We’d been kicking a few Hawkwind riffs around at practices and soundchecks for a while and thought about recording something. Originally the idea was for simply a split 7″ with someone like Oneida, they were having difficulty in trying to fit the recording into their schedule, so we put feelers out to a few more bands that we really liked and thought would be suitable – and got an amazing response. So the thought was then to go for a 12″ vinyl album, but – pleasantly surprised, – we eventually ended up with over an hours worth of material – so shifted it to CD format. Yes, it took a long time to pull everything together, to allow all the bands to record and get their tracks to us, to organise the Mudhoney track from the BBC, the licensing, mastering, artwork, pressing, distro… But, well it worked out rather wonderfully in the end – well worth the wait to get something right!
13.Have there been line-up changes over the years?
Pete: I would say that Steve was the person who started it all, with the idea of doing something different musically, this current line up has been going since 2002. I think Neil joined, then I joined and Jason in 2002. It’s just developed from there. There has been changes not just to line-up, but with the music. I think you become more experienced with gigging and recording, but I think it never gets any easier. There’s a constant evolving with the music.
14.What was your best gig to date?
Neil: Uh, there have been so many I’d struggle to single out one. It can be weird that sometimes everything is against you, small crowd, bad stage, bad sound but we still play well and manage to have some satisfaction, often more so than some of the bigger and better received gigs. I guess I always like to think the best gig will be the next one. Because I like platitudinous clichés.
15.What’s your biggest fear for the band?
Steve: That we don’t get to realise our potential…
16.What’s your greatest hope for the band?
Pete: For me just to write good music and play it live.
17.Do you make the music primarily for yourselves or for a presumed audience?
Neil: When we’re in the practice room generating new material I think we just try to make the music fit together in a way that satisfies us. Once we’re performing it the situation is very different. The audience completely changes the dynamic and can push you to levels of intensity you didn’t know you were capable of. The challenge when recording is to try to recapture some of that intensity but in a form that bears repeated listening.
18.Tell us about your upcoming soundtrack and film.
Steve: We’d talked on and off about doing a film for quite a while really, with varying degrees of seriousness. Neil was really into it and had written a script “Ad Marginem”, before meeting with film-maker Liam Yates, Liam was keen to do it and the two of them spent much of last year putting it together. The band worked to the images being produced, reworking sections to various scenes and edits until the final version was in place. We premiered it by playing the soundtrack live to the screen images at the Blue Coat in Liverpool and recently have recorded the soundtrack to be released on DVD and audio only (vinyl or CD) versions hopefully.
It’s been really good in that it made us write a set of music that’s quite different to much of what has gone before.
19.Do you have any more European tours coming up in the near future?
Steve: It’s being looked into right now. We’ve just signed to the Elastic Artists roster – they’re working on it for us, we definitely aim to get over there this year.
20.Who would be your dream-opening act if Mugstar were headlining Wembley?
Neil: I’ve always loved playing with Oneida. They generate so much energy when they play, and how they can sustain it when they do their long duration performances (10 hours at ATP) I have no idea. But going on after them would really push us.
21.What is your most treasured piece of kit from your current actual instruments?
Neil: My ’64 Burns.
Steve: My custom DW kit – sounds and feels so good. Just about every sound engineer I work with seems to love it too.
22.Are you all friends outside the band?
Steve: Yes. Well we’ve managed to put up with each other for a fair few years now, – we get along pretty well.
23.Have you ever considered wearing costumes on stage and if so, what?
Pete: A giant pineapple.
24.If you were to organise another tribute album which band would it be for?
Steve: We have thought about possibly doing it again, a few names have been thrown about – Neu!, Sabbath, Can, Fairport… don’t know…
25.Yes or The Sex Pistols?
Neil: I know I’m taking this waaay too seriously, but dichotomies aren’t always helpful. As Derrida said, “unless a distinction can be made rigorous and precise it isn’t really a distinction.” I love punk and it made a huge impact on my attitude to music but the theorising was riddled with bullshit. All the year zero/never trust a hippie stuff was insane. Prog and punk were pitched as polar opposites, but where does that leave a band like This Heat, who distinctly had one foot in each camp?
Yes did some great music but were guilty, like many of their contemporaries of getting pretty carried away into bombast. The Pistols started as a great band too but once they lost Lydon they were just as directionless, self indulgent and overblown as the worst excesses of pro.
26.Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin?
Neil: I love the Sabs, me. Zep were good too.
Steve: I love Zep, me. The Sabs were good too.
27.Hawkwind or Motörhead?
Steve: Of course we love both, but if you want a decision… Hawkwind circa ’72 with the Lemmy, Simon King, Dave Brock turbo engine. Not cheatin’ is it!?
Neil: I only saw Motorhead once and the bass was inaudible in the mix. That made me sad.
28.Ice cream or Sticky Toffee Pudding?
Neil: I went to Cartmel once, that claims to be the home of sticky toffee pudding. And I was born in Cartmel Road. Sticky toffee pudding is best enjoyed with a scoop of ice cream.
Steve: Sticky Toffee Pudding… with cream.
29.Latitude or Green Man?
Steve: Both great festivals on amazing sites, we played the very first Latitude – had a brilliant time. Generally though, I think the Green Man line-ups are probably more interesting now.
Neil: From my experiences of playing these festivals, I can definitely say that Latitude wins hands down as far as weather goes. Although I didn’t get sunburn at Green Man, that was never going to be a problem there.
30.Paris or London?
Neil: London has the National Gallery and Paris has the Louvre, so both cities have a lot to recommend them.
Behind The Wall Of Sleep talk to Dave W and Ego Sensation of New York’s spacerock travellers WHITE HILLS. Blending psychedelia, space rock, kraut rock and even classic rock into one throbbing mass, White Hills are an ever changing entity and always striving to break barriers. With 12 official releases under their belt and many more CDR limited pieces, White Hills are one of the hardest working bands out there. New album ‘H-p1′ is released in the spring…
Could you start by giving us a history of how White Hills came to be?
Ego Sensation: White Hills started as a solo project of Dave’s. He made an album called “No Game To Play” and got such a positive response from it that he decided to put a band together.
Has the band developed in a way that you expected?
ES: There have been some great surprises along the way such as the ability to play with a variety of talented musicians such Shazzula, Kid Millions, the Docter, and Antronhy among others. I feel that has kept our sound dynamic and in a certain sense experimental.
Dave W: Certain things have developed the way I wanted them to others not, but that’s ok. It’s a game of adaption. You try something out see what works what doesn’t. In the end whatever happens is all for the best and shapes what White Hills is.
White Hills have a very strong heavy space rock and psychedelic feel, how important are these types of music to you? Can you tell us about the influences you have brought to this heady brew
ES: There are so many influences it’s hard to know where to begin. We are both huge music fans with Dave taking it to an extreme level. He’s virtually a walking encyclopedia of bands/artists stretching over many genres! Personally, while I love a lot of heady music I’m more often inspired by a completely different genre or even medium that I’d want to translate into a White Hills song.
Talking of space rock you were recently involved in the ‘In Search Of Hawkwind’. Do you think hawkwind have finally got the recognition they deserve or are they forever gonna be seen as unfashionable in the eyes of the music establishment?
DW: Unfortunately, I think that they will always be seen as unfashionable because the majority of people just view them as a hippy band. The word “hippy” has such a bad connotation in so many peoples mind’s today. What people don’t see is that they were so much more than just another hippy band. They were true PUNKS to the core…spacey yes, but scathing and brutal as well, which is something that you don’t associate with “hippy” music.
I do think they have received recognition but not the recognition that they deserve. They were pioneers of uncharted territory that paved the way for so many bands to follow. Even the punk movement of the 70’s, the whole DIY thing. I mean they weren’t on the bill at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, but they set up their own stage and played it anyway. Now that’s DIY to the core!
How do you think having Thrill Jockey behind you has helped White Hills?
ES: Not only have they helped us gain a wider audience, but they’ve also been very supportive in terms of nurturing our artistic growth. Thrill Jockey is a great label run by a smart businesswoman with vision and guts and everyone that works there is dedicated and solid. To be able to work with a record label based on mutual respect is absolutely ideal. Ultimately, having Thrill Jockey behind us has allowed us to focus more of our energy where it should be- on the music.
Your discography has lots of short run CDRs, vinyl and tour releases. Which i must say include some amazing alternative versions! Why this approach?
ES: We record a lot! Dave is pretty prolific when it comes to producing new songs and soundscapes. Why hold back? Let the music be heard!
DW: At the time the band started there was a scene around CD-r releases. Now it seems that cassettes have taken over that market. Many bands were doing it. It’s an easy relatively inexpensive way to get your music out there. I figured why wait to have someone else release your music when you can do it yourself. If you have the means, capability and drive… go for it!
I’m also a music collector at heart. I thought this was a good way to create something special and unique for the collector.
What can you tell us about ‘White Hills’? What are some of the musical influences and themes explored on this record?
DW: Before we recorded the album we hadn’t been playing with Kid for a while. We had recently finished a European Tour of which Kid was not a part of. We had a limited time to get it done. The three of us rehearsed a few times and then went into the Ocropolis and banged out the a bunch of jams that formed the album. The album is very loose and it took shape in a very organic way.
That album was recorded so long ago…to tell you the truth I haven’t the foggiest idea as to what I was drawing influence from at that time. I just wanted to try and make something different from anything we had done before. I think it’s the darkest album we’ve made so far and it’s the least political. Three Quarters being the only protest song so to speak. I also wanted to expand lyrically, which I feel that I did.
There seems for be a lot of great bands around at the moment. Are there any bands you feel a great comradery with?
DW: MUGSTAR, GNOD, CAVE, Terminal Lovers, of course ONEIDA, Pontiak and Serpentina Satelite to name a few.
There’s so much good music out there it’s hard to take it all in at times.
Having Oneida’s Kid Millions as your Brooklyn drummer must be a hell of an experience. How does this compare to touring with someone else?
DW: Playing with Kid is definitely a pleasure and it has helped us grow our sound and explore in ways that weren’t possible before. We really haven’t played with Kid much over the last year due to his schedule and ours. Since then we’ve picked up Lee Hinshaw as our drummer.
Kid will always be welcome to join us when he can. We have such a back log of material recorded with him that is still finding it’s way out to the public. Both of us are about to embark on mixing a massive track we recorded for the S/T album last year that includes Showtime from Oneida joining us as well. We hope to get this released sometime this year.
As far as touring…playing with different drummers often can be strange, beautiful, and horrifying. Fortunately that is behind us now…at least for the time being.
You have recently expanded you line up to include the infamous Shazzula on keyboards. Is this a permanent set up and how has it impacted on your sound?
DW: Shazzula is amazing! We’ve been searching for a like minded person to take on the synth duties live but haven’t been able to find anyone that fit in right. The last time we were over in Europe I asked if she would join us at a few shows and it all just fell together perfectly.
Since then she has joined us on stage at ATP in NY and in the UK. She’ll always be welcome to join us when the timing works out!
Shazzula also appears on our new album. We recorded it the day after we performed at ATP in NY. We spent 2 days at the Ocropolis (Oneida’s studio in Brooklyn) which is where we recorded the last album. The recordings turned out better than I could have hoped for.
As far as it impacting our sound…Shazzula has brought her take on synthesis to the music. Playing live with her also adds another dimension for all of us to play off of. The results have been very pleasing to us all.
You recently played with Flaming Lips in Los Angeles – how did this come about and how was it? Was this the biggest White Hills crowd?
DW: The show was actually in Oakland, CA. That’s northern California verses southern California.
Little to my knowledge at the time…Wayne is a big fan of ours. Their booking agent contacted ours. It was as easy as that. Needless to say it was a thrill for all of us. We are all big fans of the Flaming Lips and it was just mindblowing for us to have them want us to play with them. The Lips crew made us all feel at home…they all were so welcoming and friendly, which is something you don’t see often in this business. The experience couldn’t have been any better for us!
Was it the biggest crowd…quite possibly. ATP in NY was close as was playing with Julian Cope at KOKO.
What have you got planned for the immediate future?
DW: As far as releases go, we will have a new album, titled “H-p1”, coming out on Thrill Jockey in the spring. The reinstated Trensmat Label is releasing a 45 and we are working on a split LP with the band Farflung from Los Angeles.
There is also a couple of side projects I’ve been working on that will finally see the light of day. A Verily White Hills 45 on Drug Space Records and the long awaited release of the Ff album. This is the band that Antronhy (drummer for Julian Cope’s Black Sheep) and I have been working on over the last year.
Besides these releases we will be playing at this year’s SxSW Festival in Austin, TX, Roadburn in Tilburg, Holland, and at the Austin Psych Fest (which is put on by the Black Angeles). We will of course be touring in Europe and the US in support of our new album.
“We basically just set out to make a musical version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis as played by The Butthole Surfers and Tangerine Dream.”
Whilst spinning around in their own outer orbit London’s Teeth of the Sea speak to Behind The Wall of Sleep.
Named after the French translation of the film Jaws – ‘Les Dents De La Mer’ – Teeth Of The Sea are gnawing into your consciousness. Be aware!
How did Teeth Of The Sea come to be?
A combination of factors really. Jimmy and I had been knocking about in noisy garage rock bands for years, all of which had pretty much petered out by mid-2006, but we were still paying for rehearsal space which wasn’t getting used. At the same time Jimmy, Mike, John and Darren (who all worked together) wanted to get a drone/noise thing together, so it made sense to use our space. They asked me down to play some trumpet and that was the start of JAWS. Darren moved to Australia in 2007 which left just the 4 of us and about that time we changed our name to Teeth Of The Sea due to a few other bands with the name JAWS (JAWS was called ‘Les Dents De La Mer’ in France so we just went with the straight translation). That was the line-up that put out Orphaned By The Ocean at the start of 2009. That was also the time we parted ways with John and replaced him with Mat, which is the line up to this date and responsible for the Hypnoticon EP and Your Mercury.
Has the band developed in a way that you expected?
I don’t think any of us had any expectations at the start of the band, it was just a good excuse to get together, drink some beer and clear the psychic custard as it were. Musically the big inspiration at the start was Wolf Eyes and we were definitely aiming for something a lot more abrasive. We were using really distorted drum loops and it had a Throbbing Gristle, early-Cabaret Voltaire feel to it. Gradually, however, the shocking realisation came that we could put stuff together which sounded quite impressive and a lot more conventionally ‘musical’ than we had originally intended. I think since then the aim has been to occupy the space between improvisation, composition and fucking brain-bleeding, excoriating noise. The addition of Mat on drums was another big step in the development of the sound. Where Orphaned definitely had at least one foot in drone we’ve become noticeably more kinetic and dynamic on the 2 releases since.
TOTS sound quite diverse on record, can you tell us about the influences you have brought to this heady brew
Being 4 geeks in our 30s there’s obviously a huge amount of influences on what we do, too many to give a comprehensive list of, but here goes: I think if you’re talking classic ‘holy grail’ bands and artists, people who we all love and have undoubtedly shaped what we do then I’d say Can, This Heat, Boredoms, Hawkwind, Eno, Miles Davis and Throbbing Gristle would all have to be in there, as much for their approach and spirit as the way their records sound. In terms of contemporary bands Liars (‘They Were Wrong So We Drowned’ and ‘Drums Not Dead’ period) and Emeralds would have to get a mention too. Individually we all have quite varying tastes: Jimmy comes from a more metal background than the rest of us and would undoubtedly list Sabbath and Maiden in his guitar influences, as well as more out-rock stuff like Skullflower and Chrome; Mike tends towards more electronic stuff and has latterly introduced us to the likes of Skyramps, Keith Fullerton Whitman and Ben Frost, all of whom have made their presence felt on the TOTS sound in one way or another. Mat is an ex-mod and brings a huge wealth of knowledge about British Psyche and Beat, bands called things like Mandrake Paddle Steamer, July and The Cloude Shoppe, as well as jazz, performance poetry and, increasingly, black metal. I’ve a background in playing jazz on the trumpet and inept garage rock on the guitar, and have tried to fuse this high/low brow approach into something coherent in TOTS, sort of Jon Hassell meets The Count Five. I
Your Mercury has a very strong krautrock and psychedelic feel, how important are these types of music to you?
Whilst we are undoubtedly influenced by Krautrock bands – I mentioned Can above but you can easily add Neu!, Cluster, Harmonia and Aamon Duul II to that – I think that these are pretty fashionable influences to drop at the moment, subsequently you hear quite a lot of bland approximations around. It’s pretty easy to stick some repetitive stuff over a Neu beat and claim to be part of that lineage, which for me totally misses the point of what all those bands were trying to do anyway. This was something we’ve always been very keen to avoid, someone in the room will always call bullshit the minute we start sounding ‘too Neu’ or ‘too Can’. Likewise with psychedelia, which is a pretty loose term anyway, I think the spirit of adventure and technology-abuse are more important to us than lovingly replicating the classic Leslie rotary speaker sound. Irreverence is the key.
What can you tell us about Your Mercury – why that title in particular? What are some of the musical influences and themes explored on this record?
We actually had the track title ‘You’re Mercury’ first, which is a line from Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. There then followed an intensely frustrating period of trying to come up with a title for the whole album (we actually had over 100 suggestions between us that we discarded, no joke). Eventually someone suggested ‘Your Mercury’ with the different spelling and it just seemed to fit. (I’ve always liked it when bands have self referential puns in things, eg Saints have a song called ‘Know Your Product’ and another called ‘No, You’re Product’. I think it’s the crossword buff in me). In terms of significance the title works on a several levels. There’s the outer-space connotations of it and the fact that the music is dynamically pretty mercurial too. Also, Mercury was the Roman god of trade, and it’s no coincidence that we all work in shops. Lastly, it’ll give tabloid newspaper sub-editors a field day when we inevitably win the Mercury Music Prize in August.
In terms of musical influences, I’ve gone over a lot of the specific artists in previous answers, but the aim with Your Mercury was to create something really all encompassing from these, combined with all the film, art and literature we’re into too. We’re really into ridiculous over-arching concepts, sci-fi films and novels and London psychogeography. We basically just set out to make a musical version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis as played by The Butthole Surfers and Tangerine Dream. For me, the idea of the City is very important in what we do, it’s definitely urban music. But it’s a London seen through the eyes of people who’ve read too much Iain Sinclair and JG Ballard and watched Tron and Flash Gordon a lot rather than some tedious ‘authentic’ notion of what London is.
How do you feel Your Mercury compares to Orphaned by the Ocean or indeed the 24 minute Hypnoticon?
We all feel that it’s a definite step up for us. Orphaned was put together very piecemeal and was really a snapshot of where we were at the time. It’s the sound of us learning to write and record together really, but I’m still really proud of it. It has a nice murky feel which is part intentional, part ineptitude. Hypnoticon I suppose was a great stop-gap release between the two. It was Mat’s first appearance on a TOTS record and it introduced us to Southern Studios where we did Your Mercury. I seem to recall it being pretty effortless in comparison to the two albums, the material was pretty much laid down straight without too much beating ourselves up over overdubs, mixing etc. In contrast we really slaved away on Your Mercury. For starters it was composed far more as a complete piece than previous efforts. We spent ages making sure every single detail was right, from a long period of hibernation at the start of the year when we wrote the thing, to being perfectionists in the studio recording and mixing. We also took pains over running order, segues, track titles, even down to fonts and credit lists. Subsequently I think the record is far more consistent than either of the previous releases both in terms of the quality of the music and the thematic feel of the thing.
It seems Your Mercury has been well received in the UK, ending up in some end of the year lists, how has it been received outside of the UK?
To be honest I’ve no idea. It’s appeared on a couple of European blogs so there’s obviously one or two people who’ve heard it, but I don’t think we’re in Depeche Mode territory just yet. Hopefully we’ll get to play in Europe before the end of the year, and obviously we’d love to get further afield, it’s just a question of time and money really.
I think TOTS are quite difficult to pigeon hole, are there any bands you feel a great comradery with?
In London there’s very few bands who I think we operate in a similar way to. Whilst there have been some decent bands coming out of our neck of the woods in recent years (Factory Floor, Bo Ningen, Hyrst) we don’t really hang out with any of them. The 2 bands who we have spent the most time with and probably played the most shows with are Gnod from Manchester and Thoughtforms from Bristol, and I think there’s definitely some common ground there. Both bands fuse an experimental sensibility with a gung-ho attitude to performing and this is something we’ve always prided ourselves on.
What are your touring plans? Will you be staying in the UK or straying further afield?
We have some dates with British Sea Power in February (Leeds, Glasgow, Newcastle and Manchester) which we’re really excited about. It’ll be interesting to see how we cope with larger spaces. I’m also curious as to how BSP’s fans respond to us. They’re very much an indie band, but a really good one, and I think their fans are pretty broad minded so hopefully some of them will be into it. Other than that everything’s up in the air at the moment. There’s a few promising ‘maybes’ in the pipeline that I don’t want to jinx by talking about just yet and we’re definitely going to try and get to Europe later in the year. As far as full UK tours go it’s just a question of what the best option is, I’m not sure enough people really know about us to embark on a headline tour of our own just yet, but we’ll see how that goes.
What have you got planned for the immediate future?
Other than the British Sea Power dates (February 12-15th) we have an appearance at the Roundhouse Rising festival at the end of Feb (24th), then probably some more London dates in early March. We have a couple of mooted festival appearances we’re just waiting on confirmation of too, all these will be listed on the usual my**ace, f***book channels. Other than that we have a video to make and some remixes to do, again watch this space for details